Chapter 1. We've Been Expecting You

About forty years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I taught eighth grade English in a public school for four years in Garner, North Carolina. I had either just gotten saved or else was saved earlier and then did the prodigal son route throughout college. I will find out when I get to heaven exactly when I was saved. Still, even at this early part of my Christian walk, I had a keen desire to know what the Bible said and what it meant. In a time before the Internet existed and without many other resources available now, two other teachers and I sat in a circle, started in Matthew 1:1, and made our way through a few verses. With each verse, we told the others, "This is what this verse means to me." We were the blind leading the blind, and fortunately no recordings were made of our well-intended folly. We each had the King James Version for our Bible and had to work through all the "begats" in Matthew 1 (e.g., v. 2 "Abraham begat Isaac"). We only met a few times. As before, our motives were good, but our methodology was woefully lacking. We will tie this in in a moment, but let's consider one core truth for our study: "This is what this verse means to me" is totally irrelevant to biblical truth; however, "This is what God means by this verse"—if understood accurately (2 Tim 2:15)—is eternally important.

Fast-forward two decades later to a time when I was blessed to teach three years at a pastors' conference in Kenya that included more than two hundred attendees. Many of the pastors had walked for days to come and study the Bible; for most of them, it was the only training they would receive that year. Also, many of the pastors only had a pocketsize Gideons New Testament. The conference provided Bibles for the pastors who needed them, and what a delight to watch some of the pastors read Genesis 1 for the first time.

We three well-intended teachers who did their Bible study starting in Matthew 1 actually—by default—did what many of the Kenyan pastors did and many well-meaning Christians today still do: anyone who begins a study of the Bible in Matthew 1 will be just as lacking as we were because of three irreplaceable doctrinal truths. First, if we begin in Matthew 1, we do not begin where Jesus did previously in John 5:45-46 ("For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me," CSB). Second, later on the day of His resurrection, Jesus revealed to the two road-to-Emmaus disciples, in Luke 24:25-27, the importance of the Old Testament in its witness of Him:

And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

As He would likewise do with the assembled apostles, in Luke 24:44-47:

Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

If we begin studying the Bible in Matthew 1, (1) we do not start where Jesus started, and (2) we do not know or mark any of the tremendously important Old Testament prophetic truths in reference to the Person and work of who the Messiah would be or the scriptural qualifications and requirements that the Messiah must fulfill if He is to truly qualify as God's Messiah. So, our final irreplaceable doctrinal truth connects with this: (3) we do not know of any previous promises and prophecies that God had given for the Jewish people and ultimately that they effect the entire world—as well as anyone ever born. If we begin our study in Matthew 1, we do not know that we are starting—at the very least—in midstory, oblivious to many of the doctrinal truths God has already revealed, especially as seen in His covenants that He made and many divine prophecies contained within and beyond these verses.

Further, the noble Berean believers are often cited—for good reason—as using the proper mode of investigating the teaching of others. In Acts 17:11 "The people [of Berea] were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (CSB). The Scriptures they were examining were the Old Testament Scriptures, which began setting forth the story of Jesus and the covenant faithfulness of God. The New Testament would flesh out and fulfill much of the story of Jesus—and, as we will clearly see in Scripture—so many more precise promises and prophecies still remain to be fulfilled on this side of the cross.

The Stirring up by Way or Reminder and Transitioning to the New Testament

When Peter was just about to die, he wrote 2 Peter, using a large part of it to counter the teachings of false teachers. Peter protectively wrote to certain churches in Asia Minor in 2 Peter 1:12-15:

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.

The same will be true for us.

Ideally, before we start the next part of our study, everyone has read The Bible Expositor's Handbook—Old Testament, where—in the space of only fifteen chapters—I tried to set forth a logical progression that feeds into the New Testament and this initial chapter in The Bible Expositor's Handbook—New Testament. I know, however, this is not the case. So, if you are able, read the Old Testament edition first, and if you are not able to do that, at least read the Scripture verses we covered. Ideally you should do this first because, as we saw, starting your study of the Bible anywhere in the New Testament is starting midstory and is removed from many of the promises and prophecies of God, especially as He showed in His covenants.

For those who have read The Bible Expositor's Handbook—Old Testament, let me do a brief walk-through or review (1) to stir us up by way of remembrance and (2) to allow others who have not or will not read what we have studied to grasp at least some of the content of the biblical truths from the irreplaceable point of beginning.

The Bible Expositor's Handbook—Old Testament

Chapter 1: So You Want to Be an Expositor?

In this chapter we learned, first, that the starting point for becoming an expositor of God's Word is God Himself, and there are no shortcuts to becoming a seasoned expositor. It takes time and effort to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:18). Without being overtly mystical about this, if you think you will ever outgrow this initial core concept that being a disciple means being a person who is ultimately taught by God, you will not have any true ministry resulting from your walk with Him. Second, we learned that one should not go to God's Word for a sermon or a teaching outline; we go to God's Word for truth. From the truth found in God's Word emerge expository sermons and teachings. Third, two additional truths from this initial chapter are interconnected. (1) Your expository preaching or teaching will only be as good as your expository study, or lack thereof. (2) Expository preaching is much more than "expository calendaring." You can go through the text of a biblical book in sequential order and still not necessarily be handling God's Word accurately. So even employing the tried-and-true process of (1) observation of a text, (2) interpretation of the text, and (3) application from the text will not necessarily by itself involve rightly dividing the Word of God.

