Reflections on the Gospel, #2: Promises Fulfilled

Constantinople master, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, [their] children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you.”

Acts 13:32-33

All the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus]. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 1:20

Though Christians count themselves among those who hope for the fulfillment of God’s promises, as they do good and seek his face, their hope is also pierced through with joy. Why? Because Christians believe that in Jesus Christ, God’s promises have already been irrevocably fulfilled.

Let’s back up a bit and explain. Christians believe that in the course of history, God has revealed himself to individuals such as Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, and others. Through them, he raised up and guided a people to be his own, to know and follow his plan for true happiness, and in this way, they were to teach and bless the whole world. This people was the Hebrew people, the people of Israel, the Jews. God also made many additional promises to his people and made explicit to them many promises “built in” to all human hearts.

Then, in the fullness of time, to fulfill the promises made to his chosen people God sent Jesus Christ into the world. The core belief of the Christian religion is that God has already made good on all of his promises in the Person of Jesus Christ, his Divine Son. In Jesus, God’s perfect rule — his Kingdom — has already come into the world, has been inserted into the human family, and is growing. And the Kingdom of God will continue to extend itself until the end of human history, when it will rise in perfect beauty from the ashes of the current, flawed world. This is the “Good News” — the Gospel that Christians proclaim: God has fulfilled all of his promises fully in Jesus, and from Jesus, it is spreading in human hearts and minds, out to the whole of the human race, and ultimately to the whole of creation.

Christians strive to live by the truth of this Good News. To live our whole lives in thanksgiving, praise, and obedient love to the God who has loved us with an everlasting love. This is the meaning of the “faith” that defines the life of the Christian. By doing so, we allow God to transform us from within, to complete in us what he has begun in Jesus, making us fit to help build that Kingdom.

Let’s look at this Gospel more closely. In the first century AD, in the land of Palestine, Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth. The public facts of his life, ministry, and death are recorded by his followers, as well as by historians of the time. His name, in his native language, is Yeshua, and it means, “God saves.” Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin, as a member of the people of Israel, as a Jew. Centuries earlier, Israel had been chosen by God as his special people, so that all the families of the earth might be blessed through them (See Genesis 12:3). Jesus came to fulfill this promise of a worldwide blessing; and in fact, he came to fulfill all of the many promises God made to his people. How did he do this? According to the testimony of his closest followers, “God anointed [him] with the Holy Spirit and with power, [and] he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38); and he “died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, … he was buried, [and] he was raised [to life] on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; … then he appeared … to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7); and is now “exalted at the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33), and that heaven will “receive [him] until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” (Acts 3:21 NABRE).

What does all this mean? Did a Jewish rabbi and miracle worker, 2000 years ago, really rise from the dead and receive divine power over the whole cosmos, to bring it to its final fulfillment? Christians believe that he did. Christians with mature faith are those who have learned about Jesus and found him to be unlike any other person who has ever lived. And more importantly, they have experienced him alive and powerful in some way. Because they have encountered him, they believe that his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation are the means by which God is making good on his promises to us.

How can this be? How can God make good on his promises through Jesus of Nazareth? Because Jesus, the Annointed One of God, is also one being with God. The followers of Jesus taught that while Jesus was born into the world a human being, he existed before all creation. From eternity itself, he was “with God.” He was not created, but is, as it were, the complete “Word” eternally “spoken” by God. He is light shining from light. He is the Son, and God is his Father. He is the perfect image of his Father, so much so that the Son and the Father are One (John 10:30). In this sense, Jesus is God himself, for he shares the full nature of God and is one substance with him: Jesus is “God-made-man.”

But if God has become a human being, then God has already united himself in perfect union with humanity! The way that Jesus lived and died is the pattern of perfect humanity. Jesus lived in perfect love and union with God his Father, perfect love for human beings, and perfect relationship to the whole creation. Jesus lived the perfect life, and so received resurrection and exaltation to glory, seeing all the gifts and promises of God fulfilled in him and for him.

In a sense, then, the waiting is over: in perfect glory, the Kingdom of God has indeed come to the earth! What God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment” (Acts 13:32): “All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *