October 7, 2015

Abraham Knew Jesus

The Bible says only those who accept Jesus are saved. Some people will say that Abraham couldn't have possibly known Christ personally or even in concept. Abraham is often mentioned as one of those who couldn’t have possibly known Jesus yet he was saved. How were people like Abraham saved? Well, let’s go take a look at the Bible. I suggest there is much more to the story that is seen at face-value.

John 14:6 is pretty plain and easy to understand. 

John 14:6 ~ “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So how can Abraham have been saved but not actually have known explicitly about Jesus? There is a bit more going on in Abraham’s story than what was elaborated on in the early pages of Genesis. There is more to find out about Abraham’s relationship with God and what Abraham actually knew before dying than what lies in the pages of Genesis. Probably more than we realize. We need to dig through the entirety of Scripture to reveal the full truth though. I believe it is a fallacy to say that Abraham didn't really know Jesus personally or understand the concept of the Messiah. Scripture refutes that assertion if examined correctly.

Firstly, Genesis 15:6, Galatians 3:6 and Romans 4:22 famously say that Abraham believed God in faith and it was accredited to him as righteousness. So Abraham believed in God and his faith in what God promised for the future and this is what saved him. Faith in what? It was a faith in what God had promised him. What had God promised him? God made a twofold promise to Abraham. The first was a material promise that he would be the father of many nations and that kings would descend from him. God promised him that his progeny would inherit the land of Canaan, an expanse that He defined as stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates Rivers. The second and more important promise was spiritual. God promised Abraham that from his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This promise indirectly pointed to Jesus Christ. Yet this still does not specifically say that Abraham knew of Jesus or the explicit concept of Messiah. So what's the deal?

We need to realize that some of the most startling things in the Bible are hidden in plain sight.

Galatians 3:6-7 is a case in point. Amid the predictable focus on law, grace, and the gospel, Paul blindsides us. It says: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” The hard part to understand about this is how could Abraham have had any concept of what would transpire two thousand years later in the Gospel? It would’ve appeared just as absurd to Abraham as it did to the disciples (the Gospel that is). Furthermore, there’s nothing about a crucified Savior in the stories about Abraham. What is Paul thinking? Paul has to be wrong….doesn’t he? Well, no, he doesn't.

Galatians 3:6-7 ~ “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”

To correctly understand Galatians, we need to think about the Gospel in different terms and with a different conceptual base. When we normally hear the word Gospel we typically think of the gospel in terms of the crucified Savior, Jesus, dying for our sins. But the work of Christ was the means to accomplish what God sought to accomplish according to a preordained plan outlined in Scripture. 

When we trust in Jesus Christ through the Gospel what we are really trusting in is that God said he would come, die and resurrect and He did. In so doing all would be blessed if they would accept this fact. In other words, even in what seems like impossible circumstances like Jesus’ Resurrection and Abraham having a child at 100 years old, if God said it, it will happen. So if we believe that God will give us eternal life, if we believe in His Son’s Resurrection in accordance with Scripture, then we can trust anything else God has promised also. God is unchanging and immutable and we can count on this fact. He is ultimately trustworthy. 

Abraham understood this about God and His character.  But there is more here. What we see in the Gospel proper is the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus who is fully God and fully human and this was the necessary mechanism to achieve that larger goal. We also see a consistency that is aligned all throughout Scripture. Trustworthiness. The Gospel is God’s plan to become a man so He could have the holy, human family he had preordained. Could Abraham have grasped that? 

I suggest he did. Not only did he grasp it, I believe he knew it in detail.

God’s had decided to produce His Messiah’s lineage through Abraham and it is described in Genesis 12: 1– 3:  “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Paul mentions part of that in Galatians 3: 7: “….be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” Paul believed that the resultant lineage of that divine promise/encounter (sons of Abraham) would produce the Savior.

Abraham came away with the knowledge of the Gospel or that through his descendants, all humanity would be blessed. Somehow through his offspring, Abraham discerned that his offspring, which didn’t even yet exist, were a critical part of that plan and he believed it in faith.

Wait, isn’t Paul reading into the text in Genesis? Isn’t he performing eisegesis on the text trying to justify something that isn’t really there to maintain a continuity and coherence in his theology of the Cross? 

No, and here’s why.

Paul like all good Jewish converts to Christianity got his information about the Gospel/Good News where all the gospel writers did. It came from Jesus. He said so earlier in Galatians 1: 12, “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” If we look at other passages from Jesus about Abraham, we then begin to understand that Paul didn’t just make this up or try to plant it in the text, he drew on a large knowledge base of not just the Old Testament, but also from Jesus’ own words. This synergistic Scriptural combination allowed Paul to make logical deductions about what Abraham actually knew that wasn’t stated explicitly in Genesis. It could be drawn out of Scripture if combined with Jesus’ words though. Because anything Jesus said…was the Word and constituted infallible Scripture.

So what did Jesus say? 

Let’s go to John 8. John 8 shows Jesus being an authority on whom? Abraham. Jesus being present at Abraham’s encounter with God as part of the Trinity would’ve know exactly what had happened in the Genesis account.

John 8:56 ~ “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it [Greek: perceived] and was glad.”

The Jews hearing Jesus say this knew he was not speaking rhetorically, allegorically or metaphorically in the passage. They assumed he spoke literally based on their hostile response to the statement.  They believed Jesus had blasphemed and were going to stone Him.

John 8:57-59 ~ “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Jesus is telling the Jews straight away about the narrative with Abraham, Abraham was given knowledge or a vision to see Jesus’ day or the time in which he would come and he was glad about it. Jesus says it right in there in the text of John: He rejoiced at the thought of seeing Jesus’ day, he saw it and was glad because of it. In Greek He saw is εἶδον or perceived meaning he understood what was shown to him.

If this has been a once-off and forgotten situation I would not have drawn this conclusion but there is a pattern here in Scripture (Analogy of Scripture) that reinforces this idea. Please note that the Genesis 12 passage is a vision or revealing of truth from God to Abram. So too the Lord’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:1. It would not be hard to follow the same line of reasoning to deduce through Jesus’ very words that Jesus/God would give a vision of who He was to Abraham as stated in John 8:56 also. We just find out about it through Jesus two thousand years after the fact. 

As a matter of fact, a pattern of Scripture would suggest a vision given to Abraham. When we jump forward to Galatians we see that Paul deduced pretty much the same because Paul literally quotes Genesis 12’s language. Galatians 3:8 specifically says: Scripture [God/Jesus] foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” How could anyone foresee something and announce it as fact…unless by a vision? Who has the ability to give a vision? Jesus. How do we know it was Jesus? Because he said so right in John 8:56.

Based on this evidence I’d say that Abraham knew Jesus…literally due to his faith. He understood Jesus in the same way I do. If he was of the Spirit, Abraham would also know Him on a personal level just as any Christian today would through the Spirit.

Paul wasn’t out of his mind. Abraham had met the Word, and through that encounter, he understood the salvation-based plan of God and trusted it on faith. It was right there in front of me the whole time. I just didn't see it until now.

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