The Hebrew Scriptures (or the Old Testament) has been a mystery for Christians since the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E. The traditional Christian teaching has been that it ended at the cross, particularly the Old Testament Law given in the first five books. However, there’s textual reason and evidence given in the Bible to call that traditional teaching into question.
THE HEBREW BIBLE – IT’S THREE PART COMPOSITE
The Hebrew Bible, called in Hebrew the TANAKH is an acronym for the three parts that make it up: “T” for the Torah (trans. “Law”); “N” – Nevi’im (Prophets); and the “K” for the Ketuvim (Writings). Even though the same books are present in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, they are arranged differently. For example, in the Hebrew Bible, the last book is 2 Chronicles, but in the Christian Old Testament, the last book is Malachi.
“TESTAMENT OR COVENANT”?
Although in the Christian Bible, the two parts of the Bible is called the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament” in English, the word “Testament” should have been translated as “Covenant.” The word “Testament” comes from the Latin word Testamentum, which can mean “Covenant” or “Testament.” It is the Latin equivalent of the Greek word Diatheke, which can also mean “Covenant” or “Testament,” but diatheke is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word B’rit, which means “Covenant,” but it does not have the meaning of “Testament” in it at all.
There’s a major difference between the words “Covenant” and “Testament.” It is understood that a NEWER TESTAMENT (like in one’s “Last Will & Testament”) automatically replaces an AN OLDER TESTAMENT; however, this is absolutely NOT TRUE for a Covenant. A “COVENANT,” on the other hand, can be explained, expounded upon, further developed, and even added to, but it CANNOT be replaced, pushed aside, done away with, or annulled. Consequently, how one translates the Greek word diatheke has a great importance in how that word is understood.
And since the title “New Testament” actually comes from the prophecy for the “NEW COVENANT” (“Brit Chadasha“) in the book of Jeremiah and a COVENANT is definitely NOT the same thing as a TESTAMENT, our Bibles should have been translated to say “OLD COVENANT” and “NEW COVENANT.”
BUT HOW MANY COVENANTS ARE THERE?
However, even the correction of OLD COVENANT is misleading, because there’s not just one covenant in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament – BUT SEVEN DIVINE COVENANTS! There are SEVEN COVENANTS that God has specifically called “covenants;” they are –
- God’s Covenant with Noah;
- God’s Covenant with Abraham;
- God’s Covenant with Moses;
- God’s Covenant with Phineas and the Levites;
- God’s Covenant with David;
- God’s Covenant with the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (called the “New Covenant”); and
- God’s “Covenant of Peace” (or the Millennial Covenant).
All seven of these covenants are discussed in the Old Testament. The New Testament only mentions the covenants with Abraham, Moses and the children of Israel, and some parts of the Levitic, but it does not go into the detail with these other covenants that the Old Testament does. And just as the “New Testament” highlights certain aspects of the Old Testament, so the next covenant will highlight other aspects of it.
WHAT ABOUT THE ADAMIC COVENANT?
Should the covenant count be eight, instead of seven? There are many who claim that all of the elements of covenant are there in the Garden of Eden, but I excluded it from the list because the word “covenant” is not used in the Eden account, and I believe it’s because God did not want the word “covenant” associated with Eden.
HOW CAN IT BE DONE WHEN IT’S NOT FINISHED?
So when we consider the fact that there’s another covenant coming, a seventh covenant, for the Millennial reign, and that God has NOT completely fulfilled all the previous six covenants either, then how can we legitimately claim that the “Old Testament has been fulfilled” or that the “Old Testament is no longer relevant”? Those who make either one of these claims has apparently not spent any time, or very little time, actually studying the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, because if they did, they would see, as I do, what a clearly unfounded claim that they are actually making.
“DIDN’T JESUS SAY ON THE CROSS, ‘IT IS FINISHED’?”
Yes, He did, but He wasn’t speaking about the Old Testament, or even the Law, being finished, but our slavery in sin. We need to remember that Jesus died on Passover, an observance whose theme was “Freedom from Slavery.” Although Christianity may consider the Law to be a form of slavery, Jesus did not. There was only one thing that Jesus ever called “slavery,” and that was sin. Jesus died to free us from the slavery of sin, and its control over our lives, and by Him dying on the cross, our time of slavery was finished. (For more information, see my article “Did Christ Bring the Law to an End?”)
