Why is God Violent in the Old Testament but Loving in the New Testament?

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A misconception appears to prevail that God in the Old Testament is very stern and judgmental while He appears to be very soft and forgiving in the New Testament. In his book, Farewell to God, atheist Charles Templeton says:The God of the Old Testament is utterly unlike the God believed in by most practicing Christians” stating that “His justice is, by modern standards, outrageous…He is biased, querulous, vindictive and jealous of His prerogatives.” There are others who are of the view that the God of the OT (Yahweh) is entirely different from the Christian God of the NT. In other words, the Bible presents us with entirely two different Gods and that probably accounts for the difference in their personality traits. I’ll be very honest with you. I’ve also questioned myself a few times concerning this touchy subject. So I decided to do some research here and there and I’ve finally concluded that there’s absolutely NO DIFFERENCE between the nature of God expressed in the Old and the New Testament. Yes! God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The supposed difference one sees with respect to God’s image has got to do with the dispensation and relationship one finds himself/herself in relation to God. Follow me closely as I state and elaborate on the reasons for my stance on the subject matter.

 

To begin with, God is immutable – He DOES NOT change. God does not switch moods like humans. For Him to change His nature at any point in time would mean He’s either changing from worse to better or from better to worse which is highly impossible! The apostle James explained this truth using an interesting phenomenon. He referred to God as the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. The analogy is that God is fixed in His position like the sun constantly giving off light to the Earth. Day and night only occur because of the Earth’s movement and not that of the sun – the sun doesn’t ever move. God, like the sun, only appears to ‘rise’ and ‘set’ with time but in reality, WE ARE the ones who like planet Earth’s movement, determine what we receive from God.

 

Quite a number of biblical references in the Old Testament tag God as a pitiless and bloodthirsty being who takes pleasure in our pain and suffering. So non-theists and skeptics for example, draw out historical accounts such as (not limited to) the Genesis Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the mass killing of women and children and The Destruction of Jericho as concrete evidence to affirm their claims. But here is the thing: God in the OT is full of wrath and very tyrannical only if you analyze these historical accounts at a surface level. Upon deeper examination, there’s a lot more important aspects to these stories we so easily overlook and that is exactly the point where God is seen for who He truly is. Funnily  enough, our thoughts about God differs vastly from the testimonies of those who were closely associated with Him. People like Abraham, Moses, David and Jonah held different opinions of who God is (positive ones of course). Please turn your Bible to the book of Exodus 34:6-7 as a starter and read it out loud:

6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord! the Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth,

7 Keeping mercy and loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, BUT Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.

This is how God introduced Himself to Moses in the Old Testament. At the mountain top, God told Moses that His grace, mercy and loving-kindness were extremely plentiful and over-sufficient in supply. Action speaks louder than words, right? Well, I’ll go right ahead to cite some few examples to support who God says He is. Cain was one of the first men to experience God’s loving-kindness even after He murdered Abel in cold blood. God had every right to punish Him by death but rather, He stalled the punishment and put a mark on Cain as a form of protection from anyone who sought to kill him. Talk about God’s grace towards Nineveh. These people were exceedingly sinful and God’s anger burned strongly against them. Yet God didn’t wish to see any of them get destroyed. So He sent Jonah to warn them against their immoral acts. Jonah made an interesting statement which is key to the revelation of God’s character. He said: “God! I knew it – when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen!… I knew you were full of grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment to a program of forgiveness!  Amazing! I didn’t read this portion of scripture from Mark’s epistle or any other New Testament book. This is directly from the Old Testament passage (Jonah 4:2)! If you read the story further, you’ll learn that Jonah was rather furious with God for being ‘all too nice’ with the people of Nineveh. Imagine that! Do spend some time to read the whole book of Hosea. You’ll be INCREDIBLY ASTONISHED at the level of patience God has for mankind. But do all these actions seem to be in stark contrast to the brutal killings recorded in the books of old? Well, allow me to use the Genesis Flood story to make my point that God is not less loving in the OT. At a point in time in the history of mankind, sin went out of control. God was heartbroken because of increased sin in the world and therefore decided to rid the earth of every living creature. However, Noah won favor in God’s eyes and this compassionate, slow-to-anger God provided a means  of the salvation for  mankind: Noah’s Ark. Here is what we easily miss out on when we read this account. God did not only help Noah build this huge ark to save himself and his family from the pending flood, He actually made Noah a preacher of righteousness and salvation to the other inhabitants who were still living in sin (2 Peter 2:5). Dear reader, God was very gracious then! God created an opportunity for these evil, rebellious people to repent and be saved from their sins while they were champion sinners. According to this article, it took Noah about 75 years to construct the Ark meaning that these stiff-necked people were exposed to the message of salvation for as long as 75 years! But what did they do with it? They laughed at Noah (probably thought of him as a delusional being) and rejected God’s grace. How do you possibly blame God for your misfortunes when you despise His very grace that pardons? Throughout the OT passages, God sends people after people (it could be angels, prophets, etc) to warn man against the consequence of sin before He metes out any judgment. God’s free grace grants us enough space and time so that we can come to Him, repent and turn away from evil. However, this free grace is not cheap and as such has  grave consequences that come with undervaluing it.

