Biblical revelation is by its very nature progressive. Not progressive in a secular sense, but progressive in the sense that the knowledge revealed is given little by little. Then, that knowledge when properly applied is the essence of wisdom; the counter being folly. This process is gradual and is reinforced through repetition.
In the same way we train our children in life: learning to pray, to be thankful for their daily food, to tie their shoes, pick out an outfit appropriate for the activity and weather, how to sit at the dinner table and the correct manner to use utensils. All of these daily activities are not explained at once. The instruction on how to live is not dumped upon them in one great heap, but slowly over time. Learning is the acquirement of knowledge, and wisdom is correctly applying what has been learned. This process is gradual and is reinforced through repetition.
One of the difficulties that we face is the stagnation of this process for some. While, it is true that we all mature at a different rate, maturing is necessary for living life well. To use another analogy—this time from the animal kingdom—a bird that never learns to fly once pushed out of the nest is in for a mess of trouble when they meet the ground. A child that is not humble, refuses to submit, is too hardheaded to learn from the instruction of his/her betters is headed for a mess of trouble not too different than the bird. And a Christian that has difficulty moving past elementary things (the milk, rather than the meat) is in a similar mess (Heb 5.11-14).
What’s my point?
Earlier biblical revelation is foundational to believing faith. What came before, in the beginning, is the bedrock that the rest of the Christian faith rests upon. But I thought Paul said that Christ was the foundation, the only foundation, that we are to build upon (1Cor 3.11)? He did, Christ is. What ever Paul taught in the New Testament is built upon the Rock cut from no human hands (Dan 2.34-35, 44-45). He learned this not from men, but from Christ the Lord (Gal 1.11-12).
A consistent reading of the Holy Bible shows that Christ Jesus likewise understood that He and His Word—the two cannot truly be separated—was the only Rock that offered a sure foundation to humanity (Luke 6.46-49). And if we are familiar with what came before, we see that this testimony is consistent with Moses’ who made it a point of comparison between the two opposing “rocks” of faith. Only one Rock is a sure foundation that the wise may build upon, but fools have for themselves another rock that is truly no rock at all (Deut 32.18, 31).
Now I have purposefully worked backward through the biblical text (in a very rapid way) to make a vital point. Though the revelation provided in the past was sufficient for faith for those in the past, as time passed more light has been shed on the doings of God and the responsibilities of Mankind. And while, it is true that “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2Tim 3.16), it does not teach all things of an equal nature. That is to say, there were shadows and types in the past (O.T., Tanakh) that served as training wheels for the people of God, until the Father above decided to reveal His beloved Son as the anti-shadow/anti-type.
What’s “anti” mean?
This term is normally associated with that which is against or opposed to, but that is not an accurate way of understanding the prefix in biblical language. To be an “anti” in terms of Scripture means “instead of” or “in exchange for.” So instead of the blood of animals, we have the blood of Christ (Heb 9.18-10.7). In exchange for a lesser covenant, we have a greater covenant affirmed by something more precious—Christ (Heb 7.22; 8.6-13). Instead of an earthly king and kingdom, we are given a heavenly king and kingdom—as found in the God-Man Christ Jesus (Acts 2.25-36). In exchange of an earthly high-priest who were by nature sinners, we have a High-Priest who knew no sin—Christ (Heb 2.17; 4.15; 7.26). In stead of purification by water or by separation through earthly attainments, we have purification through His sacrifice applied by the Holy Spirit (Heb 9.13-14; Heb 10.10).
Again, the point being made is that though there is much value in learning that which was revealed in past revelation, a mature understanding sees Christ as the complete picture. The danger always lurking around the corner is reading into the biblical text an understanding of its revelation that is foreign to the revelation in question.
Which means what?
I have heard it argued that the sacrifice of Christ seems defunct in some way, when we look at the brevity of His earthly life. How can his torture at the hands of Jews and Romans, account for the complete purification of sin for those who believe? How can His death on the cross and burial in a grave for three days (less though, than 72 hours) satisfy the wrath of God, when sinners who refuse to believe are said to face an eternity in hell-fire? Did Jesus really suffer the wrath of God in an equitable fashion in terms of eternity?
