So we’ve covered Exile and Repentance in the last series, discussing how the Old Testament (or First Testament) led up to the events of Pentecost and the coming of the Kingdom. Hopefully, we gained a better sense of how the Jews of NT times reacted to the gospel and the coming of the Messiah.
Before that, in the How to Study the Bible series, we covered the covenants and how they connect with each other. From Abraham on, each covenant built on the covenant that preceded. The covenants are like Russian dolls, so that each new covenant contains the preceding covenants, but the preceding covenants re-envisioned in light of God’s new covenant. After all, each covenant is a step in God’s self-revelation to mankind. Each covenant reveals more about God and helps us to see the earlier covenants in a clearer light.
I now want to consider the nature of salvation pre-Jesus. Maybe we’ll talk about the salvation of the Jews post-Jesus as well, but as hard as that question is, their salvation from Abraham until Jesus is harder.
At first, the question might seem a bit pointless. After all, Jesus came 2,000 years ago. Why does it matter how the Jews were saved before then? Isn’t today what matters?
My youngest son, as a teenager, had the annoying habit of joining me and his brothers to watch a TV program with only 5 minutes left in the show. He would routinely insist that we pause the program and catch him up. At least he knew that, having started with only 5 minutes to go, he needed to be caught up.
Most Christians are like the person who shows up with only 5 minutes to go only to begin explaining to those present what’s about to happen and why, without bothering to get caught up. That is, we’re opinionated about things we really don’t understand, but figure that since we weren’t there, nothing important could have happened.
We’re really quite full of ourselves — insisting that we’re “New Testament Christians” — as though this is a superior breed, above all others by virtue of our ignorance of the First Testament.
Now, I say all this to criticize myself especially. I mean, I’m 61 years old and just now catching on. So I’m a bit of a slow study. But slowly … very slowly … I’m beginning to realize how you really can’t understand the Russian doll on the outside without first understanding the Russian dolls on the inside.
PS — Some theologians have lately taken to calling the Old Testament the “First Testament,” to avoid any implication that the Old Testament is obsolete and meaningless. It seems like a good idea to me — because we really do treat the “Old” in “Old Testament” as meaning “obsolete” or “replaced.” And it’s not. I’ll sometimes use “First Testament” just to remind the readers that the Old Testament still matters. In fact, Paul was speaking of the First Testament when he wrote,
(2Ti 3:14-17 NIV) 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.