June 21, 2015

In this issue: The Christian Age by Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.

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Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.

Someone coined the expression, “the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed,” a long time ago. It is a good and true saying. The story of man and his relationship to God and vice versa begins in the opening pages of the Old Testament and quickly turns into a story of man falling out of fellowship with God due to sin and of God’s plan to reestablish that fellowship through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). The story of the redemptive plan intensifies with the call of Abraham (Genesis 12). God gave Abraham a threefold promise concerning his seed. Two parts of the promise were physical while the third was spiritual.

(1) Through his seed there was to be a great nation (Israel)formed to be God’s own nation, who would receive
(2) a great land (Canaan), both of which were fulfilled according to the Old Testament revelation.
(3) Then there was the third promise which was spiritual in nature – that through his seed all nations would be blessed. The great nation is formed in Egypt and brought out and received a covenant with laws through Moses, God’s chosen deliverer and lawgiver, that was to last until the ultimate Deliverer (Christ) would come to make a New Covenant that would include all nations (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6-13; Isaiah 2:2).

The laws given to Israel under the first covenant were physical “shadows” or “types” of the spiritual things to characterize the New Covenant under Christ when the redeemed of all nations would compose God’s spiritual nation under the rule of the Messiah. Also, during this time prophets were called to bring Israel back to God when she strayed and to look into the future when there would be a new and better day for the people of God. The ultimate and eternal purpose of God to offer redemption for all nations and to bring them all into one fold under Christ was somewhat shrouded in mystery until the fulfillment of types and prophecies in Christ. Thus, New Testament writers referred to the gospel as the revelation of “the mystery” – the gospel lifted the veil so that it can be clearly seen what God had in mind all along throughout the history of the world. Now that we have that revelation in Christ we can look at the types and the revealed antitypes or at the Messianic prophecies and their fulfillment and say, “That is it. That is what was meant by all those Old Testament references. It is no longer a mystery.” God’s physical nation, with its physical ordinances and material house was a foreshadow of God’s ultimate spiritual nation (kingdom or church) that would never be destroyed.

When Jesus met the woman at the well in Samaria, she wanted to know where was the correct place to worship. Was it the house in Jerusalem or the house in the mountain of Samaria? (John 4). Jesus assures her that time was near when the place would not matter. Why? Because “God is spirit” and that worship would be “in spirit and in truth.” “In spirit” is the opposite of physical or fleshy. The new worship would be spiritually oriented rather than physically oriented as it had been in Israel under the law. So, Jerusalem and the mountain of Samaria or any other geographical location would be immaterial – all items of spiritual worship can be done anywhere.

Now that we have the mystery revealed, we know that all those many animal sacrifices were foreshadowing the spiritual sacrifices in God’s new nation made up of all from every nation that have submitted themselves to the rule of Christ. The blood of the fleshly sacrifices were types of the blood of Christ that was to be shed for the sin of the world. The blood of bulls and goats offered for sin was a shadow of the Christ who became a sin offering once for all for all people (Hebrews 10:1-18; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

In addition to this, those who have been cleansed by His blood spend their lives offering up spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ, our high priest, rather than all those physical sacrifices (blood and grain) commanded of Israel to school them for the coming redeemer when they and all other nations would be under a new order. (Cf. Galatians 3:24-25).

So now, instead of those sacrifices, Christians, as beneficiaries of the great sacrifice of Jesus, offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 13:15; Philippians 2:17; Romans 12:1-2). No more material sacrifices of animals or grain, but spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God. No more under the law that provided for such material/fleshly sacrifices but a new and better covenant. No citizens of a kingdom with geographical territories, but a kingdom located in the hearts of its citizens (Luke 17:21).

Peter vividly compares the Christian age with the past age in 1 Peter 2:1.

1. Christians are living stones in God’s house (v. 5), the former house was made up of lifeless stones.

2. Christians are God’s holy/royal priesthood (vv. 5, 9), the former priests were fleshly descendants of Levi.

3. Christians offer up spiritual sacrifices (v.5), the former sacrifices were material /fleshly in nature.

4. Christians now make up God’s holy nation, His special people (v. 9), just as the Israelites had been in the past (Deuteronomy 7:6). Only this is a spiritual nation.

Citizens enter God’s holy nation today by a new birth (John 3:1-5; 1 Peter 1:23), instead of by physical birth as was the case in Israel. People now become children of God by faith when they are baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26, 27) rather than becoming children of God the way they did under the old dispensation. Hence, we are justified by an obedient faith in the spiritual promise made to Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed. So, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile but all are one who have been baptized into Christ and as such are the real seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise made to him that in him all the families/nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham, himself, had been justified by his obedient faith (in the promise) even before the law was given, so we without the law are justified by our obedient faith in the same promise after the law was taken away by the cross of Christ. (Galatians 3:26-29).

How great it is to stand on this side of the cross of Christ and look back at Old Testament history and see the veil lifted, making God’s eternal mystery completely known to us by the apostolic preaching, recorded in the pages of the New Testament. (See Ephesians 3:1-5). What a majestic plan! It is now clear who the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is, or what Psalm 22 is all about along with other prophecies made to Israel about a coming kingdom ushering in a better day. We now have the benefit of the Lord’s church to make known to us the manifold wisdom of God that had been at work from the beginning and beyond in the mind of God (Ephesians 3:9,10). ~

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