Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Using the New Testament's Perspective in order to Make Sense of Old Testament Vision and Scripture

I've looked at mountains from a distance, with a front view - it looked like I was seeing a single mountain. Or at least, two peaks very close to each other. Or, a number of peaks in pretty-much the same plane.

But when I got in the car and drove there, from a closer perspective, on location, I started to see that what from a distance looked like a single-plane was really two (or more) separate peaks and there was actually a bit of distance between them. Quite a lot of distance, in fact.

Both peaks (or each peak) were part of the same mountain-system, certainly - but really they were distinct with distance between them.

I've climbed the main-peak three times. Seen the area from all different vantage points.

Now when I go back and look at the mountain from a distance again, I can do so with a proper understanding of what I'm seeing.

The distance between the two peaks - or even just the fact that there were two separate peaks at all - wasn't easily observable or measurable from a distance: it looked more like a single mountain.

It was only after I went there that I was able to make proper sense of the view.

So, using the perspective you have when you're on location, is the way to make sense of the view you get from a distance, not visa versa.

Similarly, we can best use the New Testament's teaching about the Kingdom of God to enable us to correctly interpret the Old Testament prophets' view of the Kingdom.

Sometimes the ancient Prophets seemed to see Israel's deliverance and the coming Messianic-Kingdom almost like a single event. But now that Israel's deliverance has happened, Messiah has come (and we've been taught His Apostles' doctrine - now that we ourselves have been grafted in to that Kingdom-scheme), we have been given an understanding of what it all meant.

A key component of that is that there were to be two comings of Messiah, not one.

We understand now that while the Kingdom is still to come, the Kingdom has already come among us through the Person of Jesus Christ.

Messiah's second coming will be with power and great glory, openly revealing the salvation we're currently believing in and receiving; yet His first coming was as a suffering servant, offering Himself as an atoning sacrifice.

While the Kingdom is yet to come visibly, we are already in the Kingdom.

We are yet to be saved; we have already been saved.

The dead are yet to rise; we have already been raised with Christ.

We shall experience power in the age to come; we have already tasted the power of the age to come through the indwelling Spirit of God Himself.

We are yet to see our eternal inheritance; we have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

The final judgment is yet to happen; the prince of this world was judged already by the cross.

We have already passed from condemnation and death; to righteousness and life.

The Kingdom Now/Not Yet.

Already/Not Yet.


The first coming of Messiah brought the Kingdom, which guaranteed by the cross that we can enter the Kingdom at His second coming. That scheme is called the Gospel.

The Prophets foresaw the overall picture of Israel's salvation and Messiah's coming and Kingdom, from start to finish, and everything else in-between, with details such as:

  • Israel's preservation in captivity
  • Their return to their land, rebuilt Temple, Levitical worship, in Old Covenant times
  • Along with that came mention of the glorious, ultimate coming of Messiah
  • The end of the world, the resurrection, final judgment, and new heavens and new earth
  • But they also foresaw His virgin birth
  • His miraculous ministry
  • His suffering and atoning death
  • His resurrection
  • The new covenant in His blood
  • The outpouring of the Spirit
  • The salvation of believing-Jews
  • The blindness of unbelieving Jews
  • Gentiles hearing, and believing

They foresaw all that. Sometimes in the same passage. Sometimes as a unit. But that doesn't mean it should all be relegated to the future still. Because the New Testament helps us make sense of Old Testament statements which indicated a distinction. Just like driving to the mountains and climbing it helped me make sense of the view I seemed to be seeing from a distance.

Messiah has a second coming and had a first coming. The timespan in-between was implied in Old Testament Scriptures, but was not clearly understood at that time - and exactly how long it will be is not of the essence.

They foresaw scenes from each phase of Israel's deliverance and Messiah's coming and Kingdom, but didn't clearly understand how it would all look on location once it happened.

Not even the disciples understood it at first, despite having been with Jesus for over three years - until after His resurrection: then He expounded the Scriptures to them, and then they saw it:

God had fulfilled His promises to restore Israel from captivity; then Christ came and He was to suffer and die and rise again, then afterwards enter into His Kingdom.

In the mean-time, the Gospel was to be preached to all creatures - to Jews first, and also to all nations.

This was how God was fulfilling His ancient Promise.

It's not like God's Kingdom-Promise for Israel failed, or that it's been delayed. No, the Gospel is the way God always intended fulfilling it. Jesus Christ is the very fulfilment of the Law and Prophets.

So I think it pays to work backwards sometimes. To start with the perspective of someone who is amongst it, someone on location - and then use that in order to make sense of the view someone had from a distance, rather than visa versa.

(After traveling to the mountain, and climbing it three times, now when I go back and look at the mountain from a distance again, I can do so with a proper understanding of the view I'm looking at this time.)

That means, start with John's Gospel, perhaps (because it puts us on the map, so to speak); but then read Acts, and the Epistles and so on next, before any thing else - because those books of the Bible show us how the Apostles understood Jesus' intentions for us. It shows how they understood the Kingdom of God, the plan of God. They were written more directly for the likes of us.

Then after you've read Revelation, you can go back and read the other three Gospels, or go back to Genesis and begin reading the whole Bible all the way through - in light of the perspective you will have already gained from reading John, Acts and the Epistles.

Then you'll understand the Old Testament the way it's meant to be understood today. Just like I now have a proper perspective on the mountain view.

Jesus - the New Covenant - the Gospel - life in the Spirit - being born again - righteousness - life - this new way of living, which was for Jews and Gentiles, and which no longer involved the deeds of Moses' Law, is the fulfilment of the promised Messianic Kingdom. We're not still waiting for it. Israel is not still waiting for it - only it was to be a two-phase thing.

Otherwise if Prophecy is all still in the future, it implies a return to Judaism in future - but the New Testament rules that out.

It would also imply Jesus was too early in history to be Messiah - our faith would be in vain. That's the Orthodox Jewish view of Messianic Kingdom-Prophecy, not the Christian view.

No the Kingdom-Salvation is a two-phase thing: but the scheme has already been brought to Israel - and Gentiles were included in it. God's plan was something to which we are now already signed-up. We're already getting benefits from the scheme, although it hasn't matured yet. What is still to come is the Second Coming and resurrection.

It was always going to be a two-phase thing. The Gospel isn't just some interim plan while we wait for Israel's Kingdom-promises to begin to be fulfilled. No, the Gospel is the fulfilment - and the Gospel is a message of both Jesus' first and second comings. Jesus asserted all that. So did the Apostles.

But even though it's a two-phase thing, it's one scheme. God doesn't have a separate, future scheme for Israel's salvation. This is it. And Gentiles were grafted into the same plan. It's called the good news of the Kingdom of God. 

We must though much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God - yet we are already in the Kingdom.


No comments:

Post a Comment