Is the Good News Found in the NT only?


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Could we understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ without every cracking the New Testament?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of months studying the Bible.  What I’ve found is that the Old Testament Scriptures are equally as beautiful as the New.  

I am fascinated by the fact that so many of the church’s I’ve attended have neglected to preach sermons that relate to the Old Testament.  It appears, out of reverence for the life of Christ, that many get stuck in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  However, I am beginning to wonder if our appreciation for Christ’s ministry has somehow led us to neglect the original Father’s teachings?

I mentioned this to my brother Pete the other day and he said, “I don’t get why no one really focuses on the Old Testament?  I mean, if we were supposed to just read the New Testament, well then our Bible would be half as thick, right?”  And he was right.  Our Bible’s would be half as thick if we were meant to spend all of our devotional time studying Paul and other New Testament writers.

I’m not suggesting that the New Testament and it’s focus on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ isn’t an essential part of our Christian doctrine, but as I attend different church’s around the Richmond area, I find that many (if not most) are pigeon-holing themselves by not exploring the beautiful books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Genesis, Job etc.

Are not all Scriptures the inspired word of God, profitable for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness? 2 Tim 3:16

I have to ask myself, is the unwavering focus on the New Testament pledging our devote allegiance to Christ, or could we possibly be neglecting the wisdom of never-changing Father because secretly the OT books are not “as easy to understand”? 

I’d like to point out some of the essential concepts of the New Testament, and then show how they’ve already been explored in the Old Testament.


Many assume that since Jesus was physically born out of Nazareth, that he didn’t exist in the Old Testament.  I believe that the presence of the Messiah was in the OT Scriptures as well.  The following people saw the Lord, and since we know no one has ever seen the Father, (John 6:46)  I suspect these visions are references to Christ. 

Hagar Gen 16:7-13, Abraham Gen 18-19:1, Jacob Genesis 32:28, Moses Exodus 33:11
Joshua Joshua 5:13-6:2, Gideon Judges 6:11-23, Manoah Judges 13:2-22, Isaiah Isaiah 6:5, Job Job 42:5

We also know that Jesus was in relationship with the Spirit, and the Father before the foundation of the world.  The Word was with God, and the word was God. John 1:1

Jesus, the Son of God: 

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)

"I will be his father, and he shall be my son." (1 Chronicles 17:13)

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:6,7)

There is also OT references to Christ’s miracles:

"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence: he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out. and streams in the desert." (Isaiah 35:3-6)

We know that Jesus will be denied:

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)

"Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth ..." (Isaiah 49:7)

We know Christ will be crucified:

"For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me." (Psalm 22:16,17)

"He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)

We can tell from the OT that Jesus suffers for us.

"Surely he hath borne our griefs. and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions. he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)

We know the Messiah will be resurrected:

"Therefore I will look unto the LORD: I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, 0 mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness. the LORD shall be a light unto me. (Micah 7:7,8)

"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psalm 16:10,11)

Jesus goes to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven:

"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

"The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." (Psalm 110:1)


Was grace something only given to the New Testament church?  Of course not!  No one ever was saved by obeying the letter of the law without grace.  Not one.

"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Gen. 6:8

"Grace is poured upon Your lips" Ps45:2

“The Lord will give grace and glory"  Ps 84:11.

"Surely goodness and grace will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will return to the house of the Lord forever ..” (Ps 23:6)

The Holy Spirit: 

Many believe that the Holy Spirit was given to us in the New Testament but that the Jews didn’t have it.  Well, we can see from the following Scriptures that the Jews were empowered by the same Spirit we were. 

Genesis 1.2, “the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters”

In Numbers 11.25-26 “  ‘the Lord took some of the spirit that was upon him, and put it upon the seventy elders, and when the spirit rested upon them they prophesied’.

"Woe to the obstinate children," declares the LORD, "to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; Isaiah 30:1

Psalm 51:11 "Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.

 “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts” Zechariah 4.6

Faith in the Old Testament Scriptures: 

In reference to Abraham:  “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:6

Habakk 2:4  Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”

So while I love the NT scriptures they are really not so new.  It is not an "us" and "them" scenerio. The Jews were saved the same way we are.  The lessons and lifestyle in the OT Scriptures are just as important, and they paint just as beautiful a picture of the love of God that we have in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29)




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  • Tony York

    Tony York August 26, 2010

    Just thinking out loud here… well not really.. I am typing.

    Isn’t the good news the culmination of the promises made in the Old Testament? At least in part?  If it is, then without the old testament there is not context for the new.  How would you ever propose the need for a savior without the Genesis account of Adam and Eve? Or the witness of man’s failure to uphold the righteous and holy law of God?

    Christ came in Grace and Truth.  Part of the truth is that we needed Him.  Without the Old Testament we just have this really spectacular guide that did some cool and miraculous stuff because we are missing the context of who and why.

    I am interested in what Brett comes up with over at Aliens and Strangers.

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 26, 2010

    I couldn’t agree more….I do have a question though that I’d love your insights into, Tony.

    If the OT jews were saved by grace through faith (which I think it shows they were) why is it a NEW Covenant? See, here is a verse from Jeremiah that defines the New Covenant, right?

    “‘The day will come,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. . . . But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33).

    But the law was already in their minds and hearts in the OT testament as we see in the verse below, so what changed?  Why is this Covenant new?

    “You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul” (Deuteronomy 11:18).

    “The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, And his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart” (Psalm 37:30,31)

    “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:1-3)

    How has the covenant changed if those in the OT were saved by the promised Messiah and those in the NT were saved by the present one?  It’s perplexing.

    And yes, I’m waiting on Brett too;-)

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 26, 2010

    I am no theologian and have never been to seminary so my answer may be off-base. Maybe someone can come to my rescue if I get this all mixed up.

    First, I would say that we are all saved through Faith.  Paul, or the writer of Hebrews, wrote that Abraham’s faith was counted unto him as righteousness.  The persons in the Old Testament did not have the Messiah as we know Him to put their faith in.  That was the New Covenant that was coming (a covenant to both Jew and Gentile).  Instead, they had sacrifices that were a symbol of the cost that would one day be paid - the promise of a Messiah.  I don’t believe they fully grasped that which was to come but by faith they honored God through the law and the prescribed sacrifices. 

