Mistakes We Can Make If We Forget The New Testament Was Written Several Decades After The Events Described Occurred

Sometimes we can misunderstand God’s word if we forget the New Testament was written several decades after the events described occurred. This concept is easily illustrated by Matt 10:1,4 “when he had called his twelve disciples … and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.” It is obvious from other passages that Judas hadn’t already betrayed Jesus before his was called to be an apostle, but instead Judas had already committed his betrayal as of the time of the writing of the book of Matthew.

Some are confused by I Pet 4:6a reads “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead.” On the surface one might conclude from that verse the gospel is preached to people after they are dead giving them a second chance to accept it. But we know that is not true. II Cor 5:10 says a person is going to be judged by the “things done in his body,” meaning while he was alive. Rev 14:13 confirms this by saying “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,” meaning our eternal fate is sealed at our physical death. So what is I Pet 4:6 saying? The gospel was preached to those who are dead, but they weren’t dead when the gospel was preached to them; instead they are dead as of the time of the writing of the book of I Peter.

The same thing is true about I Pet 3:19 which reads “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” It is certainly true Christ preached to those in prison (hades?), but not while they were in hades. No, they were in prison as of the time of the writing. Verse 20 probably explains verse 19. Most likely the context is talking about Christ preaching through Noah to alive people while Noah was building the ark.

John 3:13 is sometimes used by detractors of the Bible because they assume the verse is saying Jesus was “in heaven” when the context clearly shows Jesus was on earth at the time. But the solution to this “apparent contradiction” is to remember the book of John was written several decades after Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in the first twelve verses. Verse 13 is not saying Jesus was in heaven when Jesus had that conversation (which would be inaccurate); instead it is saying Jesus was in heaven as of the time of the writing of the book of John, which was certainly true.

Many make a similar mistake regarding Gen 2:2-3 which says God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” That passage makes it clear God rested on the seventh day of creation, but the Seventh-Day Adventists assume God blessed and sanctified the Sabbath day at the time of this resting. But all we really know is that God blessed and sanctified the Sabbath Day by the time Moses wrote the book of Genesis hundreds of years later. And the past tense used in the last part of verse 3 seems to actually indicate that later timing, but that is generally ignored by present day Sabbath keepers.

One other related mistake that is sometimes made: Many preachers may put too much emphasis on what the New Testament books/letters would mean to those initially addressed. We certainly should take that into consideration (it meant something to them), but a mistake is made if we don’t also remember the books/letters were written with all Christians (for over 19 centuries now) in mind (it also means something to us). For example we all agree some of the teaching Jesus did while on earth was regarding Old Testament law, but some will say he only taught regarding Old Testament law, because that was the law in effect when He preached. But that ignores the fact the four gospels (recording His teaching) were written several decades after the described events occurred (when the New Testament was in effect). Knowing that, it only makes sense that much of what is recorded for us that Jesus taught would be regarding New Testament law, because that was the law in effect when the books/letter were written and distributed. Another example: we can tell from I Cor 5:9 that Paul evidently wrote to the Corinthians before his book of First Corinthians. But that previous letter is not part of the Bible, is it? So God deemed that letter only valuable for the Corinthians of that time, but what we call First and Second Corinthians He deemed valuable to Christians for all time, because he included them in the New Testament canon. So it is very important to remember that fact when studying First and Second Corinthians; they weren’t just written for the Corinthian church at that time, but written for every Christian every where for all time (I Cor 1:2). The same applies to all the other New Testament books.

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