God’s Precious Promises
Believers in Christ are the recipients and beneficiaries of remarkable promises from the totally trustworthy and reliable God of our salvation. When I was growing up, many Christian homes had little boxes filled with small slips of paper on which were written promises of God. At our breakfast table every morning, each of us would take a promise for the day. We often sang the hymn “Standing on the Promises,” and one of my sisters once copied promises and put them in her shoes so that she could literally “stand” on the promises.
Throughout Scripture God makes promises. After the worldwide flood in the days of Noah, He vowed never again to destroy all life with water; and He put a rainbow in the sky as a sign (Gen. 9:11–13). He has kept His promise.
In His Word He promises both deliverance and judgment. Sometimes God delays fulfilling His promises because He is gracious, merciful, and long-suffering. But His delay does not mean His promises are void. His promises are inviolable.
The ancient preacher had it right: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). “Pay day, someday” was the great sermon of a preacher of the past on God’s inevitable judgment of the wicked. What we sow, we shall reap.
God has always kept His promises. Scores and scores of prophecies of the Messiah’s coming, starting with the promise to our first parents (Gen. 3:15), were kept perfectly and fully even though their fulfillment seemed long-delayed (Gal. 4:4–5).
God has given innumerable precious promises to Christians in regard to eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, and living the Christian life. The apostle Paul emphasized, “All the promises of God in Him [the Son of God, Jesus Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). Jesus promised He will come again and take His bridal church home to heaven to live in dwellings He has prepared (Jn. 14:1–4). He will keep all of His promises.
He showed “the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel,” which He “confirmed…by an oath” (Heb. 6:17). His counsel is our refuge and anchor, “both sure and steadfast,” because God cannot and will not lie (vv. 18–19). We need to lean hard on God’s faithfulness to His promises and luxuriate in His absolute fidelity to keep His promises to His people.
Israel, the Sign
The prima facie evidence of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises is the experience of God’s ancient covenant people, Israel. Even to Noah, God said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem”(Gen. 9:26). Noah’s son Shem became the forebear of Israel. God promised to make a “great nation” out of Abraham (12:2). He also promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (v. 3). History is replete with God’s fulfillment of this promise.
This promise was expanded and enlarged, and God vowed that the land of Canaan would belong to Israel in perpetuity:
Also I give to you [Abraham] and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (17:8).
God promised that after Egyptian bondage, the Israelites would be liberated at a certain time and emerge with “great possessions”: “In the fourth generation they shall return here” (15:16). This was a specific, chronological promise that was fulfilled exactly as the Exodus took place in about 1440 B.C.
The Dispersion. God promised blessing and prosperous possession of the land if the children of Israel obeyed Him but worldwide dispersion and anguish if they became disobedient and idolatrous (Dt. 28). Think how literally and historically this promise has been fulfilled: “Then the Lᴏʀᴅ will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other” (v. 64).
And yet God promised they would not be destroyed but preserved (Jer. 31:35–37).
God has promised their survival and put the credibility of His character on the line. And He has kept this promise. Beyond doubt, God’s very character is at stake in the matter of His covenant fidelity. Remember what God said through His prophet Malachi: “For I am the Lᴏʀᴅ, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Mal. 3:6). And so it is to this very day.
The Captivity. In ancient times God promised that His people would languish in exile for exactly 70 years (Jer. 25:12), which they owed Him for failing to keep the Sabbath year in agriculture as stipulated (2 Chr. 36:21). From the first invasion of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 607–606 B.C. until the Jewish people returned from Babylon and laid the foundation of the second Temple in 537–536 B.C. would be exactly 70 years. God always keeps His promises.
The 69 ‘Weeks.’ In what has been called the “chronological backbone of biblical prophecy,” God promised “that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks [sevens] and sixty-two weeks [sevens]”—483 years, or 173,880 days (Dan. 9:25). This extraordinary promise was fulfilled in the very year our Lord was crucified—“cut off, but not for Himself” (v. 26). And “now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).
The fulfillment of the promises in the book of Daniel regarding the First Advent of our Lord Jesus is a good grounding for our confident expectation that the remaining promises will be fulfilled in the seven-year period (70th week) yet to come.
The Regathering. The return of Jewish people from 105 nations to form the State of Israel in our time further fulfills God’s promise to His people of an end-times regathering (cf. Isa. 11:11–12; Jer. 16:14–15; Ezek. 37:1–10). So much in Israel and the Middle East portends the fulfillment of the biblical scenario.
The Danger of Replacement Theology
The spread of Replacement Theology is alarming and dangerous. Replacement Theology teaches that the church takes the place of Israel and receives the promises of blessing given to the ethnic, geopolitical nation that God raised up through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It does not, however, teach that the church receives the judgments. Those still go to ethnic, geopolitical Israel.
How can the promised judgments be literally fulfilled but the promised blessings be transferred to someone else without doing serious violence to the obvious intention of the original promise? Although the sweep of the text may be enlarged and expanded, the original promise must retain its validity or we have compromised not only the integrity of Scripture but the character of God.
Though “marred in the hand of the potter,” Israel will be “made again” (Jer. 18:4). Jesus promised the following:
- The nation of Israel will one day accept Him (Mt. 23:39).
- The Kingdom will be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6–7; 3:19–21).
- The withered, cut-off branches of the natural olive tree (Jewish nation) will be grafted in again, and “so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:23, 26).
- The “names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” will be inscribed on the gates of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12). The Jewish cast of the Tribulation is clear in Revelation (7:4–8).
These are God’s precious promises. And Israel is a sign of God’s fidelity to His eternal Word. Just as He is faithful to keep His promises to Israel, so is He faithful to us. Thus we revel in the grace and undeserved generosity of our God to Israel because it is that same lavish love and faithfulness that enfolds and encompasses us as those “accepted in the Beloved,” in the church that is Christ’s body. All praise be to God for His abundant mercy.