 

Another reason that tends to make one feel that God was very merciless in the OT but non-violent in the NT is the manner in which God executed judgment in both eras. It’s  very easy to assume that God’s punishment for lawbreakers then was stricter than it is in the NT. I won’t deny the fact that the detailed description of the unpleasant events that befell law offenders of the old have the ability to make us question where God’s wrath is in our day. In the OT…

  • King David lost his child because he committed adultery.
  • The sons of Eliab (Dathan and Abiram) were swallowed up into the bowels of the earth when they rebelled against Moses and God.
  • God sent poisonous snakes among the people of Israel in the wilderness for complaining.
  • Uzzah was struck dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant

Yet we don’t hear these kind of news among sinful believers today. No wiping  out of a city or a nation. No worms eating up our flesh. So God has mellowed eh? Or the common phrase from our mouths is ‘Thank God for abundant grace or else God would have directed a bolt of lightning at you FAST!’ We make it sound as though the measure of God’s Grace has increased in modern times. Well, the problem isn’t with God’s grace because the same measure of grace that existed during the time of the prophets and kings is the same measure of grace that abounds today. What we need to understand here is that the context in which God deals with mankind now is way different from the OT times. God only appears to be more gracious and merciful in the New Testament because of the Cross. Christ’s death on the cross was the perfect, ultimate sacrifice that paid our sin debt completely (once and for all) and offered forgiveness to all mankind. God was never pleased with the year-after-year sacrifice and offerings of the  old although that was the only way man could atone for his sins. Animal blood couldn’t fulfill the full requirements of the Law but Jesus blood did.  Let me quickly add that this is definitely not a permission for us to trifle with God’s grace. To think that we can keep on sinning because God can keep on forgiving is a deadly lullaby we must resist. God’s forgiveness is meant to lead us to repentance not sinfulness. Also, don’t forget that the Cross equally reveals God’s utmost displeasure towards sin. Because of God’s infinitely holy character and the nature of the ultimate sacrifice made by Christ, the punishment for sin which is hell is very horrific. Make no mistake! God is full of both wrath and love therefore never think His compassion for anyone will forbid Him from exercising righteous judgment. Do you think God will overlook sin when He Himself did not spare His own son from paying the ultimate price of sin on the cross? Jesus’ sacrifice satisfied God’s justice but it doesn’t rule out the fact that anyone who willfully tramples upon God’s free gift of salvation treasures up for themselves unimaginable wrath on the final day of judgment.

 

I’ve always wondered how non-theists manage to raise up arguments against the character of God. Please how do you accuse God of being a cosmic bully when you deny His existence in the first place? How do you even go ahead to bring up the issue of good vs evil when you outrightly deny objective moral reasoning? You can’t possibly call God evil if you believe in subjective moral reasoning where everything is at the mercy of one’s personal preference.

 

The extent and degree of God’s feelings for His creation in times past has never been different from what He feels for His creation today. The Bible is crystal clear on the fact that God is a perfect, unchangeable God. His perfection makes it highly impossible for someone of His caliber to be more/less gracious, kind, holy, just, merciful, pure etc than He is now. You don’t need to be bothered about God’s mood at any time because He does not change. What’s more important is that we establish the right relationship with Him. As simple as that. Someone put it nicely by saying: “Fire can burn. Fire can also provide warmth and comfort. It all depends on where we stand in relationship to the flame.” It’s the same with God. Your position in relation to Him will determine the kind of blessings or curses you’ll receive from Him. Before God, you stand as either His elect or His enemy. Today, I plead with you to make the right choice and enjoy His overflowing goodness.

