Prophecy and God’s plan

February 27, 2014

Prophecy reveals how God’s plan is working out. When properly interpreted and understood, it explains God’s purpose, and what Christ is doing.

Jesus taught his disciples to watch, and warned that his prophecies would come to pass, while most people in the world are unaware of it. Referring to the time of his coming, when he will be revealed in his saints, he said:

“For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” [Luke 21:35-36]

The prophets wrote about the Church. They ministered “unto us,” Peter said. [1 Peter 1:10-12]

Jesus said Jerusalem will be trodden down by Gentiles, “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” The Jerusalem he referred to is the Church, the heavenly Jerusalem.

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” [Luke 21:24]

Zechariah 12:3 says Jerusalem will become “a burdensome stone for all people.”

“The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” [Zech. 12:1-3]

God’s judgment will fall upon those who come against the Church.

Ezekiel 36 describes the mountains of Israel as having been made desolate, and a derision to the heathen. The mountains of Israel in the prophecy are metaphorical, and symbolic, and represent God’s spiritual promises and revelations, and prophecies. When Jacob blessed his son Joseph, he said, “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.” The promises he received were spiritual, and eternal, so he compared them with the “everlasting hills.” [Gen. 49:26]

Flawed interpretations have been imposed upon Scripture by people who lack understanding, but this will change. Ezekiel said the mountains will bring forth fruit for God’s people, and those who have brought shame upon the mountains of Israel (by promoting flawed interpretations of prophecy) will bear their own shame. When prophecy is interpreted correctly and understood, false interpretations are exposed and discredited.

Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 20:8-9 describe an assault upon the Church by people who are deceived. The armies of Gog and Magog come against the camp of the saints, and the beloved city, the Church, represented by “the land of unwalled villages” and “the mountains of Israel” in Ezekiel’s prophecy. A similar expression is applied to Jerusalem in Zechariah 2:4. Jerusalem will be “as towns without walls.” This expression cannot refer to the earthly Jerusalem, where an 8 m high wall of concrete, with sniper towers like a prison, has been constructed to separate the Jewish and Arab sections of the city, part of the 700 km long West Bank Separation Barrier.

In Hebrews 12:18 & 22 the Church is identified with mount Zion, which “cannot be touched.” It is one of “the mountains of Israel.”

Christ gives the ability to understand prophecy, so that we may live in harmony with his purpose.

Jesus said the gospel of the kingdom must be preached to the whole world.

The purpose which God is working out in the earth was described in a prophecy of Isaiah:

“As I have purposed, so it shall stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” [Isa. 14:24-27]

Here, “the Assyrian” represents not only Sennacherib the king of Assyria in Isaiah’s time, but spiritual powers of other times, and all the enemies who oppose God’s people, and the truth.

E. H. Plumptree wrote on Isaiah 14:26,

“The words point, as it were, to the idea of a universal history. The fall of the Assyrian power and of Babylon does not stand alone, but forms part of a scheme embracing all nations and all ages.” (chap. ix. 12)

[E. H. Plumptree. Isaiah. In: An Old Testament commentary for English readers, by various writers, ed. by Charles John Ellicott (bp. of Gloucester) p. 463.]

The scope of Isaiah’s prophecy quoted above is the whole earth, not merely Canaan, or the earthly Jerusalem. The promised land represents the spiritual inheritance of the saints.

Isaiah’s prophecy parallels Ezekiel’s prophecy of an invasion by the hordes of Gog and Magog. Their armies also fall on the mountains of Israel. [Ezek. 39:4]

In his Isaiah commentary, J.A. Alexander wrote on Isaiah 14:24-27:

24. From the distant view of the destruction of Babylon, the Prophet suddenly reverts to that of the Assyrian host, either for the purpose of making one of these events accredit the prediction of the other, or for the purpose of assuring true believers, that while God had decreed the deliverance of his people from remoter dangers, he would also protect them from those near at hand. Jehovah of Hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely (literally, if not) as I have planned (or imagined) it has come to pass, and as I have devised, it shall stand (or be established). On the elliptical formula of swearing, see above, ch. 5:9. The true force of the preterite and future forms, as here employed, is that according to God’s purpose, it has come to pass and will come to pass hereafter. This view of the matter makes the mention of Assyria in this connection altogether natural, as if he had said, of the truth of these predictions against Babylon a proof has been afforded in the execution of the threatenings against Assyria. Another method of expounding the verse is to apply both verbs to the same events, but in a somewhat different sense. As I intended it has come to pass, and as I purposed it shall continue. The Assyrian power is already broken and shall never be restored. This interpretation of the preterite does not necessarily imply that the prophecy was actually uttered after the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. Such would indeed be the natural inference from this verse alone, but for reasons which will be explained below, it is more probable that the Prophet merely takes his stand in vision at a point of time between the two events of which he speaks, so that both verbs are really prophetic, the one of a remote the other of a proximate futurity. We have here a signal instance of prophetic foresight exercised at least two centuries before the event.

25. He now declares what the purpose is, which is so certainly to be accomplished, namely, God’s determination to break Assyria (or the Assyrian) in my land, and on my mountains I will trample him; and his yoke shall depart from off them, and his burden from off his back (or shoulder) shall depart. My mountains some have understood to be Mount Zion, others more generally the mountains of Jerusalem; but it seems to be rather a description of the whole land of Israel, or at least of Judah, as a mountainous region. (See Ezek. 38:21. 39:2, 4.)

26. The Prophet now explains his previous conjunction of events so remote as the Assyrian overthrow and the fall of Babylon, by declaring both to be partial executions of one general decree against all hostile and opposing powers. This is the purpose that is purposed upon all the earth, and this the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. The outstretched hand is a gesture of threatening.

27. As the preceding verse declares the extent of God’s avenging purpose, so this affirms the certainty of its execution, as a necessary consequence; of his almighty power. For Jehovah of Hosts hath purposed (this), and who shall annul (his purpose)? And his hand (is) the (one) stretched out, and who shall turn it back? The meaning of the last clause is not simply that his hand is stretched out, but that the hand stretched out is his.

Jesus warned his disciples to watch so they would not be caught unprepared. He compared the time of the end to the last days of Sodom, and to the world before the flood. Those who are unprepared may be found on the wrong side of the conflict. He said,

“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” [Luke 17:26-33]

Jesus warns believers not to become distracted by their possessions, and not to seek to preserve their own lives, but live according to God’s purpose revealed in prophecy.

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