I often hear Christians speak of God as though there’s an obsolete Old Testament God and a new and improved version New Testament God. According to them, this New Testament God, Jesus, has delivered us from the wrath of the Old Testament God, Jehovah.
In fact, they speak as though the blood of Jesus is the one thing that is reluctantly keeping the angry Old Testament God from casting us all into hell.
Another close variation of this Old Testament God versus New Testament Jesus is that the Old Testament God is no longer angry. However, this again is only because of the sacrifice of the New Testament Jesus.
Either way, according to them, thank goodness we have Jesus to deliver us from Jehovah…or Yaweh…or I AM…or the Ancient of Days…or the Almighty, or whatever Old Testament name we call Him.
That trigger happy angry Deity is in our rear view mirror, and we have nice Jesus to thank for that!
The Old Testament God Did Not Change from Mean to Nice—God Doesn’t Change
The Bible is absolutely clear that Jesus did not rescue us from God the Father. Why would there even be a need to be rescued from the One who sent the Savior?
Nor did Jesus sacrifice Himself so His Father would become as kind as He is.
There is no such thing as a vengeful Old Testament God and a contrasting, forgiving New Testament God. This concept is the result of Biblical illiteracy.
One huge difficulty with this error is the Bible is clear that God doesn’t change. He’s not mean in one era and nice in another, or vengeful in one and forgiving in another. He is one way in every era, from eternity to eternity. Below are just a few verses that clearly state this foundational truth.
God Can’t Change from Mean to Nice or Nice to Mean
For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.Malachi 3:6
In this Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches that although Israel’s disobedience at that time warranted their total destruction, they were spared total destruction because He does not change.
What does this mean?
For them, it meant they were going to be spared from His total wrath because God had made a promise to Abraham that required their continued existence as a people (Genesis 17:6-8; 22:15-17).
As for changing from mean to nice or from any character state to another, that’s impossible with God. As He said to Moses, “I AM that I AM.”
When He expresses wrath that shocks us, it is because He is infinitely severe with sinners who reject His mercy. When He expresses mercy that overwhelms us, it is because He is infinitely kind to sinners who accept His mercy.
This composite nature of God may baffle us, but this is the Bible’s consistent portrayal of Him.
A Scripture That Explicitly States God the Father is Good and Does Not Change
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
James first states where good and perfect gifts come from—God. The One some people think is mean.
Then he establishes the source of good and perfect gifts as being forever fixed. Based on what? On the fact that there is no variation or even a shadow of turning with God.
Is Jesus Nicer Than the Old Testament God?
Another Scripture that speaks of God’s unchanging nature is Hebrews 13:8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Not a lot of commentary necessary. Jesus is the same in the past, present, and future.
“But,” you say, “that’s talking about Jesus. We can go with that because Jesus is nice. He’s nice in the past, present, and will be in the future. It’s the God of the Old Testament that scares me.”
Let’s see if that makes Biblical sense.
Are There Two Almighty Gods?
I’m not asking do you believe in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, co-equal in every way. I’m asking do you believe in two different Almighty Gods? As in Sam the Almighty is a rabid Republican, and Harry the Almighty is a demagogue Democrat.
That question appears silly, but is actually quite profound.
You see, Christians will generally say they believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Perfect, powerful, equal, and unified in every way.
Yet, when you hear them talk about the Old Testament versus the New Testament, or the Old Testament God in comparison to the New Testament God, it becomes painfully obvious they don’t believe this at all.
Instead, they believe a strange, incongruent, and illogical concept of “God” versus “Jesus” more akin to Sam the Almighty Republican versus Harry the Almighty Democrat.
Sam the Almighty is impatient and vengeful and clobbers people with law and punishment. Harry the Almighty, in contrast, is patient and forgiving and relieves people with freedom and pardons.
Furthermore, Harry always has to keep an eye on Sam because given the opportunity, Sam would grind us into powder.
