1.0 History of the Old Testament
It is well known that the Old Testament’s first book, chronologically, is not it’s first canonically. That is to say, the book of Job is widely accepted as pre-dating that of Genesis. It is also known that the volume is an extensive record of the history of the ancient nation of Israel. The Old Testament was written over a period of about 2000 years, from Moses down to Malachi.
The Pentateuch, comprising Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, are well known accounts of Jewish history. The book of Judges connects that theological period of beginnings to the reign of kings that began with Saul, right through to the division of the northern and southern regions of the land into Israel and Judah as rendered in the books of I and II Samuel and I and II Kings.
Anecdotes and proverbs are the theme of Solomon’s writings, while various biblical themes are explored in the inspired Psalms of David. Prophecy is ubiquitous throughout the volume, and outstanding are the Messianic prophecies that were to be the grand theme of discussion for Israelites throughout the 400 year long intertestamental period.
It spans the history of the Earth from creation, through the entry of sin and the life and experience of the Jewish nation and associated nations up till the time of the Messiah and the apostles, detailing the plan of salvation expressed largely in type by the ceremonies of the Old and the actuals of the New Testament.
2.0 Purpose of the Old Testament
The purpose of the Old Testament has been an issue of some debate. Very early on, in the 2nd Century, Marcion proposed that it was the book of an inferior god, a god of vindictiveness and punishment totally different from and inferior to the One of grace, compassion and mercy that is found in the New Testament. This position was taken under the influence of Gnostic philosophy prevalent in his age (Hasel, 1973). Today, it is generally agreed within the Christian Church, and not without good reason, that the Old Testament is of importance for instruction in lifestyle, worship and wisdom. It is also accepted that the Old Testament is the story of the one true God, the same God of the New Testament.
“ God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” – Hebrews 1:1,2, KJV
The Old Testament, in keeping with the nature of what it is, is also, simply, a Testament. In the same way that it is a covenant between God and His people, it is also an exposition of His nature, His will, His authority and His person. In keeping with this thinking then, it will be seen that the Old Testament tells us not only of the verified history of God’s dealings with humanity, but speaks most authoritatively as well the the promise that He holds for the future of His people. Here is where prophecy comes in.
While some have held that the prophecies of the Old Testament have all been fulfilled (taking a post-nineteenth Century preterist position), it is generally accepted that a complementary, harmonious and even unitary interpretation of the entire body of Scripture supports the historicist view that prophecies are in a continuum of fulfilment, from past through present to the future.
This is how we will view the prophecies of the Old Testament and indeed of the entire Bible. It is the only way by which Daniel agrees with John on the future judicature of the saints, and by which Micah and Matthew concur on the birth of our Saviour.
Purpose then? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16.
3.0 Constitution of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is two things nominally. The first, indeed more important thing it is, is the agreement that man made with God via the ordinances of an elaborate Mosaic system to keep His law. This agreement, being founded on a promised Saviour was nullified by the obtaining of that promise when the Messiah died on the cross and became our Saviour. It was replaced by a new agreement, that we will look back on the cross in faith, and having faith that we are now forgiven and made new, will have no need for the ordinances that spoke of a future hope for same.
But the Old Testament is also, quite generically, the first sixty-six books of the Biblical canon. While it is elementary and unnecessary to provide a list of its constituent books here, it is useful that an overview point out a few major components of the Testament.
The old Testament contains the entire recorded history of the universe that mankind has in a single verse: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. It is argued that by ‘the heave’, it is meant the atmosphere that surrounds the planet Earth. While this view is entirely correct, it is often misconstrued to exclude the larger body of space. To all who hold this, there is the simple question of what the atmosphere is to answer. Is it not just gases in space above the Earth’s crust? If the atmosphere is just space with its gases and other elements (dust, moisture, etc.), then that is the entirety of space itself! In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, could read in any physics manuscript as In the beginning God created the Universe!
The history of the world in which we live is the subject of the entire Bible. The scriptures cover this history from its past and into its yet unoccurred future.
Some major point of this history are: the creation and fall of man, the calling out of Abraham, the birth of the Jewish nation and the Egyptian exile, the Exodus and birth of the geographic territories of Israel, the religious system of the Jews, the Babylonian captivity and restoration of the temple, and the intervening work of major and minor prophets, kings and subjects.
There is a literary value to the Scriptures that many academics are keen to emphasise. There is poetry, there is music, there is prose and there is more, but none of these is ever rendered in a fictional or non-historical context, contrary to what many non-historical scholars may argue. Nor are they ever written for the simple enjoyment of art. No, in every stand of thought that is presented there is a pertinent point, a grave proposition, a pivotal consideration to be found and made. Some have taken the view that if the enjoyment of literature is to be sought by any then it should be sought outside the Bible, or else the risk of secular reductionism lies at the door.
