Hebrews 1:1 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”
Here, in the epistle to the Hebrews, God tells us that Christ is His final word. All the previous prophecies and messages find their culmination in Christ. All the Old Testament spoke of Christ and pointed forward to Him.
Jesus Himself made that clear. On the road to Emmaus two disconsolate disciples were trudging along when Jesus joined them. When they expressed their sadness at their Lord’s demise, Jesus replied: ‘“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’ (Luke 24:25-27 NKJV).
Later, when He appeared to all the disciples, He said to them: “These are the words which I spoke to you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” (Luke 24:44 NKJV). The Old Testament in all its parts, pointed to Christ.
Notice that word ‘fulfilled.’ All the prophecies and predictions concerning the messiah were fulfilled in Christ. This may seem obvious, but it is important to observe the implications. Revelation is progressive, it is not ‘flat.’ While all Scripture is inspired, the New Testament has more to say about Christ and God’s purposes than has the Old Testament. There is an advance in revelation, and it culminates in Christ. This means that Christ not only completes God’s revelation but also that He explains it; He fulfils it. Without Him the Old Testament is incomplete and therefore not fully understandable. The truth revealed in the New Testament is an advance on that revealed in the Old Testament. Moreover, we must understand the Old Testament as it is explained and interpreted in the New Testament. The light shone on the former revelation by the new revelation reveals truth unexplained in the Old Testament (e.g. see Eph. 3:1-7; I Peter 1:10-12).
In Christ God has spoken His full and final word. He has nothing more to say, except in the sense that we come to understand more fully what He has said in Christ. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him” (Matt. 17:5).
Moreover, the law was fulfilled in Christ. While there is room for a great deal of discussion on the precise nature of that fulfilment, certain things are clear.
- Christ kept the moral law perfectly. He observed it in every detail. To the hostile Scribes and Pharisees, to sin was to break the law; to break the law was to sin. But it was to those hostile critics that Jesus was able to issue the challenge, “Which of you convinces Me of sin?”
- Christ fulfilled the law in the sense that He took it further than it had been traditionally understood by the Jews. It was not only murder that was wrong, but hatred. Adultery was not just the physical act but also the lustful look.
- Christ revealed and exercised His divine authority as the Son of God by explaining, interpreting, and making more strict in some ways, the moral law of God.
The Apostles, as Christ’s appointed representatives, carried on this process of explanation and interpretation after Christ ascended to heaven. They also interpreted the Old Testament under Christ’s authority. In these ways, therefore, the New Testament is superior to the Old Testament, and it is the divinely appointed interpretation of the Old Testament.
One vitally important teaching that Christ proclaimed was the New Covenant. He enshrined it in the Lord’s Supper. This was the fulfilment of God’s words through Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34). The Apostles explained and expounded this in the Epistles (e.g. 2 Cor. 3:4-8; Gal. 4:21-31; Heb. 7-10). In their teaching they made it abundantly clear that the New Covenant was distinct from the Old Covenant.
Recommended Book: Fred G. Zaspel, The New Covenant and New Covenant Theology, (Frederick MD, New Covenant Media, 2011) 61 pages.