The three-fold promises were repeated on several occasions (Genesis 17:4–8; Genesis 18:18–19) and these became the future hope for the nation of Israel and they awaited their fulfillment. When Jesus came, the expectations of the Jews were raised. Would Jesus be the Messiah who would bring the promised blessings? After Jesus had been crucified, his followers were confused as one explained to a passer-by.
“The chief priests and our rulers handed him [Jesus] over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem [NASB: restore] Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” Luke 24:20-21
They didn’t realise at the time that they were explaining all this to the very person they were talking about, for Jesus had been raised from the death state by his Father, the one and only Creator God.
So when his followers later met up with him again, now knowing that he had been raised from the dead, they expressed further enthusiasm towards those promises made to Abraham, particularly the promise of a Kingdom of blessing which would be set up in the land to which Abraham was told to go—namely, the land of Israel—and which would last forever.
From the book of Acts we read:
“So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority.’ ” Acts 1:6–7
Jesus did not say that his close friends were wrong in asking for the restoration of the previous kingdom, a kingdom that had been ruled by such great men as David and Solomon, but remarked only that the timing was not to be revealed until God considered the time to be appropriate.
The hope of Israel
The hope of the Jews was that the kingdom of Israel would be restored again. Recall the great follower of Jesus, Paul, whom we noted earlier. He had been imprisoned for his faithfulness to Jesus Christ, and was on trial for his life before Caesar in Rome. He said,
“For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” Acts 28:20
This hope was not one of heaven-going, for the Jews knew nothing of that. Rather, their hope was the fulfilment of the promise made by God to Abraham, which was in three parts.
- It concerned a promised land, to be inherited forever—and that land was the land of Israel.
- It concerned a great and numberless group of people, the inhabitants of that everlasting inheritance.
- It concerned one through whom all those people in the land would be blessed.
At the time the promise was given to Abraham that person through whom the blessing would come was not named, for at that time he did not exist. However, at a much later time we find the person identified, when he did exist. Paul is, once again, the one who informs us, when he wrote about this very subject to the people resident in Galatia.
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and thy seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” Galatians 3:16
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29
Now, those promises said nothing about heaven or about hell. They spoke only of an everlasting kingdom to be set up from a base, later identified as Israel, the country to which God led Abraham so very long ago.