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Prophetic Studies — Biblical Prophecy

by Robert Garrett

 

Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program

Today we want to begin a series of studies in Bible prophecy. Now when you hear the word “prophecy” in reference to the Bible what is your reaction? Some folks are immediately interested, while others may be turned off and try to avoid the subject.

While there have been many excellent teachers of the Word who have presented Bible prophecy faithfully, there have been others who have sensationalized or distorted and in some cases even falsified the clear Bible teaching and that has caused some to turn away from the subject.

However, we cannot take time, nor is it necessary to examine the multitude of false and weird perversions that abound today. We just want to know what the Bible has to say. For if we know the real thing, we will not be deceived by the counterfeit.

First of all, let’s see what the Bible itself has to say about the place of and the importance of the written prophetic Word to those who love the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter chapter one verse 19 we read that we have the word of the prophets made more certain and you will do well to pay attention to it as a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

Here the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Peter tells us that we would do well to pay attention to Bible prophecy, that it is a necessary light illuminating the darkness. And he is saying that because we can see the evidence of the prophecies that have been fulfilled we can be certain that all of God’s Word will be fulfilled exactly as written.

Peter also gives us something of great importance that will aid our study and understanding of Bible prophecy. It is found in 1 Peter chapter one verses 10 to 11. Here the Holy Spirit gives us a basic division or outline to follow which I have personally found to be most instructive and valuable.

Here Peter, speaking though the Holy Spirit said, “Concerning this salvation the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come to you searched intently and with the greatest care trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”

Now those verses tell us that there are two major categories of prophecy concerning Christ: A) the sufferings of Christ and B) the glories that would follow. It also tells us that the prophets searching intently could not understand the relationship between these two things, that is, the glory of Christ and the sufferings of the Christ. How could Christ come in power and glory and also suffer? The prophecies were plain enough, but not the time and circumstances. They saw only one coming of the Messiah and there was nothing in the Old Testament prophecies that would lead anyone to anticipate the Church age of 2000 years that has so far separated the two comings of Christ.

Now it is easier for us today only because we stand on this side of the cross. The fulfillment of prophecy concerning the first coming of Christ has been made plain to us. But it was not easy for people on the other side of the cross to understand that.

Now the phrase “the sufferings of Christ” belong to his first coming and the phrase “the glories that would follow” belong primarily to his second coming. It is true that upon his ascension Jesus entered into glory, but that is by no means the limit and extent of his glory. But, rather, just the beginning. For that is when God said to his Son, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” That is Psalms 110 verse one and it is repeated for us in Matthew 22:44, in Acts 2:34 and 35 and in Hebrews 1:13. It is at his return to this earth that his enemies will be vanquished as declares all the prophets both in the Old Testament and New Testament.

Jesus himself spoke of this glory that would be his at his return saying in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”

So his coming will be in glory and that is what the prophets spoke of.

Let’s look at the glories. We can just look at a few of the Old Testament prophecies about the glories of the Christ. Now, strangely enough, one of the very oldest of these prophecies is found not in the pages of the Old Testament, but in the New Testament. It is in Jude verse 14 and 15.

Enoch the seventh from Adam prophesied about these men. See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone.

Although not recorded in Genesis this prophecy was made in the days of Genesis chapter five verses 21 to 24. Now who at that time, the time of Enoch, many years even before the flood of Noah could recognize this as second coming, not a prophecy of the first coming of the Lord or even realize that there would be two comings? We know now because we are on this side of the cross that at the first coming of Jesus he did not come with thousands of his holy ones, nor did he come in judgment. Obviously this is a prophecy concerning the glories of the Christ and it is preceded by many hundreds of years of prophecies concerning the sufferings of Christ as recorded in the book of Isaiah.

Let’s look at just two other examples of the glories of Christ as prophesied by Isaiah, Isaiah nine verses six to seven.

For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness at that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord almighty will accomplish this.

And in Isaiah 11 verses one to 12—and here I will just read a few excerpts from that long passage.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him. With righteousness he will judge the needy. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth. With the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

That, I believe, is a reference to the destruction of the antichrist in Revelation 19.

