Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 7: The Abrahamic Covenant (and how it relates to Adam & to us)
Posted by Karen on February 18, 2014
For some reason, even after spending years and years doing the same 45 minute lesson on the Abrahamic Covenant, I always felt like I didn’t quite understand the Abrahamic Covenant. Or, at the least, I couldn’t see how the facts relayed through the lesson manual fit into the rest of the scriptures. I’ve been on a quest for the last few years to figure out, as much as I can, how this covenant relates to other places in scripture that talk about covenants, Abraham, priesthood, and so on.
So, I thought some of you teaching Lesson 7 this Sunday might find it helpful to see how the Abrahamic Covenant fits into the history before Abraham comes along. At least, it’s been very helpful for me, so I’ll share it just in case it’s helpful for anyone else. :)
I see the Abrahamic Covenant as a renewal or a resurrection of promises given to Adam and Eve. Here is are those promises, as I see them:
1) The Gospel message will remain constant until the end of the world:
Moses 5:14 And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;
15 And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled.
Moses 5:58 And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
59 And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen.
2) The Priesthood order will remain until the end of the world:
Moses 6:7 Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also.
3) God will preserve a chosen lineage or a “chosen seed” that will have children alive at the end of the world.
Moses 6:2 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bare a son, and he called his name Seth. And Adam glorified the name of God; for he said: God hath appointed me another seed, instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.
D&C 107:42 From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth;
So Adam is promised these three things: 1) The gospel, 2) the priesthood, and 3) a chosen seed. The idea is that these three promises go together: There is a chosen seed which is entrusted with the priesthood and the preaching of the gospel. (See also Moses 6:4, Moses 6:22-23, and D&C 107:40-57.)
This promise is renewed with Adam’s son, grandson, great-grandson, on down to Noah. After Noah, it appears there was a short apostasy, and Abraham comes along seeking “the blessings of the fathers.” I think it is crucial to see that Abraham’s covenant is a continuation and renewal of the promises given to father Adam. Here is how Abraham describes what he was seeking after:
Abraham 1:2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.
3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.
4 I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.
Abraham sees himself as the next link in a chain that began with father Adam. He sought the priesthood according to the promises given to the fathers, and also, the according to the “appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.” Abraham, and his descendants, are fulfilling the promise that a chosen seed will be preserved to teach the gospel and hold the right of the priesthood. In fact, Abraham 2:9 explains that Abraham’s seed “shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations” and Abraham 2:11 says that through his seed “all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.”
So it seems clear that Abraham’s seed, just like the chosen seed of old, was given the right and the responsibility to hold the Priesthood and preach the Gospel to everyone else. So what is different about Abraham? It appears from Abraham 2:9-11, that what changes is that everyone that accepts the gospel message will be brought into this family, and given the same charge. While with Adam, Seth, and so on, it appears that only one person from each generation held the priesthood, with Abraham we branch out, extending to many, many individuals the ability to share the gospel and the accompanying ordinances. Now we can increase the work of salvation exponentially!
After Abraham, there was still a literal chosen seed which held the promises (see Genesis 17:19 about Isaac, for example.) But, regardless, Abraham received a promise that the rest of us are “counted” “as if” we were born as the chosen seed. This makes sense to me of the language of the sealing ordinances in the temple. (I won’t talk about them in a blog post of course, but next time you go to the temple and hear the ordinances of sealing to parents and/or sealing to spouse, listen for how it talks about our relationship to Abraham.)
We focus in on Abraham and call ourselves part of the “Abrahamic Covenant” because it is his moment in history that resulted in us being called to the work of salvation. Because of God’s promise to him, we are called to the work “as if” we were part of the literal, chosen seed. Everyone has always been welcomed to receive salvation, to be saved, to receive ordinances, etc., but as Abraham’s chosen seed we also call others to receive salvation, invite others to be saved, perform ordinances for others and on others’ behalf. We not only receive salvation, but assist in the work of salvation because we are counted as the chosen seed of Abraham.
So that’s why we “preach the gospel” and “redeem the dead”: it’s our job as descendants of Abraham! :)
Now, a final tangent: what about this business of land, also a part of Abraham’s promise? I think it still has something to do with the promise and commission to hold the priesthood and preach the gospel. To me it seems like this promised land can’t be disconnected from the idea in the JST of Genesis 9:21-25 that we need another Zion city like the one Enoch built, so that heaven and earth can come together again. The children of Abraham don’t get the land just to get the land, but to build a city where others can come to receive the gospel and ordinances. (In short, to build a Zion city!) It is part of the same responsibility they have from the beginning of the world until the end: save souls. Isaiah emphasized that the covenant people were supposed to be an “ensign” to all the nations. Why? So that others can come to find the temple and receive the fulness of the gospel. I think this promise of land ought, at the least, to signal to us that part of the work of Abraham’s seed is building Zion, and then helping others find their way to it. Zion is a place where the pure in heart can dwell, where the gospel is preached, where ordinances and covenants allow people to be God’s people. And since right now Abraham’s seed are spread throughout the whole earth, perhaps there can be Zion-like places wherever they are!
So in addition to preaching the gospel and redeeming the dead through the priesthood, perhaps this is why we also “perfect the saints” and “care for the poor and needy.”
Looking at the Pearl of Great Price and the JST has helped me understand how the Abrahamic Covenant is connected to Adam and connected to us. I’d love to hear your thoughts in response.
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