Posts Tagged With: prophecy

Jesus Foretells the Restoration of Israel in Acts 1:8

Acts 1:6-8 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

CELPentecost

CELPentecost

In Acts 1:6, Jesus disciples ask him when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored. They are anticipating the fulfillment of the OT prophets like David, Isaiah and Jeremiah who prophesied of the future restoration of the Kingdom in the last days (from their perspective.) Jesus’ answer points them to look forward to Pentecost. He tells them, “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (v. 8) This is in direct answer to their question. Jesus is telling that when the Holy Ghost comes upon them, that will be the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. This is what happened at Pentecost a few weeks later (Acts 2:1ff.) The kingdom of Israel was restored in the form of the Church of Jesus Christ, which was inaugurated at the event of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God descended on the church and empowered her to go to all the world and preach the message of the kingdom of God. This church of Jesus Christ is the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel as prophesied by the Old Testament Prophets. We, the church of Jesus Christ, are the restored Kingdom of Israel, commissioned by God to go forth and conquer the nations through the preaching of the gospel, by the power of his Spirit. Jesus’ disciples were not wrong to expect the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel soon after Christ’s resurrection, though the way in which Israel’s restoration came at Pentecost may have surprised them.

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Calvin on New Revelation

But when at length the Wisdom of God was manifested in the flesh, he fully unfolded to us all that the human mind can comprehend, or ought to think of the heavenly Father. Now, therefore, since Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, has arisen, we have the perfect refulgence of divine truth, like the brightness of noon-day, whereas the light was previously dim. It was no ordinary blessing which the apostle intended to publish when he wrote: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1, 2); for he intimates, nay, openly declares, that God will not henceforth, as formerly, speak by this one and by that one, that he will not add prophecy to prophecy, or revelation to revelation, but has so completed all the parts of teaching in the Son, that it is to be regarded as his last and eternal testimony. For which reason, the whole period of the new dispensation, from the time when Christ appeared to us with the preaching of his Gospel, until the day of judgment, is designated by the last hour, the last times, the last days, that, contented with the perfection of Christ’s doctrine, we may learn to frame no new doctrine for ourselves, or admit any one devised by others. With good cause, therefore, the Father appointed the Son our teacher, with special prerogative, commanding that he and no human being should be heard. When he said, “Hear him” (Mt. 17:5), he commended his office to us, in few words, indeed, but words of more weight and energy than is commonly supposed, for it is just as if he had withdrawn us from all doctrines of man, and confined us to him alone, ordering us to seek the whole doctrine of salvation from him alone, to depend on him alone, and cleave to him alone; in short (as the words express), to listen only to his voice. And, indeed, what can now be expected or desired from man, when the very Word of life has appeared before us, and familiarly explained himself? Nay, every mouth should be stopped when once he has spoken, in whom, according to the pleasure of our heavenly Father, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and spoken as became the Wisdom of God (which is in no part defective) and the Messiah (from whom the revelation of all things was expected) (John 4:25); in other words, has so spoken as to leave nothing to be spoken by others after him.

Jean Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.VIII.7

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Searching for the Ark of the Covenant

In a recent story by Owen Jarus, an ancient text reveals clues about the location of the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant is a gold-overlaid box, covered on top by the wings of two golden angel sculptures, with the tablets of the law, the manna (bread from heaven that the Israelites ate in the wilderness on their way to the promised land of Canaan), and Aaron’s rod which budded.  It was a symbol of God’s presence among His people, and the centerpiece of worship in the tabernacle, and later in the temple after Solomon built the temple of the LORD.

God gave instructions for making the Ark in Exodus chapter 25:

10 And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. 11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about…13 And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold…17 And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. 18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat…21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

The ark was carried on long wooden poles by the descendants of Levi.  One time, when the ark was placed on a cart, it was tipping over.  Uzzah tried to catch the ark with his hand to keep it from falling to the ground.  He was struck dead by God on the spot for his indiscretion, because the ark was holy, not to be touched by human hands.

2 Samuel 6:6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

The Ark was the center of worship, the most holy thing in the tabernacle, the symbol of God’s presence among His people, from which He spoke to them.  It was to be handled strictly as God commanded and not otherwise.

