"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power." - Hebrews 1:1-3
The New Testament - A Brief Overview
400 years had passed since the completion of the Old Testament, and the final utterance of the last Jewish prophet Malachi. At that time the land of Israel was part of the Persian Empire which ruled from 430 BC until around 332 BC. After that Alexander the Great and the Greek empire conquered the world and was in power from 331 BC until 167 BC. After Alexander the Great died his kingdom was divided. During this time there were Greek kings of Egypt who were known as the Ptolemies. There were also Greek kings of Syria who were known as the Seleucids. After this Israel had a time of independence for nearly 100 years from 164 until 63 BC, this was known as the Maccabean or Hasmonean Period. In 63 BC the Roman general Pompey laid siege to Jerusalem, he finally broke through the walls and marched into the Temple. He entered the holy of holies, curious as to what was inside the Jewish Temple. He was surprised to find it empty. He allowed the Jews to continue their 'foolish worship of an invisible God'. Later Antipater the Idumaean ruler was made ruler of Israel, Antipater was an Edomite, who were descendents of Esau. The Jewish extremists despised Antipater and had him poisoned. Soon afterward his sons fought for power. One of the Hasmonean sons named Antigonus led a revolt. Herod the great made friends with the Romans and secured the kingship over Judea in 40 BC. Within a few years he murdered any of his rivals including Antigonus. Herod the Great was a friend of the Romans and the King of Judea. The Romans made sure that Herod would get them their taxes. The Jewish people were hard-pressed to understand what was happening to them, and why the Lord would allow the Romans to rule their land. Yet there were certain Jews who believed in the hope of Israel, and according to the prophecies of Daniel the Messiah would come during the time of the Roman Empire.
A Heart Message The New Testament
BY THE HAND, BY THE HEART
Imagine finding an official letter in your mailbox, with the return address from a legal firm. At first it’s scary. But since it’s marked urgent, you open it immediately at the curb. Soon your fear turns to joy because it turns out you’re not being sued, but rather, you’re being informed that you’ve been left a huge sum of money, properties and a host of other considerations by a relative who recently passed away that you didn’t even know. Fear turns to gratefulness and wonder. A sense of unworthiness begins to rise. Soon you are telling others about what you’ve received because the joy is hard to contain. All you need to do is appear at the legal firm, and sign for your inheritance.
This analogy captures something, though not all, of the New Testament or Covenant. We do not know this rich relative of ours, God, but He knows us, and has provided for us riches beyond belief. This last will and testament of Jesus Christ is an activated inheritance given by God to all who simply accept it. Jesus Christ provided this inheritance through his death on the cross. Now He is risen from the dead, and He is making sure His wishes are carried out!
His inheritance has two parts. What we are saved from, and what we are saved to. We are saved from Divine justice because of our sins. They are washed away in the blood of Jesus. We are saved to an abundant life of fellowship with the Lord, where He continues to forgive our sins everyday, and lead us into a life of adventure, learning, growing, changing, and sharing the joy that we find as each part of our inheritance manifests.
God pictured the Law through Moses in the Old Testament, as one where He took Israel “by the hand”. God led Israel from the outside, by signs and wonders, by His commandments, and decrees, by His prophets, priests and teachers demanding that they “know the Lord”. He knew that their nature was fallen, and that their many fallen needs and desires would constantly pull against His hand, until they would break away into other directions. Thankfully God doesn’t give up on us, because He loves us beyond our dreams, and so wants us to walk in that inheritance.
The New Testament provides something much more than the demands to obey in the Old Testament. It provides a changed heart that wants God and cries out Abba, daddy! Instead of being dragged by the hand where we loathe to go we can be led by our changed desires, and the leading of the Holy Spirit who lives inside. Because God has provided His Spirit to indwell us, we can begin to know Him very intimately. Of course, this is a process, relationships take time, but each new revelation of the one we love is a delight to discover.
If we were an old Hotel in need of renovation, when Christ enters our life, it’s as if He came into our main lobby. After a glorious transformation, the public is in awe of the changes. But those closer to us know that there are many rooms and hallways in our lives, filled with all of the hurts, sins and ruins that still need the transformation of God. (2 Cor. 3:18) This process goes as fast or slow as we can bear. God will never give up on causing us to “will and work” His good pleasure. (Phil 2:13) Also, we’re not the only ones getting an inheritance, He gets one as well. It’s us! We are His reward. And He’s watching over us as an anxious lover waiting to get married.
Yes, in the New Testament it’s all an inside job, and as we stick with it, the joy is certain to manifest. When it does, we cannot help but tell others about the inheritance we are receiving.
“Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. (Heb. 8:6)
“Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:15-19)