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Mountains of Prophecy

John Hoole

One of the most obvious facts about the Bible is that it is divided into the Old and New Testaments, sometimes referred to as the old and new covenants. Though the entire Bible bears witness to a gracious, loving God, there is a sharp contrast between the basic revelation of the Old Testament when compared to the New Testament.

This difference is captured in the simple statement of John 1:17, which says

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

The Old Testament is not entirely Law, nor is the New Testament entirely grace but there is a broad contrast between the two. The Mosaic Law, with its more than 600 laws, dominated the Old Testament from the time of Moses until the time of Christ. The law was not devoid of grace, for salvation in the Old Testament was still by grace and forgiveness. By contrast, the New Testament emphasizes the doctrine of God's grace. The New Testament plainly discloses that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. This made the experience of God's grace available to us. God can now forgive those who trust in Christ because the price has been paid. According to Hebrews 12:24, Jesus is the Mediator of a new covenant that is based on His shed blood.

For the last several weeks, we have looked at the central group of people mentioned in the Old Testament - the nation of Israel (the Jews). We discussed the many promises given to their ancestor, Abraham, and later also to Isaac and Jacob, then again to Moses and again to David. Some of the promises of God have been fulfilled, but a number of them find no fulfillment anywhere in the Bible. That means some are yet to be fulfilled. Those yet unfulfilled have led to some disagreement as to how these prophecies will be fulfilled.

All agree that there are saints in the Old Testament, that is, there was a body of believers whose sins are forgiven and who will have a blessed eternity in the presence of God. Disagreement exist as to whether these Old Testament saints are part of what we today call the church. Some have gone as far as to say because Israel rejected their promised Messiah, they have been rejected by God. These people believe that the promises made to Israel will now be fulfilled in the Church. This is the New Israel, with the New Covenant.

I don't know how much you have thought about this, but while growing up in the church, many of the songs we sang had themes alluding to the promises of God to Israel. How often have we heard and sang about heaven being our "promised land."

Songs like:

I'm Bound for the Promised Land,
We're Marching to Zion.
Beulah Land
On Jordan's Stormy Banks

My brother, father and I used to play an instrumental trio of Camping in Canaan's Land. The second verse starts, "Out of Egypt I have traveled. This is still one of my favorite songs. I really don't have a big problem with this songs.

1 Cor. 10:6 says that many of the things in the Old Testament, serve as "examples to us…" But I don't want you to think the Church has taken the place of Israel in prophecy.

In this same First Corinthians chapter, Paul states that there are really 3 groups of people.

1 Cor 10:32 NKJV

32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Gentiles or to the church of God,

We should not confuse these three.

When God called Abraham to begin a nation, Abraham became the first Hebrew, and his children became the Jews, or Israelites. This family will continue to be a distinct entity through the rest of history.

The church is the Body of Christ, which began on the Day of Pentecost, and they will go to heaven in the Rapture. It's makeup is different from both Jews and Gentiles, although both Jews and Gentiles can become part of the Church today.

God has a clear prophetic plan for all three - Jews, Gentiles and the Church. The saints of the Old Testament are NOT part of the church. That means they will be resurrected at a different time than the Church.

In our introductory lessons on End Times, I made the statement that the very fact that the Bible contains predictive prophecies makes it a unique book. No book of any other major world religion can make such a claim. And history has consistently taken the stand as a reliable and authentic witness to the accuracy of Bible prophecies. The claims of the Bible are truly supernatural. Its words come directly from God, who alone declares the end from the beginning.

2 Peter 1:21 NIV

21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Holy men of God, who were guided by the Holy Spirit, wrote of great world events centuries before they were to come to pass.

And as I read and reread all that the prophets wrote, one thought or theme keeps coming to the forefront. Even though there is a marked difference between the Old and New Covenants, there is a singular theme painted through all of its pages. Whether it is the study of Prophecy or any other Doctrine of the Scripture, it can be seen that CHRIST is the central Theme of it all.

He is the essence of history. As one person put it: "History is His-story"

Luke 24:27, 44 (NIV) says:

27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Jesus says that the Old Testament spoke about Him. The entire Bible and my Lord stand or fall together. If the Bible is not the Word of God, then Christ is not the Son of God.

Begin with the writings of Moses and go all the way through the Bible to the Book of Revelation you will continuously be confronted with this central Figure of all history. All of the ceremonial Laws of the Old Testament were a type or a foreshadow of Christ. He was the Sacrificial Lamb that would come to take away the sin of the world, once for all. (Exod. 12 cf. 1 Cor. 5:7-8, John 1:29)

In John 1:45 NIV, even before Jesus had selected his 12 apostles, Philip recognized that Moses and Old Testament prophets wrote of Jesus.