The Ark was lost when the Chaldeans under King Nebudchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and stole all the gold items from the temple of the LORD.  It was never found again.  It has been popular to speculate on where the Ark might be found today.  Some have claimed that it rests in Ethiopia.  The 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark popularized the lore surrounding the recovery of the Ark, which, in the film, struck the soldiers of the 3rd Reich with deadly supernatural power which they were trying to harness for their own evil purposes.

Is the Ark going to be found?  And if it is, what will be its significance?  Some have said, for example in the article linked above, that in the time of the reign of the promised Messiah, the Son of David, the Ark will be found and regain prominence in the worship of God’s people.  But what do the prophets say about it?  Jeremiah spoke of the future day of the reign of the Messianic King, a time of spiritual blessing and prosperity, in these words:

Jeremiah 3:14b I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:  15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

We see a few things in this picture of the Messianic age: 1. Jews would return to Zion. 2. Pastors would feed the people of God with knowledge and understanding. 3. The Ark would not be remembered or visited. 4. The nations would gather to Jerusalem to obey the LORD.

The Ark will never again be a center of worship.  In fact, according to this prophecy, it will not “be remembered.”  Now, we know that the Ark has not been visited ever since it was lost centuries before the birth of Christ.  But how is it that it is no longer “remembered?”  It’s because now Christ Jesus, the Messiah of the Jewish people, is the center of worship.  While the Ark was merely a symbol of God’s presence, Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)  It is unto Him that the nations are gathering, and the remnant of the Jews, God’s elect from every nation.  The place of His presence is His Holy Church, which is Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. (Hebrews 12:22)  He has appointed pastors to feed His flock with knowledge and understanding. (Ephesians 4:11)  Although He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, He is present with His people in Spirit, especially in the fellowship of the redeemed, which is His body.  There, that is, in every true church on earth where His word is authentically proclaimed, He speaks to His people and makes His word effective by His Spirit working in them.

So what does this mean, when it comes to stories and clues about the present location of the Ark of the Covenant?  It will probably never be found, and certainly, is no longer needed.  If it ever is found, which I doubt that God will allow, it will be nothing more than a museum piece.  It will not be remembered or visited as before.  It is not needed at all because Jesus the Messiah is God, present among His people in word and Spirit.

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Dirty Clothes Get Changed: Zechariah devotional, part 5

In the third chapter of Zechariah the LORD gives a fifth vision speaking of deliverance and restoration.  It in it we see Satan, the accuser of the people of God, and the Angel of the LORD, a pre-incarnate appearance of God the Son, standing with Joshua the high priest.

Flickr_-_DVIDSHUB_-_Tough_Mudder_(Image_5_of_8)

Zechariah 3:1-3 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.  And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. 

The scene begins with a cast of three: The Angel of the LORD, Satan, and the high priest named Joshua.  The Angel of the LORD is God the Son prior to his having been conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary.  He is the LORD, (“LORD” in all caps stands for Jehovah or Yahweh in most English Bibles,) called by the covenant name of God.   Jesus the Son of God is God Himself, equal to the Father, and when He speaks, even Satan must listen.  “Satan”, meaning, “adversary” is the accuser of the people of God, their self-appointed prosecutor and accuser before the seat of God’s righteous judgment.  An angel fallen from heavenly glory after having rebelled against the Most High, he stands to “resist” God’s chosen people represented by the high priest named Joshua.  The high priest was one called and set apart to minister the commandments of God in the temple, make sacrifices, represent God to the people by preaching the word of God and performing the required ceremonies, and representing the people to God in prayer on their behalf.  The name, “Joshua” means in Hebrew, “The LORD saves”, commonly transliterated into Greek as “iesous” and is the same as the Latinized “Iesus” or “Jesus.”  This is the name of the high priest who was serving in the temple when Zechariah prophesied these words.  Even his name points to the Lord’s salvation through One named Jesus, who is our great High Priest forever.  When Satan accuses the people of God of sin, Christ Jesus, here termed “the angel of the LORD”, defends them based on the truth that He is on their side.  Of what can Satan accuse God’s elect?  (Romans 8:33)  He rebukes Satan for accusing Joshua, and in him God’s chosen people.  Joshua’s garments are filthy, stained with muck.  Despite his uncomely appearance, clearly visible in the light of a torch pulled out of the fire, Satan’s accusations don’t stick.  The devil’s accusations of God’s chosen people are just empty words.  No matter how darkly stained our garments, God will defend us and not condemn us.  But why?

