You search the Scriptures,
for in them you think you have eternal life.
And they are the ones witnessing of Me. (John 5:39, MKJV) But their minds were blinded.
For until this day the same veil remains
unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament,
because the veil is taken away in Christ.
But even to this day,
when Moses is read,
a veil lies on their heart.
Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord,
the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:14-16, NKJ)
The Cross was HellPrinciple No. 1 Principle No. 2 Principle No. 3 Principle No. 4 Time and Light The Old Testament overflows with violence, vengeance, fear, and the wrath of God, but the New Testament abounds in grace, mercy, forgiveness, faith, and love. Have you ever heard anyone express this feeling? Perhaps you have felt this way too. I know that I have. There are many Christian churches that are uncomfortable with, and even some that totally reject, the Old Testament. They prefer to focus on Jesus' love rather than God's wrath. Most Christians do.
Be that as it may, I believe that the whole Bible is inspired of God. Most Christians do. In this chapter I will suggest several principles of interpretation that I have found useful in studying and reconciling the Old and New Testaments in the light of God's love.
Principle No. 1
The whole Bible must be interpreted in the light that streams from the life and death of our Savior Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul promotes this one simple, yet powerful principle. Let us prayerfully listen as the Holy Spirit speaks to us through Paul's words.
2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech?unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (NKJ)
2 Corinthians 4:1-4 God has been kind enough to trust us with this work. That's why we never give up. We don't do shameful things that must be kept secret. And we don't try to fool anyone or twist God's message around. God is our witness that we speak only the truth, so others will be sure that we can be trusted. If there is anything hidden about our message, it is hidden only to someone who is lost. The god who rules this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They cannot see the light, which is the good news about our glorious Christ, who shows what God is like. (CEV)
Today we will also have a blurred and distorted view of God unless the veil that obstructs our view of our Father's goodness is removed. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Reading the surface of the Holy Writings, we can miss the underlying beauty and harmony of God. Nature also reveals this same pattern. Gerald Schroeder in The Hidden Face of God highlights the incredible intricacies of the approximately 72 trillion living cells that form our bodies. He points out the depth of wisdom that precisely tuned the relationships between atomic particles and the forces of nature that make life possible. With a contagious sense of awe, he captures this powerful principle from nature:
"Why aren't the subtleties of physics and the phenomenal symphony of which life is composed apparent for all to see, visible, right up front? Why are they sequestered beneath an exterior that looks so simple? The implication is that we can settle for a superficial reading of nature if that's all we want, but the ultimate reality of existence lies below the surface, between the lines."1
That same principle applies to the whole Bible. Both the Old and New Testament contain many gems that lie below the surface, between the lines. We can learn the same lesson from the world of art as well. If you stand too close to a large painting, all you can see are smudges, streaks, and chaos. But, if you step back a few feet, the picture will suddenly become coherent, it will become meaningful and beautiful.
When we pile up text after text to prove something that we want to believe, we are standing too close to the painting. We need to step back and get an overview of God's purpose. We need to grasp the foundation principles of God's love.
The veil that lies over our heart when we read the Holy Scriptures will cripple our study and weaken our faith in God, until we learn to harmonize all teachings with the truth about the character of God as portrayed by Jesus. The depths of nature and the Scriptures contain wisdom that at once lies buried far beneath the surface and soars beyond the reach of worldly philosophy.
1Corinthians 1:21-23 God was wise and decided not to let the people of this world use their wisdom to learn about him. Instead, God chose to save only those who believe the foolish message we preach. Jews ask for miracles, and Greeks want something that sounds wise. But we preach that Christ was nailed to a cross. Most Jews have problems with this, and most Gentiles think it is foolish. (CEV)
1Corinthians 2:1, 2 Friends, when I came and told you the mystery that God had shared with us, I didn't use big words or try to sound wise. In fact, while I was with you, I made up my mind to speak only about Jesus Christ, who had been nailed to a cross. (CEV)
Principle No. 2
All sin, suffering, and death come from Satan. When the Bible appears to give God the blame for the results of sin, which are suffering, and death, we need to reinterpret the passage in the light of the cross of Christ, the history of Job, and other key precepts, or principles.
