As events in this world move along at a rapid pace, there’s an ever-growing interest in prophecy.
We don’t want to get into the position of forcing parts of prophecy to come together to fit like a puzzle, but to take what is revealed to us by God, progressively putting them together to make an image that is factual according to scripture, not an interpretation of man. Peter is a particularly good place to start: ” knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
There are many instances in the Bible about false prophets where they do add something to the message of God that God did not intend. God expected His prophets to speak only what He commands, if not there was a dire penalty (Deuteronomy 18: 20-22). So, it’s very possible to gain some distortion in the message that God wants His people to hear.
With Moses God spoke directly. But with other prophets it was sometimes in visions and sometimes in dreams (Numbers 12:6-8). Moses states in Deuteronomy 18 that, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The author of Hebrews states that the prophet Moses referred to was Christ (Hebrews1: 1-2). So, we do get a sense of the importance of a prophet and his message. It is accentuated by the fact that the prophets are a part of the foundation of the New Testament Church which is composed of “…the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
A prophet’s fundamental objective was to reconcile man to God which is a New Testament theme about bringing mankind back to God, to return to God’s law, to return to being a faithful people. The prophets revealed God’s will and exhorted the people to repent, to change, when their way was not aligned with God’s will that was being expressed by the prophet: “I have also sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way, amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them; then you will dwell in the land which I have given you and your fathers.’ But you have not inclined your ear, nor obeyed Me”’ (Jeremiah 35:15).
There are two major aspects to this concept of “returning” associated with the prophets. The first one is associated with Christ. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was working with the disciples of the New Testament Church. Peter said to them: “Repent, [the prophets said, return, repent, but Peter adds] and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Through Christ there is, with repentance (returning), the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 28:23, Paul also used the prophets’ messages about the Christ: “So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.” Paul also associated preaching the gospel about Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ to the concept of repentance, of “returning” taken from the prophet Isaiah (Acts 28:26-27, Isaiah 6:9-10).
Christ even taught about Himself from all the prophets. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He [Christ] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Isaiah 28:16-17 is a reference to Christ, the remission of sin, and that the covenant of death is annulled with forgiveness; The death penalty removed. The point is that God removes the death penalty upon mankind for transgressing His law by sending His prophesied Savior whose own death paid our penalty when we “return” to Him in obedience.
The second major aspect of “returning” associated with the prophets is the concept of repentance — because the intent for ancient Israel is no different for spiritual Israel today – the Church. “… But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me,” says the Lord. . . The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: ‘Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. . .. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God, and have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord. “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. . .. ‘Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.’ “Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God. Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains; Truly, in the Lord our God Is the salvation of Israel” (Jeremiah 3:1,6-7,12-14,22-23).
God desired His people to return to Him in a reconciled relationship based on the terms and the conditions of their agreement at Mount Sinai. The events are a means to an end, and it will be true again in the future, when some very major aspects of prophecy come together at the return of Jesus Christ. Many of the prophecies that are referred to in the New Testament contain exactly these thoughts and sentiments. The “returning” to God does require repentance, a putting away of lawlessness.
Today, God has called a group of people to seek a reconciled relationship with Him. That message is consistent in the prophets; it is consistent in the New Testament Church today (Acts 28: 20-28). But how important is Israel to end time prophecy? Do the twelve tribes have any relevance to prophetic end time events? “And Jacob [Israel] called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days’” (Genesis 49:1). God has used Ancient Israel to convey the plan of salvation to mankind and there are no gaps in Israel’s portrayal of that plan.
In Acts 28: 25-28, Paul is preaching the gospel using the prophet Isaiah in an Old Testament message about Israel to make a point in a New Testament setting (Isaiah 6:9-10). Also, in Romans 11 there is a discussion about the role of Israel in a New Testament setting. “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27). God reveals over and over in the prophets His desire to save ancient Israel if they would return (repent) to Him and His Way of Life.
The prophets did operate before the New Testament Church, but the Holy Spirit empowered their messages to have relevance to the Church today. The addition of the Holy Spirit gives life to the messages that the prophets delivered. It gives depth and brings out the motivation very clearly on behalf of God. The prophet Amos carried God’s message about 60 years before the house of Israel went into captivity. Amos says, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7-8).
Why reveal His secrets? To the Church Christ said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you,” (John 15:15). The secrets are shared through the Holy Spirit with the Church, so the Church can understand the implication and the meaning of these things written in the prophets.
The Holy Spirit keeps the intent of the prophetic messages to Israel alive, bringing it into the New Testament Church. The Church can learn from God’s continuing dealings with Israel and turn it into spiritual fuel for being awake and having a sense of urgency: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’. . . “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory”’ (Isaiah 46:10,13). God’s New Testament message continues in the same intent in Mark: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. . . . Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming — in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning — lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:33, 35-37).
The book of Revelation also states God’s intent for His people to repent, “return”, and have a sense of urgency. All seven churches of Asia Minor are encouraged to be responsive to Christ’s directions to repent: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works… Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent… Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent,” (Revelation 2:5,16,21; 33:11,19).
As we see, Israel features in the last days. The principle of duality is simply a former fulfillment and a latter fulfillment. Most of those latter fulfillments are yet ahead of us and are more major fulfillments of the prophecy than the former fulfillments.
One example of the principle of duality is 1 Corinthians 15:45–47: “And so it is written, The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.”
Clearly, prophecy is still relevant for God’s people yesterday, today, and tomorrow through the end of the ages. “And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly Man” (I Corinthians 15: 49).