Thursday, 20 July 2017

How to Understand Old Testament Prophecy

The thing about Old Testament prophecy, was that no-one who read it was able to fully understand what to make of it all - not even the prophets themselves - until after Jesus' resurrection. Even the disciples, who'd been raised on the Old Testament, and despite spending three years with Messiah Himself, didn't understand that Messiah had to die - until after His resurrection. Until then, no-one seemed to fully understand that there was to be two comings of Messiah, not one. No-one seemed to fully grasp how the Gentiles would come to be included along with the Jews as the people of God. Many didn't grasp what it would mean that there would be a "remnant" of Jews who would experience God's promises. They didn't have a clear understanding of what the "new covenant" would look like, or how it would come to be made, or what impact it would have on their then-current covenant. It was only after Jesus' resurrection that anyone started to be able to piece Old Testament prophecy together the way it's meant to be. Even John the Baptist, although Jesus said he was the greatest of the prophets, at one point had to ask, "Art thou he that should come, or look we for another". So even the greatest prophet's understanding left him unsure. Jesus of course, was the only One who adequately grasped Old Testament Prophecy. After His resurrection, He opened the eyes of His disciples' understanding, and He expounded all things in the entire Old Testament concerning Himself. Their hearts burned within them! What He shared with them then became the basis of the whole New Testament - the foundation of the Apostles' doctrine. The Gospel. So put it this way: the only way for us to correctly understand and apply the Old Testament, is to do so in the light of New Testament teaching. That teaching is based on the words and deeds and history of Jesus, as recorded in the four Gospels, proclaimed in the sermons in Acts, and taught plainly in the Epistles. Otherwise, if we approach Old Testament prophecy on its own, without using New Testament teaching to piece it all together, we'd be approaching the text blindly, in a way. We'd be approaching it no smarter than they were in Old Testament times. No smarter than the disciples were during their three years with Messiah before the eyes of their understanding were opened after His resurrection. Yet that's precisely what many Christians today seem to be doing: approaching Old Testament prophecy, reading the text on its own, trying to deduce what might be going to happen where and when and to whom and why - without due regard for what the New Testament already explained about the same themes! Paul said Scripture (the Old Testament) must be "rightly divided". The first thing that means is that Scripture does need to be "divided". One way it needs to be divided, is between past, present and future. But many don't divide it up - rather, they tend to want to lump it all together and place it all in one timeframe, usually in the future. The second thing that means, is that it needs to be divided "rightly". That means it can be divided wrongly! So how can we divide it rightly? By heeding what the Apostles said about it all, of course! There's no more authoritative and reliable way - since the Apostles sourced their understanding of it from Jesus Messiah Himself.

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