The Transition from the Prophets to the Gospels

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The Transition from the Prophets to the Gospels

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These two parts of God's Word join seamlessly to provide God's complete revelation to mankind. Even though the period between the testaments was more than 400 years, the writings of the Hebrew prophets precede the apostolic writings in a manner that emphasizes their basic unity.

Consider how the closing words of the Old Testament prophets flow smoothly into those that open the New Testament. Malachi, generally considered to be the last of the Hebrew prophets, foretells an "Elijah who is to come"—John the Baptist (Matthew 11:13-14; Malachi 4:5-6).

Mark, considered by many to have been the first of the Gospel writers, begins right where Malachi left off—citing prophecies from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 of a messenger who would precede the Messiah. Then John the Baptist (the Elijah to come prophesied by Malachi) is introduced as the appointed forerunner of Jesus Christ, establishing the way for His first coming. (It is interesting to note that the context of the final chapter of Malachi also implies the appearance of still another prophet "in the spirit and power of Elijah" who will precede Christ's second coming.)

Matthew similarly begins his Gospel as a continuation of the Old Testament, giving a genealogy of the Hebrew patriarchal and kingly lines leading to the birth of Jesus Christ. The specific purpose in Matthew 1 is summed up in Matthew 1:18: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows . . ."

Yet 17 vital verses precede this statement. Why? These boldly declare Jesus Christ's Israelite ancestry back to King David and, even earlier, to Abraham. These words of Matthew validate the importance of the earlier books of the Hebrew Bible and demonstrate how he was building on their foundation.

Why does the New Testament begin with a genealogy?

"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers . . . David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah . . . Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they [the peoples of Judah] were carried away to Babylon . . .

"So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations" (Matthew 1:1-17).

These 17 verses may be viewed as a brief summary of the sacred history of Israel and Judah. They send a powerful message at the beginning of the New Testament that we must give the Old Testament due consideration.

Matthew's historical introduction is designed to show Christ's legal genealogy—that He is the fulfillment of promises made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; etc.) and to King David (compare 2 Samuel 7:16; Acts 13:22-23; Luke 1:32). Matthew's Gospel is built upon the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures and contains many quotations from them. Thus both Matthew and Mark link the two testaments as a complete and whole revelation.