Certainly, the Old Testament contains prophecy. If it did not, there would be little veracity to many of the claims of the New Testament. On what basis would Christ assert His ownership of the throne of David? On what authority would he present Himself in the capacity to be cut off for us and heal us by His stripes? Of what legitimacy would be the apostolic mission of Paul without the promise of light unto the Gentiles? Of what use would be grace, without the prerogatives of law and judgement?
4.0 Prophecies of the Old Testament
Old Testament prophecy is pervasive. It’s extent is so thorough that a complete discussion of it will require a dissection of every verse of its sixty-six books. However, this is not possible within our scope, and so while an overview is presented here, they will not even be called the salient, more significant, major or key prophecies of the Old Testament. We will consider prophecy with the objective to understanding the frame of thought within which it is given and is to be interpreted, and will seek to understand those elements of it that will facilitate a deeper understanding of its other parts whenever the diligence of further study is to be found.
We will look at eight prophecies of the Old Testament and will explore their unity with the general context of Scripture and their singularity with the specific purpose of it.
The act of Creation is a prophecy. In a disorderly world, one that would have presented to a human eye the picture of total destruction and devastation, God spoke words that brought order and purpose to things. The first thing He did was call for light.
The next six days saw the creation of all that fills the world today including ourselves. The seventh day was a Sabbath unto the Lord. He rested, not from weariness (Isaiah 40:28), but for the single purpose of taking in His creation as spending time with it. As a creature of the sixth day, the very first 24 hours of man presented Him with the Sabbath: fellowship with His Maker.
After the destruction of sin there will be a permanent recreation. It will begin with the presence of the Light that lighteth every man (John 1:9), and will last forever. God will create New Jerusalem, the city that will be the dwelling place of His saints, and the disorder and chaos of a sin – marred world will be transformed into the glorious Kingdom of our God, which fill all the Earth.
The account of creation, when understood in the context of a God who new the future of the world, and the effect that sin would have on its inhabitants, will be seen to be a promise of a new and better existence for its inhabitants, unless this God will be deemed as uncaring and indifferent or as wicked.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end” – Jeremiah 29:11.
2. The Fall of Man
The Genesis account relates the entry of sing into the world, and this relation is not without prophetic signification. Quite the contrary, it is filled with symbolism that exudes prophecy in every sense, particularly with regard to the experience of the Church, as a part and object of the great controversy, and in light of the plan of redemption by which the Church is to be rescued from the wrong side of that controversy, from error into everlasting righteousness – Ephesians 5:27.
When man fell, he an immediate plan of restitution was effected. Not devised, but effected. The plan of redemption and restoration of all things was conceived even before man’s fall, and the sacrifice of Christ was decided before the world that would contain man was even created – Revelation 13:8.
This plan, long ago decided by the God who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and calleth those things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17), was set into motion as soon as the firs incisor sank into the flesh of the fruit.
God had to inform man of the plan of salvation. He told them that Eve, then called Adam along with here husband (Genesis 5:1,2, Mark 10:7,8), would bear children in increased pain of labour, and that there shall be enmity between her husband Adam and the serpent.
As a symbol of the church, Eve’s increased pain of labour points to the difficulty and strain in which the church would live and increase. The mission of evangelising the world, either by the sermon of example or by prophetic ministry would not be an easy one. Whereas every child born before the fall would have been born into the faith and service of God through a simple education to that effect, a second birth of men would be required after the fall; a birth not from the womb but from the belly of sin, into the glory of the hope of Christ – John 3:3.
The church is again pictured in Revelation 12 as a woman adorned with the brightness of the sun and standing on the moon, who is pregnant, and about to deliver, and has a dragon before her ready to devour the child when He is born. God rescues the woman and shelters her in a place prepared for her.
These are the circumstances under which the people of God were to live as a result of the fall. The entry of truth and the birth of new repentant and converted souls would be procured at great cost, analogous also to the increased toil with which man was to farm the ground for its yield. Essentially, God was telling the fallen couple that their descendants would have to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling – Philipians 2:12, Romans 5:14, .
God said to the serpent that there would be enmity between itself and the man. Adam, as a representative of the husband of the Church, represented Christ. Paul affirms that there was a first Adam, through whom all men came under sin, and that Christ was the second Adam, who brought life back to our race – 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22, 45-47.
This pronouncement was an indication of the battle between Christ and the enemy, fought over the church. The serpent contended with Adam over Eve and successfully deceived her. Adam had given Eve advice to obey the Lord and touch not the fruit. The enemy proffered different advice. Eve swallowed the serpent’s counsel.
