Who is the Word Referring to?
Breaking Away from Mysticism in Faith Life: Part 3
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
How did those who studied the Bible in the past read it? They placed special emphasis on the historical context and interpreted the scriptures based on the realities of that time period. They focused more on interpreting the historical background than on the biblical text itself. Therefore, while they were reading the Bible, they were actually learning about historical knowledge. This was the mainstream theological thinking in the 1970s and 1980s in the world.
For example, when they read Psalms, they never imagined connecting the content to Jesus Christ. “Why were the Psalms written in certain situations? David wrote these words under distress because he was being chased by his son and filled with sorrow.” They focused more on the situation of that period, so they naturally thought, “This is not a word given to me by God today, but simply something David said because of his circumstances at the time.” They could only get some lessons and knowledge from it.
We should not stop at this level. Jesus has already told us the key principle of how to read the Bible, saying, “All scriptures testify about me.” Those who recorded the Bible did not know this; some may have known, but only partially. But if we read the Bible with the principle of Jesus, we can clearly understand. And then, we can recognize that even the Passover is a representation of Jesus.
Also, the prophet Isaiah prophesied, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” There were certain contexts when Isaiah spoke. There were several kings fighting against each other, so they asked Isaiah, “Can we win? What is the sign of victory?” He replied, “The sign will be that a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.” Those who only focus on the situation at the time cannot understand that is a prophecy about Jesus.
But we need to understand that God is the One who conducted all those situations from behind. How amazing! God uses not only human language but also human history as a metaphor to reveal Himself to us.
Usually, when we use metaphors to explain things, we use something in the world as a principle to illustrate it, but our God uses historical events as a metaphor. History is not created by a single person but by a multitude of people who consciously or passively work together to create it. However, all of this has become a prophecy in the hands of God, which is amazing! From this, we can know that God is the One who governs human history, and all of this history ultimately becomes a prophecy about Jesus Christ. We believe this and approach the Bible with this perspective. Therefore, when we read the Bible, we do not need to cling to the past historical background but consider them as all of this as a prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ and what He will accomplish.
But we cannot stop there. If we only stop at Jesus Christ, we will only exclaim, “Wow, amazing!” and then it will end. However, we are people who experience these words being fulfilled in ourselves. Here, we must be careful not to gradually evolve from “the Bible is written for Jesus” to “the Bible is talking about me.” In other words, they arbitrarily placed the words on themselves, but these words are about Jesus Christ. Then what are these related to us today? The key point is here. We have now become a part of Jesus, and that is the main point. Otherwise, the Old Testament actually has nothing to do with us because all of it is about Jesus, not about us. But now, through baptism, we are united with Jesus and become one with Him, and so all the contents of the Old Testament now become words spoken to us. So, in Jesus Christ, those words are accomplished to us.
God promised Abraham, making him a blessing. He is a blessing. If you cannot understand this, when we say, “I am a blessing” or “You are a blessing,” it will seem absurd. God referred to Abraham as the blessing, and likewise, we become the blessing. In fact, this is referring to Jesus because everything is accomplished through Jesus, so Jesus is the true blessing. Now, because we are united with Jesus, we also become the blessing. Therefore, the words in the Bible become mine in Jesus Christ. Now all we have to do is strive to advance towards the Kingdom of Heaven.
God gave the Law to fulfill the covenant with Abraham as I had promised, and it is called the terms. These terms and conditions, there are not only about ethics and morality but also about how we should treat God. What all the Law talks about is Jesus: you can receive the blessing of Abraham by observing all of the Law. But because of man’s own limitations, it is impossible to fully obey the Law, and God is deeply aware of it. Therefore, to those who confess that they are sinners, God sent Jesus Christ to complete the Law and gave the Holy Spirit to accomplish what the Law could not do. Through this, the blessing of Abraham came upon us. Furthermore, the Law shows God’s character, so it not only enables us to learn many useful lessons but also becomes a law for us to serve God.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scriptures are inspired by God.” Scriptures here do not refer to the New Testament but to the Old Testament. “The Bible is God’s revelation, and it is useful to teach, to censure, to correct, to teach righteousness.” This means that after you have believed in Jesus, you must teach, rebuke, correct, and teach righteousness. So, when those who have been saved read the Old Testament, they are rebuked and recognize, “I should not have done this. It is wrong…” And they can be corrected, and their behaviors are becoming righteous. In other words, they can become a man who aligns with God’s will. Therefore, the pursuit is not merely contented with salvation but also to be like God and learn God’s character.
