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God's Promises

 

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God’s Promises

The true hope of salvation in Jesus Christ, the hope of the gospel, is founded upon promises made by God in the Bible. These are described by the Apostle Peter as “great and precious promises”, by which we may share “the divine nature”, that is, eternal life (2 Pet. 1:4)[1].

A promise is an undertaking from one person to another, guaranteeing to do or give something in the future. The promises of God are concerned with the future, both of mankind and of the world He has created. Unlike men’s promises, which can be and often are broken, God’s promises cannot fail. But to become effective for any individual, they must be believed; in Biblical terms, faith is the belief of God’s promises, centred in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The phrase ‘to give one’s word’ has the same sense as ‘to promise’. In the Scriptures, God gives His word concerning the future, with all the force of a promise. All of the prophecies in the Bible concerning the future are therefore, in a sense, promises. But those principal promises that constitute the gospel are linked to covenants[2], or binding agreements. It is remarkable that the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, should be prepared to enter into covenants with mortal men and women, and to affirm them by solemn oaths, but this is what the Bible records.

The beginning of the promises

The expression of God’s gracious intention to save sinful men and women begins in Scripture immediately after the Fall of Adam and Eve, in this pronouncement: “I will put enmity between thee [the serpent] and the woman [Eve], and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15)[3]. Although enigmatic, these words foretell a conflict between good and evil that would be resolved by the victory of a Saviour provided by God, the promised seed (or descendant) of Eve.

In the course of time, man’s wickedness drove God to bring the judgement of the Flood upon the earth. But in the aftermath, He made a second great promise to faithful Noah: “I will not again curse the ground any more . . . While the earth remaineth . . . summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (8:21,22)[4]. This promise of the permanence of the earth was confirmed by a covenant, made by God with all flesh, and symbolised in the rainbow (9:11-13)[5].

God’s promises to Abraham

The next great development in the unfolding of God’s promises for the future was made to Abraham (originally Abram). He was called by God, about 2000 B.C., to leave his home in Mesopotamia to journey to Canaan, which was to become known as the Promised Land. The promises God made to him were amazingly wide in scope:

“I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great . . . and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2,3)[6];

“Lift up now thine eyes, and look . . . for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (13:14,15)[7];

“Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (15:5)[8].

Abraham’s belief in the last of these promises from God was “counted . . . to him for righteousness”, in other words, his sins were forgiven because of his faith (v. 6; cf. Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:23)[9].

These promises once again focused on the promised seed, descended from Abraham, eventually revealed as the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16)[10]. The multiplication of that seed “as the stars of heaven” refers to the multitude of people of all ages who would gain salvation through Jesus, by believing the same promises (Dan. 12:3; Heb. 11:12,13)[11].

God endorsed His promises to Abraham by covenants, first a covenant for the land of Israel (Gen. 15:18)[12] and then one with his seed, that He would be their God. This was marked in Abraham’s natural descendants, the nation of Israel, by the rite of circumcision (17:1-14)[13]. Finally God sealed all of His promises and covenants with a solemn oath:

“By Myself have I sworn, saith the LORD . . . that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven . . . and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (22:16-18)[14].

These promises, subsequently reiterated to Isaac and Jacob (Israel), are the very founda-tion of the gospel of salvation (Gal. 3:8,9)[15]. They require that Abraham and all the faithful must rise from the dead, as Jesus did, in order to enjoy them (Acts 24:14,15; 26:6-8)[16].

God’s promises to David

Nearly 1,000 years after Abraham, when his descendants, the nation of Israel, had become a kingdom in the land of promise, God made further momentous promises to David the king: “I will set up thy seed after thee . . . and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be My son” (2 Sam. 7:12-14)[17]. These promises too were affirmed by God by covenant and oath (Ps. 89:3,4)[18], and were reiterated by the angel Gabriel at the annunciation of Jesus’s birth (Lk. 1:32,33)[19].