45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

In Acts 8:26-40, we find the Ethiopian Eunuch reading the book of Isaiah. Philip expounded on that passage. Then in verse 35 (NIV), we read:

35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Revelation 19:10 tells us that……

"…..the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

Note what that verse says. Jesus is the central feature of prophecy. Prophecy is intended to glorify Jesus Christ. After all, this book of Revelation is a revelation of Jesus Christ. It reveals Him.

So, we see that Jesus is the central topic or theme of all the Bible. Many of you have heard my one-paragraph commentary of the whole Bible. "The Old testament is primarily a story of a nation. The New Testament is a story of a Man. This nation was to nurture and bring forth this Man, who was to be the promised Redeemer."

Christ in Each Book of the Bible

In Genesis He was the Seed of the Woman.
In Exodus He was the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus He was the Great High Priest.
In Numbers He was the pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
In Deuteronomy He was the prophet likened unto Moses.
In Joshua He was the Captain of my salvation.
In Judges He is my Judge and Lawgiver.
In Ruth He is my Kinsman Redeemer.
In 1st & 2nd Samuel He is my trusted Prophet
In Kings & Chronicles He is my reigning King
In Ezra He is my faithful Scribe
In Nehemiah He is the Rebuilder of the broken walls of my shattered life.
In Esther He is the Savior of my people.
In Job He is my Ever-living Redeemer
In Psalms He is the Lord my Shepherd
In Proverbs & Eccles. He is my Wisdom
In Song of Solomon He is my Lover and Bridegroom
In Isaiah He is the wonderful Prince of Peace
In Jeremiah & Lament. He is my weeping Prophet
In Ezekiel He is the wonderful four-faced man
In Daniel He is the fourth man in the midst of the fiery furnace
In Hosea He is the eternal Husband, waiting for the return of a wayward wife
In Joel He is the Baptizer in the Holy Ghost and power
In Amos He is my Burden-bearer
In Obadiah He is my Savior, who walks across my storm-tossed life.
In Jonah He is the Savior of the Gentiles, as well as the Jews.
In Micah He is the Messenger with beautiful feet
In Nahum He is my Avenger
In Habukkuk He is the Lord mighty to save
In Zephaniah He is our Savior
In Haggai He is the restorer of the lost heritage
In Zechariah He is Jehovah who is jealous and concerned with uncleanness in the house of David, and is Jehovah who blesses when they repent.
In Malachi He is the Sun of Righteousness rising out of the waves with healing In His wings.

WHO WAS IT WALKING ACROSS THE STORM-TOSSED SEA?

In Matthew He is the Messiah
In Mark He is the wonderworking Servant
In Luke He is the Son of Man
In John He is the Son of God
In Acts He is the giver of the Holy Spirit, working and moving among men
In Romans He is my Justifier
In 1st & 2nd Corinthians He is my Sanctifier
In Galatians He is the Redeemer from the curse of the law.
In Ephesians He is the Christ of unsearchable riches
In Philippians He is the God that supplies all of my needs
In Colossians He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily
In 1st & 2nd Thessalonians He is the soon coming King
In 1st & 2nd Timothy He is the one Mediator between God and man
In Titus He is my faithful Shepherd
In Philemon He is a friend of the oppressed
In Hebrews He is the executor of the everlasting covenant
In James He is the Lord who heals the sick with the prayer of faith and anointing of oil
In 1st & 2nd Peter He is our Chief Shepherd Who soon shall appear
In 1st, 2nd & 3rd John He is Love
In Jude He is the coming Lord with ten-thousands of His saints
In Revelation He is the Lord of Lords and glorious King of Kings

Now let's go back to Genesis 3 & 4. We are going to quickly look at the very first prophecy concerning Christ. When Adam and Eve buried Abel, their #2 son, after he was murdered by his brother Cain, try to imagine their thoughts or feelings.

While you are thinking, let me set the stage to this scene. (Gen. 4:1-10) Prior to this event, Adam and Eve had enjoyed, for a time, the experience of living in perfect harmony with God. We don't know how long it lasted. Their fellowship had been such a beautiful thing. They had been created with the ability to live forever. They had never known what it was to sin. They were, for a time, perfect and totally without sin. Thus, they had never felt guilt or remorse. Can you imagine such a state?

Then came the temptation, and the act of disobedience and the sudden knowledge of sin within themselves. In but a moment, they had gone from a state of joy, peace and security, where they freely enjoyed God's companionship to embarrassment, remorse, anxiety and fear of their Creator. Sin does the same today.

