Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Forth Great Prophecy of Scripture

Dr. Walvoord’s classic work, “Major Bible Prophecies,” gives us the subject of this forth article. The forth major prophecy involves not only the promise to Abraham of a great nation, but the most important aspect – the Messianic line. The Messiah will come through a specific genealogy – the Messiah will come through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The promise to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 involved a physical descendant of Abraham and Sarai. Both were already in their advanced ages and were childless. This indeed was the test for them – would they wait on the Lord or would they take things into their own hands? The certainty of Abram’s calling was complete and the certainty of Abraham moving out of Ur to the land of Haran was complete, but what about a blood heir?

After ten years waiting for an heir, Abram suggested that his close servant Eliezer be the legal heir. Indeed, according to cultural norms, that was possible, but that was rejected by God: “This man will not by your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:4-6).

After waiting ten years in Canaan, Abram heeded Sarai’s advice to conceive a son with her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. The result was Ishmael. Yet God rejected Ismael as heir also. Even as Ismael was from the loins of Abram, and it was legal and a custom to have offspring with the maidservant, Ismael was not the heir God intended. God did not mean Abram’s heir to come through their manservant, nor maidservant. God meant the legal heir to be from the loins of Abram with his wife Sarai.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old God reaffirmed His promise giving Abram the sign of the covenant – circumcision, and Abram’s name was changed to Abraham “father of many,” and Sarai’s name changed to Sarah “princess.” After reaffirming the covenant promises, Scripture records:

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"   18 And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!"  19 Then God said: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.  20 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.  21 "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year." (Gen 17:17-21)       

Dr Walvoord writes, “Twenty-five years after Abraham left Haran, as he waited for some evidence of the covenant being fulfilled, the promise of God, impossible as it seemed to Abraham and Sarah, was fulfilled, and Isaac was born. In recognition that Isaac was a covenant child, Abraham circumcised him on the eighth day (v. 4)…. The answer came in spite of Abraham and Sarah’s unbelief and their inability to contemplate the omnipotence of God in doing what is impossible to humans. The fulfillment of the promise illustrates again the unconditional and absolutely certain fulfillment required in the provisions and promises of the Abrahamic covenant.”

With the legal heir now established, God moves to reaffirm His covenant with Isaac’s offspring. However, Isaac and his wife Rebekah have twins – Esau and Jacob. Yet it is the younger, Jacob that will be the legal heir not the oldest Esau. From the womb, God proclaims to Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23)

In Genesis 28, God reaffirms His covenant with Jacob (28:11-15). And the book of Genesis closes with the prophetic promise to the twelve sons of Jacob, most notable to Judah who is to be the prominent tribe. Scripture says:

8 Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father's children shall bow down before you.  9 Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?  10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.  (Gen 49:8-10)

The promise of the seed, land, and nation brings the promise to the Davidic covenant found in 2 Samuel 7:5-17. It is here that one finds the Messiah comes from  Judah through the line of Israel’s best king David. Notice what Scripture says:

Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house.  12 "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  13 "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  (2Sa 7:11-13)

This eternal house of David refers to the future Davidic Kingdom wherein Jesus Christ is declared to be the unique one qualified to be from that line. Both Matthew and Luke itemize genealogies of Jesus from different perspectives uniquely identifying Jesus as the child born, but a Son given. That is to say, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the Son of David. As Dr. Walvoord wrote,” Matthew recorded this genealogy to show the legitimacy of the throne passing through Joseph, the legal heir of David, but actually, Jesus Christ had to come from a different line in the flesh through another son of David, Nathan. This leads to Mary, the actual mother of Christ. Accordingly, while the legal title passed to Christ through Joseph, the physical claim of being a descendant of David comes through David and Nathan instead of David and Solomon. This line of truth also tends to confirm the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ, for if Christ were the son of Joseph, he would not be able to sit on the throne of David in view of the curse put on that line.”