The story of Job, and other Bible passages clearly reveal that Satan, the Accuser, and the Destroyer, inflicts all suffering and death. While God does not have any part in causing sin, suffering, and death, he, in his great mercy, limits and overrules these for purposes of mercy.
Christ came to reveal the character of God. Christ is the light of the world. Darkness had well nigh covered the earth. Even the people of God had sunk into great darkness. Lack of knowledge is not as dangerous as wrong knowledge. Many of the heathen, or pagan people eagerly received Jesus. The religious leaders of God's people rejected Him. Satan had so blinded the priests and rabbis that they did not recognize Jesus, their Creator.
1Corinthians 2:7, 8 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (RSV)
This should be a warning to us today as well. Satan always goes after the religious leaders. The Bible points out that Satan has rarely failed in this area. In every age the religious leaders think that they have avoided Satan's deceptions, just as he would have them think. They can then speak with sincerity, the better to deceive their followers.
Christ died under the weight of the world's sins. Yet he had done none of them. In Him was no sin. Jesus took responsibility for our sins as if they were his, taking our shame, our guilt, and our punishment. The Old Testament follows the same pattern. In the Old Testament, God takes responsibility for the death and destruction of sinners even though he had done none of it.
Principle No. 3
The Old Testament contains much that God allowed that was not part of his perfect will. The New Testament, to a far greater degree, reveals the perfect will of God.
Matthew 19:7-9 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (NKJ)
God, in his great mercy, meets people where they are. He does not at once reveal all the truth that he could reveal. In the times of ignorance God allows fallen humanity to believe in and live by customs, guidelines, and principles that are not up to the standard of his perfect will. Acts 17:30 "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (KJV).
Divorce can never be in line with God's perfect will. However, because of the hardness of our hearts, he does permit it. There is always a difference between God's permissive will and his perfect will. Our heavenly Father, through the Holy Spirit, inspired Moses to write down these instructions:
Leviticus 24:19, 20 When a man causes a disfigurement in his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured. (RSV)
This was a way of limiting the traditional blood feuds and the resulting cycle of violence that were an ingrained part of the culture of that day. Christ makes it clear that was not part of God's perfect will.
Matthew 5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' [Quoting from Leviticus 24:20] "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
Paul reaffirms Christ's words: Romans 12:20, 21 "Instead, as the scripture says: 'If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.' Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good" (TEV).
Principle No. 4
The New Testament writers enlarge, explain, and reinterpret the Old Testament. Christ's words shine new light on the Old Testament. The New Testament writers explain and redefine biblical expressions in the light of God's holy, perfect character of love.
James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (NKJ)
God tempts no one. Every time we read in the Bible that God tempts, tests, or tries someone we need to interpret it in the light of Jesus' sacrifice. We can see the same principle in the cross. God the Father never tempted, tested, or tried Jesus. The surface letter says that God tested Abraham, but we need to understand that to mean that God allowed Satan to test Abraham, much as he allowed Satan to test Job. God wouldn't instruct Abraham to kill Isaac. Satan would. God wouldn't tell Abraham to kill Isaac and then send an angel to tell Abraham not to kill him. God never lies or misleads us.
Remember that God takes the blame, the responsibility for our sin. Jesus took our guilt. Jesus also showed us how to interpret the word fear. The Old Testament reads: "You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him." (Deuteronomy 10:20 NKJ). Jesus, quoting from this Old Testament verse, interprets the word fear as worship: "Then Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! For it is written,' 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve' " (Matthew 4:10 NKJ).
Listen carefully as Jesus seeks to expand our understanding of the Ten Commandments. Watch for the pattern that Jesus uses: "You have heard?[from the Old Testament] But I say to you..." The Son of God lovingly points us away from a superficial reading of the letter of the law and the prophets to a deeper and broader spiritual understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures. The surface letter kills, the deeper spiritual principles bring life. Listen to Jesus and notice this pattern in the next several verses.