Of course, God in the Old Testament is Sam with his law and order. And Jesus in the New Testament is Harry with his freedom and pardons. These two rascals are not one in thought, word, and deed. They are two different people. And they are opponents.
There is No Disagreement Between God the Father and God the Son
Since we know God the Father and Jesus absolutely agree on absolutely everything, and that neither of them ever changes, how can we logically see God the Father as harsher than Jesus, and Jesus as more forgiving than God the Father?
Or put another way, if the unchanging God the Father and the unchanging God the Son absolutely agree on everything and in every way, we can no longer create the false conflict of a mean Old Testament God versus a nice New Testament God without being in obvious error.
There has never been a conflict between God the Father and God the Son, nor shall there ever be.
Four Lines of Reasoning in the “Mean God” vs. “Nice Jesus” Error
There are at least four positions Christians may take that could erase the artificial conflict between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God.
1. Jesus Didn’t Exist Until He Was Born of the Virgin Mary (False!)
We could hold to our error and get rid of the conflict by believing Jesus came into existence when Mary was supernaturally impregnated by the Holy Spirit.
How can there be a conflict between mean God the Father and nice God the Son if God the Son didn’t exist to disagree with the Father during the Old Testament?
Makes sense. But there are two huge problems with this approach.
First, it conflicts with the Scriptures in sooooo many places. I’ll only use this one popular representative passage to prove my point:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:1-3
The plain teaching of the Scriptures, and the position of orthodox Christianity since its founding by Jesus Christ, is that Jesus Christ is one personality of the eternal holy trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
He is the eternal Son, with no beginning or end, who took on the form of human flesh as His part in providing salvation.
He has always existed.
Second, if Jesus is a created being, then He obviously isn’t God. As Christians, we don’t really want to go on record as believing this, do we? Didn’t think so.
2. Jesus Existed Prior to His Virgin Birth, But Disagreed with His Father’s Severe Judgments Toward Humanity (False!)
This is another impossible position for Christians to consciously believe. For if Jesus disagrees with God on anything, there is disunity in the Trinity. Furthermore, if God the Father and God the Son disagree, then one or both of them are wrong!
Another position I don’t think you want on your belief resume.
3. Jesus Existed Prior to His Virgin Birth, and Agreed with God the Father’s Severe Judgments Against Humanity (True!)
This is a correct doctrine, although it’s incomplete.
We’ve established that God the Son is co-eternal with God the Father, and that there is absolute unity in their thoughts, words, and deeds. The challenge for some is these truths put them in a precarious philosophical position. These truths force us to look at Jesus in a different light.
If Jesus agreed with the harsh stuff in the Old Testament–and since we know He doesn’t change–we can no longer look at the Son as nicer than the Father. They both fully agree with everything one or the other does. This is why Jesus made statements like this one in John 14:9:
Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
It is time for us to believe what the Bible says about Christ no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. No matter how it requires us to adjust how we see Christ. And no matter how it conflicts with our favorite doctrines.
Speaking of discomfort. I’ve got another bombshell for you. It totally destroys the Jesus is nice and wouldn’t hurt a flea heresy.
4. Jesus was the One in the Old Testament Executing Severe Judgments Against Humanity (True!)
It’s one thing to say Jesus agreed (and obviously still does) with the harshness of the Old Testament judgments. It’s another to say not only did He fully agree with them, He was the one executing these judgments!
Clear Examples in the Old Testament of Jesus Executing Brutal Judgment
There are representations of Christ in the Old Testament. Things such as the Passover lamb representing the sacrifice of Jesus (Exodus 12). Or Moses lifting the bronze serpent on a pole representing the same (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14).
But what we will review in the following sections are not representations of Christ in the Old Testament. They are instead a few of the actual actions of Christ in the Old Testament.
These actions are clear and irrefutable examples of Jesus Christ executing brutal judgments. Judgments so brutal that many choose to ignore them rather than drop the false doctrine that Jesus is nicer than the Old Testament God.
