The Design of Prophecy
Those who embrace the theories of millenialism are at variance with one another respecting many of the points involved. Yet, there is one error common to all of them; i.e., a misapplication of prophecy arising from a failure to view prophecy in its proper perspective. The Old Testament prophets served both an immediate and a future purpose in the dealings of God with men. Fundamentally, a prophet was a "mouth" by which God revealed his will to the people, whether that revelation applied directly to their needs or pointed to great future events. In Exodus 7:1, God said to Moses, "And Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." In Exodus 4:16, God said of Aaron, "And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God." These statements not only summarize the relationship between Moses and Aaron, they set forth exactly what every inspired prophet actually was - a mouth through which God communicated His mind to men.
The millenialist commits at least two basic errors with Old Testament prophecy: (1) he either says that certain prophecies are Messianic when they are not or (2) takes those that are Messianic and misapplies them in respect to the time of fulfillment. In both cases he projects them beyond the New Testament and looks for their fulfilment at the time of the millemum as he conceives it. Without taking up specific prophecies and discussing whether or not they are actually Messianic, or even discussing those that admitedly are such, we shall attempt in this paper to set forth from the New Testament the design of Messianic prophecies and having done so, leave the reader to decide whether or not the design was fully met in the New Testament. Any clear, unmistakeable instruction from the New Testament should be the final word with all who, honor it as the complete revelation of God.
It has been remarked by one of the great men of our time that the sermon on the mount is a preview of the gospel and that the Beatitudes comprise the preamble to it. After this grand introduction of the coming kingdom and citizenship in it, Christ took up the question of the law and the prophets in relation to this new economy. "Think not that I am come to destrov the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." If it was the purpose of Christ to fulfill the law and the prophets, is it not rather serious to charge Him with failure?
"But those things, which God before shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began ... Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." Millenialists have much to say about verse 21, "the restitution of all things," and apply that to the second coming of Christ. To so apply it is to snatch it from its setting and give it an unwarranted, if not indeed a strained meaning. The heaven's retaining Christ and then the sending of him are related in the passage to the blotting out of sin, and the consequent "times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." Jesus was sent through the blessing herein obtained. When Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles he said, "I will come to you." John 11:18. When the pentecostians "repented and were converted," they came into Christ and he came into them. He dwelt in their hearts by faith. These were the matters foretold by the prophets. Verse 24 unmistakeably associates those blessings with what was taking place then. "All the prophets . . . have likewise foretold these days." Verse 25 shows that "these days" are the fulfillment of the promise to bless "all the kindreds of the earth" in Abraham's seed. Verse 26 shows that God "sent" Christ to "bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." The prophets, then, pointed to the time when men would be turned from iniquity, have their sins blotted out, and receive the refreshing resultant therefrom; "and all the prophets from Samuel foretold these days." To project "the times of restitution" to a future era is to ignore the context of this passage, and in doing so, to inadvertently project the blotting out of sin, the refreshing from the Lord, the blessing through Abraham's seed, and the turning of men from iniquity to that same imagined era. To do that, strips us of the grandest, noblest and choicest blessings that could be imagined. The consequences of millenialism are serious indeed.
In Antioch of Pisidia, Paul was present at the synagogue when the rulers read from "the law and the prophets." At the opportunity, Paul preached a sermon that every millenialist should seriously ponder. In verse 19 he said God "divided the land to them by lot." In verse 25 he said John "fulfilled his course." Verse 26 said the rulers at Jerusalem fulfilled the prophets in condemning Christ. Verse 29 said they "fulfilled all that was written of him." Then in language too plain to be misunderstood, he said, "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again." Verses 32-33. In verse 34 he associated that resurrection with the receiving of "the sure mercies of David." Vers. 28 said that through these fullfilments forgiveness of sins was now preached. There can be no reasonable doubt in the light of this passage that the Messianic prophecies pointed to the first coming of Christ with all its blessings, and not to the second.
At the discussion in Jerusalem over the preaching of the Gospel unto the Gentiles and the rite of circumcision, James stated that the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles was the fulfilling of the prophecy made by Amos (9:11-12) respecting the building again of the tabernacle of David He argued that this prophecy must have fulfilled "that" men might seek the Lord, and the Gentiles included. He said in verse 15 that this agreed with "the words of the prophets."
We think it a fitting climax to this discussion to employ Paul's words as he concluded his thesis on justification by faith in the book of Romans, and related that to the time foretold by the prophets. "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen." The great mystery of other ages has now been revealed, that all nations might become obedient to the faith, and this is according to God's commandment, and accords with the scriptures of the prophets.
The sufferings of Christ, his resurrection, the blotting out of sins, the making known of the gospel to all nations, the establishment of the church revealing God's wisdom to even the heavenly hosts who before desired to search into God's secret counsels-these are the events to which the prophets pointed. They respect the first coming of Christ with its wondrous after effects, and not the second coming. To postpone these prophecies is to by-pass the New Testament entirely and the many plain statements there which show the design of the Messianic prophecies.
Truth Magazine II:7; pp. 18-19