God’s Two Greatest Promises

 

Scripture Reading: II Peter 3:9-13

 

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?   Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

 

            During the Shreveport/Bossier City annual lectureship earlier this year while listening to brother Jesse Dickinson it occurred to me that God has made mankind many promises.  But the two greatest in my mind of God’s promises are those that we will study today in this lesson.  First of all let us look into our inventory of current word usage called a dictionary and consider what a promise is:

 

What is a Promise?

 

Promise: “a declaration that something will or will not be done or given…”

 

            We have many promises recorded in the revelation of the mind of God that we call scripture.  The first promise was made to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  God created this beautiful garden, placed his perfect creation in it, and provided for their every need.  He made them but one promise:

 

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17

 

But eat they did; and die they did.  They challenged God to keep his promise and they began to die as soon as they sinned and this same process has continued for all of mankind even unto this day.  The last promise that God made to mankind we find in the revelation given by Jesus to the apostle John:

 

Revelation 22:18-19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

 

When you turn to the sacred scripture you will find that “promises” are also included in the terms “covenants”, “vows”, “contracts” and we use these words in our English language much the same way today.  God’s promises are most often included as part of a covenant, an agreement between the Almighty and those with whom He makes his covenant.  In the Old Testament there are many promises that we could consider.  We could consider the promise that God made to mother Eve to provide a remedy for the effects of the sin that Satan tempted her to commit that God made to her and we find in Genesis 3:15.  We could consider Noah and the promise to save him and his family from the great flood Genesis 6:18-22.  We could consider those made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that a land would be given to their descendants Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 17:7-8, Genesis 26:3-4 and Genesis 28:13-14.  We could consider the promises made to Moses, the children of Israel, David, Solomon and many, many others.  

The two promises that we will consider in our study today are no exception to any on this list, they’re part of God’s current covenant with mankind.  A covenant made and sealed through the blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  But first let us consider one other aspect of God’s promises.

 

God is not “Slack”

 

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise…”  II Peter 3:9

 

            God keeps his promises.  There may be years, generations or even thousands of years that pass by between when God makes a promise and when he fulfills that promise.  We have many examples found in scripture but our time will only allow us to examine one closely.  That will be the promise made to Eve in the garden of Eden recorded in:

 

Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

 

The bruising of Satan’s head is symbolic of the removal of his power and authority over mankind that he holds when we have unforgiven sins.  We find this promise made to Eve confirmed in the angel’s message to Joseph speaking of Mary, his wife to be:

 

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

The fact that this promise made by God would be fulfilled was confirmed in prophecy:

 

Isaiah 53:4-6Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

 

The fulfillment of God’s promise was confirmed by the testimony of the herald that God sent to prepare the way for his Son:

 

John 1:29The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

 

Fulfillment of this promise made by God was also confirmed by Christ himself.  When he took the cup emblematic of his blood just as we do in our worship as God has commanded, He said:

 

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:28 

 

We find that the fulfillment of this promise made by God was further confirmed by the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the preaching and writing of his apostles:

 

Acts 5:30-31The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.  Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

 

Romans 3:24-25Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;”

 

Ephesians 1:6-7To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

 

The sin that was brought into the world by Satan, that condemned men’s souls has been overcome and can be removed!  How long did God wait to fulfill this promise?  About 4000 years, about 4000 years.  This is far beyond the expectations of the normal course of time according to man; but God’s promises are sure, they will be kept.  Now let us consider God’s two greatest promises, the greatest in my mind simply because they involve the destiny of man for never ending eternity.

 

The First of God’s Two Greatest Promises – Heaven

 

            First let us consider the promise made by the Son of God:

 

John 14:2-3In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

 

And such a place that will be.  Generations of men have tried to capture its beauty in the hymns and songs that we sing:

 

“We read of a place that is called heaven, it’s made for the pure and the free”

“These truths in God’s word He has given, how beautiful heaven must be.”

 

“There’s a beautiful place called heaven, it is hidden above the bright blue, where the good, who from earth ties are riven, live and love an eternity through”

 

“We know when He shall call us, whether soon, the glad summons shall be, but we know when we pass o’er the river, the glory of Jesus we’ll see.”

           

We have the words of the Holy Spirit through the pen of John the Apostle as well.  He and the Holy Spirit who is directing him use the most beautiful and brilliant things known to man to describe something of what heaven must be.  Please turn to Revelation Chapter 21.  First of all it will  be adorned as a bride:

 

Revelation 21:1-2And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

 

There will be no sorrow, pain or suffering there:

 

Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

 

John was carried to a high place where he could view the city as we might see a city on this earth from a nearby mountain.  And when I read this passage I think of standing in awe on the mountain and overlooking Los Angeles or Denver at night when the valley sparkles with the city lights.  Or we think of looking at the city of Albuquerque from Sandia Peak at night, and these don’t even begin to compare to that city that John saw.

