Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
With everything in a statement which presents the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament we cannot and may not agree. That statement, speaking about the Old Testament and the New Testament, says, “The Old is in the New explained; the New is in the Old contained: the Old is in the New revealed; the New is in the Old concealed.”
Yes, the Old Testament does contain types and shadows which are explained in the New Testament. It is true therefore that the Old is in the New explained. Christ and His work are revealed in the New Testament as that to which these types and shadows pointed. Christ is there in the Old Testament, and the New Testament gives a rich and comforting explanation of what He realized for us.
It is also true that the New Testament reveals and explains that there is only one covenant that God has established with His people. As pointed out last time, we do in Hebrews 8:6 have the covenant of God presented in the New Testament as a better covenant established with better promises. But that means a better presentation of the same covenant with the same promises. The Old is in the New explained, and the New is in the Old contained. Our God, the only true God, is Jehovah, the I AM. And that means that He never changes His mind and will, and cannot have His mind and will changed by any creature.
Did not John the Baptist in John 1:29, 36—and thus in the New Testament—present Christ as the Lamb of God? And do we not here have a better, that is, a richer presentation of how the covenant promises are fulfilled by our God? In the Old Testament there were lambs presented in the temple as necessary for the blotting out of sin. But it is the human Lamb of God presented in the New Testament Who did this; and the New Testament does explain what the Old Testament presented as the way of our salvation.
Similarly we find John explaining in Revelation 21:1-4 that God’s house, in which we will have sweet communion with Him, is so very different from His houses, presented to us in the Old Testament, which were built as a tabernacle in Moses’ day and as a temple by Solomon. Yes, there is something better in the New Testament; there is something explained in the New Testament that is contained in the Old Testament by means of types and shadows.
However, the last statement in that brief poem about the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is not true. Yes, the Old is in the New revealed, but the New is not in the Old concealed. For to conceal is to cover and in that way hide from view. Our bones, and many very important organs, are there in our bodies, and are concealed by our flesh and skin. But there is nothing in the New Testament that is concealed in the Old Testament. The form may be different. In the Old Testament we have types and shadows, sheep, blood, altars, and temples; but in the New Testament we have The Lamb of God, His blood, His cross, and the new Jerusalem wherein God’s house of many mansions will be established. The Old is in the New revealed more richly. But there is not one basic truth of God’s covenant in the New Testament that cannot be found in the Old Testament. A better covenant, yes, but a different covenant, no! The New is not in the Old concealed. A better promise is in the New Testament because it presents the thing promised rather than the thing that pictures it. Take away, hide, conceal any truth about God in the Old Testament, and you can bum up the New Testament or throw it away! Concealed? No! There are in the New Testament only two names of God—in the Greek the words kurios and theos. In the Old Testament we have many more names of God—not only Elohim and Jehovah, but also names such as Adonai which means Lord, and El-shaddai which means almighty one. The New Testament names Lord and God are by no means concealed in the Old Testament but revealed as to their meaning.
The Old Testament saints had all that which is needed for faith in God and for the assurance that His covenant promises would be fulfilled. We in the New Testament days have all that which we need for faith in God and for the assurance that His covenant promises have been fulfilled, and that what the New Testament promises will most assuredly be fulfilled when Christ returns. We can no more say correctly that what the New Testament presents is concealed in the Old Testament than we can today say that what the New Testament presents, as coming when Christ returns, and is so beautifully presented in Revelation 21 andRevelation 22, is concealed in the New Testament.
There is another awesome truth which we should hold on to and confess. That awesome truth is that today we should maintain that the New Testament depends upon the Old Testament. How can the coming of Christ into our flesh, His cross, resurrection, and ascension into heaven mean anything apart from that which is presented to us in Genesis 3? The Old Testament surely does not conceal our awful guilt and worthiness of everlasting hell fire! Nor does it in Genesis 3:15, that protevangel, or if you will, that mother-promise, conceal our need of Christ and His coming. What is more, if that name of God, namely, Jehovah, which means I AM, was not presented to us in the Old Testament, could we believe that His promises will most assuredly be fulfilled? If any change can come in Him, and He has to say I was, or I will be, upon what promise from Him can we depend? If the deviltry and hatred of God that is in Satan was concealed in the Old Testament, how could we, or how would we need to have presented to us in the New Testament our victory over him through Christ?
The unbelieving Jew who today rejects the New Testament as the Word of God also rejects the whole Old Testament as His Word. Deny Christ, cry out as some of the Jews did, ‘We have no king but Caesar,” and you deny the whole Old Testament as the Word of God. You may agree with some of the historical events, but you will deny the spiritual significance of these events. Did not Jesus Himself in John 5:39 state, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are that which testify of Me”? He said that to the Jews who hated Him and later on crucified Him. And the Scriptures to which He referred were the Old Testament. Surely He who was in the New Testament revealed was not in the Old Testament concealed. Still more, in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I aim come not to destroy, but to fulfill.” Not only do we have here a reference to the Old Testament, wherein that law and the writing of the prophets are presented to us; but: Jesus states that He is come to fulfill the law and the prophets. He did not come to reveal what was in the Old Testament concealed. He came to fulfill what is plainly written in the Old Testament. What was in the Old Testament is not what He alone could see, but also that which the unbelieving Jews could and did plainly see.
Thus when in Hebrews 8:6 we do read of a better covenant established upon better promises, the Old Testament is not being degraded. When you call your house a comfortable dwelling place wherein you enjoy life, you are not stating that the foundation is decrepit and worthless. That house, as to its walls, the rooms, the protection from the burning sun and winter blasts, is certainly enjoyable to dwell in and use. But even though you see the walls and ceiling, that does not mean that the foundation is of inferior value. You cannot have that house without a foundation. Likewise, the better covenant with better promises does not declare that the foundation is bad and ought to be cast aside. We need both; and sermons from the Old Testament today, in light of what we find in the New Testament, are rich and tremendously comforting and instructive.
Let us put it this way: the Old Testament presented to the elect children of God a very detailed and clear picture of what they needed to see, in order to believe and have the comfort and blessedness of salvation. That picture, however, although a very detailed and clear picture, and so very necessary for the enjoyment of that which is promised us, is a black and white picture. The New Testament, we may appreciate, is one having all the details of the Old Testament picture, but in full color. Christ, His cross—as in Genesis 3:15 andIsaiah 53—is there. So is His resurrection, as Job speaks of it in Job 19:25. In Isaiah 65 we also have a clear, distinct, and beautiful picture of that to which He ascended, and which will be ours when He returns upon the clouds of heaven at the end of time. Then we will not need pictures but will enjoy the full reality of God’s covenant with its promises presented to us in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Here is the good, better, and best. The Old Testament is a very, very good presentation of the truth we need for faith in God and for our salvation. The New Testament is a better presentation because it brings us to the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of a Savior, and to full pardon through His blood. But the best is when all this weary night of sin and death is over, Christ returns on the clouds of heaven, and the everlasting day of very intimate covenant fellowship with God begins and is enjoyed in body as well as soul.
And today the Old Testament sermon can be very rich, for it presents—and must present—both the truth in it and the better, that is, richer elements the New Testament brings to us.
The Lord willing, we will present more of this in the next installment of The Day of Shadows. Be thankful now however that the better presentation which we have of God’s covenant is a picture in full color. But use the Old Testament in order to understand that picture, and be assured that when you see a sermon announced that is based on an Old Testament text, the truth is not going to be concealed but revealed by that richer presentation that our covenant God has made possible by fulfilling so many of the Old Testament promises. What we are promised and still need will be fulfilled because of what the New Testament teaches us.