PD In Depth
Kingdom Hope in the OT
Kingdom Hope in Psalms
Kingdom Hope in Gospels
Kingdom Hope in Parables
The Abrahamic Covenant
Heaven Destiny Origin
The Mystery Revealed
Paul & the Mystery
Church in the OT - I
Church in the OT - II
Church in the OT - III
Kingdom Hope in Hebrews
Daniel's 70 Weeks
Jesus & David's Throne
Intro: Couch vs. Warner
I. Opening - Warner
I. Rebuttal - Couch
I. Response - Warner
I. Closing - Couch
II. Opening - Couch
II. Rebuttal - Warner
II. Response - Couch
II. Closing - Warner
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Doctrinal Studies > Progressive
Copyright © Tim Warner
Many Christians are aware of some difficulties regarding the interpretation of Old Testament passages by New Testament writers. Probably the most famous problematic passage is Matthew's quote of Isaiah 7:14.
Isaiah 7:14 is a difficult passage regarding context. Yet, Matthew most definitely indicates that Jesus' birth is the fulfillment of this prophecy. How can this be when it is abundantly clear that Isaiah's prophecy concerned Ahaz and the Assyrian captivity? Some try to cut Matthew some slack, and claim that he really didn't mean to indicate the real fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. If so, he used a very poor choice of words, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying..."
This raises three
If #1 is correct, then the whole New Testament is suspect, and Christianity as a whole is cast into doubt.
If #2 is correct, it would mean that the normal grammatical/historical approach to interpretation does not work in this case. The literal grammatical/historical approach would indicate that this prophecy be fulfilled during the lifetime of Ahaz. But, according to Matthew, it was fulfilled centuries later. Therefore, there must be another hermeneutic involved besides the grammatical/historical approach, or else we are left with #1 only.
The answer is #3. Matthew knew something that Jews and most Christians do not know. That is the 'mystery' hidden in the Scriptures of the Prophets.
The Old Testament contains an additional hidden message besides the normal surface message. This hidden message is NOT seen using the normal grammatical/historical method. This is not to diminish the grammatical/historical hermeneutic. It is the foundation of all good exegesis of Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament. And we are NOT at liberty to abandon it. However, we must also recognize a special hermeneutic employed by both Jesus, and the Apostles under the inspiration of the Spirit, in order to reveal the "mystery" from the Old Testament Scriptures. In order to hide the 'mystery' within the text of the OLD TESTAMENT, certain literary devices, which transgress the normal hermeneutical methods, were employed by God.
A good example of this is Psalm 22. There is no question that this Psalm is in reference to Christ's crucifixion. It was cited in the Gospels in connection with the crucifixion. But, a purely grammatical interpretation forbids this from being a prophecy of Christ, because David spoke in the first person singular. The normal grammatical reading of Psalm 22 indicates that David was describing his own sufferings. Ditto for Psalm 16:10, where David wrote, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption," speaking in the first person singular. Yet, Peter tells us in his first sermon that this was a prophecy of Christ, since David was dead and buried. Was Peter mistaken? Was he misinterpreting this Psalm while preaching in the power of the Spirit? From a purely grammatical standpoint, yes he was!
How can we account for these Messianic prophecies, where the NEW TESTAMENT writers seem to transgress the normal rules of interpretation? Were they all mistaken? Is Christianity really based on bad exegesis of the Jewish Scriptures? Is Judaism really the true Faith? Or is there something wrong with our use of the grammatical/historical hermeneutic? The answer is the latter.
The 'mystery' was hidden within the text of the OLD TESTAMENT Scriptures. It was not understood using the normal grammatical/historical approach to interpretation. There was a missing ingredient, REVELATION directly from the Spirit of God. Jesus had to OPEN their understanding so they could understand the Scriptures. The two on the road to Emmaus, received this revelation from Jesus as He expounded every OT passage to them that concerned the 'mystery.' Their hearts burned within them as He opened the Scriptures to them. Ditto for the rest of the disciples meeting behind closed doors. It was this revelation of the Mystery that enabled Peter to tie together many prophecies from the Psalms with Jesus Christ in His Pentecost sermon.
This begs the question, why would God hide the mystery within the OT writings? Why make something so obscure? Paul tells us why.
1 Cor 2:7-8
That the mystery was hidden in this manner was absolutely necessary for the Jews to reject Jesus, and for the crucifixion to occur. Even Satan didn't get it. The crucifixion of Jesus was inspired by Satan Himself, when he entered into Judas. By God's hiding the 'mystery' in the Scriptures, He was able to turn the tables on Satan. God actually used Satan as a tool to carry out the crucifixion.
Throughout the Gospels you can see that Jesus intentionally kept the Jews in the dark about what was really going on, while giving some light to His disciples.
God drew only a remnant of the Jews during Jesus' ministry, the rest were hardened. They could not see the Messianic prophecies using the normal interpretive methods. Jesus spoke to them in parables, so they could not understand. Paul explained the reasons for this in his parable of the Olive Tree in Romans 11.
In hindsight, through the revelation of Jesus, we can perceive Messianic prophecies interwoven all throughout the Old Testament. Some are fairly plain, like Isaiah 53 (but not altogether, since Philip had to explain to the Ethiopian Eunuch what Isaiah was writing about). Others are quite obscure, like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 7:14. Some are seen in types, such as the sacrifices all being allegories of Christ. Others appear to combine Christ's first and second comings into one. Yet, to those willing to believe, the big picture comes clearly into focus through revelation, as we stand amazed at the flood of prophecy of Christ in the Old Testament. To the carnal minds, with a veil over their eyes, the Torah's and the Prophets' testimony to Christ remain hidden out of sight. That Jesus is the Messiah cannot be proven from the normal grammatical/historical approach to Old Testament prophecy. But, to those who have ears to hear, the evidence is overwhelming.
This is the 'mystery' that Paul speaks of so often in his epistles. Some claim that it was unique to Paul. Nothing in the Scriptures hints at such a thing. In fact, Paul plainly said that the Mystery was revealed to the 'Apostles' (plural), (Eph. 3:5).
John the Baptist was the first to shed some light on the Mystery, when he exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," making the connection between Jesus and Isaiah 53. Jesus gave further revelation to His disciples, through personal instruction, and explaining the parables. But, not until after the resurrection did He open their understanding so they could understand the Scriptures, and expound every single prophecy in the Old Testament concerning His coming. From this point on, the Apostles were able to connect the Old Testament prophecies with Jesus' first coming. Peter's sermons in Acts 2 and Acts 3 are filled with these kinds of interpretations of Old Testament prophecy.
It was this hidden wisdom of God, hidden from the bulk of Israel but revealed to the Church, that caused Paul to erupt in thanksgiving!