4-5 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him.  And unto him he said, Behold, have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.  And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head.  So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments.  And the angel of the LORD stood by. 

The High Priest's Holy Garments --www.esvbible.org

The High Priest’s Holy Garments –www.esvbible.org

The Angel of the LORD is the one speaking here.  He is God the Son, who will clothe Joshua with new priestly garments.  Here is the answer to the question of how God’s chosen people are to be acquitted and justified by God rather than condemned as Satan would prefer.  It is through a change of clothing wrought by the Angel of the LORD.  He places a new garment and a tall priestly hat: a “mitre” upon Joshua.  Although the sins of God’s chosen people are many, yet He will place His own (Christ’s own) righteousness upon them as a new garment replaces the filthy one.  Our beauty and acceptability to God is not based on our own righteousness or good works, for even at our best we are just filthy rotten sinners; it is based on Christ’s own righteousness imputed to us as our covering, clothing our sinful nakedness with the splendid beauty of holiness which is pleasing to God, Christ’s works.  He stands by us His elect (v. 5) as our comfort and assurance that God has forgiven us our sins and accepted us for His (Christ’s) sake.  What assurance of salvation!  What comfort!  There is nothing in this universe which compares to the glory of God seen in the justification of sinners deserving only condemnation by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

6-10 And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.  Here now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.  For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.  In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.   

Being forgiven of his sins, justified in God’s sight, and with the help of God’s Son standing by him, Joshua the high priest is obligated to devote himself genuinely and fully to the service of God out of thankfulness for the grace he’s received.  This applies to all those who have been saved by grace, to all citizens of chosen Israel.  Have you been forgiven of all your sins and counted righteous in God’s sight for the sake of Christ?  Then live accordingly by thankfully obeying all His commandments, trusting in His aiding grace to do His work in you as He stands by you.

“The BRANCH” is a reference to Jesus Christ, a branch grown from the family tree of David.  (Jeremiah 23:5)  He is the eternal God, knowing all things, symbolized in verse 9 as a stone with seven eyes representing Him who sees and knows all things perfectly.  (7 in the Bible is the number of perfection.)  The promise of forgiveness and justification is in Him, through Him, and to Him.  It is in reference to Christ the “BRANCH” that this vision promises such blessing.  Because of Him, a great period of blessing will come in, when neighbors will have fellowship together and enjoy the good things of the LORD represented as the fruit of the vines and fig trees.

God’s message in this prophetic oracle is that although Israel would be delivered of her enemies and restored fully from captivity to foreign nations (Babylon and Assyria), yet her sins would remain.  These would be taken away by replacing his filthy rags with new glorious garments.  Our salvation is not first and foremost about the healing of our physical bodies or restoration from earthly difficulties, but about the forgiveness of our sin and justification by God’s grace in imputing Christ’s righteousness to us.  Let us remind ourselves of these blessed truths of God’s word daily in order that we may be inspired to live for Him with thankful hearts overflowing with praise for what He has done.

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A Promise of Future Blessing: Zechariah devotional, part 2

Have you ever been tempted to think that God has given up on His Church?  The Jews in the time of Zechariah, were.  Zechariah proceeds to illustrate God’s loving attitude to His chosen people in a series of visions.  These visions are like word pictures, images seen by the prophet which have a meaning that the Lord intends to convey to those to whom Zechariah is prophesying, the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  Remember that the Jewish people had returned from their captivity in Babylon, but that nations which did not know God had been oppressing them and impeding their progress in rebuilding the temple which had been destroyed.  Nothing had been built but the foundation.  The first vision of Zechariah starts off like this:

Zechariah 1:8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. 10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.  11 And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.

