3. The Promises to Abraham

In Genesis 12, a man called Abram (later known as Abraham), was approached by God, and called to make a journey to Canaan (modern Israel). God then gave this man a number of promises that he could expect to receive,

Gen 12:2.: I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." NKJV

Later in Abraham's life, he was again called to act on behalf of God. After testing his faith, God again offered promises to Abraham. This time they went into more detail into how all the families of the earth would be blessed through him.

Gen 22:17.: "blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18. "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." NKJV

Again this promise talks of the prosperity of his descendents, but he also speaks of a particular seed in which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Some 2000 years later, just after the time of Christ, the man Paul in his letter to the Galatians, emphasises that this seed was singular, and further claimed who it referred to.

Gal 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. NKJV

So at the time of Abraham, God made the promise of Jesus, and that through him all the nations would be blessed. These promises were re-iterated through history, to Abraham's descendents Isaac, Jacob and the king David. So for some 2000 years before his birth, there had been prophecies about the life and purpose of Jesus.

In the time of one of those descendents, King David of Israel (in about 1000BC), Israel was becoming a prosperous nation. but there was still no temple of God, only a tent called the tabernacle. David wanted to build a temple, but was told by God that the time had not yet come. In response to David's offer to build the temple, God gave a series of promises to David. These are recorded in 2 Sam 7:

2 Sam 7:12.: " When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13. "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. NKJV

In Luke 1:32, Mary was given a number of promises about the role of the promised son,

Luke 1:32.: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33. "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." NKJV

It was said that:
  1. He will be great,
  2. will be called the Son of the Highest
  3. the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David
  4. he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever
  5. of his kingdom there shall be no end.

a comparison between the promises given to Mary and to David reveal many similarities.

This shows that the life of Jesus had been promised many years before. In the book of Peter, this is expressed in terms of being foreordained, chosen or foreknown (according to translation) before the foundation of the world,

1 Peter 1:20.: He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21. who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. NKJV

According to the Bible, even though in their natural existence they could expect little more, Abraham, David and Mary were promised a number of great things. Of greatest consequence to the world at large was the promised saviour in Jesus. Not only were the promises for the future generations, however, but they were also for the benefit of those who were promised. The book of Hebrews includes a record of the faithful of old in chapter 11. This includes a description of Abraham,

Heb 11:8.: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. ... 10. for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. NKJV

This shows that Abraham was waiting for more than just the physical blessing he received during his life. In fact, Hebrews goes on to say that the promises to him were not fulfilled by the time of his death.

Heb 11:13.: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. ... 16. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. NKJV

This shows that there is yet to be more to the promise, and that God has prepared this city for him. For Abraham to take advantage of it, there must be more to his life than his previous existance in 2000BC. The Gospel of Luke shows that the expectation was that Abraham would be raised from the dead.

Luke 20:37.: "But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' 38. "For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him." NKJV

The fact that Moses understood this to be the case shows that this was an expected part of the promise. From the time of creation, there was no stated right or promise to a resurrection from the dead. The promises originally given to Abraham were a thing chosen of God in response to the belief of an individual. (Romans 4:3 states that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness”).

The Future Promise

One of the at least partially fulfilled promises to Abraham was that his descendants would become a great nation. Both the Jewish and Arab nations accept Abraham as their patriarch. In particular, the Bible follows the maturing of the nation of Israel. Most of the Old Testament is about Israel or individuals from that nation. It is within that framework that many other promises were offered.

The Book of Isaiah is a collection of prophecies relating to Israel, and the part of Israel known as Judah. One of the early passages relates to a time known as the “latter days”.

Isaiah 2:1.: The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. 3. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. NKJV

This passage speaks of time that has never yet come on the Earth during recorded history. It may be the dream of the United Nations, but world peace is still a long way from being a reality. This passage promises a time when people will be willingly following the leadership of God, and when nations will be at peace.

Chapter 11 of Isaiah goes even further, detailing a time when there will be no violence.

Isaiah 11:1.: There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4. But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; ... 6. " 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. 7. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. ... 9. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. NKJV

The person referred to as the “Branch” is understood to be referring to a promised Messiah. Christians believe that this Messiah is Jesus, while the Jews believe he is yet to appear. Under the just rule of the Messiah, people are promised peace and prosperity.

The Biblical book of Daniel also contains many prophecies and promises of future times. Daniel is a particularly useful book in our times because the prophecies cover a wide range of timescales. In chapter 2, a vision is shown that describes the progression of world empires from 600BC to present times. It identified Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman and a divided empire. In the end, however, it described how these empires would be replaced by a kingdom of God.

Daniel 2:44.: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. NKJV

This kingdom corresponds well with the images given by Isaiah. It is an everlasting kingdom of God with universal acceptance. This is consistent with a promise given in the early days of Israel, while the Israelite people were travelling in the wilderness between Egypt and the promised land of Israel. After the people rebelled against God, Moses asked God for their forgiveness,

Numbers 14:19.: "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." 20. Then the LORD said: "I have pardoned, according to your word; 21. "but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD -- NKJV

In this case God was promising that the earth would be filled with His glory, which is consistent with the other prophecies.

These Four prophecies speak only of a promise to the nations of the Earth. The claim is simply that there will come a time on the Earth when there will be peace and happiness. There is no claim in these passages that any particular people will be able to take a part in world described.