Throughout the Bible, many interesting events happen. Nations are judged, miracles are performed, prophecies are shared, and wars break out. All the events and acts of God can seem random, but the Bible actually presents one coherent history from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible reveals God’s plan of salvation of mankind through promises, all of which are fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
In the beginning of human history, God established a covenant with Adam wherein God offered Adam the blessing of eternal life as perfect obedience to God. God also told Adam that there would be curses for breaking the covenant. Not only would Adam be blessed or cursed as a result of his actions, but all of those who descended from him naturally would too (Rom. 5:12). Adam was free to eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2). In Genesis 2:9, the creation account relays that God also created the Tree of Life, which represented Adam eternal life to Adam if he honored God’s command not to eat from the tree.
Sometime after God gave Adam this clear directive, Adam ate of the tree. Consequently, Adam and Eve spiritually died and were banished from the Garden and kept from the Tree of Life. Even today, non-Christians are guilty before God, not just because of their incessant sinning, but because their representative before God, Adam, sinned. Though the Covenant was broken and curses were incurred, God promised Adam that one of His descendants would overcome Satan, who deceived him and his wife into eating of the forbidden tree. This is the first gospel promise of salvation (Gen. 3:15).
Generations after Adam’s transgression, the wickedness he introduced into the world filled the earth.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. – Genesis 6:5-8
As an act of righteous judgment, God flooded the whole earth, wiping out all but Noah, his household, and the animals God determined should be on the ark. After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah, saying He would not destroy every creature on the earth again.
The Noahic Covenant is more than just a promise that God will not destroy the world. It serves God’s greater redemptive purpose of preserving humanity to fulfill His promise to crush Satan’s head through Jesus Christ.
Abram was a descendant of Noah, and God promised to make his descendants into a great nation and to use Abram as a blessing to the other nations (Gen. 12:1-3). In Genesis 15, God promises to give Abram descendants as numerous as the stars. Later, in Genesis 17, God tells Abram that he will be the father of a multitude of nations and changes his name to Abraham. God guarantees Abraham that He will see that the promise is kept, and though Abraham’s descendants would be given commands, their choice to be obedient or disobedient would not be the basis of the promises’ fulfillments. The number of Abraham’s descendants drastically increases, and after a period of prosperity in Egypt, they find themselves enslaved because the Pharaoh feared their increasing power (Ex. 1:8-15).
Also known as the Old Covenant, God struck this covenant with the Israelites after Moses led them in the exodus from Egyptian slavery. God was gracious to the Israelites under this covenant as just He is to His sinful people in all covenants following the covenant with Adam. They did not have to earn God’s favor by works. Through this covenant, God makes great progress toward fulfilling His promise to Abraham by establishing a great nation.
The Lord prefaces the Ten Commandments and the other commands given to Israel with an acknowledgement that He is already their God and the one who freed them from slavery (Exodus 20:1). It is in light of His relationship with them that He gives the commandments and civil laws to regulate their society. Though there were many laws given to them, it is crucial that we understand that Old Testament saints were saved the same way New Testament saints are; by grace through faith alone (Romans 4:1-6).
This covenant also included a ceremonial law in which animals were sacrificed for the sins of the people. None of the sacrifices under this covenant actually satisfied God’s wrath against sinners. Hebrews 10:4 reads, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The purpose of this sacrificial system was to make clear to the people of God that their sins needed to be atoned for, and not even generations of upholding the system could pay for a single sin. Ultimately, the sacrifices pointed to Christ as the true and final sacrifice who would appease the wrath of God against sinners. This is one of the ways in which the Law functioned as a teacher of the people of God (Gal. 3:24).
The nation of Israel would eventually break this covenant by an overwhelming apostasy, which was the result of their lack of faith (Heb. 3:16-4:2). Consequently, they invoked the curses of the covenant and they were exiled (Deut. 28:64-65).
God established the Davidic Covenant with David, who lived under the Mosaic Covenant, and before it was broken. In this particular covenant, God promises that He will establish an eternal kingdom for a son of David’s, and that He will discipline the son should he be disobedient (2 Sam. 7:13). God also promises to establish this son of David’s kingdom forever.
David’s descendants rule, but because they are all sinners, none of them could inherit the eternal throne because of death, sin, or treachery. As a result of insighting, the nNation of Israel was split in two, and many kings from both sides would lead the people into sin. The promised king from the line of David would have to perfectly honor God, lead the people of God, and unite the people of God near and far. The nations promised to Abraham would be complete with a righteous king to rule over it (Col. 1:18).
The New Covenant is another gracious covenant God enters into with His people after they broke the Old Covenant. Jesus Christ Himself is the mediator of this unbreakable covenant, and He is the fulfillment of all the other covenants too (Jer. 31:31-32, Heb. 9:15).
The ways in which Jesus fulfills the Old Testament promises are manifold. Jesus is the promised offspring of Eve who defeated Satan through His crucifixion and resurrection (Col. 2:13-15). More than that, He is a greater Adam who perfectly obeys God, earning righteousness for all those whom He represents before the Father in heaven. He undoes the death Adam brought on the whole human race by granting everlasting life and reconciliation with God by simple faith in His salvation.
Concerning Abraham, Jesus fulfills all that God promised him. He redeems sinners from every nation, making them the offspring of Abraham, who God appointed as the father to the nations (Gen. 17:6-7, Gal. 3:29). Christ will also reign over these nations eternally as David’s promised royal descendant (2 Sam. 7:10-17, Psalm 22:27). God’s covenant with Noah allowed for God’s plan of redemption to unfold without God destroying the world because of our sinfulness.
Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system given through God’s covenant with Moses. He, in the one-time sacrifice of Himself, satisfied God’s requirement of justice for all who would trust Him for salvation. This was something that centuries of animal sacrifices and generations of priests were not able to accomplish. Their work only symbolized the merciful work Jesus would do for every believer throughout human history.
There is much more to discuss about how God executed His plan to exalt Jesus Christ through the salvation of the world, through promises. There are many features of the covenants that I did not mention, but the sections above provide a basic outline of God’s covenants with mankind and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We can exclaim with Paul that Jesus is the one who fulfills God’s promises.
For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. – 2 Cor. 1:20