    What is interesting to me is that the Old Covenant showed that the law without grace was not sufficient for our salvation.  We are just unable to be ‘good’ enough.  However, on the flip side, how shallow would grace be if we didn’t understand the law which required such a great sacrifice.  It is almost like we see the negative relief of both halves separately, but when merged together we get a beautiful picture of God’s holiness, righteousness, judgment, sovereignty, mercy, and love.

    It is a perplexing puzzle that becomes a majestic tapestry when held up together.

    Other things that come to mind - the Old Covenant was with God’s chosen people - the children of Israel.  The New Covenant was with any who would believe.  (As far as the Old Covenant, we do see that foreigners were accepted into the ‘family’ as well.. we can look at Ruth as a prime example).

    The law aspect is a good question.  For some reason I am thinking on how Christ told his disciples that it was to their benefit that He go away. That a comforter would come and that one of the things the Holy Spirit would do would bring to remembrance all the things He had taught.

    Maybe discipleship takes on a new flavor with the addition of the Holy Spirit as a guide…?  I will have to think on these things.

    One other thing that I haven’t brought into this conversation is the study of dispensation.  I haven’t dived into it deeply enough to speak to it from any great authority.

    Romans comes to mind as Paul is answering some of these general questions.  I will have to go look there to see why it is tickling my spider senses (to borrow a footnote from Brett’s recent blogs).

    I think I would want to look more deeply into Romans and Hebrews… for as start. 

    Hmm.. see what you did? wink

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 26, 2010

    I’m glad I did it, Tony!  And I’d do it again:)

    Okay, so a couple of things to note:  the Holy Spirit was my original thought too, however, the OT people had the Spirit as I’ve shown from the verses above. So again, I’m puzzled as to what changed because the Spirit of God was available to those who had faith in the promised Messiah.

    You said: “I don’t believe they fully grasped that which was to come but by faith they honored God through the law and the prescribed.” sacrifices. 

    I feel like this is really the only major difference between old and new.  Obviously we don’t have ceremonial laws, and things of that nature to follow.  But my question really is spiritually, what changed?

    I feel the need now to study dispensationalism.  Thanks, alot:)  From the little I understand about it, I don’t see there being a difference between true Israel and the Church which is why I’m perplexed about some of these issues. 

    From my understanding, we are Israel are we not?  If Jacob is Israel (Gen 32:28), and we heirs according to the promise then what is dispensation?

    I feel like Paul says the Christian church are the Jews.

    “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:28-29)

    This stuff gives me a headache.  I want to go to seminary just to get my questions answered:)  Ha. Thanks for the insights, Tony.  I will expect a full report after your dispensation study;-)

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 26, 2010

    i have a feeling both of you guys are going to be really disappointed with the answers i gave over at my blog.  i didn’t go into much detail—i’ve been short on the free time this evening.

    but i really like the looks of this discussion, and hope i can get involved tomorrow.  but very soon i’m going to bed.

    first, though, i’m going to give my initial response to the post itself,:  jess, your post is titled as being about the good news, and i’m not denying that the things you’ve written about are good news.  rather, i’m merely adding a bit of context concerning this good news idea (and trying to point to the vastness of the gospel—even in the ot).

    the good news should be different to different peoples and cultures—or, rather, what is initially accepted as good news should differ.  the many facets of the good news should unfold in a different order, depending on your worldview and cultural setting, etc.
    most everything you’ve listed seems to me to be our united states marketing portion of the gospel.  that’s one of the reasons i didn’t go into great detail in my answers on my blog about the gospel in the old testament.  because on nearly every page we can learn a lesson that is good news to us or someone—and while they’re all understood or filtered through the person of Jesus, they don’t all have to do directly with his life, death, and resurrection.

    for instance, in several of the prophets, you find God promising that his people will have a peaceful existence (swords to plowshares) where even animals won’t attack them.  there is a them running through the ot of the perfect garden of eden being unraveled to produce an evil and dark earth with lots of bad stuff—and then a promise being given that “eden” will be restored.  that’s a beautiful picture of the gospel in the ot, but JC is not mentioned in any way necessarily (although he is indeed necessary for such events to occur).

    [and to go back to an earlier point… the above theme of eden unraveling and restored again might be the best good news to share with some particular group of people somewhere.  and talking about sin and justification might be the worst.  (i’m actually thinking we need to see a shift ourselves in the states—i just don’t think the being forgiven and ridding ourselves of guilt thing is good news to the average guy on the street, not as he sees it anyway).

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 26, 2010

    A couple of things.

    While the Holy Spirit is evidenced in the Old Testament, I don’t believe the workings were the same.  One major difference is that the Christian today is sealed with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit does not depart. In the Old Testament, we see evidence of the Spirit of God coming upon a person but not remaining.

    We could also consider that in conjunction with this, we see that the separation of man from God via the temple veil removed in the New Testament.  God is in us and with us in a much different manner than witnessed in the OT.

    The second thing, Paul also refers to us as the wild olive branch grafted in.  We who are gentiles are not a part of the legitimate children of Israel.  I am not a Jew by birth but I am a child of God by adoption.

    This reminded me of a letter that I sent to some high school kids that were part of a class that I was teaching on missions.  I had spent several nights just talking about the Holy Spirit because, in my opinion, there is no mission without the Holy Spirit’s calling, leading, and empowering.

    Maybe it is a bit apropos to this discussion.. I will have to put it in a second entry because there is a limit to what can fit in this box.

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 26, 2010

    As promised.. here is the first part of the letter to the teenagers:

      Hello Missions class!

      Last night I left a question kind of hanging out there – which is more real, the physical or spiritual world? Beau had answered the spiritual and Kalya had offered up some insight to the physical.  They are both right in that they are both just as real.  God gave us a real physical body to respond to this real physical world around us. At the time of our salvation, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a means to deal with and understand the spiritual influences in our lives – namely, Him and His kingdom.

      In the light of eternity, we will spend but a brief flash concerned with this physical world.  So we could ask the question, “which reality has the most impact?”

      I know I threw out a lot of information at you guys last night, so let me step back and give a ‘brief’ overview of where I was trying to take the material.

      God/Christ/Holy Spirit = All aspects of the same God.  Not different gods, not parts of one god.  All are God.  They each share the same attributes.  God has chosen to reveal Himself in this manner so that we might more fully understand who He is.  You might be thinking that it really confuses the matter and you would be right in that we should recognize that God is bigger than what our imaginations can even understand.  That is a big statement so let it sink in.

