My grandfather once promised to buy me a new bicycle. He made that promise many years ago, right after a politician had promised him that all elderly Americans would soon be given a bonus. Neither of us saw those promises come true. For many generations, promises have been a mainstay of hope for people seeking a better life. Even today, we are bombarded by promises of better jobs, better living, a better economy, and so on. So, are there any promises in which we can take hope?
The value of a promise is in the giver being able to deliver on what is promised. A promise is a pledge in advance to provide some reward or benefit. When the one making the promise is not able to fulfill the promise, it is of little value—or, even of negative value in that it may dash the hopes of the innocent or naïve recipient of the promise.
So, where can we look to find promises that are sure and true? Over the centuries, men have set their signatures on documents promising the hope of a better world. From the Magna Carta, to the Mayflower Compact, to the League of Nations to the United Nations, many well-intentioned promises have been made. Yet these promises, every time, have fallen short of delivering the utopia they promised.
Is there any hope, then, that we can find promises that will truly change our lives and bring about the betterment of humanity? Can someone promise that children be fed and the elderly protected? Can someone promise that families can stay together and earn a good living? Can someone promise safety from war, crime and disease?
Thankfully, the answer is “yes”—but we need to look to a source other than man. We find in God’s word—the Holy Bible—unshakable promises made to mankind by God. The Apostle Paul was inspired to tell us, “And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was able to perform” (Romans 4:21).
Long ago, God promised to the ancestors of the modern peoples of the United States and British-descended nations, “I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those that bless you, and curse him that curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
In verse 3, God promised that someone in Abraham’s lineage would be used to free all humanity from the death-dealing consequence of sin. That “someone” was Jesus Christ. When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, they brought sin to all mankind. God had warned them: “But of the tree of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Note that this does not say, “you will die and your soul will float off to heaven to wait for your body.” Nor does it say, “you will die and your soul will float into a purgatory or hell while you wait for your body.” It says that you will die. Death is the cessation of consciousness. “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
But Jesus Christ came with a promise. As the Apostle John reminds us, “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25). This promise is reliable. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Those who genuinely repent, are baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit are the recipients of a wonderful promise.