Saturday, January 04, 2014

What is the meaning of prophecy?

Before I really define prophecy, I need to talk about the office of prophet. Prophets are exemplified by Elijah, who sort of stands out as the chief of prophets. Elijah, the Bible tells us, instead of dying, was carried up to heaven in a whirlwind, and Elijah thus prefigures Christ who rose up to heaven, defying death. Before we see the Second Coming, we are to see someone acting like Elijah coming and preparing Israel for their coming Messiah. A prophet’s job, even in the Old Testament, was mostly forthtelling rather than foretelling. The prophet is best thought of as representing God to the people; the priest representing the people to God.

The last Old Testament prophet was John the Baptist, who appeared in like manner to Elijah, and had Israel not rejected Christ, could have been thought of as Elijah. Forthtelling, while the main job of the prophet, was not the only job. Foretelling was an important part of the job also. There are systems of Bible interpretation which routinely ignore prophecy, which is estimated to be a least 20% of the Bible, and they do so at their own peril. Dozens of prophecies were fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, and one of the most important pieces of prophecy is Psalm 22, which is the most quoted Psalm of the New Testament.

There is a division in the church about the office of the prophet—some feel it ended with the Apostolic Age, and while that may be true, there can be little doubt that the Holy Spirit still foretells through Christians. Some distinguish this gift of prophecy by calling it a New Testament prophet rather than the type of Old Testament prophet. In any case, such a prophet today would still mostly be forthtelling rather than foretelling. In other words, the prophet today, if the office does exist, would mostly be using the Bible to point people to God.

“Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” So says Jesus in the Gospel of John, but what does it mean? It means at least this, the aim of prophecy is to ever make the person of Christ more plain to men. Much prophecy has already been fulfilled and Evidence that Demands a Verdict is perhaps the great text showing many of the fulfillments in Christ’s first coming. A study of fulfilled prophecy should lead a person to high confidence in every word of future prophecy coming true.

“In him was light and the light was the life of men.” The Bible speaks of darkness, of men loving darkness, because their deeds are evil. “God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.” We walk in darkness now, though we see the Light, and are drawn toward it. I often wonder about that coming Light, Light that might be so bright that it would eclipse the noon-day sun. Prophecy speaks of a coming time, when we shall know even as we also are known—perhaps a time when by the Light of the Lord we will see each other, and him, as we have never seen before. Wait a minute, you might protest! I am not ready for such a Light, you say. I have much that I would hide, you say. And part of me would agree with you. But is that not the point of his coming—that Light should shine in our souls for the rest of eternity? Prophecy unfulfilled should sharpen our looking for the promise of his coming. Jesus asks the question, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth? The implied answer seems to be no, but we are told to watch, that we should be found ready, as the bride of Christ who still has oil for their lamps.

I rather think that coming into the presence of the Lord will be the most soul-wrenching experience we ever have. It might be so painful that we fear we are even going to die, but on the other side, with the darkness forever gone, we will walk in the Light, as he himself is in the Light. Prophecy tells us that he will take us, pouring his nature into us, and remake us to be in his image. And again, I am back at the point contemplating my estate. Or in plain English, God wrought more at the cross than in all of creation, and in giving himself to us, redeemed that pearl of great price, giving absolutely everything he had to redeem us.

And if that does not wake you up, you probably are not thinking it through. My God has changed me from sinner to saint, and if I understand that aright, it means that I had no estate to start with, dead in my trespasses and sins, and I now am put in the place to inherit everything that God would give to his own Son. At what cost? The Son himself gave his own life for me, giving up his eternity of sharing with the Father, nailing to the cross my transgressions, leaving them forever to be judged, that I might be awesomely and totally free. To those who criticize him for not doing enough to save the world, there is nothing, nothing more that he could do than he did.

What does he expect of us? That we should be overwhelmed by his grace, and seek to surrender ourselves to his Spirit living in us, that we might taste of that high and mighty estate even while we are yet in the flesh. Prophecy? It tells us of a coming time when the child shall play next to the adder and not suffer harm. It tells us of a time when men’s lifespan will be lengthened like it was in the beginning. It tells us that we will embark on the greatest adventure of our lives, when for all eternity, we will be next to our Lord.

Those who might reflect on the above paragraph should also reflect now upon the low estate of our fellow man. How can we work and play with those who do not know him, day unto day, and year unto year? How can we live with families who know not their estate, whether it is our spouse or our children? If we truly begin to appreciate what God has wrought in us, then we ought to realize daily that those who know not Christ are already as dead as dead can get. First, we ought to be praying for their souls, and that with manifold tears, as we realize their utter lostness.

In reading about Keith Green in No Compromise, I saw time after time a man who barely knew his God, and certainly did not understand good doctrine, but this he understood: his friends and his family were perishing, and Keith would go to them with tears flooding his cheeks, and tell them of their deep need to know God’s grace. More often than not, his love broke through their hard hearts. Keith did know his God, and understood his grace. Is it not time for you to fall to your knees and weep over those whom you love, and yet realize their lostness? Perhaps God will answer your prayers, and reach toward those who are so lost.

Prophecy? It always points toward our Lord. But it also points to what he has done for us, and that should keep us very busy praying for our lost world, that God might yet use us to save some.

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