Monday, November 30, 2020

Why is there such a difference between God in the Old Testament and God in the New Testament?


Sometimes when we read through the Old testament, and all the amazing historical records, and then we compare it to the new testament, we see a big difference. Did God really change between the old and new testaments? 

Let’s dig into the question. So we see that in old testament times, several thousand years before Jesus was even born, you had God building a nation that would be his special nation in the world.  God began that process with a man named Abraham.  One man was faithful to God, and God guided him to found a nation.  That nation is called Israel. And even to this very day, Israel exists in the world.  We’re talking history here.

So we see God interacting in history in very intense and severe ways in the Old Testament.  Think about some of the examples…

First of all, we see the fall, where God curses Adam and Eve, and the world becomes fallen. We obviously struggle in sin and death now, the world is fallen and a broken place.

Then we see God bring about the great flood, where millions of people would die, and only Noah’s family would survive to repopulate the Earth.

We see how Israel is taken into slavery in Egypt for four hundred years, and God eventually works through Moses to deliver them from slavery, and he brings about great plagues on the Egyptians as punishment for their disobedience to God.

God eventually works through Joshua, commanding Israel to go to war. To take the promised land from tribes that already live there. 

On and on the list goes.  We see God interacting very directly with the nation of Israel, through people, through his prophets, his leaders, and his kings eventually. 

We see God commanding very direct actions, and very direct punishments, like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  And the taking of Israel into the Babylonian captivity.

There are many, many more examples.  But essentially the old testament was a time when God worked through various different people to found a nation called Israel that would be his special nation, and the goal was to spread faith in God from Israel to the whole world.  But Israel unfortunately disobeyed God, and time and again Israel faced judgment and destruction, and exile, and captivity, and invasions from other nations.

Then we see Jesus Christ the son of God come into the world, at a time when Israel was conquered and controlled by the Roman Empire.  And we begin reading the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  And we see that God seems to change how he interacts with people. 

He commands us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us.  He commands us to believe in Jesus Christ for our salvation.  And we no longer see God bringing judgment against nations, or destroying places, at least, not that we know of. 

So the question is what changed? Did God change?  Did God mellow out in the new testament? 

Of course we know from the word of God that God does not change.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  But the way that he interacts with us, his creation does seem to progress, to develop over time. 

When you study any book of the old testament, in some way it points us forward to the time when Jesus would be born.  Every prophet, leader, priest, or teacher lived by faith in God, but they were waiting for a time when Jesus Christ would be born, and then sin could finally be completely washed away.

It all pointed forward to Jesus. Before Jesus, God dealt with sin directly, through judgment. He destroyed the evil of the world, to allow the pure to prosper. 

Sin is the big problem of the Bible, of our world, of the past, and of the present. Sin is the problem.  But when Jesus came, and was sacrificed on the cross for our sins.  The sin problem finally had a solution. 

But God still despises sin just as much as he did when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, or when he flooded the Earth.  And God will deal with sin, on the earth, during a time in history that is coming, called the great tribulation.

This time is depicted vividly in the last book of the bible, the book of Revelation. Anyone who thinks that God mellowed out in the new testament and became all hearts and butterflies should read the book of Revelation. 

Right now we’re in what you might call the church age, this is the time of God’s patience.  The church is spreading out across the Earth, all the way from Israel, to our present day where it’s active in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, the continent of Africa, and yes, even little Owosso Michigan. Even in Shiawassee county, the church spreads.  This is a time when God waits patiently to see what we will choose, Him or the way of selfishness in this world. 

But eventually that window of patience on the part of God will close.  And then the judgments of the book of Revelation will begin.  The church will be set apart, and brought to God, and the world will experience the darkest time imaginable.  And this time will also directly connect with Israel.  Israel will be won to Christ during this time, but also face great turmoil and destruction. 

So to answer the question: We don’t see a big difference between who God is in the old and new testaments, but we do see a difference in regard to what phase of God’s plan we are in.  In the Old Testament times, was the time that God built of Israel, and paved the way for the coming of Jesus, and the new testament times is the church age, where God guides his church to take the gospel to all nations, and this church age concludes with the great tribulation, the end times, and the return of Jesus Christ.

God doesn’t change.  He still hates sin.  And the old testament times of “hellfire and brimstone” we saw in the times of Israel and Noah, and Abraham, those times are going to come again, not against the church, but against the sinful world that has rejected Jesus to the very end, and must now face the penalty for their disobedience. However, during this time of great tribulation, many millions will also be won to Christ. 

To finally answer the question then, God is the same forever, but over history we watch his plan unfold in different ways. Right now we are in the time of God’s patience, and His grace, so we ought to jump into that agreement, and say yes to Jesus, before time runs out.  Because judgment is coming in the future.