In much the same way, Christ offers us the road to salvation (John 14:6, Matthew 7:13, 14), while the enemy presents the route to our certain destruction: the pleasures and pride of life, vanity, pleasures of the world, lust, guile, malice, etc. Yet how many have not chosen the broad and easy path to destruction against the strait and narrow path to life everlasting?
But the prophecy assures that the injury the evil one shall inflict will amount to no more than a bruise on the heal of the Redeemer. He would achieve only the temporary death of the Saviour by inciting the Jews to crucify their Christ, and would secure only the demise of recalcitrant souls, but of a certainty, his deceptions and himself will be utterly destroyed and removed from existence, the cause and church of Christ shall stand firm, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them (Matthew 16:18).
3. Cain and Abel
The story of Cain and Abel is well known (Genesis 4). The prophetic significance of it isn’t as well know, though. Cain was an elder brother who refused to bring the sacrifice of blood to the alter of the Lord, feeling that it should have been enough to bring whatever it was that he had, in order to be accepted. What should not be missed is the fact that Cain did not intend to disregard God. To his mind, he was striving to express worship to a Being whom he acknowledged as his Creator and Sustainer. The sin of Cain was not determined rebellion. If it were, he would not have come at all to the alter, much like we today would withhold the Lord’s tithes. He would not have considered the matter of the offering at all, much like we today would neglect the Word and refrain from prayer. No, Cain was not as wicked as we can be today.
Cain did not accept a simple fact. The plan of redemption had been unfolded to his parents. The firs couple had instructed both their sons in the promise of the Messiah, and taught them that God had ordained that by His blood, which would be shed for us all some day, they would be washed and the sins of their race would be forgiven and forgotten. They had been taught that to be reminded of the intense sacrifice God would make, in giving His only begotten Son (John 3:16), they were to bring their best and cleanest animals to the alter of the Lord and sacrifice them. As their blood poured out unto the stony pillars, they were to envisage in hope the blood of Christ flowing down His side and washing us clean, and to be aware that the loss of their fattest calves and lambs was far less painful or costly that the infinitely great sacrifice that God would make of His Son, because He loves us. Cain and Abel, in essence were shown the concept of salvation by faith.
Cain accepted the promise and in obedience, testified by His sacrifice that without blood there can be no remission for sin (Hebrews 9:22). Abel on the other hand, thought otherwise. By refusing to present a similar sacrifice he expressed doubt in the idea that a sacrifice of blood could achieve the salvation of mankind, and by implication rejected the cross.
In the last days, brothers will fight against brothers, and fathers and sons will counter-betray each other. The love of many shall wax cold, but most significantly, the true worshippers of God will be killed by the false worshippers of God (Revelation 6:10, John 16:2). Like Cain the false worshippers of or day will believe with all their hearts that their worship to God, based as it is on a false holiday, idolatry and image worship, pagan festivity and worldly renown, is good enough for God. They will see the true worshippers revel in the joy and gladness that is to be found in the peace that comes from Christ, and they will look upon them with the same envy that lurked in the chambers of Cain’s wicked heart. They will decide that the continuous demonstration of God’s favour upon these people is counterproductive to the singular purpose of ecumenical unification. They will decide that if they cannot please God with all their vain babbling and ceremonies, then no one will. In these last days the wrath that brews from the pot of envy will be poured out on God’s faithful like a plague. It will be a contest not of nations or tribes or economies or cultures. It will be an impasse of ideas between an older, corrupt system of human traditions and a younger emergent remnant from the same family of faith, a dispute between brothers. Most significantly, it will be a controversy of worship between those who worship God with proximal lips and far off hearts (Mark 7:6, 7), and those that keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 14:12), and Cain will once again slaughter his brother.
4. The Flood
The flood that occurred in the days of Noah stands as a fulcrum about which Christians crank the lever of creationism. It is an event in history, it is a reproach to an ancient generation, it is the beginning of a new global population of man, beast and plant, but most poignantly, it is a solemn warning to those that shall dwell upon the earth in the final days of its meandering history.
Once upon a time when the Lord had rebuked the Pharisees and scribes, and had laid bear before them and the people their wicked hypocrisies, and had set out to leave the temple, the disciples came to him to give a tour of the incredible edifice. The Lord obliged, and while they walked and talked, they showed him about the temple that had been His dwelling place among the people of their nation. The mood must no doubt have been positive, and the disciples no doubt took pride in the magnificence of the structure that was their temple; the pillars that were its support, the lintel, pavements and panels that were its adornment and dimensions. How startling it must have been then when the Lord, looking upon all that they showed him, told them that in a short time hence, not a stone of the edifice shall be left standing upon another – Matthew 23, 24:2.
