Old Testament: Eschatology or Christology?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. asterisktom

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    Old Testament: Eschatology or Christology?

    Of course, the correct answer to the question is: Both. There is both eschatology and Christology in the Old Testament. But the reason why I write this article is to point out an overlooked point. Many passages that we were taught as referring to the "end times" or the "Tribulation Period" (the quotes around those terms will be explained later) actually refer to Christ.

    The problem with much of today's futurist theology is that it muddies insight into many of the passages that refer to Christ and His work through His church. Major passages in Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. have been switched around from Messianic promises to Anti-christian prophecies and sensational (and fictional!) scenarios. In short: the main message of the Old Testament is Christ, not Antichrist.

    A possible concession from some readers is that, although most of Old Testament prophecy pointed to Christ and the time of the Gospel, there are also double fulfillments, the latter fulfillment still to come in our time. Some readers have told me that Joel's prophecy is like this, being fulfilled both in Acts 2 and in modern times. But this is not proven from Scripture. Yes, there are double prophecies. Isa. 7:14 has double fulfillment. But here is an important difference between the modern view of double prophecies and the Bible's: If there is a double fulfillment, it is so that the lesser fulfillment can point to the greater fulfillment - in Christ. Most Old Testament prophecy points to Christ, to his earthly ministry, Incarnation, ministry, Calvary, resurrection, as well as to his post-ascension work as Prophet, Priest and King.

    Here is the real danger of bad eschatology: Because it requires validating verses from the Bible it has no choice but to take away and neutralize many promises that speak of Christ and pour totally foreign meaning into them. By doing this they are actually dismissing their Christ-honoring purpose. The OT is full of reference to Christ, and many of us miss the huge majority of these references. That is why Jesus said to the two disciples, Luke 24:25-27:

    "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
    Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?"

    And then he provided an important clue as to how to view the Old testament:

    "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

    The Old Testament, from Moses to all the prophets speak of "things concerning" Christ. Daniel is a prophet. Many of the passages which sensational authors are "seeing" as end-time events, Antichrist, final showdowns, etc - are actually speaking of Christ.

    How many modern authors and preachers have mangled Daniel 9!
    Only years after being a Christian did I discover what most Christians used to always know:
    The Prince who is to come is Christ, not Antichrist.
    The Covenant that is confirmed with the many is the New Covenant in Christ.
    The sacrifice and offering was brought to an end when He said "It is finished!"

    No wonder the Jewish Rabbis drew a dark line around this chapter (as well as Isaiah 53) - it witnessed too forthrightly of their Messiah!

    Many of us just need to take a moratorium from reading eschatological thrillers and junky tracts and seriously dive into Scripture - and cleanse, cleanse, cleanse away all the accumulated scum of man's teaching that has built up in our minds.

    Once the difference between what the Bible says and what John Hagee, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, become apparent you will be amazed at how clearly and how strongly God's Word speaks of Christ.

    Christ's admonition to the Jews in John 5:46 also comes to mind:

    "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me."

    "But what about Israel. It seems that you are also doing away with many of God's promises to His covenant people. This is replacement theology."
    Israel as a nation served it's purpose, just the same way their religion served it's purpose.They were tools that God used. They were to point to Christ and the Cross. Once that was done, then going back to Judaism - in any form - is as much idolatry as as worshipping Nehushtan, that thing of brass (brazen serpent). Does this do away with Israel as nation? Well, yes, it does. It does away with that in order to give the believers among them something infinitely better: new life in Christ (see Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:11-22). The Israel of God, the inner wall of partition having been done away in Christ, rejoices in their Messiah. This is not replacement, but fulfillment theology.

    God was never interested in any land. He was "interested" in those whom He set His love on from the beginning, the elect, from both Jews and Gentiles, 1 Peter 1:2; Eph. 1:4. It was never about the land. That is just the sort of lower view that Isaiah 55 tries to correct ("My thoughts are higher than your thoughts"). The Jews (both ancient and many modern, as well as many Dispensationalists) fix their focus on the temple, the people, the Law and "this holy place" (Acts 6:13-14; John 2:18- 21; Acts 21:27- 28) . But Christ speaks rather of the Temple of His body, the church, the heavenly Jerusalem, the New Covenant and the holy nations of priests and kings - Christians! There will never ever again be a holy place. We have the promise of Christ on that, John 4:19-24.

