A question posted by a reader: “Are there specific promises regarding earthly life that God makes to us now (that are similar to those of land, descendants, being a blessing)? Some current “new” sects claim that earthly wealth is the reward for Christianity. God’s promises would have to be different today, wouldn’t they? Particularly in light of an overpopulated world (land), and the promise of the Second Coming (descendants). Or does the promise of eternal life supplant those given to Abraham and Isaac?”
This is a very complicated issue, because there is no one place in the Bible that answers the question. This is where we have to make an informed, theological leap that takes into consideration as much of the Bible as possible.
First of all, those sects that promote the so-called “prosperity gospel” (i.e., God wants us to be financially prosperous) are mostly composed of snake oil salesmen, hawking promises that they can’t back up. Usually, if a person believes the prosperity gospel and then experiences hardship, they are taught to believe that they apparently didn’t have enough faith–that it’s their own fault. (By the way, the prosperity gospel comes from the KJV of 3 John 2: “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” In today’s language, “prosper” doesn’t mean what it meant 400 years ago! A better translation is: “that all may go well with you.” NIV)
As for God’s promises, those made to Abraham were particular: the land of Canaan (Israel), physical descendants (the Israelites), and becoming a blessing (revealing the one true God to the Gentiles). Then Jesus came along and changed everything. In general, the New Testament transforms the promises made to Abraham and spiritualizes them. They are no longer particular promises (land, descendants, blessing), but universal promises (a spiritual inheritance for the life to come – 1 Peter 1:4 – and abundant life through Christ in this life – John 10:10).
This makes it rather murky where the Jewish people stand in God’s overall plan (read Romans chapters 9-11, which are somewhat unclear!), not to mention the land we call Israel today. But it is clear that God’s blessings are for everyone who has faith in Christ, who is Abraham’s true offspring (Galatians 3:16,29).