Hello Brothers and Sisters…
I am a true follower of Christ, and I accepted Christ as my only saviour.
But I have one question that bothers me…We know the Old testament and the new testament are different. Why is it that God is an ‘angry and destructive’ God in the Old testament, and written that we follow an eye for an eye, and destroyed lands and annihilated tribes, and there were strict rules then, etc. you know what I mean. BUT…in the new testament, God is a God of love, forgiveness, compassion, etc. Here, it teaches that we should turn the other cheek, etc. And that the old testament rules don’t apply to us now! Who said that? We are commanded not to eat pigs, and we still eat them. Please…tell me. What is the difference b/w the old testament and the new testament, and why did God suddenly change in the New.
With much love in Christ,
Thanks for an excellent question.
I would start with the fact that Jesus lived as a Jew, born under the law, and did not condemn the Law. He obeyed it both in letter and spirit, and won the right to become the mediator of that law for the world of mankind. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)
Now, here’s where the mainstream teachings of Christian tradition will start to steer you wrong: most churches teach that Jesus abolished the law for all people, and made the new testament concepts of turning the other cheek, etc. as the new standard … as though God had changed the rulebook half way through human history. I agree with you that this is how it seems.
In reality, I think to make sense of the Bible we need to see 3 things:
1. The Law is eternal.. that is, the principles of right and wrong, how to treat people, etc.
2. Overlaid upon the Law are some ceremonial features and some dietery guidelines that have more symbolic, spiritual significance. These ceremonial features include the tabernacle, the sacrifices, and the activities of the feasts and fasts. Each of them is a picture of God’s dealings with different parts of humanity, at different times. The spiritual meaning of each of these applies to things God is planning for either the Church or the world of mankind.
For example, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) sacrifices picture the activities of Jesus and his followers (Aaron and his sons the under-priests) during the Christian age. They experience the symbolic burning of the flesh outside the camp (The writer of Hebrews refers to this in Hebrews 13:11-13 and applies the process to both Jesus and his followers — clearly a reference to the fact that both the bullock and the goat of sin offering experienced the burning of their bodies — an offensive and dishonored smell as viewed from the world’s perspective. And yet the result of the very same sacrifices involved the commingling of their blood with incense which ascended from the “holy” compartment to the “most holy”.
I believe that this feature of the Law — the tabernacle — defines for us the temporary dwelling place of God among members of the Church of Christ in this life. Throughout the Christian era, God has met only with those who approach him through Jesus — who is pictured by the 3 doors of access to God the tent was fitted with. An outer gate, represents belief in Jesus as our savior. The inner building could only be entereded through the door of full commitment to Jesus, as described in Romans 12:1. And the inner door represents the pathway to the presence of God which Jesus made accessible through his death, and we only pass through upon our death as his followers.
At the same time that those carcases — hide and hoofs and entrails — were making a stench from the world’s perspective, the blood or life essence of the same animals was brought with incense and coals of fire and combined on the golden altar inside the Holy. This created a “sweet smelling savor” from the viewpoint of fellow-believers, and it actually permeated the door and wafted with the High Priest into the Most Holy when he came to sprinkle the blood at the “mercy seat”. (See Revelation 5:8, which defines incense as the prayers of holy people, and Revelation 6:9-11, which indicates that the blood of martyrs is valuable to God and he factors it into his decisions as the righteous judge.)
Hopefully from this example you can see that the Law was given to foreshadow things which the New Testament presents in greater detail. Other examples which you can easily research include:
- the Passover lamb picturing Jesus, their escape from Egypt picturing the promised deliverance of all people, and the night of the firstborn, picturing the deliverance of the Church in advance of the rest of the world;
- the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham picturing God and his sacrifice of his only Son;
- the whole story of Joseph picturing Jesus and his interactions with the Jewish people;
- the 3 40-year kingdoms of Saul, David, and Solomon picturing the 3 ages of grace — the Jewish, the Christian, and the Messianic;
- the battle of Gideon and the Midianites, picturing the “little flock” of the Christian church defeating the enemies of God;
- the battle of Joshua against Jericho, picturing the fall of the world system through an earthquake brought by God.
The Old Testament is literally filled with these “types” or foreshadowings of the great plans of God.
3. The most important thing you need to see is the amazing love of God for all the world of mankind. What few Christians seem to realize is that God ordained two different ways of dealing with those whom He intends to save through Christ. In New Testament times until now, God is dealing with people who in his wisdom he decided not to actually make healthy, get new bodies, etc. Instead, he gives us a “treasure in an earthen vessel”. He gives us a measure of His spirit which “transforms our mind” (Romans 12:1-2) but does not actually restore our physical bodies. We continue to sin, and learn to be somewhat punished, somewhat crippled, by those sins. We must struggle with our environment, too — temptations from bad people and even evil angels; tendencies to sin from our own fallen nature as well as our selfish human heart. In God’s wisdom, this is the condition we are left in throughout our Christian walk in the flesh.