AssyrianHorsemanThe nations which did not know God were resting at ease.  They had harmed the Jewish people, God’s chosen nation, and now were easing back in the saddle as if nothing could endanger them.  But what they don’t realize is that God was merely using them for His purpose.  Though they have been victorious over God’s people, they were just a tool in His almighty hand to correct, to chasten those whom He loves, in order to bring His people to mourn for their sins, and to come back to obedience to Him.

So often in our own generation, it may seem as though God’s power has left His holy Church.  So much of the church is either falling from the true faith, conforming to the world, being caught sleeping in time of battle, or is simply dying out.  The world with all its forces of unbelief, skepticism, and idolatry is oppressing the souls of those who trust in the Lord.  The very air we breathe is completely polluted by the emptiness of mankind’s disregard for the Creator.  That holy city, the Church of Jesus Christ where His word is proclaimed in truth, where baptism and the Lord’s Supper are faithfully practiced, and where Christians are walking together in love and discipline seems to be either vanishing before our eyes, or rendered completely irrelevant.  These are things that can be distressing to the one who forgets that great God who rules over human events, the One who chastens His people in love and smites to heal.  But even in all of these things, God is working His purpose.  And the good of His people whom He loves is what He is working toward, whether we can see it or not.  In the following verses, He goes on to say,

12 Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?  13 And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.  14 So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. 16 Therefore thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. 17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.

The Church of Jesus Christ is that holy city, the Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 3:16, Revelation 21:2) and Israel of God (Galatians 6:16.)  It is composed of all those of every nation, Jew and Gentile, who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  It is this Church of Christ which meets in particular locations in particular congregations at set times all over the world.  God is not done with her!  God promises to the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the mouth of Zechariah, that those nations which troubled His people will finally and fully be eliminated from the picture.  He used them for His purpose, but when He sees what they have done to her, He is jealous for her!  This is a prophecy about the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  The Jewish nation as a political entity was never restored to full sovereignty or liberated from Gentile rule.  Rather, this prophecy about the restoration of the full freedom of Israel finds its fulfillment in the renewed and restored nation that Jesus established at Pentecost, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” (Acts 1:8)  We, the Church of Jesus Christ, the Israel of God, can look forward in faith to the day when we will be fully liberated from all our enemies.  For although the world may criticize and marginalize us as weak and insignificant; our great God is the One who will judge those who have come against His people.  Our place, brothers and sisters, is to keep the faith, to have hope, and continue to be obedient to Him, no matter what the world may throw at us.  We are to be about the business of building His temple.  And we have this comforting promise, that no opposition of the world, no sadness, death, or demonic forces will thwart God’s blessing upon us as His holy Church.

“I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. …My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.”

Let us, brothers and sisters, love, cherish, contribute our time and talents, to this Holy Bride, the Church of Jesus Christ, which gathers regularly as His people.  And as we continue to build this temple of the living God, let us have faith and hope that the one who has blessed her in the past, will continue to bless.

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Godly Priorities Following Affliction: Zechariah Devotional, part 1

12385605-jerusalem--february-20-jews-pray-at-the-wailing-wall-february-20-2012-in-jerusalem-il-the-wall-is-thZechariah was a prophet of the LORD from a prominent family of the line of priests, who had returned from exile in Babylon with Zerubbabel, the king of Judah.  What joy they must have experienced on their homecoming trip!  “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2  In 538* BC the Persian emperor Cyrus had allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, after he had conquered Babylon, and the people of God was in a state of limited freedom and inferiority, subject to the Persian Emperor.   But by now, around 520 BC the Jewish people felt deeply disappointed that God’s promises had not fully come to pass.  Before the exile, such prophets as Jeremiah and Isaiah had foretold of a glorious period of freedom and blessing after the exile.  God would send His people away in bondage to Babylon to chasten them for their unfaithfulness and their worship of other gods.  But when they returned seventy years later, the kingdom would be restored like never before, and a glorious period would usher in when Judah would be reunited with the northern tribes of Israel, and the nations would be subdued beneath the reign of one from the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham, flowing unto the Lord’s temple to worship there.  And, although, Judah had been restored to his ancestral homeland, and Zerubabbel, of the line of David, had been crowned king, much was yet lacking.  For Judea was a province within the Persian Empire, not a sovereign kingdom.  His king was not much more than an appointed, vassal, governor serving the interest of Persia.