FUTURE UNFULFILLED PROPHECIES
Also, there are many future unfulfilled prophecies in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. In fact, there are 500 Messianic prophecies that Jesus will fulfill during His coming return, the battle of Armageddon, and during the Millennium. (I’ll show some sample examples in just a minute.) So let’s consider this for a moment: If these prophecies are not yet fulfilled, then how can we go around and make such brash and unfounded claims as “The Old Testament has been fulfilled” or “it is no longer relevant”?
ARE WE FOLLOWING THE BIBLE OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH?
The traditional view of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was formulated by the Roman Catholic Church. Rather than taking a literal view of the Scriptures, it spiritualized everything and turned various teaching into analogies. They taught that the Church was the “New Israel,” and that the Jewish people had been rejected by God and got all the curses, while the church got all the blessings. In addition, to further illustrate this idea, they taught that the New Testament had REPLACED the Old Testament. The teaching that the New Testament has REPLACED the Old Testament is still extremely dominant in the Christian faith today.
But this teaching is not based on a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and for Christian denominations who claim to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and yet still teach that “the Old Testament, or even the Law, has been replaced by the New Testament” is in contradiction with itself. For example, according to Zechariah 14, after Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom, God tells us,
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of ALL THE NATIONS which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to WORSHIP THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS, and to KEEP THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH unto Jerusalem to WORSHIP THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS, even upon them shall be no rain. (Zechariah 14:16-17; Emphasis Mine)
If the Feasts in the Old Testament ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require EVERY FAMILY from ALL THE NATIONS to come to Jerusalem during the FEAST OF TABERNACLES to worship the King, Jesus Christ? And not only the Feast of Tabernacles, but we will be required to worship God on the biblical SABBATH, not Sunday, and on the New Moon feasts:
For as the New heavens and the New Earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, says the LORD, so shall your [Israel’s] seed and your name remain before Me. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall ALL FLESH come to worship before Me, says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:22-23; Emphasis Mine)
Again, if the Sabbath and New Moon feasts ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require ALL FLESH to come and worship before Him during those times? Notice, it does NOT say “all Israel” or “all Jews,” but “ALL FLESH.” Jew and Gentile alike. So if the commandments given to Moses was ONLY for the Jews, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require “ALL THE NATIONS,” “ALL FAMILIES” and “ALL FLESH” to observe them?
GENTILES ARE GOING TO SEEK TO BE WITH JEWS?
During the Millennium, people from the nations (Gentiles; non-Jews) are going to seek to be around and travel with Jews. For example,
So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp [the corner of] the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'” (Zechariah 8:22-23)
At what point in Jewish history has this ever happened? It hasn’t, at least, not yet, but it will when Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom in Jerusalem. So how can the Old Testament be “fulfilled,” if this prophecy has not happened yet?
GOD’S COVENANTS WITH DAVID AND THE LEVITES?
Did you know in the book of Jeremiah, God has promised that as long as there’s day and night, God’s covenants with David and with the Levites shall stand.
For thus says the LORD; DAVID shall never want (or lack) a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall THE PRIESTS want (or lack) a man before Me to OFFER BURNT OFFERINGS, and to KINDLE MEAT OFFERINGS, and to DO SACRIFICE CONTINUALLY.
How can the Church have replaced the Levitical Priesthood when God clearly promises them that they will always have the position He gave to them as His ministers within the Temple and to offer Him these various animal sacrifices? If you accept traditional Christian doctrine, then you’d also have to come to the conclusion that God lied to the Levites here. Either they have the position before God that He says for as long as there’s “daylight” and “night time,” or they don’t? Yes, the Temple has been destroyed, but it will soon be rebuilt. And when it is, this promise will again be active. He goes on to say,
Thus says the LORD, If you can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites My priests, My ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David My servant, and the Levites that minister unto Me. (Jeremiah 33:20-22)
This prophecy is only two chapters after the prophecy of the “New Covenant.” Again, how can the New Testament replace or do away with the Law or the Old Testament as a whole when God has promised the Levites and David that His covenant with them would endure until the time period when there would not be any “day time” or “night time” (the time period of the New heavens and the New Earth?)
JESUS COULD NOT BE A PRIEST?
