Tuesday, March 5, 2013

CHAPTER 3: PROPHECY AND FULFILLMENT

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts."
(Malachi 3:1)


Throughout the Scriptures God is set forth as a God of covenants who is represented as taking an oath (Hebrews 6:17) and a God of promises who "was able also to perform" them (Romans 4:21).

In this chapter we shall be looking at the fulfillment of God's purpose, promises, and covenants in Christ as Paul made clear:

"But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." 
(2 Corinthians 1:18-20)

Surely the Scriptures prove to us that all of God's promises in Christ were fulfilled and where Christ is said as its fulfillment proves to us also that God is true. Whatever God has promised has God for its completion.

Consider God's prophecy in Malachi 3:1, it was fulfilled by the appearing of John the Baptizer [who was sent by God to "prepare the way"] and Jesus the Christ [the Lord who came to "his temple"]. The Lord was depicted further as "The Messenger of the Covenant." On the one hand we have God's Covenant that must be communicated, but on the other hand we have the Lord who must also fulfill Malachi 3:1 prophecy.

Mark well the details of God's promise in Malachi 3:1. Why do you think Rabbi John [John the Baptizer] was promised by God to be sent as a messenger? Also, why did God promised Himself as a coming Lord to "his temple" and as "The Messenger of the Covenant" [another messenger] to those who seek Him?

Promise-fulfillment [Purpose-fulfillment]


Students of eschatology must understand "promise-fulfillment" [the fulfillment of God's promises as either literal or spiritual] and derive it from the Scriptures.

However, let us use this helpful concept in the interpretation of biblical prophecy, but transform it to "purpose-fulfillment" [the fulfillment of God's redemptive purpose].

"The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:" 
(Isaiah 14:24)

"For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" 
(Isaiah 14:27)

History would tell us that whatever God has purposed, it shall stand. The fact that the Lord of hosts had to send the Babylonians and Assyrians to destroy the idolatry of the Jews while He was promising to the faithful ones the coming of the Messiah is proof enough that God would deliver His people from wickedness.

Cyrus was a type of Christ, God's anointed; "Babylon" was a type of Old Covenant-Jerusalem, full of abominations and wickedness. God employed Cyrus as "His anointed" who was called "to subdue nations before him" (Isaiah 45:1). "Babylon" was once "the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency," but it was overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 13:19). "Babylon" fell and was conquered by Cyrus, King of Persia.

Cyrus was a "shepherd" to the Jews (Isaiah 44:28). "The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of Jerusalem marked a great epoch in the history of the Jewish people (2 Chr. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4; 4:3; 5: 13-17; 6:3-5)."[1]

So this "purpose-fulfillment" is the historical demonstration of the fact that God's will is: 1) to send "His anointed" to take away the sins of His people Israel by judgment, 2) to deliver His "called, chosen, and faithful" from captivity, and 3) to restore and establish the remnant as a blessed nation.

Moreover, God's redemptive purpose speaks not only of the manifestation of the "Messiah" in the history of Israel but also of the preparation of His visitation [coming and Presence (Parousia)], His reign and kingdom, and the time of its fulfillment.

Note, in both Malachi and Isaiah, there is a call to return to the Lord and there is a promise that He will return to them (Isaiah 2:3-5, 31:4-6, 44:22; Malachi 3:7). This message of repentance and the Lord's return to His people was carried to the people of Israel also in the first century by John the Baptizer, by Christ himself, and the apostles, who became instrumental to the fulfillment of God's redemptive purpose during the transitional period, a step towards blessedness.

"And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts." 
(Malachi 3:12)

Blessedness – that's what our next chapter is all about.

Time-fulfillment


Related to the completion of God's prophecy, promise, and purpose for Israel is the fulfillment of time. In this sense, "time-fulfillment" is a fulfillment of prophetic predictions in Israel's history. To understand this principle, let's use these concepts of time: "yesterday" [past], "today" [present], and "tomorrow" [future], but let's adjust it a little for the sake of our theme, fulfilled eschatology. So here's our version: Pre-Christ, the "Christ Event," and Christ's Eternity.

