God's Promises, part 2

“Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”  C. S. Lewis

This week, Jeff Brannon gives us the second article of a two-part series. Jeff is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Chair of the Biblical Studies and Ministries Department at Belhaven University. He holds an M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. Jeff regularly teaches in The Refuge class

God’s Promises for this Life

In a previous article, we reflected on the odd promise that Jesus gave to his followers in John 16:33 – that we will have trouble or tribulation.  As I’m sure you realize, this is not the only promise that God has given us.  Consequently, we will now consider the other promises that God has given us for this life.  But before we do that, it might be wise also to consider the promises that God has not made to us for this life: 

  1. God has not promised a life without suffering (discussed in the previous article)
  2. God has not promised a certain family life
  3. God has not promised a certain relational or social life
  4. God has not promised a certain income
  5. God has not promised success in certain endeavors
  6. God has not promised a certain level of individual ministry success
  7. God has not promised a house (much less a certain kind or size of house)
  8. God has not promised a car (much less a certain kind of car)
  9. God has not promised a vacation (much less a certain kind of vacation). 

I mention all of these because, if we are honest, they are often expectations that we place on God.  We expect that he will provide in our earthly lives things that he has not actually promised.

But God has indeed given us many important promises for this life.  Here are a few to remember:

  1.  Jesus has overcome the world.  Some of you realize that I previously did not quote or mention the first or last part of John 16:33.  Let’s take a look at the verse: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  Jesus promises that we can have peace in the midst of suffering and that he has overcome the world. 
  2. God has given believers every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  This is actually an amazing promise to consider.  While this statement might seem a bit mysterious, the context of the passage (Ephesians 1:3-14) clarifies these blessings: having been chosen by God (1:4-5), sonship (1:5), grace (1:6), redemption through Christ’s blood (1:7), forgiveness of sins (1:7), the revelation of God’s mystery in Christ (1:9-10), salvation (1:13-14), and the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing the inheritance of believers (1:13-14).  In this life, God has richly poured out and bestowed the blessings of salvation planned by God, accomplished by Jesus Christ, and applied by the Holy Spirit.  We receive these blessings now and in this life, but await their final fulfillment in the life to come (Ephesians 1:14).
  3. God will never leave or forsake his people.  In the very last sentence of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus promises, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  In John 14:8, Jesus provides more specificity when he promises that he will not leave his disciples as orphans and that he will give them another Counselor or Advocate – the Holy Spirit.
  4. God will complete the work that he has started.  In Philippians 1:6, Paul writes, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  This promise stems from the last one.  Not only will God never leave or abandon us, he is faithful to complete the work he started in us.
  5. Nothing can separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  In Romans 8:35-39, Paul writes that nothing, not even trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, danger, sword, death, or evil powers, can separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  The Lord Jesus Christ is our advocate at God’s right hand and nothing can separate us from him. 
  6. God is faithful to his people in the midst of temptation.  In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes that God is faithful and he will not tempt us beyond what we can bear.  Moreover, God will provide a way for us to resist temptation and stand in the midst of it.
  7. God is our refuge and strength in the midst of suffering (Psalm 46; Psalm 9:9-10).
  8. God works all things together for good.  This is one of my favorite promises.  In Romans 8:28, we read that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. 

These precious and dear promises should give us hope and confidence.  Let us remember and cling to God’s promises, God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s good plan for us in the midst of trials and tribulations.

The Future Promises for Believers

These are of utmost importance to remember because, both in every-day life and in the biblical worldview, the future provides motivation for the present.  In every-day life, we are often willing to endure a difficult season if we know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Similarly, in Scripture and in the Christian life, the future inheritance of believers provides motivation and fuel for the present.  Let’s consider a few of God’s future promises for us:

  1. Believers will dwell with God forever in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 3:11-13; Revelation 21:1-5). 
  2. Believers will reign with God forever in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 3:19-21; Revelation 22:6).
  3. Believers will have new, glorified, and perfected resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:39-58).
  4. There will be no more sin, death, pain, or suffering in the new creation (Rev 21:4-5).
  5. Christians will experience perfect and intimate relationships with God and with other believers (Revelation 21:3; Revelation 21:6-7; Revelation 22:3-5).

These are, in reality, astounding promises (and we could no doubt mention more).  By dwelling and reigning with God, we will fulfill the purpose for which God created us.  Moreover, in the new creation, all that is sinful, evil, and displeasing to God will be done away with, and all that is good, holy, and glorifying to God will find its ultimate and final fulfillment.

God gives these amazing future promises about our future inheritance to motivate us in this life.  In Hebrews 12:2, Jesus, for the joy set before him, endured the cross.  At the cross, Jesus experiences physical, emotional, social, and spiritual agony.  He is beaten and crucified, he takes upon himself the sin of the world, and suffers the agony of being separated from God the Father.  Yet Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is able to endure this for the joy set before him.  Similarly, in Philippians 2:6-11, Jesus’ path to exaltation was first his humiliation.  Jesus humbled himself by coming as a servant and becoming obedient to death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8), but now Jesus is highly exalted as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).  Paul no doubt cites this example to call believers to service and humility in this life (see Philippians 2:1-4).  Paul’s point is this: believers can sacrifice, serve, and live in humility because of their future inheritance in Christ (this is implicit in Philippians 2:1-11 but explicit in other parts of Philippians, e.g. 3:12-14 and 3:20-21).  In 1 Peter 1:3-9, Peter writes that believers have had to experience grief and various trials for a little while.  Nevertheless, the salvation of believers and the promise of an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade are reasons for rejoicing.  The trials, persecutions, and sufferings of this life are only “for a little while.”  We who are united to Christ by faith can persevere because we have an eternal inheritance in Christ.