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Third Prophecy

Continuing with our series in honor of Dr. Walvoord’s classic work, “Major Bible Prophecies,” we look at the third major prophecy. The third major prophecy is the most important prophecy in the whole of Scripture – the call of Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant for it brings us the promise of salvation and deliverance through the line of Abraham.   As Dr Walvoord notes, “Beginning with Abraham, Scripture charts a new course for God’s people. The choice of Abraham marked a new narrowing of the redemptive purpose of God.” 

From the start God has always had His godly line. Adam and Eve had their offspring, and Abel was the one that exemplified the righteous line. After Abel was killed, the godly line followed Seth (Gen. 4:25), then Noah, and Shem. After the tower of Babel, God chose Terah (Gen. 11:26) and through Terah, Abraham was chosen.  But the godly line was specific as it continues with the great Abrahamic Covenant to Isaac and Jacob. Thus it was not a mistake that we come to Genesis chapter twelve and find God chose Abram out of the godly line and out of that godly line will come the Messiah – the Savior of the world.

From Genesis 12 through the rest of Scripture, Abraham’s seed, Israel, is the major focus. Notice the promise made to Abram as he is called to come out of the land of Ur.

Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.  2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."  (Gen. 12:1-3)

The three aspects of the promise are:
1. I will make you a great nation.
2. I will bless you and make your name great.
3. You shall be a blessing.

When the God of the universe promises something then it is sure to come about, and in this case Abram is commanded to leave his current comfortable place to follow Him to a land He will show him. This is an unconditional promise which later turns into an official covenant in chapter seventeen. It is within these three promises that the nation of Israel is created, a future kingdom is established in the land of Israel, salvation is defined as coming through the Seed of Israel based on believing God and the righteousness that God provides through faith.

This promise was given to Abram about B. C. 2000. He and his wife Sari were childless and older established in age. God moved them to the land of Canaan wherein He told them they would have offspring that would inherit the land. So it is that we find expanded in Scripture a land covenant and the promise of eternal possession of the land. A seed covenant with king David promising an eternal king on the throne of David, namely, the Messiah, King Jesus seated on Him throne in Israel. And finally, a New Covenant that promises a new heart and eternal life in the eternal kingdom. 

Dr. Walvoord wrote, “First, the covenant anticipated prophetically how God’s hand of blessing would rest upon Abraham. This is illustrated throughout his life in that God made him a wealthy man, a powerful man, and a miraculous channel through which Isaac was to be born. Abraham was blessed above any other person in his generation, andthis promise, like other promises in the covenant, was literally fulfilled. Second, Abraham was promised that his name would be great – that is, he would be a major actor in God’s redemptive program. He is mentioned as Abram or Abraham about three hundred times in the Bible. Unquestionable, he is one of the most important characters of the Old Testament and is mentioned many times in the New Testament as well. This prophecy has been literally fulfilled. Third, God declared to Abraham, ‘You will be a blessing’ (Gen. 12:2). Unquestionably, Abraham was a blessing to his own generation and to his own family, and through the centuries he has been an illustration of faith and obedience that has challenged all who follow the Lord. God’s faithful dealings with Abraham, even when he fell short of perfect obedience, are a great encouragement to the people of God and help to fulfill this promise. The ultimate fulfillment, however, is found in the aspects of the covenant referring to blessings on the whole world… The greatest of all promises, of course, was the promise of blessing to all the peoples of the earth, and it is here that the church of the New Testament comes in (Gal. 3:6-9).”     

It is through Abraham, the man of faith, all peoples who trust in God as Abraham did will be blessed through Abraham and his posterity. While we find within the Abrahamic covenant eternal conditions, fulfillment is yet future and centers around the Messianic Kingdom. So it is that we find within the Abrahamic covenant the future Seed, Jesus Christ, who is prophesied and of which the whole of Scripture is speaks, for it is God who is faithful to fulfill His Word, and the His Word is true, as He is the way, the truth, and the life.  The importance of the Abrahamic covenant is significant only because there is One who is the significant, faithful, just, and true potentate who backs up His promise by His word.  
    

