Goodnews Christian Ministry

Prophecy and the Holy Spirit

"...I knew you to be obstinate, your neck an iron bar, your forehead bronze.
And so I revealed things beforehand, before they happened I announced them to you,
so that you could not say, 'My idol was the one that performed them"
Isaiah.48:3-5

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While Daniel's writing parallels the activities of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Alexander the Great, his words are not a mirror-image of these events. There are significant differences. The pattern is the same, but the specific events themselves are quite different.

This shows that Daniel was not speaking about either Antiochus or Alexander when he wrote his words, but about people and events to come that will follow a very similar pattern to them. It is on this point that many bible scholars disagree. They see Daniel's words fulfilled long ago.

There is little place in scholarship for unfulfilled prophecy. Scholarship demands proof-something prophecy cannot deliver. In fact, the whole academic system is one of proofs-and tests against those proofs. This is why the scholars of Jesus' time scoffed at the idea of faith. 'Show us proof!' they demanded. Scholarship today is the same. It can deal only with what can be tested and proved.

Because of this, the academic process can deal with a known history far better than it can with an unknown future. Scholars cannot prove that Daniel's words are about the future, but they can easily superimpose his words on the historical events surrounding his time and see a close similarity between them and what he wrote down.

For this reason, biblical scholars tend to deal with Daniel (and all the other prophets for that matter) mostly on the basis of the past. They tend to see the prophets less as visionaries of the future, and more as historians. This is why they are so concerned about what the prophets were thinking about when they wrote down their words. The fact is, nothing could be less important (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The result of this approach has been to dull the visionary aspect of the contemporary Church, and therefore to reinforce the veil that covers the true meaning of many of scripture's prophecies. While this approach may help keep the Church safe in a way from a continuous stream of false prophets that arise every few years and see a demise for the world that has so far been forestalled, the fact that the Day of God has not yet arrived does not mean that it will not come, or that it is not close. Our own violent deaths prove that, even if all the other signs could be ignored.

The astonishing product of the traditional Church's masking of the Bible as a blueprint and timetable for the Second Coming has created a Church that in many cases no longer foresees the kind of cataclysmic end described in the prophecies. Instead, a steady-state church is anticipated to serve as an eternal stage for each person to reach a relationship with God. The idea of a God of vengeance and destruction is seen so impalatable that many have discarded the notion.

Discarding scripture is the same as re-writing it. The End the prophets all wrote about is still coming. And it is very close. Further, the accuracy of the prophets has been made certain by the power of the Holy Spirit who guided the structure of every sentence we now read in the scriptures.

The fact that the historical events surrounding Daniel's prophecies do not completely match his visions, clearly demonstrates that most of his prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. If Daniel's prophecies only applied to the activities of Alexander and Antiochus, there would be little purpose for his book even being in the Bible; and Christ would not have referred us back to Daniel's words in our search for the events of the last days. (Mt.24:15).

We must assume that his words don't exactly match with past history because they are about future history. Daniel and the rest of the prophets did not even know what this future history was because it was the Holy Spirit who authored their words. (1 Peter 1:10-12). For this reason it is useless to try to understand Daniel and the others by trying to find out what they were thinking about. Their own thoughts were irrelevant because it was the Holy Spirit that actually created their words.

History does repeat itself-but never exactly ­ and so these earlier historical events became the forms around which the prophecies were structured. In predicting and witnessing these events, the prophets allowed the Holy Spirit to author the words of scripture through them. Instead of recording historical realities, these prophets and their disciples were divinely chosen people who allowed themselves to become the instruments of God's Spirit by recording only what God instructed them to see and write.

Since the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the words that they wrote down, and not through the intent of their thinking, there can be no imperfection in their writings. It is written in scripture that "no prophecy ever came from man's own initiative. When men spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them." (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, although seen to be imprecise now by the scholars, the accuracy of their words will ultimately be proved when the events that they were truly writing about actually occur.

A good example of this can be seen in a passage in the Book of Ezekiel in which the Holy Spirit predicted, almost 700 years before it occurred, the destruction of Judea by the Romans in 70 A.D. This passage was written about 600 B.C., and concerned a pivotal event in the first dispersion of the Jews to Babylon in fulfillment of a prophecy by Moses.

In it, Ezekiel wrote:

"The word of God was addressed to me as follows, 'Son of Man, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come along, making both of them begin from the same country." (Ez.21:18-19).

