As Christians, we believe in the solidity and authenticity of God’s Word and our duty to obey Him in all. Such a starting point is vital when we approach controversial subjects with the purpose of discovering the true Scriptural answers to our questions.
Scripture translates itself. An easy equation to follow when studying the Bible is:
Scriptural term + Scriptural definition = True Scriptural meaning
When we ask biblical questions and fill them in with the true definitions of the terms, we come to the true meaning. Ancient and original Greek and Latin manuscripts do not harm Bible study, but even if we read these languages, we must find the true Scriptural meaning of the words, which do not change regardless of time and language. God is eternally the same. His words never change. His promises will all be fulfilled.
“One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
One Scriptural term that holds great interest for me (and it should hold interest for all Christians) is “Hope.” Defined by the dictionary, “Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” Another definition says that hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.”
But what would be the true Biblical definition of hope? Why does hope give our Christianity meaning and distinction? Why should we be ready to give anyone an answer for the reason of our hope? What exactly are we hoping for anyway?
Since God is faithful and His character is eternally unchangeable, the love He had in the past for those who loved Him is the same one He has for us today – which is profound love. In the Old Testament, we see God’s love and faithfulness portrayed unchangeably, and we also see hope in the constantly reoccurring theme: “The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked he will destroy.”
So, what was “hope” in the Old Testament? Some of the most well-known events and stories of heroes will go far in giving us the Scriptural definition of hope.
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:1-2).
“Hope” in The Old Testament
“By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death; and was not found, for God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5).
Enoch’s birthday is traditionally believed to be on what would later be known as the Feast of Pentecost, and it is likewise believed that he was raptured on his birthday. Later, the Pentecost became the birthday of the Church. We don’t know much about Enoch, but we know that his testimony was so pleasing to God that God raptured him. This makes me wonder how much our testimony means to God right now.
Methuselah was the son of Enoch, and his name meant “His death shall bring.” He was literally the age of grace before the worldwide punishment of the flood. God’s mercy was shown in the long life Methuselah lived. Very soon after his death, the worldwide flood occurred.
Noah was a man perfect in all his generations. God found a man He could spare from His wrath upon the world. He instructed Noah to build an immense ark. This ark became the highest point in the world during the flood and kept Noah and his family safe until the end of the flood.
Notice that even though Noah was an imperfect man, he obeyed God, and God was pleased with Him; thus, He spared him. Noah did not go through the traumatic experience of drowning during the time of wrath. He was not forced to succumb to the sinful life of every single other person in the world besides himself and his family. God kept him safe.
The Global Flood
This is the only time in all of earth’s history where the wrath of God upon sinners was manifested in a severe punishment for the entire earth and all its sinful inhabitants.
Notice that all the people God was pleased with were:
- Removed prior to the flood (whether by rapture or natural death)
- Or were seen safely and harmlessly through the flood in the ark, which would later be a type of our salvation… and our rapture.
Abraham pleased God with his testimony, and their relationship was very close. He was not perfect (if you recall his faults of lying and impatience), but he was punished for his sins and repented of them. Even though he lived close to Sodom and Gomorrah, he was not punished with them. While interceding with God on behalf of the righteous people in the city, Abraham reminded God of His unchanging character, saying: “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? … That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).
While Lot found grace in the Lord’s sight, we know he and his family weren’t perfect, and his sons-in-law didn’t believe Lot when he told them the city will be destroyed. The sons-in-law had a very good chance of escaping, but they refused it. Lot and his wife and daughters literally had to be pulled out of the city by the angels, “the Lord being merciful unto him.” This also was a type of rapture. Lot did not remain in Sodom and Gomorrah at all. He remained righteous despite the sinners around him, and he was not beheaded for remaining faithful. The Lord spared his life.
During the Ten Plagues, the Israelites were spared from harm. To be spared from the last and worst of the plagues, The Passover, the Israelites had to follow very particular instructions given to them by God through Moses. These instructions were prophecies for what would later become Our Passover, Jesus.