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Second Prophecy

In this second article in honor of Dr. Walvoord’s classic work, “Major Bible Prophecies,” we look at the true meaning of the rainbow, and yes, another instance of God’s provision of salvation by grace. The second major prophecy of the Bible is the curse of Noah’s offspring Canaan.

The growth in human population brought increasing sin to the world. The murder of Abel by Cain reveals the extent of the fall, and how the new reality of the statement,  “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door, and its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gen. 4:7).  The effect of the fall touched every aspect of creation – everyone born into this corrupted world is itself corrupt, not just a little, but every aspect of man has been corrupted. As Cain’s family is developed we find their character follows that of their father. Indeed, Cain’s  offspring personified sin. Their desire was for fame, they took multiple wives, the finest of things they could acquire, and the second murder was by the hands of Cain’s offspring.  As the apostle, John, defines,

16 For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)
    
As their family grew, wickedness grew to the point that God declared, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh” (Gen. 6:3a). “So the Lord said,  I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air” (Gen. 6:7a).

Yet there also sprung up a godly line that walked with God (Gen. 6:9a), meaning, Noah was a just man and in his daily walk he sought to do right in the eyes of the Lord. Noah had three sons and as Dr. Walvoord wrote, “Of the human race only Noah and his family, descendants of Seth, were still honoring the Lord. In His plan to destroy the earth, God determined to save Noah and his family and through them to make a new beginning of the human race.” 

After the waters of the flood receded, God established a new set of house rules. The new set of house rules is called by dispensationalists the dispensation of human government which covers the period of Genesis 8:20-11:32. The new rules were given by God along with a covenant with Noah (Gen. 8:20-9:17). God declared “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen. 8:21-22).  God’s covenant with Noah included a number of promises. (1) Noah was instructed to, “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). (2) God placed everything in creation under human authority, whether beasts or birds or fish (9:2-3). (3) For the first time God gave Noah the right not only to eat of the green plants but to eat meat from animals (9:3-6). But God made it clear not to eat of the animal flesh with its blood in it (9:4). (4) Capital punishment   was then instituted for anyone who takes a human life (9:5-6). (5) God promised Noah, “I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:11). (6) Finally, God gave the rainbow as a sign of the covenant.  What a beautiful sign which speaks of God’s protective glory that covers the sky as He provides us the blessing of rain in its season. In Hebrew a covering is the word used for a sacrifice. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the Lord provided an animal skin covering for them. Now, we find the rainbow serves as a kind of a metaphor of a covering in the ski for the sins of man – mercy provided by the One who sits on His Mercy Seat in heaven. The splendor of the colors of the rainbow reflects the splendor and glory of God.    

A fundamental change to the earth occurred with the flood. Seasons were now realized, rain for the first time was seen as the primary means of watering the earth. The age of mankind drastically decreased exponentially from around a thousand years down to around a hundred years. This decrease also reflects a change in both the atmospheric pressure and temperature as Noah is found drunk with fermented wine that he made from his vineyard (Gen. 9:20).

The text says, “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, backwards and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren. And he said: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant” (Gen. 9:22-27).

Dr. Walvoord summarized, “The Canaanites, who were Ham’s descends, became a very wicked people and were perpetually enemies of Israel. They were particularly involved in sexual sin. Subsequent history recorded that the Canaanites occupied the place of slaves in relationship to Israel. This did not immediately stem from Noah’s condemnation but rather as a judgment of God upon them for their licentious lives. In Genesis 14 the Canaanites were enslaved by kings from the East, and later the Gibeonites, who also were descendants of Ham, became water carriers and woodcutters for the congregation and altar of the Lord (Josh. 9:27)…Eventually the Canaanites disappeared from the pages of history. 

This prophecy was fulfilled and as we read of it we find encouragement that God’s word is true. That is the purpose of prophecy – to bring a sobering word of encouragement. Dr. Walvoord concludes, “In contrast, Noah blessed Japheth, implying that his descendants would be a great people. Shem was blessed with Canaan as his slave: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave’” (Gen. 9:26-27).