Therefore, much of the Old Testament teaches the human followers of Jesus for the last 2000 years how to think and act in imperfect surroundings. It helps us learn how to struggle and fight against evil in our very souls. In the Old Testament, this struggle was pictured by the battles of the nation of Israel to capture the promised land. All of that happened, not because it is God’s will that we should practice “ethnic cleansing”, but because he wanted to create an illustration of what is happening in the lives of true Christians across the last 20 centuries.
But both the Old and New Testaments also state that the vast majority of the human race will be dealt with by God in a different way. He will “pour out his spirit upon ALL FLESH”. He will swallow up death in victory. He will heal all people. “All in their graves” will come forth and be resurrected onto the earth. In that era, people will actually be healed physically, while their moral development is still progressing. All the inhabitants of the world will “learn righteousness”. There will be no stumbling blocks. Satan will be bound. There will be no deceivers, and God will no longer hide himself. Instead, he will be with them, and be their God. Before they call, He will answer.
These promises are the key to understanding how to harmonize the Old and New Testaments.
When you came to the Lord you were probably taught that those who don’t accept Jesus now will burn in hell forever, either literally or in some sort of psychological separation from God. Perhaps you grew up being taught this awful idea since you were a child. Clearly the Bible has lurid language in places which can be interepreted this way. However, the only way you’ll be able to harmonize the entire Bible and really make sense of the Old and New Testaments as one united work is to realize that God has planned for the complete recovery of all who are willing. The whole world is going to be restored. The whole world is going to be taught. God so loved the world — the entire world — that he sent his son to save them. He didn’t come to bring a message that would in reality condemn them. No, he came to die for their sins, to pay the price of their inherited sins from Adam, so that they would have what some people call a “second chance”. In reality, it is a full “first real opportunity” to know and understand God for the vast majority of the human race.
If you look carefully at the words of God uttered through the mouths of the prophets of the Old Testament, there is very good news promised for the whole world. Everyone. Not just for Jews, and not just for Christians either. A “feast of fat things” has been decreed and planned for the entire world. It is the sovereign God’s righteous and irresistable will that all the world will be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth. Because Jesus was “lifted up” (like the serpent of Numbers 21), he will draw ALL MEN to him. All the world will be delivered from death, as Isaiah describes it. All people will know the Lord, as Jeremiah expresses it. All of these Old Testament promises are echoed in the broadest possible language in the New Testament, such as Revelation 21:1-4 which describes the blessing of all the people of the world, and paints a picture in which the “wife of the lamb” works with the lamb to bring these blessings to all. Clearly the intent of the writers is to tell us that the Christian church (that is, the folks whom God hand-picks to be the spiritual wife of Jesus in heaven) will be united with Him and bring life to all the world. This is really good news.
As for the dietary laws, I would think of part of them as sanitation and health regulations for the benefit of the people back then (as well as now) and part of it is meant to have spiritual meaning as so much of the rest of the Old Testament does.
I believe that the number of “goats” (Matthew 25) who will perish in what the Bible calls the “2nd death” is, relatively speaking, very small. Even if the “Gog and Magog” rebellion at the end of the Millennium is comparable to the 200 million evil “horsemen” described at the beginning of the Millennium in Revelation 9, that’s only maybe 2 percent of world population by the time all the dead are raised.
In summary, the important thing to remember is that God does not change, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. For Christians now, God has a higher standard and a more difficult test in place. We aren’t just as as Christians to be good people to the best of our ability, we are asked to love our enemies and “turn the other cheek” as Jesus did. And we are being trained to be kings, priests, judges and rulers of the world of the future.
The rest of the world is not on trial at the present time. Their sins are not being imputed to them, but instead they are “storing up” the wrath or judicial judgment of God for their day of reckoning and learning, the 1000 year reign of Messiah. But they will be evaluated at that time, not as a simple condemnation for past mistakes, but as a hopeful and righteous opportunity to learn from those past mistakes and learn to walk in God’s ways. They will be helped and taught in that time by a very merciful group of mentors — the Christian Church and Jesus himself.
And so in the end, the wrath of God (which describes the entire time period of human history — 6 thousand years to us, but only 6 days to God) will have been but “for a moment”. And his mercy — his love for the human race which will effectively and massively restore it, will last forever.
Thanks for your question and please follow up with the many more questions which my answer will probably generate.