 

 

 

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We Preach Christ Crucified!

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There’s a popular belief that Jesus Christ escaped death following His crucifixion. The swoon hypothesis, as it’s termed, asserts that Jesus didn’t really die but fainted and was later revived by the cool, damp air in the tomb. While Christianity confirms the crucifixion and resurrection story, Islam is totally not supportive of Christ’s death. According to the Qur’an, Jesus only appeared to die on the cross and later ascended into heaven. Some secular scholars even propose that Jesus was given a drug while he hanged on the cross making him unconscious. As a Christian, I strongly believe these truth-claims deserve a much closer examination. We need to ask further questions to test the credibility of these assertions: What really happened during the crucifixion period? What was Christ’s medical condition during the crucifixion period? Are the historical records from distant time or not? What does History, Medicine and other fields of discipline relevant to the topic have to say about this subject?

As a Christian, I take my stance based on what God’s word (the Bible) says: Christ was crucified. All four gospels by virtue of eyewitness testimonies, confirm that Christ died on the cross. How can we possibly tell if the authors are telling the truth or not? Let’s consider the dating of these gospels. One of the major factors to consider when examining eyewitness records is the time span between the occurrence of an event and its documentation. It goes a long way to determine the extent to which a piece of evidence is compelling and convincing. With that established, let’s do some simple math over here.

With respect to what most scholars agree, Jesus Christ died between A.D 30 and 33.

According to standard scholarly dating, Mark’s gospel was written in the 70s, Matthew and Luke’s was in the 80s while John’s was written in the 90s.

By observation, Mark’s Gospel is closest to what really happened (written no less than 40 years after the event).

This implies Mark’s account was documented within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to the event. I daresay it’s almost impossible to have falsified the crucifixion story within a period where most of the witnesses were still alive. I’m not alone in this view. Professor Bart D. Ehrman, a Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and an agnostic scholar said: “one of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.” There you have it! A non-biblical evidence (not subject to any form of bias) to also support the crucifixion story. Now, it’s very important to note that we are dealing with a story that was spreading like wildfire in Jerusalem. There’s absolutely no way a fabricated story would have been permitted to circulate within that city. It wouldn’t even make sense to say the listeners at that time were cut to the heart by the apostles’ preaching if their message was indeed a false gospel (refer to Acts 2). The early Christians would have surely protested against the spread of such mythical stories and the emergence of the Church wouldn’t have become a reality. Now compare this to another historical account like that of the Qur’an for example. The Qur’an’s record is about seven centuries after the event took place. We are talking about a seven hundred-year period where legend is very possible to distort the truth. So now that you have a 40-year old biography as against a 700-year one, which of these report will be compelling and convincing enough in making truth-claims?

Let’s also take a critical examination of Jesus’ medical condition before, during and after the crucifixion process. Personally, I feel there’s no way Jesus could have survived this brutality. But truth isn’t based on feelings or instincts because both can be easily mistaken. How then do we assess the truth-claims out there? Let’s turn our attention now to a well-known authority—Medicineto see if these ideas of Jesus surviving the cross fit the facts of reality.

Prior to the crucifixion, Bible records that Jesus prayed His heart out till His sweat turned into blood. ‘How can sweat possibly turn into blood?’, I thought to myself. Apparently, the Bible wasn’t making a fanciful statement. Hematidrosis is a medical condition where a person sweats blood. It’s rare though. The main cause is still uncertain but many scientists believe it’s as a result of extreme stress. If a sound mind lives in a healthy body, I can infer then that Jesus was in an unhealthy condition because a distressed mind was living in His body. Now, this was even before the Roman soldiers spat and hit Him in the face. The psychological stress was just the beginning of what was yet to befall Him (the brutal whipping and crucifixion). Concerning the flogging, Roman soldiers were known for their expertise in lashing criminals. 39 strikes to the back was the standard but depending on the mood of the soldier on duty, it could be reduced or increased. The whips used were made of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. This was designed to cut deeply into the skin, exposing the muscles, bones and spine as the whipping intensified. Most of the time, the victims will die from excessive blood loss before the crucifixion itself. We are yet to consider the 5-7 inch nails that were driven through his wrists and feet yet we can already picture the impossibility of Him surviving this great ordeal.

