A Key Interpretive Paradigm – Part 3

In Part 3 of this study we will seek to validate assumption #2.

In assumption #2 we said, “the entire body of new testament literature was written as “transitional documents”. This means that all new testament books were written in a forty year covenant-transition period in history, when one age was closing, and another dawning, when one covenant was vanishing away and another being established”.

For time and space considerations we will not seek to demonstrate from each new testament book that a “transition period” was taking place. Instead we will look at a few texts, which in our opinion demonstrates the overall transitional context which undergirds all new testament writings.

Hebrews 8:13
When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

Notice the present tense of this verse. At the time of the writing of Hebrews, the old covenant was “becoming obsolete”, and “growing old” and was at that time (more than 30 years after the cross) “ready to vanish away”.

Hebrews 10:9
Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do your will”, He takes away the first in order to establish the second.

Hebrews 10:9 is also in the present tense. This verse should read “…He is taking away the first in order to establish the second”. The first covenant was at that time “being taken away” so that the second (new) covenant could be established. This text is irrefutable proof that a “covenantal transition” was taking place in the first century.

Hebrews 12:18,22,27-28 (NKJV)
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest… But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels…. Now this, “Yet once more”, indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

In the context of Hebrews 12, the writer is contrasting the two covenants – one from Sinai, one from Zion. The old covenant which consisted of “things that are made” (like a mountain which could be touched) was being “shaken” and “removed”. The new covenant which originated from a heavenly mountain – Mount Zion – and corresponds to the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Galatians 4:26), was being established and received as the new covenant-kingdom which can never be shaken.

Also notice this, there is a direct parallel between Hebrews 12:27 and Hebrews 10:9, both verses being in the context of “covenant transition”. The Greek word “hina” is translated as “so that” in Hebrews 12:27 and as “in order to” in Hebrews 10:9.

Let’s read them one after another…

Hebrews 12:27
This expression “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Hebrews 10:9
Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do your will”, He takes away the first in order to establish the second.

Now watch, the parallel and its implications are powerful.

The old covenant was being taken away “in order to” (hina) establish the new.

But, the things that were being shaken were being removed “so that” (hina) the kingdom which cannot be shaken, would remain.

Therefore, the old covenant was being shaken and removed “so that” (hina) the new covenant-kingdom could be established and remain. The kingdom was being received through the establishment of the new covenant.

Let’s look at one more, which in my opinion may be the most compelling for establishing our second assumption.

2 Corinthians 3:6,11,18
Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life…. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious… But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Notice again the context of this chapter – the two covenants and their respective glories. The phrase “what is passing away” in verse 11 is the translation of the Greek verb “katageo” (to render idle, inoperative), which is in the present tense. This is definitive proof that the old covenant and its “glories” was at that time (late 50’s AD) being made inoperative and thus vanishing away, and that the new covenant, which was “much more glorious” was remaining (being established in order to continue forever). 2 Corinthians 3 is the epitome of “covenantal transition” through which the body of Christ was being transformed into the image of Christ, the new covenant man.

Having firmly and clearly established a covenantal transition period in the first century, let’s look at a few more text in the new testament which in my opinion, can only be properly understood in light of that transitional period in which they were historically written and received. And remember, this transition marked the “end” (the prophetic goal and destiny) of the old covenant age, and the “establishment” (the reception and application) of the new.

1 Corinthians 7:26-31
I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess. and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

1 John 2:15-18
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.

Hebrews 9:26
Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

1 Corinthians 10:11
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Galatians 1:3-4
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.

1 Peter 1:20
For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

1 Peter 4:7
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

Verses such as these could be multiplied many times over, however, these few are sufficient to demonstrate the transitional context which existed in the first century. As we end part 3 of our study, let’s look at two texts from the old testament which are in my opinion are the “seed” from which assumption #2 grew.

Exodus 19:1-6
In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

Just three short month after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Yahweh initiated what we call the old or Mosaic covenant with the nation of Israel at Mount Sanai. Israel received that covenant yet did not obey it, but rebelled time and time again in the wilderness.

Forty years later as Israel stands on the threshold of their inheritance and ready to cross over the Jordan and inherit their promised land, Yahweh reiterates the covenant which he initiated at Sinai. Yahweh now offers Israel to “enter into” that covenant in order that they would be “established” as his covenant people, and He their covenant God.

Deuteronomy 29:10-13
You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

From Sinai to Canaan was forty years. The old covenant was initiated by Yahweh at Sinai and entered into forty years later just before Canaan – thus a forty year covenant transition period.

From the cross to the kingdom-coming was forty years. The new covenant was initiated by Jesus through his passion and entered into forty years later at his Parousia (his presence-coming) – thus a forty year covenant transition period.

The story of the new testament is the story of the new exodus journey out of the old covenant “world” and into the new covenant “world” in Jesus Christ, from the age of Moses to the age of Messiah.

Thus, assumption #2 has been validated.

(See Part 4)


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