Matthew 5:21, 22 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." (NKJ)
Matthew 5:33-37 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' "But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; "nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. "Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (NKJ)
In verse 33, Jesus quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures?Leviticus 19:12: "And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD" (NKJ). Jesus is seeking to lift his listeners above a surface reading of the scriptures. God, when dealing with the ancient Hebrews, chose to make allowances for their culture, and spiritual ignorance. However, God's people must continue to grow in their understanding. Proverbs 4:18, 19 "The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like complete darkness. Those who follow it have no idea what they are stumbling over" (NLT).
The Old Testament contains much that can cause people to stumble. All throughout Matthew chapter five, Jesus warns against a surface reading of the Scriptures, or the use of men's traditions in understanding them. He points to the deeper principle of unselfish love. Even though a person had the Bible memorized, if he didn't understand the deeper principles of love and mercy, he would still be lost. Jesus instructs us to look beyond the veil of the surface letters to the golden law of love.
Matthew 5:43-46 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (NKJ)
God loves his enemies. We should love his enemies too. That would mean all of humanity. No matter what people do, we should react to them as friends, based on God's love for us rather than our emotions.
Time and Light
God through his Holy Spirit did inspire the Old Testament writers, but within the context of their culture and preconceived ideas and beliefs. God does not, even cannot force us to receive knowledge about Him, or to fall in love with Him faster than our mortal, human limitations allow. God has been giving his children more knowledge about his character of love as quickly as we can bear it. Even Jesus' disciples were not ready to hear everything that he wanted to reveal to them.
John 16:12, 13 I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come (MKJV).
Under the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, God's light has been increasing throughout time. Proverbs 4:18 "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more to the perfect day" (MKJV). According to Solomon, then, the last generation of people to live on the earth will have the greatest light because the light is always increasing "to the perfect day."
One purpose of time is to bring darkness into the light. That's one reason that God said that the evening and the morning were the first day. The earth, and humanity, start out in darkness. Then God spins the earth around into the light. Greater light brings greater responsibility. Gerald Schroeder, in "The Hidden Face of God," talks about the phrase "the evening and morning." He states that evening can be understood as disorder or chaos and morning can be understood as order.1 God brings order out of chaos each day of the creation week. In the same way, God brings order out of the chaos of our lives.
The first chapter of Genesis has an interesting prophecy in regard to time and light. While Genesis chapter one is a literal six-day account of creation, it also contains an outline of earth's six thousand year history. 2Peter 3:8 "But, beloved, let not this one thing be hidden from you, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (MKJV).
1. The first day God made light. God gave Adam and Eve great light to share with their descendants. Adam lived just short of one thousand years.
2. The second day God created the waters above and the waters below. This is the only day of the creation week that God does not assert that "it was good." That is because it is also referring to the flood. The flood took place in the second millennium. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
3. The third day describes land rising from the waters. The waters refer to the heathen peoples of the earth. The land refers to the nation of Israel, which God raised up in the third millennium. God raised up Israel to reach out to the other nations by revealing the glory of God's love. Israel failed most of the time. We mustn't fail.
4. The fourth day God made the sun. The sun refers to the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ. Jesus determines the times and seasons, as he is the Creator God. Historians divide time into two parts. They denote the years before Christ's life here on earth as B.C. The abbreviation "A.D." stands for Anno Domini - the year of our Lord. Truly Jesus divided the night of evil from the day of love, as well as setting the times and years.
5. The fifth day God made the sea creatures and the birds of the air. These creatures refer to the early Christian church leaders. B.G. Wilkinson tells the story of the first millennium's great church leaders such as Lucian, Vigilantius, Patrick, Columba, Papas, Dinooth, Aidan, and many others.2 These early Christians swam in an ocean of heathen humanity. Some, perhaps like John the Revelator, soared into the heavens like the birds of the air.
6. The sixth day God made the land animals. And last, but not least, God made Adam and Eve. The land animals refer to the protestant reformers and groups such as the Waldenses and Huguenots. God's light has been increasing steadily, "to the perfect day." Adam and Eve were created in God's image. God's image refers to his character.