The crucifixion process was incredibly agonizing to the extent that a new word had to be invented to describe the intensity of its pain—excruciating. The word literally means, ‘out of the cross’. Just think about this for a second: there was the need to describe this extraordinary pain with an entirely new word. I’ve even spared you the scientific details of the trauma Jesus went through on that day. But really, do you possibly think the Messiah who had been severely battered and bruised by trained Roman soldiers could have escaped death?

Come to think of it, it sounds really absurd to think the early church would have concocted a story that the all-powerful son of God suffered mercilessly at the hands of mortal men and died. First of all, the Christians weren’t going to benefit in any way from making such an audacious claim. Secondly, you need to explain how Christ managed to remove the tight linen He was wrapped in, roll the huge stone away and slip past the Roman guards to meet up with the disciples in that weakened state. Even if He succeeded in doing that, His followers would have been greatly discouraged at the site of His bruised body. For people whose lives were in danger just for being a disciple of Christ, it was best Jesus was dead and gone. Going around and proclaiming that Christ had died and risen from the grave wasn’t only going to make the Great Commission a lot more difficult; they were putting their very lives in danger! It wouldn’t have made sense for them to do that and I’m sure many will agree to that. But no. That isn’t the case. On the contrary, the disciples were ready to put their lives on the line by communicating nothing but the truth to the world. I have to admit I envy this level of courage and integrity!

I personally feel the ideas that claim Christ escaped death are in a tug of war with scientific and historical evidence. You need a high dose of faith to actually believe they fit the facts of reality.

But most importantly, let’s ask ourselves these intriguing questions: if Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him, why would He still walk into the hands of His oppressors? Was there something in it for Him by allowing Himself to be subjected to the worst form of humiliation? Was there any ulterior motive? Allow me to say that Christ endured the Cross because of you and I. It’s at the center of the Cross that we receive the forgiveness of sin and the fullness of His love and grace. The Cross was designed to portray the worst form of humiliation but Christ took it and made it the best place for victory celebration. This is why we try not to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy when we come to you. We keep it plain and simple: first Jesus and who He is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

Victor’s Crown

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Of what relevance is the Christian Faith if Jesus was abandoned in the grave and His body was left to see decay? If Christ hasn’t been raised, everything about our faith is utter nonsense; absolutely nothing but wishful thinking. Think of it this way: if Jesus was a man of integrity, taught profoundly, performed marvelous miracles but failed to rise up from the grave after His crucifixion, the message of the Cross would have been a very fruitless one. But thanks be to the Living God whose Word remains ever true, the Resurrection story forever remains a fact.

Christianity is unique in what it professes not because its followers are willing to die for what it teaches. That’s never the case. Other religions out there also have followers ever willing and ever ready to die for what they believe in. That’s pretty identical on a surface level. After all, everyone believes in one thing or another (not everything we believe is right by the way). However, the uniqueness of Christianity and the Resurrection story  hinge on the fact that Jesus demonstrated His bodily resurrection PUBLICLY. This is where the fog begins to clear up. It wasn’t a spiritual resurrection and it didn’t happen behind closed doors. We’re talking about a BODILY RESURRECTION  in an open place where people could witness exactly what was going on. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul presents the early church’s creed as a way of laying down some fundamental truths of Christianity. He made it clear states that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…was buried…rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures…was seen by Cephas (a.k.a Peter) then by the Twelve…seen by over 500 brethren at once…was seen by James then all the apostles…then lastly by Paul. Just look at that! We have over 500 witnesses here from various places confirming the death and resurrection of Christ! Bible records that most of them were still alive at that time meaning you could actually have a one-on-one chat with them to verify if the early church was telling the truth or not (Check this link out to read more). Was the message really true? Interestingly, Thomas who had strong doubts about the whole occurrence later cried out ‘My Lord and My God’ after he personally reached out and touched the wounds of the risen Savior. MY LORD AND MY GOD. It’s a very big deal considering the fact these words flew out of a skeptic’s mouth— Thomas. History records that Thomas preached the Gospel in India and Parthia and was later martyred by being thrust through with a spear. What at all in this world will make an avowed skeptic like him and a staunch Jew like Paul change their belief status even if it meant dying for the sake of the Gospel? It’s because they SAW the resurrected Christ! These were eyewitness testimonies—a very powerful tool that is very potent in the court of law, even today.