PRE-CHRIST [BEFORE CHRIST]

Preparation of the Way. Futurists believe that events occurring in the state of Israel today are fulfillment of prophetic Scriptures. One "Christian" newspaper even has this tag: "Biblical Prophecies in Today's Headlines."[2] Interestingly, this newspaper believes in reviving "average Christians from complacency to preparedness to meet their coming Messiah."[3] They also believe that present day "Israel has not yet had an actual meeting with the Lord."[4]

Recognized Preterist Bowers Jr. assure us that everything about this "futurist eschatology" view is rooted in the "expected appearance of a physical and visible Jesus"[5], including reliance and dependence on "extra-biblical information, rather than being derived from and/or through the scriptures (Sola Scriptura) alone."[6]

Thus, much of this pseudofulfillment [false "End-times"] is greatly affecting one's view of "last days" events, that is, eschatology.

Bible Believers today should become aware that God's purpose for Israel must be fulfilled in the forms in which it was given.

For example, Malachi 3:1 shows the proper preparatory nature of a messenger who "shall prepare the way" for the arrival of the Lord. More to this point, the Lord of hosts makes it clear that this messenger's role as a "preparer" would precede the Lord who would "suddenly come to his temple."

Moreover, in Luke 1:17, John the Baptizer's ministry is "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." So Rabbi John is identified as this messenger, a "preparer," who would "ready a people" to welcome the Lord. If we would apply the principle of "audience relevance," we will also discover that "people" being prepared by Rabbi John.

The answer is found in the Gospel of Luke:

"And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God." 
(Luke 1:16)

And in Acts 13:24 as well:

"...John had first preached before his [Christ] coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel." (Luke 1:16)

Rabbi John is in the "conviction and conversion" ministry and the only way to prepare "a people" [all the people of Israel] for the Lord's Visitation is to call them to repentance.

"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, 
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 
And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." 
(Matthew 3:1-6)

It should next be noted that John the Baptizer's mission is both a "promise-fulfillment" and a "purpose-fulfillment."

Zacharias [John the Baptizer's father] too confirms this in his prophecy [song]:

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 
And thou, child [John the Baptist], shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." 
(Luke 1:68-79)

Zacharias describes his son, John, as giving "knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God" (Luke 1:77-78). Zacharias's prophecy proves that John the Baptizer's ministry is very much in the purpose of God ["purpose-fulfillment": "shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways" (Luke 1:76)] but reminded "his people" about the granting of God's promise as well ["promise-fulfillment": God would "perform the mercy promised to our [their] fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our [their] father Abraham, That he would grant unto us [them]" (Luke 1:72-74)].

The call to repentance also preceded the call "to flee from the wrath to come."

John the Baptizer, the "forerunner of our Lord," began his ministry in the wilderness of Judea. Israel at that time was "in the dark," but God sent to them Rabbi John – "a burning and a shining light" (John 5:35) – who pointed sinners to the Savior then to "the wrath to come."

THE "CHRIST EVENT"

Before espousing the Transitional Period, Bible Believers today should tremendously realize that just as God has appointed "the signs of the times" (Matthew 16:3), He has also appointed "the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). Now, as we have reviewed the principles of "promise-fulfillment" and "purpose-fulfillment," let's take a moment to address the relevance also of "the anticipation time" of the first century saints who were "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13) and were "waiting for the redemption" of their body (Romans 8:22-23).

The Transitional/Inter-Advent Period. Futurist Chafer states that "Christ spoke of a hitherto unannounced period between His two advents and indicated its distinctive features (Matt. 13:1-51)"[7] and Pentecost, another futurist commenting on this "unannounced period," writes about "the time element" in Matthew 13 and Christ's Parables as limited to the "inter-advent period." [8]

Chafer and Pentecost affirm that there is such a thing as an "inter-advent period" [the present age between the two advents of Christ], but failed to limit the scope and duration of this "unannounced period" to the first century period because they gave this distinction: the "last days" for Israel and the "last days" for the Church.

According to Reformed Preterist Curtis:

"The forty year transition period is the "Christ Event"... This "Christ Event" encompasses the Cross, Pentecost, the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the Parousia..."[9]

And adds that:

"John's message also covered a forty year period... John refers to the Christ Event; it begins with Pentecost--the baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ends with fire--the destruction of Jerusalem... So A.D. 30 began the Christ event, but it was not completed until forty years later in A.D. 70."[10]

Flee from the Wrath to Come. In Israel's history, in the time of Rabbi John and our Lord, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees showed themselves more religious, "very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters."[11]

These public teachers of the Law of Moses rejected "judgment, mercy, and faith."

