Some of the main promises in the Old Testament, that God made to the patriarchs, and to Israel, are reinterpreted in the New. Their application under the New Covenant differs from what a superficial reading of the Old Testament account suggests. These promises are all applied to the church in the New Testament. The spirit of Christ has inspired the authors of the New Testament writings to interpret those promises in a new way.
Consider first the promise of the land. In Hebrews 11:16, the land promise that was made to Abraham is reinterpreted. The Old Testament says that promise was fulfilled. Notice in Joshua 21:
And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.
There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
In view of this, why would the author of Hebrews suggest that in
fact, Joshua had not "given them rest"? [Hebrews
When he dedicated the temple to God, Solomon said the promises made to the fathers were fulfilled. He prayed and said:
1 Kings 8:56
Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.
Nehemiah said the people of Israel had multiplied "as the stars of heaven," and had possessed the land that God promised to give to Abraham.
Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.
So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.
The Old Testament scriptures above show the land promise had been fulfilled to Israel.
The New Testament says Abraham and the other saints of the Old Testament sought a "heavenly country," and a city whose builder was God. Abraham dwelt in tents, and never received the land that he was promised, but was a stranger and a sojourner in it. And likewise the other prophets and saints. They viewed themselves as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Although the Old Testament declares that the land promises had been fulfilled, the author of Hebrews says "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." [Hebrews 11:13]
Next, consider the promise of a special status for the Jews. God promised Abraham, he would bless those who blessed him.
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Many people, including dispensationalists, who read the Old Testament scriptures literally, think anyone who blesses the Jews or their leaders will be blessed, because of this promise. However, in the New Testament, Jesus reinterpreted this; he said even giving a cup of water to the least of his brethren, will be rewarded. And he said his "brethren" were those who do the will of God, who believe in Christ as their saviour.
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
Jesus himself pronounced destruction and woe for Jerusalem, and the Jews who rejected him. [Luke 13:35]
The house of David was royalty amongst the Jews, and in the New Testament, James identified the church with the tabernacle of David. [Acts 15:14-18]
Paul said being a Jew was a matter of the heart and spirit, not in the letter.
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Peter applied the promise of a special status, originally made to Israel, to the church.
1 Peter 2:9-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
The covenant of circumcision is reinterpreted in the New Testament, as spiritual in nature. In the Old Testament, circumcision was the sign or mark of being a Jew. Paul said that the saints who believe in Christ are the circumcision. There was no longer any need for Gentiles to be circumcised physically, to be accepted by God, as in the Old Testament era.
Paul wrote, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." [Philippians 3:3]
Last, consider the promise of the Messiah. The Jews thought their Messiah would be a powerful king, like David, who would set up a worldly kingdom. That is basically what Satan tempted Jesus to do, when he offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus viewed that proposal as idolatry. [Matthew 4:8-11]
Jesus said "my kingdom was not of this world." He resisted Satan.
It is important to worship God in spirit; those Jews who trusted in their ancestry, and refused to believe the Gospel, were rejected by God. They were branches of an olive tree, that were broken off, Paul said in Romans 11:17-20. But Gentiles who believe are "made nigh" to the promises given to Israel, by the Gospel.
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Copyright © 2010 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.