Exactly how many grains of sand are there on the seashore? Or how many stars are really out there in the heavens beyond even what we can see? Could anyone really ever count either of these? Way back in Genesis 15, a man named Abram poured out his heart toward God, expressing his despair over having no children of his own - no heir for his household. And in response, God told him to go outside and try to count the stars. "This is how many offspring I will give you," God told him (v. 5). Later in the story, in chapter 22, when Abraham showed that he was willing to sacrifice the one beloved son that God had given him in his old age - the heir through which all of those promises were supposed to come to pass - God told him again, "I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore" (22:17).
Certainly, since the time of Abraham, there have been many born into that physical family of people that we call 'Jews' or 'Israelites'. The number continues to grow even to this day. But when do you think that the promise could be considered to be fulfilled? Is there a certain number that we are looking for?
Actually, we are told in 1 Kings 4:20 that during the time of King Solomon, "Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea." The text clearly means to indicate at this point that God's promise had found fulfillment. That shouldn't be surprising; many of God's promises were finding fulfillment during this time. He had brought them into the land that He had promised to give them. He had given them peace on every side. He had chosen a place for His Name to dwell. And He even brought about the fulfillment of the promise that He had made to David, saying, "Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my Name" (2 Samuel 7:13 - cited as being fulfilled in 1 Kings 5:5).
This period was a time of great physical fulfillment for all of these promises, but this was not to be the end, and would by no means be the greatest manifestation of the fulfillment of these blessings. David had just taken a census of the men of Israel as one of his last acts as king, and though the number was large for a nation of that day - 1.3 million men who could draw the sword - it doesn't even compare to the populations of a lot of world cities today, and it certainly doesn't compare to the number of stars in the sky or grains of sand on the shore. And even though Solomon was a great king, and the house that he built for the Name of Yahweh was pretty magnificent, both he: Solomon, and it: the temple, were nothing compared to what would be revealed at the greater fulfillment of those promises.
This is because God never intended the physical fulfillment to be the main point of any of those awesome covenant blessings. When God spoke of Abram's 'seed' (or 'offspring') through whom all of the world would be blessed, He did not just mean a certain ethnic group descended from Abram's loins. He meant - in the most glorious sense of His promise - a certain Man - a singular 'seed' - would come through Abram's family, and that it would be through this Man, Jesus Christ, that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And God meant that Abraham's spiritual offspring: those who shared the same faith in his Heavenly Father, would truly number more than the stars or the sand. Likewise, when God promised David that his son would sit on his throne forever, and that He would build Him a house, He was not just talking about Solomon and the temple. Rather, His larger picture included the coming of Jesus Christ and the building of a temple out of living stones (souls!) where His Name could dwell (1 Peter 2:5).
The ultimate fulfillment of all of this is of course through Jesus Christ. He is the 'Seed' of Abraham and the 'Son' of David. And His people are synonymous with His 'house': the congregation of saints (1 Corinthians 14:33), the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12), the bride prepared for the Bridegroom (Revelation 21:9). And the number of that people will far surpass 1.3 million. In fact, in Revelation chapter 7, we are told that the number will be 144,000, but that is not a literal number. That is a number that figuratively represents the fulness of God's people. Thus, that is the number that John "heard" described (v. 4), but when he turned to look (verse 9), what he actually saw was "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
Those old promises were about Jesus and they were about us - that is, those of us who have clung to Christ for salvation from the just wrath of God! Isn't that exciting? When you have read Genesis 15 and 22 and 2 Samuel 7, did you see yourself there in Christ? By virtue of His righteousness and the Holy Spirit's regenerating work, we are made a part of that great family and a part of that great temple! Praise be to God the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit for including us in all His promises!