The statement no doubt incited thoughts of the uncertain future, and faithful to the thirst that little knowledge procures for greater more satisfying amounts, they brought themselves into His seclusion while on the Mount of Olives, to inquire of those things that He had earlier hinted of, to tell them, in plain words, what would happen in the future, and how the history of all things was to be resolved –Matthew 24:3.
The relation they received from the lips of the Lord was a most succinct narration of history yet unoccurred. It was the 101 of eschatology in the most fundamental sense. It is in this narration that we are presented with the precise conditions that will prevail upon the Earth before the Lord of the Harvest appears to reap the harvest of the vast fields. It is in this narration that the prophecy of the flood is alluded to, an allusion that paints a most important picture of the state of men’s hearts and minds amid the warnings and pleadings of the last day messengers of God.
Jesus revealed that in those last days, it will be as it was in the days of Noah just before the flood. So how was it before the flood?
In the antiquity of the past, the deeds of men reached the fullness of the remit of evil. The God of the Universe was repentant that He had created. The plan of perfection had been rejected, spurned, and insulted by the very subjects upon which its peace and blessing was to be poured.
The Lord decided to bring an end to all things evil, but not before keeping faith with a servant of His upon the Earth (Amos 3:7). Noah was a perfect man in all his generations, and walked with God (Genesis 6:9).
God told his servant that soon, there would be a great flood, and that it would destroy all that dwells among the Earth. He related that Noah, for the grace he had found in the eyes of the Lord (v. 8), that he and his family would be saved from the impending deluge. He asked them to build an ark, an activity that the entire family of Noah participated in.
The building did not take place in silence. Noah persistently implored the people to prepare themselves for the coming deluge. Unfortunately, he might as well have wailed into the air, for not a single human soul that was not of his family heeded the warning.
What a profound image of what is to happen before the second coming of Christ! The Lord declares that the deeds of men, once more, have become exceedingly evil, and that there is none righteous upon the Earth, save the very elect of God. The world is to see another end. The antiquity of time is to halt, and it will be by a flood of light and of fire (Matthew 24:24, Romans 3:10, 2 Peter 3:8-10, Revelation 21:8). The earth will be utterly destroyed, and the elements will melt away in the sheer heat and brightness of His coming.
Like Noah, we are asked to build an arc of faith, trust and absolute reliance on Christ to escape this coming consummation. While this building goes on and men prepare their hearts for the solemn day, we are not to remain idle or silent, but to proclaim to the world the end of all things – Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:19, 20.
Christ assured his disciples that this would cause no great change among the determinedly unrepentant. They will scoff at the thought of a coming flood of fire and carry on the merrymaking of the day. They will marry and give in marriage, and they will eat and drink like they and their fathers have for unchanging centuries, and the day will overtake them and come upon them like a thief in the night – 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4.
When Noah had quite set up the contraption, he followed the instruction of God and led the animals in, the clean ones two by two in sevens and the unclean ones two by two: simply put seven pairs of each clean animal, and two pairs of each unclean animal. Of significant note is the fact that Noah did not lead these animals in. The biblical record provides that the favoured family went in first, and then the animals, on their own, filed in after them! What a strange sight that must have been!
No doubt the people of Noah’s day would have seen this wonderful sight, and must certainly have marvelled at it, but somehow, it failed to move them to repentance, and they stayed in their stubborn ways, and made too little of the miraculous convoy of beasts.
In like manner, such strange events are to herald the coming of the great King. In such rapidity and intensity, wars, political suspicion and speculation, disease outbreaks, earthquakes, and countless other phenomena will seize the earth. Mankind, while admitting the unusual quality of the events, will readily dismiss them as natural, expected phenomena.
For example, it is reported that for centuries until 1960 there was at least one major earthquake every ten years somewhere on Earth. Since 1960 there have been averagely ten major earthquakes every year!
Yet through science falsely so called, the same men who reject the evidences of His creation, also deny the signs, of His coming, as their fathers denied the import of a line of willing creatures boarding an arc that was at the centre of such grave prophecies. The fool says in his heart, there is no God – Psalms 14:1.
When the arc of our day is finally ready in each of us and the Lord steps out of the most holy place to pronounce His judgement over mankind, the floods, this time of fire, will come, and the Earth will be purged of its evil, as it was in the days of Noah. Many will be taken by surprise, but those whom have watched and prayed for the day will rejoice and be glad in it.
The arc was built, and when the appointed time came, Noah and his household went in with the animals. Then God closed the door to the arc Himself. Noah did not do it, and God did not leave the task to Noah’s wise delegation or even to any of the perfect, wholly obedient angels. In perfectly prophetic action, God Himself closed the door, foretelling that it will be Him, and none other, who closes the door on probation and ends the work of redemption upon the Earth before His judgement is poured out (John 22:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, etc.).