“I think not!” says the scoffer. “That doesn’t sound like justice to me!” cries the skeptic. “If that is the reality of the case, that people suffer eternal torment for a short life of sin, then I fail to see how that does not malign the benevolence of God if He truly would torture people in that way!” declares the philosopher dressed in Christian garb.
What’s the problem?
When Job complained about his suffering, God gave him a response. When the Sadducees dared question Jesus to entrap Him, He too gave a quick rebuttal. Listen and see if you can discern what is being said to both parties:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38.2).
“Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12.24).
Job was a righteous man, but the Sadducees were not. Job believed in the Word of God, but the Sadducees did not. However, the rebuke from the Lord was strangely similar. Why?
And, the Reason for the Error?
The reason is both attempted to understand the situations presented to them in terms of human knowledge and wisdom. From Job’s vantage point, his suffering did not make sense. He’d done nothing wrong—at least in a blatantly overt sense—and so he failed to see why he suffered so. His suffering did not seem commensurate with his behavior. Similarly, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead in earthly bodies. They shared more in common with the Greeks, than with Job (see Job 19.25-27). Philosophically, they thought they had Jesus because if the teaching of the resurrection of the dead to newness of life was true, then what would the woman who’d been married several times do with all of her husbands?
The error present in both situations is that Mankind is capable of knowledge and wisdom apart from God. This is the faulty assumption ingrained in the children of Adam since the episode in the garden. This is why you have such confusion over whether or not Christ Jesus sacrifice was sufficient on the cross to atone for all the sins of His people (past, present and future). It is also why there is such a lack of understanding on how His short suffering and time in the grave could account for an eternity in hell-fire for the rebel that refuses to acknowledge Him as Lord.
God is the author of all life. He is the Maker of all things. He is the definer of what is just, what is righteous, what is holy, what is love, what is goodness, what is adequate retribution, what satisfies His wrath, what the final state of all creatures are. In Him alone are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (cf. Prov 1.7; 9.10; Col 2.3). If you would deign to have these things, it will not rest in your own skull. If you think yourself wise and crafty and say in your heart, “Yes, but I must read these things, I must discern these things, that is how I come to understanding” then all you prove is that you’re a blathering blind guide (Matt 15.14; 23.24; cf. Jer 17.5). It is not flesh and blood that teach these things, but your Maker in Heaven (Matt 16.17; Luke 10.22).
Therefore, if God’s Word attests that Jesus is the Christ, then He is. If God’s Word says that He and the Father are one in equality, but not in personhood, then He is. If God’s Word says that Jesus is the lamb—the true sacrifice—that takes away (atones for) the sin of the world, and that salvation (deliverance from sin, from death to life) is found in no other name, then He is. If God’s Word says that His life, not just a few hours of torture and death on a Roman cross buried in a tomb for three days, but His entire/complete life satisfies the full requirement of Holy Law and Divine Wrath, then He is.
God determines what is, not Mankind. If you fail to see that, if you fail to believe that, if you fail to submit to that—despite your limited intellect and reasoning abilities—then you step in the path of Adam in the garden and do not walk with the Lord of light. At least not consistently.
Praise be to the Lord of Hosts, that it is grace that saves and not our works, especially the works of our own hearts in regards to what we claim as acceptable teaching, as if we are judge; for not a one would enter in. But likewise give heed to these words:
“Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged’” (Rom 3.4; cf. Deut 32.4; Psa 119.160; 51.4).
Back to the Beginning…
As I said at the beginning of this post biblical revelation is progressive in nature. What was given in the past was sufficient for that generation in terms of faith, knowledge and understanding. However, as we progress through Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, more light is added to that former light so that we might see more clearly (Psa 36.9; John 8.12) the plan and intention of God, and the purpose and condition of mankind.
We shall return to this theme in a specific way in a future post…
 All Scripture is of the English Standard Version (ESV).