Study 3: The Promises of God
Introduction | The Promise In Eden | The Promise To Noah | The Promise To Abraham | The Promise To David | Digressions (Destruction of Heavens And Earth, The Claims Of "British Israelism") | Questions
3.1 The Promises Of God: Introduction
At this point in our studies we have reached a broad understanding of who God is and how He works. In doing so we have cleared up a number of common misunderstandings about these things. Now we want to look more positively at the things which God has "promised to them that love him" (James 1:12; 2:5) by keeping His commandments (Jn. 14:15).
The promises of God in the Old Testament are what comprise the true Christian hope. When on trial for his life, Paul spoke of the future reward for which he was prepared to lose all things: "Now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers...for which hope's sake...I am accused" (Acts 26:6,7). He had spent much of his life preaching "glad tidings (the Gospel), how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled...in that he hath raised up Jesus" (Acts 13:32,33). Paul explained that belief in those promises gave hope of resurrection from the dead (Acts 26:6-8 cp. 23:8), a knowledge of the second coming of Jesus in judgment and of the coming Kingdom of God (Acts 24:25; 28:20,31).
All this sinks the myth that the Old Testament is merely a rambling history of Israel which does not speak of eternal life. God did not suddenly decide 2,000 years ago that He would offer us eternal life through Jesus. That purpose was with Him from the beginning:-
Seeing that God's purpose of giving His people eternal life was with Him from the beginning, it is unlikely that He would remain silent about it during the 4,000 years of His dealings with men recorded in the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament is full of prophecies and promises which each give more detail of this hope which God has prepared for His people. It is because of this that an understanding of God's promises to the Jewish fathers is vital for our salvation: so much so that Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus that before they knew these things, they "were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12) - although doubtless they had thought that their previous pagan beliefs did give them some hope and knowledge of God. But this is the seriousness of not knowing the Old Testament promises of God - in reality "having no hope, and without God in the world". Remember how Paul defined the Christian hope as "the hope of the promise made of God unto our (Jewish) fathers" (Acts 26:6).
It is a sad fact that few churches place the emphasis on these parts of the Old Testament which they should. "Christianity" has degenerated into a New Testament-based religion - although even then tending to use only a few verses from that. Jesus clearly put the emphasis the right way round:
The natural mind might reason that believing in the resurrection of Jesus is enough (cp. Lk. 16:30), but Jesus said that without a solid understanding of the Old Testament, this would not be fully possible.
The disciples' collapse of faith after the crucifixion was traced by Jesus to their lack of careful attention to the Old Testament:-
Note His emphasis on how the entire Old Testament spoke of Him. It was not that the disciples had never read or heard the words of the Old Testament, but they had not properly understood them, and therefore they could not truly believe them. So a correct understanding of God's Word, rather than just reading it, is necessary to develop a true faith. The Jews were fanatical in their reading of the Old Testament (Acts 15:21), but because they did not understand its reference to the things of Jesus and His Gospel, they did not really believe it, and so Jesus told them:-
Despite all their Bible reading, they were just not seeing the real message about Jesus, although they liked to think they were assured of salvation. Jesus had to tell them:-
And so it can be with many people who have an outline knowledge of some of the incidents and teachings of the Old Testament: it is just knowledge which they have picked up incidentally. The wonderful message of Christ and the Gospel of God's Kingdom still eludes them. It is the purpose of this study to take you out of that position by demonstrating the real meaning of the main promises of the Old Testament:-
Information about them is found in the first five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy) which were written by Moses, and in the Old Testament prophets. All the elements of the Christian Gospel are found here. Paul explained that his preaching of this Gospel said "none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people" (Acts 26:22,23), and in his last days the song remained the same: "he (Paul) expounded and testified the kingdom of God...both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening" (Acts 28:23).
The hope of Paul, that supreme Christian, should be the hope which motivates us also; as it was the glorious light at the end of the tunnel of his life, so it should be for every serious Christian. Fired with this motivation, we can now "search the Scriptures".