5. The Jewish Feasts
The Jewish ceremonial system in its entirety pointed towards the advent of a much expected Messiah. The sacrifices that were at the heart of atonement for sin more especially than others. However, in all of these ceremonies, some significance of the plan of salvation is to be gleaned by the keen student. A discussion on the Jewish feasts described in Leviticus 23 is as useful for making plain the point as any.
The Levitical feasts of this chapter are of extremely significant import to the study of Biblical prophecy, and offer some basis of legitimacy to the historicist interpretations of prophecy that procure our understanding of Biblical doctrine and eschatology.
In this chapter, Moses is instructed by God to outline for the Jews a number of feasts.
I. The feast of Sabbath (v. 3,4)
The Sabbath is a day of rest. It is a day on which the most appropriate themes must be celebratory. God has created all things, and us, out of love, and has configured the entire planet to suit our condition and comfort. God has granted us dominion over this creation, and has determined to commune with us as friend to friend. He has set before us a life of stewardship, and has provided an avenue for rest from our cares and worries, an avenue that is made much more precious because sin has entered our affairs, and rendered this stewardship more tasking and taxing on our capacities. On the Sabbath, all things abate, and everything is new again at the start of the following week.
II. The Feast of Passover (v. 5,6)
This feast was to commemorate the passing of the angel of over the houses of Israelites when the firstborns were killed in Egypt. This act was the last straw to break the camel’s back and cause the Pharaoh to release the children of Israel. Their houses were marked by the blood of a lamb killed by the whole congregation of Israel in the evening (Exodus 12). This was done in prophecy of the future crucifixion of the Lamb of God at the hands of the Jews (Acts 2:36), which event also took place in the evening, at about 3pm, the whole congregation having previously given their consent to Pilate to kill Him and return them Barabbas. The blood was used to mark the upper door posts of their houses in much the same was as the children of God will be sealed in their foreheads as revealed in the Revelation (Revelation 7:3).
It was this passing over that was to be marked by the children of Israel according to Leviticus 23. They were to mark it with unleavened bread for seven days after the day of Passover. This was prophetic of the mourning of the disciples during the days after Christ’s death.
III. The Feast of Firstfruits
Three days after the death of Christ, He was resurrected by God. Why did this happen on the third day? Of course, the subject of His resurrection was a prominent subject of His discourse with His disciples as the appointed time of His death approached. Christ repeatedly told of how He would die and be resurrected three days later.
Was He speaking with arbitrary authority? Or was He relating the facts based on the authority of the inspired Word? The latter is found to be the case when the Feast of Firstfruits is studied.
This feast was to be observed on the day after the Passover sabbath (not the holy Sabbath). Basically, the day after Passover was to be a sabbath unto the people, and the feast of Firstfruits was to be held on the day following that Sabbath. Since the Passover pictured Christ’s death, the Feast of Firstfruits pictured His resurrection three days later, the day after the Passover sabbath, exactly how it happened. Of course, as history had it, the Passover on which Christ died coincided with the preparation day, and so the sabbath of the Passover coincided with the holy Sabbath of God (Luke 23: 54-56).
How was this to be observed? The priest was mandated to bring the first (barley) harvest of the year as an offering before the Lord. He was to wave the sheaves of barley before the presence of the Lord. In fulfilling this acted prophecy, Christ resurrected as the firstfruits of salvation unto God (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The priest waved a whole sheaf rather than a single grain, and in like manner, the resurrection of Christ was accompanied by that of many saints, who entered Jerusalem and were seen by many (Matthew 27:52, 53). When Christ ascended into heaven, he went along with an host of “captives” (Hebrews 4:8).
As the priest presented the sheaf before the Lord, so did Christ, the firstfruits of our salvation and our High Priest, present before the father these risen saints as the firstfruits of the salvation of mankind. In much the same way, as the barley harvest was a promise that in a short while the rest of the (wheat) harvest would be brought in, the resurrection of Christ and these risen souls was a promise that in time the entire human family of God would be brought before the their maker and Father at the end of all things.
IV. The Feast of Pentecost
Pentecost means ‘fiftieth’. It was a feast that was set apart for the fiftieth day after the Feast of Firstfruits. On this day the priest brought the wheat harvest before the Lord in expression of the fulfilment of the promise that the rest of the harvest would be granted them. It was to thank God for His faithfulness in providing for them. Samuel K. Pipim’s account of the purpose and nature of the feast, as well as its prophetic significance, is presented here for its lucidity.
“As noted earlier, Pentecost means fiftieth. It was the wheat harvest festival which came 50 days after the feast of Firstfruits. If the feast of Firstfruits was the starting point of the 50-day harvest festival, Pentecost was the conclusion or climax.
