The Old Testament can be viewed more easily through historical and prophetic eyes, and is a necessary preface to the content of the New Testament that follows.
The Old Testament begins with Creation and follows with a covenant relationship theme between God and humans, albeit a select and pioneering group, beginning with Abraham and on through to the ancient Israelites. Woven throughout the Old Testament narrative of people, places and historical events is the divine and sovereign first cause of “ONE GOD” and His direct influence on the lives of his people in this world. This gives rise to those men of God, such as David, Isaiah and Ezekiel, having experienced a level of prophetic utterance that spoke not only to the ancient Israelites immediate life situation, but also of realities, events and things far into the future. Examples of this are the messianic prophecies beginning in the Garden of Eden account, in Moses’ writings and on through the prophets, such as Isaiah, predicting the Messiah.
Thus around 2000 years ago, in a climate of messianic expectation, the time was right for the beginning of the fulfilment of those prophecies. The narrative that begins in Matthew and concludes with Revelation focuses on the fulfilment of the arrival of Messiah, Jesus, and the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God over the kingdoms of men. Matthew, in particular, refers to specific Old Testament passages numerous times is his eye witness account with the intent showing how Jesus was the fulfilment of those prophecies.
John’s gospel account differs from the other gospels in that his treatise isn’t intended to be just an eyewitness account of the day to day activities of Jesus’ ministry, but a theological examination of who Jesus really is. To accomplish this John begins his gospel with the words that deepen our understanding today with, “In the beginning was the Word…” John, as does the book of Hebrews, clearly demonstrates that Jesus created everything, and that through Jesus, we (humans) may have Life.
A thread that runs through the Old Testament is what is termed “The Law of Moses”, a set of God given commandments and laws given to the ancient Israelites that governed virtually every facet of daily life. The message of the New Testament continues to uphold the law of God, but in Jesus’ teachings the explicit nature of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) are amplified. An example of this is in, “Thou shall not commit murder”; while the ancient Israelites could obey this law (in the letter) and then be right with the law as such, Jesus illustrated that to “hate” is to commit murder in one’s heart. Thus the Old Testament is incomplete without the New.
The Old Testament set the background stage, with its revelation of God, rich culture (such as its details of tabernacle construction), genealogy as recorded (involving parents and prophets conveying to the next generation God’s truths), and historicity (involving and naming peoples, nations, empires and kings), for the coming Messiah.
The New Testament also contains numerous epistles (letters) that help us the reader some 2000 years removed understand how the early Christians understood the identity of the Messiah, how they understood His message, and how they dealt with issues that concerned them such as circumcision, fellowship, generosity, charity, and faith. In many cases, such as when Paul wrote to the faithful in Rome (Romans) he cited directly from Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs (as well as others). His heavy reliance on the Old Testament witness, the only scriptures that were available during the first century emergence of Christianity, helps us today appreciate that the entire 66 books of the Bible are really an interwoven whole, written by faithful men as inspired by the Holy Spirit – and yet written in the everyday language and culture of men.
The message of the Bible compels us to not only believe and live changed lives, but through the message of Jesus’ teachings, life, death and resurrection, also be about the work of sharing the gospel, in word and in charitable deeds.
By John Klassek