Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- V. Christ in the Prophets
''The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'' (Rev 19:10)
- 1. General View of Prophecy --
- Before we consider the prophetical books one by one, it may be well to take a general view of prophecy as a whole.
- Definition of Prophecy.
- The Bible itself furnishes us with an authoritative definition of the office and function of the prophet. ''The Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.'' ''And thou shalt put words in his mouth'' (Ex 7:1; 4:15). No statement could be clearer than this. By Divine appointment, Moses was to be in the place of God to Pharaoh, and Aaron was to act as the prophet of Moses, receiving from him the message, and delivering it to the king. (Moorehead)
- Importance of Prophecy.
- As Prophecy holds so important a place and occupies so large a part of God's revealed will, about a third of the whole Bible, how important it is that we should give it our earnest attention, and seek, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to understand its meaning. ''Hebrew prophecy will be acknowledged by most to be a perfectly unique phenomenon in the history of religions'' (Dr. Orr).
Prophecy is God's revelation of His plans to His children. It was given, not for a merely temporary use, but for all ages and for all people. Paul says concerning it, ''Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning; that we, through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope'' (Romans 15:4). Prophecy can only come from God, for He alone knows the end from the beginning. Christ said to His disciples, ''I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you'' (John 15:15). Abraham was called the ''friend of God''; and when God was about to destroy Sodom, He said, ''Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do?'' [Gen 18:17]. In studying the prophetical books, we should realize that God is condescending to reveal to us His purposes. ''Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets'' (Amos 3:7).
- There are three elements in the message of the prophets (Dr. Campbell Morgan) --
- The Prophets bore a message to their own age.
Their stand-point was always the sovereignty of God. Whether they spoke with the voice of thunder or with the tenderness of love, they spoke in God's name and with His authority. Their protest against things that were contrary to His will was without compromise and absolutely fearless of consequences. Their one object was the glory of Jehovah; the failure of Israel to glorify God before the surrounding nations filled them with sorrow. And through everything, their conviction is evident that in the end God will be victorious, and His purpose will be accomplished.
- The Prophets predicted future events.
A very large proportion of the message of the prophets was predictive.
The main outline of prophecy is:
- the failure of God's chosen people, and God's judgment upon them;
- God's judgment on the surrounding nations;
- the coming of the Messiah and His rejection;
- His coming in glory, and the restoration of the chosen people;
- finally, the fact that Messiah's kingdom must ultimately be established over the whole earth.
''The element of prediction in Scripture has been lately undervalued, and under the specious plea that the moral and spiritual, the ethical element in the prophets, is the chief thing. This is a confusion of ideas. All prediction in Scripture is ethical, or rather spiritual, because it refers to the kingdom of God, and to its center-- Christ. But the spiritual element is intimately connected with the facts, the continued manifestations and gifts of God unto His people.'' [Christ and the Scriptures, p. 49, Adolph Saphir, D.D.]
- The prophetic books contain a living message to our own age.
The eternal principles of right and wrong are as applicable to our own times as to the times of the prophets. The rebuking of sin, and the appeal to God's honor and glory, are full of teaching for today. The prophets mainly denounced idolatry, the guilt and folly of worshipping stocks and stones, objects of men's own manufacture, and all the moral evils connected with it. Throughout the hundreds of millions of Christendom today, idolatry, in the worship of images and pictures, still survives-- to which is added the God-dishonoring worship of the wafer bread in the Mass as God Himself!
- Prophecy and its Origin in Man's Need.
- Man's fall called forth the first promise of the Great Deliverer in the person of the seed of the woman [Gen 3:15]. Israel's bondage resulted in the call of Moses. Samuel was raised up at the time of Israel's rejection of God [as] their glorious King. The idolatry of the kings of Israel called forth the prophecies of Elijah and Elisha. It was when Israel was apostasizing from God by idolatry that the great galaxy of prophets appeared, uttered their solemn warnings, and made their passionate appeals. Peter spoke of the ''more sure word of prophecy,'' and compares it to ''a lamp shining in a dark place'' (2Peter 1:19); and often it shone the brightest when the darkness was most intense.