      You were created in God’s image.  When God formed man, He stopped and had a conversation with ‘Himself’ and said,”Let US make man in our image.”  This is a representation that their is a unity of purpose within the Godhead.

      That purpose included you before the world was ever created – He has been concerned and working toward your salvation.  In His Godhead, He predestined a purpose of His will that you would one day have the ability to have a relationship with Him.  In order for that to happen, He knew that He would have to make a way for you to be redeemed from a fallen state and, stepping from Heaven, He became man in the form of Jesus.  Christ’s death provided the redemption (the payment needed to set us free) that we could not accomplish on our own, and finally, it was necessary to provide Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit in order to draw, convict, and indwell us so that He could become the guide and power in our lives.  I say all of this so that you have some understanding of how Loving God is toward you.

      When God created Adam and Eve, He breathed life into them.  They were designed for eternity but their sin caused death to enter into creation.  God had told them on the day that they ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil that they would die.  Their rebellion brought judgment on all of mankind.  We are all born under a sentence of death.

      Before Adam and Eve rebelled, God had walked with them in the Garden of Eden.  He had a close, intimate relationship with them.  So their sin not only brought death, but it also broke that intimate relationship that they once had.  For them and for their offspring.  God desires for us to know Him because of His great love for us, so we see in the old testament how He dwelt among man in the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle.  Only the high priest could enter that place and only one time a year.  God’s glory was represented inside the Holy of Holies in the form of fire.

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 26, 2010

    And the conclusion….

      Why is this important to know?  Remember that the building of the Tower of Babel, a monument to man’s glory, was stopped when God confused their language so that they could not understand each other.  They no longer had unity.  The day of Pentecost, as recorded in the Acts chapter 2 shows us God at work to repair the relationship and the unity through the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Christ’s death had purchased the redemption that was necessary to re-establish that intimate relationship that Adam and Eve had known with God.  Before our salvation, we were dead spiritually and just as God had breathed life into Adam and Eve, the Holy Spirit came upon those in Jerusalem in the form of something that sounded like a rushing wind.  God breathed life into spiritually dead people through the baptism of His Holy Spirit.  The Holy of Holies moved from the tabernacle and into the very lives of those men and women who were present on the day of Pentecost.  God displayed His glory through flames of fire above the heads of those present.  Just as He had displayed His glory within the tabernacle.  And then those people started speaking in the languages of those that were around them, languages that they had not known before, witnessing to them of God’s glory and grace.

          * God had reversed the curse of death.  While we may die physically, we will know eternal life in His new kingdom.

          * He had re-established an intimate relationship with mankind.

          * His glory was displayed in power and grace.

          * And He provided the means by which we can have unity.

      John 15:5 captures these words of Christ, “I am the vine and you are the branches, if a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.  Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

      Christ indwelling you in the form of the Holy Spirit is the only way you can be empowered to do His will.  His Spirit brings life, purpose, discipline, unity, and so many more things to the true believer.  That’s why it is important to understand the Holy Spirit in order to fully appreciate what Missions is all about.

      Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witness both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 27, 2010

    You guys have no idea how much I love “talking” about this stuff.  I can not thank you enough for engaging me in conversation:)

    Okay, Tony, so your position is that the Holy Spirit is more personal, permanent and active now than He was in the OT and this is why there is an identifying difference between Old and New?

    I’m going to continue my study here but I think this makes sense.  While the Spirit of God was definitely indwelling many of the Jewish leaders, it may not have been available to all Jews you’re saying, right?  Numbers 11:29 may reference this. 

    Also, so is your opinion that Job wasn’t sealed by the Spirit?  How was he “blameless” (Job 1:1) without the Spirits permanent, sealing power?  Just a thought.

    I have a lot of reading to do.

    Tony said:  “We who are gentiles are not a part of the legitimate children of Israel.  I am not a Jew by birth but I am a child of God by adoption.” 

    Yes, but a child of true Israel (by adoption) even if you’re not legitimate.

    Don’t even try and say that adopted children aren’t as lovable as true children.  That’s just mean, Tony wink  I’m kidding. 

    James- “i just don’t think the being forgiven and ridding ourselves of guilt thing is good news to the average guy on the street, not as he sees it anyway”

    I’m with ya!  It’s great news, but there’s so much more.  This is why I wanted to write the Bible in one page.  I wanted to see if I relayed the Good News in as generic a fashion as most Christians.  Say this prayer, now you’re free from a guilty conscious and PRAISE GOD, you’re justified to now do as you wish.

    James—What would your shift be?  If you could share the Good News in a sentence to our culture, what would you share?

  • Scott

    Scott August 27, 2010

    As a good exercise, go through the Book of Isaiah and look for the Gospel without using chapter 53.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 27, 2010

    jess, i’m honestly not sure what shift i’d make in the u.s., because i’ve been busy figuring out what to share with tanzanians—or where to start at least.

    i think in the states, i’d start with the idea that a life in Christ (a life as God intends) is a life lived well.  love for one another and for our community.  the idea that Christ makes it possible for us to be selfless, no matter how spoiled we are today.  i think people today already appreciate the idea of loving your enemy and feeding the poor.  so i might start there.  i think the initial good news for american culture might be, “you’re not living a good life, but there’s a way you can start.”

    in tanzania, i start with God’s power over sickness, death, evil, and all creation.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 27, 2010

    your initial question of the post:  “Could we understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ without every cracking the New Testament?”

    i’m going to say, “probably not.”  i think that’s a lot of the reason Jesus came.  to teach us how to interpret the law, to be the lens through which we read it.  to be a demonstration in the flesh of God’s love and mercy.

    now, could i TEACH the gospel without every using the n.t.?  definitely.  but UNDERSTAND it, i don’t think there’s a chance, save through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and special revelation.

    some other ideas:

    - you mentioned 2 tim 3:16, saying that “all” must mean even the old testament.  i think you could make a pretty good argument there that “all” means only the old testament.  that’s definitely what paul was speaking of.  i believe we can extend his words to the new testament as well, but our strictest (and best?) interpretation will read that text with the old testament in mind.