 

And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;” Revelation 21:10-11

 

The light of this city was like that of a precious stone, a jasper stone, but one that was clear as crystal.  Did you ever turn a cut diamond in the light under a magnifying glass and watch the facets glisten, flash and sparkle?  If you have then you can start to get a little bit of idea about how beautiful this city will be.

 

And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.  And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chal-cedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” Revelation 21:18-21

           

Yes, heaven is a place whose beauty and wonder is well beyond the mind of man to comprehend or his language to describe.  It is promised by a loving and benevolent God to all who choose to go there.  But God has made another promise that is just as great, just as sure as the existence of heaven.

God has promised mankind that there is another place were our souls may spend eternity that is just as terrible, just as fearful, just as devastating as heaven is beautiful and wonderful.

 

The Second of God’s Two Greatest Promises – Hell

 

Psalms 9:17The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”

 

The wicked will be turned into hell.  That great day of judgment is coming and how does the Son of God describe it?:

 

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.” Matthew 25:31-33

 

Yes, we will be segregated, the righteous from the wicked, all men will face the judgment because:

 

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” Hebrews 9:27

 

And after being separated we will then be sent to our eternal destiny:

 

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matthew 25:41

 

There they will join the great deceiver who owns their souls:

 

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:10

 

But in the mind of man it is only the most evil ones who will be sentenced to an eternity so horrible that the human mind cannot comprehend it.  Someone says, Oh yes, we can readily understand that men who are totally wicked, men who have lived lives so evil that even the pagan world condemns them will be banned from God.  But God “SO LOVED THE WORLD” that he sent his son to die for us.  It can’t be that God will put good people in the same devils hell that he puts the most evil of men who ever lived, yes and even Satan, the prince of devils himself.  Those that are condemned earned their eternal destiny for the scripture says:

 

A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompence of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him.” Proverbs 12:14

 

But God is just too good, too loving, to condemn good people to this kind of punishment.  You’ve heard that argument.

But what does the scripture say?  Is it not true that someone who does not believe in God can be a good moral person?  Is it not true that many teach and millions more live life with the idea in their minds that all good moral people will be in heaven?  But where will these unbelievers be?  God tells us:

 

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

 

            Then most men will admit, well, perhaps we can accept that those who have heard the good news of the gospel of Christ and rejected him may be condemned.  But what about all those people who have never had the opportunity to hear the word of God?  Surely God will not condemn them just because they have not had opportunity.  But what does the scripture say?  Ignorance is not an acceptable defense in God’s court of judgment.  Speaking of man’s ignorance of God the Holy Spirit through the sermon of the Apostle Paul tells us:

 

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:30:31

 

So just what is the eternal destiny of those who have never repented of their sins because they do not know God?  Hear the word of God:

 

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” II Thessalonians 1:7-9

 

            So Brother Paul who are those who will escape this horrible end, this terrible punishment and eternal separation from God?  The Holy Spirit tells us that his church, those who have obeyed the gospel, those have been called out of the world into a right relationship with God, those who are in fellowship with God (I John 1:5-7)  and only those need not fear the “GATES OF HELL.”

 

Jesus said:

 

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

 

In order for us to be added to that which Jesus called “MY CHURCH”, we must

be saved.  After the day of Pentecost:

 

“…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:47

 

In order to be saved we must obey the commandments of God, or as stated by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul we must “OBEY”  “THE GOSPEL OF OUR LORD” (I Thessalonians 1:8).  In his commandment to preach the gospel Jesus also told his disciples part of what is required in order to “OBEY” that gospel.  We must believe and then we are to be baptized..

 

Mark 16:15-16And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

 

We must also repent as the people at Pentecost were told by the apostle Peter in his sermon.  When convicted of their sin and confronted with their alienation from God his audience cried out in their despair and asked “WHAT SHALL WE DO?” (Acts 2:37)  The instruction of the Holy Spirit of God and the Apostle was this:

 

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38

 

So we must believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, we must repent of all of out past sins and we must be baptized.  But there is one more step.

 

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

 

And we find a working example of that confession in the sacred record about Philip and the Ethiopian Treasurer.  When the Ethiopian asked Philip what would hinder him from being baptized the answer was:

 

And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:37

 

But some would have us believe that baptism is not necessary.  But hear the words of the Holy Spirit through the pen of the apostle Peter.  Speaking of Noah and his family being saved by water we learn:

 

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” I Peter 3:21

 

If we are already children of God, if we have already been added to the church that Jesus built and have faltered, fallen or sinned publicly and need to be restored to our former status then we are to:

 

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16

 

            There is heaven to gain and hell to shun, come: