Can we trust God’s promises?

Why do we follow Jesus?  Jesus said, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ 1  It is a privilege to follow Jesus, pray, study the Word, et cetera, but it does cost.  As humans, we naturally ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’  (See ‘What’s in it for me?’)  Our generous, perfect Father God promised us eternal life as a reward.  Yet, what will convince us that the exciting glorious future will become true?  

#  What does Scripture guarantee us? 

‘No eye has seen, no ear had heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him….’ 2  The next verse tells us, ‘…but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.’ 3  

#  Did the Old Testament promises come true?   

  1. God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants will inherit the land of Canaan. 4  Abraham received the promise around 2,000 BC.  Today, 2018, many of Abraham’s descendants, the Jews, live in the land God promised them.  It is a unique event in history.  Never before has a nation suffered so much and yet come back to the land God promised to their ancestors thousands of years ago.  That unlikely promise of God to a man married to a barren woman became true. 
  2. God also promised Abraham, ‘I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.’ 5 He repeated it to Jacob, ‘Your descendants will be like the dust of he earth….’ 6  It sounds like fiction.  The number of Jews today in Israel and scattered over the world cannot be like the sand on the seashore.  Could this promise become a reality?

#  God’s answer in the New Testament 

  • ‘Understand then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.’ 7  That means all followers of Jesus are Abraham’s descendants, his children. 
  • Jesus explains it in the parable in Luke 16:19-23.  The beggar, Lazarus, who laid at the gate of the rich man’s house, died.  The rich man also died and was shocked by what he saw, ‘In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.’  
  • That means Abraham welcomes to his side (in his bosom, or in his arms) every believer who dies.  The rich man correctly addressed Abraham as ‘Father Abraham.’  

Please note: There must be billions of believers at Abraham’s side already.  The numbers grow daily as believers die and translate into Abraham’s presence.  That means God’s second improbable promise to Abraham became true. 

Conclusion

Four thousand years ago God promised to Abraham a country and numerous descendants.  Both became true.  It testifies to the truth of God’s Word.  Are there more examples of ‘strange’ promises of God that became true – fulfilled promises that boost our faith in our future destination?

References

  1. Mark 8:34  
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:9  
  3. 1 Corinthians 2:10  
  4. Genesis 15:18-21; 17:8; 26:4; 28:13  
  5. Genesis 22:17  
  6. Genesis 28:14a  
  7. Galatians 3:7

What’s in it for us?

Jesus said that when He comes again, he will sit on His throne in heavenly glory and say to the blessed ones, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared since the creation of the world.’ 1

#  Our inheritance

  • It is amazing that God planned everything from the beginning.  
  • The first part of the plan was the creation of the physical universe.  He finished it in 6 days and then rested (it was not because He was tired, but because He was finished).
  • The second part of the plan was fulfilled when Jesus died on the Cross and said, ‘It is finished’ 2 and sat down at His Father’s right hand in heaven. 3
  • We want to give attention to the third and final part of God’s magnificent plan, our inheritance (in between there are a few ‘necessary’ events which we want to discuss in future blogs).  
  • Jesus Himself guarantees our inheritance.  Yet, sometimes we wonder what the inheritance will be like?  We live in a hostile world ruled by the devil.  So life is not always that easy for the believer.  Our active enemy sometimes drives us to want to give up.  Take the example of Demas.  Paul reported about him, ‘…for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone….’ 4  That plainly means he gave up on God. 

#  Peter’s question

  • After Jesus commented on how hard it will be for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God, 5 Peter asked Jesus, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ 6  He meant, ‘will we be rewarded for that?’ 
  • Jesus answered with a promise,  ‘I tell you the truth, …no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the Gospel, will fail to receive, …in the age to come, eternal life.’ 7  

#  Our reward

It is a consolation when we understand that we will inherit.  We are saved by grace and mercy, so we don’t deserve anything.  Yet our perfect Father is generous and wants to give us an inheritance.  He wants to reward us handsomely for our devotion and loyalty to Him, even if it is all His doing. 

Conclusion

Scripture is not comprehensive when it comes to our inheritance, the coming Kingdom of peace and happiness.  It is because God is concerned that we get there, not what we will get there.  Yet there are clues in the Bible.

References

  1. Matthew 25:31-34  
  2. John 19:30  
  3. Mark 14:62;  Acts 2:34-35  
  4. 2 Timothy 4:9  
  5. Mark 10:24-25  
  6. Mark 10:28  
  7. Mark 10:29

What about violence in the New Testament?

Some people think that the Old Testament God is very aggressive and violent, while the New Testament God and Jesus are peaceful, loving and kind.  

#  Superficially it looks like it.  

  • The fourth chapter of Genesis began with a murder and from there it deteriorated to such an extent that, ‘The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.’ 1 
  • Contrary to that, in the New Testament we meet a host of angels that sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.’ 2  That was when the Messiah, Jesus our Lord was born in Bethlehem.  However, initial observations can be misleading. 

#  Incidents of violence in the New Testament 

  • Herod killed the boys under two in Bethlehem and vicinity. 3
  • Pilate mixed the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices. 4  It refers to Passover pilgrims who were butchered by Roman troops in the temple while they sacrificed. 
  • Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul, the apostle) persecuted and killed Christians. 5

#  Death by crucifixion in the New Testament 

The treatment Jesus received before He was crucified typifies the violent times.  

  • He was cruelly subjected to flogging. 6  A crown of thorns was put on His head and struck into His skull with a staff. 7   They pulled out His beard and spit in His face, 8  mocked Him, 9 blindfolded and hit Him. 10  
  • Isaiah 53:14 explains, ‘Just as there were many who were appalled at Him [Jesus on the Cross] – His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness….’   

#  The slave revolt under Spartacus 11

  • It is an incident that is not recorded in the Bible.  By the time Jesus was born, the Roman Empire ran almost on slave labor.  The Romans did not always treat their slaves with the respect a human being deserves.  Because of all the wars, the captives were used to construct buildings and other projects.  Most families had many slaves to serve them.  
  • Spartacus was a gladiator and escaped with others.  They had quite a few victories against the Roman armies, but were eventually defeated.  Although the whereabouts of Spartacus remains shrouded in mystery – whether he died in battle or not – 6,000 of the captured slaves were crucified.  
  • That explains why Jesus did not organise a revolt against the Roman Empire to free the slaves.  Thousand would have been killed.  Jesus came to save, not to destroy. 

#  The book of Revelation describes violence never seen before in human history.  

  • Jesus warned about the signs at the end of the age.  There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, blazing stars that fall on earth and destroy man and beast.  The book of Revelation graphically describes that destruction.  One can even call it, ‘The Book of Blood.’  
  • Although the calamities will be on an unprecedented scale, God will still desire to see men saved.  His mercy and grace to sinners is available to the very end: ‘Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people.’ 12

Conclusion

Will peace ever come?  Yes, when this age ends the eternal age will finally come.  Then the reign of the devil will end.  He will go in to his eternal jail.  All unbelievers and people who hated God will be removed and peace will ensue.  For the first time in human history there will be peace – for eternity.  God will have achieved His goal.

References

  1. Genesis 6:5  
  2. Luke 2:14  
  3. Matthew 2:16-18  
  4. Luke 13:1  
  5. Acts 22:4-5  
  6. Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15  
  7. Mark 15:17-19  
  8. Isaiah 50:6  
  9. Psalm 22:1-21  
  10. Mathew 26:67
  11. Spartacus, Wikipedia  
  12. Revelation 14:6