Is that Promise for Me? Part 3: The Old and The New
Which of God's promises apply to us and how? That's the question we have been exploring in this four-part blog-post series.
First, we discussed general interpretation and application rules that apply to God’s promises as well as other Bible verses. Then, we had an Old Testament history lesson in order to better understand the promises God made - and at least partially fulfilled - in the Old Testament. Why am I amending with “at least partially”? Let’s take a closer look.
From the moment God communicated the consequence of Adam and Eve's sin, He also promised to send a Savior. Genesis 3:15 promises (addressing the deceitful serpent), “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The Abrahamic Covenant
We fast-forward to the days of Abraham. God made a special promise - a Covenant - with Abraham. In Exodus 12:2-3 He says, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
God promised Abraham…
- He will raise up a great nation through Abraham’s line.
- The name of Abraham will be great.
- Abraham will be a blessing to others.
- Those who bless Abraham will be blessed.
- A curse will rest on those who curse Abraham.
- All the earth will be blessed through Abraham.
Covenants are more than promises. Even back in the day, they were understood as binding legal agreements. Did God owe us the guaranteed promise of a Savior? No, God owes us nothing. He sent Jesus out of the goodness of His heart and love for us. Even though we sinned against the perfect and holy God, He chose from the beginning of time to send a Savior to save us from the mess we made. He made a covenant promise to do so.
How is the Abrahamic Covenant Fulfilled in the Old Testament Days?
We discussed last week that Old Testament promises are often fulfilled in part in the Old Testament itself. In the case of the Abraham a covenant, some of it was fulfilled during Abraham’s lifetime and other parts through the nation of Israel. As promised, God brought forth the great nation of Israel from the descendants of Abraham. Abraham himself experienced personal blessings in the form of many children after years of crying out to God for a son and heir. God blessed him in many other ways, making him a great man of faith.
The Davidic Covenant
Many years later, God makes a covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7:9-16:
“I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
God promises David…
- He will make David’s name great.
- He will provide land and a home for His people.
- He will shield His people from oppressors.
- David’s son will succeed him, and build a house for God.
- God will discipline David’s son to keep him in right relationship with Him rather than removing him from power like Saul.
- The throne/kingdom established through David will last forever.
How is the Davidic Covenant Fulfilled in the Old Testament Days?
Both David and his son Solomon were and still are well known. The nation of Israel enjoyed victory and territory during their reign. Solomon ordered and oversaw the building of God’s temple. Even though Solomon (and David) did not always act righteously, God disciplined them in love and did not take the throne from them.
The New Covenant
God promised a new covenant through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’ Jeremiah 31:31-34
The emphasis here is that the new covenant will mean a new, close relationship between God and His people. Of course, it is through Christ that God forgives us and dwells in our hearts, so that we no longer have to go through a priest to gain forgiveness but have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 10:1-13 references this passage when it explains that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and takes the place of any priest. The Old Testament Law existed to show us our sinfulness, our inability to live up to God’s standards, and our need for a Savior, Whom we have found in Jesus Christ.
Israel and the Church
Galatians 3:28-29 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Ephesians 2:11-13 says, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Accordingly, I will argue that the Church is now God’s people and inherits the ultimate fulfillment of the promises made to Israel in Christ Jesus - that is forgiveness of sins, an eternal home in heaven, and victory over the bondage of sin.
What Does That Mean for Promises Made to Israel?
Believers don’t always agree on the answer to that question. The Church generally splits into two camps: Dispensational theology and covenant theology.
Believers in dispensational theology believe that the of the promises made to Israel (that were not fulfilled in the Old Testament) will be fulfilled to the modern-day nation of Israel. The most well-known promise is the restoration of the temple, which dispensationalists still await in Israel before Christ’s return.
Christians who adhere to covenant theology will argue that the promises made to the nation of Israel now apply to the Church. They would use verses such as 1 Corinthians 3:16 (“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”) to argue that we need not await the rebuilding of another literal/physical temple.
For more information, I highly recommend reading this article from bible.org or finding a book on the subject below.
What Does That Mean for Me?
When you come across promises God made to His people in the Old Testament…
- Rejoice that God fulfilled many of these promises during the Old Testament days. You serve the same faithful God!
- Ask yourself how these promises are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Does God promise Israel a home? Jesus is preparing a home for you in heaven right now (John 14:3). Does He promise a restored relationship with Him? If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are enjoying closeness with God right now. As a member of God’s people, the Church, you enjoy forgiveness of sins, an eternal home in heaven, and victory over the bondage of sin. Praise Him!
I need to add something here. Some of you may be disappointed that personal prosperity and wealth is not something that God promises to all of us. I want to challenge your thinking on that. There is no greater promise than that of an eternal life spent with God. There is no greater gift than the gift of salvation, the forgiveness of our sins at the expense of One who has never sinned. God was faithful to the nation of Israel and restored them in the days of the Old Testament. You may not see how that affects you today, but it meant hope for a whole nation, and it was a symbol for God's faithfulness to His people, among whom we believers consider ourselves today. The fulfillment of these promises is far greater than a pot of money delivered to your doorstep today, which you can spend within a few months and which will not serve you a bit beyond this life. Let us never be disappointed that salvation is the "only" promise we can draw from a Bible passage. There is nothing "only" about it.
Does God promise us anything besides eternal life in heaven, the greatest gift He could ever give? Oh, our loving and giving God does. More on that next week… If you don’t want to miss it, be sure to subscribe to the “Scripture Confidence” blog-post category below.
Do you want to learn more about studying Scripture? The ebook “10 Steps to Approaching the Bible with Confidence” is still available. Request your FREE copy today.