Chapter 2 - The Old Testament and the New

Israel and the Church; and the Relation of Prophecy to Each
 
Of fundamental importance to the discussion before us is the consideration of the distinctive difference between the Old Testament and the New, and as connected with this, of the unique character of the Church of Christ. And this will be found to involve a special relation in which it stands to prophecy. These are indeed matters which have been often taken up, and it would seem as if apology were due for taking them up again. The necessity for doing so could not perhaps be shown more plainly than in the following quotation from one who takes the opposite position to that for which we are contending here; and for this purpose I introduce it in this place. The writer says:- "It is a pleasure to quote the following admirable words from Dr. Gebhardt, to confirm what we have stated, that this term 'end' is applied to the present age: 'Christianity is nothing and will be nothing else than the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, or the realization of the eschatology of the Old Testament prophets, throughout the whole New Testament time, until the Lord comes - and even on to the final glorification of the world.' Prof. Volck is more definite and to our purpose: 'Since the ascension of Christ we stand in the last days until the Lord comes.' With still greater definiteness, Dr. Hobart, another profound student of prophecy, says: 'The whole of the New Testament times is called by the apostles, and by the Lord Himself, the 'end.' It is expressly stated that at His first advent Christ appeared at the end of all preceding ages - an 'end' to be closed up by His second advent. In this sense our whole Age in the New Testament is conceived of as the end of all the ages that went before."

One can hardly imagine that the words we have emphasized here can be intended by the writer or taken by him who puts his seal so strongly upon them, in the full sense which they would bear for the ordinary reader. "Christianity nothing else than the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy"! All the New Testament, therefore, so far as relating to this, adding nothing even to the Old! Can that be intended? All the mysteries "hidden from ages and generations" and "now made manifest to the saints" blotted out by one stroke of the pen; and the deed applauded by one who would join the apostle in saying, "Let a man so account of us as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God"! No: we must refuse to believe that this can be really meant in its entirety either by Dr. Gebhardt or the one from whom we quote him.

But that the writer does diminish greatly the character of these mysteries will be evident by another quotation :- "There is no foundation whatever for the assumption that 'the Church which is His Body' is to be made up of the believers between Pentecost and the Parousia. A new body was not formed on the day of Pentecost. The fact that all Old Testament saints had divine life through faith in Christ made them members of His Body. The special revelation given to Paul,-' the mystery' revealed through him - was that believers from amongst the Gentiles, without taking a place in subordination to the Jews, as they will do in the Millennial Age to come, are now, in this Age, heirs to the inheritance, members of the body, and partakers of the promise given through Abraham to the sons of Israel. This is the new thing - Israel set aside from national supremacy during the present gospel period, and all nations evangelized in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the next Age these national distinctions will again be resumed."

Thus we see that the questions connected together at the beginning of this paper are in fact in intimate relation to one another, and that the old contentions still have to be maintained. We may well begin with asking ourselves, Is it the fact that this equality of Gentiles with Jews in the things noted,- things which all believers in Israel already possessed - is the "new thing," the "mystery revealed through Paul?" If so, there must be, it is plain, a large measure of truth in Dr. Gebhardt's assertion that we are living only in the last days of the Old Testament prophets; with this reserve, that Gentiles have a co-equal place with Jews which the prophets did not contemplate. Are we prepared to accept this as the fact?

The three things belonging to the mystery of Christ revealed to Paul which are referred to, are better stated in the original Greek of Eph. iii. 4-6 than in the common or revised translations. There is indeed a difficulty in putting it into English that is not awkward or else periphrastic. The most literal would read, "that the Gentiles should be joint-heirs, and a joint-body, and joint-partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel." It is strange enough that in the reference just made (though it is true it is not given as a quotation) the last important words should be omitted, and the "promise given through Abraham to the Sons of Israel" should be substituted for- "His promise in Christ through the gospel." No doubt it may be said the promise was always in Christ, and the gospel is the same gospel. Indeed, the last is said, (p. 90;) though proofs of the opposite have been often given, Why should they be disregarded?

The Lord had been preaching the gospel (Matt. iv. 23; Mark i. 14) from the beginning of His ministry; yet it was only at the time when, being rejected, He charged them that they should tell no man that He was the Christ; that Jesus "began to show unto His disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem and be killed, and be raised again the third day"

(Matt. xvi. 20, 21). Now Paul tells the Corinthians (i Cor. xv.) that precisely that was the gospel he had preached to them, which they had received, and in which they stood, that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again." Yet the Lord had not even to His disciples mentioned this before; and when He did, "Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be to Thee."

