The New Testament

…Continued from “The Old Testament”.

The Roman Empire ruled Judea with an iron fist; but for the sake of antiquity the Jews were allowed to continue to practice their religion. Crushed as a nation, but with their religion intact, the Jews longed for their promised Messiah more than ever before. As the New Testament story begins, we learn that this Messiah is indeed coming to His people. We also learn that He is no ordinary man. Rather He is to be God’s very own Son miraculously conceived through God’s Spirit and a Jewish virgin. Son of God and Son of Man….and once again God would be Israel’s King. (1)

Manger sceneBorn in a lowly stable, Jesus grew as a common Jewish child experiencing the troubles of life in the occupied nation. At the age of twelve Jesus attributed God as His true Father to His family, but he did not begin His ministry until the age of 30. Full of the Holy Spirit Jesus lived a sinless life. He preached true righteousness to the masses and performed many miracles such as feeding multitudes of people, healing the sick and even raising the dead. These miracles fulfilled many prophecies that only the anticipated Messiah could fulfill and many of the Jews proclaimed Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus called twelve men to leave their lives and follow Him. For three years He spoke with them intimately about His mission and their calling as His disciples. Some of these disciples documented Jesus’ powerful words and extraordinary activities in books that became known as the Gospels.

Jesus preached primarily about “the Kingdom”. Undoubtedly, this excited the Jews in the hope that their Savior King (Messiah) had finally come to deliver them.(2) They hoped that Jesus would soon lead them in battle to miraculously defeat the Romans and elevate them as a righteous world empire in its stead. However their hope was dashed when Jesus did not cite military action, but rather preached that the Jews should Love everyone…even the Romans. This angered the political Zealots and the Pharisees and they rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Moreover, because Jesus was becoming admired by the people, the religious leaders feared He would lure the people away from them. Tirelessly, these sought to discredit Jesus by publicly challenging Him with difficult questions trying to entrap Him…but to no avail; Jesus only met there questions with answers full of wisdom, love, and the true righteousness of God. 

Jesus-teachingJesus repeatedly gave examples of what true righteousness was through many stories and parables.  Although these teachings were admirable, the Jews’ ability to uphold God’s righteousness had proven impossible for them in the past. How could they even hope to enter into this Holy Kingdom?  Jesus proclaimed the Way to enter it when He said “I AM the Way…” and that through Him, the righteousness necessary to live in His Kingdom would be available to all. Jesus also began to reveal His true identity as the only begotten Son of God. Jesus forgave sins (a task for God alone). He publicly stated “…before Abraham was I AM” (the name “I AM” being the name God called Himself to Moses). Ultimately, Jesus’ miracles proved His power was divine and His claims to deity validated. Indeed, the Old Testament prophecies foretold the Messiah would come directly from God Himself; but few understood it. (3)

jesus-to-jerusalem-e1397275449275Jesus officially announced Himself as the promised Savior King when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as the crowds joyfully shouted “Hosanna, Son of David” (a prophesy to be fulfilled by the Messiah). (4)  When He arrived at the Temple, Jesus drove out the money changers, rebuking them for turning His Father’s house into a den of thieves. Jesus also confronted the Scribes and Pharisees there; fiercely rebuking them for their religious impositions and hypocrisy. Enraged by the charges Jesus had publicly railed against them, they retaliated by plotting to murder Him. And through some well crafted false testimony they had Jesus arrested by the Romans for insurrection.

Upon His arrest, the Roman Magistrate (Pilate), asked the Jewish religious leaders “…What accusation do you bring against this Man?” They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.” And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death…” (under Roman occupation).

Therefore Pilate summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My Kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said* to Him, “What is truth?”

jesus_pilate_And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said* to them, “I find no guilt in Him. “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber. John 18 / Luke 23

“…Pilate said* to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said*, “Crucify Him!” And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matt 27

crucifixionAlthough Jesus was never found guilty of any charges, because of a timely tradition–and at the order of His own people, Jesus was brutally beaten and crucified on Passover.  At first Jesus’ disciples were disillusioned by His death and hid in fear of the Romans. However, they soon came to understand that this was not just some terrible failure, rather it was divine providence. The Disciples remembered how Jesus had foretold them of His impending death. Indeed, on the eve of His death, using the symbolisms of the Passover meal, Jesus displayed the very purpose of it…

Jesus was to be Israel’s Passover Lamb. Indeed, Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed on Passover in order to fulfill Passover. To fulfill means to fully-fill that which was only partially filled, or to finish what was incomplete. Passover was incomplete…but Jesus came to complete it. The lamb selected for the Passover sacrifice was to be perfect (without blemish), but Jesus was truly Prefect (without sin). And whereas the blood of Passover Lamb only provided for a temporary escape from death…because Jesus was perfect and Eternal, His blood provides escape from the Eternal death. Thus, Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed on Passover in order to give man eternal life.

empty-tomb 3For many years, the Prophets foretold of a great Savior King who would one day come and again deliver Israel just as they had been delivered from Egypt. But this salvation would be an eternal salvation…and this King would reign forever! Indeed, although Jesus died to save man eternally…death was not to be His eternal abode; for after three days Jesus rose from the dead. Accordingly, through His resurrection, Jesus defeated death completely and broke any hold it had on mankind. Truly Jesus was the promised Savior King the prophets foretold of. And now this glorious King was ready to lead His Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God

Although Israel rejected God as their King, God was once again King of Israel. But Jesus had said His Kingdom, His Israel was not of this world…and indeed it is not. For just as Jesus fulfilled and transformed the physical Passover into an eternal Passover, everything of Israel would be fulfilled and transformed into the eternal…including the Kingdom.