The night after the Passover, where all the firstborns of Egypt were slain, Israel left Egypt at night in a hurry, as Pharoah told them to “be gone.”
“It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:42).
This is yet another case where the righteous were not punished along with the wicked and where the Lord brought an entire nation of His chosen people out from the midst of the sinners.
The Feast of Weeks
God’s Word will all be fulfilled. And His commandment to observe seven particular feasts was not because the Israelites didn’t have enough amusement. There was a very important reason, both for their time and for the future, because Jesus would later fulfill these feasts with His life, death, and return.
There were seven feasts to observe, three celebrated in the spring, one in late spring-summer, and three in fall. It is commonly recognized that Jesus fulfilled the first three feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits) with his Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection. The latter fall feasts haven’t been fulfilled yet but have prophetical implications for the Second Coming.
The Feast of Weeks, which occurs in between the spring and fall feasts on different days depending on the yearly calendar, seems to be prophetic of the beginning of the Church by the distinctly different approach of leavened bread and offerings of two lambs. Later, Acts 2 tells us that the Church was born on the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost.
When we remember Enoch’s birthday and translation-day (also occurring on Pentecost), and when we remember that the first prophecy ever prophesied by a prophet was Enoch about the Second Coming (Jude), and when we remember that he was translated before the Flood… why, as the rabbis like to say, “coincidence is not a kosher word.”
It was the first time Rahab met Israelites, but when she listened to their story, she immediately purposed to be obedient. As a result of her obedience, the Lord had mercy on her and her family and spared them from Jericho’s destruction.
The Jewish Wedding
It is important to know old Jewish traditions when we try to understand some of God’s commandments to Israel. This becomes even more important when some of these commandments, fulfilled in the New Testament with the coming of Christ, apply to us Gentiles. A good example is the old traditions of a Jewish wedding. Upon engagement, the groom promises that he will not drink wine until he drinks it with his bride at the feast. Then he goes to prepare a place for her. The groom’s father holds the final permission to go get the bride. When all is ready, the groom plans an ambush and carries his bride back to the long seven-day feast. Hmm, where did we hear this before? Why do you think Jesus reminded us of the Jewish traditions when He made His promises to us, His Bride?
The Psalms contain a few verses speaking of the reward for the faithful: “Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him. I will set him on high, because he hath known My name” (Psalm 91:14). “The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked he will destroy” (Psa. 145:18-20).
Even though Daniel lived with heathens in Babylon under some very strict imperious rules (you must eat food sacrificed to idols, you cannot pray to God, etc.), his desire to obey God was rewarded with God’s protection and blessing. Interestingly, Daniel was totally gone from the scene during the command to bow to the image of Nebuchadnezzar (I can hear a rhyme to this in Revelation, can you?); when his friends refused to bow, they were thrown into the fiery furnace, but the Lord delivered them from the furnace, and they did not burn; when Daniel prayed to God and was cast into the den of lions, the Lord shut the lions’ mouths and brought him out. Daniel and his friends were righteous – and the Lord protected them.
Elijah experienced an undeniable rapture in the form of a fiery carriage express straight from Heaven! This event is a beautifully recorded illustration of a righteous man expecting his rapture, then being changed in the twinkling of an eye to his heavenly body and being snatched up in a carriage and taken to Heaven. If The Rapture happened then, what is preventing it from happening at any moment?
We have overviewed some of the most unique occurrences, promises, and prophecies in the Old Testament. All of them had a cause and effect. All of them held a special meaning in their time, and they each hold a significant part of our future. God is timeless and unchanging throughout changing times. He is faithful, and His Word is sure. What His character was like in Abraham’s time is what He is today, and what Abraham said of Him can be said today. We’ve seen a common reoccurring theme in this article: “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Those who loved God had a blessed hope even back in the days of the Old Testament. How much more hope have we, who have received the greatest gift in all history, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and now own some of the greatest promises made to us, The Church? Let us truly hope!
Until next time,