[See Outline Studies in the Books of the Old Testament, p. 207, W.G. Moorehead, D.D.]
- Prophecy Distinct from Soothsaying.
- Prophecy is utterly distinct from divination and soothsaying. According to Scripture, it does not spring from any power of the human mind or spirit. Its origin is always traced to the supernatural working of the Spirit of God on the spirit of the prophet: ''As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began'' (Luke 1:70). The prophets disclaim any part in the origination of their message. Even the words in which the message is conveyed they ascribe to God. They invariably preface their message with some such words as these: ''Thus saith the Lord,'' ''The Word of the Lord came unto me,'' etc. The language of the Apostle Peter is final on the subject: ''Knowing this first, that all written prophecy came not of [men's] own disclosure; for prophecy was not borne [in] in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were borne [along] by the Holy Spirit'' (2Pet 1:21). God said to Jeremiah, ''Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth'' (Jer 1:9); and to Ezekiel, ''Thou shalt speak My words unto them'' (Ezek 2:7). The soothsayer and false prophet spoke out of their own hearts (Jer 14:14; 23:16).
Divination, moreover, professes to give prediction on all kinds of subjects and things without any reference to the Divine government or God's purposes of grace. It knows nothing of Christ, and cares nothing for Him. ''It has no moral root and subserves no wider moral purpose, but is the result of a mere curious prying into the future'' (Dr. Orr).
Prophecy, on the other hand, is never introduced as a mere wonder, or on its own account, but always in connection with, and with a direct bearing upon, the kingdom of God. It announces nothing but what is in some way connected with His purpose of redemption. The object and center of all prophecy is the Lord Jesus Christ and His salvation. ''Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before-hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into'' (1Pet 1:10-13; Acts 26:22,23).
- Perspective of Prophecy.
- In foretelling future events, the prophet resembles a traveller viewing a mountain range from afar. The perspective of the range is much foreshortened; it appears as one ridge of hills. But as he gets nearer, he sees range behind range. Peaks, which appeared from afar to be at the same distance from him, are perhaps miles behind each other. So it is with prophecy. The prophet sees the future in perspective. He cannot tell the immense distances of time which separate one event from another. Christ's first coming in humiliation, and His second coming in glory are often seen as if they were one event. [The prophet] does not realize the ages that should elapse before the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. There is no such thing as time with Him who is the King of Eternity, and with whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day [2Pet 3:8]. In His presence, it is but natural that the prophet should lose the sense of time and see things in the light of eternity.
- The Interpreter of Prophecy.
- It is evident that the prophets did not always understand the message themselves. We see this from the passage already quoted (1Pet 1:10-13); also from various other passages (Dan 7:28; 8:15-27; 10:7-15; Rev 1:17; 7:13,14; 17:6). It follows from this that the very words must have been given [to] them. Prophecy is an unimpeachable evidence of the inspiration of the Bible.
To understand prophecy, we must follow the principle of interpretation always implied in the New Testament-- that the Bible is an organic unity and Christ is its center. We also need to depend continually on the Spirit of God, who inspired prophecy, to be to us its Interpreter. It is a common saying that history is the expounder of prophecy, and that we must await its fulfillment to understand it. This view confounds the interpretation with the confirmation. If prophecy can only be understood after it is fulfilled, how can it be a lamp shining in a dark place for our guidance? Prophecy is intended for all God's people. But all cannot know the world's history; hence history is not its only interpreter.
Moreover, our Saviour censured His disciples for not having understood from the prophets the things that were to happen to Him. ''O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself'' (Luke 24:25-27). In like manner, His second coming has been clearly foretold, and we shall be deserving of the same censure if we are not watching for it. ''Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh'' (Mat 24:42,44).
