Mark asks a great question:
I have a question about the fundamental statement that we are to “believe in Jesus (the Giver) for the promise of everlasting life (the Gift).” Must we believe in each of God’s promises in order to receive them, or is this true only of the promise of eternal life?
How many promises would you say that there are in the Bible? My guess is that there are thousands. Realize that all prophecies are promises.
A man named Everett R. Storms spent a year and a half counting all the promises and came up with 8,810, as follows: God’s promises to us, 7,487; one man promising another, 991; men making promises to God, 290; and several other combinations. See here for an article on his study. The article says that estimates of the number of promises in the Bible range “anywhere from 3,000 to 30,000, which seems a little steep since there are 31,173 verses in the Bible.”i
I would suggest that God’s promises are sometimes unconditional and sometimes conditional.
Examples of unconditional promises are all the prophecies regarding Jesus’ first and second comings. The promise of the rainbow–that God will sustain the earth–is unconditional. The promise that heaven and earth will pass away is unconditional. I would estimate that one-third or more of all promises that God makes are unconditional.
Conditional promises have a wide range of conditions.
The only conditional promise that is secured simply by faith is the promise of everlasting life. However, there are really two promises involved. One promise is that the moment we believe in Jesus for everlasting life, we are secure forever. The other promise is that as long as we keep on believing His promise of everlasting life to the believer, we remain assured of our eternal destiny.
Here are some of the various promises and their corresponding conditions:
|Ruling with Christ||Endure in confessing Christ (2 Tim 2:12).|
|Hidden Manna||Endure in confessing Christ.|
|Right to Tree of Life||Endure in confessing Christ.|
|Special White Stone||Endure in confessing Christ.|
|Praised by Christ||Endure in confessing Christ (Matt 10:32).|
|Treasure held in heaven||Send it on ahead (Matt 6:19-21).|
|Prayers heard||Treat your spouse well.|
|Eating food||Work with your hands.|
|Fruit of the Spirit||Walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24).|
|Forgiveness of sins||Walk in the light and confess your sins.|
|Long life||Honor and obey your parents (Eph 6:1-3).|
|Double honor||Rule well as an elder in a church.|
|Grace from God||Be humble (Jas 4:6).|
|Transformation of life||Allow your mind to be renewed by God’s Word.|
|Shame at the Bema||Fail to endure in abiding in Christ (1 John 2:28).|
|Rebuke by Christ||Stop watching for Christ’s soon return.|
There are many more promises and conditions. I encourage you to create your own list and share it with others in Sunday school and Bible studies. Except for a few examples, I have not indicated where these promises and conditions are found. I encourage you to look them up for yourself.
God’s conditional promises are most often received by obeying what God has told us to do in order to receive those promises. Obeying God is good for us. Disobeying God is bad for us. God promises both to bless obedience and to curse disobedience (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).ii
i Aren’t all things that God reports as history also implicit promises that they truly happened? I’d say that the Bible’s history and prophecy are essentially promises. Therefore, there might be multiple promises in a single verse. For example, Gen 1:1 promises 1) that the heavens and earth were created, 2) that God is the One who created, and that 3) the time of creation was “In the beginning.” I don’t think that Storms considered history and prophecy as promises. So the number of promises in the Bible might far exceed 8,810.
ii While these chapters concern Israel, they apply to believers and nations today. The blessing and cursing motif is found in the NT as well.