Interpreting the prophecy, the 'sword' means warfare against Judea, and the 'two roads' mean two different generals. They point to two separate campaigns ­ both originating from the same country: Babylon. Here Ezekiel is telling us that Babylon means Rome.

What the prophecy indicated is that the 'king of Babylon' ­ the emperor of Rome ­ is to launch a military campaign against Judea which would involve two different generals. This was fulfilled when the Roman general Vespasian started the military campaign against Judea in 66 A.D., invading and capturing Galilee and then proceeding south, town by town to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Ezekiel's prophecy continues,

"Put up a signpost where they begin, showing the way to a city, showing the sword the way to...Judah, to the fortress of Jerusalem." (Ez.21:20).

The 'signpost', of course, is the prophecy itself.

"For the king of Babylon has halted at the fork where these two roads diverge, to take the omens. He has shaken the arrows, questioned the teraphim, inspected the liver." (Ez.21:21).

After conquering Galilee and the northern provinces, Vespasian halted outside Jerusalem. He set up his camp atop the Mount of Olives, where he could look down on the walled city and ponder the best approach to breach Jerusalem's enormous wall. While he was doing this, Nero suddenly died, and Vespasian was called back to Rome to become emperor in Nero's place, fulfilling the title "king of Babylon" Ezekiel assigned to him in the prophecy.

This is the point where the two roads diverged, because it was here that Vespasian's son Titus left Rome to assume command of the Roman forces in place of his father.

"Into his right hand the lot for Jerusalem falls..." (Ez.21:22).

In the prophecies of scripture, God's 'right hand' always refers to His Son, Jesus. Therefore, Vespasian's 'right hand' must be interpreted as his own son, Titus.

"...there he must set up battering rams, give the word for slaughter, raise the war cry, level battering-rams against the gates, cast up earthworks, build entrenchments." (Ez.21:22).

Entering the walled city of Jerusalem was a major task. The Roman historian, Tacitus, writing in his 'Histories' in 109 A.D. said of the scene facing the Roman general Titus:

"...Jerusalem, standing upon an eminence, naturally difficult to approach, was rendered still more impregnable by redoubts and bulwarks by which even places on a level plain would have been competently fortified. Two hills that rose to a prodigious height were enclosed by walls constructed so as in some places to project in angles and in others to curve inwards."

"Consequently, the flanks of the Romans were exposed to the Jewish weapons. The extremities of the rock were abrupt and craggy; and the towers were built, upon the mountain, sixty feet high-and in the low ground, one hundred and twenty feet high. These works presented a spectacle altogether astonishing. To the distant eye they seemed to be of equal elevation."

"Within the city there were other fortifications enclosing the palace of the kings, including the tower of Antonia, with its conspicuous pinnacles...The temple itself was in the nature of a citadel, enclosed in walls of its own, and more elaborate and massy than the rest. Even the porticoes that surrounded it were a capital defense. A perennial spring supplied the place with water. Subterranean caverns were scooped out in the mountains, and there were basins and tanks as reservoirs for rain-water."

This is why Vespasian had to camp outside the city even though he had an invincible Roman army with him. Taking this city required all the equipment that the prophecy envisioned.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who was personally present during the Roman seige of Jerusalem described the event in great detail. The Romans built entrenchments against the arrows and missles of the Jewish defenders, and they constructed a gigantic earthwork leading up to the top of the walls so that a large number of Roman soldiers could pour into the city right over the top of the wall. Jerusalem's walls were so high that this massive earthwork had to reach to the height of a ten story building.

The Romans also used immense battering rams against the gates. All this took a good deal of time,which the Romans had all they wanted. In fact, they could have simply waited outside until the defenders starved to death, but Tacitus wrote that Titus and his Roman army were too proud to secure the victory this way. Therefore they engaged in all the activities the prophecy predicted.

Not only that, but Tacitus revealed in his writings that these very prophecies were widely known at the time and were seen by the Jews as omens for their survival and victory, not for their defeat. Tacitus wrote:

"The majority of the Jews were deeply convinced that it was contained in the ancient writings of the priests, that, at this very time, the east would renew its strength, and those who would go out from Judea would go forth from this small country to rule the whole world. Mysterious words, which foreshadowed Vespasian and Titus; but the Jews, according to the usual course of human fondness, interpreted this consummation of destiny as referring to themselves, and were not induced to abandon their error even by affliction."

