In a confusing and contradictory-seeming passage, God gave the Old Testament patriarch Abraham the land of Canaan “for an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8, NKJV).
You might think while reading this, “How could God promise Abraham’s descendants a permanent homeland? Surely Abraham must have known that the land in front of him wouldn’t last into eternity.” The New Testament even tells us that the world will be destroyed by fire, burnt completely out of existence, after which the Lord will bring about a new heaven and earth. Was this promise of an “everlasting possession” to Abraham some kind of trick? It couldn’t be a mere piece of real estate. How could that be eternal?
The fact is that this land of promise was symbolic of a place beyond the earth. I believe Abraham knew this in his spirit. The Bible says that as Abraham moved about in Canaan, he always felt alien. “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10).
Abraham’s heart longed for something beyond the land itself. He could see the true significance of the land blessing, and he realized, “This place isn’t the real possession. It’s just an illustrated sermon of the great blessing to come.” Abraham grasped the true meaning of the Promised Land; he knew Canaan represented the coming redemption of God’s people, the safe haven that the Lord would invite his people into one day. Jesus himself said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
The Holy Spirit enabled this patriarch to see down through the years to the day of Christ. He knew that the meaning of his Promised Land meant a place of total peace and rest, and this place of rest is Jesus Christ himself.
The Lord Jesus is our promised possession. We are his, but he is ours as well, and God invites us to obtain our everlasting possession by simple faith.