Occasionally, I come across the assertion by some that the Bible portrays “two Gods.” The God of the Old Testament is wrathful while the God of the New Testament is loving. But is that truly how God is depicted in the Bible? The truth is, with just some serious reading, one can see that, just as Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” That the God of both the Old and New Testaments are one and the same. They are both written as a “loving father” and as a “righteous judge”. That connection only adds to the credibility of the internal consistency of the Bible and silences the argument that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New.
Only One God of the Bible
“Why is the God of the Old Testament so wrathful and the God of the New Testament so loving? They must be different Gods!” Is how the argument usually goes. I could see what they mean, for the most part. When one skims through the Old Testament, one is quickly introduced to a wrathful God who “killed people” who refused to worship Him! He was petty and jealous and allowed poor ol’ Job to be afflicted for what, after a superficial reading, would appear to be…just, “reasons”.
But, was the Old Testament God really like that?
I was able to talk to Joel Sims, one of the Elders at the Messianic Congregation I attend. As a Jewish man, he came to faith in Jesus having only read the Old Testament (Tanakh): he didn’t read the New Testament (Brit Chadashah) until after he believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. As such, I thought getting his perspective on the matter might be refreshing.
Joel told me about what really stood out to him in the Old Testament that lead to him being convinced that Jesus (Yeshua) must be the promised Jewish Messiah (it was mainly the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. Plus, the Messianic Psalms like Psalm 22.) But when I asked him if he saw any difference between the God described in the Old and New Testaments and he said,
“The only difference I saw was that it (the Old Testament) was about [re: the Messiah] ‘He’s coming! He’s Coming! He’s Coming!’ And the New Testament was about, ‘He’s here! He’s here! He’s here!'”
Historically speaking, the Christian faith began with the Jews, about a Jew. As such, one should expect to see a nearly seamless transition between both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament over 800 times! (As a brief aside, I thought it would be interesting to point out that Eusebius of Caesarea in his work “Church History” would trace Christian thought all the way back to Abraham himself!)
So, when one takes into account that Christianity sprang from Judaism, the seamless transition between the old and new covenants becomes apparent. The following points are not meant to be exhaustive, but only a cursory look at the plethora of evidence that links together both the Old and New Testaments.
God has always been Holy And Righteous as well as Forgiving
Joel told me, “When you go through scripture, sure, God can be a God of retribution. But when folks repented, He forgave.”
As GotQuestions.org explains in their entry, there are actually many examples throughout the Old Testament that assert God’s loving-kindness, such as Deut 4:31 and Numbers 14:18. Just as the New Testament speaks of God’s judgment like in Romans 1:18 or, in Revelation 19:11-16.
The biggest issue with this, I believe, is the problem that we as human beings have with perception. Some, want to only focus on God’s judgment and wrath, while others only want to focus on God’s love. The fact is, with a thorough reading of scripture, you see that God is portrayed in a very balanced manner. He gets angry, but He also forgives. He hates sin, but He is also the source of love.
God has always wanted Faith not Works
When you look at the Bible, you’ll see that Abraham, as the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 4:3, was considered righteous before God, not by his works, but by faith, “What does scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Christians are often accused of being hypocritical for not following the Old Testament Laws (A Clear Lens’ Nate wrote a great piece about that here.) Yet, many forget that the Laws were made for a specific people for a specific time. Besides, one could make the argument that the Law was never meant to be permanent as Moses himself predicted it’d be broken in the Ha’Azinu or, “The Song of Moses” found in Duet. 32:1-43. And, as the One For Israel team states in their book, “Reading Moses, Seeing Jesus”:
“‘…God explains to Moses quite explicitly the purpose for his dramatic appearance to Israel on Mount Sinai: that the people may ‘believe’. Faith is what God expects from Israel as the proper response to their Sinai experience.”
As Joel told me, “Even in the Old Testament, it’s about God and His provision. Not what we can do for ourselves, but what God will do. God always wanted us to come to Him as faithful, contrite, children. He wants a contrite heart, not rituals.”
Similarities between Jesus and The Angel of the Lord
One of the more fascinating aspects of the internal continuity of the Bible are the striking similarities between the “three divine persons” that make up the God of Israel, Yahweh, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, you are introduced to “The Lord, The Spirit of the Lord, and the Angel of the Lord”. While in the New Testament, we have “The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit”.
The argument that the Trinity can be found in the Tanakh is worth its own piece entirely (Inspiring Philosophy has a great video on it here.) However, for the sake of time, I’ll concentrate on just a few of the similarities between Jesus/Yeshua and “The Angel of the Lord”:
Both are perceived to be God
In Genesis 16, Hagar and her son with Abraham, Ishmael, ran away after being mistreated by Sarah. The Angel of the Lord appears to her and not only did he promise to increase her descendants (interestingly he promised to do so, he didn’t say “God would” or “the Lord would” – Gen 16:9-10) but, Hagar recognized him as being God:
“Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees;’ for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?'”
After reports of Jesus’ resurrection hit Thomas, natural skeptic as he was, he refused to believe the reports until he was able to see and touch where the nails were driven through his Rabbi’s hands and feet. When Jesus revealed himself and allowed Thomas to do just that, Thomas called him “…my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
Both Forgive Sin
In Zechariah 3:3-4, Joshua is standing before the Angel of the Lord in dirty clothes and the Angel of the Lord speaks to him saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, ‘See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.'”
And in one of the most iconic moments in the New Testament, Matthew describes a paralyzed man is brought to Jesus by his friends. And, as Matthew 9:2 describes, “…when Jesus saw their faith he said, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”
Both Accept Worship
In Judges 16:17-21, we see that Gideon sets out an offering of food and the Angel of the Lord accepts it and sets it on fire, consuming it:
“Gideon replied, ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you’…The angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread, and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.”
When we’re introduced to regular angels in the Tanakh, they’re usually pretty quick to reject worship as in Revelation 22:9. I could be wrong, but I’m sure a regular, run-of-the-mill angel would reject an offering, too.
Jesus, in addition to his claims of divinity (Mark 14:61-63), also accepted worship:
“…And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.” (Matt 28:8-9)
The Same Yesterday and Today and Forever
With a thorough reading of the Bible, one can rightly believe that the entirety of the text speaks of only one God, adding to the credibility of the text’s internal consistency.
As GotQuestions.org aptly states:
“The fact that the Bible is God’s progressive revelation of Himself to us through historical events and through His relationship with people throughout history might contribute to misconceptions about what God is like in the Old Testament as compared to the New Testament. However, when one reads both the Old and the New Testaments, it becomes evident that God is not different from one testament to another and that God’s wrath and His love are revealed in both testaments.”