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Bible Teachings - Jesus and The Promises

God's Promises to Abraham

The importance to us of God's promises

Having an understanding of God's promises affects:

  • Our attitude to the Old Testament.
  • Our belief about life after death.
  • Our understanding about the place and timing of reward for faithful people.
  • Our appreciation of the future role of Jesus Christ.
  • Our understanding of God's ultimate plan for this earth.

So, understanding and believing in the promises of God has a profound and positive effect upon the whole structure of our religious faith.

God's promises to Abraham unfold in the book of Genesis

Genesis 12:1-3&7. The promise involves a blessing for "all the families of the earth".

Genesis 13:14-17. God's promise emphasises the physical reality of the land.

Genesis 15:1-7. Abram's belief was counted for righteousness (v6).

Genesis 15:12. The "deep sleep" and "horror and great darkness" that overcame Abram was a sign to him that his death would intervene before the promises were fulfilled.

Genesis 15:18. Promises confirmed by sacrifices became a "covenant".

Genesis 17:1-8. Abram's name was changed (v5) to "Abraham" (father of many nations). His personal possession of the land will be everlasting (v8).

Genesis 22:15-18. The promise was confirmed with an oath. The seed in v17 is singular (KJV, RV and ESV translations are correct: other versions incorrectly pluralise it).

Summary of God's promises to Abraham

  • All nations will be blessed in Abraham and his seed.
  • Abraham and his seed are to possess the land for ever.
  • Abraham is to be the father of an innumerable seed.
  • Abraham is to be the father of a singular seed who will conquer all enemies.
  • Abraham's name is to be great.

NOTE. These promises were not fulfilled by Jewish occupation of the Holy Land in Old Testament times.

Abraham is an important New Testament figure

Abraham is mentioned in the New Testament no less than 74 times - a good deal more than most of the apostles.

James 2:23 (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8): Abraham was the friend of God.

Romans 4:11,16 : Abraham is the father of all who believe.

Romans 4:13 : Abraham is the heir of the world.

The New Testament enlarges upon God's promises to Abraham

  • Hebrews 6:12-19. The unchangeableness of God's word was confirmed by His promise being combined with His oath (Genesis 22:16).
  • Hebrews 11

11:8,9,13. Abraham died in faith without receiving the promises but saw them "afar off". (See also Acts 7:4-5.)

11:17-19. Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead.

  • 11:39,40. All the Old Testament worthies mentioned in this chapter died in faith without receiving the promises "that they should not be made perfect apart from us". They all await the return of Christ to the earth and the resurrection before they can receive the promises.
  • Romans 4

4:1-3. Abraham's belief was counted by God as righteousness.

4:13,16. The benefit of the promises is for all who share Abraham's faith.

4:20-25. Abraham took God at His word (understanding that resurrection would need to precede his reward). God will regard us as righteous, as He did Abraham, if we believe in Him as the one who raised Christ from death.

  • Galatians 3

3:6-9. Those who have the faith of Abraham will share Abraham's reward.

The gospel was preached to Abraham (v8).

3:14,22. The blessing of Abraham extends to all (Jew or Gentile) who believe in Christ.

3:16,17. The singular seed (Genesis 22:17) is Christ. The promises were not superseded by the Law of Moses which came 430 years later.

3:26-29. Those baptised into Christ become Abraham's seed and heirs of the promises.

NOTE. The place of reward for faithful people is therefore on the earth, not in heaven.

The intention and benefit to us of God's promises

2 Peter 1:3,4. God's power and goodness has "given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." Hence, our salvation depends on these promises.

The way that God's promises can save us

What do God's promises help to explain to us about the way our salvation can be achieved?

How? By resurrection and the gift of eternal life.

Where? On earth and centred in Israel.

When? When Christ (the pre-eminent seed) returns to vanquish his enemies.

Why? To bring God's glory on earth and establish universal blessing.

On what basis? Our committed response. Faith. Baptism into Christ. "Patient continuance in doing good".

Bible references are from the New King James Version, copyright © Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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