Chapter 2: The Old Testament Is the Story of Jesus

In this chapter we learned the core essential truths for how God wants His Old Testament to be read. First, it is clear from passages such as John 5:45-47; Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 2:22-23; and 1 Peter 1:17-20 that the Old Testament presents many eternal doctrinal truths—not merely life-lesson applications. Second, and more specifically, it was shown that long before the first sin occurred, the Godhead had already determined the divine plan—singular—of salvation. And long before the first sinners appeared in Genesis 3, a Savior—singular—was already in the mind of God. Genesis 3:15 promised that One will come and crush the head of Satan, and the Old Testament is the beginning of that blessed, unfolding story. Third, we learned that the Old Testament is the story of Jesus—not "was the story"—because so much of it remains yet to be fulfilled by the same God who has already fulfilled the first part with His holy precision.

Chapter 3: Why Are There so Many Different Interpretations of the Bible?

How one answers the two following questions will set a governing trajectory for how the rest of Scripture will be interpreted: (1) What is the first covenant of God in the Bible, and what are the hermeneutics used to interpret it? and (2) What is the second covenant of God in the Bible, and what are the hermeneutics used to interpret it? In this chapter I proposed that the burden of proof rests on those who accept and interpret God's first covenant in Genesis 9 (i.e., the Noahic covenant) in a literal fashion for everything contained in it and yet switch the hermeneutic for the next covenant of God so that much of it is to be understood as only allegory that is fulfilled only spiritually. Following the biblical trail of the unfolding story line of the Old Testament, we saw repeatedly that it is the literal-grammatical hermeneutic that makes the most logical sense. This approach is manifest, not least, in Luke 1-2. Here both chapters refer to the Abrahamic promises, the fulfillment of which is best understood in light of a literal-grammatical hermeneutic in both promise and fulfillment. Simply put, there is no Luke 2—the Christmas story—without Luke 1, which twice refers to God remembering the Abrahamic covenant as part of what He was beginning to do at that time.

Chapter 4: Four Biblical Examples of Moses Writing About Jesus

In this chapter we discussed two important safeguards for studying Old Testament texts to see if they correctly apply to the Messiah. (1) Is there a direct New Testament text that clearly shows the Holy Spirit intended this to be in reference to the Messiah? (2) If no New Testament parallel texts exist, who appears exhibiting the attributes of God or doing the activities of God? Considering these safeguards, we saw that "the angel of the Lord" spoke as God, acted as God, and was worshipped as God. In addition, we looked at three examples that have New Testament verification: God's Passover Lamb (John 1:29-36; 1 Cor 5:7), the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:1-5) and, finally, the Rock, viewed through the biblical lens of 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ("and the rock was Christ").

Chapter 5: The Mosaic Covenant and Its Biblical Relevance

This chapter showed that we cannot start our study of Scripture with the Mosaic covenant, even though it will play a significant role in our understanding of much of the New Testament. Long before the ratification of the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 24, God had already revealed many other truths, such as the Abrahamic covenant, given in Genesis. We saw, for example, that when God ratified the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15:12-14, He foretold events that would occur later in Exodus. Accordingly, while Exodus 1 shows the nation of Israel enslaved in Egypt, Exodus 2 ends with God acting in full accordance with His word, remembering His covenantal promises to Abraham.

There were a few important points made regarding the Mosaic covenant. First, it is the only covenant of God so far in which somebody else was present and active at its ratification. Second, as long as the Mosaic covenant was in effect, the Jewish people of national Israel were under covenant obligation to do all that Yahweh commanded them to do. Third, the Mosaic covenant includes the "blessing-and-curse" section of Leviticus 26 (and later in Deuteronomy 27-28), in which God promised to bless national Israel if they walked in covenant obedience with Him and enumerated specific curses that would surely come upon them if they did rebel against Him. Fourth, we noted the eschatological importance of Leviticus 26:40-45, which ended with hope given by God to the Jewish people, especially in reference to a future regathering of national Israel to the land, based throughout this section on the land promises God had made—and would keep—under the Abrahamic covenant. Just as in the account of Moses in Exodus 32, God based His future actions on His faithful keeping of the Abrahamic covenant, not on national Israel's failure under the Mosaic covenant. Finally, we learned of one crucial time marker for our understanding that we will review later in this chapter.

Chapter 6: A Star! A Star! Shining in the Night!

In this chapter we explored the ways in which Scripture progressively builds on itself by harmonizing with, and expanding upon, previous God-given promises. We saw that (1) Numbers

22-24 is God's word, not Balaam's word; (2) this text repeatedly refers to national Israel as a people; and (3) the blessing or cursing that the Gentile king Balak wanted Balaam to perform is at the heart of the Abrahamic covenant promises and is a direct challenge to Yahweh's authority and domain (e.g., Gen 12:3; Num 24:9). So (4) the character of God is at stake if Balaam is allowed to curse those whom God has not cursed. Finally, (5) Numbers 22-24 adds additional revelatory light that expands and harmonizes with God's previous promises about His Messiah, such as the promise of a king in 23:21: "The Lord his God is with him, / And the shout of a king is among them." Accordingly, the Christmas account featuring the wise men is not based on one isolated prophecy but a series of prophecies, most of which have yet to be fulfilled, many of them awaiting the second coming of the Messiah. And because God fulfilled the star promise of 24:17, we can have confidence that He will do so with the remaining promises.