Our Lord also knows that the Jewish nation ought to have recognized Him from the study of their own prophets. ''Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. . . They shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation'' (Luke 19:42,44). As Stephen said: ''Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers'' (Acts 7:51,52). Paul also said: ''They that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him.'' ''Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which was spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you'' (Acts 13:27,40,41; See 2Peter 3).
- Coincidence an Impossible Explanation of Prophecy.
- Those, who say that the correspondence of prophecy with its fulfillment is due to accidental coincidence, have surely not studied the law of simple and compound probability. When a simple prediction is made, about which there is but one feature, it may or may not prove true; there is therefore one chance in two of its being fulfilled. But if a second feature is introduced in the prediction, the region of compound probability is entered. Each prediction has a half chance of fulfillment, the two combined have only a quarter chance, i.e. there is one chance in four that both predictions will be verified. Every new feature added makes the fraction of probability smaller. The various events prophesied in the Scriptures, whether it be the destiny of the surrounding nations or of the Jewish people, are given with a precision and variety of detail which reduce the probability of their fulfillment to a minimum. The prophecies concerning Christ Himself, above all others, are so definite, and such a number of distinct features are given, that the probability of fulfillment apart from Divine foreknowledge, and as a matter of accidental coincidence, is reduced to a fraction too small for figures to represent.
[See Many Infallible Proofs, p. 55, by A.T. Pierson, D.D., who shows that the twenty-five distinct predictions given by our Lord respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, by the law of compound probability reduce the chance of fulfillment to one in nearly twenty millions! Yet, every one of these predictions was fulfilled in that event.]
Fulfilled prophecy is one of the greatest miracles the world has seen. And these fulfilled prophecies are woven into the text of the Scriptures throughout.
- Instances of Fulfilled Prophecy.
- The whole work of Redemption was outlined in that first brief prediction which Adam heard from the voice of God Himself [Gen 3:15]. ''Noah sketched in three inspired sentences the great features of human history.'' [Gen 9:25-27]. The tenth chapter of Genesis contains a summary of the distribution of the race, which is in perfect accord with the latest theories of ethnology.
''To Abraham was revealed the history of the descendants of his two sons Ishmael and Isaac [Gen 17:20,21]; the four hundred years affliction of his posterity [Gen 15:13-16]; the blessing of all nations through his seed [Gen 12:2,3], etc. Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, all saw Christ's day and were glad; Isaiah and Jeremiah revealed not only the proximate judgments and deliverances of Israel, but also [the] incarnation and atonement. The visions of Daniel present not only a comprehensive, but an orderly and consecutive prophetic narrative of leading events from his own day to the end of all things; a miniature universal history. The fall of Belshazzar; the rise of Cyrus, his conquests, the greatness of his empire; his successors, Cambyses, Smerdis, and Darius; the character, power, and conduct of Xerxes; the marvellous exploits of Alexander the Great, his sudden death, and the division of his empire; the reigns of Ptolemies and Seleucidae; the character and conquests of the Roman Empire; the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; the decay and division of the Roman Empire; the rise of the papacy and its career; its cruel persections of God's saints; -- all this and much more is foretold by the man greatly beloved [Dan 10:11]. The 'burdens' of the later prophets concern Syria, Egypt, Edom, Tyre, Sidon, Moab, Philistia, Kedar, Elam, Babylon, Gog and Magog, besides Judah and Ephraim.'' [The Approaching End of the Age, p. 4, by H. Grattan Guinness.]
- Fulfillment of Prophecy in the Jewish Nation.
- In an earlier chapter we touched upon the remarkable fulfillments of prophecy with regard to the Jewish nation. Let us now look a little more particularly into the prophecies regarding that nation which have already been fulfilled.
- Their rejection of Christ [was] foretold.
''He is despised and rejected of men... despised, and we esteemed Him not'' (Isa 53:1-3).
