This is the third post in this series. So what is it that makes me believe that the gospel... that is presented today by the evangelical church is a different gospel.... a distorted gospel? Well the answer is quite simple. Today, evangelicals have very different expectations than those of the intended readers of the first century. Most have a futurist view of the prophecies that in no way squares with the expectations of the readers.
I would like to focus on question one: What were the expectations of the intended readers?
I will list in order what I believe the expectations of the first century readers was:
- Due to the timing, they knew that the Daniels seventy weeks prophecy was due during their time in the first century. The first century Jews were expecting the fulfillment of the Messiah prophecy
- They were also expecting the end of the age and the beginning of the age to come.
- They were expecting the fulfillment of all the prophets and the day of the Lord.
- They were expecting the restoration of the glory of the kingdom's of David and Solomon.
- They were expecting God to intervene in a supernatural way and remove Rome from governing.
- They were expecting the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecies about the peaceable kingdom.
- They were anticipating a New Heaven and a New Earth.
None of the expectations went beyond the generation of the first century saints. In fact, were it possible to speak to one of them today, they would likely just say that the prophecies failed. The reason that there are so many skeptics about Christianity today lies in the fact that they also just simply believe that most of the prophecies failed. Modern liberal Christianity exists with the realization that most of the prophecies failed. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The temple and Jerusalem was destroyed just as prophesied. Jesus enemies were made his foot stool just as prophesied. The day of the Lord's wrath came just as prophesied. The New Heaven and the New Earth came just as prophesied... or did it? The answer to that is yes but it will take some unpacking. There was an already, not-yet period during the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. It was the time between the resurrection and the destruction of the temple. During that time, you had two "peoples of God" claiming that they were the true followers of God. You had the Torah Observant unbelieving Jews, and you had the believing Jews and Gentiles that were first called the way and later Christians. There were essentially two competing covenants in play. They were waiting for a time when God would make manifest who His real sons and daughters were. How would God manifest the sons and daughters of God? By destroying the temple and making Jesus enemies His footstool. It should become clear that the prophecies of the first century did not fail. Not at all. They simply were fulfilled in a way that did not meet the expectations of the intended readers.
Let's take a look at a New Covenant prophecy: Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB "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, (32) 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. (33) "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. (34) "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." Now then, the covenant written about in the above passage is simply an unconditional covenant. It does not require Israel's agreement. The reason is that Jesus of Nazareth was Israel's proxy in this covenant. Please do not construe my comments to be anti-semetic. I am not in any way. I believe that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable and ALL Israel is saved. They are loved for the sake of the Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Here are the facts. Either that covenant is in force today, or the Gentiles are merely deceived and really not saved. However, it is in force today. Matthew 26:28 HCSB "For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins." In the KJV, it reads "this is my blood of the New Covenant" so either that New Covenant is totally in-force or the writer of Matthew's gospel lied. Notice also that Christ's blood was "shed for the forgiveness of sins," and the passage in Jeremiah saying that "I will forgive their iniquity, and the sin I will remember no more." All of you that are concerned about Israel need to chill! God has redeemed them through Christ whether or not they know it yet. The fact is that all of the expectations of the first century saints were met. God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD to Himself not counting trespasses. He made Jesus, representative Israel, who knew no sin to be made sin for them, but not just them for the sin of the whole WORLD!
So then, how does this distort the gospel and create a different gospel? Very simply, most all of Christianity is caught in the transition period between the resurrection and the destruction of the temple. They are preaching a transitional gospel. Paul did not. He preached the gospel, and acknowledged the transition, as did ALL of the first century writers of the New Testament scripture. The gospel simply put is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, for the reconciliation of people to the Father, and for the installation of a New Covenant with much better promises and no conditions!