Tacitus' words confirm that the rest of Ezekiel's prediction was also accurate. Ezekiel wrote, "

"The citizens of Jerusalem believe that these omens are idle, whatever oaths have been sworn. But he is evidence of their crimes, and these will bring about their capture. And so, thus says the Lord God. Since you give evidence of your crimes by parading you sins and flaunting your wickedness in everything you do, and since this evidence is now produced against you, you will be punished."

"As for you, prince of Israel, vile criminal on the last of whose crimes the day is about to dawn, the Lord God says this: They will take away your turban and remove your crown; everything will be changed; the low will be high and the high brought low. To ruin, and to ruin on ruin, am I going to bring it, to such ruin as was never known before this man came who is appointed to inflict the punishment which I am determined to impose on it." (Ez.21:23-27).

When Titus conquered Jerusalem he tore down the temple and the other structures on the temple Mount stone by stone until no evidence of any buildings remained. His destruction left Jerusalem in complete ruin, the Temple Mount an empty platform and the Jewish population bound into a slavery to 'Babylon' that would last almost 2000 years.

What neither the Roman historian Tacitus nor the Jewish people realized, was that 'the east had indeed renewed its strength', but in the power of Jesus and 'those who went out from Judea to rule the world' were his disciples of peace. The renewal of the power of the east had nothing to do with a Jewish military victory, nor with the Roman army. Instead, it was the spiritual culmination of Isaiah's vision of the King of the east destined to liberate mankind from the captivity of Satan's world.

Jesus converted Babylon, delivering a mortal wound to the Roman sixth "head" of the Beast. The ancient prophecies had to do with the approaching world ­ victory of the disciples of Jesus coming out of Palestine. The Jews had seen all the prophecies and correctly interpreted that they were living in the days of their fulfillment, but they had completely misinterpreted the divine application of these visions.

We can look at these ancient prophecies today, long after all the events have been completed, and see the accuracy of the Holy Spirit's words ­ and, at the same time, see how completely wrong all of the contemporary 'experts' had been, trying to analyze them. We can expect this same pattern to repeat itself in our time with respect to the words of Daniel, John and all the other prophets and prophecies attesting to the biblical blueprint and timetable for the Return of Christ as promised.

Given the momentous nature of this return, it would be inconceivable that it's coverage in prophecy not at least equal the volume ascribed to Jesus' first appearance in Galilee and Jerusalem 2000 years ago.

Ezekiel died more than 500 years before Jesus was born. For this reason, his writing took place well before there was a Roman Empire. Because the words of Ezekiel seem to apply to events which occured when the original Babylon conquered Judah and took the Jews off to the Euphrates, his writing could be interpreted two ways by the scholars of Jesus' time: Either historically, or as unfulfilled prophecy of the future.

Most if not all ancient scholars chose the first, but we can see now that the second interpretation was the correct one, because the dispersion of the Jews to the 'Roman Babylon' just forty years after Jesus died was infinitely more disastrous and permanent than the temporary event of the past on which Ezekiel's prophecies were said to be based.

The Jews were able to escape from the Babylon of Ezekiel's time rather quickly, but they were never able to escape from the captivity of Rome. In the first captivity, the Jews returned to Jerusalem just 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the first Babylon, but they had to wait almost two thousand years to recover this city after the Roman campaigns. And despite their return just a few years ago, they still have not been given permission to be there by decree of the Prince of Persia, a binding necessity in Christ's "Treaty of Peace" with Babylon. This shows that the exile continues, even now.

The Jews have been allowed to return to the Holy Land by a Jeremiah codicle (Jer. 42-45) agreed to by God and accepted by the kings of Babylon at the United Nations in 1947. This codicle does not alter the need for the Prince of Persia's decree; and it's own terms, in turn, have been violated, engendering the Wrath predicted. The first return is to end in disaster (Jer. 4219-22).

Only with the events that happened with respect to Jerusalem's destruction by the Roman empire did Ezekiel's words (Ez. 21:18-27) find their exact and perfect fulfillment. Therefore, Ezekiel's words were not written down for the historical record ­ they were not for the events of his own time. As Peter said, the Holy Spirit meant these words for us and for our time.

We must view Daniel's prophecies in exactly the same way. While Daniel's words are built on the pattern of Antiochus and Alexander, they actually have very little to do with these two men or with the times in which they lived. Everything in the Book of Daniel points to the future, a future just now unfolding.

It is a sealed book, now unsealed. It is a book about Jesus Christ, not Moses. It is a book about the details of the end of the Christian era on earth, and the return of Christ. And we are living in that time ­ the momentous culmination of all the prophecy ever written.

 


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