What about violence in the New Testament?

Some people think that the Old Testament God is very aggressive and violent, while the New Testament God and Jesus are peaceful, loving and kind.  

#  Superficially it looks like it.  

  • The fourth chapter of Genesis began with a murder and from there it deteriorated to such an extent that, ‘The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.’ 1 
  • Contrary to that, in the New Testament we meet a host of angels that sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.’ 2  That was when the Messiah, Jesus our Lord was born in Bethlehem.  However, initial observations can be misleading. 

#  Incidents of violence in the New Testament 

  • Herod killed the boys under two in Bethlehem and vicinity. 3
  • Pilate mixed the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices. 4  It refers to Passover pilgrims who were butchered by Roman troops in the temple while they sacrificed. 
  • Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul, the apostle) persecuted and killed Christians. 5

#  Death by crucifixion in the New Testament 

The treatment Jesus received before He was crucified typifies the violent times.  

  • He was cruelly subjected to flogging. 6  A crown of thorns was put on His head and struck into His skull with a staff. 7   They pulled out His beard and spit in His face, 8  mocked Him, 9 blindfolded and hit Him. 10  
  • Isaiah 53:14 explains, ‘Just as there were many who were appalled at Him [Jesus on the Cross] – His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness….’   

#  The slave revolt under Spartacus 11

  • It is an incident that is not recorded in the Bible.  By the time Jesus was born, the Roman Empire ran almost on slave labor.  The Romans did not always treat their slaves with the respect a human being deserves.  Because of all the wars, the captives were used to construct buildings and other projects.  Most families had many slaves to serve them.  
  • Spartacus was a gladiator and escaped with others.  They had quite a few victories against the Roman armies, but were eventually defeated.  Although the whereabouts of Spartacus remains shrouded in mystery – whether he died in battle or not – 6,000 of the captured slaves were crucified.  
  • That explains why Jesus did not organise a revolt against the Roman Empire to free the slaves.  Thousand would have been killed.  Jesus came to save, not to destroy. 

#  The book of Revelation describes violence never seen before in human history.  

  • Jesus warned about the signs at the end of the age.  There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, blazing stars that fall on earth and destroy man and beast.  The book of Revelation graphically describes that destruction.  One can even call it, ‘The Book of Blood.’  
  • Although the calamities will be on an unprecedented scale, God will still desire to see men saved.  His mercy and grace to sinners is available to the very end: ‘Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people.’ 12

Conclusion

Will peace ever come?  Yes, when this age ends the eternal age will finally come.  Then the reign of the devil will end.  He will go in to his eternal jail.  All unbelievers and people who hated God will be removed and peace will ensue.  For the first time in human history there will be peace – for eternity.  God will have achieved His goal.

References

  1. Genesis 6:5  
  2. Luke 2:14  
  3. Matthew 2:16-18  
  4. Luke 13:1  
  5. Acts 22:4-5  
  6. Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15  
  7. Mark 15:17-19  
  8. Isaiah 50:6  
  9. Psalm 22:1-21  
  10. Mathew 26:67
  11. Spartacus, Wikipedia  
  12. Revelation 14:6

Why the Old Testament is necessary for faith

People often wonder why the Old Testament is such a large part of the Bible?  Does it have any function, besides all the wars, intrigues and the ‘incomprehensible’ prophetic books?  The answer has to do with the Good News of God’s Kingdom. 

#  What is the Good News of the Bible?  

  • It is simply that we can become part of God’s Family through Jesus’ blood.  That means we become God’s blood relatives and will receive ‘an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.’ 1
  • What will we inherit?  Eternal life, with God who loves us, on the new heaven and earth. 2  It will be a wonderful life of joy, peace and love with food, health, friendship, lodging, safety, et cetera.      
  • The issue is: how do we know that this glorious fantastic future will become a reality?  The answer is in the Old Testament.

#  The history of the Old  Testament explains the Good News. 

  • For example, we understand that Jesus was the Lamb of God who died on behalf of our sins, because the Old Testament tells us that a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people.  
  • We understand that Jesus, the last Adam, takes us back into God’s presence, because the Old Testament tells us the first Adam caused us all to be expelled from God’s presence.  
  • There are many more such explanations and also specific promises in the Old Testament that build our faith in God.

# Three Old Testament promises

  • God gave Adam and Eve a promise.  The Seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. 3  It refers to Jesus who was born of the virgin, Mary and who defeated the devil on the Cross. 4
  • God gave Abraham a promise.  Through him all people on earth will be blessed.5   It refers to one of Abraham’s specific descendants, Jesus.  He would be a blessing to all people. 6 
  • God gave David a promise.  His throne will endure forever. 7  It refers to King Jesus who sits on the throne at the right hand of the Father. 8  

#  The Old Testament shows God is faithful. 

  • God’s promises to Adam,  Abraham and David were fulfilled in the New Testament.  Without the Old Testament we wouldn’t know that God is completely trustworthy.  
  • He gave the promises, and despite the devil’s efforts to thwart those promises, they happened: Jesus was born, He was sacrificed on the Cross, He was resurrected.  Now He sits at the right hand of God the Father. 9  
  • The history of the Old Testament covers around 4,000 years.  Yet it all converged on Jesus, the focus of God’s plan.  If there was no Old Testament record, there was no reason to believe in Jesus or the Kingdom.