Chapter 7: The Biblical Logic of Joshua 1-6

In this chapter we saw that one cannot start with the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6) and hope to be remotely accurate in one's understanding of Scripture. The significance of this epic battle is understood only in light of (1) the land promises that God had made under the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 13:14-17; 15:12-21; 17:7-8) and (2) the reality that national Israel was under the Mosaic covenant, and in this covenant, as part of the blessing and the curse, God promised national Israel military victories if they were obedient to Him (Lev 26:7-8; Deut 28:7). Accordingly, God responded exactly as He had promised, bringing national Israel back into covenant fellowship with Him, as seen in Joshua 5—before God's actions against Jericho began. Yet in Joshua 5:13-15, it is clear that God not only prepared the nation spiritually; He also prepared the individual leader Joshua, and this is a text Jesus would most likely have pointed to in Luke 24, when speaking of things that concerned Him from all the Scriptures.

Chapter 8: But Doesn't Joshua 21:43-45 Show That God Has Fulfilled His Land Promises?

Instead of all the land promises being fulfilled by Joshua 21:41-43 and/or 1 Kings 4:20-21, the Bible clearly, repeatedly, and persistently presents just the opposite; it does so in a way that beautifully harmonizes with previous God-given prophecies (see Lev 26:40-45; Deut 30:1-10). In fact, nothing indicates that these prophecies had been fulfilled by the time of Solomon's life or even up to our present time. Not only are these land boundary promises originally given in the Abrahamic covenant and reiterated in the Mosaic covenant and in the opening of the book of Joshua, but the Bible again presents the Euphrates River as the northern boundary for the nation of Israel long after 1 Kings 4. More importantly, twice the Euphrates River also specifically relates to the Messiah's reign, first in Psalm 72:8 and then centuries afterward in the midst of the times of the Gentiles in Zechariah 9:10. In both cases the Euphrates River will be the northern boundary of Israel for His worldwide rule.

So harmonious are God's prophecies regarding the land promise to national Israel under the Abrahamic covenant, that if one did not know of an existing interpretational controversy regarding whether the land promises had been completely fulfilled by the time of Joshua 21:41-43 and/or 1 Kings 4:20-21, one would never surmise this from the text. Why? Because the promises made by God after Joshua 21 and 1 Kings 4 harmonize perfectly with—and in some case even mirror—the multiple promises God had made previously. If anything, the Bible gives even more support beyond Joshua 21 and 1 Kings 4 regarding the future promises of God and His Messiah who will reign over the entire world (Ps 2:8), which includes the Euphrates River as part of the boundary for the northern part of the nation of Israel. When His reign does occur, as prophecy is fulfilled in the future, indeed the "plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness" (Isa 25:1) likewise will be fulfilled.

Chapter 9: Choose You This Day Whom You Will Serve; as for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord

I demonstrated in this chapter how the governing context of Joshua 24:15 moves the interpreter beyond a merely evangelistic application. This passage was not, then, an invitation for national Israel to come and meet the unknown God but, rather, a call for national repentance— especially because they were already under the Mosaic covenant. We noted the importance of tracing a line back to Shechem (Josh 24:1), an event that is even more significant when viewed in light of Deuteronomy 27:1-13. So when one comes to Joshua 24, the nation has been there before. Yet this time, instead of having the nation divided with half of the people on Mount Gerizim and half on Mount Ebal, they were gathered at Shechem where they could look out at the Mount of Blessing and the Mount of Cursing and were faced, yet again, with the decision to choose whom they would serve: the gods of their past and their present false gods or Yahweh. If the people were to serve Yahweh, they must put away their false gods. Tragically, the majority of the Jewish people came there that day in a sinful state and departed in yet a worsened status because they did not respond to God's call through Joshua. By applying the text only after one has dropped down into the biblical world, we see a sobering application for Christians likewise to put away their idols.

Chapter 10: This Just In: David's Victory Over Goliath Was Not an Upset!

Although many would not deem it so, David's victory over Goliath clearly was not an upset. In David's victory over Goliath, God had not established the odds; God had previously revealed and announced this outcome long before the 1 Samuel account. It should also be noted that nothing that God has promised, or its ultimate fulfillment, should be taken in any way other than the normative, literal-grammatical hermeneutic. God's initial promise to curse the ones who curse Israel (Gen 12:3), His promise to curse Amalek for attacking Israel (Exodus 17), His reiteration of these promises in Numbers 22-24, and His additional warnings for national Israel not to forget to fulfill the promised destruction of the Amalekites up through 1 Samuel 13 all make perfect sense with the normative use of language.

When Goliath cursed Israel by his gods in 1 Samuel 17:43, the Genesis 12:3 and Numbers 24:9 curse rested on him as well. With David walking in covenant obedience to Yahweh under the Mosaic covenant, the military outcome was already determined before the two warriors ever faced each other. Not only was David's victory not an upset, but in this same type of situation, the outcome would have been the same each time. Let a thousand Goliaths or more appear under these circumstances, and they all would have been defeated—every time—just as God's Word has repeatedly promised. When this same Spirit, who had also come upon some of the judges, such as Samson (Judg 14:6; 15:14-16), came mightily upon David (1 Sam 16:13), would one expect any less of a striking victory, all in keeping with God keeping His covenant promises? In addition, with God's pinpoint precision of both His pronouncement and fulfillment, one should confidently expect Him to continue fulfilling His Word in the normative, literal- grammatical hermeneutic as it relates to future prophecies and their fulfillment. Also, with the faithfulness of Yahweh to honor His word up to 1 Samuel 17, "the Replacement" of Replacement Theology has not happened by this point in Scripture. The burden of proof is on those who would spiritualize the fulfillment of the related prophecies before or after David's victory over Goliath and with those who would curse national Israel today.