Jesus fulfilled this prophecy too on that very same day prophesied in the Old Testament. The book of Acts informs us that after His resurrection on “Easter” Sunday, Christ spent forty days on Earth before ascending to Heaven (Acts 1:1-3). During that time He reminded His disciples of many things He had previously taught them. Then, shortly before He was taken into Heaven, He “commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4; cf. vv. 5, 8 ).
The “promise of the Father,” for which the disciples were commanded to wait is a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit about which prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and John the Baptist had prophesied. Earlier, Jesus Himself had told the disciples: “Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon: you but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
How long were the disciples to “tarry” or “wait” in Jerusalem? Christ alluded to the Day of Pentecost when He told them, “Ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). Jesus knew that the Feast of Pentecost would take place 50 days from the Feast of Firstfruits. He had already fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits when He rose from the dead on “Easter” Sunday. After His resurrection, He had spent 40 days with His disciples before ascending to Heaven (Acts 1:3, 8-11). This meant that in 10 days, the Feast of Pentecost would take place. Thus, Christ could tell them that “not many days hence” something was to happen: the outpouring of the Spirit.” (Samuel Koranteng Pipim, The Truth about Pentecost)
As it happened, the Bible records that when the day of Pentecost was fully come (Acts 2:1), the disciples were gathered in one accord in one place. The Holy Spirit came in unto them with great demonstration, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (vv. 4).
The prophecy of the Feast of Pentecost was fulfilled in this, that after Christ ascended on High, and resumed his seat of authority on the right hand of the Father, His first Presidential decree, was to issue forth the promise of the Holy Spirit. Peter explained beautifully to the hearers at the event, that “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33) He then referred the the Psalmist’s prophecy of Psalms 110, asserting that this magnificent release of power from on high, was an attestation of the fact that Christ had now been set up above all things, who was crucified and scorned by men on Earth (Acts 2:36).
Paul’s subsequent elucidation of the matter is succinct and apt, who set forth that the power of God worked in Christ unto His resurrection, and that upon resurrection, Christ was set at the Father’s right hand in Heaven, above every other power there is and shall be in the world to come, and at the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:19-22).
Pentecost, then was more than just the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out unto the apostles; it was the day on which the sceptre of authority was passed on to Christ, and on which we began His eternal reign as the Head of the Christian Church and the King of all kings everywhere.
6 A Sabbath for the Land
As profound as prophecy gets, there is not missing from the renderings of Scripture the most basic and recognizable imagery. In Leviticus 25, The Lord instructs the children of Israel to till the land six years and to leave it uncultivated during the seventh year.
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.
It will be observed that the sabbath of the land followed a pattern that was essentially the yearly equivalent of the weekly Sabbath. Just as the weekly Sabbath was to provide a rest for the children of Christ (Exodus 20:8-11, Hebrews 4:9-11), the Sabbath of the fallowing land was to provide rest and rejuvenation for the land (Leviticus 25:4). It is known of what benefit fallow is to agricultural cycles. The reintegration of organic nutrients, minerals and water is necessary to replenish the drained soils on which annual stands are cultivated. It has the same effect on the land as the Sabbath of the moral law has on the man, the same value to the soil as to the soul.
From a prophetic standpoint, it is readily apparent that the Sabbath of weekly rest points to the coming day in which the people of God will be saved and removed from the world and its cares, traps, pains and grief: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” – Revelation 21:4. It will no longer be about our lives down here on Earth, or about the arduous task of making a living and surviving in it. It will no longer be about the constantly raging battles we wage against self, but it will be all in all about Christ, who shall pitch His tent among men, and dwell with them – Revelation 21:3.
In much the same way, then, the sabbath of the land points to the coming rest that the Earth is to receive. In the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24 – 30, 37-43), the Lord likens the Earth to a field in which a man sows good seeds and in which his disruptive enemy sows tares. The history of the Earth is replayed in this brief introduction to the parable, and the experience of the entire creation and entry of sin are brought to mind. God created a beautiful planet in which he placed man, and gave him a set of laws that were to ensure his continued perfection: a code of love and harmony that would guard safely against depreciation, a standard that could only support greater and greater light and stature as well as planetary dominion.
Then the arch enemy, Satan, sowed his first tares in the Earth. His deceit proposed that man break the very first of the Ten Commandments, and worship another god than the Creator of all things by misappropriating their obedience from their Maker to his ambitious self (Romans 6:16). His success procured the germination of sin in the experience of the human race.
