Finally, How To Understand The New Testament

Finally, How To Understand The New Testament

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June 11th 2018


Professors Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart state that the entire framework of the New Testament is eschatological (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, 2003:145). “Eschatology”, they write, “has to do with the end, when God brings this age to its close.” Hence my double entendre heading – Understanding what the Bible teaches about “finally” (Eschatology) is necessary in order to understand what the New Testament teaches.   

“Most Jews in Jesus’ day were eschatological in the their thinking. That is, they thought they lived at the very brink of time, when God would step into history and bring an end to this age and usher in the age to come. The Greek word for the end they were looking for is eschaton“, they write. To this, most scholars would give a hearty ‘Amen!’ This explains why even Christ’s disciples asked the resurrected Christ, “Will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) And Christ’s response to their question is very telling: “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.'”  In other words, Your expectations of what the Messiah was to do, are wrong. The Father has a plan and He has determined when it will be fulfilled. Bear this in mind when you’re reading through the New Testament. Note the eschatological expressions in the New Testament such as “last days” (Acts 2:17; 2Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2), “end of the age/s” (Matt. 13:49; 1Cor. 10:11; Heb. 9:26), refer not to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah bringing about the end of the Roman Occupation, but to the end of the Old Covenant because the Messiah had established a New Covenant at Calvary. This is why Hebrews 8:13 declares that the Old Covenant had been ‘made obsolete’ and was ‘about to be done away with’ – that is, the end of the Old Covenant was about to be completed.

Diagram taken from the book, The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible

Diagram taken from the book, The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible

Because the study of Eschatology is about final things, it presumes that there is divine plan. Like any good story, this divine plan isn’t merely how a chapter ends, but how the story itself ends. Thus, eschatology is the study of God’s unfolding plan which is formatted by a Part 1 (the Old Covenant) and Part 2 (the New Covenant). Most of the eschatological language of the New Testament actually refers to the end of the Old Covenant (the drawing to a close of ‘Part 2’).

As you have a look through the articles on this site, I hope you’ll come to understand what the New Testament means by such eschatological expressions. [Begin]

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The Bible Isn’t The Problem

The Bible Isn’t The Problem

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Dr. Andrew Corbett, December 2017

Even the best of people misunderstand what God’s Word means. For example, John the Baptist, despite having heard directly from God about the identity of the Messiah – and shortly afterwards seeing this word come to pass when Jesus came to be baptised by him – had made certain assumptions about what this Messiah would do and be like. But when John was thrown in prison by Herod, he sent messengers to Jesus to ask Him a question which was perplexing Him.

¶ The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”
Luke 7:18-20

John had done what many people do when they read the Bible. Rather than accepting the Word of the Lord for what it says, John had made certain interpretations and assumptions of it. Perhaps, like many of the Jews of his day, John had interpreted the prophecies of the Messiah as the conquering King who was to vanquish the Romans, restore the throne of David, and ultimately usher in world peace. But Jesus the Christ did not fit John the Baptist’s interpretation of who the messiah was supposed to be.  

And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
John 1:32-34

When the messengers from John the Baptist came to Jesus with John’s question, Jesus didn’t correct his misinterpretation. Instead, He answered John’s question with evidence confirming that He was indeed the One.

Many people do the same today with Bible prophecy. They read Bible prophecies and, like John the Baptist, they make some wild assumptions about them and mistakenly declare their interpretation to be the word of the Lord. For example, take the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 and 25. Many people assume that Matthew 24 is about the return of Christ. This is despite the word ‘return’ not appearing in the Disciples’ questions to Christ – or in His answer to them! In Matthew 24:30 Jesus says that He was to “come” on the “clouds of heaven”. Yet despite this, many people assume that when He said “come” He meant return, and that when He said it would be on the clouds of heaven that He actually meant the clouds of planet earth. I wonder how many people realise that He was citing a Daniel passage in which the Son of Man is described as ‘coming’ up to the Ancient of Days?

¶ “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a Son of Man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

 Whenever we bring our assumptions to a Biblical text we are committing eisegesis. Whenever we practice eisegesis will can only ever misinterpret the Bible and thereby misrepresent it to others and set ourselves up for disappointment.

