The Bible begins with the thought of everlasting life. The Tree of Life in the garden of Eden symbolizes life eternal with God. However, sin and disobedience brought in physical death and separation from the presence of God. Therefore, the theme that runs through the Bible is how God brings man back to fellowship with him and thereby giving him eternal life with God. The Bible ends with the Tree of life in the book of Revelation.
There is the hope of an afterlife in God which is the biggest hope of Christianity. Afterlife is possible because God sent his son Jesus into this world to die for us on the Cross. Jesus’ resurrection on the third day by defeating death is proof that those who believe in Jesus will have an afterlife in Jesus. Do you have hope for an afterlife?
‘Hope of Afterlife’ in the OT Scriptures
There are numerous texts in the OT that reflect the cross. Let us particularly focus on one shadow of the cross this morning. The text for today is Genesis 15.
We saw the call of Abraham and the blessing sandwich in Genesis 12. We have the sevenfold blessing verses in chapter 12 where Abraham is introduced. Genesis 12:2-3 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
In Genesis 12, God is giving to Abram what the nations of the world were trying to aspire on their own in a manmade solution in Genesis 6 and 11.
Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
God was going to give to Abram what human beings were trying to achieve by their own works. God will bless Abram with land and child, and God will bless the nations through him. That is God’s purpose for our lives. God blesses us to make us a blessing. Genesis 12 is all about blessing.
Are you trying to achieve something on your own? Turn to God for true blessings.
1. HOPE OF AFTERLIFE | God wants to bless me to be a blessing to others.
Abraham follows God and comes to Canaan but he still has two desperate needs. The promise to be a great nation implies both the gift of land and of a child to this man. Abram is now roaming around in the Promised Land and he does not own any territory and he has no offspring. Abram is 75 in Genesis 12, and 85 by the time he gets to Genesis 15.
This is the background of Genesis 15. Abraham is in the Promised Land but still without land or children. These blessings are ratified or made formalized in a covenant between God and Abraham in Chapter 15. This covenant has the hope of the afterlife.
In chapter 15 the promise is formalized in a covenant. Genesis Chapter 15 has two parts. Verses 1-6 you have the miraculous gift of offspring, and verses 7-21 speak about the land. Children and the land to make Abram into a great nation. Both are impossible by man. Both require overcoming death in order for God to accomplish what he is promising Abram.
Genesis 15:1-6 1After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
It is on this night that God made a covenant with Abram. Why look at the stars? In the ancient days, people wondered about the sky. And the thought is, “If God can do that, he can do anything.” It is not about the number of stars. It is their testimony, the testimony of the creation itself to the almighty power of God by which he can then fulfill any promise he makes to us.
2. HOPE OF AFTERLIFE | God Is Able To Fulfill All His Promises In My Life
Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. New Testament showcases this passage too. There are many passages where God speaks and the man believes but there is no other passage where God credits to them as righteousness.
The focus of Abram at this point is in the promised seed. The promised seed of Abram, the one through whom the nations of this world will be blessed. So Abram’s faith is focused on the same faith as ours, namely in the seed of Abram, who is Christ according to Galatians 3. Galatians 3:6-7 6So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.
Abraham believed God (in the seed) that resulted in Jesus, and we through faith believe Jesus as the seed of Abraham. So what justified Abraham also justifies us, that promised seed of Abraham and God credited to him as righteousness.
Do you believe in Jesus? He is the Son of God and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). He has come to justify man to be reconciled to God.
3. HOPE OF AFTERLIFE | My Righteousness Comes By Faith In God
The moment you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are made righteous. God’s righteousness is imputed upon you.
PROMISE OF THE LAND | Genesis 15:7-21
In the first part, Abram did pretty well. He believed God who created the starry heavens can do all this. I am sure God can give us a child. The second promise is the land.
Genesis 15:7-8 7He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” 8But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Abram staggers at this promise. The offspring promise was tough but at least to this point, Abram shows the kind of faith that is expected out of him and the same kind of faith that saves us. But at this promise, (land), he just cannot believe it. How is it possible?
In the biblical world, you cannot just own the land, you need to inherit it or you need to dispossess the enemy. The Canaanites are all around. Either Abram has to buy it and remove the Canaanites or go for war and defeat the Canaanites and take the land. This is next to impossible.
So Abram asks in Genesis 15:8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
GOD’S RESPONSE TO ABRAM
Genesis 15:9-16 9So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
13Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
Abram, in the fourth generation, after 400 years, you are going to get the land. The short answer is Abram in this life you are not going to get it. What makes it hard to believe is that you can get it but not in this life. That is why Abram staggers at the promise. It is an eternal promise on which he has to stake his life. It is hard.
I don’t know how difficult it was for Abram? If you are having a hard time right now, making ends meet and God says 400 years from now you will have your own house, and your descendants will be able to pay their bills.
Does that make you feel better?