In the wreckage of their shattered lives, God had lined up the three of them -- Adam, Eve and Satan (the serpent) before His judgment bar. To each of them was meted out a severe punishment - a curse if you will. Sorrow, pain and struggle was to be Adam's and Eve's portion in life. And, ultimately, the dust of the earth was to reclaim their bodies at death.

BUT THERE HAD BEEN ONE RAY OF LIGHT AMIDST THE CURSE. CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT IT WAS?

God had predicted that the woman would experience pain in childbirth, and that from among their descendants, One would come who would bruise the head of the serpent.

In Genesis 3:15, (NIV) we find God giving His judgment upon Satan, the serpent.

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

This portion of Scripture in the 3rd chapter of Genesis is the first prophecy God gives about the coming Messiah.

To pictorially show the relationship between this and other prophecies concerning Christ, I want to start drawing a mountain range. I call it "The Mountains of prophecy". So that you don't think I've gone too far afield, consider this verse.

Micah 4 NIV

1 But in the last days, it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the LORD's house (temple) shall be established…..

We have seen one prophecy about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Genesis 3:15 refers to Him as a Son (the woman's seed).

THIS IS THE FIRST PEAK. We title it "A Son."

Because of the promise God gave them, Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). In due time, first Cain and then Abel were born, and the prospect of the promised redemption from sin seemed to rest in one of these two lively boys. As each child is born in turn, I can just imagine Adam and Eve pondering the questions: Is this the child who will deal the fatal blow to the head of Satan?" As Cain and Abel grew, it became apparent that God's blessing was in a special way upon Abel. But now, the one which seemed to have all the promise was dead. That left only Cain. And how could God use Cain, the murderer, to fulfill his purpose?

It was in this context that another son was born whose name was Seth. This Hebrew name means "appointed." And Adam and Eve accepted this child in the place of Abel. As Seth grew up, it became more evident that God's purpose for the fulfillment of his promise rested in Seth and his posterity.

Notice Genesis 4:26 (NIV).

26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.

The purpose of God to provide a Redeemer through a Godly seed begins now to unfold in the Old Testament. We have seen that amidst the curse, a promise of a Son who would be the redeemer and destroyer of the workings of Satan was given. And people began to look for their coming Messiah.

As prophecy begins and continues to unfold, other features and characteristics of this Messiah are added.

For instance, Jeremiah 23:5-6 (NIV) says.

5 The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King shall reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

Let's add another mountain peak to our picture. The title for the second peak - "A King."

Isaiah 52:13 NIV

13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
The title for the next mountain peak is "A Servant."

Isaiah 53:3 NIV

3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Title the next peak - "rejected."

Isaiah 53:9 NIV

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Title the next peak - "Death - He will die."

Micah 4:1-2 NIV

1 In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

We can add two more peaks to our mountain range from this Passage.

Title one peak - "Many Nations shall worship Jehovah."

Title another peak - "Jerusalem will be where the throne is."

Isaiah 9:7 NIV

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

Title the next peak - "He will be king of the house of David forever."

Have you ever been traveling, and viewed a distant mountain range. Like the diagram on the board, the mountains in the foreground are quite visible and clear. But there are others where only the tops are visible. And from your vantage point, it is difficult to determine if they are all part of the same mountain range or if there is any great distance between the mountains that are in the front and those behind them. And if there is, we have no appreciation of its size or distance. There may even be lesser mountain peaks in between, but from your point of reference, you have no knowledge of that fact.

This is somewhat how it is with prophecy. In giving the characteristics of the coming Messiah, the O.T. prophets failed to consider that there might be more than one coming with some span of time between them.

It's sort of like this mountain range. Looking at it from the front, it may all look like a single mountain range. But, looking at the same mountains from the side may show a great distance between several mountain ranges.

What might these mountain peaks of prophecy look like if we viewed the landscape from the side rather than the front. The Old Testament prophets are like the man in this pictorial representation which you see on the screen. They did not recognize that the coming of the Messiah was more than one coming. Neither did most of the Jews understand this when Christ was here. To them, Jesus didn't fit the picture they had of the coming Messiah. Their views were slanted to Him coming as a King to deliver them politically.

The Old Testament prophets looked across the mountain tops of prophecy. They saw the birth of Christ in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). They recorded his Calvary experience (Isaiah 53:1-2). And the Holy Spirit revealed to them information about His second coming. The problem was, they were looking across mountain tops, not even realizing any valleys between the mountains in the front and those behind them. They saw them mostly as different parts of the same event - not two events.