Ever since, humanity has contended with his contrary inclinations to good and evil, and with the varying extents to which both urges take dominion over the lives of men. The examples of Cain and Abel, the experience of Noah and the rest of the world, Elijah and Israel, Judas and Jesus, Nicodemus and his Pharisee brethren, and many more (including contemporary) scenarios illustrate this clearly. The good Planter sees His fields overtaken by the tares, and is asked by His servants to remove them quickly (Revelation 6:10, Matthew 13:27). His wise response is that the wheat and tares must grow together, lest in removing the tares the wheat as well be destroyed. The righteous and unfaithful must grow together in the Earth. If the Lord were to intervene before the righteous are fully matured in their faith, He will find very few indeed to save, and would have to destroy many a faltering believer. No, those who believe in the Lord must have time to make sure their beliefs, firm their convictions, and to set aright their ways. The process of sanctification must have its full work in us, that the harvest may be substantial when the mighty Planter comes (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 1:18 ).
For six thousand years this has been the story of the Earth. For six years the land has been tilled and sown. The good news, the message of repentance, the cries for reform, the pleas for holiness and truth in the hearts of men have been uttered, resounded, and echoed by every hill, and at the same time the allurements and pride of life and the roaring of wickedness have bellowed in strength. The Planter cultivates, and sows the good seed, through His prophets, through Himself, and finally through His Holy Spirit, and all the while, the enemy rears his tares in the very midst of them, and together they grow. Through persecution and temptations the tares seek to choke the wheat to death, and to starve them of their nourishment by their voracious appetite for the good of the land, but the wheat must find that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Matthew 4:4).
But there is coming a bright and glorious day when the harvest will be due, and the good Planter will come with His sickle in His hand, to rap the harvest of the mature wheat and to cast into the flames the cursed tares. Then they will be much easier to separate. The wheat stalks will not be soft and delicate, or their leaves mild and vulnerable. No, in that day, the righteous will truly be righteous, the holy truly holy, and the filthy filthy, and all will remain so. The coming of the Lord will not scorch the faithful with His brightness, but will transform them in the twinkling of an eye into pure immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-54), and will translate them first into the sky, and then into the heavenly realms beyond (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) to live and rule with Christ a thousand years (Revelation 20:4, 5). Only the unruly tares will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:8-10), and the enemy who planted them will be left to inspect the bare land, the destruction of his hands, for a thousand years, a fallow for the land (Revelation 20:1-6).
7 Isaiah’s Vivid 53rd
Prophecy has a goal, and in examining this next one we will take special note of what that goal is, and view prophecy in that light, lest we get the point yet miss the mark.
1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:1 – 12, KJV
Often, it is enough to let the 53rd chapter of Isaiah speak for itself. The wealth of prophetic declaration is astounding, and the record of history grants it such incontrovertible validity in the eyes even of those who must see before they believe. We will keep with that presumption, while encouraging a dutiful study of the Gospel, that the matter may be resolved. Suffice it to say that Isaiah is shown the life and times of the Messiah, and intimates the gruesome fate he would bare for the sins of the world, and the subsequent exaltation afore confirmed by the Psalmist and other inspired authors.
Still, a note or two are helpful for inspiring one to full confidence in the veracity of biblical prophecy. Let us make all these notes on the concluding verse of the chapter:
“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession fro the transgressors.”
One must not miss the whole point of prophecy. It is useless to understand the deepest mystery if it is to have no effect on the heart and therefore the life. That will amount simply to knowing a great deal about God without knowing Him in the least.
The entire purpose of Scripture and its prophecies is the redemption of the soul of man. This redemption was made possible by the sacrifice of Christ, as Isaiah 53:12 shows. Note Daniel 9:26, which similarly foretells that the Messiah would be killed for us, and Zechariah 12:10 which reveals that God Himself is slain when the Messiah comes down to die this death.
The point is plainly laid out by the apostle Peter, who reveals: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” – 2 Peter 1:19
The Day Star in none other than that bright and Morning Star, which the Lord Jesus proclaims Himself to be in Revelation 22:16.
It is so that Christ will come in and dwell in our hearts, and direct our paths, that prophecy is taught to the seekers of truth. It is not for the procurement of argumentative machinery or the fame of great learning that the sacred pages of prophetic truth are opened before our eyes, but for this, that though we live, it is now we who live, but Christ, living in each one of us (Galatians 2:20).
Prophecy’s objective is to open to man the great truth that God is working for His restoration, that heaven is busy on his behalf, and that we are the apple of His all seeing eye – Zechariah 2:8.
8 Abraham’s Sacrifice
By now it should be clear that the events of the Old Testament, and the stories that relate them, did not occur and were not recorded by happenstance. Few have regarded the story of Abraham’s trial regarding a command to sacrifice his son Isaac in light of prophecy, and yet, for all intents and purposes, that is all that it is – a great Messianic prophecy of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus!