The wolf will live with the lamb and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

So there are changes even in nature itself.

And the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day, that is the day when these things take place, the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that he has left of his people. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel. He will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.

Now it should be obvious that these prophecies can only be fulfilled with the second coming of Christ. But we ask the question. How could Christ come in power and glory and also suffer? The prophecies were plain enough, but not the relationship between the two. The people of that time saw only one coming of the Messiah. In fact, many in Israel did not think that the prophecies concerning suffering even applied to the Messiah and there was nothing in the Old Testament prophecies that would lead anyone to anticipate the Church age of 2000 years that have so far separated the two comings of the Lord.

Let’s look now, briefly, at the sufferings of the Christ. Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets also prophesied concerning the sufferings of the Christ and these prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ, that is the period of his sufferings, were fulfilled literally, not allegorically. He was to be born of a virgin. His birthplace was to be Bethlehem. He was to be rejected. He was to be crucified and then his bodily resurrection. He was to be raised from the dead. These were all prophesied. And the literal fulfillment of these prophecies cannot be denied.

The apostle Peter referring to these things said, “We have the word of the prophets made more certain and you do well to pay attention to it as a light shining in a dark place.”

We should then expect that the as yet unfulfilled prophecies concerning the glorious return of the Christ shall also be fulfilled exactly as written. To those who so believe, these unfulfilled prophecies are a light shining in a dark place. And he exhorts us to pay attention to this light, this lamp of prophecy that illuminates the times in which we live.

Let’s look at the prophecies concerning the sufferings of the Christ in Isaiah chapter 53 verses four through seven.

Surely he took up our infirmities and yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

 

Acts chapter eight tells the story of the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from Isaiah 53. And in Acts eight verse 34 the eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about? Himself or someone else?”

Then Philip beginning with that very passage of Scripture told him the good news about Jesus.

Now I am quite sure that this man believed the prophecies concerning the coming of the Christ, the Messiah. That is why he went up to Jerusalem to worship. But he could not see how this chapter could refer to the Christ. It was necessary for Philip to explain it to him. Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture which concerns the sufferings of the Christ and told him the good news about Jesus.

What is the good news? The good news is that through the sufferings of Christ God has worked our redemption, our salvation. The Christ died on the cross for our sins. It is by his stripes we are healed. It is his blood shed on the cross that can take away our sins.

Philip would also have told him the words of our Lord in Mark 16:16 that whoever believes this gospel, this good news, and is baptized will be saved. He would have told him the message that Peter preached in Acts chapter two when he said to those whose hearts had been pierced by the message, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

We continue reading in Acts eight verse 36 and we will see the result of this message.

So as they went down the road they came to some water and the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”

Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.”

And he answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

And so he commanded the chariot to stand still. Both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he baptized him.

Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away so that the eunuch saw him no more and he went on his way rejoicing.

This message of salvation is exactly the same today as it was then. Do not be deceived by the counterfeits that are so common today. If you have not done so, I urge you. Repent. Turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. Accept him and confess him as Lord. Be baptized, immersed into him that you might have your sins forgiven, that you might receive the gift of his Holy Spirit and become a child of God. Then, like the Ethiopian eunuch, you will go on your way rejoicing.

Now in future lessons we want to explore more of the prophetic word concerning the glories of the Christ, that is, the things associated with his second coming, the return to this earth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Acts chapter one from verses one to 11 here we read the story of Jesus after his resurrection. We read of the 40 days that he spent with his apostles teaching them about the kingdom of God. Then it also tells us of his giving the Great Commission to his apostles. And then it describes his ascension into heaven.

And as he was taken up before their very eyes, a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who is taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go to heaven.”

So this same Jesus whom their hands have handled, not a spirit, not a ghost, but a solid man who is both God and man shall physically, not spiritually or allegorically, return to this earth and fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the kingdom of God. This is the sure hope of the child of God.

 

Robert Garrett lives in Louisville, Ky and does mission work in Zimbabwe, Africa

 




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8