''The stone which the builders refused...'' (Psa 118:22).
''One whom man despiseth-- whom the nation abhorreth'' (Isa 49:7).
- Their rejection of Christ [was] to be long continued.
The prophet asks how long the doom of blindness is to rest upon Israel. ''Till the land become utterly waste, and the Lord have removed men far away'' (Isa 6:9-12).
And Paul tells us that it is ''until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in'' (Rom 11:25).
The Jew confirms, by his very rejection, the claims which he scorns.
- The Romans [were] to be used in the chastisement of Israel.
''The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand: a nation of fierce countenance'' (Deu 28:49,50; See also Jer 5:15).
How literally the Romans fulfilled the details of this prediction! Instead of being one of the surrounding nations, which had so often been used to chastise Israel, they came from afar. Instead of the close similarity of the language of the surrounding nations with the Hebrew tongue, the language of the Romans was entirely foreign. The Roman eagle was their well-known ensign. They are ''a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young.'' The merciless cruelty of the Romans, at the time of the fall of Jerusalem, is beyond words to describe.
- They were to be taken back to Egypt in ships.
''And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships'' (Deu 28:68).
Of those saved at Jerusalem, all who were over seventeen years of age were sent to labor in the Egyptian mines, where prisoners were kept at work day and night without intermission, till they fell down and died.
- The cities of Israel were to be besieged.
''He shall besiege thee in all thy gates, throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee'' (Deu 28:52).
The conquest of the land of Israel by the Romans, in contrast to previous wars, was almost entirely a war of sieges.
- The method of attack.
''Until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst.''
The strongest walls fell down before the terrors of the Roman battering-ram.
- The extremities of famine.
''Thou shalt eat the flesh of thy sons and thy daughters'' (Deu 28:53; Jer 19:9).
[This was] literally fulfilled in the Siege of Jerusalem.
- They should be few in number.
''Ye shall be left few in number... and ye shall be plucked from off the land'' (Deu 28:62,63).
''The whole land shall be desolate'' (Jer 4:27).
Many hundreds of thousands were slain during the war, besides those who perished by famine, disease, and fire, and besides multitudes carried away captive.
- Their universal dispersion.
''And the Lord shall scatter thee among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth'' (Deu 28:64 and Hosea 9:17).
The Jew is found in every land today from North to South, from East to West.
- They should be preserved as a nation.
''And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not destroy them utterly'' (Lev 26:44; Jer 30:11; 46:28).
''Massacred by thousands, yet springing up again from their undying stock, the Jews appear at all times and in all regions. Their perpetuity, their national immortality, is at once the most curious problem to the political inquirer; to the religious man a subject of profound and awful admiration.'' [History of the Jews, ii. 399, Milman.]
- [Their] Separateness.
''The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations'' (Num 23:9).
''That which cometh into your minds shall not be at all; in that ye say we will be as the nations, to serve wood and stone'' [Eze 20:32].
Neither their own proclivities to idolatry, nor pressure and persecution from without have ever prevailed, since the Babylonian Captivity, to make them give up the faith of their fathers or become as the nations among whom they lived.
- They should have no rest.
''And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, and there shall be no rest for the sole of thy foot... Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life'' (Deu 28:65-67; Amos 9:4).
How literally these words have been fulfilled in the terrible massacres of the Jews down to our own day!
- They should be deprived of central government and temple.
''For the Children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a sacrifice'' (Hos 3:4).
These words have been fulfilled in spite of the strenuous efforts of the Jews to maintain among themselves some central authority.
The following verse says: ''Afterward shall the Children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their King; and shall come with fear unto the Lord and to His goodness in the latter days'' (Hos 3:5). How can we doubt that His word, which has been so literally fulfilled in the past in judgment, will be equally fulfilled in the future, in mercy? God expressly tells us that it shall be so. ''Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations. He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock'' (Jer 31:10).