    - i think the isaiah 7 passage is taken out of context and not speaking of Jesus.  it was a prophecy for ahaz, and came true many, many years before Jesus’ birth.  the word virgin there just means “young woman,” and before that boy was old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, assyria invaded.

    i do, however, believe the isaiah 7 prophecy can be (and is) considered a double fulfillment, in that the prophecy came true long before Jesus, but also has meaning and carries symbolism concerning Jesus.

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 27, 2010


    I think that within the American context, there is this thought that God makes a good person.  He takes bad people and makes them into saints.  We become self-help religionists who are looking for social justice issues to highlight our goodness.

    Ravi Zacharias (and maybe others) has been known to say, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good… He came to make dead people alive.”

    From what I read and hear, that is a point that we Americans continue to miss and/or mess up. 

    We miss the point that we are dead and not just bad.

    This has given me something to think about now as far as how to present the gospel in an American context. hmmmm..

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 27, 2010

    tony, i think the bad to good vs. dead to alive is kind of what i’m getting at.  i think the good news for americans might need to start with, “that’s not real life.  this is real life.”

    but it seems the only way for that message to get through to non-Christians and seekers is going to be to start with bad vs. good, love vs. selfishness. that’s what they know.  i don’t think we can start with, “God can resurrect you, because you’re dead in your sins, etc”—because we’d have to first explain or teach that “you’re dead in your sins, etc.”  and that doesn’t seem to be part of our worldview anymore.

    so i think zacharias’ message is a great one for christianity.  but for the broader world, i don’t think it makes sense as a starting point for the gospel.  the problem is that christians see christianity as a self-help religion, so that we can be more well-adjusted members of our community who aren’t addicted to porn and don’t yell at our kids.  i don’t think the problem is that the gospel message began with “God makes us good people,” but that christians haven’t been discipled into a deeper relationship with God.

    i still would lean towards God granting us “real life,” as a starting point, but the best terms in which to introduce that seem to still be that God makes us good.  because he does.  the doctrine and principles about how he does so (dying to self and the Holy Spirit, etc) can come later, in my mind. 

    i think of Jesus preaching the good news of the kingdom while healing the sick.  a lot of people might have said, “but you’re going to make them think that christianity is about not getting sick.”  or, “you keep talking about this other kingdom; you know they’re thinking of an earthly kingdom.”

    but a God who has power over sickness was good news.  and a new kingdom was good news. regardless of how well those listening understood the workings of it all.

    am i making any sense?

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 27, 2010


    I understand what you are saying.  At this point, I am still thinking this through. 

    I have to return to some basic principles, like:

    1.) The Holy Spirit has to draw.
    2.) The Gospel is, at once, both beautiful and offensive to the natural man.
    3.) Discipleship begins before salvation.
    4.) Discipleship incorporates Christ’s teachings which are many.

    Maybe it is not about a specific ‘focus’ (hellfire, love, social justice) but about a personal investment into someone’s life.  Actually, I think I am leaning this direction.

    The Gospel is light shining into dark and because we are different, it may start in different places.  I think about the different approaches that Christ used with those he healed, the adulterous woman who no one would cast the first stone at, the woman at the well, and His own disciples.

    He intersected their need with active truth that was shaped for the moment.  This makes sense to me and makes me understand more of why I am not comfortable with the “every head bowed and every eye closed” approach to evangelism.

    I need to get some sleep but I will think on this more.

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 27, 2010

    Okay James, now you’ve confused me:

    “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

    This isnt’ pointing to Jesus? Even if it is a second fulfillment, does that mean this is not really a prophesy of Jesus?  I’m trying to figure out the technical theological terms so if I say something, I’m glad you point it out.  Also..

    2 Tim 3:15 is referring to the “sacred writings” that they knew from childhood.  So when he goes on in 2:16, how is that not encompassing both the sacred writings from childhood as well as the apostles teachings? 

    Scott—I am going to take your advice and make that my devotional today.  Thanks for the advice!

    Also, tony & James—I’m absolutely loving the conversation about how best to evangelize.  Don’t talk too much about it now, one of us needs to write a post about evangelizing to the American culture.  (if you cats haven’t already)

  • Scott

    Scott August 27, 2010

    James, you stated:
    i think the isaiah 7 passage is taken out of context and not speaking of Jesus.  it was a prophecy for ahaz, and came true many, many years before Jesus’ birth.  the word virgin there just means “young woman,” and before that boy was old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, assyria invaded.

    James, how do you explain what is written in Matthew 1:21-23?

    Matthew 1:21-23 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.  (22)  Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  (23)  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

    If the sign is just “a young maiden”, that is not much of a sign. In Isaiah 7:14, the word “behold” is used, meaning “this something to really pay attention to”, a young maiden giving birth is not something extraordinary. The prophecy to Ahaz was not going to be immediately fulfilled, the comfort to Ahaz was in the promise that would come when the prophecy was fulfilled.

  • Scott

    Scott August 27, 2010

    Consider this: Jesus Christ is described in the Bible as Saviour, even the title, Christ, tells us that.
    What is it that people need to be saved from? And what do they need to be saved to?

    That message has not changed from when Jesus Christ preached it 2000 years ago. And that message is not: “How to live your best life now.” How can they live their best life now, if they have not been born again?

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 27, 2010

    tony, i do believe it has more to do with a life of ministry and service than it does with what portion of the gospel i teach.  i just know that people ask questions like “so why are you a christian?”  and “what’s so good about this Jesus guy?” and the like.  and i think answering in a way that is good news to the listener is a good idea. 

    that’s all i really mean by this starting point thing (i think).  at some point i’m going to move beyond serving someone and begin to study the bible with them, or show them how to do so.  that’s when this stuff comes into play for me—which verses i select for them to study, etc (provided that i do).

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 27, 2010

    okay, i’ll have to explain my way-out-there view of isaiah 7:14 now.  [though, for the record, i only think it’s way out there because christianity has misused the matthew text for some time.]

    okay, i’m going to do this without a bible, because we’re all watching a movie together and it’s dark anyway—so correct me if i go wrong anywhere:  king ahaz of judah was really worried about a coming attack from israel and syria in the north.  isaiah prophesied to him that a young woman (probably even a virgin at the time) would soon have a son and his name would be immanuel (God with us).  this kid would eat curds and honey as a little boy, and before he’s old enough to know right from wrong, the two nations ahaz feared would be destroyed.

