By Garreth L. Clair
Perhaps one of the most interesting facets about the church of Christ is the God of heaven’s use of prophecy to foretell its coming, its nature, etc. In this phase of our study we want to deal with prophecy as it relates to the church of Christ, and in particular Old Testament prophecy. In this lesson we also want to establish that the church we read about in the New Testament did not exist during the days of the Old Testament prophets. Please notice the following facts in this regard:
Isaiah the prophet foretold the establishment of the church of Christ in his age (2:2-4). “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains. And shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the lord, To the house of the God of Jacob, He will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And shall rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore” (NKJV). The prophet Micah also uttered the same prophecy in his time (Mic. 4:1-5).
Please observe the following facts about these two prophecies:
1. The word “mountain” is to be understood in the sense of government; and this government of the Lord’s House, his church, is to be exalted above all other institutions.
2. The Lord’s House is “the church of the living God,” the church that Jesus built (1 Tim. 3:15).
3. All nations shall have an opportunity to be a part of the coming kingdom both Jews and Gentiles (“all nations shall flow to it”).
4. That the church is to be established in the last days, the closing days of the Mosaic dispensation, the last dispensation of time, the days of Messiah (Heb. 1:1,2; Acts 2:16,17).
5. The place for the beginning of the Lord’s House (church) was Zion or Jerusalem, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. ” In connection with this prediction see Luke 24:47 and also Acts 2:1-4.
6. From verse 4 of the context we learn who is to be the “judge” or “ruler” in that coming kingdom. “And He will judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people. ” It is the same “he” of verse 3, “and He will teach us of his ways, And we shall walk in His paths.”
7. In verse 4 we are told of the peaceful nature of those who become citizens of the kingdom, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. ” This indicates the peaceful spirit of the men and women who make up the kingdom, its citizens (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18).
Daniel also prophesied about the church of Christ in his age. Perhaps the best and most noted prophecy by Daniel concerning the church deals with the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:31-35). Read the passage and then please notice the following facts about the passage;
1. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in which he saw a great image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron and feet of part iron and clay.
2. He saw a stone, cut out without hands, strike the image upon its feet and destroy it; the stone went on to become a great mountain filling the earth.
3. The king was troubled about the dream, but was unable to recall it.
It was at this point that Daniel came upon the scene, the prophet was able to interpret the dream for the King.
Please notice the following facts in the interpretation by Daniel:
1. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he, as king of Babylon, was the head of gold and after him would arise another kingdom inferior to his kingdom (cf. v. 39). Then a third kingdom would arise followed by a fourth (cf. v. 40).
2. Since the stone was to strike the image in his feet, and since the feet represent the fourth kingdom, it follows that the kingdom of God was to be set up during the existence of the fourth kingdom. Please observe verse 44 in this connection, “And in the days of1hese kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, WYch shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44).
It is not too difficult to identify the kingdoms in the prophecy because we have a definite starting point, please observe the following facts in this regard:
1. Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, king, app. 600 B.C. The kingdom fell about 536 B.C. “Represented by the head of gold.”
2. Medo-Persia: Established by Cyrus, king of Persia, and Darius, king of Media, fell about 330 B.C. “Represented by the breast and arms of silver.”
3. Macedonia (Greek Empire): Established by Alexander the Great. Divided among his generals about 323 B.C. “Represented by the belly and thighs of brass.”
4. Roman Empire: Established as a world empire by Octavius Caesar about 30 B.C. “Represented by legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay.”
“In the days of these kings, ” therefore refers to a time when Rome ruled the world, “And smote the image upon itsfeet” signifies that the event would definitely occur during the reign of the fourth kigndom (i.e., Rome).
The New Testament begins its story while Caesar still ruled the world. “In those days came John the Baptist” (Matt. 3:1,2). In what days? “In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Luke 3:1,2).
Summing up the prophecy of Daniel we notice the following five facts about the kingdom he foretold would come in the future:
1. It was to be established during the Roman Empire. And in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar John came saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Luke 3:1-6; Matt. 3:1-3).
2. This kingdom is to be established by the Lord. There is a sense in which all earthly kingdoms never were. This kingdom (the church) was established by the Lord and is governed by him alone (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:20-23).
3. The kingdom to be set up by the God of heaven wa~ to supplant all other kingdoms in that it is to become the last and final world power. According to Daniel’s prophecy there will never be another earthly kingdom with world-wide dominion; that distinction indeed belongs to the kingdom of God.
4. This kingdom will never be destroyed. The kingdom Jesus built (i.e., his church), is to continue to the end of the world. Jesus is king in his kingdom now, Head of his Church now, and will reign until the last enemy (i.e. death) is overthrown (1 Cor. 15:24-28; Heb. 12:28).
5. The kingdom described by Daniel was to have a small beginning and later fill all the earth. Jesus spoke of his Kingdom as having a small beginning like the mustard seed (Matt. 13:31,32); he also refers to it as leaven in Matthew 13:33.
Finally, Isaiah prophecied that the Lord’s House or his Kingdom would begin in the last days and the law would go forth from the city of Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-4; Lk. 24:47). The Law went forth on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-38). This was the beginning of the Lord’s Church, the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom, in the days of the Roman Kings as prophecied by Daniel (Acts 2:1-4; 11:15).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 4, pp. 99-100
February 18, 1988