Conclusion

The Old Testament proves that God is dependable to the tee.  What He promises, will come to pass.  When God speaks in Scripture, it will happen.  That is why the Old Testament is such a large part of Scripture.  It gives us faith in God’s promises.

References

  1. 1 Peter 1:4  
  2. Revelation 21:1  
  3. Genesis 3:15  
  4. Matthew 1:21-22; Luke 2:6-7  
  5. Genesis 12:3  
  6. Matthew 28:18-19  
  7. 2 Samuel 7:16  
  8. Acts 2:29-33  
  9. Philippians 2: 5-11

The Bible has 66 books

Sometimes followers of Jesus forget that the Bible has 66 books.  They think that the Old Testament is old and of no value.  So they only concentrate on the New Testament.  Therefore they describe themselves as ‘New Testament Christians.’  What do they mean by that?  Basically they consider the Old Testament as part of an ancient revelation that has no bearing on today’s followers of Jesus.  So they can disregard it.

Please note:  We refrain as far as possible to talk about ‘Christians’ since the term has become very malleable.  People do what they want, live as they please, and then claim they are ‘Christians.’  The terms ‘Followers of Jesus’1 or ‘People of the Way’ 2 are more precise.  Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.’ 3  Thus both ‘follower of Jesus,’ and ‘people of the Way’ refer to disciples of Jesus, ‘… the Author and Perfecter of our faith.’ 4

Why did God give us two Testaments?

Logically a shorter Bible would have been very nice, easy to read, and probably easier to understand.  Yet there are some logical reasons for the Old Testament.

The two Testaments explain who Jesus is and why He came.

  • It is the Old Testament that gives us His genealogy, the preparation for His coming and the reason He came.  Genesis 3:15 already promised that He would come.  We can trace the genealogy of Jesus from Adam, Abraham, David and many others.
    • Why is the genealogy of Jesus important?  It teaches that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but also the Son of Man.  That is why He can forgive people’s sins and restore us to God the Father. 5
    • Without the Old Testament witness, the devil might object to God why he cannot be forgiven also?  If Jesus was only the Son of God He might have been obliged to redeem the devil and his fallen angels.  But as fully Son of Man He only redeemed man.  Since the demons are not human they were not redeemed.
    • Jesus took ‘…the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.’ 6   Without the information of the Old Testament, it would be illogical to say that Jesus became a man.  God is a God of logic.  Thus the Old Testament is very important with its background information in history.
    • In an age of growing unbelief, it is important to show that the Bible is not ‘religion.’  It is reality.  Jesus is not just some mythical figure.  Because His ancestors were real historical persons, He is real, alive and well and sits at the right hand of God the Father in glory and majesty.
  • The New Testament reveals that Jesus was co-creator with God and the Holy Spirit. 7  Thus the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit were all involved in creation.
  • The Old Testament and the New Testament agree about the central doctrines.  For example the resurrection.  Many people think it is a New Testament teaching. No, the book of Daniel already mentions it, ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.’ 8

Types link the two Testaments.

A type is a picture which God gives to teach us some important facts.  It is not just a story.  A type is a real event that happened, but it is also a picture of some future event.  There are many types in the Old Testament that point to Jesus and link the Old Testament to the New.  Please note that these types again rule out a human origin for the Bible.

  • Joseph was a type of Christ.  He was rejected by his brothers, suffered unjustly and became a ruler.  There is no mention of any sin Joseph committed.
  • Abraham and Isaac were a type of God the Father who would sacrifice His Son on our behalf.  With Isaac’s sacrifice, God provided a ram.  It demonstrates that we don’t have to die for our own sins.  God would provide the substitute, Jesus.
  • The tabernacle and temple are a type of God’s presence among His people.  God appeared to Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses.  He spoke to them, but when the Israelites came out of Egypt, God wanted a visible dwelling place among them.  So He instructed Moses how they had to construct the tabernacle.  It was a very precise plan, because it pointed to Jesus who would come and tabernacle among people. 9
  • The sacrifices and priesthood.  The lamb is another picture that we continually meet throughout Scripture.  God made clothes of animal skins for Adam and Eve.  So He probably killed innocent animals that died in their place.  That is why Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb from his flock was acceptable to God.  Besides the many sacrifices throughout the Old Testament, we meet the Passover Lamb again in 2 Corinthians  5:7, ‘…For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.’

The two Testaments show that God is faithful.

The big question today for many is whether they can trust God, especially when it comes to problems?  The Old Testament history testifies to God’s faithfulness.

  • God promises Abraham a country, ‘The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’ 10
  • Because the Jews were unfaithful, they were exiled.  God brought them back.  Then they were again exiled and banished from their land after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans under Titus.  The land was basically ‘expropriated’ from them.  Yet in 1948 the miracle happened and it became their country again.
  • This shows us that God fulfilled His promise to Abraham.  The reason the world hates Israel is that they show that God keeps His promises.

Conclusion

The Old Testament in particular teaches us in history that the united Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are real, faithful and we can trust them completely.

References

  1. Revelation 17:14
  2. Acts 9:2; 19:9; 22:4; 24:14,22
  3. John 14:6
  4. Hebrews 12:2
  5. Colossians 1:15-23
  6. Phillipians 2:7
  7. John 1:2; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2
  8. Daniel 12:2
  9. John 1:14
  10. Genesis 17:8