When considering the promise of the land we should make sure that we look at it in connection to the promise of posterity, for the two go hand in hand.
That is to say, if we want to take the land promise in a literalistic sense, applying only to the Jewish territory, then we need to be consistent and take the promise of offspring in the same way—i.e. as applying only to the physical descendants and not the children of promise & faith.
However, the totality of Scripture forbids this.
In Genesis 12 Abraham was told that he would not only have land, but that he would be a great nation. Later it would be reiterated that Abraham would be a “father of many.” The rest of the Old Testament details something of the vastness of his descendants His one child eventually expands to a tribe of 70 who go down to Egypt. Upon their exodus they are a population of 2-10 million.
Yet through the OT many people who are not direct descendants of Abraham become "adopted" into the Israelite family. For instance, many Egyptians accompanied the Israelites in their exodus. We also have people like Rahab and Ruth who became part of the Jewish nation. Provisions were also made for Gentiles who wished to become members of the Jewish community. By their faith they would be in-grafted into the Israelite family.
In sum, Abraham's descendants were more than those who were Jewish by birth. His posterity included anyone who, like Abraham, had faith in the LORD.
When we look at the new Testament, we see that this is explained in a more concise manner. Romans tells us that the descendants of Abraham are not simply those who are descendant’s by physical generation. Rather he is “the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16). The argument of Romans is that Gentiles may also be considered children of Abraham because they hold to the same faith.
Far from distinguishing two different plans for two different people, the New Testament expresses one continuing plan for one distinct people in all the earth.
Therefore, the promise of posterity in Genesis 12 compliments the promise of land. The promise of posterity, like that of land, cannot be narrowly defined as only applying to a specific race of people. The scope of it is much wider and all encompassing.
The sum of Scripture points to the fact that the promises to Abraham are salvific in nature. All God's people who live by faith in his promise will inherit the totality of God's realm in the climax of history when Christ comes again.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.