Chapter 11: The Davidic Covenant and Its Theological Relevance

This chapter explored the far-reaching theological significance of the Davidic covenant and its prophetic implications for the coming of God's Messiah. First, God used the historical account of David wanting to build God a house (a physical structure; 2 Sam 7:1-7) to promise David that God would instead build him a house (a lineage of descendants) in what would eventually become the Davidic covenant (vv. 8-17). Second, the promises inherent in the Davidic covenant were "concerning the distant future" (v. 19). Third, God promised that He would establish the throne of His kingdom forever (v. 13). Fourth, Psalm 89 reaffirms the forever promises of the Davidic covenant (vv. 1-2, 28-29, 30-37), even though no one sat on David's throne when the psalm was written (vv. 38-52). Fifth, the Davidic covenant secures the Messiah's right to rule over all the world, as Psalm 2 shows. Sixth, Matthew's Gospel uniquely emphasizes the ways in which Jesus Christ meets and fulfills the requirements of the Davidic covenant. Seventh, Luke's Gospel reinforces the ways in which the eternal promises God made in the Davidic covenant apply to Jesus. Eighth, Paul's introduction to Romans (1:1-4), and later his death-row epistle of 2 Timothy (vv. 1-8) point to God's promises made to the Davidic covenant heir, Jesus Christ. Ninth, the Davidic covenant promises most certainly would have been something that Jesus taught concerning Himself in Luke 24. Tenth and finally, Matthew 1:1 begins and Revelation 5:1-5 and 22:16 end the New Testament with Davidic covenant references and reminders, thus bookending the New Testament with Davidic covenant promises of Who and what is to come.

Chapter 12: Worship and Wisdom

This chapter explored the biblical concepts of worship and wisdom and showed the importance of building a biblical definition from the text versus imposing on it a definition not taken from Scripture—which many people do—and still refer to their definition as "this is what the Bible teaches." The chapter offered a few points regarding true biblical worship. (1) John 4:23-24 presents God as actively seeking people to be true worshippers of Him in spirit and truth. (2) Part of God's requirement for true worship is reverence before Him. Remove reverence from worship, and it does not qualify as true worship that God accepts. (3) I proposed a working definition for true, biblically defined worship of God: a response to the attributes and/or activities of God in spirit and truth. (4) New Testament writers presenting Jesus as receiving worship supports the doctrine that Jesus presented Himself as God. (5) Judas Iscariot responded as the other apostles did in worshipping Jesus after He had walked on the water and quieted the storm (Matt 14:22-33), yet Judas never offered true worship in spirit and truth—although no one there except Jesus would have known this.

The chapter made several points regarding true biblical wisdom. (1) Biblical wisdom is a skill that can be learned. It is a sensible and systematic approach to all areas of life, as opposed to random thoughts or a compartmentalized area that is off limits to God. True biblical wisdom is solely by God's definition and standard; it always begins—and continues—with the fear of the Lord, and it must be evident in someone's behavior. (2) Knowledge is important to wisdom, but the two are not interchangeable. (3) I proposed a working definition for true, biblically defined wisdom: a skilled and sensible approach to life, by God's definition and standard, beginning with the fear of the Lord, and always showing up in one's behavior. (4) The New Testament presents

Jesus as the embodiment of true biblical wisdom (1 Cor 1:24, 30). (5) Proverbs 1-9 is a good place to look for where Jesus would have pointed to Himself as being the true Wisdom of God (see Luke 24). (6) The New Testament presents a great contrast between God's wisdom and "earthly," "demonic" wisdom (Jas 3:13-18). (7) Jesus as the true Wisdom of God is clearly portrayed in James 3:13-18 as well as in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

Chapter 13: I Know the Plans I Have for You

In this chapter I showed how Jeremiah 29:11 as a whole, and indeed its entire context, is important for understanding what God intended by this particular promise. First, the setting of the book of Jeremiah shows national Israel living in brazen covenant disobedience to Yahweh. Exile was looming for the Jewish people, as God had previously warned (Lev 26:31-33), yet God promised an eventual return at some undisclosed point in the future (vv. 40-45). Second, Jeremiah 2-29 contains fourteen messages of mostly condemnation of national Israel for their wickedness as well as repeated calls for them to return and repent. Third, Jeremiah 29:1 -10 reminds the exiles in Babylon that God Himself had sent them there; that they should unpack and live there, given that the exile would last seventy years, after which time He would return "and fulfill [His] good word to [them]." Fourth, with this background in mind, Jeremiah 29:11 makes sense only for the Jewish people; it is not a life verse for a New Testament believer. Fifth, God reveals specifics of the new covenant and multiple promises connected to it in the next section of Jeremiah (chaps. 30-33), where the same God looks to the future and promises wonderful messianic eschatological blessings. Sixth, Jeremiah 31 unfolds that when the fullness of the new covenant comes, Jerusalem will be rebuilt for the Lord, holy to Him, and forevermore protected by Him (vv. 38-40). Seventh, when all of the new covenant blessings become operative, they will all be everlasting (32:36-40) and also will be interwoven with the fullness of the blessings of the Messiah as part of the Davidic covenant (33:14-26). Eighth, while the new covenant is utterly irreplaceable for anyone born ever to be saved, Jesus never taught regarding this last of the covenants of God until the Last Supper (Luke 22:14-20). Finally, the ratification of the new covenant began the next day at the death of Jesus—not at His birth—or as any part of His earthly ministry before His crucifixion.

