Basic Eschatology - Part One: Fulfilled Prophecy

J. Barton Payne was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.  He wrote The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, The Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their Fulfillment.  Among other things he provides a complete discussion of 8,352 predictive verses in the Bible.  He lists 737 subjects.

We are going to consider only three major Old Testament prophetic themes: (1) Gentile world powers, (2) the nation of Israel, and (3) the coming of Christ, the Messiah.

Gentile World Powers

The Hebrew word for Gentile is goi.  It is translated Gentile 30 times, heathen 142 times, nation 373 times, and people 11 times.  The Jews referred to them as uncircumcised, an unflattering term.  Paul describes them as follows:

"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."
Ephesians 2:11, 12.

Gentile nations are a major theme in the Old Testament.  The prophet Daniel has much to say about Gentile world powers.

NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S DREAM

Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, the first Gentile world power.  He had a dream, which produced sleepless nights.  The prophet Daniel was called upon to tell both the dream and the interpretation.  First, Daniel describes the dream to the king.

"You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.  This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay." Daniel 2:31, 32.

Daniel continues to interpret the dream in Daniel 2:36-45.  The image represents four Gentile world powers: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Babylon was defeated in 539 b.c. by Medo-Persia; Greece conquered Medo-Persia around 330 b.c.; Greece fell to Rome in 63 b.c.; Rome fell apart from within at the end of the fourth century.  Prophecy became history.

DANIEL'S DREAM AND VISION

In Daniel 7:1-8 we have a record of one of Daniel's dreams.  He saw four great beasts: a lion with eagle's wings, a bear, a winged leopard, and a dreadful, terrible, exceedingly strong beast.  These beasts represent the same Gentile world powers as in Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

Later Daniel saw a vision of a ram with two horns, and a goat with a notable horn.  The angel Gabriel interpreted the vision.

"The ram which you saw, having the two horns-- they are the kings of Media and Persia.  And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece.  The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king."  Daniel 8:20, 21.

The first king of Greece mentioned here was Alexander the Great, the ruler of the third Gentile world power.  The symbolism of Nebuchadnezzar's image and Daniel's animals was literally fulfilled.  Again, prophecy became history.

The Nation of Israel

A teenage son asked his father why he believed the Bible was the Word of God.  The father replied, "Israel."  The history of the nation of Israel is a testimony to the veracity of the prophetic Scriptures.  Much of Israel's history was foretold in the Old Testament.  Let's take a panoramic view of the prophetic declarations and historic fulfillments as recorded in the Bible.  It's an amazing journey!

THE BEGINNING OF THE NATION

God made a covenant with a man named Abram.  As part of the agreement the Lord promised, "I will make you a great nation."  Genesis 12:2.  Abram's wife was Sarai (later Sarah), who had borne him no children.  Genesis 16:1.  God changed Abram's name (literally, exalted father) to Abraham (father of many nations), and said, "Sarah your wife will bear you a son...."  Genesis 17:19.  Sarah laughed when she heard that she was going to have a son, because she had passed the age of childbearing.  See Genesis 18:9-15.

Nevertheless, Sarah gave birth to Isaac.  This was the predicted beginning of the nation.

THE BONDAGE IN EGYPT

Even before Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the Lord said to Abram, "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years."  Genesis 15:13.  Abraham's descendants were slaves in Egypt for 430 years.  They were delivered from Egyptian bondage on the night of the Passover.  Exodus 12.

THE WANDERING IN THE WILDERNESS

The children of Israel departed from Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and entered the wilderness.  God had promised them the land of Canaan.  Moses sent twelve spies into the land.  After forty days in Canaan ten spies returned with a negative report.  Because of Israel's subsequent failure to believe God and enter the land, He said, "According to the number of days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection."  Numbers 14:34.  The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

THE POSSESSION OF THE LAND

The Lord not only promised Abram that He would make of him a great nation, He also promised, "To your descendants I will give this land."  Genesis 12:7.  This promise was repeated again and again.  Genesis 13:14, 15; 22:17; 26:3; 28:13.  Israel entered and occupied the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua.

