After God called Abraham, he promised Abraham that the land of Canaan would be given to his descendants as an inheritance forever (see Genesis 13:15).
Does this then mean that the promise of the land inheritance has relevance today? If we were to take Genesis 13:15 along with Genesis 17:8 at face value only without considering the balance of scripture, then we would certainly have to come to a conclusive yes, but does the balance of scripture support such an interpretation?
To begin, consider Genesis 13:15 and Genesis 17:8
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. ~ Genesis 13:15
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. ~ Genesis 17:8
The same Hebrew word translated forever in Genesis 13:15 is translated everlasting in Genesis 17:8. Now, that’s certainly a good start if we are going to build a case that the land inheritance is still relevant.
However, we immediately have our first hurdle before we ever get out of Genesis 17. In verses 10-14, we read that physical circumcision is an everlasting covenant and that the land inheritance coincides with circumcision. The “uncircumcised” have no share in the covenant through which the land was to be inherited.
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. ~ Genesis 17:10-14
This immediately becomes problematic in building a defense for the land inheritance having relevance today because in the New Testament the apostle Paul tells us that circumcision in the flesh no longer has any value. According to Paul, it is the circumcision of the heart (in the Spirit) which matters.
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. ~ Galatians 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. ~ Galatians 6:15
As we continue through the scriptures we find that the feast of Passover and unleavened bread are said to be an ordinance forever (Exodus 12:14, 17, 24), and the Sabbath was to be a covenant forever. ~ Exodus 31:16-17
Yet the New Testament tells us that these were only shadows of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17) and that Christ Himself is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).
The ministry of the Levitical priesthood (Aaron and his descendants) within the tabernacle is said to be a statute forever (Exodus 27:21, Exodus 28:43, Exodus 30:21, Leviticus 24:1-3) and an ordinance forever (Numbers 18:8). The wearing of the priestly garments by the sons of Aaron was also referred to as a perpetual (forever) statue. The ceremonial washing of the hands of the priests who served in the tabernacle was to be a statue forever. ~ Exodus 30:21
Yet according to the New Testament priesthood established under the law has been abolished and has given way to one that is greater and more glorious, and that is the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Law of Moses also declares that the Levites were to be servants to the priests and this was to be a statute forever. ~ Numbers 18:23
The law of the portion of meat offering which belonged to the sons of Aaron was also to be a statute forever. ~ Leviticus 6:14-19
The daily meat offerings offered by Aaron and his descendants was to be a statute forever. ~ Leviticus 6:20
The commandment for Aaron and his sons not to drink wine nor strong drink in the tabernacle was to be a statute forever. ~ Leviticus 10:9
The heave and wave offerings belonging to the Levitical priests and their families were a statue forever. ~ Exodus 29:28; Leviticus 10:15: Numbers 18:19
Like Passover, the Day of Atonement was also to be a statue forever (Leviticus 16:29, 34, Leviticus 23:31). Yet according to the New Testament, those things which were done under the Law on the Day of Atonement served as a foreshadowing of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-4) and have now been taken away because Christ has become the High Priest of a greater and a perfect tabernacle.
With regards to sacrifices for sin, the Law of Moses also says that the sin offering of the red heifer was to be a statute forever. ~ Numbers 19:9-11
Yet Hebrews 9:13-14 says, For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
As we can see the use of the language forever as it applied to the Old Testament promises, statues, and ordinances doesn’t mean for all eternity, without any change as they originally were.
In studying the scriptures, we should consider the qualifying clause “throughout your generations” and other similar clauses. These should be taken into account when considering those things which were said to be forever.
For instance, Genesis 17 says the covenant of circumcision and the land inheritance is forever in view of those generations.
In Exodus 12:14 the scripture says, And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever. ~ See also verses 17 and 42
The daily offering of the burnt offering was to be throughout your generations (Exodus 29:42). The yearly consecration of the altar of Incense by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement was to be throughout your generations. ~ Leviticus 30:10
The Old Covenant was a covenant for God’s people in the flesh and was binding throughout their generations, wherein the revelation of Christ was hidden in a mystery (Colossians 1:26).The forevers were types and foreshadowings of Christ.
God has saved us according to his mercy by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5) and that which was in the flesh has now given way to that which is in the Spirit.
The forevers of the physical covenant has given way and been translated to forever in Christ!
The eternal ordinances (the forevers) such as Passover continue, but now we celebrate them in Christ and not in the outward offering of animals. The same holds true for the land inheritance, for in Christ we become citizens of the Heavenly city, New Jerusalem. Also, the Sabbaths and all other forevers of the first covenant have been fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ in whom we have our true and inheritance and eternal rest
Christ is our Passover, He is our Sabbath, He is our promised land!