It is no mistake that God gave Israel a land that was predominantly called Canaan. The prophecy is much richer than at first glance. “A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.”  As Israel was released from Egyptian bondage, the slaves were move north to the land of Canaan. And after entering the land Canaan, they became their servants! How improbable is this prophecy? How big is God? He is the One who places the rainbow in the sky! The One who provides salvation and the One who judges – the Lord is His name.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The First Prophecy

This year is the 28th anniversary of the publication of John Walvoord’s classic book “Major Bible Prophecies.”  In the book, Dr. Walvoord details 37 crucial prophecies that affect you today. Since the publication nothing has changed, sin and Satan still dominate world events, death, destruction and misery still dominates life around us. Yet with all the problems and conflict, God is still the sovereign of the universe, He is still in control, and He still saves today. This year Dr. Walvoord’s classic work will be the focus of each month’s article – starting from the first prophecy that promises victory over sin and death by our Savior, and ending with the great prophecy of our destination – the new heaven and new earth.

Our first prophecy found in the Bible is in Genesis 3:15. There, the context is Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience to eat freely of any tree of the garden, but not of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As the Lord gives the serpent his consequences for his role in the great deception which Satan appearing as a serpent played, God proclaims,

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.  15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."  16 To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you."  17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, `You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.  18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.  19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." (Gen 3:14-19 NKJ)

Not only did that greatest destructive event in history bring a fundamental change in the human race as all sin in Adam, but as Dr. Walvoord wrote, “The entrance of sin had changed God’s beautiful creation into a world of conflict, sorrow, and death.” It is most important to understand that since this great destructive event of the fall, there required, as the prophecy of 3:15 declares, another great destructive event that must take place in order to bring a final end to the works of the devil by means of his head wound, the greatest event in all of history – the heel wound of the promised One. 

The curse on Satan affected the world. Dr. Walvoord wrote, “The original sin of Satan in heaven, when as a holy angel he rebelled against God, now spread to the world of Adam and Eve, the result was that both Satan and the created world came under God’s curse.” This curse upon Satan and the ground means that Satan’s battleground moved to the ugliest spiritual warfare imaginable. Not only is the battle between the unseen powers, Satan and his demons against Michael the archangel and his angels, but between the seed of Satan – those unsaved humans who are sons of the devil. Again Dr. Walvoord wrote, “Spiritual warfare continued not only in that which is visible between the righteous and the evil but also in the unseen contest between the demon world led by Satan and the holy angels led by Michael.”

Yet there is hope because God Himself will deliver us victory. God provided a proper blood sacrifice covering to Adam and Eve. Dr. Walvoord wrote, “God promised salvation. To replace Adam and Eve’s self-made garments of leaves, which were now inappropriate and inadequate, God provided for them garments of skin.  This provision involved the slaying of an animal and the shedding of blood. In this way, salvation and redemption by blood was symbolized as being the only way by which human sin could be temporarily covered or the victory could ultimately be wrought.”

Indeed this initial prophecy of the Bible deals with sin and the Savior’s victory over Satan’s works and sin’s dominion. It involves a work of the Only Begotten of the Father, as the triune Godhead planned, executed, and applied the blood of the Son of God in the greatest legal transaction in history where Jesus Christ redeemed mankind from the slave market of sin and conquered the last enemy death. Dr. Walvoord wrote, “Victory over sin and death is promised. In His final pronouncement upon Satan, God said, ‘He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’ (Gen. 3:15). Through the preceding verse referred to individuals in the plural, the final victory will be caused by one who is declared here to be the seed of the woman, anticipating the Virgin Birth. ‘He,’ referred to Christ, ‘will crush your head’ – that is, inflict a mortal wond on Satan that will be devastating and lead to his ultimate judgment. This first promise of the Redeemer and Savior begins the long line of prophecy through the Scriptures of the godly seed leading to Christ, including Abel, Seth, and Noah (Gen. 4:4, 25; 6:8-10); Shem (9:26-27); Abraham (12:1-4); Isaac (17:19-21) ; Jacob (28:10-14); Judah (49:10); David (2 Sam. 7:5-17); and Christ as Emmanuel (Isa. 9:6-7).”