Chapter 14: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

In this chapter we continued to learn more specific biblical truths and see in an ever- expanding way the interwoven connections and cohesions of the Word of God. First, the promised and prophesied fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of God's temple in Jeremiah 39:1-10 provide the background for Lamentations 3:23, as Jeremiah laments with tears the terrible atrocities he just witnessed. Second, Lamentations is a V-shape structurally, with everything on both sides pointing to chapter 3. Third, in context, Lamentations 3:23, "Great is Your faithfulness," is stated in the very midst of God's promised and severe judgment—not during a joyous time of God's blessing. These statements, then, are more declarations of faith in the midst of horrid devastation. Fourth, given the precision with which God fulfilled His promised judgment, the burden of proof lies with those who would spiritualize future blessings that God has promised for the same Jewish people He has thus judged. We should expect the same pinpoint precision in God eventually fulfilling all the promises He has given in His Word, such as the future regathering of national Israel back to the land God had given them that concludes this section of the blessing and the curse (Lev 26:40-45). Finally, the same God who promised judgment on national Israel under the Mosaic covenant, as we saw in Lamentations, likewise promises other future judgments. For those of us saved this side of the cross, we are promised that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for all that we have done (2 Cor 5:9-10). Finally, in Revelation 20:11-15, Jesus will render His judgment on the eternally damned who will stand before Him. We know these judgments will most assuredly transpire at some point in the future because we have so clearly seen a biblical example of God judging people precisely as He said He would judge.

Chapter 15: As I Live, I Shall Be King Over You

With all of the prophecies that God has given thus far in our study—plus the many others we did not address—God has chosen to bind Himself by His own word to show Himself holy, powerful, and strong not only among the Jewish people but ultimately to all of the Gentile nations. In Ezekiel 20:33, Yahweh promised the Jewish people, "As I live . . . surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you." He further informed the Jewish people—and the world—in 36:22-23,

Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord God, 'It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,' declares the Lord God 'when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.'"

In these and other prophecies in Ezekiel, God repeatedly draws attention to the truth that the Gentiles will know that He did this when He shows Himself as Yahweh, and thus as God Almighty by fulfilling every word of all the promises and prophecies He has made, and thus vindicating His holy name that national Israel had profaned among the nations. Failure to do so on God's part shows Him to be, in essence, evil because if He does not do what He said He would do, He is a liar, and thus not holy—and thus not God. The character of God is at stake; His story is by no means over—and He takes this quite seriously.

The Old Testament edition of The Bible Expositor's Handbook ended thusly:

So as we pause at this portion of Scripture, it would be inconclusive to say that we have come to the end of anything biblical concerning the Lord and His Messiah, national Israel, and ultimately the entire world. Yahweh clearly promises that He will eventually vindicate His holy name that the Jewish people have defiled among all the Gentiles. After all, as Jesus would ultimately say of Himself, in a very real sense of the word, we are progressing to "the Beginning." So we end here scripturally, to ponder on what we have seen in even a small portion of God's promises up to this chapter in the Handbook, and we look ahead to the New Testament text. The best connective one-sentence description between the ending of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament will also be the name of the first chapter of The Bible Expositor's Handbook—New Testament: "We've Been Expecting You."

I hope you are fully convinced—even with this brief and broad walk-through—first, how much is left out if you begin your study of the New Testament in Matthew 1, without the scriptural grid of the few chapters we have studied in the Old Testament edition and the Bible verses within them. And second, as we come to the New Testament, we should not be surprised at all when Jesus shows up because Moses already wrote about Him, and all the Old Testament Scripture bears witness of Him, thus continuing and elaborating on His story—but by no means beginning it. His story began in eternity past and was disclosed in parts and preliminarily in the progressive revelation of the Holy God in His Holy Word.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I must note two crucial time markers for our reading and understanding God's Word as we approach our study of the New Testament. One time marker we saw already (or you can find) in the Old Testament edition of The Bible Expositor's Handbook, in the chapter about the Mosaic covenant, namely, Galatians 4:4-5: "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His

Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." The ramifications from these verses are tremendously important. For Jesus to be "born of a woman, born under the Law" is another way of saying that Jesus was born under the benefits and obligations of the Mosaic covenant, as all of the Jewish people were of His day. That meant the Mosaic covenant, which was ratified in Exodus 24, was fully functional and mandatory for national Israel from the birth of Jesus all the way through the remainder of His life in the incarnation.

CORE TRUTH: I have seen some people have a difficult time grasping this biblical truth initially, but when you open your Bible to Matthew 1, even though on that page or one before it says "the New Testament," technically speaking Matthew is not yet the New Testament as it relates to time. The book of Matthew opens on Old Testament times; that is, the Mosaic covenant was fully operative and binding for the Jewish people. As we saw earlier in our studies and will see later in much more detail, at the death of Jesus God will change this.

Let's consider a few ways we will clearly see the importance of the Galatians 4:4-5 time marker. When you open your Bible to the New Testament at Matthew 1, Jesus was born of a woman, born under the Law; that means His earthly parents were born under the Mosaic covenant, and, consequently, they were as much under covenant obligation as any other Jew was from Exodus 24 to that time. Luke 2:21-22 gives one demonstration that Joseph and Mary faithfully kept God's commands under the Mosaic covenant:

And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses [the Mosaic covenant] were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

Also, if Jesus was born of a woman, born under the Law, then that meant His cousin, John the Baptist, the promised forerunner of the Messiah, was also born under the Mosaic covenant. Thus, John is the last of the Old Testament prophets—not the first of the New Testament prophets.

So, the Mosaic covenant had a definitive beginning with Moses (Exodus 24) and a definitive ending with the death of Jesus. This was all part of the Godhead's predetermined plan and the foreknowledge of God, decided by them before the foundation of the world. The precise time when God wanted this was "in the fullness of time" (Gal 4:4).

