A promise is an undertaking from one person to another, guaranteeing to do, or give, something in the future. The promises of God are concerned with the future, both of mankind and of the world He has created.

The phrase ‘to give one’s word’ has the same sense as ‘to promise’. In the Bible, God gives His word concerning the future, with all the force of a promise. All of the prophecies in the Bible concerning the future are therefore, in a sense, promises.  Unlike men’s promises, which are often broken, God’s promises cannot fail.

The most important promises in the Bible are the basis of the ‘gospel’ – the ‘good news’ about the future Kingdom of God. These promises are linked to covenants, or binding agreements. The Bible records the fact that the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, has entered into covenants with mortal men and women and affirmed them by solemn oaths.

The hope of salvation is based on promises made by God in the Bible. These are described by the Apostle Peter as “great and precious promises”, by which we may share “the divine nature”, that is, eternal life [1] .

The beginning of the promises

God’s first promise to save sinful men and women was made immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve [2]. These words foretell a conflict between good and evil that would be resolved by the victory of a Saviour provided by God, the promised seed (or descendant) of Eve.

In the course of time, man’s wickedness drove God to bring the judgement of the Flood upon the earth. But, after the Flood, God made a second great promise [3]. This promise of the permanence of the earth was confirmed by a covenant and symbolised in the rainbow [4].

God’s promises to Abraham

About B.C.2000, Abraham (originally Abram) was told by God to leave his home in Mesopotamia and to journey to Canaan. God promised him that if he did as he was told

  • He would make him the father of a ‘great nation’ [5]
  • That nation would be very big [6]
  • He would give that nation a land to live in [7] – the ‘Promised Land’.

Abraham’s belief in these promises from God was “counted . . . to him for righteousness” – in other words, his sins were forgiven because of his faith [8]

Mentioned in these promises are:

  • A “promised seed”, descended from Abraham.  This is the Lord Jesus Christ [9].
  • The multiplication of that seed “as the stars of heaven” [10].

This refers to the multitude of people of all ages who would gain salvation through Jesus, by believing the same promises [11].

These promises were repeated to Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (Israel). They are the foundation of the gospel of salvation [12]. They require that Abraham and all the faithful must rise from the dead, as Jesus did, in order to enjoy them [13].

God’s promises to David

Nearly 1,000 years after Abraham, when his descendants, the nation of Israel, had become a kingdom in the land of promise, God made further momentous promises to David the king [14]. These promises were also affirmed by God by covenant and oath [15], and were reiterated by the angel Gabriel when the birth of Jesus was announced [16].

God’s promises to Jesus

All of these promises are centred in Jesus, the Son of God [17] , and so the New Testament begins with the words:

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”  (Mt. 1:1).

But there are other promises in the Old Testament directed personally to him. For example, Jesus is personally promised rulership of God’s Kingdom [18]. Exalted to God’s throne in heaven, Jesus is affirmed by an oath to be a priest (or mediator) for all believers [19].

God’s promises to us

Although God’s promises cannot fail to be fulfilled, they only apply to us IF:

  • we have the faith to believe them
  • we are baptised into Jesus as our saviour
  • we try to follow the example of Jesus in our lives

By believing and acting upon God’s promises [20], we can obtain eternal life and share in the marvellous blessings of God’s Kingdom which he has promised to set up on this earth.

Bible references

1 2 Pet. 1:4
2 Gen. 3:15
3 Gen 8:21,22
4 Gen 9:11-13
5 Gen. 12:2,3
6 Gen 15:5
7 Gen 13:14,15
8 Heb 11:6; cf. Rom.4:3; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:23
9 Gal. 3:16
10 Gen 22:16-18
11 Dan. 12:3; Heb. 11:12,13
12 Gal. 3:8,9
13 Acts 24:14,15; 26:6-8
14 2 Sam. 7:12-14
15 Ps. 89:3,4
16 Lk. 1:32,33
17 Acts 13:32,33; Rom. 15:8,9; 2 Cor. 1:19,20
18 Ps. 2:8
19 Ps. 110:1,4; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb. 5:5-10
20 Gal. 3:27-29