Unbeknownst to many in our culture, including even some Christians, the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. God, the Bible assures us, is unchanging.
Our secular culture mischaracterizes Jesus as a hyper-tolerant, nondiscriminatory liberal who is indifferent to sin and passes judgment on no one.
But Jesus is not a milquetoast pacifist. In his Sermon on the Mount, which many cite as evidence of his unique moral teachings, he set out nearly impossible standards of human conduct. He didn’t say, “I don’t care how you live.” Rather, he said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Indeed, the Bible depicts Christ as the ultimate judge of mankind. He discussed the subject of hell more than any other.
Critics also slander the God of the Old Testament as mean, angry, unloving and unforgiving. They apparently believe either that he didn’t actually exist (other than in the minds of the Old Testament Hebrews) or that he morphed into a more understanding model in the New Testament, which is quite bizarre on its face, especially considering that many of these critics don’t consider Jesus to be God.
In my new book, “The Emmaus Code: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament,” I debunk these myths. Sadly, they have seeped into Christian circles, as well. So they think we can just ignore the Old Testament. Why would we need it when we have the Gospels in the New Testament?
I confront these misunderstandings in “The Emmaus Code,” which is an introduction to the Old Testament that emphasizes its Christ-centeredness. I outline and summarize each period of Old Testament history, explain the multiple threads pointing to Christ in the Old Testament and provide an overview of each book of the Bible and detail the specific ways each prefigures Christ.
Christians who undervalue the Old Testament have no idea of the riches they are missing. The Old Testament is foundational to the New; it is part one of a two-act play. It shows us how incapable we are of saving ourselves, how miserable we are apart from God and how desperately we need Jesus Christ. To omit the Old Testament is like arriving to the play after the intermission.
By studying the Old Testament, we will see that God is an all-loving, long-suffering God who seeks a relationship with human beings, whom he created in his image. When we study the Old Testament through New Testament lenses, we will see things with much greater clarity.
Jesus is prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfills those prophecies in the New Testament. He is typified by imperfect people, places, events, ceremonies and institutions in the Old Testament, and he represents the perfect antitype in the New Testament. The Old Testament offices of prophet, priest and king foreshadow Christ’s embodiment of the perfect prophet, priest and king. The Old Testament sacrifices were imperfect and incapable of wholly eradicating our sins and so had to be repeated over and over, until Christ’s once-and-for-all perfect sacrifice on the Cross. We now recognize Christ’s work in the Creation and in his saving activity in the Old Testament; we see him in the titles used for God in the Old Testament.
Then we have the major biblical covenants, which are among the most fascinating pointers to Christ in the Old Testament and which underscore God’s sovereign plan of redemption for mankind and make it impossible to believe that the God of the Old Testament is unloving and interested only in punishing us.
Those who think of the Old Testament God as unloving need to familiarize themselves with Genesis 3:15, for at the very time God pronounced judgment on mankind for his sin, he made his first announcement of the Gospel, which was also the first messianic prophecy.
He tells the serpent that he will put enmity between the serpent (representing Satan) and the seed of the woman (Christ, for Christ is the only person ever born of a woman but not a man) and that Christ would bruise Satan’s head and Satan would bruise Christ’s heel.
Satan did bruise Christ’s “heel”; that is, he injured Christ, but only because Christ allowed him to do so. But in the very process of allowing Satan to injure him — by voluntarily going to the Cross — Christ, in his glorious resurrection, defeated Satan, sin and death and made possible our redemption and salvation.
With this Adamic covenant, God gave us his first promise of a Redeemer, a promise he began to put in motion when he called out Abraham in Genesis 12:3, promising that he would make a great nation out of him and bless all nations through him and his chosen nation. This Abrahamic covenant eminently points to Christ, for Christ comes out of the Hebrew nation and is a descendant of Abraham’s (and King David’s) and all nations and peoples will be blessed through faith in him. The other biblical covenants renew, amplify and supplement these covenants, all of which find their perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
The God of the Old Testament loved us even before he formed us in the womb. He created us even knowing that we would fall and that he would have to send his own Son to suffer and die to redeem us. That is the God of the Old Testament; that is the God of the New Testament. That is the God whose scarlet thread of redemption courses through the entirety of Scripture and culminates in Jesus Christ, who is one with the Father. God is love.