There is, however, a safer way to interpret Bible prophecy. This involves exegesis rather than eisegesis. By allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, reading texts in context, noting original audience understanding, and not interpreting a verse of Scripture in a way that contradicts the overall message of Scripture, we are undertaking exegesis.

To read my exegetical exploration of the Olivet Discourse, download my eBook, The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible. To begin to listen to my audio teaching series on the Book of Revelation, click here.

The Bible isn’t the problem, but often people’s interpretations of it are.

Andrew Corbett

The Divine Divorce of Israel

The Divine Divorce of Israel

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The Bible is unique among the religious books of the world partly because it is structured around a story which has a beginning, a plot, a climax and an end; and partly because this story is also a love story. Its lead character, God, is its hero. He takes a bride. His bride flourishes. Tragically, she wanders from her husband into adultery and then harlotry. Her husband pleads with her for her to return to Him. She refuses. He is left with no option but to divorce her. But the story does not end there.


She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.
Jeremiah 3:8


The Bible’s story opens with a marriage in Genesis chapter 2. From the outset, marriage is presented as the highest and closest union between a man and woman and was always intended to reflect the intimacy within the Godhead. As such, this unique relationship is identified as a covenant. This is the type of relationship which God also ascribes to His relationship with Israel. As the Scriptures unfold, we see that God thus describes Himself as a husband to Israel (Jer. 31:32). 

For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is His name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth He is called.
Isaiah 54:5

Ezekiel describes this marriage in a metaphorical story of God taking these Hebrews and bestowing magnificence upon them.

I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.  And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck.  And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.  Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.
Ezekiel 16:10-13

When the nation of Israel suffered a political division which divided them between north and south with ten tribes to the north being known as Israel (or Ephraim, or identified by its capital: Samaria) and the remaining two tribes in the south (Judah and Benjamin) being known as Judah (often identified by its capital: Jerusalem). From this point, God’s relationship with the Hebrews was then described as being married two sisters.

Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 23:4



God gave Israel laws regulating the practice of divorce in Deuteronomy 24. Prior to this, a man could verbally divorce his wife and virtually confine her to a lifetime of impoverishment.  

¶ “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4

There are two particularly important things to note about these regulations. Firstly, the divorce had to be a written document. Secondly, the husband divorcing his wife could not remarry her. Jesus Christ elaborated on this and stated that if a man divorced his wife and married another while his former was still alive, he was committing adultery. And if the wife he had just divorced was to marry another, he would be causing her to commit adultery.

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:9 NKJV

The terms of the covenant between God and Israel included blessings and curses, terms and penalties. The terms of the covenant with God could be summed up with the word – devotion. The blessings of the covenant could be summed up with the word – prosperity. The terms of the covenant could be summed up with the word – Law. The penalties of breaking the covenant could be summed up with the word – exile

And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.
Deuteronomy 28:11

And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the LORD has made it sick— the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger and wrath—all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’
Deuteronomy 29:22-28

When Israel abandoned the Lord, God sent them prophets who each reminded them of their Covenant with God. These prophets to the Northern Kingdom of Israel included: Hosea, Amos, Joel, and Jonah. If, as Jeremiah declared, God had given Israel a written decree of divorce, chances are it was penned by at least one of these prophets. What we cannot be as certain about is whether there is a Canonical (Scriptural) record of this decree. In Second Kings 17 there is a reference to prophets giving this prophetic decree to Israel without including the precise retelling of its wording or naming any particular prophet.

until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as He had spoken by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.
Second Kings 17:23

Initially it appears that the book of Hosea is the most likely candidate. Support for this candidature includes its historical context.

(i) It was written before Israel was exiled to Assyria.

(ii) It metaphorically pictures Israel’s marriage to God and their adulterous unfaithfulness.

(iii) It foretells of a coming new covenant, which would involve God taking a new bride. But in order for this to happen in accord with what Christ said about divorce and remarriage, one of the parties would have to die. This will be discussed shortly.



Divorce involved the sending away of the divorced wife. When Abraham divorced Hagar, it necessarily involved sending her away (Gen. 21:14). In Israel’s case, this was carried out by the Assyrians who took them into exile.

¶ In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
Second Kings 17:6

The Southern Kingdom of Judah faced the same threat from the Assyrians, but unlike their northern sister, they turned to the Lord.

Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ …  ¶ Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard … ¶ “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.
Second Kings 18:30; 19:20, 32

But eventually, despite the Prophet Jeremiah’s pleading, Judah also abandoned the Lord and committed spiritual adultery with idols. This eventually led to them also being divorced from the Lord. 

Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD.’”
Jeremiah 3:20



The New Covenant was foretold by the prophets, particularly Jeremiah. It depicted a remnant of the twelve tribes of Israel being reunited under a new covenant.

In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.
Jeremiah 3:18

Based on the prophecies in the Book of Hosea, the New Covenant was to encompass those who were not ethnically Hebrew who were depicted with the common Old Testament metaphor for Gentiles of ‘beasts’.

¶ Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Hosea 1:10-11

And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.
Hosea 2:18

But in order for this to happen in accord with what Christ said was permissible, one of the previously divorced parties would have to be dead. This was fulfilled with the death of God The Son. By understanding this and recognising that God has now taken a new bride (as prophesied in the Old Testament) – namely, the Church (referred to as “the true Israel” cf. Gal. 6:16) – we can begin to understand that the closing book of the Bible, The Revelation, is the legal divorce papers of Israel and the announcement of God’s having taken a new bride.

If we read the Book of Revelation in this light, we can see an acrimonious ex-wife who is spiteful and hostile toward the new bride. But there is no mincing of words in the Book of Revelation when this ex-wife is referred to as –

¶ “ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Revelation 2:9

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.
Revelation 3:9

The implications of appreciating this issue are dramatic. Rather than persisting with the Dispensational notion that God has two People who are redeemed under two concurrent and equally salvific covenants, the Scriptures declare –

¶ In speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 8:13

The Bible is unique among the religious books of the world partly because it is structured around a story which has a beginning, a plot, a climax and an end; and partly because this story is also a love story. Its lead character, God, is its hero. He takes a new bride. His bride flourishes and encompasses a multitude of people from every nation, tribe and tongue, so vast that no-one could number!

¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9-10


About The New Jerusalem

About The New Jerusalem

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The dividing line between Classical Preterists and Full Preterists is how the Biblical references to the New Jerusalem are understood. Full Preterists, who argue that all of the Book of Revelation is fulfilled, contend that the New Jerusalem has already (spiritually) come ‘down’. Classical Preterists, who argue that only Revelation chapters 1-19 are fulfilled, on the other hand contend that the expression New or Heavenly Jerusalem while indeed alludes to the New Covenant, will one day have its full expression after the Second Resurrection.

Full Preterists approach the Book of Revelation as if it is all fulfilled. Naturally then, the reference to the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven described in Revelation 21 is considered fulfilled. A supporting reference for this Full Preterist approach is allegedly found in Hebrews 12:22-.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
Hebrews 12:22

The writer to the Hebrews seems to be referring to the same New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. In this Hebrews reference, the writer is clearly stating this as a present (therefore, a past) event. This would then seem to be cased closed for the Full Preterist. But there are some serious problems with this interpretation.

Before we examine the particular texts, it is important to state clearly the hermeneutical principles employed for approaching the Scriptures. There are some negative principles (what we don’t do to Scripture) and there are positive principles.


  • Assume that a Bible fulfilled prophecy must have another future fulfilment (how many future virgins will conceive and bear a Son?)
  • Take words or concepts in the Bible as uniquivocal (as only having one meaning). Biblical words and concepts in the Bible are equivocal. It is the intent of the passage which guides the way we understand them. For example,
    What does the word “father” mean in Scripture?
    What do “star” mean in Scripture?
    What does “earth” mean in Scripture?
    Depending on the context, “father” could mean the man who sired a particular child, a grandfather, or even a great great great great great great great great great great great (you get the idea) father. A “star” could refer to an astronomical object or it could refer to a tribe of Israel, or it could refer to a local church. “Earth” as it’s used in Scripture could refer to the planet we’re on, the territory of Israel, or dirt. Just because a word is used one way in one Biblical passage does not necessitate that it must be understood that way in every other passage. For example, “leaven” is depicted as either: moral corruption, a Gentile, or a growth agent.
  • Interpret a verse of Scripture to contradict the overall message of Scripture
  • Lightly dispense with how the original and near original audience understood the passage as they were often in a better light to understand the text.