    I had a hard time, at first, in accepting this view because it went against my desire for a literal reading of the Bible. I was taught - maybe you were too - that those who see Scripture as being mainly "spiritual" are also those who "allegorize away" the "plain meaning" of Scripture - and head down the slippery slope of outright denial and unbelief. But to my relief, the opposite seemd to happen: Once I recognized the spiritual nature of Scripture it opened it up so much more to an understanding of Christ.
    For many, "spiritual" is almost a pejorative word, but it really is the key to understanding God's Word. Those who have had similar experiences know what I am talking about.

    People need to get back to reading their Bibles, purposefully, like they are studying for a test (which they are), diligently, interestedly (not perfunctorally), and lovingly. We need, not to be spoon-fed by pastors, goose-bumped by authors, but built up by Truth, Christ. We need to search out the Word of God like Diogenes with his lantern. He is still searching, but we have found our Honest Man. We need to read God's Word this way. And we all need to encourage each other to do this, and to keep doing it. That is where the real preparation comes form. as we drawn nearer to God He draws nearer to us, engracing us to live right.
     
  2. OldRegular

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    I agree with much of what you present in the paragraphs that follow. What is sad, as I noted in an earlier post, is that so much of what the Old Testament has to tell us has been lost because of the dispensational error. Unfortunately dispensationalists are also as thick as fleas on this Forum and among Baptists!

    I heartedly agree that some prophecies have double fulfillment. Joel's is not one of these, Isaiah 7:14 is. It is obviously a reference to the Virgin Birth but in its context must also have meaning for Ahaz and Israel. Isaiah has much to say to the Church and in some passages present eschatological information that sharply conflicts with the dispensational picture. Isaiah 53 is such a beautiful and poignant picture of the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ; how many people miss this?

    A favorite passage of mine. I have used it often! It poses a question that dispensationalists cannot answer. It is obvious that Jesus Christ is saying that the Old Testament prophesied fully of His life, His death, and His resurrection. These have meaning only in realizing the full measure of His purpose which includes the establishment of the Church in its New Testament form! Dispensationalists of course cannot admit this even if Scofields original Bible does confess that the Church is pictured in the Song of Solomon.

    Well said. How often does the dispensationalist respond to any question regarding the pre-Trib rapture and the 7 years of "Great Tribulation" with the question: Well what about Daniel's 70th week?

    Agree!

    I have posted recently on this Forum that once the first advent of Jesus Christ was complete the Mission of Israel in God's purpose in Salvation was also complete and they are no different than any people.

    To give a short response the Bible is a spiritual book or it is nothing. Therefore, it must be interpreted spiritually. The New Geneva Bible [I believe it is now titled The Reformation Bible.] states: "But a spiritual understanding—that is, discerning the reality of God, His ways with His people, His present will, and one's own relationship to Him will not reach us from the text until the veil is removed from our hearts and we are able to share the writer's own passion for God."
     
  3. swaimj

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    I agree with this as far as it goes, but do not the OT prophecies point ahead to Christ's second coming and its aftermath?
     
  4. OldRegular

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    Isaiah 65:17 comes to mind!
     
  5. asterisktom

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    Isaiah 65:17, when you consider the context, does not seem to be an event that is still future. Likewise many (not all) of the other verses that seem to be about still-future events are actually, when the context and cross-references are considered, found to be referring to the time of Christ's incarnation and the church age.
     
  6. swaimj

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  7. asterisktom

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    That would be the verses before and after and those linked by similar phraseology.

    As far as the verses before and after are concerned, as a general rule, we are still in the same context (same time period, same general topic) unless there is a disjoint marked (ie. "After those days", etc.) This is not the case with Isaiah 65:17.

    I am not going to go into detail - just yet - on that context, since you also have a Bible.

    Similar phrases or words also come into play here: "heavens", "earth", "New heavens and earth", etc. recur several times in these last two or three chapters of Isaiah.

    I am quite willing to go further on this, but please first give an indication that you have read these chapters.

    All groups of "isms" - including mine also - tend to ignore context when it suits them. Some Disps do this when they refer to the "Time of Jacob's Trouble" as "The Great Tribulation" (an unbiblical phrase BTW). They ignore the context of Jeremiah, both the immediate verses nearby (giving historical background) and the two other Jacob references nearby. (I am not saying you do this, it is just an example).