At the end of time, at the end of earth's six thousand years, God will have a chosen people, an elect that through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit will be transfigured, transformed into his image, his character of unselfish love. The sixth day is our preparation day for the Bible Sabbath. We use the sixth day to prepare to enter Jesus' day of rest. So at the end of six thousand years we must prepare to enter God's millennium of rest by total dependence on Jesus.
7. God sanctified the seventh day as a memorial of his Creative power. God rested in his completed work. The seventh millennium, then, will be a time of rest from sin, suffering, and death. At the end of the seventh millennium God will cause the wicked to judge themselves by presenting to them their own words and deeds. They will perish. After that time God will recreate the earth. That will be the beginning of the eighth millennium. The number eight symbolizes a new beginning.
Another Old Testament passage confirms this same seven-day/seven-thousand year theme. The weekly cycle of gathering manna also places special emphasis on the sixth day (The day of preparation for the Sabbath).
Exodus 16:4, 5 Then the LORD said to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from the heavens for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain amount every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And on the sixth day it shall happen, they shall prepare what they bring in. And it shall be twice as much as they gather day by day. (MKJV)
The Children of Israel gathered one portion of manna for the first five days of the week. The sixth day they gathered twice as much manna as they had gathered the first five days. The seventh day, the Sabbath, God provided no manna. The manna refers to Jesus Christ:
John 6:31-35 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert, as it is written, "He gave them bread from Heaven to eat." Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses did not give you that bread from Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. then they said to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst. (MKJV)
Jesus is the Manna, the bread of Heaven. All throughout human history, each generation received new and increasing light, the light of God. However, the last generation will receive a double portion of manna, meaning a double portion of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. The brightness of Jesus' light will burn sin out of our hearts during our walk with Him.
God has another principle in relation to time. Time keeps everything from happening all at once. The light and fire of God's love over time, is healing, restorative, saving.
Having refused the measured doses of God's love, stubborn sinners will have no choice but to take it all at once. However, they will be unable to assimilate God's love without the intervening buffer of time. Sinners will find that they are unwilling and unable to accept God's love.
The seventh day is too late for them. On the seventh day Sabbath no manna could be gathered. In the same way, the time is soon coming when every heart will either have Jesus or Satan as their lord. There will be no more decisions for Jesus during the millennium of rest. We must gather a double portion of Jesus, now, while it is still the sixth day.
The Bible is the Word of God. It is more than a set of dry letters. A mere surface reading will head a person toward confusion and division. We need to see Jesus in all that we study in God's word. We must not try to fit Jesus into the mold of our interpretations that come from a shallow set of man's creeds. Nor should we paint Jesus with the surface colors of the Old Testament.
Jesus placed critical importance on digging beneath the surface of the Old Testament; He reinterpreted it in a way that appears contradictory to a shallow reader. We must learn to interpret the Bible in the light of Jesus' life and death. The message of the cross is that our heavenly Father is a life God, the Creator, who in the person of his Son, sacrificed more than eternity itself will ever fully reveal.
God loves each of us more than his own life. Meditate on that. Make it your filter to guide you in your studies and your life decisions. Behold your God and become like Him. Today is the day, now is the time. Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty! I choose to worship You in beauty and in truth!
1. Schroeder , Gerald (2001). The Hidden Face of God. New York: The Free Press.
2. Wilkinson, B. G. (1994) Truth Triumphant 254 Donovan Road, Brushton, New York: Teach Services.
The purpose of The Cross Was Hell is to draw people into a deeper understanding of and relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that I have been a tool in the hand of God. It is clear from the scriptures that Jesus' life and sacrificial death is a full and clear manifestation of our heavenly Father's heart of love. We need to allow God's love to enter and change our hearts. This is called faith. It is also called the new birth. The Holy Spirit brings us into relationship and harmony with Jesus and the Father.
If God is our Father, then all men are our brothers, and all women are our sisters. Christian unity can only occur as we unite our hearts with Jesus. Fear, force, compromise, and negotiations are a poor counterfeit and cannot provide true unity.
Let us continue to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus and allow God to transform our hearts from glory to glory!
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January 12, 2006
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