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

Who else wants to know that Israel is living proof of the living God?

People think the Bible is about religion, but we beg to differ.  It is about reality.  God is real, His Kingdom is real and what He does has to do with reality.  For example, Israel is living proof that the God of the Bible is alive and well and keeps His promises:

#  Abraham was the original ancestor of the nation of Israel.  

  • God called Abraham to move from Haran and go to Canaan, about 1921 BC  (nearly 2,000 years before Christ). 1
  • God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants.  ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’  2
  • The history of Abraham’s descendants had many ups and downs.  There were two exiles where they were removed from their promised land (first by the Babylonians from 605-586 BC and then by the Romans in 70-136 AD).  From then on they were banned from Jerusalem, except for the Passover Feast.
  • Then the miracle happened.  In 1948 on May 18, ‘for the first time since September 8, A.D. 70, the Holy Land by official Gentile action belonged to the Jews.’ 3  The Jewish state is living proof that God kept His promise to Abraham.

#  God would bless all people on earth through Abraham.

‘…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ The promise has to do with Jesus.  He was a descendant of Abraham and through Jesus all nations on earth have the potential to be blessed.  The followers of Jesus are part of the multitudes who have been blessed through Jesus.

#  God promised blessings to Israel’s friends and curses to its enemies.

  • God promised that those who curse Abraham’s descendants will be cursed and those who bless them will be blessed.  ‘…I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.’ 5
  • Abraham’s descendants, almost like Jesus, are hated without reason.  People invent  false reasons on which to base their hostility.  It all boils down to hatred of God. But God warned people that it is a dangerous exercise to curse Israel, as many do.

#  Are the Jews as numerous as the stars in the sky?

  • Did God’s promise to Abraham come true that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky? 6  It doesn’t seem so because Israel is a small nation.
  • Yet Galatians 3:7 says, ‘Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.’  So not only the Jews but also gentile children of God through Jesus, are Abraham’s descendants. 
  • Jesus told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to illustrate this.  The rich man is in hell after his death (he probably did not prepare for eternity but concentrated only on material wealth).  The poor man is in heaven at Abraham’s side. 7
  • So Abraham welcomes every person who dies as a believer in Christ, in heaven, as another of his children.  There must be multitudes of Abraham’s ‘descendants’ already in heaven with him – as numerous as the stars in the sky.

# Remarkable hatred against God

  • The following scene describes the hostility against God, ‘When the thousand years are over [while Satan will be in the Abyss], Satan will be released and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth….  In number they are like the sand on the seashore.  They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city He loves.’ 8
  • Look at the remarkable fact.  For a thousand years the devil will be inactive.  The moment he is released, he begins to deceive people to prepare to attack God’s city, Jerusalem.  Isn’t it a remarkable proof that he is alive and hates God and His people?
  • Incidentally, that is also the devil’s last act of rebellion on this earth, ‘And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into to the lake of burning sulphur.’ 9  Then the devil will inherit his final destination where he will be tormented day and night for ever.

Conclusion

The hatred of the devil and those he influences against God’s people, is an outstanding evidence in real life that there is a God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He is alive and well.  Israel is living proof of the living God and we can trust Him to fulfil His promises.

References

  1. Genesis 12:1-3
  2. Genesis 15:18
  3. Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, Dr H L Willmington, Tyndale House Publishers, inc., 1981, p 977
  4. Genesis 12:3b  
  5. Genesis 12:3a  
  6. Genesis 15:5  
  7. Luke 16:22-23
  8. Revelation 20:7-9
  9. Revelation 20:10

Why Genesis 1 leads to big benefits

Scripture clearly outlines a chain of events that are dependent on God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth in 6 days.  It is only because God is the all-powerful Creator that He could steer history towards the big benefits He promised, in the following way:

Creation, Fall and Promise of Restoration

  • God created the garden of Eden.  He put Adam and his wife there and allowed the serpent, the devil, to test their loyalty and love for God.
  • Adam failed and both he and his wife, Eve, were expelled from the Garden so that they would not live forever in their fallen state.
  • At the same time, the omnipotent Creator promised a Saviour to restore them, ‘…He [the coming Messiah] will crush the head [of that ancient serpent, called the devil, or Satan].’ 1  The work of the Messiah would be to bring anyone who desires it, back to Eden.  Eden is a type of the heavenly Kingdom.  By the work of the promised Messiah people will once again have the blessed relationship with the Father and walk and talk with Him as they did in the garden.

The all-powerful Creator steered history to accomplish the goal of Genesis 3:15.

  • God called Abraham (to be the father of the eventual Jewish nation) and promised him that he will be a blessing to the whole world (it happened through his offspring, Jesus). 2
  • God promised king David that He will establish one of his offspring to rule eternally (it would be Jesus). 3

The momentous event to fulfil Genesis 3:15 arrived.

  • The angel Gabriel went to Nazareth and announced to a virgin called Mary, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; His Kingdom will never end.’ 4
  • Only because God is the Creator, could the angel tell Mary, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.’ 5
  • Through the ages people scoffed at the idea of a virginal conception.  They forget that the Most High showed His omnipotence in the six days creation of the universe.

The resurrection

  • The resurrection of Jesus was only possible because God is the omnipotent Creator of Genesis 1.
  • There was a titanic clash between God and the ancient serpent to prevent the resurrection of Jesus, but Scripture shows God’s superior strength, ‘That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’ 6

The arrival of the Holy Spirit empowers believers

  • John the Baptist promised, ‘He [Jesus] will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’ 7   The authority God the Father gave to God the Son, Jesus, after His accession, is the reason we can be baptised with God the Holy Spirit.  He enables us to learn to live in victory over the serpent’s lies and accusations.

Jesus’ omnipotence as Creator and Saviour finishes God’s plan. 

  • Jesus not only forgives our sins when we repent.  The New Testament tells us of His omnipotence as Creator. 8
  • The book of Revelation shows how Jesus wraps up this present creation on our behalf.  It begins with a magnificent scene in Revelation 5.  A mighty angel asks in a loud voice, ‘who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’   The scroll sets the end of this creation in motion and therefore represents our future inheritance, the new heavens and earth.
  • Apparently there is nobody worthy to open the scroll.  The tragedy of it struck the disciple John and he cried his heart out.  Then, “…one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ 9

The promise of Genesis 3:15 is finally fulfilled.

  • In Revelation 6-8 Jesus opens the seals, the trumpets and the bowls that are necessary to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.  Only then can the glorious New heavens and earth, the New Jerusalem, the Bridegroom and the Bride’s banquet, and the eternal reign of peace, finally come.  At last Satan is completely crushed and banished to the lake of burning sulphur where he will be tortured for ever.
  • Just imagine this glorious scene!  ‘Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb….  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants [we, the faithful followers of Jesus, resurrected and renewed] will serve Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.’ 10 

Conclusion

All this is only possible because the message from Genesis 1 rings loud and clear: God is powerful, He promises (speaks) and He fulfils.  Cut Genesis 1 out of the Bible, and you lose the rest of the revelation of Scripture.  Without God, the Omnipotent Creator, there is no power to do what needs to be done.  Only God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who were all involved in the six days creation event, have the power to see that what God promised, will come to pass.

References

  1. Genesis 3:15, Revelation 12:9
  2. Genesis 12:2-3
  3. 2 Samuel 7:12-16
  4. Luke 1:30-33
  5. Luke 1:35
  6. Ephesians 1:19-21
  7. Luke 3:16
  8. John 1:1; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2
  9. Revelation 5:5
  10. Revelation 22:1,3,4