Thursday, 20 July 2017

Reading Old Testament Prophecy

Old Testament prophecies often contained a jumble of themes: some of which applied directly to the immediate audience, some of which the Apostles said were fulfilled in their time, and some of which might be about the future still. Sometimes written in straight prose - other times written in the apocalytptic genre with visions and symbols. 

Not even the prophets themselves thoroughly understood what it all meant, or who it was all about, when it would all happen, or why. 

How to decipher it then? 

Answer: in the light of the New Testament! 

Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples' understanding, after His resurrection. He expounded the whole Old Testament to them. Their hearts burned within them! What He shared with them then became the foundation of the Apostles' doctrine: the Gospel. 

We can find their understanding of it, in their sermons in Acts, and in their plain teaching in their Epistles - which explains and applies all that Jesus said, and applies the Old Testament for us. 

New Testament teaching is the framework within which we are to "rightly divide" the Scripture (Old Testament). 

So, if the New Testament shows that something had already happened (like Israel's regathering, and the rebuilding of their Temple and the reinstatement of Levitical worship, after the captivity), it had.

If the New Testament said that something was being fulfilled in front of their eyes (like Messiah's birth, ministry, and His salvation and the inauguration of His kingdom), it was. 

If it teaches that some things are therefore now in the past (such as anything related to the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices), it is. 

If they said something is still to happen (like the Second Coming and the culmination of Messiah's Kingdom), it is. 

When they explained the manner in which Old Testament prophecy was really seeing it's outworking, then that's how we're to understand the Old Testament prophecies, etc.

When we re-read the Old Testament prophecies in this light, some of the difficult passages and questions seem to fall into place a little better. Not that it's all easy. 

But one thing we find, is that God's program - for everyone - really is all about JESUS.

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