    - a few years later the assyrian army (i’m pretty sure it was them) destroyed israel and syria.
    - the prophecy to ahaz was for him not to be afraid because:
    1) before a soon-to-be-born boy was very old, his concerns about those armies will have been taken care of and
    2) God is with us (in this case judah), and indeed it will be God who will destroy syria and israel through assyria.
    - ahaz shouldn’t be afraid because God is with him, and it won’t be long at all until those other armies are destroyed.

    some 700-800 years later, matthew quoted the prophecy because of the symbolism involved.  indeed there was another young woman (a virgin) who gave birth to a son who would indeed prove that God is with us all.

    so all i’m really saying for sure is that the prophecy was first a prophecy for ahaz.  it did come true in his lifetime, and indeed had to or it would have been one of the most foolish prophecies ever.

    when a prophecy later has a second fulfillment, we call it a double fulfillment.  but the word “fulfill” doesn’t necessarily mean that something promised has come true.  rather it means that something has been filled with meaning.  this can be done through a promise kept OR through an event occurring that symbolically or otherwise gives greater meaning to previous words spoken.  that’s what has happened here. 

    matthew knows the situation and knows that the prophecy for ahaz (which came true long ago) could also speak to the current situation.  so he quotes the old prophecy and explained that it was (again) fulfilled.  notice that he only quotes a portion of it—the portion that speaks to the current situation.

    so i prefer to take the stance that the prophecy to ahaz was a prophecy first and foremost to him and the country of judah.  and matthew only used it because it was good symbolism to describe Jesus as proof that God is with us.

    [i’ll speak to some of the critiques of this view in a separate post.]

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 27, 2010

    after typing that last bit, i realized that most questions and critiques were already addressed—except the whole virgin thing.  as for that, i can’t say my hebrew is good enough to speak with any real knowledge there.  i was more of a greek man and did just enough to scrape by in my hebrew classes.

    but i know there are a whole lot of scholars that say there is a specific word in hebrew which means “virgin,” and it’s not used in isaiah 7:14.  instead they use a word that means an about to be married women, or a young lady of marrying age or something like that.

    but to tell you the truth, i don’t think it makes much difference.  because even if isaiah did say virgin and mean it, the woman very well could have been a virgin at the time.  i’m guessing there was plenty of time for her to marry and have a child before assyria attacked the northern countries.

  • Scott

    Scott August 28, 2010

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  (17)  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    This passage would seem to point to the Old Testament, that would certainly be what was readily available to the believer when Paul wrote it. I note that it says that ALL Scripture and that it was inspired by God (divinely breathed into the writer). God used the approximately forty men to write the Scriptures (Old and New). In other words, God gave them the words to say and allowed the writers the ability to let their personalities show forth in the writing. That is why the Gospel according to John is a little different from his epistles and Revelation. And Peter’s two letters are different styles.

    2 Peter 3:15-16 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;  (16)  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
    I note that Peter calls Paul’s epistles Scripture as well.

    So, if the Scriptures ARE inspired by God and have been purified and preserved by God (Psalm 12), then the apostle Paul would have summarized the Gospel correctly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  And Matthew would not have been trying for symbolism in Matthew 1:21-23, but was literally stating that a prophecy had been fulfilled.

    If the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in Ahaz’s time, the Bible does not mention this. However, Matthew does not use language that implies symbolism, he states that Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled by the birth of Jesus Christ.

    Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  (23)  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

    Let us look at a fuller portion of the passage:

    Isa 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
    Isa 7:11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
    Isa 7:12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
    Isa 7:13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
    Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    Ahaz did not ask for a sign. God, speaking through Isaiah, in verse 13 then speaks to the “house of David.” Ahaz did not want to ask God for a sign and God states that it is bad enough that men are being wearied, now God is being wearied by the house of David. So God gives a sign, not for current fulfillment, but future.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 28, 2010

    scott, you said:
    “And Matthew would not have been trying for symbolism in Matthew 1:21-23, but was literally stating that a prophecy had been fulfilled.
    If the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in Ahaz’s time, the Bible does not mention this. However, Matthew does not use language that implies symbolism, he states that Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled by the birth of Jesus Christ.”

    matthew was stating that the birth of JC fulfilled the prophecy in isaiah 7.  the problem is your definition of fulfill.  the greek word simply means “to fill full.”  and it’s commonly used throughout the new testament to mean that past words have been filled with even greater meaning.  that can mean a prediction has come true, but it doesn’t always mean that.  many times it simply means a past prophecy has proved symbolic in the time of the new testament writer, and so he uses it, saying it has been fulfilled.  it have been given greater meaning than the first time it was said or prophesied.  that’s what happened here.

    example:  hosea 11:1 - “when israel was a child, i loved him, and out of Egypt i called israel.”  the text then goes on to clearly talk about the israelites coming out of egypt after being slaves there.

    matthew 2:14 - after the angel told joseph to take JC to egypt until it’s safe to return, matthew says, “and so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘out of egypt i called my son.’”

    the hosea text was not originally about Jesus, but those words can be given greater meaning when used symbolically about Jesus.  fulfill doesn’t mean a prediction comes true.  but when a prediction comes true, that is one form of filling words with greater meaning.

    another way to know that matthew is using the prophecy to ahaz (which did come true in ahaz’ lifetime) symbolically to give it greater meaning is that Jesus wasn’t named immanuel.  ever.  nowhere in scripture is he referred to as immanuel except in matthew 1:23-24, and that is the verse in question.  matthew was saying, “look, just like happened with ahaz, God is giving us a child born of a virgin who proves that he is with us.”  because God through Jesus is “with us” even in the flesh.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 28, 2010

    as for looking at the full portion of the prophecy, i did miss on whether ahaz asked for the prophecy or was simply given it.  sorry.  but let’s do look at the fuller text (more than you showed):

    “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.  But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”

    after this part isaiah continues to prophecy about God using assyria to bring all this about.  he even explains that all who are in the land at the time of this happening will eat curds and honey, because of the abundance of milk.  that’s how this kid immanuel is going to eat them before he knows right and wrong.

    so my thoughts:

    - if your criteria for a prophecy is as follows—“If the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in Ahaz’s time, the Bible does not mention this”—then we’re in trouble when trying to apply the curds and honey bit to Jesus.  and also assyria invading israel and syria.  because those happened some 700 years before Jesus, not within 10 or so years of the prophecy (which would be perfect timing for a young kid to just be getting ready to understand right and wrong.