Now Jesus does fulfill the promise to David since Jesus is “the son of David” (or descendant of David); however, Jesus does not fulfill the promise to the Levites since Jesus is not of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah. Even the book of Hebrews acknowledges that Jesus is not of Levitical descent:
FOR IF HE WERE ON EARTH, HE SHOULD NOT BE A PRIEST, seeing that there are priests that [continue to] offer gifts according to the Law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, says He, that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the Mount. (Hebrews 8:4-5; Emphasis Mine)
The book of Hebrews must have been written BEFORE 70 C.E., because according to this passage, the Temple was still in operation in the city of Jerusalem, Israel. But also notice that the passage clearly says that if Jesus had remained on earth and not ascended into heaven, “HE SHOULD NOT BE A PRIEST.” Ask yourself the logical question, if the Law ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why couldn’t Jesus have been a priest? The only logical answer is that the Law did not end at the cross at all, including the Levitical Priesthood and the Temple system. And because of that, according to the Levitical covenant and laws, since Jesus was a Judean, He was not qualified to function as a priest.
This is the whole reason for the argument in Hebrews for Him being a priest according to Melchizedek priesthood. If the law was no longer valid, there would not be any need for this argument. The fact that there was a need for the argument proves that the Law did not, in fact, end at the cross, as Christianity teaches. Therefore, it was NOT God who brought the Temple system to an end, but the Roman army under the General Titus in 70 C.E.
THE BUILDING OF THE THIRD TEMPLE
The Jews are working on rebuilding the Third Temple, and when they do, they will have God’s full support, because as He promised the Levitical Priesthood, they will always a man before Him to offer the sacrifices unto Him, as long as there’s “daylight and night time.” Also, in contrast to traditional Christian teaching, the tearing of the Temple Veil when Jesus died had absolutely NOTHING to do with bringing the Temple System to an end either, but was an act of God mourning for the death of His dearly, beloved Son, the same thing we see Jewish men and fathers doing throughout the Hebrew Bible, throughout Jewish history, and among Jews today. It was the same thing any loving Jewish father would’ve also done in that same position. (See my article, “Why Did God Tear the Temple Veil in Half? Not the Reason You Think”)
ANOTHER PARADIGM FOR VIEWING THE TWO TESTAMENTS
Rather than viewing the New Testament as a replacement of the Old Testament, which obviously violates Scripture, a better alternative would be to view the Old Testament like the original computer program, and the New Testament as it’s most recent update. And yes, when Jesus returns, there’s another update coming! So obviously, if you continue to just run the original program, without the update, you are missing out on the new features that the Creator had intended for you to have. On the other hand, you cannot just run the update. It will not run properly, and the result will not be what the Creator intended. Consequently, in order to get the intended, desired effect by the Creator, we need to run both the original program (“the Old Testament”) and the update (“the New Testament”) together as one new program.
We Need Them Both
There are many places in Paul’s writings, for example, where he teaches us that the Old Testament (or the Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament is an important part of the education and training of the believer (including us today). for example, in Ephesians 2, Paul writes to the Gentile believers,
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being fitted together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22, NASB)
Notice in this passage, that as believers in Christ [Messiah], our faith is “built upon the foundation of the apostles [i.e., New Testament] and the prophets [i.e., Old Testament]” with “Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,” or the connecting stone. So if the foundation upon which our lives as believers consists of both Old and New Testaments, then we will need to be taught and trained in both in order for us to gain the foundation, framework and context that God says He desires for us to have to understand and live in obedience to His Word.
Another scripture where Paul indicates we need both the Old and New Testaments is in 2 Timothy, which is an extremely important epistle for believers today to consider when reading and studying Paul’s writings. The reason this epistle is so important is because it’s the last epistle that Paul wrote before he was sentenced by the Roman Emperor Nero to be beheaded. This is evident in this epistle, for Paul writes,
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:6-7, NASB)
Consequently, then, Paul is fully aware that this is his last opportunity to give Timothy (and us) instruction in regard to the Scriptures; therefore, Paul’s epistle here would have been written after much thought and prayer. As a result, when we read this epistle and examine what he has to say here, it should be paramount to us in keeping what he says about the Scriptures continually in mind in how we view and understand his previous writings. For example, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Notice that Paul points out several important things here.
The topic of his statement here is on “All Scripture.” This includes, of course, the Old Testament and the New Testament (even though, at this point, not all of the New Testament has been written). The word translated “All” is the Greek word pas, which can be translated as either “all,” “each,” or “every.” Therefore, by using this word, Paul is not referring to “All Scripture” in a generic sense, but he is literally referring to “All, Each, and Every Scripture.”