    BTW, "Dispensationalist" is as unfortunate a monicker to give out as "Calvinist" is for me to hear applied to me - for different reasons. When I refer to Dispensationalism I am not faulting them for seeing that God has clearly acted differently throughout history. (But this would need to be a different topic altogether).
     
    #7 asterisktom, Dec 10, 2009
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  8. swaimj

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    I recently read the entire book of Isaiah in my morning devotions. BTW, just a few verses after 65:17, Isaiah says the lion will lie down with the lamb. When did this happen? Or is this a future event?
     
  9. asterisktom

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    Isa. 65:25 comes close to what you are saying, though there are more animals and details mentioned - important ones - and no "lying down" that I can see. But, no, it is not strictly future - it is happening right now: The wolf and the lamb are feeding together just like the tares and the wheat are growing together.
     
  10. swaimj

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    Tom, the wheat and tares is a parable that symbolizes a spiritual truth. What, in the context of Isaiah causes you to conclude that the lion and the lamb lying together is symbolic or parabolic? Is there something in the context that causes you to conclude that this is not a literal lion lying next to a literal lamb?
     
  11. asterisktom

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    The Bible in general, and Isaiah in particular, are full of symbolic (that is, spiritual) use of imagery.

    Generally speaking, the Bible should first be approached from a spiritual perspective, not literalistic. For the longest time I resisted this approach, being told that I was in danger of "allegorizing away" Scripture and would end up with no Bible. But the opposite happened - a greater appreciation for the whole Bible as well as a greater understanding of the NT in the OT.

    But about Isaiah: We have all types of spiritual imagery: Roots, trees, stumps, branches - as well as "The Branch", grapes, vineyards, firebrands, fire, pools, thorns, arrows, blood, shields, etc. As far as animals are concerned, we have: Aside from the verse under consideration, cows, bears, asps, etc. The fact that most of these are used as metaphors should make us at least consider that the ones in our verse are also metaphorical.

    But a greater indication to me that the interpretation of 65:25 should be metaphorical is the other verses in this same chapter that describe the same idea of tares with wheat, God's people coexisting with their enemies. Vs.8 - the new wine is found in the clusters (not all through the clusters), but enough to merit preservation for the whole. Follow through from 8 and you will see righteous and unrighteous together, especially 13-15.

    Don't forget to look over into the next chapter, 66, for a continuation of this "new heavens and new earth", Christians in the church age. God is looking into the heart (66;2), not on outward observances or professions. This absolutely cannot be a supposed millennial 1000 year-period (with all the sacrifices), becuase any such activity - even the mere killing of the animal (66:3) - if we insist on being literal - is seen as grossest abomination. At this time we have the God-fearers (66:2, 5) on one hand and, on the other, the abominated temple worshipers (1-2)and deluded sacrificers (3-4) who persecute the saints (5). God's retribution begins in the house of God (6). In this Gospel day we see - saw from our vantage point - the birth of the holy nation, the Zion of God (66:8; 1 Peter 2:9). The newness of this ties in with the new heavens and the new earth.

    A lot more needs to be said, but I have other things to take care of. From 18 to the end, especially, is a lot to study, rich in NT references; to the history of the times following, as well as to the church in general.
     
  12. Grasshopper

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    Very good. If this does indeed speak of the Church Age, which I believe it does, then doesn't Peter also speak of the New Covenant( Church Age) when he speaks of these verses:

    2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

    He gets his doctrine from Is.65 &66:

    2Pe 3:2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

    And are these not the same New Heavens and Earth that John speaks of?

    Rev 21:1
    And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.



     
  13. asterisktom

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    Yes, all of these are inextricably linked together. The linking of them helps us to understand the related parts of Peter and Revelation - and those OT passages also, of course.

    Good stuff, very encouraging to think on. It also draws a sobering picture of what the church really is, and what this gospel age entails.
     
  14. swaimj

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    Grasshopper, I agree that Peter gets his language from Isaiah. However, Peter is not speaking of this current age. Peter is speaking of a time to come. Note his language: "the present heaven and earth are reserved for fire...." "The Day of the Lord will come...." "Since everything will be destroyed in this way...." "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness".

    When Peter speaks of the new heaven and new earth, borrowing Isaiah's language, he is speaking of something that is yet to come, not something that is here now. The wheat and tares parable, which clearly describes the present age, does not fit here at all.
     
