Pastor John, as you know Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite passage for a lot of Christians. It’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible. It reads like this: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Pastor John, can a Christian legitimately lay claim to an Old Testament promise like this one? Why or why not?
To the Exiles
Yes, Christians can lay claim to this, and they can do it because of Christ. Here is the way I see it fitting together: God spoke that promise through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29. It explicitly addresses the exiles in Babylon. If you start reading at the beginning of the chapter, you find they are in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:1). Seventy years are going to pass, but a hope and a future are coming for them. So, we Christians — Gentiles, especially — go to it and love it, because it holds out the prospect not of destruction for us, but life and hope and joy in the future.
Now, we can do this because at the Last Supper, Jesus lifted up the cup, which represented his blood, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25). When he said that, he meant, “When I die tomorrow morning and shed my blood on behalf of my people, I am securing for them all the new covenant promises that God has made.”
New Covenant People
Everything that God meant to be fulfilled for his people Israel is now going to be fulfilled in his people of the new covenant. This means that not only Jews but also Gentiles, through faith in the Messiah, become part of the covenant people of God, so that every promise can be laid hold of by Gentiles who are in the Messiah — in Christ Jesus.
We know that because in 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul says, “All the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ].” I think that is also behind Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him [because of that sacrifice] graciously give us all things?” That would include all the promises that God made to his covenant people. I understand the flow of redemptive history as coming to a climax in Jesus, who purchased the promises of the Old Testament for all those who are in him as the head of this new covenant people. So, I love Jeremiah 29:11 and I lay hold of it as a Johnny-come-lately Gentile. I believe Christ has warranted that for me.