Secondly, Paul points out four facts about “All Scripture”:
“All Scripture is inspired by God.” The word translated “inspired” is the Greek compound word θεόπνευστος (theopneustos, Strongs #2315). It’s comprised of the Greek words, theos meaning “God” and pneo meaning “breathed out,” so it literally means “God-breathed out,” or we could literally translate this as, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” And according to the text, Introduction to Theology, the Scriptures being “God-breathed” means,
by divine “breath,” or power, the Holy Spirit moved the human authors with such purpose that the final product accurately reflected the intention of God Himself (18).
“All Scripture is…profitable” The word translated as “profitable” is the Greek word ὠφέλιμος (ophelimos, Strong’s #5624), and this word also means “helpful, serviceable, or advantageous.” Notice that Paul does not say, “All Scripture used to be profitable and advantageous to us, but now that Christ has died on the cross and rose again, only the New Testament is profitable.” This is NOT what Paul says here, but this is what many ministers teach. Another variation of this is the teaching that “the Law (of God) is not for today.” But “the Law” is part of “All Scripture,” and, therefore, profitable and advantageous for the believer. To teach anything else would be a contradiction of Paul’s statement here. Therefore, those who deny that the Old Testament or even God’s Law is “profitable” to the believer today is in direct contradiction to Paul’s statement here.
Also notice that there are four areas, Paul writes, that “All Scripture is profitable” or advantageous or helpful for us as believers:
- “for teaching,” or for instruction and doctrine;
- “for reproof,” or for proof, evidence, conviction (or in being fully convinced);
- “for correction,” or for helping one to “straighten up again”; and
- “for training in righteousness,” or for the education and training, and when needed, the disciplinary correction of believers in righteousness, or in knowing and living the standard of life God expects of us as His people.
And why, does Paul conclude, are these four areas important or needed? So “that the man [or woman] of God may be adequate [or complete], equipped [or equipped fully or thoroughly furnished] for every good work.” Consequently, if believers are not being educated and trained in both Testaments or “All Scripture,” then, according to Paul, that individual is not being “fully equipped” or “thoroughly furnished” to do the “good works,” or live the life, that God expects of us.
Therefore, we must conclude that both the Old and New Testaments are important for the education, training and development of all believers today. However, I am frequently saddened when I hear ministers, evangelists and writers denounce or criticize the writings and ideas in the Old Testament. They are only hurting people by their comments since they are denouncing the very Scriptures that God says we need for our education, training, development and growth. In fact, just prior to Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul advises Timothy,
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
What were the “sacred writings” that Timothy had learned as a child which gave him “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith”? Was it the New Testament? No, it did not exist then. Paul, here, is specifically referring to the Old Testament. It was the “sacred writings” of the Old Testament that gave Timothy the wisdom, education and training, he needed to lead him “to salvation through faith.” And finally, in another passage regarding the Old Testament, Paul writes,
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4, NASB)
I hope you can see now that by not reading and studying “All Scripture,” both the Old Testament and the New Testament, that we are, in fact, harming ourselves, and maybe others, by not getting what we need (or providing what others need) to be “equipped fully” or “thoroughly furnished” “for every good work” that God has called us to do from before the beginning of the world.
TWO REVELATIONS COMBINED
And even in the book of Revelations, we can see evidence that God intended the Old Testament and the New Testament to be seen as a unified whole. For example, in Revelations 15, John sees a vision of a mass of people who had come through the tribulation period:
And I saw, as it were, a sea of glassed mixed with fire, and those who had come off victorious from the Beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. And they sang THE SONG OF MOSES, the bond-servant of God AND THE SONG OF THE LAMB, saying,... (Revelation 15:2-3)
I have heard many ministers erroneously teach that this song is being sung to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, but this is not what this says. Just as THE SONG OF MOSES was a song sung by Moses to God the Father, so THE SONG OF THE LAMB is a song sung to God the Father as well. And as we can see here, these two songs are being joined together into ONE SONG. “THE SONG OF MOSES” (representing the Old Testament) and “THE SONG OF THE LAMB” (representing the New Testament and the coming Covenant of Peace”).
SO HAS THE OLD TESTAMENT BEEN REPLACED?
Absolutely NOT! There’s still many prophecies and teachings that need to be learned from the Old Testament. Obviously, those who continue to discard it do not understand how much beneficial instruction they are simply “tossing into the trash.” Those who teach this false doctrine that “the Old Testament has been done away” or “it is no longer valid,” only demonstrate how much of the Bible they truly do not understand or, perhaps, have never taken the time to read or study. We need to begin teaching a WHOLE BIBLE PERSPECTIVE within the Church, so that we can prepare them for the coming of the Lord and to the establishment of His coming kingdom. May we all be found prepared and ready at His coming!