    - but i don’t think the bible has to name every single portion of a prophecy for it to have been true.  i don’t mind believing it simply because the bible says it.  also, in this case, history proves that assyria did indeed do exactly what the prophecy said—we can also read about it in 2 kings 16-18. 

    - isaiah placed time restraints in his prophecy, and they are met if we understand it’s first fulfillment as occurring when the lands are laid to waste.  they are not if we use Jesus as the only fulfillment.  the sign is clearly a sign to ahaz to be fulfilled in his time.  otherwise, how would Jesus’ birth 700 years later be any sign of an invasion that was going to occur during the next decade?

    - but, scott, i feel as if you think i’m saying matthew was wrong.  he’s not.  we’re just trying to put a different definition of the word fulfillment (pleroo) on his words.  a definition which he didn’t use or believe.  matthew knew Jesus wasn’t named immanuel.  and he also knew that the lady in ahaz’ prophecy didn’t give birth still as a virgin.  he was simply using his very good knowledge of o.t. scripture to show that Jesus gives even greater meaning to these words to ahaz.

    - jessica’s original post was about the importance of the old testament, and it’s looking forward to Jesus.  but i think we’ve got to start by being responsible with the old testament text.  i think in this case, lots of people have ignored half of a prophecy to ahaz and its very clear fulfillment by the armies of assyria—all in order to make it fit a definition of fulfillment that matthew didn’t use. 

    and scott, it’s not you who i think is responsible.  it’s the bulk of our study.  we read things for what we want them to say.  we flip through books looking for prophecies that prove Jesus from the o.t., and we see isaiah 7:14 and pull it out of context, just because someone did it before us.  we have a point we want to prove, and we look for how someone else proved it in the past.  it’s really frustrating to me that we claim to be people “of the book” while not using it responsibly.

    let me ask you, scott, why do you want so badly for this prophecy to have not come true in ahaz’ day?

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 28, 2010

    i have no idea if any of you are interested in this.  but because i had some time on my saturday morning, and this was on my mind… i thought i’d look at the first 3 chapters of matthew and the “fulfillments” that are present.  of the 7 i see, only one seems to be exclusively or primarily about Jesus—and that’s the one in which matthew DOES NOT use the word “fulfill.” 

    each of the others* seem to show matthew taking great license with this idea of fulfillment.  he takes a prophecy or some other o.t. writing and uses it symbolically to show that the story of Jesus gives greater meaning, or fills those words even more full than they previously were.

    here are those verses:

    1:22-23     - isaiah 7:14
    2:14-15     - hosea 11:1
    2:17-18     - jeremiah 31:15
    2:23*      - ? nazarene not in the o.t.
    3:3           - isaiah 40:3
    3:15       - not a prophecy, but a truth?

    2:5-6     - micah 5:2 (word ‘fulfill’ not even used in this instance)—though this one is (i think) for sure a messianic prophecy.

    so it’s my belief that our idea of a fulfillment being a prediction come true has hurt our understanding of the new testament.  and matthew’s not the only one who does this.  even Jesus does it (not to abolish the law and prophets but to fulfill them—he means he is giving greater meaning and “completing” the law and prophets, not being a prediction come true).

    * oh, except matthew 2:23 where he says the prophets said Jesus would be a nazarene.  neither nazareth nor nazarene are ever mentioned in the o.t.  so i think this one probably was primarily a messianic prophecy, but it still demonstrates the great creative license matthew has to talk about fulfillments.  the only three choices i know of to understand this text are:
    1) matthew is mistaken or wrong.
    2) we’ve lost part of the o.t.
    3) nazarene is used here simply to say a despised of not desired person.
    -i think #3 is the best answer, which shows a lot of creativity on matthew’s part.

  • Scott

    Scott August 28, 2010

    I admit that I am really poor at debate and unfortunately, I do not know Greek—other than what Strong’s tells me—so I tend to stay away from doing much with the Greek. Based on what I know of the KJV translators and their scholarship, if they chose to use the word “fulfill” then I trust they got it right.

    Part of what bothers me is that, Brett, you state to know what Matthew believed “a definition which he didn’t use or believe.” Why do you so badly want this prophecy to have come true in Ahaz’s time? And why do you have such a focus on symbolism, especially if the passage does not imply symbolism?

    In the Old Testament, when a prophecy that was made came to pass, it does seem to be made evident that it was fulfilled. For example, the prophecies about the fall of the kingdom of Israel and the fall of Judah. Prophecies about the fall of different kings. Odd that the OT fulfillment of this prophecy is not shown.

    Can I explain Immanuel? No. Other than that Jesus Christ is “God with us.” Did you examine the words called and name?

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 28, 2010


    as for knowing what matthew believed, you are right that i am only making an assumption.  but it’s an educated assumption which is based on:

    1) the way matthew (and others) use(s) the word ‘fulfill’ in the much of the new testament,
    2) the fact that this prophecy was definitely fulfilled in ahaz’ day,
    3) the fact that Jesus was indeed not named immanuel, and
    4) the greek meanings of the word fulfill.

    it’s seems to me that my assumption is a safe one.  but, yes, i can’t claim to know exactly what matthew believed.  i do know, though, that he was a very poor writer if he misused the word ‘fulfill’ in every one of the situations that he claimed a double fulfillment—which your definition of ‘fulfill’ would require.

    “Why do you so badly want this prophecy to have come true in Ahaz’s time?”

    it’s not that i want it to have come true.  it’s that it did come true.  you can read about it in 2 kings.  even later in chapter 7 of isaiah we get more details about the prophecy—details that don’t fit Jesus.

    “And why do you have such a focus on symbolism, especially if the passage does not imply symbolism?”

    i only focus on symbolism (a second fulfillment of the prophecy) because the matthew passage implies symbolism.  matthew calls Jesus immanuel even though that’s not his name.  that’s symbolism.

