Old Testament God vs New Testament God?

HomeChristianity and the BibleOld Testament God vs New Testament God?

Is the God of the Old Testament the same as the God of the New Testament?

At first glance, God in the Old Testament seems harsh, and perhaps callous. God in the New Testament seems loving, and gentle. With respect, this is a simple misunderstanding. It’s also not new…this has been a common misunderstanding since at least the turn of the first century AD.

It may seem like the God of the Old Testament is very different from the God of the New Testament, but He’s the same. His nature and character have not changed at all. How does God describe Himself? Look at Exodus 34:6-7

And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

In the Old Testament, God describes Himself as a shepherd who cares for His sheep, a faithful husband who forgives His unfaithful wife, and so on. His “New Testament character” is clearly seen in these descriptions. Yes, He created some strict rules for His people. Yes, He has always held people accountable for their actions.

On the flip side, those who see Jesus as only gentle and meek are also missing half of the picture. We all know that Jesus used very harsh words when talking to the self-righteous. Take a look at the list of “woes” that Jesus pronounced and try to picture Him as only meek and mild! We also read in the Gospels that He proclaimed a coming judgment on Israel, which happened in 70AD. Jesus talked just as much about Hell as Heaven, if not more. In Acts, Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying. In Hebrews 10 we read that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and that He is a consuming fire (12:29). When we get to Revelation, we see that Jesus isn’t soft. He carries a sword, and will judge and destroy those who oppose God.

God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness have been shown from the beginning, from Genesis to Malachi. His justice – with wrath, punishment, and destruction – are there to see from Matthew to Jude and Revelation. God has not changed. He handles different situations differently, which makes sense…but His character has always been the same. Naturally, we LIKE to think of God as more loving and kind and gentle…but what would happen if that were His only attributes? The wicked and unrepentant would go unpunished. That would make Him unjust, and unloving toward those who have been victimized. Were He only harsh and demanding, He would be unjust toward those who love Him and seek to serve Him well.

The antidote to this misunderstanding is easy: just read the Bible more thoroughly. It’s hard to read the first few chapters of Hosea and not see that God is forgiving, loving, compassionate, and patient. We tend to think of God as emotionless, but Song of Solomon tells us otherwise. Reading through the Psalms will show that God cares for us deeply. At the same time, reading ALL of the Gospels – not just passages like the Beatitudes – will help us understand that neither the Son nor the Father are playing games. Lives are at stake, and there will be a reckoning.


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2 responses to “Old Testament God vs New Testament God?”

  1. Norma C. says:

    What do people do in paradise, are they being taught more about God? im talking about the saved people

    • Tony says:

      Norma:

      Thanks for asking a very interesting question!

      We have very little information about Paradise. We only find the word paradeisos in three passages in the Bible:

      1. Luke 23:43, where Jesus tells the thief on the cross that he would Join Him in Paradise that day
      2. 2 Corinthians 12:4, where Paul talks about a man who was ‘caught up’ into Paradise, or “the third Heaven.”
      3. Revelation 2:7, where Jesus writes to the church in Ephesus.

      Commentators differ greatly on Paradise, since we know so little. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone take a strong position on Paradise. It’s a secondary matter, and certainly not one worth disputing. Here are a few thoughts that come to mind when reading these three passages:

      Luke 23:43

      Jesus tells the thief that he would join Him in Paradise that day. Based on this passage, it would appear that Paradise was not the same as Heaven. We read in John 20 that Jesus told Mary, do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. That was on Sunday. If the thief joined Jesus in Paradise on Friday, that may mean that Jesus went to Paradise and not to Heaven.

      2 Corinthians 12:4

      Paul describes a man who was caught up into God’s presence. In v2 he writes, the third heaven and in v4 he writes, paradise. According to ancient Jewish thought, the third heaven is the place where God dwells. Based on this passage, we might believe that Paradise is Heaven.

      Revelation 2:7

      Jesus told the church in Ephesus that to the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. One would presume that this is the same Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden…which leads some (including some early church fathers) to believe that Eden was never on Earth, but is on some other plane of existence, like Heaven and Hell. There are three other verses about the Tree of Life in Revelation, showing that it is (or will be) located in the New Jerusalem, which will descend from Heaven to the New Earth.

      A Synthesis

      Is there some way to reconcile these passages? I believe so. First, paradeisos is a general word that provides a mental picture of a garden, or a safe, manicured, well-tended park. It could be used to describe any place that’s like that. Several passages in Proverbs talk about things being like this garden: wisdom, the fruit of the righteous, a longing fulfilled, and a soothing tongue. It’s possible that the three New Testament passages that mention Paradise are talking about different places that are all like this kind of safe, protected, beautiful garden. Next, it’s possible that the word was used to describe two different places. The first would be in a temporary place where the dead waited for Judgement Day. Jesus mentioned this in Luke 16, where He told of a rich man and Lazarus. This place was historically known as Hades, where the unrighteous dead would be in hell and the righteous dead would be in Abraham’s Bosom, believed to be Paradise. Some believe that this place was emptied at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. If that’s the case, the same word could have been used to describe both Hades and Heaven.

      In the end, we’re left with a lot of conjecture. We don’t know if anyone is currently in Paradise, or what they would be doing if they were there. That’s okay. There are plenty of other passages that talk about where we’ll end up. Those who wish to be with God forever, and are willing to submit to Him, will be with Him forever in a beautiful, safe, amazing world. Those who want nothing to do with God, who are unwilling to submit to Him, will get their wish…they will be separated from Him forever.

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