A Key To Understanding The Bible

Keith W. Kress

One of the keys to understanding the entire Bible lies in realizing the change from the physical nature of the Old Law to the spiritual nature of the New Testament or Law of Christ. We can see this change clearly by considering the promise which God made to Abram in Genesis chapter 12 and how the fulfillment of this promise was physical in the Old Testament, but changed to spiritual in the New Testament.

Let us consider the "land" promise to Abram. The physical fulfillment of this promise came true when the Israelites moved into Canaan under the leadership of Joshua (see Joshua 1:2 & 5:6). This promised land was described as "flowing with milk and honey" (see Exodus 13:5).

In the New Testament, the "promised land" is heaven. Jesus indicated that He was going to prepare a place for us and take us to be with Him (John 14:1-3). Where is He? According to Mark 16:19, He was received up to heaven. In Matthew 7:21, we are told that only those who do the will of the Father will go to heaven. In Hebrews 4:1-11, we are promised a place of rest. In Revelation 14:13, we are told that we may have that rest if we "die in the Lord." The physical fulfillment of the "land" promise was Canaan, but the spiritual fulfillment is heaven.

God also promised that all nations would be blessed in Abram. The obvious fulfillment of this promise was through the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus came through the lineage of Abraham. Matthew (chapter 1) traces His genealogy back to Abraham, and Luke (chapter 3) traces His genealogy through Abraham back to God. Before the coming of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom (the church), the Gentiles did not receive the promise and the covenant God made with Abram. Jesus changed that and blessed the Gentiles with the promise as well. Paul makes this very clear in Galatians 3:13-16. This promise was mainly spiritual in nature and was fulfilled in Christ.

Let us also consider the sign of the covenant made between God and Abraham. This sign was that Abraham and all the males in his household were to be circumcised (Genesis 17:9-11). This was to be a perpetual sign passed down through the generations; each male child was to be circumcised eight days after birth (Genesis 17:12). This was to be an everlasting sign through all generations (Genesis 17:13). This was a physical sign of a physical covenant with physical promises. Since it was to be everlasting, is it necessary for all males today to undergo this ritual to please God? No. This physical sign was changed to a spiritual sign with the coming of Christ and His new covenant. Paul points it out in Colossians 2:11-12. He was writing to Gentile Christians in Colosse and indicated that they had been circumcised, not in a physical manner, but in a spiritual manner by cutting off sin in their lives. He said they had done that when they were "buried with him in baptism." In that process, they had been forgiven (verse 13). The word circumcise means "to cut off." Under the physical covenant with Abraham, the foreskin was physically cut off, but under the spiritual covenant with Christ, sin is cut off in baptism. Once again, we see the change from the physical to the spiritual.

There are many other changes which could be considered, such as the change from a physical high priest to a spiritual High Priest which is Christ (Hebrews 7-8), the changes Jesus made in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 from the physical acts of sin to the spiritual mental aspects of sin, etc.

In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul stated that we are no longer to be judged by the physical things of the Old Law because they were only a "shadow of things to come" under Christ. The writer of the Hebrews letter pointed out that the Old Covenant largely was based upon physical ordinances, but Christ came bringing a covenant that was better and promised even better things in Hebrews 9:8-12. He concludes that we have a "better hope" (Hebrews 7:19), a "better testament" (Hebrews 7:22), a "better covenant" and "better promises" (Hebrews 8:6), "better sacrifices" (Hebrews 9:23), "in heaven a better and enduring substance" (Hebrews 10:34), a "better country" (Hebrews 11:16), a "better resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35), and that God has "provided some better thing for us" (Hebrews 11:40). All of these things are better because of the change from the physical fulfillment of the promise to Abram to a spiritual fulfillment under Christ.

The coming of Jesus and His kingdom brought the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 that He had come to fulfill the law and that the law would stand until "all be fulfilled." The old law no longer stands, having been nailed to His cross (Colossians 2:14), having been "broken" and "abolished" (Ephesians 2:14-15), people having been "delivered from the law" (Romans 7:6), and having been replaced by a new testament (Hebrews 9:15).

Let us all grasp the change from the physical of the Old Testament to the spiritual of the New Testament so that we might better understand the entirety of the Holy Scriptures. -2707 Bird St., Parkersburg, WV 26101. kwkress@juno.com


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