Differences Between the Old and New Testaments



(c) 2007 Dr. David E. Walker

[the following is an excerpt taken from the book Dispensationalism by Pastor Walker.]

When any person picks up a Bible he will notice a definite break, or division between the first thirty-nine books and the last twenty-seven books.  The first section is the Old Testament, and the latter is termed the New Testament.  A gap of nearly four hundred years separates the two.  The first section was written in Hebrew (with small portions in Aramaic) while the latter section was written in Greek.  So, from the start we notice that the two sections are different with regard to time, and language.  But that is not all.

The Old Testament was written and preserved through the priesthood of the Levitical tribe of Israel (see 2 Chron. 35:3; Ezra 7:10; 2 Chron. 15:3; 17:7; 30:22; Mal. 2:7; Deut. 17:11; Lev. 10:11; Jer. 18:18; Hag. 2:11,12), while the New Testament was preserved through the approval of the body of Christ by the doctrine of the priesthood of believers (see 1 Pet. 2:5,9; 1 Thess. 2:13; Acts 13:44,46).  [It is interesting to notice in the book of Acts how the words of the apostles become the very word of God: Acts 4:29,31; 6:2,7; 8:14; 11:1; 12:24; Acts 17:13 (with 1 Thess. 2:13); 18:11; 19:20; 1 Thess 2:2.]  The only thing similar regarding the preservation of the two canons (from the Greek word: kanon meaning rod, or measuring rule; hence “the rule”) is their “inspiration by God” (2 Tim. 3:16).

The bulk of the Old Testament record (what is written, not the chronological data) concerns God’s dealings with the nation of Israel, while the greater part (though not quite all) of the New Testament is relative to the church (which is neither Jew nor Gentile – 1 Cor. 10:32).  The idea that God deals with people the same in the books of the Old and New Testaments is like saying two letters, written by the same person yet addressed to different people, is guaranteed to match!  To whom scripture is addressed should be one of the chief observations of the Bible believer, and the fact that the Old and New Testaments are written primarily to different groups, is crucial to understanding the Bible.

Variations Between The Two

Now, since the Old Testament primarily addresses the nation of Israel, while the New Testament contains books (mostly letters called “epistles”) for the church, would a believer be a “right workman” (2 Tim. 2:15) if he confounded the messages in the two?  For instance, the Old Testament commands “believers” (New Testament lingo) to worship on Saturday.  Does that mean you are breaking the command, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8), if you attend church on Sunday instead of Saturday?  Seventh-Day Adventists’ think so.  The problem is resolved with the principles of right division (dispensationalism).  Some variation between the Old and New Testaments are as follows:

  1.   The Old Testament message is primarily for the nation of Israel.
  2. The sabbath was created for the Jews: Ex. 31:16,17; Ezek. 20:12.
  3. No one went to church in the Old Testament anyway, they went to the temple.
  4. Their worship is not comparable to ours, since theirs included killing animals, while ours is “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  [No Christian should go to church only to “worship God!”  He should go to church to be fed the word of God, pray with other believers and worship God.  He should always worship God, while he should not always be at the church building.]

New Testament Christians are to assemble on the first day of the week.  Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.  The disciples met on the first day of the week.  And the only time you find the apostles going to “worship” on the sabbath, they were going into synagogues (not churches) to preach to Jews (not the church)!  See: Matt. 28:1; John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2.


Other Differences

Other noticeable ordinances and observations in the Old Testament that are considered void in the New Testament would be feast days, animal sacrifices, dietary ordinances, temple worship, and obedience to the law for righteousness.  Three major differences would be the work of the Holy Spirit, the content of message, and where the soul went after death.  The latter difference being the most outstanding.  How could anyone claim that the two testaments are indistinguishable when believers from both eras go to different places when they die?  Old Testament saints went to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16), while New Testament believers go directly to the third heaven (2 Cor. 5:6; Phil. 1:21)