Jesus Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
You never connected Jesus to the violent destruction of these cities? Let’s look at highlights of the story in Genesis 18-19:
- Three “men” travelers go to Abraham’s home. They have a meal, and one of the “men” disclose to Abraham that he and his wife will have their long-awaited son of promise within a year (18:1-10).
- One of the “men” turns out to be the Lord Jesus. The other two are angels (18:16-19).
- Jesus reveals to Abraham that He has come down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (18:20-33).
- Jesus destroys Sodom and Gomorrah and all the cities of that plain with fire and brimstone from heaven (18:24-29).
Jesus Killed a Bunch of Egyptians During the Days of Moses
Who was Moses talking to at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-14)? Here is how God introduced Himself to Moses: “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
When Moses asked, “When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ And they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” the Lord’s answer was, “I AM WHO I AM…thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’
Jesus Christ is I AM
Did you know that nice New Testament Jesus referred to Himself as I AM? Yep. Most certainly did.
In one of the many times the Jews were contesting the identity and authority of Christ, this exchange occurred in John 8:56-59:
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?
Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM. Then they took up stones to throw at Him.
What was it about His answer that infuriated the Jews so much they’d try to murder Him? It was that every Jew knew I AM was God. Where’d they get that information? From Moses.
In the minds of the Jews, Jesus had committed blasphemy by claiming to be the One who had spoken to Moses in the burning bush!
Question. Who was responsible for the plagues on Egypt? I AM.
Question. Who killed all the firstborn of Egypt? I AM.
Question. Who drowned Pharoah’s army in the Red Sea? I AM.
Question. Who is I AM? Jesus.
Jesus Killed a Bunch of His Own People During the Days of Moses
Waaaait a minute, you say. I may be able to go along with Jesus killing the enemies of the Lord. But this biz about Him killing His own people is too much to stomach. It can’t be true!
It’s question time again.
Who led Israel through the wilderness those forty years through Moses? Uh hum. Go on and say it. I AM—Jesus.
And we all know that Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is a forty-year record of I AM-Jesus directly killing tens of thousands of His own people in the wilderness for various sins.
Still don’t want to believe this hard truth? I understand. But I can’t let you off the hook now. Let’s begin winding this study down by looking at irrefutable New Testament evidence that it was in fact Jesus Christ who was executing those harsh judgments during Moses’s ministry.
New Testament Evidence that Jesus Christ Personally Led Israel through the Wilderness
The church in Corinth had tremendous problems with worldliness, strife, and sexual impurity, among other things. Paul tried to fix this in part by reminding them they were in danger of provoking God’s discipline, and possibly even His wrath.
The method Paul chose was to remind them in 1 Corinthians 10 of specific examples in the Old Testament where God destroyed His own people when they turned from Him to sin. There are two things about these examples that must not be overlooked.
First, Paul said these judgments “…happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition…Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
Second, Paul said the Person of the Trinity who was executing these judgments was none other than Christ Himself! You’ll see this in the examples we review.
Christ Was in the Wilderness with Israel
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea [the Red Sea], all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Paul ended chapter nine with him stating that he disciplined his body and brought it into subjection so that he would not be disqualified from the Christian faith.
He then goes into chapter ten warning the church that the Christ they are provoking with their sin is the same Christ Israel provoked in the wilderness—with disastrous consequences.
Notice in the verses above that Paul listed several of the wilderness experiences: the miraculous cloud, the passage through the Red Sea, the miraculous provision of food, and the miraculous flow of water from a rock.
The climax comes when he discloses that the rock that followed (and led) Israel was none other than the eternal Rock, Jesus Christ. Here, again, clearly we see that I AM and the Rock is Jesus.
Israel Displeased Christ and He Scattered Their Bodies in the Wilderness
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.1 Corinthians 10:5
Paul begins his warning to the church—this is New Testament!!!—by showing that I AM/the Rock/Jesus Christ scattered most of His people’s dead carcasses in the wilderness because of their rebellion.