The Jewish people had built the foundation of the temple, but they had slacked off on the building project, focusing attention instead on their own private and family lives, and neglecting the Lord’s house.  Where was the faithful obedience that had been promised?  Where was the promised freedom, and victory over the nations?  In response to the troublesome circumstances in which they found themselves, the Jewish people took the easy road by becoming self-centered instead of being God-centered.  How easy it is for us to begin to look inward after a long period of affliction, when the wrongs don’t seem to be made right, and God is not answering our prayers as quickly as we would prefer?  But God’s message to His people through Zechariah is to take heart, be patient, and finish rebuilding the temple, because the Lord has not forgotten His people.  He will save and bless them once more, and fulfill everything that He has promised.  Their part is to be faithful and obedient to the mission that He has set before them, to build His house.

Many of us have experienced affliction in our Christian lives by losing loved ones or suffering physical ailments.  Many have been hurt or wounded emotionally by hurtful people or circumstances.  Others have slid into dismay at the state of the godless contemporary culture that surrounds us.  So many have begun to look inward, to focus on themselves, and their private and family lives, wealth, and possessions because there doesn’t seem to be much else you can count on.  It’s easy for those who have suffered or been hurt or distressed to give up on prayer and on taking part in public worship among God’s people.  When things seem to be going so wrong, what good has it done?  Where is the blessing?  What happened to the promises?  But God’s message to us is the same as it was to His people long ago.  “Return to me, and I will return to you.”  Zechariah 1:3  Though you have suffered, yet be patient, and you will see showers of spiritual blessing as you’ve never known it before.  God is not through with His people yet, so let us, brothers and sisters, double down on efforts to support, love, cherish, and build His house, the fellowship of the redeemed that meets in the local church, made up of the people whom God has called out of the world into her blessed fellowship.  Let us be built together as stones in the temple walls.  This is that glorious city which God has promised to make happy forever.  Let Him be our God and we His people, and let this reality be expressed in effort and commitment toward our shared life together.

 

*The ESV Study Bible, Online Edition was used as a reference.

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John 3:16 Pictured in Genesis: God’s Gift of His Only Son

In Genesis 22:2, we read that God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac his beloved “only son”:

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (NKJV)

But instead of allowing Abraham to kill Isaac, God provided a ram as substitute.  Ironically, Isaac was not literally Abraham’s only male offspring.  Isaac had an older brother, Ishmael, born of Hagar.  The reference in Genesis 22:2 to Abraham’s “only son…whom you love” is a clue which points to a deeper meaning in the passage.

In John 3:16, we learn that God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son as a substitute for sinners.  God the Father loved His only begotten Son (Ephesians 1:16) from before the creation of the universe, yet did not spare Him to save His people whom He loves.  Jesus died as a substitute for all those who believe in Him just as the ram was a substitute for Isaac!

Genesis 22:2 looks forward to John 3:16

The modern Hebrew translation (Habrit Hakhadasha/Haderekh) of John 3:16 uses the same exact words in Hebrew: בנו היחיד translated his “only son” as your “only son” is found in Genesis 22:2.

This is just another way that we find that the Old Testament foreshadows and points to Jesus the Messiah and Savior of the world.  The more you dig into the Bible, the more of these wonderful connections you find.  (Although it helps a lot to be familiar with the original languages of the Bible, you could make the same connection I did using a good English translation, or a Bible concordance.)

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Alexander the Great in Prophecy and Fulfillment

by Pastor Riley Fraas

In a backwater nation made up of tribes of farmers and sheep-herders lying in the hills to the north of ancient Greece, a young man named Alexander, who had been tutored by Aristotle until age 16, became King (of Macedonia) in 336 B. C., his father having died.  What would follow just a few short years later has captivated historians for decades.  This king of tiny Macedonia would become a legend who would change the known world and push on into unknown eastern frontiers never before crossed by western conquerors.  His phalanxes, (a tight and impregnable formation of shielded spearmen perfected by Alexander) rolled east with all the speed and ferocity a tidal wave, and as a result Greek philosophy, language, and culture percolated down through the eastern sands until it became an integral part of life in places as far away as Libya, Persepolis, and Jerusalem.  What began with a minor military expedition against the Archaemenid Empire, planned before by his father, continued through modern-day Turkey, down through Syria and Palestine, Egypt and Libya, and to the Persian imperial capital of Persepolis.  By age 25, in 330 B. C. Alexander ruled over the largest empire the world had ever seen.  The swiftness of his victories still astounds historians.

