The bible is full of promises, from Genesis to Revelation God’s promises reveal his character, help us to grow in faith, live godly lives, and suffer with hope. A common question for Christians is how to understand and apply Old Testament promises to our lives today. Paul tells us that, “all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Jesus] (2 Cor. 1:20).” This echoes what Christ said of himself, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets…but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17)” and Paul’s teaching that all things in heaven and earth are summed up in Christ. In this short space I want to look to the New Testament writers to help us understand the some of the purpose for God’s promises, and how Old Testament promises are fulfilled by Jesus.
Peter states, “he [God] has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Pet. 1:4)”, and Paul writes, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement … bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)” What we hope for shapes our lives today. Faith in God’s promises is a critical component of his discipling of our lives toward the image of Christ.
With respect to Old Testament promises, the bible teaches us that, in Christ, they are: completed, transformed, or yet to come. This, admittedly, can take some careful consideration, but as Christians we are called to see all of God’s Word through a Christ focused lens. Here are three examples:
1) Completed: Micah prophesied a ruler over Israel would come from Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), that Matthew affirms is fulfilled by Jesus (Matt. 2:6).
2) Transformed: To Abraham God promised, “I have made you the father of many nations” and “I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (See Gen. 17:5-8) During the Mosaic covenant, stage 1 of that promise was fulfilled. But God saw Abraham as a father of many nations, a promise fulfilled through the ministry of Christ’s gospel to all nations. (Gal. 3:15-28)
3) Yet to Come: Rest is a key theme and promise through scripture. To Moses at Sinai God says, “go to the land I promised … My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Ex. 33:1,14)”, and Joshua records, “The Lord your God will give you rest, and he will give you this land (Josh. 1:1).” This is an example of something transformed and partially completed. There is still a rest for believers, but rather than rooted in a land it is rooted in Christ. We have a taste in this life which will come to complete fulfillment in eternity for, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6)”
Isaiah declared that no eye has seen, nor any ear heard, anyone who is like our God, “who acts for those who wait for him. (Is. 64:4)” Disciple and comfort yourself with God’s precious promises!