God’s promises to Jesus

All of these promises are centred in Jesus, the Son of God (Acts 13:32,33; Rom. 15:8,9; 2 Cor. 1:19,20)[20], and so the New Testament begins with the words: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1)[21]. But there are other promises in the Old Testament directed personally to him.

For example, Jesus is personally promised rulership of God’s Kingdom: “Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps. 2:8)[22]. Exalted to God’s throne in heaven, Jesus is affirmed by an oath to be a priest or mediator for all believers: “Sit thou at My right hand . . . The LORD hath sworn . . . Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:1,4; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 5:5-10)[23].

God’s promises to us

While God’s promises cannot fail to be fulfilled, for us as individuals they are conditional upon our faith, our covenant with Jesus the Saviour through baptism, and a patient seeking for godliness: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:27-29)[24]. By believing and acting upon God’s promises, we can obtain eternal life and share in the marvellous blessings of God’s Kingdom which is to come on this earth.

- by The Testimony Magazine, 26 Tiercel Avenue, Norwich NR7 8JN

 



[1] “whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in that world by lust.” (2Pe 1:4 ASV)

[3] “and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Ge 3:15 ASV)

[4]21  And Jehovah smelled the sweet savor; and Jehovah said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake, for that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. 22  While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Ge 8:21-22 ASV)

[5]11  And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 ¶  And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13  I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (Ge 9:11-13 ASV)

[6]2  and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: 3  and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Ge 12:2-3 ASV)

[7]14 ¶  And Jehovah said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward: 15  for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” (Ge 13:14-15 ASV)

[8] “Then he brought him outside and said, “Look up at the sky, and count the stars–– if you can count them! Your descendants will be that many!”” (Ge 15:5 CJB)

[9] “He believed in ADONAI, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Ge 15:6 CJB)

 “For what does the Tanakh say? “Avraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness.”” (Ro 4:3 CJB)

 “It was the same with Avraham: “He trusted in God and was faithful to him, and that was credited to his account as righteousness.”” (Ga 3:6 CJB)

 “and the passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled which says, “Avraham had faith in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness.” He was even called God’s friend.” (Jas 2:23 CJB)

[10] “Now the promises were made to Avraham and to his seed. It doesn’t say, “and to seeds,” as if to many; on the contrary, it speaks of one – “and to your seed” – and this “one” is the Messiah.” (Ga 3:16 CJB)

[11] “But those who can discern will shine like the brightness of heaven’s dome, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” (Da 12:3 CJB)

 12  Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore. 13  All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth.” (Heb 11:12-13 CJB)

[12] “That day ADONAI made a covenant with Avram: “I have given this land to your descendants–– from the Vadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River––” (Ge 15:18 CJB)

[13]1 ¶  When Avram was 99 years old ADONAI appeared to Avram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. (God Almighty) Walk in my presence and be pure–hearted. 2  I will make my covenant between me and you, and I will increase your numbers greatly.” 3  Avram fell on his face, and God continued speaking with him: 4 ¶  “As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. 5  Your name will no longer be Avram, (exalted father) but your name will be Avraham, (father of many) because I have made you the father of many nations. 6  I will cause you to be very fruitful. I will make nations of you, kings will descend from you. 7 ¶  “I am establishing my covenant between me and you, along with your descendants after you, generation after generation, as an everlasting covenant, to be God for you and for your descendants after you. 8  I will give you and your descendants after you the land in which you are now foreigners, all the land of Kena‘an, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.” 9  God said to Avraham, “As for you, you are to keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation. 10  Here is my covenant, which you are to keep, between me and you, along with your descendants after you: every male among you is to be circumcised. 11  You are to be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; this will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12  Generation after generation, every male among you who is eight days old is to be circumcised, including slaves born within your household and those bought from a foreigner not descended from you. 13  The slave born in your house and the person bought with your money must be circumcised; thus my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. 14  Any uncircumcised male who will not let himself be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin–– that person will be cut off from his people, because he has broken my covenant.”” (Ge 17:1-14 CJB)