    “For example, the prophecies about the fall of the kingdom of Israel and the fall of Judah.”

    but scott, the prophecy in isaiah 7 IS one of the ones you listed above.  it IS a prophecy about the fall of the kingdom of israel.  and it comes true.  and we read about it in the bible.  the virgin with a son named immanuel is simply a sign of assurance that God is with judah—a sort of deposit on the whole assyria will destroy israel thing.  because you don’t ever read about this kid, you want to say the prophecy didn’t come true?  the point was that the armies would be defeated, not that there would be some kid with a certain name—that wouldn’t have spoken to the situation at hand.

    and if it’s so important that every part of each prophecy is named in the bible, then:
    - where do you find Jesus named immanuel? 
    - where do you find Jesus eating curds and honey? 
    - where do you find assyria destroying the northern kingdoms in Jesus’ lifetime?

    and, scott, you still haven’t told me why it’s so important that this prophecy wasn’t fulfilled in the time of ahaz?  its seems the majority of the proof is on that side of things.  why do we need it to be otherwise?  or what do you read in isaiah 7 that would lead you to believe it is otherwise? 

    because the only ties between this prophecy and Jesus are the word ‘virgin,’ the fact that God is indeed with us, and the fact that matthew quoted this passage in his gospel—but he also quotes lots of other prophecies that have clearly already been fulfilled once.  so what makes you lean towards your interpretation?  is it not just that this is the interpretation you’ve always been taught?

  • Scott

    Scott August 29, 2010

    I do not believe that the prophecy was fulfilled in the time of Ahaz, because Isaiah 7:14 was not for Ahaz’s time.

    I read through 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. Yes, ultimately Syria and Israel (Ephraim) were driven off by Assyrian and according to Unger’s Bible handbook that was 732 BC. A very short time after Ahaz began his reign, with some time of overlap with his father Jotham.

    What an odd way for the Isaiah 7:14 to be fulfilled though—if we go with what you were saying. Ahaz had to go and bribe Assyria to come and drive off the Kingdom of Israel (they did not conquer them yet—that comes many years later, after Pekah’s reign) and to drive off Syria. What did Ahaz use to bribe Assyria? Valuable items from the Temple of God. But no mention that any of this was done in fulfillment of any prophecy. Even Pekah’s death is not stated as being part of any prophecy (2 Kings 15). Look at the life of Jeroboam, his disobedience cost him a legacy and the prophecy of that was given to him, and later on in 2 Kings, it is told to us that the prophecy was fulfilled.

    Why is this important? Because it is what Matthew wrote while under Holy Spirit inspiration. Why did he write it? Because the Holy Spirit inspired him to.

    Why did he write about Emmanuel? I do not know, but I do note that he did not include quoting any other verse in Isaiah 7.

    Believe it or not, I do have a mind of my own. As I read these passages, the simplest explanation is what is written down, not jumping through the hoop of Isaiah told Ahaz about a young maiden that was a virgin, but then got married and then had a honey and butter eating child named Immanuel.

    Since I do not understand Greek or Hebrew, could you explain the Greek words for “call” and “name” in Matthew 1:23? If I am understanding what Strong’s is saying in Isaiah 7:14, the word “name” is referring to a “position or an apellation.” If I understand that correctly, it may (and I admit I could be wrong) then the name Immanuel could be more of a title, than a personal name?

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 29, 2010

    “I do not believe that the prophecy was fulfilled in the time of Ahaz, because Isaiah 7:14 was not for Ahaz’s time.”

    then for whose time was the continuation of the prophecy, vv. 15-17?  because you’re only using 1/4 of the prophecy.

    “Why is this important? Because it is what Matthew wrote while under Holy Spirit inspiration. Why did he write it? Because the Holy Spirit inspired him to.”

    but, scott, i believe these same things.  it’s just that i believe it’s possible for the Holy Spirit to inspire an author to write about a second fulfillment of a prophecy that’s already been fulfilled once.  i don’t understand why that’s out of the realm of possibility.  why can’t the Holy Spirit inspire matthew to take a prophecy that’s already come true once, and give it even deeper and greater meaning in Jesus?  and do you realize that you’re going to have to explain away 5 or 6 other fulfillments just in the first 3 chapters of matthew to make your logic on this work?

    “Believe it or not, I do have a mind of my own.”

    i am sorry, scott.  i didn’t mean to suggest that you didn’t.  i merely am saying that we all (me included) tend to favor that which we’ve been taught our whole lives.

    “As I read these passages, the simplest explanation is what is written down, not jumping through the hoop of Isaiah told Ahaz about a young maiden that was a virgin, but then got married and then had a honey and butter eating child named Immanuel.”

    but that is what is written down, though you still left out the part about the two northern kingdoms being laid waste.

    “If I understand that correctly, it may (and I admit I could be wrong) then the name Immanuel could be more of a title, than a personal name?”

    my hebrew isn’t good enough to know any of this.  and my greek is only good enough to read, not give in depth commentary on regular words like ‘name’ and ‘call.’  the only reason i know about the word ‘fulfill’ is because we particularly studied that word in greek class—because of all the problems that arise in the bible if you force it to mean ‘a prediction coming true.’  so you may very well be right that it’s a title and not a name.  however, it does still say, “he will be called,” which even if it is only a title, he should at some point be called that in order for this to be true.  and he is called immanuel… once.  here in this verse.  matthew is the one who makes isaiah’s prophecy true of Jesus; i’m not arguing against that.  i’m just saying the prophecy has already come true once before.

    and i guess i just don’t get why you think that’s not possible.  you say it’s because we don’t read specifically in the old testament the words, “and the prophecy was fulfilled when this lady had a son named immanuel.”  but you’re not using that same requirement of the prophecy and Jesus.  the only thing in the entire prophecy that is true of Jesus himself is a virgin having a son.  so you’re willing to let all the rest of it slide by with no proof of fulfillment—which is fine, because i agree that it was fulfilled in Jesus.  but i don’t know why you don’t allow that on the other side?

