Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pastoral Pings ~ The Old Way of Looking at New Prophecies

          In our quest to keep the book of Revelation in context, one of the questions to consider is how Old Testament prophecies compare to New Testament prophecies. Prophecy is prophecy, and the primary difference between the old and the new is that the old have mostly been fulfilled, while the new are mostly awaiting fulfillment.

          That being true, what lessons can we gain from meditating on the way Old Testament prophecies were understood in advance of their enactment? Since we are living ahead of the fulfillment of so many prophecies about the second coming of Christ, surely there are Old Testament pictures of the way people used prophecy to ready themselves for the first coming of the Messiah.  

          One of the most glaring characteristics of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of Messiah is that there are no examples of people using prophecy to figure out when it was time for him to come. This is rather remarkable since the nation was clearly waiting for the Promised One to arrive.

          I have heard many declarations that we must understand the prophecies of Daniel in order to understand the prophecies of Revelation. There is no doubt that the book of Revelation is like a beautiful compendium of teachings from both the Old and New Testaments.

          However, while prophecy experts direct our attention to the details of Daniel’s prophecies, and call us to try determining the meaning of Revelation based on their interpretation of Daniel, there is still this one glaring characteristic to deal with: why did Daniel’s prophecies not flood the Bible with further Scriptural accounts showing people using such prophecies to determine the times and seasons of the Messiah’s first coming? And, why are there no examples of anyone being in the right place at the right time for such a momentous event based on nothing more than their interpretation of prophecy?

          Instead, what we see is that Zechariah would not have known anything unusual was happening except that Gabriel visited him and told him that Elizabeth would have a son who would fulfill the prophecy of the forerunner of the Messiah.[1] We see Mary knowing nothing of the Messiah’s soon appearing except that Gabriel told her that she would be his earthly mother.[2] When Joseph discovered his wife was pregnant, he did not suddenly wonder if this was the fulfillment of prophecy, but that she had been unfaithful to him. It took another angelic visit for him to understand that the fulfillment of prophecy was in the works.[3]

          As history unfolds, we do not see Joseph going to Bethlehem because prophecy told him to, but ending up in Bethlehem by government decree in order that, after the fact, everyone would realize that prophecy was fulfilled.[4] We do not see shepherds waiting in Bethlehem for the Messiah’s birth because Scripture led them to know the time and season was at hand, but they rushed to Bethlehem after angels had visited them with the Messiah’s birth announcement.[5] When we meet Simeon in the temple at Jesus’ eighth day since his birth, we hear that the only reason he knew that he would see the Christ was because God personally announced it to him by the Holy Spirit.[6]

          We also see that the Magi did not head to Israel because the Scriptures told them it was time, but because they saw the Messiah’s star appear.[7] Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy about coming out of Egypt because Joseph read prophecy, but because Herod was trying to kill the Christ.[8]

          While much more needs to be said, my attempt to make this a Ping requires my conclusion.[9] What if the focus of prophecy is not to tell the times or seasons, something Jesus explicitly declared to be none of our business,[10] but to give us huge assurances that God will send the Messiah the second time as surely as he did the first, so carry on with the business of the church until he comes?

          Very personally speaking, I am finding the book of Revelation to be the most comforting assurance of the sovereignty of God over everything in the universe. His brilliant pictures tell me what will happen without any distraction to dabble in his side of the responsibilities. If we daily live as those who are more than conquerors through him who loves us,[11] we will be conquerors on the day he comes.

          So, as the Psalmist exhorted us three millennia ago, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”[12]

          From my heart,

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Luke 1:5-25
[2] Luke 1:26-38
[3] Matthew 1:18-25
[4] Luke 2:1-7
[5] Luke 2:8-20
[6] Luke 2:26
[7] Matthew 2:1-12
[8] Matthew 2:13-18
[9] Instead of a Ping (Plus) or a Pondering
[10] Acts 1:7
[11] Romans 8:37
[12] Psalm 27:14

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