All Bible quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
A Reminder About Some of the Points in Lesson 4
In the last lesson we read about Adam and Eve, about Adam being formed of dust, and about God then giving him the gift of life.
We saw that people either don’t want to think about death or believe that a part of us lives on, but that God teaches in the Bible that death is in fact the end of life.
We learned that God told Adam and Eve they would die if they disobeyed Him, which they did. We read that we return to dust from which we were created.
However if we believe God’s word, put our faith in Him, obey Him, and then we can receive the gift of life from God. Jesus will raise us when he comes, and give us life that lasts forever.
The Promises of God
In Lesson 5, by considering some of God’s promises, we shall gain a greater understanding of his plan to save us from everlasting death.
A Promise of Deliverance
In the beginning, after the disobedience of Adam and Eve and God’s judgement of them because of their sin, there is a wonderful promise that provides hope for the future. It comes in the words of God to the serpent and it is easy to miss their importance.
“So the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’” (Genesis 3.14-15)
God’s Promise in Eden
Because of the part the serpent had played in Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God’s commandment, it became the symbol for sin and those who behaved in a sinful way.
King David used the symbol to describe those who plotted evil against him,
“Who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day. They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips” (Psalm 140.1-3)
John the Baptist also used the same description to warn the people who came to listen to his preaching,
“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him, ‘You brood of viper’s! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3.7-8)
And Jesus used the same language to describe his enemies, addressing the Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses with the words, ‘You snakes, you brood of vipers!’ (Matthew 23.33).
Crushing the head of the serpent, promises the utter destruction of sin and death. The ‘offspring’ of the woman (Jesus) is the destroyer, ‘he will crush your head’. In bringing about the destruction of sin and death he received a ‘strike’ in the heel (death for three days in the grave), a temporary wound from which he recovered.
“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2.24)
A careful reading of the whole Bible will show that this parable of the offspring of the woman speaks of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which he gained the victory over sin and death and has paved the way to eternal life for all who believe in him.
As the Bible unfolds God’s plan, the theme of salvation is developed in many ways. Outstanding among these are the character studies of selected individuals whose lives were either good or bad examples of faith (that is those who either believed and obeyed God, or those who did not). To many of the faithful God made remarkable promises which will be considered in this and later studies. In this study we shall look at two important characters, both supreme examples of faith, whose lives are recorded in the Book of Genesis.
As the descendants of Adam and Eve increased, the tendency to sin, which they had inherited from their wayward parents, began to show itself. Genesis Chapter 6 records: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6.5) Such was the state of mankind that: “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (Genesis 6.6) Noah was the only man with whom God was pleased. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Genesis 6.9)
God determined to make a fresh start with His creation and to use Noah in this purpose, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.” (Genesis 6.13)
God chose to flood the earth so that all air-breathing creatures, including man, would be drowned. The Genesis record of the Flood is considered by many to be a mythical story. But if we examine it carefully we shall find that there is much scientific evidence to support the truth of the Bible record. The Bible uses the account of the Flood to teach powerful moral lessons. The life of Noah stands out as a shining example of faith in contrast with the unbelief of his age.
The Almighty at this time declared that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. God has a purpose with the earth and God promised that for all time the seasons would follow in their turn and that day and night would succeed each other without interruption in this way again. Look at Genesis 8:21-22. “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’” (Genesis 8.21-22)
Few are Saved
A further lesson taught by this record is the Bible truth, that it is only relatively few who are prepared to believe God and consequently few who will be saved. This principle, so vividly displayed in the account of the Flood, applies also to the far greater salvation from eternal death. “Who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.” (1 Peter 3.20) Jesus Christ said: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7.13-14) This and many other Bible examples and statements, casts doubts upon world religions which claim the adherence of millions of ‘believers’. The Bible teaches that salvation from eternal death is a highly individual matter, and that few have been, and are, prepared to accept the challenging requirements, which God demands - the hard, narrow way of faith.
Abraham is an outstanding example of a man who was prepared to accept and successfully endure many rigorous tests because of his faith in God’s word.