Don’t let it be lost that these were people whom He had spectacularly delivered out of Egypt. Just as He has delivered us out of our own Egypt.
Old Testament Examples of Judgment are Warnings to the New Testament Church
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them.1 Corinthians 10:6-7
God wants the New Testament church to learn from the mistakes of, and subsequent judgments upon, the Old Testament church. (Israel in the wilderness is referred to as the congregation, and the church, Acts 7:38).
The examples of His judgment against His own people is meant to get us to conclude: Hey, if they couldn’t get away with sinning against Christ, neither can I.
Three Specific Examples of Jesus Christ Destroying His Rebellious People in the Wilderness
1. Sexual Immorality
Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell…1 Corinthians 10:8
This refers to when Israel in the wilderness committed sexual immorality with the women of Moab in Numbers 25. It appears that twenty-three thousand were directly killed in one day by a plague from Jesus. Another one thousand or so were apparently hanged by the judges of Israel.
2. Complaining Against the Lord and Moses
…nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents…1 Corinthians 10:9
This refers to when Israel in the wilderness complained against I AM/the Rock/Jesus and Moses because there was no water and because they disapproved of the food the Lord had provided them (Numbers 21:4-9).
Two things of critical significance should be noticed along with the obvious.
First, 1 Corinthians 10:9 states explicitly that it was Christ who their actions offended, and it was Christ who sent the serpents.
Second, the offense was against Moses, as well as Christ. This passage is a dire warning to those who despise, undermine, or challenge legitimate Biblical authority when that authority is “clearly” following the Lord.
This, however, does not legitimize the unholy efforts of those in authority, whether originally appointed by God or not, who use the Scriptures as a tool to control, intimidate, or otherwise abuse their office or the people of God.
In such cases, the people of God have a responsibility to resist such behavior. But they must do so carefully, without arrogance, and within the framework of the character of Christ.
3. Non-Specific Complaining Against the Lord
…nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.1 Corinthians 10:10
This refers to the many other times Israel in the wilderness complained against Christ and Moses during their forty-year journey.
We Must Adjust Our Perspective to See Christ as the Bible Reveals Him to Be
Many other Biblical examples could be noted to prove there is no conflict in the Old and New Testament records of God the Father and God the Son. Much, much more could be said to further disprove the false doctrine that Jesus Christ is “nicer” than God the Father. But we’ll save that for other articles.
I will close out, however, by stating this: Jesus Christ is who the Bible says He is. He is the eternal I AM. He is the eternal Rock. He is the eternal God. He does not change from era to era, or from generation to generation, or from society to society.
Preachers may build their ministries by offering gullible people and willing participants a Christ who is “nicer” than the Christ of the Bible. They may brilliantly twist the gospel to remove its unyielding demands and fearful threats.
They may expertly appeal to the natural tendency of human nature to follow the path of least difficulty by constructing a Christ who is less intimidating than the Biblical Christ.
But nothing these workers of iniquity say or do can change the inevitability of the full glorious, powerful, and violent revelation of the eternal Christ to the entire world on that great day of His appearing:
…when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe…2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
The New Testament Christ is the Old Testament Christ
This New Testament Christ looks exactly like the Old Testament Christ. And exactly like every reference to God in the Old Testament. Coincidence? Or further proof that Christ is the same God in the Old and New Testaments?
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are equal in every way. They agree in thought, word, and deed. Every action taken by God in the Old and New Testaments, whether perceived by us as positive or negative, nice or mean, merciful or vengeful, were taken by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. You can not run to One to get away from the Other.
There is no such thing as a mean Old Testament God and a nice New Testament God. For we are speaking of the same Person–Jesus Christ.
It’s time to adjust our perspective and start serving the Jesus of the Bible, and not the one created by men. For this is the One we will soon meet face to face.
As His friend…
Or as His enemy.
Here are a couple of my articles that explain more of the character of God:
Is God’s Love Really Unconditional?
Would God Send a Plague or Other Disaster?
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