The second crucial time marker comes from Jesus toward the end of His incarnation. In the latter part of Luke 21:24, Jesus declared, "Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." The times of the Gentiles goes all the way back to 586 BC to the destruction of Jerusalem and God's temple by the Babylonians. King Zedekiah was the last "son of David" to sit on David's throne as part of the Davidic covenant. Simply put, Israel has not had a Davidic covenant heir sit on David's throne since then to the present time and, as you will see later in our studies, all the way into the tribulation, the reign of the Antichrist, and the return of Jesus to earth. So, during the lifetime of Jesus, He was born under the Mosaic covenant, but He was also born during the times of the Gentiles, with Israel having no Davidic covenant king reigning. The king reigning when the New Testament opens was King Herod, who was a usurper, not of the Davidic covenant lineage.

Once you drop down into the world of Scripture, as much as you can, verses that you have read many times often take on new importance. For instance, the opening verse in the Christmas story, Luke 2:1 states, "Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus [the Gentile ruler during the times of the Gentiles], that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth," that is, of the entire Roman Empire. The Jewish people had no recourse but to follow what they were commanded to do because even though they did not refer to it this way, this is part of the hardships of living under Gentile power and domination. However, God in His sovereignty used worldwide events so that Joseph and Mary would travel to Bethlehem because this was the small city where the Messiah was to born (Mic 5:2), and thus a messianic promise— and requirement—would be fulfilled.

So, the times of the Gentiles specifically refers not only to the Jewish people but also to Jerusalem, which will be "trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." This revelation by Jesus gives us this crucial time marker that Jerusalem will not always be trampled by the Gentiles. The Bible clearly and repeatedly shows that this will one day end, as you will see in much more detail in this edition of the Handbook.

Second, you can look to the city of Jerusalem—especially up to current worldwide events—and mark this in our biblical doctrine: Jerusalem will play an incredibly important role in the fulfillment of God-ordained eschatological events, from the reign of the Antichrist up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth. You will clearly see this in upcoming chapters in this edition of The Bible Expositor's Handbook.

KEY TRUTH: As long as you see Jerusalem trampled underfoot by the nations, you can be certain that the times of the Gentiles still exist. So when we look at the news, we are not surprised about all of the turmoil in the Middle East—especially concerning Jerusalem. There is currently a pagan mosque on the Temple Mount. You will see more about such matters later in our studies and why this is so important in the life and ministry—and reign—of King Jesus.

Summary and Conclusion

Chapter 1 in this edition of the Handbook is a broad review of the content from what was covered in The Bible Expositor's Handbook—Old Testament edition. While this is a stirring up by way of reminder for some, it is new information for many. Whichever the case, this initial chapter in the book is a transition into our studying the New Testament. With even what we broadly reviewed from the Old Testament in this opening chapter, I hope you see without any hesitation how woefully lacking our understanding of God and His Word and works would be if we start our Bible studies in Matthew 1.

for studying Old Testament texts to see if they correctly apply to the Messiah are two questions. First, is there a direct New Testament text(s) that clearly shows the Holy Spirit intended this to be in reference to the Messiah? Second, if no New Testament parallel texts exist, who appears exhibiting the attributes of God or doing the activities of God? (7) With regard to the Mosaic covenant, it is first the only covenant of God so far for which somebody else was present and active at its ratification. Second, as long as the Mosaic covenant was in effect, the Jewish people of national Israel were under covenant obligation to do all that Yahweh commanded them to do. Third, the Mosaic covenant included the "blessing-and-curse" section of Leviticus 26 (and Deuteronomy 27-28), where God promised to bless national Israel if they walked in covenant obedience with Him and enumerated specific curses that would surely come upon them if they did rebel against Him. Fourth, we noted the eschatological importance of Leviticus 26:40-45, which ended with hope given by God to the Jewish people, especially in reference to a future regathering of national Israel to the land, based throughout this section on the land promises God had made—and would keep—under the Abrahamic covenant. (8) We explored the ways in which Scripture progressively builds on itself by harmonizing with, and expanding on, previous God-given promises. We saw that first, Numbers 22-24 is God's word, not Balaam's word; second, this text repeatedly refers to national Israel as a people; and third, the blessing or cursing that the Gentile king Balak wanted Balaam to perform is at the heart of the Abrahamic covenant promises and is a direct challenge to Yahweh's authority and domain (e.g., Gen 12:3; Num 24:9). So, fourth, the character of God is at stake if Balaam is allowed to curse those whom God has not cursed. Finally, fifth, Numbers 22-24 adds additional revelatory light that expands and harmonizes with God's previous promises about His Messiah. Accordingly, the Christmas account featuring the wise men is not based on one isolated prophecy but a series of prophecies, most of which have yet to be fulfilled; many of them await the second coming of the Messiah. And because God fulfilled the star promise of Numbers 24:17, we can have confidence that He will do so with the remaining promises.