Once we become one with God, we need to gradually understand how God thinks and learn what He puts first. We need to understand how God works, what He likes, and what He dislikes. All of these are things we need to learn, and they are all recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is not unrelated to Jesus. If we do not connect the Old Testament and Jesus, we will not gain anything. Nowadays, people often use academic terms such as “form criticism,” which simply means going back to the past. If we can treat all of these as words about Jesus Christ, then all of these words will be fulfilled in us.
Since we emphasize the Gospel rather than the Law, some people might misunderstand and ignore the Law. However, this is incorrect because Jesus Himself emphasized, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The issue is not following the example of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They, too, taught the Law, but what was their problem? What was the biggest difference between them and Jesus? They preached the Law without Jesus, which resulted in becoming hypocritical and trapped in human traditions. On the other hand, those who clearly understand that the Law is about the words of Jesus Christ will become like the Apostle Paul.
When Paul preached the gospel, he frequently referenced the Law. For example, what did he use parables to describe Jesus? It is what we usually say. When we connect Jesus with the Old Testament, what can you think of? It is that “Jesus is the Lamb.” This parable is to connect Jesus with the Old Testament. But those who do not know the Law do not understand the meaning of this sentence.
However, those who have studied the Law know what the word “lamb” means. They not only sacrifice it but also slaughter it as a Passover lamb and offer it annually as an Azazel lamb. When John the Baptist said to Jesus, “Behold, this is the Lamb of God,” he might have said it about the sacrifice of the Azazel lamb. Sometimes the Bible also calls Jesus the Passover Lamb because, through Jesus’ blood, the plague has passed.
The Bible states, “Jesus is our propitiation.” How can someone who lacks understanding of the Law understand these words? The “propitiation” is that the Israelites eat together the sacrifices offered to God in the peace offering. In the peace offering, there are not only parts that God has received but also parts that people have left to eat. Consequently, Jews and we react very differently to the propitiation because we do not know about offerings, whether it is the burnt offering or the peace offering. Within the peace offering, the Jews dedicated certain parts to God, such as fat and innards, and then they ate the flesh which men desired to eat. So, their heart was filled with joy. Therefore, when it comes to “Jesus is the propitiation,” if we understand the significance of the peace offering, we would be filled with joy because it signifies our reconciliation with God and our unity with Him. Moreover, when we have Holy Communion, we break bread together as a way to remember Jesus’ words, “Eat my flesh.” He is our propitiation. Likewise, the difference between those who know the Law and those who do not know the Law is so great.
When we learned the Berea Academy, the word did shock us that “The Bible spoke about Me,” and the word of Jesus has opened our eyes to read the Bible. Then, we have to look at it with that eyes.
The Old Testament contains many valuable treasures and records them in great detail. During Paul’s ministry, someone asked him, “Why do you want to be appreciated and get money?” Then he answered, “I have never received money as appreciation; I preach the gospel at my own expense. Besides, even if I receive it, wouldn’t that be natural?” In the Old Testament, there is a saying, “Do not shut the ox’s mouth while he treads the corn.” It is written in the Law, regulation. Therefore, when oxen tread on harvested grain, they naturally consume some of the food on the ground. It is well recognized by the Law of God. Why does the Law care so much about even oxen? It is actually something that is said to Jesus, and it is something that is said to those in Jesus. That is to say; it means do not hinder the mouth of those who are working for the sake of the gospel.
Usually, pastors are paid in the church and occasionally receive tokens of appreciation from some church members. However, some people might dislike this practice and attempt to hinder it by questioning, “Why do you take extra money privately when you are paid every month?” But the Bible tells us not to forbid it. Like this, the Old Testament contains many of the ways and principles of the church’s operation.
Therefore, everything that happened in the Old Testament is meaningful in Jesus, and none of it is disposable. It is infinite, and it is reflected in the New Testament. So, to discover the meaning of these things, reference to the Old Testament can be of great help.
Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks (Festival of Harvest), Feast of Ingathering, and Feast of Tabernacles, and we can relate them to Jesus Christ as we learn their spiritual meanings. Passover represents Jesus who was killed, Jesus who bled. And the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Jesus enjoined us against leaven, the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Although they preach the Law, Jesus says that it is his own teaching, the Law that Jesus is missing eventually leads to the doctrine of hypocrites, so Jesus discards it. In this sense, Jesus abolishes the Law. Therefore, the Feast of Unleavened Bread represents Jesus, who abolished the Law. In other words, Jesus, who completed the Law.
The Feast of Firstfruits represents Jesus as the firstfruit of the resurrection. After fifty days, it came to the Festival of Harvest, that is, the Feast of Weeks, which was the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came because Jesus went to Heaven. Jesus promised us, “When I go to the kingdom of heaven, I will ask the Father to send down the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, this feast indicates Jesus, who ascended to Heaven. Next is the Feast of Ingathering, which means harvesting crops in a barn. When Jesus will come again and gather the harvest, He will be to gather them all in the barn. Just like that, Jesus will keep all of us who believe in Jesus where He is, where the Father of Jesus Christ was. Therefore, the Feast of Ingathering represents Jesus Christ, who is coming again.
Following that is the Feast of Tabernacles. When the Israelites had finished the Feast of Ingathering and had received all the corn in the barn, they were full of wine and food and were at ease. In order not to let their heart be grease marked, that is to say, to prevent them from being arrogant, God instructed them to dwell in tabernacles reminding their past. For seven days, God made them dwell there, prompting them to reflect on their past lives and acknowledge that all these things were not gained by their own efforts but a result of God’s immense grace.
Furthermore, God made them remember that their physical life on Earth was nothing more than a life in a tent, despite the abundant assistance they received from God. As Paul also said, “If we take off the tents of this earth, we shall have the tents of that day,” the tents of the Earth are like thatched tents, and our true dwelling place is in Heaven. Therefore, let us hold on to the hope of living in the Kingdom of Heaven so that the promise of God may be fulfilled, “I will be your God, live among you, and be your God forever.” Ultimately, this shows Jesus, who fulfilled the blessing of Abraham, and Jesus Christ with us forever in Immanuel.
How astonishing! All these six feasts were prophecies of what Jesus Christ would fulfill in the future. Since all these have been accomplished, the real hero has come to fulfill. Then all of His words will be fulfilled. So when He said, “I will come again, and receive you to me,” it will undoubtedly be fulfilled. At that time, He will reward each person according to what they have done.
So, what is important to us? First of all, let’s look at what Jesus emphasized. Does He emphasize quantity or number? Quantity is God’s responsibility, and now He demands a hundred, sixty, thirty times fruit from us, with special emphasis on number, which is God’s concern. Therefore, it is said, “The glory of the king belongs to the people.” 144, 000 in the Book of Revelation is the number of the people of Israel, whereas the number of the Gentiles is uncountable so that no one can count them. We now use number units up to trillions, trillions above quadrillion, and so on; there are many, all originating from India. However, regardless of the magnitude of the number of units, it is impossible to count the number of Gentiles. This cannot be counted in any country or national dialect in this world. So, the number of people in Heaven is unimaginable. Maybe anyone who believes in Jesus can go to Heaven. Paul said the same thing. “I criticize you so harshly, but I believe you have more than enough room to go to heaven.” But the problem is that everyone in Heaven will be placed on a different level. Some people cannot get close to Jesus and even cry and gnash their teeth there. They will shed more tears than they ever did on Earth. What would it be like to weep in Heaven?
However, anyone who serves God patiently, faithfully, and persistently will not have to weep and gnash their teeth. Now we have to worry about how close Jesus will be in the Kingdom of Heaven because God has promised us that His Word will come true.
Just like now, if we look back, we can see that God’s promises have been fulfilled. Similarly, when we go to Heaven and look back on the word of the Lord, we find, “Wow! That is amazing! It has been accomplished as expected!” So let us accept the word of the Lord for that day! So let us pray for inspiration to know the Bible, and let us practice it.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center