In 1886 R. Kelso Carter composed a famous hymn about standing on the promises of God and of Jesus Christ. What do God’s promises mean for your life today?
God has made thousands of promises. (Some sources suggest that the Bible contains approximately 30,000 promises!) God wants us to hold fast to our hope and faith and to believe that He will make those promises happen. We see this in Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for He who promised is faithful.”
God’s promises are found in many of the covenants that He made with individuals and with the nation of Israel. His promises are found in the inspired prophecies of His prophets, and they are found in the words of Jesus Christ and the apostles. They are promises we can believe in! They are promises that give rock-solid stability and assurance to our lives.
Promises made to individuals
One of the first covenants God made with individuals is found in Genesis 9:8-17. After the Flood, God made a perpetual covenant with Noah, his sons and all their descendants who would come after them. He promised never to destroy the earth again with a worldwide flood. God established that covenant with a sign—the rainbow. So, every time we see a rainbow in the sky, it is a reminder of God’s promise that a flood of that nature will never again occur on the earth.
The covenant with Abraham was even more profound, as it included the promise of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Notice Galatians 3:16: “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.”
The original promise was made to Abraham in Genesis 22:18: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” So from Abraham would come the promised Messiah. In addition to that promise, Abraham was materially blessed and was told that his descendants would be multiplied as the stars of the heaven and as the sand on the seashore (verse 17). That promise also included the fact that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan (the Holy Land), which was “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Genesis 17:7-9; Deuteronomy 6:3).
God confirmed this promise again with Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 26:2-4) and with his grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:12-14). Jacob’s family ultimately grew into the nation of Israel. They moved to Egypt during the time of Joseph and grew into a multitude of people in the years leading up to Moses.
Promises made to the nation of Israel
After the people of Israel had been in Egypt for many years, God chose Moses to lead Israel to the land of promise. When they reached Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with Israel that was also filled with promises.
We begin to see this agreement described in Exodus 19:5-6: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
God then directly spoke to Israel the 10 Commandments; and later, through Moses, He gave them other laws. God included the following promises for obedience within His covenant in Exodus 23:22-28:
- “But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies” (verse 22).
- “So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you” (verse 25).
- “And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you” (verse 28).
Israel willingly accepted the covenant and promised to obey God. “And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has said we will do’” (Exodus 24:3).
However, Israel didn’t obey God’s covenant very long. Israel sinned and therefore broke the covenant. The fault was not with God, but with Israel.
However, God is not finished with Israel! In the future, He will make a New Covenant with them.
We see this in Hebrews 8:8-10: “Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”
So, all those things God originally promised to Israel will yet occur in the future. This time, though, the Israelites will have God’s laws in their hearts and minds, and they will be willing to obey Him. And God promises to extend those blessings to the gentiles as well (Isaiah 56:6-7; Romans 10:11-13).
God is ever faithful in what He promises!
God’s promises to the prophets
The promises God gave to the prophets could be listed on page after page. First there are prophecies of coming heartache and suffering, but eventually peace will come to the world. As people begin to obey God’s commands, they will receive His promises of plenty of food and water and prosperity. At that time people will no longer be plagued by fear or anxiety, and death will eventually be swallowed up.
After Jesus Christ returns and rules the earth with the resurrected saints—during what the Bible refers to as the 1,000 years, or Millennium—the following promises will be fulfilled:
- There will no longer be war! “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
- There will be peace: “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zechariah 8:4-5).
- The nature of animals will also be changed: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
- The land will abound with fresh water: “And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; a fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD and water the Valley of Acacias [located just north of the Dead Sea]” (Joel 3:18).
- There will be an abundance of food: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed. … They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them’” (Amos 9:13-14).
But the most important promise is that Jesus Christ shall be King of Kings over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9), and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). What a wonderful world God has promised for the future!
The promises given by Jesus and the apostles
Jesus Christ often spoke of the coming Kingdom of God as He “went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). But He has given us promises of hope and comfort that apply even now, before His second coming:
- He gives us peace! “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
- He gives us joy! “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
- He gives us love! “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).Jesus Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father and is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). We can rely on Him even more, as “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
The author of Hebrews furthermore states that Jesus Christ “is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
Following are some of those “better promises” as emphasized in the writings of the apostles:
- Our sins will be forgiven! “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We have to repent and change: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
- The Holy Spirit will be in us! “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6).
- We will be resurrected from death! “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
- Eternal life will be given to us! “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25).
- We will be partakers of the divine nature! “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4, emphasis added).
Trust and believe in these promises
As was noted at the beginning of this article, we are told to hold fast to the confession of our hope, for He who promised is faithful! It is important to remember that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The apostle Paul emphatically stated: “For all the promises in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Even though the exact phrase from the old hymn “Standing on the Promises” is not found in the Bible, there are other synonymous phrases that are just as meaningful, such as “believe in the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:20) and “trust in Him at all times” (Psalm 62:8).
Finally, notice the following words of Jesus Christ:
- “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).
- “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:21-22).
God’s promises are real! They will occur! The question is, What significance and impact will these sure promises have in your life?
We encourage you to read the articles in this “Faith” section of the Life, Hope & Truth website to see examples of people who have lived by faith and how faith should change our lives.