In this chapter we also saw that (9) we cannot start with the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6) and hope to be remotely accurate in interpreting Scripture. The significance of this epic battle is understood only in light of, first, the land promises that God had made under the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 13:14-17; 15:12-21; 17:7-8), and second, the reality that national Israel was under the Mosaic covenant, and in this covenant, as part of the blessing and the curse, God promised national Israel military victories if they were obedient to Him (Lev 26:7-8; Deut 28:7). Accordingly, God responded exactly as He had promised, bringing national Israel back into covenant fellowship with Him, as seen in Joshua 5—before God's actions against Jericho began. (10) Instead of all the land promises being fulfilled by Joshua 21:41-43 and/or 1 Kings 4:20-21, the Bible clearly, repeatedly, and persistently presents just the opposite. It does so in a way that beautifully harmonizes with previous God-given prophecies (see Lev 26:40-45; Deut 30:1-10). In fact, nothing indicates that these prophecies had been fulfilled by the time of Solomon's life or even up to our present time. Not only are these land boundary promises originally given in the Abrahamic covenant and reiterated in the Mosaic covenant and in the opening of the book of Joshua, but the Bible again presents the Euphrates River as the northern boundary for the nation of Israel long after 1 Kings 4. More important, twice the Euphrates River also specifically relates to the Messiah's reign, first in Psalm 72:8, and then centuries afterward in the midst of the times of the Gentiles in Zechariah 9:10. In both cases the Euphrates River will be the northern boundary of Israel for His worldwide rule. So harmonious are God's prophecies regarding the land promise to national Israel under the Abrahamic covenant, that if one did not know of an existing interpretational controversy regarding whether the land promises had been completely fulfilled by the time of Joshua 21:41-43 and/or 1 Kings 4:20-21, one would never surmise this from the text. Also, (11) Joshua 24:15 is often used as an evangelistic sermon: "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." However, the context clearly moves the interpreter beyond a merely evangelistic application. This passage was not, then, an invitation for national Israel to come and meet the unknown God; rather, it was a call for national Israel of Joshua's generation to repent and walk in covenant obedience with Yahweh, especially because they were already under the Mosaic covenant. We noted the importance of tracing a line back to Shechem (Josh 24:1), an event that is even more significant when viewed in light of Deuteronomy 27:1-13. So, when one comes to Joshua 24, the nation has been there before. Yet this time, instead of having the nation divided with half of the people standing on Mount Gerizim and half on Mount Ebal, they were gathered at Shechem and looked out at the Mount of Blessing and the Mount of Cursing and were faced, yet again, with the decision to choose whom they would serve: the gods of their past and their present false gods or Yahweh. If the people were to serve Yahweh, they had to take definitive actions to do so, such as putting away their false gods.

In this chapter we also saw (12) that although many would not deem it so, David's victory over Goliath clearly was not an upset. In David's victory over Goliath, God had not established the odds; God had previously revealed and announced this outcome long before the 1 Samuel account. It should also be noted that nothing that God has promised, or its ultimate fulfillment, should be taken in any way other than the normative, literal-grammatical hermeneutic. God's initial promise to curse the ones who curse Israel (Gen 12:3), His promise to curse Amalek for attacking Israel (Exodus 17), His reiteration of these promises in Numbers 22-24, and His additional warnings for national Israel not to forget to fulfill the promised destruction of the Amalekites up through 1 Samuel 13 all make perfect sense with the normative use of language. Further, when Goliath cursed Israel by his gods in 1 Samuel 17:43, the Genesis 12:3 and Numbers 24:9 curse rested on him as well. With David walking in covenant obedience to Yahweh under the Mosaic covenant, the military outcome was already determined before the two warriors ever faced each other. Additionally, with God's pinpoint precision of both His pronouncement and fulfillment, we can confidently expect Him to continue fulfilling His Word in the normative, literal-grammatical hermeneutic as it relates to future prophecies and their fulfillment. Also, with the faithfulness of Yahweh to honor His word up to 1 Samuel 17, "the Replacement" of Replacement Theology has not happened by this point in Scripture, and the burden of proof is on those who would spiritualize the fulfillment of the related prophecies before or after David's victory over Goliath and with those who would curse national Israel today.

In this chapter we also saw that (13) the Davidic covenant has far-reaching theological significance and prophetic implications for the coming of God's promised Messiah. First, God used the historical account of David wanting to build God a house (a physical structure; 2 Sam 7:1-7) to promise David that God would instead build him a house (a lineage of descendants) in what would eventually become the Davidic covenant (vv. 8-17). Second, the promises inherent in the Davidic covenant were "concerning the distant future" (v. 19). Third, God promised that He would establish the throne of His kingdom forever (v. 13). Fourth, Psalm 89 reaffirms "the forever promises" of the Davidic covenant (vv. 1-2, 28-29, 30-37), even though no one sat on David's throne when the psalm was written (vv. 38-52). Fifth, the Davidic covenant secures the Messiah's right to rule over all the world, as Psalm 2 shows. Sixth, Matthew's Gospel uniquely emphasizes the ways in which Jesus Christ meets and fulfills the requirements of the Davidic covenant. Seventh, Luke's Gospel reinforces the ways in which the eternal promises God made in the Davidic covenant apply to Jesus. Eighth, Paul's introduction to Romans (1:1-4), and later his death-row epistle of 2 Timothy (vv. 1-8), point to God's promises made to the Davidic covenant heir, Jesus Christ. Ninth, the Davidic covenant promises most certainly would have been something that Jesus taught concerning Himself in Luke 24. Tenth and finally, Matthew 1:1 begins and Revelation 5:1-5 and 22:16 end the New Testament with Davidic covenant references and reminders, thus bookending the New Testament with Davidic covenant promises of Who and what is to come.