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 29, 2010

    scott, jessica, and others,

    i do hope that this discussion / debate doesn’t reflect poorly on me or scott or on christianity.  i hesitate to get into long debates because of the possibility of seeming arrogant and/or stubborn.  but i also know that truth is often realized or emphasized in the course of these discussions.  please know, all, that i love my brother, scott, despite this disagreement (and all others).  and i certainly have no hard feelings, and actually welcome questioning and the like.  i learn from it.

    and, jessica, i hope you are not upset that your post has been hijacked.  if you wish for us to, i’m sure scott and i could continue our discussion through email.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 29, 2010

    scott, i looked a little deeper into this:

    “If I am understanding what Strong’s is saying in Isaiah 7:14, the word “name” is referring to a “position or an apellation.” If I understand that correctly, it may (and I admit I could be wrong) then the name Immanuel could be more of a title, than a personal name?”

    if it is the case that immanuel is more a title than a personal name, then it’s possible (i’ve not mentioned it before, because it is only a possibility, and i thought a poor one) that isaiah 8:3-4 are the fulfillment of the v. 14 portion of the prophecy in chapter 7.  a lot of people think that’s the case, but i’ve always thought not—just because immanuel is not the kid’s name.  but after God tells isaiah what to name him (and talks about the assyrian attack), he gives isaiah a commentary on these events which coincide with the boy’s birth—and the commentary ends with “for God is with us,” which is immanuel.  just another possibility.

    and i was thinking you don’t like me calling what matthew does symbolism.  maybe you would prefer that i call it a prophecy of typology or foreshadowing?  those are more correct terms (though they both use symbolism as i understand the word).  but this is what many of the messianic fulfillments in the n.t. are.  do you believe that none of them are typology or symbolism, and have already happened in the past?

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 29, 2010

    Um, are you kidding?  I am learning a ton from you guys.  I’d be mad if you didn’t continue on my post:)  Not really…ha, but I love reading about this.  However, I am shocked someone hasn’t even commented on Dave’s purgatory post:) Is purgatory now understood to be biblical by Protestants too?

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 29, 2010

    jess, to be honest, lately i’ve been questioning a lot my views of heaven and hell, levels of reward, and even ideas about purgatory and the like.  but there’s three reasons i don’t want to comment about the ideas i have:

    1) they’re very shaky and not together at all
    2) it would take me way too much time to write them out and the like—more than i’m willing to commit
    3) it just doesn’t interest me a great deal

    actually, #3 is the opposite of why i WAS willing to write long and hard on this post.  because old testament prophecy was the emphasis in my master’s degree, and it interests me a great deal.

  • Scott

    Scott August 29, 2010

    The issue I had/have was calling Matthew 1:23 symbolism instead of a fulfillment.Could a prophecy be fulfilled a second time? Sure it could, but obviously there was only one virgin birth. I am not convinced about the Hebrew word “almah.” Sadly, because I do not know Hebrew or Greek, I do have to rely on what others have written. But I am very careful about who I read and try to take into account agendas. Sadly, there are those that have an agenda in translating it as “young maiden” (such as a man named Gesenius) as well as those that translate it as “virgin.” But I still lean toward “virgin.”

    Did Ahaz self-fulfill the prophecy about the kingdom of Israel and Syria? You did not address the 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles passages about Ahaz, but to me it looks like Ahaz got ahead of God in the same way Abraham got ahead of God in trying for a son. And both accomplished things without waiting on God. But Syria was not destroyed, even though Rezin was killed. In 2 Chronicles we see Ahaz going to Damascus and seeing an altar that he likes better and using that design back home and even mutilating items of the Temple for his own purposes.

    The kingdom of Israel was not “laid waste” yet that happens at the end of Hoshea’s reign in Israel and even then Hezekiah sends emissaries to Israel after that to invite to Jerusalem to celebrate a Feast.

    The problem with people looking for symbolism and allegories is that they take away from the literal nature of the Bible. I do agree with typology—such as the Tabernacle is a type of Jesus Christ—foreshadowing Him.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 30, 2010

    scott, you’re right.  the actual destruction (laid waste) of israel didn’t happen for 65 years after this prophecy was given. i thought because the siege was lifted and judah was saved from syria and israel that those countries were destroyed.  but they were not.

    and i do think you’re right that ahaz got ahead of God in everything.  that’s also what chapter 8 of isaiah is about.  it seems ahaz desired to trust more in assyria (God’s chosen tool) than in God himself.  and so judah itself would be sacked by assyria.  [i think this is when immanuel eats the curds and honey, 7:22.]  it also sounds like ‘God with us’ (8:10)  and ‘immanuel’ (8:8) are either being used to remind ahaz that he should have trusted in God or to point to the fact that he was claiming what he was doing was indeed approved of by God when it wasn’t.

    so i do think ahaz was disobedient, and he was punished for it—the entire nation was.  but it seems like that also may have been included in the original prophecy.

    “The problem with people looking for symbolism and allegories is that they take away from the literal nature of the Bible.”

    but is it at least possible that we’re choosing to take words literally which the authors intended symbolically? 

    as for the word ‘virgin,’ there are a lot of people on both sides of the issue, and probably many on each side are simply serving their own agendas.  i will admit that.  those who want to take away from Jesus being prophesied about in the o.t. will say young woman, and those who want some proof of the virgin birth in the o.t. will say virgin.

    this seems to me, though, to be a huge controversy over nothing.  whether it’s virgin or young woman, it makes complete sense in both passages.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 30, 2010

    it seems to come down to the below arguments, as far as i’m concerned.  and i’ll answer those on your side of the discussion.

    the best arguments for this prophecy being originally intended as a messianic prophecy (and not for ahaz’ time) are:

    - the words “laid waste” portion of the prophecy didn’t actually happen within the 12 or so years allotted.  [this could easily be explained by ahaz’ disobedience, which you pointed out.  and even then, 50 years after the boy’s birth is a lot closer than the boy being born 650 years after the destruction.]

    - we never actually read of a boy named immanuel in the o.t.  [but we also don’t read of this boy in the n.t., and if it’s true what you said about it being a title and not a name, then the boy is quite possibly maher-shalal-hash-baz from chapter 8, as the name is mentioned twice in the Lord’s words after his birth.]

    - i don’t think this one is a good argument, but it seems important to you, so i’ll mention that matthew says the prophecy was ‘fulfilled’ in Jesus’ birth.  and i understand you see this as an issue of a literal interpretation.  the problem is that when we look at the literal meaning of the word (and you’ve made clear you don’t know greek, so i’ll also mention..) OR simply how it is used by matthew elsewhere, this argument not only loses its value, but points toward a double fulfillment.

    the best arguments for this prophecy being a prophecy for ahaz’ time are:

    - not one thing in the prophecy, save the word ‘virgin’ (if that is the correct translation), fits Jesus.  even the name ‘immanuel’ only fits if used symbolically (which you don’t approve of matthew doing).

    - the majority (not just some) of times matthew uses the word ‘fulfill,’ he’s speaking of events that have already happened in the past—and suggesting that now they have been given even greater meaning (filled more full, which is what the word means even in english).

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