How do I know that for sure? Look at what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:10-11. NIV

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,
11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

The prophets tried to understand what they wrote about, especially about the grace that was going to come to them and God's people. It says they searched intently and with great care. Verse 11 says what they were searching intently about. They were trying to understand the timing and the events that they wrote about. Especially about the Messiah's suffering and the glory that would follow.

Did you catch that last phrase? They were having great difficulty understanding about both the suffering and the glories of the Christ. The difficulty was that they didn't realize they were talking about his two comings. His first would be filled with suffering and dying and His second would follow with glories as the King of Kings.

That was essentially what we were seeing in the mountain range we built earlier on the screen. The attributes of the Messiah that are depicted in the foreground represent his first coming. (i.e., Son, Rejected, Death and Servant.) Those peaks in the background represent His second coming.

Let me show you yet another person's representation of the Mountain Peaks of Prophecy created by Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice.

One big thing the Old Testament prophets missed entirely, was the great valley between the two mountain ranges representing the first and second comings.

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul quotes Isaiah, who admitted he did not understand all that God had in store for mankind.

1 Cor 2:7-10 NIV

7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"-

That is a quote from Isaiah 64:4. Then Paul adds verse 10.

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

The ability to separate the first and second comings of Christ was very difficult for the Old Testament prophets. But, in verse 10, Paul says these things have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament prophecies often clarified the end times prophecies of the Old Testament. And that is why the Old and New should be studied together.

I have taken you through this detail to show that, with very few exceptions, the Old Testament prophets did not prophesy about event during what we call the "church age". They skipped over it in most of their writings. You might ask, is this something we see often in the Old Testament? Can we accurately and definitely show that Old Testament writers skipped this age entirely.

Let's look at a few example. I think you will see that skipping the church age is the rule, not the exception for Old Testament prophets.

Probably the clearest example of this principle is found in Isaiah 61:1-2. This passage was quote by Jesus in Luke 4:17-21. Let's read Luke's account first, where we find Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue

Luke 4:17-21 NIV

17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Jesus closes the scroll and hands it back to the attendant. As He reads the book of Isaiah, Jesus ends his reading by doing a strange thing. He doesn't end at the end of a sentence, but at a comma. It goes on to say they sat there staring at Him. He then adds, "This day is the scripture fulfilled in your hearing."

WHY DID JESUS STOP SQUARELY IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE?

It is because the next phrase, "And the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn" was not fulfilled at the moment Christ read these words. They would not be filled for over 1900 years later. God's day of vengeance will occur during the Tribulation period. But this prophecy in Isaiah skips entirely past the age in which we now live, and does so within one sentence. By this single act of Christ, He, the infallible Interpreter of Scripture, laid down the principle of the "gap interpretation."

I call this gap "The Great Parenthesis." It is like God put a big parenthesis around the church-age, setting it apart from what He was prophesying about the Jews, and the rest of the world. The title, The Great Parenthesis, is not my creation. I take it from a book by the same title written by Dr. Harry A. Ironside, who passed away in 1951. As far as I know, the book is not in print any longer, and the only copy of it I have seen is at the library at Northwest College. That should tell you that this idea of the Old Testament prophets skipping over our age, is not something that happened just 2 or 3 times. Ironside writes an entire book on this topic.

So let's look at a few more examples.

Joel 2:28-31 NIV

28 And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

Most of you will recognize part of this passage, as being what was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. Peter says that verse 28 & 29 were fulfilled on that day. But verses 30 & 31 can be identified as definitely speaks events which will happen during the time of the Tribulation.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV) is very familiar to most of you.

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,…..

…….and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever…….

The whole Christian community rejoices in the knowledge that Christ came as a child nearly 2000 years ago. But a gap of at least 19 centuries is represented by the very first colon.

"Unto us a child is born" speaks of Bethlehem.

All that follows speaks of the future Millennial reign, were Jesus will be sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem.

Zech 9:9-10 NIV

9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 ….and He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Verse 9 speaks of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In the New Testament, you can read about it in Matthew 21:1-11. On the other hand, verse 10 looks ahead to the Millennium, when Christ reigns for 1000 years.

Someday verse 10 will be done just as literally as verse 9. But between the 2 predictions there is this same great parenthesis of time. By now you should be able to see that the idea of a great parenthesis is not isolated case.

The Old testament prophets, in most if not all cases, skipped over the Church Age. That is, the 2000 years from the time of Christ until now. And most of the example I showed you concerning the parenthesis,……related to Abraham's seed. Isaiah's prophecies focus mainly on the Israel and their Messiah. Ezekiel spoke of the restoration of Israel to their own land as well as the Millennial land. Zechariah was most concerned about the events that will take place at the 2nd coming of Christ.

   
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Last Updated: Thursday September 08 2011
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