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." 
(Matthew 23:23)

Besides judgment, mercy, and faith, those "religious racketeers" concealed the love of God as well (Luke 11:42). That generation of vipers "have taken away the key of knowledge" (Luke 11:52) and they have "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men" (Matthew 23:13).

Here is John the Baptizer's pronouncement on the Pharisees and Sadducees:

"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." 
(Matthew 3:7-10)

Note that John the Baptizer's words against the Pharisees and Sadducees will help us to understand God's "world view" at that time; that he continued in warning them: "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees" – proves that this prophecy in expressive language is showing a judgment that is about to come. Because the warning "to flee" is tied to "the wrath to come" in that generation, it also keeps us from reading it in or as our own world view and reinterpreting Rabbi John's prophecy according to modern-day futurist philosophy.

Let's look back also to what Christ foretold about "the abomination of desolation" and the "flight" [a fleeing, i.e. escape] related to that event:

"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 
And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." 
(Matthew 24:15-22)

Understanding the difference between the first century reality and our present-day reality will keep us from making the same error that many sincere futurist Christians did. They mistook the command to "flee into the mountains" [the "flight"] as an applicable biblical command to them, and then justified "watchfulness" or "rapture-readiness" by pointing to Christ's commands to his disciples on the Mount of Olives.

Before one can determine the first century fulfillment of Rabbi John's and Christ's prophecy on the "flight" it is first necessary to understand Daniel's terminology of "the abomination of desolation." On this Watt, a Covenant Eschatologist, has written:

"Continuing from Matthew 24:15, we read Jesus tell his disciples that those living in Judaea at this time should flee to the mountains (24:16). We can note the relevance to Daniel 9 once again when we consider that Daniel 9:24-27 was a prophecy for Daniel's people (Daniel 9:24), and that Jerusalem would be appointed to desolation (9:26-27).

When we read the parallel passage in Luke's account, we can obtain a greater insight into what would occur at the time of the abomination:

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. (Luke 21:20)

Note that Jerusalem would be surrounded with armies, which would bring desolation. We clearly have a direct reference to Daniel 9:26-27."[12]

It is definitely true that the Gospels show the troubles ["great tribulation"] before the destruction ["desolation"] of Jerusalem. But unless we have known the pertinent Scripture passages, we cannot understand Rabbi John's or Christ's reality and put forth the time of their prophecies fulfillment. Surely we can show the relevance of the "flight" to "the wrath to come" in that generation, providing we get back to the appointed time of Jerusalem's desolation.

The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand. John the Baptizer and Jesus Christ boldly preached [prophesied] that the kingdom of God was "at hand" (Matthew 3:2, 4:17).

Concerning its meaning Woltmann writes:

"When Jesus proclaims that the kingdom of God is 'at hand', he is not looking into the future in the temporal sense; he is looking into the heaven of the present. The kingdom does not 'come' out of the future into the present. It comes from heaven to earth, as the Lord's Prayer tells us."[13]

So when Jesus Christ said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15), he meant "The Kingdom of God has arrived!"

The Night Is Far Spent, The Day Is At Hand. In Romans 13:12, Paul seems to be agreeing with Zacharias's prophecy that "the dayspring from on high hath visited" – the rising sun from heaven [Christ the "Sun of Righteousness"] has come to Israel (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78). Considering that period, Paul also said "now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our [their] salvation nearer than when we [they] believed" (Romans 13:11). A strictly grammatical-historical interpretation of this would be: "The remnant's salvation [redemption] is nearer than when they first believed." Notice that Paul looked back to the time "when they first believed" [past], looked at their present time [the "now"], and looked forward to their coming salvation [their near future].

Paul even used the same expression in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. So "the day is at hand" also means "the Day of Christ is at hand."

