By Sigrid Fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Though eternal realities and time-honored truths are a theme in the Hebrew Bible, there are also notable passages that declare, sometimes it seems with breathless wonder, that God will do something new. More than once, Isaiah receives a word from God promising that he will do a new thing: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isa 43: 18-19a; see also Isa 42: 9). Jesus’ disciples, and in fact all of Israel, hoped for the restoration of all things—that is, the restoration of Israel’s sovereignty under a king like David.
This hope, that the kingdom would be restored, was the Messianic hope of first-century Israel. Luke writes: “And so when they [the disciples] had come together, they were asking him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’” (Acts 1: 6-8 NASB). This empowerment by the Holy Spirit Jesus promised would not be a restoration so much as the thrivingof a new kingdom. It is inclusive, not just populated by God’s ancient people Israel. All who confess the Lord Jesus andbelieve he rose from the dead are included. Jesus’ own gospel message focused on the kingdom of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1: 15). John the Baptist had preached the same message—the kingdom is at hand. This anew thing!
The amazing proclamation never mentions sacrifices inthe temple. This was a new way to be right with God. And Jesus, God the Son, who having taken on human flesh and the mortality that goes with it, wholly identified with human sinners though he himself had no sin requiring repentance (2 Cor 5: 21): As the Son of Man he came to John for baptism. That this new teaching–God’s kingdom, the requisite baptism—were according to God ‘s will the report of Jesus baptismshows. God the Father spoke: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1: 11). John, the son of a priest, oddly never mentioned sacrifices or worship in the temple. This is a new thing! The cross was still to come and the final sacrifice, perfect and complete for all time, had not yet been made. Indeed, omission of all reference to the Mosaic sacrifice system foreshadows the cross. Jesus came to “fulfill, not abolish” the law (Matt 5: 17). With the cross a new covenant was established in his blood (Luke 22: 20).
The night Pharisee Nicodemus slipped into the presence of this much talked-about young rabbi, Jesus again broached the topic of a new thing: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3: 3 NASB). The phrase “born again” in Greek can also mean “born anew, born over again” though the first dictionary definition is “born from above, from a higher place.” This is the new thing that must happen “if one is to see kingdom of God,” Jesus said. We recall the line in his prayer: ”Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”(Matt 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 2-4).
Paul will soon write the Corinthian Christians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5: 17). In another letter to the Corinthians, Paul likens Christ to a new Adam. But he is the bringer of life rather than death: “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor 15: 21-22). Don’t let anyone make you doubt the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Pauland John both declare its centrality: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom 10: 9; see also I John 4:2-3).
The Book, an emphatic witness of the wondrous new things God does again and again, ends on the same note: “And he who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And he said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end’” (Rev 21: 5-6a).