He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me… If a man love me, he will keep my words… He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. (John 14:21, 23, 24)
Since the time I got saved I have had an interest in understanding how he Old Testament prophets applied to Christ who declared quite clearly that these all testify of Him (John 5:39), and are those which He came to fulfill (Matt. 5:17).
I found limited knowledge of the applicability of the Old Testament (or new, for that matter) prophecies among Christians with regard to Christ’s fulfillment of the prophecies. There are a few, certainly, which people generally understood to be direct and specific prophecies of Christ; Isaiah 53, of course and a handful of others, but by-and-large this seemed not to be a terribly studied, or understood topic.
I think that this is largely due to other theological perspectives taking up the main-stage of Christian thought, but it strikes me as rather interesting that Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures was a principal study of the early church.
Expressly, biblical study of the Old Testament prophecies, and Christ’s fulfilment of them was evidently a principal focus of Jesus’ own biblical teaching (see for example Luke 24:25-27). Even the greater majority of the evangelism and appologetics done among the Jews was centrally expositing how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Messiah.
Personally, I have found very little understanding of this among modern Evangelicals, or even Christian biblical scholars. It seems most biblical study focuses on the construction, or enforcement of theological systems (by ‘theological systems,’ I mean systematic theologies such as Calvinism or Arminianism (which two I mention only because they seem to be the most comon among contemporary evangelicals)). There is some degree of prophetic study among Messianic Jews, however, much of this seems to be more focused on enforcing the Jewish laws and traditions, and he continuation of genetic of Hebrews as God’s people (rather than expressly those who folloe Messiah: Yeshuah) – that is to say the prophecies through this perspective are largely judaized, which is an increasing propblem in these last days, as it also was in the days of the early church, when Paul had to write the books of Galatians, Hebrews (and Romans (I know the Calvinists teach its about something else, but Romans is largely about the election of all mankind vs. the former election of Israel (see, also post: Romans 9, and the Election of Israel))) to negate the salvation-negating errors which Messianic Jews of his day were touting.
Actually, I believe that the theological system called ‘dispensationalism’ (which is one of the widest spread errors of Evangelical Christianity in the world at this point) largely developed because Evangelical Christians, striving to empathize with Jews (so as hopefully to convert them) began studying the Jewish interpretations of Old Testament prophecies rather than Holy Ghost interpretation (‘But when the Comforter is come… even the Spirit of truth… He shall testify of me. … He shall glorify me: for he shall recieve of mine, and shall shew it unto you.’ (John 15:26 & 16:14)). (If you believe in dispensationalism, please read post: The Rapture and the Return of the Old Covenant)
Out of this same dispensationalism came (historically) a number of cultic offshoots from Christianity which were initially rapture predictors (such as the Jehovah’s witnesses, and the Seventh-day Adventists to name only two which have survived until the present day). Part of the appeal of these dispenalist systems of belief was a semblance of the return to Apostolic Christianity by way of lauding the Old Covenant as a system which will return in the last days (again, please see the post linked above). One of the appeals to groups such as the Seventh-day Adventists is their return to elements of the Jewish Law; one of their main evangelistic appeals has been to point out that the biblical Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday. This is interesting because other groups such as the Korean based cult ‘World Mission Society Church of God’ also use the Sabbath argument to verify their validity, and in my experience so also do the Hebrew Roots movement people (Messianic Jews, and Judaized gentiles who strive to follow the religious and cultural Jewish traditions).
Salvation is of the Jews, declared Christ (John 4:22), not because God prefers genetic Hebrews for the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63); neither because the Old Covenant, or the Law of Moses made anything complete. Rather, these were the tutors that were designed to begin revealing the Messiah (Gal. 3:24) who is the Savior of all mankind (He is not the God of Jews only, but of Gentiles, too) came of the Jews, and the Jews were elected to bring the orcles of God (Romans 3:1 & 2).
It is actually quite dangerous to study Jewish interpretations of Old Testament scripture because according the prophets (most notably Isaiah), the Jews cannot comprehend the prophecies of Christ (and ALL OT prophecies speak of Jesus Christ (John 5:39)).
That might sound offensive, but without Christ NO ONE can comprehend the scriptures; they are spiritual and spiritually discerned. The Holy Ghost wrote the bible, and He alone can explain it (even as according to scripture).
Isaiah the prophet was specifically commissioned to preach the Gospel in a mystery which was incomprehensible to the Jews (Isaiah 6:9-12), so the modern Christian fixation on studying Rabbinic Judaism and their interpetation of scripture is a foolish process if Isaiah accomplished the mission God gave him, rather (also according to Isaiah) the law was sealed among the discipkes of Messiah, only just as he declared:
‘Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.’ (Isaiah 8:16)
Paul confirms this phenomena is still in effect in the New Testament era, declaring:
…as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. (1 Cor. 3:13-16)
I have seen also the further phenomenon that Christian scholars begin to study Kabbalah in order to better understand the scripture. This is interesting to me, as it is expressly commanded us not to do so by Isaiah who confirmed that the understanding of the law is sealed among Christ’s disciples – and in the same passage. The Kabbalah is many things including mythical mathematic formulas to study and invoke the names of angels and demons, and teaches that Moses included esoteric messages hidden in the Hebrew of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers (but interestingly NOT Deuteronomy – quite interesting since Deut contains the song of Moses, and is the only book Jesus used when refuting Satan’s temptations (I’ll not go into why I find that so interesting, here)).
Kabbalah is witchraft – Kabbalist Rabbis of today operate in divination (I read a book about one who was selling demonically charmed aumulets in support of Benjamin Netenyahu’s early political campaign).
Yet, Isaiah said – in the same passage he declared the law and testimony sealed:
And when they shall say unto you, seek unto hem that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living unto the dead?
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them. (Is. 8:19, 20)
As Christ is, and has always been the center point of scripture, any intepretation of scripture which is not centrally focused of the Person of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel is not going to be accurate.
The most prominant error to interpretting scripture in our day was the most prominant error to interpretting scripture in the early Church: Paul warned constantly throughout his epistles to beware of Judaizers (see also post: Why Did the Jews Persecute Paul?) – those who would turn the Gospel of Christ into the bondage of the Jewish Law and Covenant, rather than to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2-4). Now, I’ll point out here: this is not ‘replacement theology’ (see post: Dispelling Replacement Theology) however many Judaized Christians will flippantly pass off my testimony as that because calling it replacement theology categorizes this message as anti-semetic so people can easily ignore it.
The scriptures all testify of Christ (John 5:39), the Holy Ghost – who enlightens us with understanding of scripture – testifies of Christ (John 15:26). We need not study the sundry systematic theologies which have been (or are in vogue in our day), but ought to search for Christ in scripture, and be taught of the Holy Ghost. This is what the Jewish prophets who wrote scripture did:
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost [and recall: the Holy Ghost testifies of Christ].
But there ere false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (1 Peter 1:21-2:1) (Again, see: The Rapture and the Return of the Old Covenant)