Archaeology Brings the Bible to Life
Abraham lived about 2,000 B.C. in an ancient city called Ur, which was situated near the head of the Persian Gulf. The site of Ur has been excavated by archaeologists in recent times. Their discoveries show that the city was part of a highly advanced civilisation capable of building large houses, palaces and temples and of producing exquisite works of art. Archaeology aids the study of the Bible by giving us a vivid picture of bygone ages. It certainly aids the appreciation of the greatness of Abraham’s faith, because God commanded him: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12.1) From the archaeological evidence we know that God was asking Abraham to leave behind a life of comparative ease and security to face the dangers of the unknown, in which God alone would be his guide. Abraham, unlike Adam and Eve, obeyed and believed: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11.8)
The Promises to Abraham
Abraham’s faith was founded upon promises of blessing which accompanied God’s command. He realised that when God, the All-powerful and All-wise Creator, makes promises, then they are certain to be fulfilled. God said to him: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12.2-3) Throughout Abraham’s long life these promises were repeated many times, and each time something was added to the original promise. For the purpose of this study we will consider the most significant aspects of the promises under the following headings:- 1. Abraham’s descendants to possess the land of Canaan. 2. Abraham’s descendants to become a great nation. 3. Through one of Abraham’s descendants all nations to be blessed. The land to which God eventually led Abraham was called Canaan in ancient times. It is an area which at the present day roughly coincides with the modern states of Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Jordan at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea ‘On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates–.” (Genesis 15.18)
When Abraham reached Canaan God said to him, The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” (Genesis 12.7). The promise was repeated later, ‘All the land which you see (Canaan) I give to you and your offspring for ever.’ Note particularly the addition of the words ‘to you’ and ‘forever.’ If it were not for these two important factors, we might understand the promise as referring to the conquest and possession of Canaan by the Israelites in ancient times as recorded in the book of Joshua. This was, however, only a partial fulfilment because, first, the promise was to Abraham, as well as his descendants, and, secondly, possession was to be enjoyed for ever. On the first point, the Bible reveals that while in Canaan, Abraham was like a Bedouin and when his wife died he had to buy a piece of land in which to bury her. Finally he died, not having received the promised inheritance of the land. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, `Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land,..” (Acts 7.3-5) On the second point, it is clear that neither Abraham, or his descendants, the nation of Israel, who have spent a great part of their national existence exiled from Canaan, have obtained possession of it for ever.
The Resurrection Provides the Answer
1. Clearly then, the complete fulfilment of this promise must still be future. It requires no lesser event than the resurrection of Abraham and of his true descendants, whom the Bible defines as those who are like Abraham in showing faith and obedience to God’s commands. After the resurrection they, as immortal beings, will take possession of Canaan forever I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 8:11) These facts will become clearer as the other promises are considered.
2. Abraham’s descendants to become a great nation. This promise is found throughout the record of Abraham’s life, and has, to a large extent, been fulfilled as the Bible shows (Genesis 12.2; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17). The Book of Genesis records that Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) became the original ancestors of the nation of Israel. They lived in Canaan until Jacob, in the time of famine, took his family into Egypt.
The book of Exodus tells how Jacob’s descendants increased into a nation of more than two million and became enslaved by the Egyptians. About 1,500 B.C. God sent Moses to free them and lead them to Canaan. The book of Joshua, Moses’ successor, tells how the twelve tribes of Israel conquered Canaan. Later books of the Bible describe how Israel developed until, about 1,000 B.C. it became a great and prosperous kingdom, during the reigns of David and Solomon.
