The Use of the Old Testament
By Jim Hopkins
This study has to do with the use of the Old Testament. Paul said to Timothy that “the sacred writings that he had learned as a babe were able to make him wise unto salvation through faith.” That “every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (I Tim 3:15b, 16). He told the Romans that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).
Some would hold that the Law and the Prophets prophesied (terminated) until John as Jesus taught in Mt 11:13. Others, that it was in effect until it was nailed to the cross as shown in Col 2:14. Many more teach that “until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away” as in Mt 5:18. And some would say that it was in effect until the end of the first covenant as shown in Heb 8:13.
You have noted that when we see the end of the Old Testament age that it becomes a crucial pivotal point in our understanding. How we use the Old Testament, I believe, determines where we place this pivot point. We often make the statement that all Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the church. It is a principal that I hold to be true. But some would make exceptions to this premise. They would say, “except those prophecies dealing with the end of the world and Christ’s return.” And then with straight faces say that the Law would not pass away until “all has been fulfilled.” That all has been fulfilled and was nailed to the cross EXCEPT ! Now I have a problem with that kind of reasoning. Would you please show me how it works?
If all was fulfilled at the cross how is it that on Pentecost, 50 days later, Peter said that Joel 2:28 was fulfilled in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit? How is it that James in Acts 15:14 in speaking about how God had visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name declares, “And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written…?” It was fulfilled after the cross. The abomination of desolation as spoken by Daniel is said to be unfulfilled (Mt 24:15). The great tribulation as prophesied in Joel 2:2, Dan 12:1, and Jer 30:7 is said to be yet future by Jesus (Mt 24:21). In Luke 21:22 Jesus said, “for these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled,” but you have them fulfilled at the cross! How many more exceptions shall we make?
In Acts 6:14 Philip is accused of saying that “this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us.” Do you think these statements are true? Do you believe that it was Jesus that destroyed Jerusalem? Do you believe that it was yet future when the customs were to be changed? Do you know of any Old Testament passage that predicts the destruction of Jerusalem? If yes, is it another exception? You will find one in Zechariah 14:2.
In Rom 9:27 Paul quotes Isaiah concerning Israel saying, “It is the remnant that shall be saved, for the Lord will execute his word upon the earth finishing it and cutting it short.” Has the remnant been saved? Has the Lord executed his word upon the earth bring it to a full end? This is from the Old Testament. Paul said in Rom 11:5 that there was a remnant “at this present time.” Has it been saved yet? “It is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this very day.” Is this our problem? In Rom 11:25 “a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; And this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” Is Israel still hardened? Has the fullness of the Gentiles come in? Has all Israel been saved? Has this prophecy from Isaiah been fulfilled concerning the Deliverer coming out of Zion? What covenant is in view that takes away their sins? Does not Paul write all of this as if it were still future?
In Heb 4:8 Paul says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God.” An Old Testament prophet spoke of another day. It was still future when Paul wrote. Will you fulfill it in the church or will you make another exception? In Heb 10:1 Paul says that “the Law having (present tense — not “had”) a shadow of the good things to come cannot make the worshipper perfect.” What are the good things to which the Law is a shadow? If it is the church, why are they yet future? If it is not the church, is the church then not considered to be of the good things? Is the Law then a shadow of heaven and not the church? In Heb 10:34 they were waiting for a better possession and an abiding one. Is the church today temporary? Are we waiting for a better possession? In verse 36 they were in need of patience that they might receive the promise, “For yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry.” This Old Testament verse speaks of a promised coming. Is it fulfilled or do we yet wait for it? Is 1900 years a very little while?
In Heb 12:26 Paul quotes from Hag 2:6 which promised, “Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven.” Paul says that it signifies the removal of those things that are shaken so that the things which are unshaken may remain and ties this to the receiving of the kingdom. Does it relate to the separation of the first covenant from the second covenant? Why are they receiving the kingdom in that event? Was not this OT prophecy yet future? Are we still under the first covenant because the shaking has not occurred? If not, when was it fulfilled?
It is important then how you see the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled. How can we teach God’s word when we do not know how to rightly divide the Word of Truth?
Because we have not believed Jesus and the apostles concerning the end of the age, we have added an age that does not exist! We have added the Christian age. It goes something like this: Jesus taught in Mt 12:32 that anyone who speaks against him can be forgiven, but if he speaks against the Holy Spirit, he cannot be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. The age that Jesus calls “this age” must be the Jewish age and “the age to come” must be the Christian age. But in Mk 10:30 Jesus teaches that if one gives up family and home for the gospel, he will receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life. Now since eternal life is to be received in heaven (it is reasoned), this passage speaks of the Christian age and the Heavenly age. By our traditions we cause Jesus not to know what age he is living in!
Jesus taught that the end of the age would come with the destruction of the temple. In his parables he taught that the good seed and bad seed would exist together until the end of the age. Likewise in the parable of the net, good and bad fish are caught and it is likened to the end of the age. In these lessons is Jesus ignoring the end of the Jewish age to teach concerning the end of the Christian age? But that is the way we teach it, isn’t it?
No new age was heralded in at the cross or Pentecost. Their present age was evil (Gal 1:4) and the god of the age was Satan (2 Cor 4:4). Paul said that they stood at the ends of the ages (I Cor 10:11). In Gal 4 Hagar, represented both the Old Covenant and the Jerusalem that “now is” (the Old was still present), and Sarah represented both the New Covenant and the New Jerusalem that was “above” (it was still to come).
Is this arrangement still valid today? Even in their day they had drawn near to Mount Zion (fulfilling the type shown at Sinai), to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant. They were waiting for the shaking of heaven and earth (a prophecy from Haggai) which would separate the created things (of the type) from the things that could not be shaken (things of substance of the new order). Out of this shaking they would receive the kingdom unshaken (Heb 12:22-28). This time also correlates with Daniel’s prophecy of the little horn that made war on the saints until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was given to the saints and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom (Dan 7:22). The saints of the Last Days were given the Spirit as an earnest of their inheritance. With the shaking, the earnest of the Spirit was consummated in the receiving of the kingdom now free of the typical arrangement. The day came for vision and prophecy to be sealed up (Dan 9:24) and for the prophet and evil spirit to pass out of the land (Zech 13:2). A time for those things that were in part to cease. A time for that which was perfect (complete) to come (I Cor 13:10).
I hope that in these thoughts to at least give you my reasons for suggesting that the ending the Jewish age at the cross and inserting a Christian age in between ‘the coming age’ is not handling aright the word of truth.
May the Lord bless you in your study of God’s Word.
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