Doubtless for us there is "one gospel, the only gospel": in that we shall all agree. If any man preach a "different gospel," as the apostle wrote to the Galatians, it is "not another": for there is no other. Doubtless, also, in type and prophecy Christ's death had been foretold, and the glories that should follow; yet, speaking of this very thing, the same apostle tells us, to whom at first it had been so strange and so unwelcome, that "of this salvation the prophets enquired and searched diligently," and to them "it was revealed that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things."To us indeed they minister these things now; but how has this ministry been made available to us? The apostle tells us: They are "reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven."

This gospel, then, which is our gospel, has indeed its roots in the Old Testament, and to us ministers its blessings. For all that, it was not the gospel of the prophets' days, though faith might and did realize the goodness of the Lord at all times. Now that it has come, it necessarily stands out as if there were no other; and so the apostle says of Israel, "As concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake"- for the Gentiles (Rom. xi. 28). They are treated as enemies,- as having accepted the responsibility of that death which they inflicted, and which the gospel proclaims. Nationally, they are thus enemies; and not until the gospel ceases to go forth, will Israel come to salvation. For, as the prophet is witness, it is when "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples, that the Lord shall arise upon "Israel," and His glory shall be seen upon" her (Isa. lx. 2). The light of the gospel must have gone from the earth for such gross darkness to exist.

Thus "His promise in Christ through the gospel" would by no means be that to the sons of Israel, but Paul the apostle to the Gentiles it is who claims it in some special sense as his: "my gospel." And it has been long since pointed out that no other besides Paul gives us the doctrine of justification, or the full development of the place in Christ. The promise here spoken of is the blessing flowing out of this, and (although it be .true that "if ye be Christ's ye are Abraham's seed,") goes far beyond anything promised to the sons of Israel. It must do so, inasmuch as the place itself is entirely unknown in the Old Testament.

Then as to joint-heirship, with whom are we joint-heirs? No one can have a doubt, who goes to the New Testament for an answer; none can have the least knowledge, who goes to the Old. Abraham was "heir of the world," but is that our measure? No, we are "joint-heirs with Christ;" and it is Paul again who declares this to us (Rom. viii. 17). Had the "sons of Israel" ever such an assurance? No, in no wise: we are here again not introduced as Gentiles into Israel's blessing, but, whether Jew or Gentile, into what is immeasurably higher.

Lastly, the "joint-body" is, as we are well aware, the "body of Christ." Scripture, and indeed the apostle Paul again, declares that the Church is Christ's Body, and that by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles" (i Cor. xii. 13). Thus, while it is true that "all Old Testament saints had divine life through faith in Christ," we may not say, unless in the teeth of Scripture, that this "made them members of His Body": for only the baptism of the Spirit does this. And again, though our author says that "a new body was not formed on the day of Pentecost," yet the Lord Himself tells His disciples that they would be baptized of the Holy Ghost then. What then are we to make of this positive assertion?

If, then, a new body was formed at Pentecost, it was certainly a body unknown to the Old Testament Scriptures, which has nothing of the "sons of Israel," even those converted to God, being the Body of Christ. The only passage for it that has been produced, so far as I am aware, is Isa. xxvi. 19, which reads with the omission of the words supplied by the translators, "Thy dead men shall live; my dead body, they shall arise." The word used here has no plural, but is joined to a plural verb, and is therefore in the revised version, as by Delitzsch and others, taken as a plural, "my dead bodies." Here all semblance of application to what is before us is lost. But if even the singular were to be preserved, and Jehovah really calls dead Israel "My corpse," when He brings her out of her grave, we may well wonder at the boldness that would apply such a term to the Body of Christ; especially when the whole claim of Israel to be this is to be founded upon it. It is hardly worth while to discuss it further.

But the Church of Christ, as indwelt of the Spirit, is also the "House" and "Temple of God"; and here again is what Israel never was, nor any part of Israel. While, if Israel was indeed the Bride of Jehovah, and is to be again married to Him after her long divorcement, as Hosea declares (ii. i6, 19, 20), the similar relationship of the Church to Christ in no wise can make them identical (Eph. v. 32). The latter is part of the "mystery" of the Church; the former, a well-known truth of the Old Testament.

The Church is heavenly; Israel, earthly. If they are identical, then the Church and Israel have no separate interests, and there is accomplished, though in a different way, the same gross confusion as long prevailed, and still prevails very much, among post-millennialists. With them Israel's promises were made over to the Church; in this the Church would be merged in Israel.