The Resurrection power of Christ is amazing and fulfilling but not so surprising in the sense that the one who defied nature by displaying His power over death isn’t just any ordinary being. Check out what Moses said in his prayer in Psalm 90:2:

“before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

As a matter of fact, they (The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit) were all present before the birth of space, matter and time. Since none of the persons in the Trinity came into Being in a certain time period, we don’t expect to portray Jesus as one who appeared along the way to do what He did on Earth. That’s why the scripture says, ‘for a child is BORN to us, a son is GIVEN to us’. Jesus is fully God and fully man, not half-half. “For unto us a child is born” reveals his full human nature and “For unto us a Son is given” reveals his full deity. In other words, the Son (Jesus) who preexisted with the Father even before the conception of time was a Gift given to us in the form of a human child. You see, Jesus wasn’t making any blasphemous statement when He said  in John 17:5, ‘…O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you BEFORE THE WORLD WAS.’ Even the phrase ‘before the world was’ goes on to suggest that Jesus is an uncreated everlasting Being who transcends time itself. Is it then surprising that Death and the grave was no match for such an extraordinary personality as Him?

Not only is Jesus the beginning, He is also referred to as the firstborn from the dead. The Bible records some instances where people were raised from the dead before the birth of Jesus [Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus…] One thing was common to them all: they were going to (physically) die again at some point. So what makes this ‘firstborn from the dead’ title special then? It simply means Jesus is the first person to live, die and resurrect (bodily) from the grave never to die again! Never was He ever going to experience death. Halleluyah! Do you understand what you just read about the first born from the dead? Jesus Christ provides the opportunity to welcome a second born, a third born, a fourth born, as many as will respond to His call and entrust their lives into His care. And this is where I encourage others even as I encourage myself. We can’t escape the pain of losing a family member, a friend or a loved one. It really hurts. On 9th November, 2014 for instance, many people gathered in Grand Bahama for Dr. Myles Munroe’s ministry’s Global Leadership Forum. Unfortunately, the President and Founder of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI) and Myles International (MMI) together with his wife and other passengers lost their lives in a plane crash on their way to the conference. There were no survivors. Also, just recently, a friend of mine lost someone very close to him. We may have lost some close people in our lives. I sometimes find it very hard to comfort people going through such kind of pain and suffering. I’m sometimes lost for words. Other times, I fight that quickness associated with the urge to relate not because I’m devoid of emotions; it’s the fact that I don’t want to end up tossing the real problem aside to make the victim feel like it’s one of those just-deal-with-it situations. But there’s one truth I can never hide from myself or anyone else. It’s that for now, it seems like those we’ve lost have been forever separated from us. But there’s hope in Christ. If God indeed raised Christ from the dead and made Him the firstborn from the dead, we have absolute confidence we will meet up with them one day (if they died in the Lord).I’m not trying to appeal to our emotions or speak in a manner just to make us feel good; this is the Word of God that is ever true. Isn’t it beautiful to know that as long as we trust His unfailing promises, though we may die (or ‘fall asleep’ as the Apostle Paul carefully states in his epistles), we shall rise to live again because HE lives? God lives FOREVER!

You can perfume a casket all you want but you can never hide its stench. Whatever’s in there will decay at a point, reek and everyone will get to know about it. It doesn’t take much effort to notice that. That’s how fake stuff works. They can’t be hidden forever. However, truth no matter how submerged or buried it is will  always stand firm and perpetuate throughout the ages. This is why the grave could not contain Jesus. You had TRUTH buried in there and you thought truth would forever be confined to the grave? That’s impossible! I love it so much when Darlene Zschech makes this profound declaration in her song, ‘The Victor’s Crown’:

At the cross the work was finished

You were buried in the ground

BUT THE GRAVE COULD NOT CONTAIN YOU

FOR YOU WEAR THE VICTOR’S CROWN

Truth HIMSELF broke free from the chains of death. That’s why when you come to know, accept and walk in ‘this’ truth, you also break free from every shackles, pain and bondage. You become FREE! Interestingly, History and Archaeology have successfully buried all attempts to label the Resurrection story as a hoax. The confidence Paul had in the Resurrection Story after seeing the resurrected Christ for himself was so much that he began to speak of people who were dead as being ‘asleep’. He was even bold enough to taunt ‘death’ with the words of the prophet Hosea, ‘Who got the last word, oh, Death? Who’s afraid of you now?’. This is the hope we have in Christ Jesus: Death does not have the final word anymore—Jesus does. He’s the gift of God who brings eternal life to anyone whose faith finds a resting place in Him. Jesus, You’re forever glorified because You wear the Victor’s Crown.