The New Testament Explains the Promise
The Bible shows that after the death of Solomon, Israel declined and was eventually exiled from Canaan because the people were, generally speaking, faithless and disobedient to God. (Deuteronomy 28.15-68). It is in the New Testament that we find a wonderful exposition of the promise to Abraham. In the letter to the Romans the apostle Paul makes it clear that, ‘They are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” (Romans 9.6-7) This introduces an important principle briefly referred to in the consideration of the first promise. The great nation, which was to be descended from Abraham, was not to be composed of faithless natural descendants but of those who showed a similar faith to Abraham. In each generation they have been few, but when they are raised from the dead, at the return of Jesus to the earth, they will be gathered together into one great nation. Then Abraham will see his immortal descendants, praising God for their salvation, forming, “A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.” (Revelation 7.9) The promise will be fulfilled in a far more wonderful way than it was in the past. 3. Through one of Abraham’s descendants all nations to be blessed However, mankind has not yet received the greatest of all blessings with which this promise is concerned - the deliverance from the universal curse of sin and death. The Bible reveals that there is a time coming when, ‘All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord’ (Numbers 14.21). There is little room for God’s glory while man fills the earth with violence and oppression and while sin and death remain. A great change is obviously necessary to bring about this wonderful time of blessing, which we read of in many Bible prophecies (Psalm 72; Isaiah 32). However great the change, its realisation is certain! This is the message of the gospel (good news) which is taught throughout the Bible. Few realise that the promise made to Abraham 2,000 years before Christ, is the foundation of the gospel!
"The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles (nations) by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, : “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Galatians 3.8)
Jesus Christ - Abraham’s Descendant
The central figure of the gospel and therefore of the promises to Abraham is Jesus Christ. He is preeminently the descendant of Abraham. The New Testament opens with these words, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:” (Matthew 1.1). It goes on with a genealogy, which traces Jesus’ descent from Abraham and this theme is found throughout the New Testament. Paul points out in his letter to the Galatians that one particular descendant is referred to in the promise and that this one is Jesus: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds," meaning many people, but “and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ.” (Galatians 3.16) Jesus is revealed as more than just a natural son of Abraham; in the same letter it is stated that ‘only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.’ (Galatians 3.7). When we remember the Bible definition of faith as belief and obedience to God (the very opposite of sin), it is clear that Jesus was the greatest of all Abraham’s many sons. He alone of the entire human race could truly say to his adversaries/opposers without fear of contradiction, ‘Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?’ (John 8.46). The supreme message of the New Testament is that Jesus by his faith overcame sin and thus: “It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1.10)
The Gospel Preached to all Nations
In Old Testament times the message of salvation (the gospel) was the privileged possession of the nation of Israel, but they failed to respond to the demands of faithful obedience to God. Then Jesus came and sent his apostles to preach the gospel of salvation to every nation (Mark 16.15). “He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Many see this as the fulfilment of God’s promise that all nations should be blessed in Jesus Christ, Abraham’s descendant. It was, however, only a step, although a great one, in God’s unfolding plan to fill the earth with His glory. Jesus knew that relatively few would accept this wonderful message, because it involves entering the narrow gateway of faith; and now, over 2,000 years later, the preaching of the gospel has not brought about the blessing of all nations.
Nevertheless this glorious time is coming! Jesus Christ will return to the earth to raise all who are responsible, including those who have ‘put on Christ’ and who therefore have become heirs of the promises to Abraham. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3.27-29) At that time the blessing of Abraham will come upon all nations through his descendant Jesus Christ. “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus..” (Galatians 3.14) Jesus will be king over all the earth and the Kingdom of God will be established, bringing in a time of blessing such as the world has never seen. For this all Christians are taught to pray to God: ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6.10).
- A promise of ultimate deliverance from sin and death was made immediately after Adam and Eve’s fall.
- God’s plan of salvation is revealed in the promises He made to the faithful.
- The record of the Flood demonstrates that few will be saved.
- The findings of archaeology confirm the accuracy of the Bible.
- God made great promises to Abraham because of his faith.
- None of these promises has been completely fulfilled.
- The promises point to Jesus Christ, who overcame sin and death.
- Jesus Christ can save from eternal death all those who, like Abraham, believe and obey God.
- The promises will be fulfilled when Jesus returns to the earth to establish the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God will bring a time of blessing to the earth, which will then be filled with God’s glory.
Passages For Bible Reading
Genesis 6, 12, 13, 15, 17, 22