THE KINGDOM UNITED UNDER DAVID

Israel's first king was Saul.  He displeased the Lord.  God led the prophet Samuel to anoint David, God's chosen one.  From a human point of view no one could imagine that David would sit upon the throne in Jerusalem.  After his anointing in 1 Samuel 16, we find him facing Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, in 1 Samuel 17.  We know the story, how the shepherd boy slew the giant.  But Saul was next after him.  David suffered many hardships, and hid in caves.  Throughout 1 Samuel we find David in many battles, fighting many foes.  However, despite all of the obstacles David became the king of Israel.

THE CAPTIVITY OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH

Following the death of Solomon the nation of Israel became divided: Israel (10 tribes) in the north, and Judah (2 tribes) in the south.  In 721 b.c. the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive.  This captivity was clearly foretold in the writings of Amos and Hosea.

Later, the southern kingdom fell, and the captivity was in three stages: 605 b.c., 597 b.c., and 586 b.c.  The nation had been warned of the impending disaster by Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

THE RETURN FROM CAPTIVITY

An amazing prophecy is recorded in Jeremiah 29:10: "For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place."  The Jews returned from captivity under the leadership of three different men: Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  Ezra wrote, "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia...."  Ezra 1:1.  This is a reference to Israel's return to the land after 70 years as foretold in Jeremiah 29:10.  See also Jeremiah 25:11, 12.

Here again prophecy became history.

The Coming of Christ, the Messiah

There are many prophecies that foretell the coming of Christ.  In our study we will only look at those found in the book of Isaiah, which was written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

THE BIRTH OF CHRIST

Christ was to be born of a virgin.  "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."  Isaiah 7:14.  The fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded for us in Matthew 1:18-25.

The Child born would also be a King.  "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end."  Isaiah 9:6, 7.  The virgin Mary was told by the angel Gabriel, "...the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."  Luke 1:32, 33.  He was born King of the Jews.  Matthew 2:2.  At His crucifixion a sign was displayed upon His head.  It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."  John 19:19.

THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF CHRIST

Matthew saw the ministry of John the Baptist as a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3.  "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.'"  Matthew 3:3.

Jesus recognized the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1, 2 in Himself, when He said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."  Luke 4:18, 19.

Isaiah also prophesied that Jesus was to be a light to the Gentiles in Galilee.  "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined."  Compare Isaiah 9:2 and Matthew 4:12-17.

THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF CHRIST

The death of Christ is clearly set forth in Isaiah 53:4-6.  "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."  Isaiah 53:4-6.  Matthew 8:16, 17 attributes the verses in Isaiah 53 to Jesus.  The apostle Paul also recognized the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 in Him.  See 1 Peter 2:24.

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection chapter of the Bible.  The emphasis of this chapter is upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the resurrection context Paul writes, "...then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'"  1 Corinthians 15:54.  This quotation is from Isaiah 25:8. 

Of course, the resurrection of Christ is recorded in all four gospels.

THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

Isaiah not only prophesied of the sufferings of Christ, but also of His second coming in glory.  In Isaiah 59:20 we read, "The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob."  The apostle Paul quotes this verse in Romans 11:26 as a promise of Christ's return.

Isaiah predicted that He will return in judgment.  "For behold the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire and by His sword the Lord will judge all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many."  Isaiah 66:15, 16.  In the New Testament we read, "...the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."  2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9.

This prophecy of His second coming is unfulfilled, but included in this study in anticipation of Part Two: Unfulfilled Prophecy.

Conclusion

The historic fulfillment of Bible prophecy testifies to the inspiration and truthfulness of the holy Scriptures.  You can always take God at His Word.  He is always faithful and true.

 

Part Two: Unfulfilled Prophecy

 
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