On the other hand, we should-

  • Assume Biblical Prophecy only needs to be fulfilled once
  • Use Scripture to interpret Scripture
  • Draw on the context of a passage (textually, culturally, historically) to guide in it’s interpretation
  • With controversial passages do negative exegesis (determine what a text can not be sayingin the light of the overall message of the Bible even though it may superficially appear to do so)
  • Seek to discover the intent of the author in a passage (helped by uderstanding who the author was and who the audience was)

When we approach references in Scripture referring to the New or Heavenly Jerusalem we are guided by these principles of hermeneutics (The Method of Bible Interpretation). Added to this, we are also guided by our system of Eschatology. Our Eschatological system will give us certain presuppositions which heavily influence our understanding of the Bible. If for example, we have a Futurist Eschatological system, we will regard references in Jeremiah and Ezekiel of Israel being returned to their land after exile as pertaining to a last days regathering of Israel to the Promised Land which we would claim is being fulfilled today. But if we have a Historicist Eschatological system, we would regard the exact same references as predicting the return of Judah from exile in Babylon when the conquering Emperor, Cyrus, issued the decree allowing them to return (as chronicled in the Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah). Eschatological systems matter. Here are some of the features that a sound eschatological system should possess-

      1. a means to accommodates all eschatological references
      2. the ability to identify whether a prophecy is fulfilled or not
      3. the capability to make certain testable predictions based on the Biblical text

It is for these reasons that I consider the Classical (Partial) Preterist Eschatological system the most Biblically sound. But perhaps the greatest challenge to this system is how it can consistently account for the references to the New/Heavenly Jerusalem. Has it come? Or is it yet to come?


Futurists regard Revelation chapters 1-3 as letters to seven Asian (Turkish) churches that existed sometime around 95AD. Historicists regard the same chapters as foretelling the unfolding history of the Church down through the ages. Preterists regard these 3 chapters as letters written to 7 real churches around 65AD which sets the scene for the remainder of the Book.

Futurists regard Revelation chapter 4 as marking the point of “the Rapture” which they say is yet to come. Historicists regard this chapter as the point where world history is now prophetically revealed. Preterists regard this chapter as a glimpse for the seven churches into the dimension of heaven where, despite the turmoil on earth, they can begin to see that Christ is seated on the Throne and is ruling as Lord.

From this point Futurists and Historicists speculate, whereas Preterists appeal to first century history to show that the Four Horsemen were actually the first four emperors of Rome (Augustus was the first Roman Emperor) and the fifth seal was Emperor Nero who was a martyring Emperor. The sixth seal marks the deepening of Israel’s apostasy and the seventh seal marks the judgments of God beginning (identified as 7 trumpets). These seven trumpets culminate in the 7th trumpet announcing the completion of the Old Covenant and Israel’s time to repent. The seven bowls are then the next stage of God’s judgment upon apostate Israel which culminates in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and in particular the Temple. This is where Christ comes in the clouds riding as it were a white horse of judgment. With the close of the Old Covenant system of ceremonies and sacrifices the Kingdom of Christ (achieved at the Cross and the Resurrection) is now inaugurated. Thus begins the reign of Christ through His Church on earth (“a thousand years”) which can only be entered into through the New Birth (the First Resurrection). At a point in the future, God will allow the Devil to muster global persecution against the Church (“the camp of the saints”). But Christ will ‘descend’ from heaven as “fire” (Rev. 20:9) and deliver the victorious Church and eternally punish the Devil. He will summon all of the living and the dead to be eternally judged. It is then that what was birthed at the Cross, the New Jerusalem, the place of the New Covenant Redeemed, will be fully realised because there will be no more to redeem.

In this sense the writer to the Hebrew in chapter 12 verse 22 could say that we had already come to the Heavenly Jerusalem in much the same way that the Apostle Paul said that we were already seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Thus, the believer is already spiritually positioned in the Heavenly Jerusalem even though God is right now still admitting people to it. What the Patmos Apostle saw was the Heavenly Jerusalem (in existence) but not yet here. When the day comes that is has fully ‘descended’ there will be no further possibility of redemption for anyone.

Read another comparison between Classic Preterism and Hyper Preterism. [Read]

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.

John 5:25 ¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.


 Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, Australia June 19th 2010

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