“The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation; nor will people say, ‘here it is,’ or ‘there it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20)

No longer was the Kingdom of Israel to be found “here or there” or at any physical location on the earth. Rather, the Kingdom would now reside only within the hearts of men! Moreover, not just anyone could be a citizen of this Kingdom. Jesus said that unless a person was born again, they could not enter His Kingdom. When a person is born in this world, they automatically become a citizen of the country where they are born. Jesus said that one must be born into His Kingdom. But not of flesh and blood as it were with the physical Israel; rather they must be born of the Spirit; and Jesus promised His Disciples that the Spirit would come to them.  Jesus had accomplished the tasks that He had come to do, and told His followers that He would soon be leaving. But along with this seemingly sad news, Jesus promised that something “better” for them was soon to come:

“…it is better for you that I leave, for if I do not leave the Holy Spirit will not come to you…and He will LEAD you into ALL TRUTH.” John 16:7-13

Holy SpiritJesus said, the Spirit would come and lead them into all truth. Indeed, just as Israel was immediately led on a journey by God after their Passover salvation; the spiritually freed Israelite is also led on a journey by God. But instead of going before them outwardly in cloud and fire, the Holy Spirit leads them from within their hearts. And just as Israel was lead through the wilderness to build their dependence on God; the Spirit leads the spiritual Israelite through toils and trials in order to build their dependence as well. Moreover, instead of depending on the physical Manna to sustain them, the new Israelites will be sustained by the Spiritual Manna from Heaven, Jesus. Finally, if they will continue on this journey with the Spirit, He promised to give them the power to overcome their doubt and fear, and to lead them into the Eternal Promise Land.

The Old Testament contains many more foreshadows like the Passover, Manna and Promised Land that Jesus fulfilled, and they are all very important for the Christian. Indeed, after His resurrection, Jesus spent some time on the earth with His disciples revealing these fulfillments to them. (5) Later, His Disciples explained many of the fulfillments to the other followers as recorded in the New Testament. After He explained these things, Jesus instructed His Disciples to preach this Salvation message throughout the world. Finally, Jesus promised that He would return someday and gather His true followers to Himself; then before their eyes, He ascended into Heaven.

As wonderful as Jesus’ provision for an eternal Salvation was, most of the Jews rejected it. Nonetheless, many did believe and went on to receive the Holy Spirit Jesus promised. The Holy Spirit came upon the Disciples during a Jewish celebration called the Feast of Pentecost. This Holy-Day commemorates the day God gave Israel His Law and made His Covenant with them. Many would travel from great distances to celebrate Pentecost in Jerusalem. PentecostThe morning of the celebration, the Disciples and several other believers experienced a supernatural event. In the midst of a large gathering, the Holy Spirit suddenly came upon them and they began to boldly proclaim Jesus’ salvation in the various languages of the foreign travelers. Because of this miracle, many more Jews came to believe in Jesus that day.  Moreover, this miracle fulfilled another monumental foreshadow. Indeed at the first Pentecost the Israelites received the Law of God written of stone tablets. But at the fulfillment of Pentecost they received the Law of God written on their hearts by the Spirit as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah:

“…The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “… Jer 31:32 (6)

When Israel received God’s Law and AGREED to keep it, God promised, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people”. This agreement was called a Covenant and is likened unto marriage contract. But alas, Israel was unfaithful and broke their vows; thus God broke His Covenant with them. This break was likened unto a divorce. But just as Jeremiah foretold, God made a New Covenant with Israel. Indeed, the night Jesus died He offered a New Covenant—a new marriage contract for a New Jerusalem. That night, just like at Sinai, Jesus presented the twelve His Law—His fulfilled Law. Indeed, through the Passover meal, Jesus offered His life (body and blood) as the fulfillment of the Law; and they agreed by partaking in Him.

