9.5 -- A Preview of the New Testament
The New Testament revelation speaks to these issues, but not always with a uniform voice. An over-concise overview might observe that Jesus provided the acts of revelation, Paul gave the explication of these events, and Peter and James (and the Judaizers) the conservative reaction. The continuity of nearly 2000 years of sacred history was overthrown as the "nation of God," or the "community of faith," made a wrenching transition from its Hebrew foundation to a Gentile superstructure. The definitions of righteousness, holiness, acceptance with God, sin, faith, the Temple, the Law -- all underwent drastic revision in the wake of Jesus' actions and teachings, and Paul's writings. The New Testament is not merely a "revelation" but also a "revolution," for the changes were accomplished in only a couple of generations.
The magnitude of the changes cannot be overstated. Where else in history do we have a national religion everted?-- where the insiders under the Old Covenant are excluded in the New; the old hierarchy is overthrown, and the rabble assume power; the covenant people are disowned, and the despised classes are awarded full citizenship. All the ethnic trappings of the old religion disappear: circumcision, food laws, sacrifices, Mosaic law, Hebrew language, priesthood. What it amounted to was a French Revolution of the spiritual world.
None of this was apparent at the beginning of the New Testament age. Indeed, Jesus' own ministry emphasized continuity with and fidelity to the Jewish revelation. But by making himself the criterion of salvation, he made the Old Covenant obsolete. It came to be viewed as preparatory to the Christian dispensation, without any intrinsic or eternal value of its own. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor 5:17 KJV). Righteousness with God was no longer confined to members of a geographically circumscribed community linked by language, ritual, conduct and common history, but now was opened up to an international fellowship of people with no connecting ties except the oral confession that Jesus Christ was Lord of the universe. The entire heritage of Israel -- sacred history, covenant promises, favored status -- was appropriated by this horde of aliens.
It was the reverse of Joshua's invasion of Canaan, in which the Israelites expropriated cities, herds and vineyards from the native inhabitants. Now the pagans rushed in and carried off all the treasures of Israel: descent from Abraham (spiritualized), the experience of Exodus (from sin), the covenant blessing of God, and His Presence in their midst, constituting them as His holy nation.
We will not attempt to deal with these many aspects of the transition from Israel as nation to Israel as church. Our focus will be limited to the racial teachings of Jesus and the authors of the New Testament. Yet this is close to the center of the Gospel message itself – as the Blood becomes the constituting factor of the new humanity.