Various people look at the Bible in various ways. To some, it is made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament, both applicable instructions for everyone today. Others look at the Old Testament as just some old history that really has no application for today and not really worth spending time studying. There are other views of the book as a whole, but we wish to briefly present a picture of the Bible as it reveals a single thread from beginning to end. It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. There is a lot of truth in this statement, but it still seems to fall short of explaining the big picture of the Bible.
Let us start by presenting a beginning and ending that are alluded to by our title. After creating the heavens and the earth, God created man and woman and placed them in the garden of Eden. Now, the word “paradise” is never used in reference to the garden of Eden in the Genesis account, but the description given in Genesis 2:9 certainly sounds like a paradise. In addition to that, it is noted that in the garden of Eden was “the tree of life”. In fact, after man sinned, God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden…” (Gen. 3:22-23). It was because of the sin of man that he was cast out of the garden in which the tree of life grew. We next read of this “tree of life” in the book of Revelation, when the Lord has John write, “…To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). One might also recall that when Jesus was crucified he told the penitent thief, “…To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). And. lastly, the “tree of life” is mentioned two times in the last chapter of the book of Revelation. John describing the vision of heaven said, “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life…” and “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:2, 14). Thus, man lost paradise in Genesis chapter three and paradise can be found in eternity by adherence to the will of God.
Beginning in that very chapter wherein man was cast out of paradise, the gradual revelation of the means of returning to paradise began to be revealed when God vaguely mentions some way in which the seed of woman shall bruise the very head of the devil (Gen. 3:15). The revelation begins to get clearer and clearer as one travels through the Old Testament. In Genesis chapter twelve, Abraham is given a promise which includes “all nations” being blessed by his seed. Much later, in the days of the apostle Paul, he cleared up any misunderstanding of who this seed of Abraham was when he wrote, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Just a little later in that same letter Paul said of that Old Testament law, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The whole of the old testament law was for our learning, to lead us to a understanding of how Jesus Christ, the Son of God was the only way to forgiveness of sins and a return to the paradise of God. The book of Hebrews is one of the clearest references to the many parts of the old law that served as a shadow of the true kingdom of God. For instance, the Hebrew writer said, “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount” (Heb. 8:5).
Indeed, the Old Testament is the New Testament revealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. In short, the whole picture of the Old Testament nation of Israel, they being God’s chosen people, even the worship arrangements and instructions, all are but a physical presentation of the spiritual Israel (Rom. 2:29; Gal. 3:27-29), Christians who are now the chosen of God (I Pet. 2:9) and are able to enter into the most holy place, not the one made of hands, but the one in heaven not available through that physical figure of the old, but made available through the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:8-14). God “…hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). One had to be physically born into the physical nation of Israel, but one must be born again (John 3:3, 5), a spiritual birth rather than a physical one (John 3:6) in order to become a citizen in the kingdom of heaven, a member of the Lords body, the church (John 3:5; Col. 1:18). In essence, the Old Testament is much like a great parable telling the story of the New Testament.
Robert Oliver is a longtime columnist with The Sampson Independent.