''For thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered: so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. And I will set up One Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My Servant David; He shall feed them, and He shall be their Shepherd.''
(Ezek 34:11-13,23; See also Jer 30:3).
- Fulfillment of Prophecy in Surrounding Nations--
- Tyre (Ezek 26:7-11).
- After describing the vengeance which the king of Babylon should inflict upon Tyre, the prophet proceeds: ''And they (ie., 'many nations', v.3) shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the waters, and thou shalt be built no more'' [v.12-14]. Previous to the fall of their ancient city, the Tyrians had removed the bulk of their treasures to an island in their possession half a mile from the shore. No attempt was made to rebuild the old city after the Babylonian army had retired, but the ruins still stood. Then Alexander [the Great] came, and because the citizens would not hand over their city to him, he resolved to build a solid causeway through the sea and take it. Every vestige of the ancient city was pulled down and laid in the midst of the sea, and so great was the demand for material that even the very dust seems to have been scraped from the ancient site. Though centuries had rolled away after the word was spoken, the word was literally fulfilled. The city has never been rebuilt; the site remains today without even a mound to mark it.
- Of the neighboring city of Sidon, a different fate is predicted (Ezek 28:20-23): ''Behold, I am against thee, O Zidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee: and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have executed judgments in her. For I will send into her pestilence, and blood in her streets; and the wounded shall fall in the midst of her, with the sword upon her on every side.'' No doom of extinction is pronounced against Sidon, but she is to suffer fearful slaughter. This has been abundantly fulfilled in every commotion which has troubled that unhappy land. Under the Persians, 40,000 citizens set fire to their homes and perished rather than submit. Again and again blood has flowed in her streets, even as lately as 1840, when the place was captured by Admiral Napier. But Sidon still remains, possessing even now about 10,000 inhabitants.
If the prophecies concerning Tyre and Sidon had been reversed, how complete would have been the refutation of Ezekiel's claim to speak the word of the Lord!
- Fulfillment of Prophecy in Christ.
- We have already, in a former section, ''The Testimony of the Scripture to Christ,'' as well as in each succeeding section, traced many of the prophecies which have been so abundantly fulfilled in the life and death and resurrection and ascension of our Redeemer. ''The Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy'' [Rev 19:10]. ''In the volume of the Book it is written of Me'' [Psa 40:7]. There is only one Book, and only one Person to whom these words point. A perfect picture of the Messiah who was to come is traced for us in all its details in the prophecies of the Old Testament. A perfect picture of His life is given in the historic records of the New. Place these two portraits one over the other and they correspond exactly. There can have been no collusion between the writers, for they are separated from each other by the silence of four hundred years. The Old Testament gives a portrait of the mysterious coming One, the New [Testament gives a portrait] of One who had actually come. The hand that drew them both must have been Divine. This irresistible conclusion is a double one-- it leads us to accept the prophetic Scriptures as inspired, and to accept the historic Christ, towards whom all these rays converge, as a Divine person. (Dr. Pierson)
''When a lock and key are well-fitted, a fair presumption arises, even though they be of a simple character, that they were made for each other. If they are complex in their form, that presumption is considerably strengthened. But if the lock is composed of such strange and curious parts as to baffle the skill of the cleverest mechanic, if it is absolutely novel and peculiar, differing from everything which was before seen in the world-- if no key in the universe will enter it except one, and by that one it is so easily and exactly fitted that a child may open it, then, indeed, are we absolutely certain that the lock and the key were made by the same master-hand, and they belong to each other. No less curiously diversified, no less hidden from the wisdom of man, no less novel and peculiar, are the prophecies contained in the Old Testament respecting Jesus Christ. No less easy, no less exact, is the manner in which they are fitted by the Gospel history. Who, then, can doubt that God was the author of these predictions, of the events by which they were fulfilled, and of the religion with which they are both inseparably connected?'' (J.J. Gurney).