The wake of Alexander’s conquests provided a key part of the cultural and linguistic milieu in which Christ the Lord would be born, and the New Testament penned.  The New Testament was written in Greek.  Have you ever wondered why the Jewish authors of the New Testament wrote in Greek?  A few centuries before, Alexander had blown through the Near East like a hurricane, leaving big chunks of Greek language and learning behind in his path.  By the time of Jesus’s Birth, the Romans had taken over what was left of Alexander’s former empire, but it was still the Greek language, and not Latin, which dominated.  Greek was the best language to speak and write in if one wanted to be understood as widely as possible.  It was the standard language for commerce and learning in all places surrounding the Mediterranean, all as a result of Alexander’s awe-inspiring adventure, when it seemed to him that he would conquer to the very edge of the earth in just a few short years.

Like a speeding locomotive, Alexander had conquered all the way through modern Iran and Afghanistan, across the Indus river in modern day Pakistan, to Punjab in what is today India with a speed and endurance that has been unmatched either before or since by any other leader.  But what could possibly have enabled Alexander’s Macedonian army to accomplish such a feat unequalled in world history?  What power drove his success?  Was it an über-natural skill in battle, intimidation factor, unparalleled leadership, or advanced military science?  For Bible-believers, the question is not a difficult one.  The answer is this:  the God of Israel had long before determined that Alexander would conquer the known world, with exactly that degree of speed and scope, as he had spoken through the prophet Daniel over 200 years prior:

Daniel 7:6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

The seventh chapter of Daniel records a vision.  In this vision, Daniel saw four beasts.  The first looks like a lion, and has its wings plucked off.  It represents the Chaldean empire which Daniel served in captivity at Babylon.  The second is like a bear with three ribs in its mouth, eating flesh.  This represents the Medo-Persian Empire that would conquer Babylon and take control of Arabia.  The one side of the bear which rises higher than the other is the Persians, who gained in power of the Medes.  Finally, we see a leopard, but not just any leopard.  This one has four wings.  The four wings represent the swiftness which carried the leopard, already of itself a very fast animal, across the known world over the longest distance in a short time.  This is Alexander’s Macedonian Empire.  Yet its dominion is short-lived.  For we see in verse 8 that a beast appears which has iron teeth and is more fearsome than the rest.  This can be none other than the Roman Empire that conquered the remnants of the Hellenized states carved from Alexander’s empire.  Alexander’s fast but short-lived dominion stretched from Macedonia to Punjab in less than a decade. 1

In India, crossing the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab rivers deep into Punjab along the Beas, Alexander’s strength waned.  His leadership faltered.  His dreams died.  Visions of the massive armies of the Magadhan Empire along the Ganges must have made them think twice about whether to push onward.  This Gangan plain was no cakewalk, for it was the territory of another great Emperor, Nanda of Magadha.  As John Keay relates,

the Nanda’s army of 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, two thousand four-horse chariots and three to six thousand war elephants would have represented a formidable force, even if decimated by roll-call reality. It was certainly enough to strike alarm in stout Greek hearts, to awaken in them fond memories of Thracian wine and olive-rich homesteads beside the northern Aegean, and to send packing the age’s only other contender as a one-umbrella world ruler. 1

The Ganges lay beyond in a great fertile plain, inhabited by an advanced civilization full of culture, life, and potential subjects for Alexander the Emperor.  That mighty river could have taken Alexander all the way to the sea, as he had always dreamed.   (Okay, maybe not to the end of the world, but at least it could have taken him to the Indian Ocean.)  But Alexander’s loyal army grew homesick and weary (as well as daunted by the prospect of fighting the mighty Magadhans.)  In order to avert a mutiny, and perhaps to exit without recovering conquered land, as if he were in retreat, Alexander headed south along the Indus River. 1  Part of the army boarded a fleet in the Arabian Sea, and the rest trekked back along the north of the sea, in the desert located in southern Iran today.  As far as his stamp in India, Keay says,