Through His sacrifice, Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial and ceremonial Laws such as Passover; but what about the social Laws? Indeed, Jesus fulfilled those too! Jesus had said that the society Laws could be summed up in the Law that says “Love you neighbor as you love yourself”.  Jesus fulfilled that Law when He provided a Love that went above and beyond the old requirement. Indeed Jesus loved us MORE than He loved Himself in that while we were still His enemies, He died for us. Because Jesus fulfilled the entire Law through Love, He offers us the ability to be able to keep it through Him…through His Love. Hence, in order to become partakers in His New Covenant, Jesus commands us to Love others as He Loved us:

 “A NEW COMMAND I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  John 13:34

And just like at Sinai, the twelve agreed to the New Covenant:

 “…For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.” John 17:8 

Just like at Sinai, the New Covenant is a two party contract where both parties have to agree. Jesus promised to give His Life to fulfill the Laws and the Disciples promised to believe in Him and to remain in His Love. Moreover, Jesus promised to send them the Spirit to help them:

“…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”   John 14:23

After the Disciples received the Holy Spirit they began to travel throughout Judea spreading the message of Jesus salvation and the Church grew in number. The believers gathered in homes to fellowship in the things of God. They ate meals together commemorating the Passover meal that Jesus had shared with His disciples the night He died. They were the spiritual family of Israel dedicated to one another through the love of Jesus.

Later, the Lord revealed to several of His Disciples that the Gospel must be taken to the gentiles (non-Jews) as well. And thus the message did go out to the gentiles…and the response was dynamic. After simply receiving of the Gospel of Jesus by Faith, the gentiles were also instantly filled with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, just as it was for the Jews, the Law of God was instantly written on their hearts and they too were given Spiritual gifts. These Spirit filled gentiles joined with the Spirit filled Jews, and the solely Jewish Church suddenly became a worldwide Church.  

This salvation of the gentiles fulfilled the most prophesied event of the Old Testament…The Great Restoration of Israel. Indeed, the Prophets foretold that someday, through the Spirit of God, the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel would be miraculously resurrected as from the dead. They foretold how the lost Tribes descendants would suddenly arise from all over the gentile world where their forefathers had been scattered; and how these Spirit filled descendants of Israel would then unite with Judah (the Spirit filled Jews) and the divided Kingdom of Israel would again be one! (7) The Prophets also foretold that through this miraculous Restoration the gentiles would be truly blessed…and blessed they are indeed; for not only did this Great Restoration reunite God’s divided people, but it opened the Kingdom of Israel to the entire world!  (For more on this See “The Great Restoration”)

The salvation message spread rapidly and Christian Churches sprang up all over the gentile world. After the Churches were established, the Apostles would write letters to the churches instructing them on spiritual matters. Several of these letters (epistles) are found in the New Testament.

Although the Church was growing, the Christians also began to be persecuted for their beliefs. Their persecutions came from the Jews and from the gentiles. During this time, the Apostle John was thrown into a Roman prison for preaching the Gospel. While there, John received a spectacular “Revelation” from God revealing important future events and ultimately, how the world would come to its end.

John's RevelationThrough various spiritual metaphors, the vision revealed that the world would become excessively wicked, and that the Christians would suffer much persecution. Moreover, the vision revealed that monumental famines, plagues, wars, and destruction would torment an increasingly wicked mankind. It further revealed that a wicked Empire (Beast) and a false religious system (Harlot) would deceive many people and lead them into great delusion.

The vision was ominous, but it ultimately gave peace and a marvelous hope to the Christians in that it also foretold of King Jesus’ triumphant return. How then, Jesus would finally put an end to man’s wicked kingdoms, and gather His true followers into His glorified Kingdom where they will dwell forever with Him…Amen!

Please click on the “The Early Church” link to continue.  

 

References:

(1) Isaiah 9:6   “…For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father…”

Luke 1:30 “…The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end…”

Matt 22:41 “…Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said* to Him, “The son of David.” 43He said* to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet”’? “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question….”

(2) Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…”

(3)  Exodus 3:13 “…Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them? And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”

John 8:57 “…Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Mark 2:5“…and Jesus seeing their faith said* to the paralytic, “£Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said* to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said* to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

(4) Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey,

(5) Luke 24:44   “…Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem…”

(6) Ezek 36:26  “…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will keep My judgments and do them.

(7) Ezek 37:15 “…The word of the LORD came again to me saying, 16“And you,

For Judah and for the  17“Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18“When the sons of your people speak to you saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’ 19say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ 20“The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. 21“Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. 23“They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their £dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God. “My servant David (Jesus) will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.

Isaiah 49:6 “…It is too small a thing that You (Messiah-Jesus) should be My Servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One…” 14 “…But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.”  “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? 18 “…“Lift up your eyes and look around; all of them gather together, they come to you; as I live,” declares the LORD,  “You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride. “For your waste and desolate places and your destroyed land—Surely now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed you will be far away. “The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears, ‘The place is too cramped for me; Make room for me that I may live here.’ “Then you will say in your heart,  ‘Who has begotten these for me,since I have been bereaved of my children and am barren, an exile and a wanderer? And who has reared these? Behold, I was left alone; from where did these come?’ Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the (gentile) nations and set up My standard to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. “Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses.

Amos 9:9 also quoted by James in <st2:bcv_smarttag>Acts 15:16:

For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all (gentile) Nations; as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground.

“All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’  “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,” Declares the LORD who does this.

Romans 9:6 “…For they are not all Israel who are (physical) descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s (physical) descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.”  24 “…even us (Christians), whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea,  “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,(israel) ’and her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’ “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

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