After Sarah died, Abraham took another wife (common practice in the ancient near east) and had other children by her. But he always considered Isaac (his son by Sarah and the son promised by God to carry on his lineage) his one “true” son. While he gave gifts to his other children while he was alive, when he died, he left everything to Isaac.
These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi. (Genesis 25:7-11)
Abraham had lived an adventurous life, characterized mostly by incredible faith mixed with occasional moments of complete faithlessness. When he died, they buried him with Sarah at the cave in the field in Hebron that he purchased from the local people in Genesis 23, the one piece of property that Abraham owned. When he died, the text says that, “Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” (Genesis 25:8) That’s the way I want to die. I want to be serve God faithfully, and die peacefully as an old man who has run a good race.
Abraham was “gathered to his people” the moment he died. Who are his people? He was buried with only his wife in a foreign country, so this phrase can’t have anything to do with where he was buried. As I mentioned previously, Abraham was in heaven with the Lord immediately after he died. He was with those other great men of faith, men like Enoch and Noah who walked with God and obeyed Him in faith. These were Abraham’s people. Jesus made this clear in Matthew 22:31-32, when he said:
And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.
2,000 years after the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus is making it clear that they are among the living. This passage from John 11 has found it’s way into every funeral that I have ever led for a believer who passed away:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:23-27)
Jesus called Himself “the Resurrection and the Life.” Only Christ can bring life out of death. Abraham’s life was really a lot like yours and mine. He stumbled and fell often, as you have seen. What made him a man of faith is that he believed God. Specifically, he believed God’s promise of redemption through the family that Abraham has established. He didn’t know exactly what that would look like, but he believed God and God counted it as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Hebrews 11:10 tells us that Abraham, who died with only a tomb and a small piece of land to his name, died looking forward to a city whose designer and builder is God.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)
You and I now have a much bigger picture that Abraham didn’t have. We have all the rest of the Old Testament showing the history of Abraham’s family right up to Jesus, and then we have the New Testament, which shows in detail the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the works and writings of the early church. We have a lot more information on which to base our belief. But at the end of the day, we still have to believe that this story ends with Jesus, descended from the line of Abraham, who is the Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to die on a cross for our sins and rise on the third day so that we, who the Bible says clearly are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1), can also rise from the dead and have new life. This is called “the gospel.” I believe it, and my hope is that you do too.