There was once an evangelist during the days of tent camp meetings who said that in his next sermon, he would remove a page from the bible. Some were enraged that he would dare apply such authority. Others were enthralled at the idea of there being an obsolete page in the bible. All week, congregants were in uproar debating which page would be removed. Finally, the day came. The pastor rose to the stage and opened his bible. He then lifted a single page and tore it out. Once the hum of shock settled he explained that the page was the blank separation dividing the Old Testament and the New Testament.
This action, though highly theatrical, is a good choice. However the physical act of removing the single piece of paper that divides the Old and New Testament is secondary to addressing the mental divide. Even seasoned believers can be guilty of forgetting that the bible is one fluid story. In isolating the two testaments, we’re cutting the story in half, removing vital context that provides deeper understanding and major impact. Within this divide is the skimming of prophecy.
Prophecy has been classified as a very intense topic of study isolated in the Old Testament. Yet prophecies foretold in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament, setting the stage for Christ and His ministry. Without the set up from prophecies found in Isaiah, Psalms, and Deuteronomy, the power is watered down. We must recognize that key steps in Christ’s ministry weren't spur of the moment outbursts of divine love, but the fulfillment of prophecies called almost centuries prior, and are
Clinton Wahlen, associate director for the Biblical Research Institute, is quick to point out the dangers of skipping over the Old Testament and its prophecies “What we need is a full picture of what the bible has to say, and that's what prophecy helps us do actually it helps us see the big picture.” There is a literary quality to both the biblical story and its structure that is made all the more striking by its truth and reality. Christ’s ministry alone fulfills nearly 45 prophecies laid out in the Old Testament. After all, it was the prophecy of the Messiah that the Jewish people were dependent on, and set their anticipation for the Son of God. Their expectations however, were defined by isolated passages and societal hopes that had superimposed themselves over scripture or their understanding of God. In short, they forgot the larger narrative.
In understanding any topic of the bible, be it holiness, sin, grace, or repentance it will always connect with the first three chapters of Genesis and Christ. These are the peaks of the gospel story, the context and then the crescendo. Benji Maxon confirms “Genesis echoes throughout all of scripture, even into Revelation.” The Genesis story is the origin story, it shows us what should have been, what we were created to be, what went wrong and why, and the introduction to characters and a pattern that would develop over till the end of the bible and beyond into our lives. All of it built a momentum that would come to a head at Christ’s ministry and death. It is two parts to the same story.
Prophecy adds flesh to this by providing details ahead of time revealing what to expect. Prophecy is a promise, a preview, the identification card, that allows us to recognize the fulfillment when it happens. It is God being transparent with us about what’s going to happen. Like the teasers found in books and films which reveal the big event, such is the role of prophecy. To dismiss prophecy as an archaic piece of the bible would be to misclassify it as superfluous. In doing so, we run the risk of dismissing a tool which not only explains the depths of the bible, but of our lives currently. The fulfillment of prophecy didn’t end after Christ’s resurrection, but is found throughout history and current day. This is one Syllabus that never goes out of date.
We have given too much power to the slip of paper which divides the Old and New Testament. One cannot be divorced from the other, not if we want to maintain the full story. The bible is a rich narrative, as well as an immovable and nuanced truth. In stepping back and seeing the interconnections of each piece of the bible, we recognize its relevance, the power of its truth, the strength of our God, and the intricacies of His love.