A covenant is an agreement between two parties. There are two types of  covenants: conditional and unconditional. A conditional or bilateral covenant is  an agreement that is binding on both parties for its fulfillment. Both parties  agree to fulfill certain conditions. If either party fails to meet their  responsibilities, the covenant is broken and neither party has to fulfill the  expectations of the covenant. An unconditional or unilateral covenant is an  agreement between two parties, but only one of the two parties has to do  something. Nothing is required of the other party.

The Abrahamic  Covenant is an unconditional covenant. God made promises to Abraham that  required nothing of Abraham. Genesis  15:18-21 describes a part of the Abrahamic Covenant, specifically dealing  with the dimensions of the land God promised to Abraham and his  descendants.

The actual Abrahamic Covenant is found in Genesis 12:1-3. The  ceremony recorded in Genesis 15 indicates the unconditional nature of the  covenant. The only time that both parties of a covenant would pass between the  pieces of animals was when the fulfillment of the covenant was dependent upon  both parties keeping commitments. Concerning the significance of God alone  moving between the halves of the animals, it is to be noted that it is a smoking  furnace and a flaming torch, representing God, not Abraham, which passed between  the pieces. Such an act, it would seem, should be shared by both parties, but in  this case it is doubtless to be explained by the fact that the covenant is  principally a promise by God. He is the one who binds Himself. God caused a  sleep to fall upon Abraham so that he would not be able to pass between the two  halves of the animals. Fulfillment of the covenant fell to God alone.

God determined to call out a special people for Himself through whom He would  bring blessing to all the nations. The Abrahamic Covenant is paramount to a  proper understanding of the kingdom concept and is foundational to Old Testament  theology. (1) The Abrahamic Covenant is described in Genesis 12:1–3 and is an  unconditional covenant. There are no conditions attached to it (no “if” clauses,  suggesting its fulfillment is dependent on man). (2) It is also a literal  covenant in which the promises should be understood literally. The land that is  promised should be understood in its literal or normal interpretation—it is not  a figure of heaven. (3) It is also an everlasting covenant. The promises that  God made to Israel are eternal.

There are three main features to the  Abrahamic Covenant:

1. The promise of land (Genesis 12:1). God called  Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to a land that He would give him (Genesis 12:1). This promise  is reiterated in Genesis  13:14–18 where it is confirmed by a shoe covenant; its dimensions are given  in Genesis  15:18–21 (precluding any notion of this being fulfilled in heaven). The land  aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant is also expanded in Deuteronomy 30:1–10,  which is the Palestinian  Covenant.

2. The promise of descendants (Genesis 12:2). God promised  Abraham that He would make a great nation out of him. Abraham, who was 75 years  old and childless (Genesis  12:4), was promised many descendants. This promise is amplified in Genesis 17:6 where God  promised that nations and kings would descend from the aged patriarch. This  promise (which is expanded in the Davidic  Covenant of 2 Samuel  7:12–16) would eventuate in the Davidic throne with Messiah’s kingdom rule  over the Hebrew people.

3. The promise of blessing and redemption (Genesis 12:3). God promised  to bless Abraham and the families of the earth through him. This promise is  amplified in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34; cf.  Hebrews  8:6–13) and has to do with “Israel’s spiritual blessing and redemption.” Jeremiah 31:34 anticipates the forgiveness of sin. The unconditional and eternal nature of the  covenant is seen in that the covenant is reaffirmed to Isaac (Genesis 21:12; 26:3–4). The “I will”  promises suggest the unconditional aspect of the covenant. The covenant is  further confirmed to Jacob (Genesis  28:14–15). It is noteworthy that God reaffirmed these promises amid the sins  of the patriarchs, which fact further emphasizes the unconditional nature of the  Abrahamic Covenant.

God’s method of fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant is  literal, inasmuch as God partially fulfilled the covenant in history: God  blessed Abraham by giving him the land (Genesis  13:14–17); God blessed him spiritually (Genesis  13:8, 18; 14:22, 23; 21:22); God gave him  numerous descendants (Genesis  22:17; 49:3–28). The important element of the Abrahamic  Covenant, however, demands a future fulfillment with Messiah’s kingdom  rule:

(1) Israel as a nation will possess the land in the future.  Numerous Old Testament passages anticipate the future blessing of Israel and her  possession of the land as promised to Abraham. Ezekiel envisions a future day  when Israel is restored to the land (Ezekiel  20:33–37, 40–4236:1–37:28).

(2) Israel as a nation will be  converted, forgiven, and restored (Romans  11:25–27).

(3) Israel will repent and receive the forgiveness of God  in the future (Zechariah  12:10–14). The Abrahamic Covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in  connection with the return of Messiah to rescue and bless His people Israel. It  is through the nation Israel that God promised in Genesis  12:1–3 to bless the nations of the world. That ultimate blessing will issue  in the forgiveness of sins and Messiah’s glorious kingdom reign on earth.