OT versus NT?


Q. The OT teaches that the righteous are rewarded with good, those who obey are not only rich spiritually, but receive physical blessings (riches, long lives, safety from enemies etc.) on earth. The NT teaches that those who follow Jesus will have sufferings on earth, even though it is eventually for their good and help them to be more Christ like. Why is there this difference in teaching?

A. Your observations are valid, but not the complete picture:

Old Testament:
Ps 5:12 For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.
• Prov 3:33 … but He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
• Prov 10:6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, …
• Prov 10:22 It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.
• Prov 28:20 A faithful man will abound with blessings, …

New Testament:
Mk 10:30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
• 2 Tim 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
• 1 Pet 3:14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. …

That’s part of the teaching. But in fact there is continuity between the Old and the New Testament. OT saints who remained righteous also suffered on earth e.g.
• Joseph, Gen 40:15 For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”
Job, Job 2:3 … For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”
Jeremiah, Jer 15:15 You who know, O LORD, Remember me, take notice of me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away; Know that for Your sake I endure reproach.

And Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it:
Mt 5:17-18 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

So why the difference in emphasis? I think it has to do with progressive revelation, teaching only as much as the student is able to learn, which is good pedagogy. For example:
Ex 13:17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”
• Ex 23:28-30 I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.

So even on a small-scale God took the condition of His people into account, how much they were able to absorb and bear. Just as parents hope their children will be well-educated, they don’t teach kindergarten children university courses right away, because they can’t take them in. but gradually through elementary and secondary school, allowing them to mature. In NT times, after several thousand years of showing how God deals with man and what He expects from him, it was time to give him solid food and not just milk, because now he is able to receive it (1 Co 3:1-2, Heb 5:12). It’s time to move on from being infants to become spiritual men, hence the change in emphasis. The teachings were already present in the OT, just not as explicit as in the NT.