Alexander the Great’s Indian Adventure, though a subject of abiding interest to classically educated European historians, is not generally an episode on which historians of Indian nationality bother to dwell.  They rightly note that it ‘made no impression historically or politically on India,’ and that ‘not even a mention of Alexander is to be found in any [of the] older Indian sources.  ‘there was nothing to distinguish his raid in Indian history [except “perfidious massacres” and “wonton cruelty”]…and it can hardly be called a great military success as the only military achievements to his credit were the conquest of some petty tribes and states by installment.’  Alexander’s great achievement was not invading India but getting there.1

What had happened in India?  Where was the courage?  Where was the temerity of the young conqueror who dreamed of personally upstaging the Greek mythological heroes, Hercules and Achilles?  Where was Alexander’s renowned leadership?  How could Alexander’s army, who can conquered the entire known world and beyond, be on the verge of mutiny?  How could they be driven to fear battle with the Magadhans?

The answers are difficult for historians, but not for Bible-believing Christians.  It was God who sent the leopard across the Medo-Persian Empire and beyond in the twinkling of an eye, just as he had prophesied through Daniel in 7:6, and now Alexander’s time was done.  Through Alexander’s conquest, the groundwork of history had been laid for the Lord’s mighty work of redemption.  God is the One, of whom “all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”  Daniel 4:35, who “worketh all things according to the counsel of His will.” Ephesians 1:11  God is sovereign; and He had raised up Alexander to swiftly conquer large swaths of the globe, not for any worthiness or righteousness of Alexander, but for His own purpose.  Through this evil megalomaniac and pagan conqueror, God set the stage for the birth of Christ in the Greco-Roman world and the spread of the gospel throughout the Mediterranean through preaching and writing in the Greek language by apostles of Jewish background.  By the infusion of Greek language and literature that Alexander left in his wake, the Old Testament was translated into Greek for Hellenized (Greek-speaking) Jews and read in Greek in synagogues all over the Mediterranean.  (This would be the first Bible of all the New Testament churches outside of Judea.)  The territory of the Roman Empire was carved out for them, awaiting their dominance.  The beast with iron teeth would follow the leopard.  It would be the rule of Roman law, the Pax Romana, which, with its safe roads and shipping schedules, would become a means for the apostles to travel to preach the gospel in Greece and Italy in the Greek tongue, and to allow for the copying, distribution, and reading in the churches of the Greek New Testament.  The Apostle Paul’s training in classical Greek philosophy enabled him to preach meaningfully to Greeks at Athens (Acts 17:28) and is referenced in his writing to the Corinthians, (1 Cor 15:33.)  It is hard to imagine how the New Testament missionary endeavor could have borne fruit without the safe and convenient roads and shipping routes of the Romans, a Bible (the Old Testament translated into Greek,) and a common Greek language for preaching and the writing of the New Testament.

Alexander’s pride and personal ambition had nothing to do with his success, and as soon as he had outrun the bounds that God had set for him, his conquest ceased.  We saw what Alexander could do without the power of God carrying him on the Beas river in India.  Shortly after returning to Babylon, he died.  And his empire was no more.  For no sooner did the Great Alexander return from India to Babylon, then his eastern capital, but he died of hepatoma, a liver cancer resulting from the Hepatitis B virus, probably a result of his wonton debauchery.  He left his vast empire to be divided into four parts by his squabbling would-be successors, who immediately took up arms against one another to fight for supremacy.  The empire of great Alexander fractured even more quickly than it was conquered.  God had used an ungodly king of a small, backwater country as an unlikely conqueror, to do His own will.  And then He was done with him.

The moral of the story: There is one Ruler of all the earth, and no one may thwart His will.  For those of us saved by His grace, this is a supreme comfort.  For others like Alexander the Great, it leads to a fearful end.  God first raised and then brought down a king of nations to make way for the King of Kings.  Blessed be the Lord forevermore, the Supreme Emperor of all the earth, the Great One, who works all things for His own glory.

1 John Keay, India: A History, London: The Folio Society, 2003, vol I, pp. 79-85.

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