The Day of Christ Is At Hand. 2 Thessalonians 2:2's explanation is in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 – it's "the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ" and "the gathering together [of the remnant] unto him." That this period is "the Day of Salvation" is clearly taught in Paul's letter to the Corinthian saints as well:

"(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)" 
(2 Corinthians 6:2)

The Lord Is At Hand. This is the description of Philippians 4:5: "Christ's Presence comes from eternity into time!"

But The End Of All Things Is At Hand. 1 Peter 4:7 has also been translated as "The end of all things is near"[14] or "But the end of all things has come close."[15]

Henry, though a futurist, has indicated, to a certain extent, the exact meaning of 1 Peter 4:7:

"The destruction of the Jewish church and nation, foretold by our Saviour, was very near."[16]

For The Time Is At Hand. A comparison of this verse, Revelation 1:3 or 22:10, with the other passages in which context "Christ's Coming" is mentioned, would show that "Salvation" or "Redemption" was the expectation of the remnant during the Transitional Period.

Remember what Paul said to the Roman saints:

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." 
(Romans 8:18-19)

If we understand the heavenly origin of Malachi 3:1, then we will understand the meaningful steps that John the Baptizer, Christ Himself, and the apostles walked into. Their suffering was only temporary – "a moment of light affliction that worked for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Indeed the elect saints waited with earnest expectation for Christ's Glorious Presence and the glorious salvation prepared for them was, eventually, manifested. The elect saints, in all things, are more than conquerors through Christ who loved them.

Covenant-fulfillment


The considerations stated here lead us toward a conclusion that this "Christ Event" is to bring about this – "covenant-fulfillment" [that God Himself shall be with his "called, chosen, and faithful" people and His "called, chosen, and faithful" people shall be with Him eternally! (Revelation 17:14, 19:9, 21:3)]

"Covenant-fulfillment" is for those who seek the Lord, love Him, and keep His words:

Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode [home] with him." 
(John 14:23)

Since Malachi 3:1 has been previously shown here, notice carefully that, before and during the inter-advent period, there were seekers of the Lord whose delight is in Him:

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts."
(John 14:23)

The Lord whom the remnant Jews sought after is "the Lord of hosts" Himself, the Messiah, speaking to them. So Christ came "suddenly" [i.e. straightway] to the temple, which is rightfully "His Temple" at Jerusalem, where Simeon, Anna, and other seekers were waiting for Him and for the "consolation" [comfort], even the "redemption" of Israel.

Let's read the testimonies of Simeon and Anna from the Gospel of Luke:

"And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 
(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 
And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, 
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 
(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 
And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." 
(Luke 2:21-38)

"Covenant-fulfillment" arises because when God made a promise, He fulfills that promise.

CHRIST'S ETERNITY

"Christ's Eternity" is Christ's "world [ages] without end" (Ephesians 3:21).

Here we must ask: what represents eternity? How are we to conceive of this "time without end" and its eternal state? What is the relationship of "the everlasting covenant" to "Christ's Eternity"? Where does this eternity take us?

Christ-fulfillment


No matter what our eschatology, we are now "IN Christ" and "Christ is IN us." While we do not promote another "Christ's coming in the flesh," we affirm and enjoy "Christ's Glorious Presence Now." We are brothers and sisters for all eternity in Christ.

So where do we go from here? The answer is not "towards fulfillment" but "from fulfillment in Christ onwards!"


[1] Matthew George Easton, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Topic: Cyrus. 
[2] Endtimes Updates (Year 2000) Publication, Vol. IV, No. 2, Second Issue Yr. 2000, 31st Release. 
[3] Ibid., p. 5. 
[4] Ibid., p. 8. 
[5] Jerry William Bowers Jr., The Last Days of The End Times, p. 59. 
[6] Ibid., p. 47. 
[7] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, I, xi-xii. 
[8] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 144. 
[9] David B. Curtis, Weakness In Transition, Delivered 11/20/2011. 
[10] Ibid. 
[11] Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Citation: Matthew 23. 
[12] Jason Watt, Understanding Matthew 24: The Parallels, Part 2. 
[13] Jurgen Woltmann, The Coming of God, p. 15. 
[14] 1 Peter 4:7, The Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society 
[15] 1 Peter 4:7, Literal English Translation Bible (LETB), Copyright © 1988 
[16] Henry, Concise Commentary, Citation: First Peter 4