The purpose of the first part of this lesson is to obtain an understanding of the overall picture of the Bible and how the Old Testament fits in with the New Testament. It is highly recommended that you print the chart linked below so that you can go through this lesson and look at the chart without having to switch between web pages.
Examine carefully the first chart (below), showing the time line of the Bible. Notice the Bible is divided up into three periods of time. These three periods of time indicate the three ways that God gave law to his people:
(1) through the patriarchs or heads of certain families.
(2) through Moses and the prophets.
(3) through Christ.
Be sure to also notice also how many years each of these periods lasted and the books of the Bible that these periods cover.
The Patriarchal Period
The Bible begins with the creation of Adam and Eve. God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But they did not obey God and because of their sin, Adam and Eve were made to leave the garden of Eden. About 1656 years later the earth was covered with people who were involved in widespread wickedness. God promised the flood, giving Noah 120 years to build an ark and preach to the people. No one repented and therefore only eight people were saved with the animals that were brought into the ark. Immediately we learn something about the character of God: when God says he will do something, he will do it. Scholars estimate that there were at least 1 billion people on the earth at the time, yet only eight people were righteous in the eyes of the Lord to be saved through the ark.
About 500 years after Noah, a man named Abraham comes on the scene, through whom God will begin to build the Jewish nation. Abraham has a son named Isaac, and Isaac has a son named Jacob. Jacob’s name is later changed by God to Israel which begins the Israel nation. The families of Israel must move to Egypt to avoid the famine in the land, where they are taken into Egyptian slavery. During their 215 years of slavery, the Israel nation grows to be a great nation of 2-3 million people. After those 215 years, at about 1500 B.C., God sends Moses and delivers Israel out of captivity and brings them to Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb).
The Mosaical Period
This brings us to the second period of time on the first chart, the Mosaical age. Read Deuteronomy 4:10-13: “(10) how you once stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, “Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me as long as they live on the earth, and may teach their children so; (11) you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens, shrouded in dark clouds. (12) Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. (13) He declared to you his covenant, which he charged you to observe, that is, the ten commandments; and he wrote them on two stone tablets.” (NRSV).
Notice the contents of the covenant that God made were the ten commandments (see verse 13). This is very important to notice because from now on when God refers in the Bible to the covenant He made with Israel, we know that the main contents of this covenant is the ten commandments.
Now let us notice who God made this covenant with. Read Deuteronomy 5:1-3: “(1) Moses convened all Israel, and said to them: Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently. (2) The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. (3) Not with our ancestors did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.” (NRSV).
We see that this covenant was not made with those who lived before them or any of the Gentiles. After Israel left Mount Sinai they came to the land of Canaan and after conquering the land God led them by the means of judges for 350 years. These judges were military leaders that would lead the people against the nations that oppressed them. Soon the people desired a king, so God gave them Saul, David, and Solomon. When Solomon died in 925 B.C., the kingdom of Israel divided into two kingdoms, a northern and southern kingdom.
The northern kingdom, called Israel, was very wicked and therefore God allowed the Assyrians to take them away into captivity in 721 B.C. The southern kingdom, called Judah, eventually became as wicked as the north and were taken away captive by the Babylonians in 606 B.C. These, however, were allowed to return to the land 70 years later and rebuild Jerusalem. It is their descendants who are the Jews today and through whom Christ came. The prophets did their work during the time of the two kingdoms mentioned above.
They warned the people of their wickedness and also prophesied of a new covenant to come in the time of Christ. This ends the history of the Old Testament.
Let us read of the new covenant that was prophesied by Jeremiah. Read Jeremiah 31:31-34: “(31) The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (32) It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. (33) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” (NRSV)
Notice that this new covenant will not be like the old covenant that was given by Moses to the people when they came out of Egypt (see verse 32). Notice also in verse 34 that this coming new covenant would be for the forgiveness of sins.
The Christian Period
This brings us to the third period on first chart, the Christian period. The scripture in Jeremiah is quoted in the New Testament to show its fulfillment. Read Hebrews 8:6 13: “(6) But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. (7) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one. (8) God finds fault with them when he says: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; (9) not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. (10) This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (11) And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (12) For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (13) In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear” (NRSV)
God has now made a better covenant because this covenant provides for the forgiveness of sins by the death of Christ that the old covenant did not provide. Notice that man was at fault by violating the covenant God had given (see verses 7-8). Also notice verse 13. What has become of the first covenant? It is now obsolete.
Let us read how Christ enacted the new covenant. Read Hebrews 10:9-10, “(9) then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. (10) And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (NRSV)
When Christ came to do God’s will, he abolished the first covenant in order to establish the second covenant and it is through this new covenant that we can be sanctified from sin. We should be able to see from our studies so far that we are no longer under the first covenant (the old testament or the ten commandments). We are now under the law of Christ (the new testament). Some of the commandments of the old covenant have be repeated in the new covenant and are therefore unchanged. But many of the laws of worship are not repeated in the new covenant (such as keeping the Sabbath holy). Also, God no longer tolerates divorce for any cause or polygamy. We must understand that whatever we do religiously today must be found in the New Testament not the Old. This is the first main reason there are so many church today: most pick and choose laws from the Old. This gives us an overview of what the Bible is all about. Now we need to look at what God has commanded us to do today.