New Testament Prophecies
C. E. Hocking, Cardiff
Of course the believer should trust his Bible provided by God for the enlightenment and encouragement of His 'friends', cf Gen. 18. 17-19; John 15. 15. In our previous paper we confirmed this through a consideration of a series of Old Testament prophetic pronouncements. Now we propose to consider some of the many New Testament prophetic pronouncements which corroborate and complement the earlier revelation. As prophecy is an immense subject, it might be asked, 'What are some of the things the New Testament writers have to say about future events?'
1. Prophetic assurance from the First and Last Books of the New Testament
Already in Matthew, clear links are established between the life and teaching of the Christ and the prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah. Messiah's predicted entry into Zion as the King, 'meek, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass' received its fulfilment on the memorable 'Palm Sunday' opening of Jesus' final messianic appeal of His first advent, whereas the nation's mourning at the return of the Son of man in glory still awaits fulfilment, Zech 9. 9; 12. 12; Matt. 21. 5; 24. 30. The Lord in His discourse to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, 24. 3-31, introduces examples drawn from Daniel when He spoke to them of the troubles that should come upon the world presaging the 'coming' [parousia] of the Son of man, and the consummation of the age, v. 13; Dan. 7. 13; 12. 12, 13. He reminded the disciples of that setting up of 'the abomination of desolation' of which Daniel had written, which is to signal the commencement of 'great tribulation, such as hath not been since the beginning of the world until now', Matt. 24. 15, 21; Dan. 9. 27; 11. 31; 12. 1, 11. That terrifying period will be climaxed by 'the coming of the Son of man', His sign being seen appearing in the heaven whereupon 'all the tribes of the earth (land) shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory', vv. 27, 30.
Revelation, the last of the NT books, draws upon Zechariah and Daniel much more, one of its major concerns being to herald the fact that 'The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever', Rev. 11. 15. Then will be 'finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets', 10. 7. Clearly the imagery of the four differently coloured horses that come forth as the seals are opened by the Lamb, is drawn from Zechariah, see 6. 1-8; cf. 1. 8-17; Rev. 6. 1-8; cf. 19. 11. 16. Then God's two future prophet-witnesses in Jerusalem are described as olive trees and lampstands, imagery similarly parallelled by Zechariah, cf. 4. 2, 3, 11, 14; Rev. 11. 4. The One whom John saw when 'in the Spirit on the Lord's day', and the effect which the vision had upon him is expressed in Danielic imagery, 7. 13; 8. 17, 18; 10. 6, 10; Rev. 1. 13-18. The emergence of the future Gentile world ruler and his confederated kingdom, together with his blasphemous behaviour and final overthrow are also redrawn from Daniel, 7. 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 20; Rev. 13. 19. 20. As John's record has it, 'These words are faithful and true: and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass. And behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book', 22. 6, 7.
2. Eschatology and the Evangelists
Certainly, insufficient attention has been given to the vast range of prophetic pronouncements which are recorded in the Gospels. In the context of the birth narratives concerning John the Baptist and the Son of God, New Testament prophecies endorsing and supplementing those of God's earlier revelation were uttered enthusiastically. What the holy prophets forecast regarding the Davidic Messiah's throne and kingdom, and the coming of a Davidic Deliverer who would save them from their foes was to be fulfilled in Jesus the Son of David. Of Him Gabriel prophesied, 'He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end', Luke 1. 32, 33. Mary's Saviour-God is still committed to help 'Israel his servant', and what He has spoken to Abraham and to the nation's fathers still stands, vv. 54, 55. Israel's God 'hath raised up a horn of salvation . . . in the house of his servant David (as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began), salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to shew mercy towards our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swore unto Abraham our father, to grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies should serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days', vv. 69-75. These promises are instinct with Israel's national hopes founded upon the irrevocable covenants God has made with Abraham and David, and which remain on course for fulfilment.
Throughout His teaching, the Lord Jesus gave prominence to eschatology. He could not rest while a usurper held sway in God's fair creation. He taught His disciples to pray to the Father 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth', Matt. 6. 10. He briefed His disciples concerning the glorious days which were to be established in might by the Son of man at His future coming in glory, Luke 17. 22-37. His physical absence today, which began when He 'went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom', is to end when He comes again, Luke 19. 11. When He does return, He will review and reward His faithful servants, and also will slay His enemies, 19. 15-17. For the evangelists, Jerusalem and its environs was journey's end for the first advent, and it is the place to which the Lord will return at His second advent!
To select from the settings of our Lord's last week leading up to the cross, His words to His opponents in the precincts of the House of God in the city, or those spoken in response to the questions of His disciples on Olivet to the east of the city, or His more intimate and reassuring ministry to His own in the furnished upper room of a private house in the city, prophecy is given a large place. The One enthusiastically identified by the crowd as the Son of David, being praised as 'he that cometh in the name of the Lord', spoke authoritatively of 'the kingdom of God' and of 'a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof, of some yet to be cast out into 'the outer darkness', of the resurrection of the dead guaranteed by the power of God and the word of God, and of God's determination yet to put the enemies of David's Lord beneath His feet. At the coming of the Son of man, is He not to 'send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other'? Is not this the time when He will root out all the hypocrites purporting to be His servants while granting the good and faithful servants among them their rewards with His 'Well done'? Are not the living nations to be reviewed as to their attitudes and actions towards Messiah's brethren before the King assigns to each a place in His kingdom or a part with the devil and his angels in the eternal fire? Did notour Lord, in the very context of the institution of the Lord's Supper in the Upper Room in Jerusalem still focus His disciples thoughts upon the kingdom and their privileged places in it? 'Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel', Luke 22. 28-30.
3. Prophecy, Peter and Paul
Throughout Acts Luke presents the apostles to the circumcision and to uncircumcision, neither diminishing nor denying Israel's expectations but rather glorying in God's faithfulness to His promises to the nation. Peter challenges the nation with the words, 'Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, wherof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began', Acts 3. 19-21. Paul's persecutors in Acts were mainly Jews, despite the fact that he was true to the eschatological hope of Judaism as such confessions as those below prove:
the hope of the resurrection of the dead, Acts 23. 8;
the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers, Acts 26. 6, 7;
because of the hope of Israel I am bound . . ., Acts 28. 20.
In raising our Lord Jesus from the dead, 'Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance unto Israel, and forgivenessof sins', 5. 31; cf. 10. 43, and God said, 'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David', which messianic promises made to David and to his posterity are thereby guaranteed an eschatological fulfilment, 13. 34; Isa. 55. 3, In His resurrection, God has testified through His apostles that 'this is he which is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead', Acts 10. 40-42; 24. 25; cf. 17. 31.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses the truth of a matter is established, Deut. 17. 6. To the witness of Peter and Paul we add that of James, the Lord's brother, whose words before the assembled apostles and elders at Jerusalem settle the matter. He said, 'Simeon (Peter) hath rehearsed how first God did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who maketh these things known from the beginning of the world', Acts 15. 14-18.