[14]16  and said, By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, 17  that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18  and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Ge 22:16-18 ASV)

[15] 8  Also the Tanakh, foreseeing that God would consider the Gentiles righteous when they live by trusting and being faithful, told the Good News to Avraham in advance by saying, “In connection with you, all the Goyim will be blessed.” 9  So then, those who rely on trusting and being faithful are blessed along with Avraham, who trusted and was faithful.” (Ga 3:8-9 CJB)

8  And so the Scripture–seeing beforehand that The God would pronounce innocent the non-Jews because of deep conviction–declared the Gospel in advance to Abraham, saying: “In you will all the non-Jews become blessed.” 9  Therefore, everyone who are persons of deep conviction are being blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Ga 3:8-9 MHM)

[16] 14  However, this I openly acknowledge to you, that I do follow the Way that they call a heresy. Just so I continue to worship The God of my forefathers, believing all the things written in the Law and the Prophets. 15  I have a hope in The God–a hope some of these also accept–that there will be a future resurrection of the dead, both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Ac 24:14-15 MHM)

 6  Now here I stand on trial because of the promised hope made by The God to our forefathers. 7  It is with the hope of attaining this promise that our twelve tribes earnestly worship The God night and day. It is regarding this hope, king Agrippa, that I am accused by the Jews.” 8  “Why should it be thought unbelievable by some of you Jews that The God raises up the dead?” (Ac 26:6-8 MHM)

[17]12  When your days come to an end and you sleep with your ancestors, I will establish one of your descendants to succeed you, one of your own flesh and blood; and I will set up his rulership. 13  He will build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. 14  I will be a father for him, and he will be a son for me. If he does something wrong, I will punish him with a rod and blows, just as everyone gets punished;” (2Sa 7:12-14 CJB)

[18]3  (89:4) You said, “I made a covenant with the one I chose, I swore to my servant David, 4  (89:5) ‘I will establish your dynasty forever, build up your throne through all generations.’” (Selah)” (Ps 89:3-4 CJB)

[19]32  He will become a renowned person and will be called a son of the Most High. YHWH The God will give to him David’s throne, 33  and he will reign over Jacob’s House throughout the Ages. There will never be an end to his kingdom.”” (Lu 1:32-33 MHM)

[20] 32  “And now we are proclaiming to you Jews the coming of the promise to the forefathers, 33  that all these things The God completely fulfilled to their children–to us–by raising Jesus, just as it has been written in the Second Psalm: ‘You are My son! Today I have begotten you!’” (Ac 13:32-33 MHM)

 8  For I tell you, Christ became a servant of circumcision regarding truth in order to confirm God’s promises to the forefathers. 9  But, also, non-Jews regarding mercy in order to glorify The God. Just as it has been written: “For this reason I will confess You among non-Jews and I will sing praise to Your Name.”” (Ro 15:8-9 MHM)

 19  For the Son of The God, Christ Jesus, the One we preached among you–that is through me, Silvanus and Timothy–he did not become “Yes” and “No, ”but rather he has become “Yes” as Jesus. 20  For no matter how many God’s promises, in Jesus they are “Yes.” Also, by means of Jesus is the “Amen” regarding God’s glory by means of us.” (2Co 1:19-20 MHM)

[21] “A bible of a genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:” (Mt 1:1 MHM)

[22] “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance; the whole wide world will be your possession.” (Ps 2:8 CJB)

[23] A Psalm of David. Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Ps 110:1 ASV)

 “Jehovah hath sworn, and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever After the order of Melchizedek.” (Ps 110:4 ASV)

 “For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus,” (1Ti 2:5 ASV)

 5  So Christ also glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee: 6  as he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever After the order of Melchizedek. 7  Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, 8  though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; 9  and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; 10 ¶  named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:5-10 ASV)

[24]27  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28  There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29  And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.” (Ga 3:27-29 ASV)