The whole of the Bible, not just the New Testament by itself, is important for providing instruction concerning God’s Truth. In fact, most of New Testament teaching is based heavily on Old Testament principles. Nowhere is this more evident than in the promises that God has made in His Word. We have already learned about the first promise of a Savior, made to Adam and Eve after their transgression in Eden. Here’s a summary of the rest of the promises we will be considering in this section:
- Promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
- Promises to King David
- Promises to Jesus Christ
- Promises to Believers in Christ
We’ll look at each set in more detail:
Promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
Four thousand years ago God put into motion a major phase of his plan in calling out a people for his name. (Deut 28:9-10; Numbers 6:27. See also Acts 15:14). He did this by selecting a man, Abram (later named Abraham), and a woman, Sarai (later, Sarah), from Ur of the Chaldees, who were to be the father and mother of this nation. God spoke with Abram and told him to leave his country and go to a land that he would show him. (Genesis 12:1). He also promised Abram that he would be a great nation, and that not only would he be blessed, but that he would be a source of blessing for all the families of the earth. (Genesis 12:2-3). Abram and Sarai moved with other members of their family from Ur to Haran in Mesopotamia. It was here that Abram’s father Terah died. After this Abram and his relatives moved on to a land that was named after Noah’s grandson Canaan,(Genesis 9:18; Genesis 12:5) the son of Ham . This is the land we know today as Israel or Palestine.
After the journey from Haran, Abram and his family arrived in the town of Shechem where God promised Abram, that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:18-20; Genesis 17:7-8). This promise was repeated to him several times. In due time Sarai conceived and gave birth to a son who was named Isaac, in accordance with God’s will. Genesis 17:19; Genesis 21:1-3). He was to be the son through whom the promises that God had made to Abram would be fulfilled. Shortly before the birth of Isaac Abram’s name was changed from Abram (meaning “exalted father”) to Abraham (meaning “father of a multitude”) to symbolize the role that he was to play as the father of many peoples. (Genesis 17:5-6. Abraham was also the father of other nations through his second wife Keturah. See Genesis 25:1-4).
The first major event recorded in the life of Isaac involved a request that God made of Abraham concerning him. God asked Abraham to take Isaac to mount Moriah, which is close to Jerusalem, (Genesis 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 3:18), and offer him there as a burnt offering. Abraham showed great faith in determining to comply with God’s request, although an angel prevented him from actually carrying it out. It was after he had proved his faith in this way that God gave him the promise that his descendants would have dominion over their enemies.(Genesis 22:16-17). Abraham becomes the father of the Jewish nation (the term “Hebrew” is first used of him,) – see Genesis 14:13. He becomes father of the faithful: all those who live by faith in God.
Here’s a sample of the passages that concern God’s promises to Abraham:
From these texts, we can summarize these important promises God made to Abraham:
- God promised the Land of Canaan (Israel) to Abraham and his offspring (descendants) forever.
- Abraham would be the father of many nations
- Abraham would have a great many descendants
- Those who bless Abraham and his descendants would be blessed, those who curse him would be cursed.
- Abraham and his descendants would be God’s people, and He would be their God, forever. (See also Revelation 21:3)
God is faithful, and does not break His word, so although these promises have yet to be fulfilled, they will be at some time in the future, and they can include us! We’ll see how later on.
Promises To King David
David was a faithful Israelite who was described as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). He was also King of Israel for many years, and unlike many of the kings, he was considered righteous. David wanted to build a house in which to worship God, but instead God told him that He would make David’s lineage (his “house”) continue on forever.
This promise to David became an extension of the promises to Abraham, and introduced the notion of a future King and a Kingdom:
David had a son, Solomon, who did build a house, or temple, to God. However, Solomon’s reign did not last forever. Nor did his descendant’s. Even though aspects of this prophecy could be applied to Solomon, it has a more complete fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, as we shall see next.
Promises To Christ
Jesus was to be the subject of God’s promises to David. He would be the true Son of God, in a very real and special way, as He would be conceived by means of the Holy Spirit, the power of God, overshadowing Mary. (Luke 1:35).
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to bless her, and to explain how her Son would be the greater Son of David, spoken of in that prophecy to David 1,000 years before:
Clearly, Gabriel is echoing the words of 1 Chronicles 17:11-14. Another New Testament passage also makes reference to this promise directly, when describing Christ’s superior position in the order of creation when compared to that of angels:
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? (see Psalm 2:7)
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? – Hebrews 1:4-5
The promises to Abraham also have their primary fulfillment in Christ. You may recall how we learned that the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring (Genesis 13:15, for example). The apostle Paul explains the use of this word “offspring” in this way:
So God’s promises to Abraham involved Christ – they pointed to Christ, and they were made for Him! To summarize, then, God promises Jesus Christ that he will:
- Be the true Son of God
- Sit on the throne of David
- Reign over a never-ending Kingdom
- Inherit the land promised to Abraham forever. (See Romans 4:13, where Paul identifies the “land” as encompassing the whole world.)
Although Christ was expected to come as a triumphant King during His ministry, instead He was subject to a humiliating death on the cross. But one day He will return from
heaven to claim what is rightfully His, what has been promised Him by His Father, and He will reign with the saints on earth forever.18 Concerning this Kingdom, the prophet Daniel writes:
Promises To Believers in Christ
Many of the promises that were given to Abraham and Christ also apply to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier in Chapter 3 of Galatians, Paul writes about the association of those who live by faith, whether Jew or non-Jew, with Abraham:
We become associated with Abraham if we believe God’s promises. We become “blessed with faithful Abraham”. We are also closely related to Christ through these same promises:
“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” – Galatians 3:26-27, 29
By belonging to Christ, through baptism (see article 8 ) and continued faith, we become the heirs of the promises made to Abraham, and will share in the rulership of God’s kingdom with Christ. This is the promise of eternal life, for all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful promise!