It was difficult for Abram. God said a while ago: Genesis 15:7 And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”
ABRAM’S RESPONSE TO GOD
Abram said, “How do I know, it does not make any sense?”. To which God responded in Genesis 13:15 …for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.
Genesis 13:17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.
God emphasized that he is giving the land to Abram and now when Abram asks God specifically, God says, “Abram you are going to die of old age and then 400 years later your descendants are going to get the land.” Did God change his mind? No, God does not change his mind. Therefore, Abram is going to get the land, just like the descendants.
Here, Abram is being challenged to have solid faith in the life that is to come.
FOLLOWING GOD IS NOT ALL ABOUT THIS LIFE. IT IS ABOUT AFTERLIFE.
Following God is more about the afterlife. This life is a preparation for the life that is to come, and the life that is to come matters. The land is not just a possession, it is an everlasting possession.
Genesis 17:8 “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you, and I will be their God.“
Nothing we have is forever in this life. We will be leaving behind everything from this life one day. Nobody is going to carry anything to the grave. We do not have anything that is an everlasting possession here. Consequently, the OT clearly is portraying Abram as having an eternal perspective.
The NT validates this in Acts 7 | Stephen’s message
Acts 7:2-5 2“Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ 4“So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.“
God did not give Abram the land but God promised Abram that he and his descendants would possess the land.
The two promises God made to Abram: Son and property. Both are impossible, both required death.
Hebrews 11:12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. By the time Abram had a child he was 99. They were both dead with respect to their ability to have children. God had to overcome death. That was just a foretaste of the overcoming of their own death literally for the city whose builder and maker is God.
Both the OT and NT have hope for an afterlife. Abram believed in afterlife.
4. There Is An Afterlife
The OT begins with the story of the tree of life and living forever. Interestingly, when Adam and Eve are banished from the garden, the tree of life is not cut down. There is still hope for the promise of the afterlife or eternal life, and of course, the tree of life is mentioned in the book of Revelation. It is for us to enjoy.
Deuteronomy 32:39 “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. See the order here: I put to death and give life. I wound and then I heal.“
See the song of Hannah 1 Samuel 2:6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.” This is the theme of the Bible that is running everywhere, the thought is the afterlife.
Do you have your eyes open to the hope? Is your heart set on the afterlife? Are you all concerned about this world or for the world to come? He will provide our needs now, but do not just settle for so little of this world. Put your hope on heavenly things.
David prayed in Psalm 17:15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. The awaking here is a common image of dying and waking up. The idea of the biblical world is that when you die, it is like sleeping through one night, then you wake up in the morning and then you see God’s face.
I will see God when I wake up. Is that your hope? Is that your assurance?
Two destinies after death, what do you chose? Everlasting life and everlasting contempt. Brightness and darkness. Which will you have?
Daniel 2:2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Moving forward, Abram has got two promises: Son and Land. He overcomes the doubt about having children by looking at the stars of the sky. But Abraham is staggering at the promise of afterlife possession of the land. So God gives his covenant promise and his oath to Abram. Genesis 15:7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” This echoes the 10 commandments. Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
There is an echo but with a little difference. As seen in Exodus 20, One is the promise what God will do and the other is what you must do. Here in Genesis 15, God takes the oath. In the promise covenant God made with Abram, it is God who swears. But in the works covenant at Mount Sinai, it is the people who take the oath.
In Abram’s time when a king is making an agreement with his vassal, there was a covenant made. They cut the neck of the sheep. It means, “Let me die like this if I break the covenant I made with you. I am making you king over that city and I promise to give it to and if I don’t this is what I ask the gods to do to me.” God got into a similar covenant with Abraham.
GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAM
Genesis 15:9-21 9So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
15You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” 17When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—19the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
What is God saying when he does that with a smoke and flaming torch which passed between the pieces?
This talk of God’s presence when he descended on Mount Sinai. God descends exactly in the same fashion in Mount Sinai. Covered with smoke, descended in the fire, the lighting and smoke, and the two-fold pillar coming between the people.
God said I will take the curse upon myself. That is what in fact happened at the cross. Christ redeemed us; he paid the price from the curse of the law.
NEW COVENANT IN THE BLOOD
Galatians 3:13-14 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Therefore, in order to give us the afterlife, Christ made a new covenant in His blood for us and died on the cross. Luke 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.“
Therefore, the afterlife is the biggest hope of Christianity. Do you believe in the afterlife? Our righteousness comes by faith in God. Have you trusted Jesus as your savior? The moment you believe in Jesus you are made righteous. Hence, you have hope of an afterlife.
Remember, following God is not all about this life. Do you have your mind sent on eternity? You may not understand why many things are happening in your life. Ask God to give you an eternal perspective like that of Abraham. God wants to bless me to be a blessing to others. Are you using your blessing to bless others? Take the decision to be a blessing to others. God is able to fulfill all his promises in your life. Hence, if you are staggering at something in your life, can you just trust him at his promise? Yes, God is able.