  15. swaimj

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    Tom said:
    If most are used as metaphors, that means some are not. The question is how do you tell the difference? Please give us an example of a metaphorical animal in Isaiah and a non-metaphorical animal in Isaiah and how you determine the author's use of them. I am open to considering that the lion and lamb are metaphorical, but I don't understand the method you are using to come to your conclusion.
     
  16. asterisktom

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    A non-metaphorical usage is found in the very first chapter of Isaiah. To shame unbelieving Jews God contrasts the limited knowledge of their own farm animals - they know who feeds them! - with the ignorance of their owners (They have become ignorant of their Maker).

    A metaphorical usage is 14:29:

    Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina [Philistia], because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice[viper], and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

    The Philistines rejoiced prematurely at the death of their enemy Uzziah. From Uzziah came an even more potent adversary to the Philistines - Hezekiah.

    Some times the metaphorical can be spotted by the words "like", or "as"; but other verses (like the above, and the verses discussed in this thread) do not have these markers.

    The best way to discern one from the other IMO is to consider other passages elsewhere. I already mentioned the lion-and-lamb/tares-and-wheat type themes in Isa. 65. I could also add passages like Micah 5:7-9:

    And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.

    And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

    Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.


    Here is a similar theme to the one in Isaiah 65 (and 11): disparate animals in close proximity. Even though there are differences - here, the believers are the lions and the enemies of God are sheep! (God doesn't need to be consistent with His metaphors). - there is also similarity. The "Jacob among the Gentiles" here corresponds to the "new wine ... in the cluster" of Isa. 65:8 and, for that matter, Christ's “Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves.” Matt. 10:16.

    The surest indication to me that the interpretation I gave earlier is the correct one is the accordance I find in the rest of the Bible. I don't mean this to sound patronizing - especially to you, since you give me the impression of one who searches diligently and conscientiously - but the greatest evidence is the whole Bible. When my whole belief system was thoroughly turned over, tht made me determine to read the whole Bible as often and as diligently as I could. When I did this more and more I began to see greater cohesion between the Testaments, as well as greater understanding of those all-important metaphors and motifs of the New Testament.

    This is all I have time for this morning. Time for work.
     
  17. asterisktom

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    2 quick comments if I may. "Will be destroyed" is better rendered "are in process of dissolution" Check Vincent's Word Studies.

    Also, study out "elements" - STOICHEIA (sp?)
     
  18. swaimj

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    I think we really have a disagreement about how to interpret the Bible here and we'd probably need to discuss that before we discussed the meaning of any prophetic passage.

    The best way to understand a statement is to take it in its immediate context and work outward from there. You seem to be taking a macro view as the priority, instead.

    For instance, if a man is a cuisine writer for a newspaper, he might make frequent use of the word "cupcake". However, if you picked up a letter that he wrote his wife, his use of the word "cupcake" might be totally unrelated to the way he uses it in his work, though the context of each kind of writing will make his meaning clear.

    In the scriptures, a writer's use of a word or phrase should be determined primarily from the context. Once that is determined, then the big themes that extend accross the Bible become apparent.

    Reading the meaning of the parable of the wheat/tares into prophetic passages as an overarching theme of meaning seems like an arbitrary choice to me. Given the number of parables Jesus told, what is the reasoning for making that particular parable the thematic guide? I don't think such a use is justified.

    Well, thanks for the interaction. You seem like a serious student in all of this and what I have brought up in this post is probably off-topic for the thread, so I digress.
     
  19. swaimj

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    Oh, one more observation about your hermenuetic, Tom. You said this:
    Then, in response to my comments on II Peter, you gave me this advice:
    Isn't this advice encouraging me to use literalistic tools to discover the accurate meaning? Is this really the best way for me to proceed? I must say, it seems a little contradictory.
     
  20. asterisktom

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    I've got several things going on today, so the other items will have to wait. But I can take a stab at this one.

    For me "literalistic" = "mountain", for example, is always "mountain", unless pointedly and explicitly told otherwise. "Metaphorical/allegorical/spiritual" (not strictly the same thing, though they overlap) sees the possibility of terms being m/a/s even if there is no clear marker as such in the passage.

    Either way, recourse to the original language (accidence and syntax) is just a tool for understanding. It does not favor either of the above views. Both, say, Ryrie's Study Bible and Calvin's Commentary might have good footnotes on the use of STOICHEIA, though, I am sure, they would vary in the application.
     

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