Q. What is the difference between the Old and New Testament promises given to us by God ?
It is probably easiest to think of the New Testament being an ‘upgrade’ of the Old Testament promises rather than actually different. If we check Hebrews 8, the argument is that the “better” promises of the New Testament (“better” than the Law) were already latent and waiting in the Old Testament.
Heb.8:6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
Titus 1:2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.
Put simply the major difference is that the men and women of the Old Testament did not receive what was promised (Heb.11:39-40) and had to wait for the New Testament era, and then finally for resurrection:
Heb.11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
The above is the overall answer, but in more detail:
The Old Testament Promises
1. To Eve
God promised a special offspring or “seed”, who would triumph over the “serpent”
This offspring was Christ who destroyed the devil (Heb.2:14, see also Psalm 91: 13, Rom.16:20, Luke 10:19)
2. To Abraham
- God promised he would be father of a great nation, of many peoples and of kings, and would be a source of great blessing (Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 17:4, 6).
- He promised that all nations would be blessed in Abraham and his seed (Genesis 12:3; 22:17-18).
- He made a covenant with Abraham whereby he will inherit the land of Canaan for ever by resurrection from the dead (Genesis 13:14-17; 15:7, 12, 17; 17: 8; Acts 7:5; Mark 12:26-27; Hebrews 11:8-9, 39-40).
- He promised that Abraham’s seed (Christ) would inherit the land of Canaan and be king over all his enemies (Genesis 12:7;22:17;Galatians 3:8, 16, 29).
The promises were renewed to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob. See Genesis 26:2-4; 28:34.13-14. Gal.4:28
3. To David
- God promised that David would have a remarkable descendant whose father would be God. See 1 Chronicles 17:11-12.
- that God’s covenant with David would be established in this descendant, who is Christ, (Acts 2:30), who would rule on David’s throne (Psalm 89:28, 34-36; 132:11)
- that Christ would also be a righteous Saviour (2 Samuel 23: 3-5)
- that the Royal House of David would be God’s house and with Christ would establish a house of worship in Zion (1 Chronicles 17:10, 12, l6; Psalm 132:2-3. See also Isaiah 2:2-3).
The New Testament Promises
It is difficult to say clearly where the OT promises end and the NT promises begin since they are so much the same thing, upgraded, but as an overview, here are some of the main themes:
A. The New Testament recalls the OT promises (Acts 7:5, 17, 13:23, Rom.4:13-21, 9:4-9)
Luke 17:2 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.
Acts 13:23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.
Acts 13:32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,
The NT makes it clear that these promises are fulfilled in the resurrection of the OT patriarchs and NT believers.
Acts 26:6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
B. The NT also has two new promises related to the Holy Spirit. These relates to:
(1) the promise of miraculous powers to the disciples under the condition they stayed in Jerusalem:
Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
(2) the non-miraculous promises of the Comforter (John 14:15-18), and the Spirit, the promise of the new life (Eph.1:13).
Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
C. The NT expands the promises to make Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles (2Co.1:20, 7:1, Heb.6:12, 17, 10:23)
Rom 15:8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
Gal. 3:14-18 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Gal.3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Eph.3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
D. The NT promises that believers will share the divine nature. This is without open precedent in the OT promises.
2 Pe. 1:4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
E. The NT promises that Christ will come again and reward believers with a place in his kingdom, and eternal life:
James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
2 Peter 3:4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
1 John 2:25 And this is the promise that he made to us — eternal life.