Thus the marriage of the Bride of the Lamb takes place in heaven (Rev. xix.) before Christ descends with His saints to the judgment of the earth. The Christian book of prophecy, Revelation, is all through concerned with the connection of the Old Testament in this respect with the New. Everywhere it adds the heavenly to the earthly side of the last things; as, conspicuously, in its view of the "thousand years" in the following chapter. There we have no details of earthly blessing. Neither Israel nor the Gentiles come into the scene. But what have we? The reign of the heavenly saints with Christ over the earth,and the defining and limiting the thousand years themselves, giving them their true relationship to the eternity which follows. In connection with all this we find a Jerusalem indeed, but it is the new and heavenly Jerusalem and not the earthly city.

Thus the Church, spite of denials, begins at Pentecost and is complete when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in and it is taken up to meet the Lord in the air. That the Old Testament saints share in heavenly blessing and in the reign with Christ over the earth has always been maintained; but that does not identify the one with the other. On the contrary the epistle to the Hebrews clearly distinguishes between "the church of the first-born ones whose names are written in heaven," and "the spirits of just men made perfect"- Old Testament saints, who as a body have been subjected to death (Heb. XII. 23). The Church here has the same relation to other heavenly saints as Israel upon earth to the nations there; and this the words describing it point out.

How impossible, then, that "Christianity" should be "nothing else than the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy," when the fact is that it never appears in Old Testament prophecy! As having place in those mysteries which are characteristic of the New Testament, and which were "kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matt. XI1I. 35; Rom. xvi. 25; Col. i. 26) it lies hid in a mere gap of time only indicated in connection with the judgment upon Israel. In the prophecy of the seventy weeks, for instance, it comes in between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks; and the only event marked there is the destruction of the city and the sanctuary by the Roman people (Dan. ix. 26). In Micah v. we have what is, no doubt, the fullest statement in this connection, where Israel's judge, the Bethlehem-born ruler, being smitten by His people, this is followed by their being given up "until the time when she who travailed has brought forth: then," it is added, "shall the remnant of His brethren return unto the children of Israel." Here it is certainly implied that the brethren of the King had in the meantime been detached from the nation and its hopes; but what they had turned to in place of these is still not indicated.

There is another reason for this omission: that with Israel the hope of the world is for the same time set aside. Israel it is that is to "blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isa. xxvii. 6). Good reason is there, then, why with her setting aside time should make no progress. Dates are connected with her; the determined times are upon Daniel's people and the holy city; and the centuries of gathering out a heavenly people go all uncounted.

A striking proof of this is found in Corinthians (2 Cor. iv. 4); where Satan is called, not the "god of this world," as the common version has it, but the "god of this age."

Christianity is not reckoned as an "age," among the world-ages, or assuredly this could not be said. A world that has cast out Christ, Israel uniting with the Gentiles to do so, may be still that out of which grace saves, but nothing more. As the Lord said to the Jews that took Him, "This is your hour and the power of darkness" (Luke xxii. 53), so "the age of this world," as the word really is in Eph. ii. 2, is "according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Satan is the "god of this age."

Hence "the end of the age "in the divine sense is, as has been already said, the last week of Daniel's seventy, broken off from the rest, and still to come. And thus also, Christ's death was for us who stand in this gap "the completion of the ages" (Heb. ix. 26, Gk.), and upon us "the ends of the ages are come" (i Cor. ii, Gk.). That does not mean, as Dr. Gebhardt supposes, that we are in the end-times of Jewish prophets, but the contrary; though the spiritual value of those ended ages is surely ours.

The reaping of this spiritual value of the ages past is indeed a thing of the greatest importance to note, for those who are disposed to even Christianity with any promises through Abraham to the sons of Israel. According to the apostle some at least of the prime factors of Israel's history happened to them for types, and are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come." Such words are surely not intended to make us feel that we occupy but a place in the latter days of the Old Testament prophets; but rather that all times previous were intended to minister to the present, as (in some sense) time to eternity; the ages (for us) being completed when Christ died. We are not in any Jewish "end" at all. And though it is true that Abraham sought a "better country, that is, a heavenly, yet our portion as "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus " (Eph. i. 3) is only in contrast with any promise through Abraham to the sons of Israel that can possibly be shown. Abraham himself in this relation is the "heir of the world" (Rom. iv. 13), and the sphere of Israel's blessing is distinctly defined in the same way: "The heavens are the heavens of the Lord: the earth has He given to the children of men" (Ps. cxv. x6).