In this story is revealed the innermost regions of the heart of God. Much of our prophetic attention is on Christ and His work as the emissary of the Father, and we attain a more frequent personal experience with Him on this level than we do with the Father, with Whom He is One. Abraham’s sacrifice opens before us the anguish of the Father Himself. As we shall find, the agony of the sacrifice was not only the distressed Abraham’s, nor the little Isaac’s to bear, but the heaven’y Fathers’ as well, and we shall see that what Abraham endured in type, God endured, and more, in antitype.
In Genesis 22 the account is rendered. God calls Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah, and to a mountain He shall show him there, and once there to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Many have approached this difficult assignment as a test of obedience, and it was, but it was also a test of faith, because earlier than that the Lord had promised to multiply Abraham’s seed upon the Earth.
It was now Abraham’s place to trust that the Lord would provide, whether by replacing Isaac after he had died, or by other Divinely appointed means He was not privy to.
The father of the young Isaac went with him and some of his men some of the way, and after the third day of journeying, bids his entourage wait behind, so that the seemingly woe fated duo could accomplish the grim task before them.
Along the way Isaac famously inquires: “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” – vv. 7 What a prophecy was uttered when the aged man responded: “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” – vv. 8
For three days Abraham journeyed in anguish, in turmoil, in readiness for mourning… Only the all knowing Lord knows the full variety of feelings that pervaded the heart of the greatly tested Patriarch. Three days, and a little more to reach the specified hill in Moriah.
Is it not apparent how in type, Abraham experienced but a fraction of the dolorous passion of the heart of the beneficent Father, when he endured his three day travail? Is it not clear how looking forward to the hear-wrenching sacrifice that He would make of His Son, His only Son, Jesus, opened up the future to the eyes of the mortals in whose interest this sacrifice was to be made?
Abraham represented God the Father most appropriately, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” – John 3:16
In the history of God’s dealing with man, Heaven has employed the services of the Divine Godhead as well as the host of unfallen angels to bring the light of truth, safety and blessing upon the inhabitants of the Earth. Just as angels attended the work of Christ, strengthening Him and attending His ways, they could go no further than the garden of Gethsemane, a little while away from the sacrifice that was soon to follow, in much the same way as the men of Abraham could not go beyond the point instructed by their master.
Note that the journey of the ancient group took three days and an unspecified duration of time, no doubt shorter, to reach the specified hill which was now in view. After His baptism, it took three and a half years for the Saviour to reach His cross and to be slain for humanity.
God did indeed provide a lamb for the most important offering ever made. “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” John 1:29.
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” – Revelation 5:6.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” – Revelation 5:12.
Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). He died for our sins on a hill we call Calvary today, a hill that was renamed many years later by the Jews, but which used be known as Moriah.
Isaac’s escape from death parallels the Lord’s actual resurrection from death most completely. The young man emerged from the episode as the one through whom the entire nation of Israel was derived through Jacob. Christ resurrected into a position of power and glory, in which He exercises Kingship and dominion over all the people of the Earth and beyond. Again, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” – Revelation 5:12.
If one ever wonders whether the God is interested in their welfare, or whether He is willing to grant the deep desires of their heart, or even whether He is able, then let them look to the cross upon which He has already granted the greatest of all gifts: our redemption from the very throes of sin.
Prophecy as we see, then, is not only symbols and times. The deeds of men were directed by a Providence kind enough to unfold sacred truths to us, and willing enough that we should be led by it into life everlasting!
And can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain,
For me, who Him, to death pursued?
Amazing love! And can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die, for me!
5.0 Conclusion: Significance, Place and Implications
So what is to be done with our appreciation of Old Testament prophecy? Why and how is it important, and how can it be leveraged?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” – 2 Peter 3:16.
This is exactly how we are expected to respond to truth. Let it be the case for each of us that we will regard the pages of scripture greater than mere antiquities of an old irrelevant nation, and see in them present truth required for the watering of the soils of our lives. Again, let us be instructed by the apostle Peter on the purpose of all prophecy.
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” – 2 Peter 1:19
The day star is Christ, whom we preach unto the world in peace or in strife, awaiting that morning of gold on which our eternal glory will become apparent, for now we see through a veil, dimly, but then shall we know Him in whole, and abide ever in His courts.
We do not preach by excellency of words, but by the simple truth of the word, sent forth in power by the Holy Spirit. Socrates is reported to have said “Mere knowledge of the truth does not give you the art of persuasion” We require no such art, for in his own heart each is persuaded by the Holy Spirit, and led to choose the strait and narrow path to life. This is the essence of all Scripture, for He who is the Word declares: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” – Revelation 3:20.