We further saw in this chapter (14) the biblical concepts of true worship and true biblical wisdom and showed the importance of building a biblical definition from the text versus imposing on it a definition not taken from Scripture—which many people do, still referring to their definitions as "this is what the Bible teaches." (15) While many Christians consider a paraphrasing of Jeremiah 29:11 to be a personal life-verse ("I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, ". . . to give you a future and a hope"), we saw how verse 11 as a whole, and indeed its entire context, is important for understanding what God intended by this particular promise. First, the setting of the book of Jeremiah shows national Israel living in brazen covenant disobedience to Yahweh. Exile was looming for the Jewish people, as God had previously warned (Lev 26:31-33). Yet God promised an eventual return at some undisclosed point in the future (vv. 40-45). Second, Jeremiah 2-29 contains fourteen messages of mostly condemnation of national Israel for their wickedness as well as repeated calls for them to return and repent. Third, Jeremiah 29:1-10 reminds the exiles in Babylon that God Himself had sent them there; that they should unpack and live there, given that the exile would last seventy years, after which time He would return "and fulfill [His] good word to [them]." Fourth, with this background in mind, verse 11 makes sense only for the Jewish people; it is not meant as a life verse for a New Testament believer. In addition to this, we also studied (16) how dropping down into the world of the passage from which the beautiful hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" is based shows an entirely different background to the concept than most people realize. First, the promised and prophesied fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of God's temple in Jeremiah 39:1-10 provide the background for Lamentations 3:23 as Jeremiah laments with tears the terrible atrocities he just witnessed. Second, Lamentations is a V-shape structurally, with everything on both sides pointing to chapter 3. Third, in context, Lamentations 3:23, "Great is Your faithfulness," is stated in the very midst of God's promised and severe judgment—not during a joyous time of receiving God's blessings. These statements, then, are more declarations of faith in the midst of horrid devastation. Fourth, given the precision with which God fulfilled His promised judgment, the burden of proof lies with those who would spiritualize future blessings that God has promised for the same Jewish people He has thus judged.

We saw with all of the prophecies that God has given thus far in our study—plus the many others I did not address—that (17) God has chosen to bind Himself by His own word to show Himself holy, powerful, and strong not only among the Jewish people but ultimately to all of the Gentile nations. In Ezekiel 20:33, Yahweh promised the Jewish people, "As I live . . . surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you." He further informed the Jewish people—and the world—in Ezekiel 36:22-23,

Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord God, 'It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,' declares the Lord God, 'when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.'"

In these and other prophecies in Ezekiel, God repeatedly draws attention to the truth that the Gentiles will know that He did this when He shows Himself as Yahweh, and thus as God Almighty, by fulfilling every word of all the promises and prophecies He has made, thus vindicating His holy name that national Israel had profaned among the nations. Failure to do so on God's part would show Him to be, in essence, evil, because if He does not do what He said He would do, He is a liar, and thus not holy—and thus not God. The character of God is at stake; His story is by no means over—and He takes this quite seriously.

Finally we saw (19) two very important time indicators that will greatly help our understanding of where we are scripturally. The first one is Galatians 4:4-5: "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." The ramifications of these verses are tremendously important. For Jesus to be "born of a woman, born under the Law" is another way of saying that Jesus was born under the benefits and obligations of the Mosaic covenant, as all of the Jewish people were. That meant that the Mosaic covenant, which was ratified in Exodus 24, was fully functional and mandatory for national Israel from the birth of Jesus all the way through the remainder of His life in the incarnation. The second crucial time marker comes from Jesus toward the end of His incarnation. In the latter part of Luke 21:24, Jesus declared, "Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." The times of the Gentiles go all the way back to 586 BC to the destruction of Jerusalem and God's temple by the Babylonians. King Zedekiah was the last "son of David" to sit on David's throne as part of the Davidic covenant. National Israel has not had a Davidic covenant heir sit on David's throne all the way up to the present time, and as you will see later in our studies, this absence extends all the way into the tribulation, the reign of the Antichrist, and the return of Jesus to earth. So during the earthly life of Jesus, He was born under the Mosaic covenant, but He was also born during the times of the Gentiles, with Israel having no Davidic covenant king reigning. The king reigning when the New Testament opens is King Herod, who was a usurper; he was not of the Davidic covenant lineage.

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Deeper Walk Study Questions

  1. Name five theological hazards facing anyone who does Bible study by saying, "This is what this verse means to me."
  2. From just what we have seen in John 5:45-46 and twice in Luke 24, list five ways that whoever begins his studies in Matthew 1 is starting midstory in the story of Jesus. Why are these important? Explain.
  3. What is the meaning and significance of the statement, "The Old Testament is—not was—the story of Jesus"? List four reasons why knowing this is important.
  4. Explain why there are so many different interpretations of the Bible. Does it really come down to just two questions? Support your answer with five biblical points.
  5. How is understanding the Mosaic covenant important to understanding other places in the Bible? Show ways it helps explain other passages.
  6. Why is going only to Numbers 24 for the star at the Christmas story such an incomplete understanding of the text? List five substantial truths from Numbers 22-24.
  7. List eight ways that Joshua 21:43-44 and 1 Kings 4:20-21 do not show that God has fulfilled the land promises of the Abrahamic covenant. Also, why is it wrong biblically to point to both passages together as proof of God's fulfillment?
  8. List seven ways that we know that Joshua 24:15, "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," was not originally used as an evangelistic sermon.
  9. Give six biblical reasons why David's victory over Goliath was not an upset.
  10. List eight biblical reasons why the Davidic covenant is so important to understanding the Bible.
  11. How does Jeremiah 29 ("I know the plans I have for you . . .") look entirely different when studied in its context as opposed to the way it's often applied today? Show six reasons biblically and explain why each one is important.
  12. How different is the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" when viewed with the text it was taken out of in Lamentations? How does the context for the book show this? Give six ways and tell why these are important.
  13. Why is the promise by God in Ezekiel 20:33 and 36:22 so important in understanding what God has promised? List six items God promised, and tell why each of these are important.
  14. What is the biblical significance of the two time markers that we saw in Galatians 4:4-5 and Luke 21:24? Give three biblical reasons for each one with regard to why knowing this is so important to understanding the Bible.