The New Testament Church in Prophesy

by William J. Stewart

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament tells us that prophecy“…signifies the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God… much of O.T. prophecy was purely predictive…” Indeed, there are a number of things which God revealed beforehand through His prophets. Some of those events were shortly to come to pass, others were a long way into the future. Among the events God revealed was the establishment of the New Testament church. We look at some of those prophecies herein.

In 2 Samuel 7:1-16, we find that David sought to build a house for the LORD. It was revealed to the prophet Nathan that David in fact would not build the temple for the LORD, but rather his son, Solomon would. In the course of this prophecy, which obviously had almost immediate fulfillment, we can also see a hint of the coming of the Lord Jesus, and the establishment of His kingdom.

David is told, “…I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. …I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. …your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” (v 12, 13, 16). Was He referring to Solomon? Yes, but not exclusively. These things are also fulfilled in the Christ, who, being the fruit of David’s body, would establish His kingdom and throne forever.

In Acts 2:25-31, we see that Jesus fulfilled these words. Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11, applying it to Jesus. He did not see corruption; He indeed was raised from the dead. But notice at verse 30, “…God had sworn with an oath to him (David, wjs) that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne…” Though Peter does not directly quote 2 Samuel 7, this statement is a direct reference to it.

Hosea 1:10 reads, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.'” That this text is a reference to the chosen people of God in the Old Covenant is obvious (see v 6-7, 11). These words were written of a nation guilty of turning from the living God to serve before dead idols. But there would be a return, and there was, following the captivity of Babylon.

And yet, consider how the apostle Paul uses this text. Romans 9:22-26 reads:

“What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: ‘I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.’ And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.'”

This text, which contextually in the book of Hosea dealt with a return to the Lord among the Jews, Paul applies to not just the Jews who would come to the LORD in Christ, but also the Gentiles. This union of Jew and Gentile, serving before God together, is only affected in the church (Eph 2:14-22).

Isaiah 2:1-3 reads,

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 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.

Isaiah uses the term “mountains” to refer to kingdoms or nations. The LORD would establish His kingdom above all other kingdoms. It would be a kingdom to which people from all other nations would go (Jew and Gentile), for there, they would be taught the ways of God. In these few short verses, Isaiah reveals both the time and place for the beginning of the Lord’s church.

God would establish His house “…in the latter days…” (last days, KJV). When are these latter or last days? The “last days” is a hot discussion in the religious world today; with folks trying to determine when this frame of time will or did begin. The best means to determine the time of the last days is to consider what the Scripture says. Notice:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1-2)

The Hebrew writer clearly indicates the last days as starting in the time when God began to speak to man through Jesus, the Son. Thus, we can conclude that the last days spoken of in Scripture, began in the first century AD.

Isaiah specifies not only the time when the LORD would set up His kingdom, but also the location where it would begin, “…out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” God would set up His kingdom, beginning at Jerusalem.

The prophet Daniel, in explaining Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to him, spoke about the coming New Testament church. Nebuchadnezzar was shown the coming of ruling empires, beginning with himself and the Babylonians. Afterward, would come the Persians, the Greeks, and then the Romans. Coming to the Romans, the prophet reveals:

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)

Recall, Isaiah confined the coming of the Lord’s kingdom to a period he called“the last days”, a period which began when the LORD began to reveal His will through Jesus, the Son. Now, through the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the time frame is limited even more. It would take place, “…in the days of these kings…”, in reference to the fourth world power – the iron mixed with clay – the Romans. It was the Romans who were in power when Jesus was born (Luke 3:1), and who continued to be in power, even beyond the time of the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom – the church (Matthew 16:18-19).

We come now to the prophet Joel. In Joel 2:28-32, the prophet speaks of things which would come to pass in the last or latter days. Joel reveals the time, location, entrance and events which would surround the coming of the Lord’s kingdom.

And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)

Like Isaiah, Joel speaks of Mount Zion and Jerusalem as the place where the events in his prophecy would transpire. Also, like the former prophet, Joel reveals that these things would come to pass “afterward” (Heb. achar, which is the root of the word used for “last days” in Isaiah 2). Recall, we noted while considering Isaiah’s prophecy, that this period referred to as the “last days”began when the Lord Jesus began to be God’s spokesman to humanity. But it is rather ambiguous to say that the Lord’s church would begin sometime in the “last days”. So, we narrowed the time considerably by looking into the words of Daniel, learning that the Lord’s kingdom would begin in the days of the Roman emperors. But with this prophecy of Joel, we can nail it down even more. In fact, we can know the beginning of the Lord’s church to the very hour! At the third hour of the day (9 a.m.), on the first Pentecost following the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, as the crowd marveled at the tongues which were spoken by the apostles, Peter stood in their midst and said, “…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…”, and then proceeded to quote Joel 2:28-32. The beginning of the Lord’s church can be traced, not just to a certain century, decade, or even year, but to the very day and hour!!

Given the content of these prophecies, it is no surprise that when we come to the gospels, there is a consistent message, namely, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John the baptizer came preaching this message (Matthew 3:1), as did Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 4:17). When Jesus sent His apostles forth to preach, they too proclaimed this same glad message (Matthew 10:5-7), as did the seventy who were sent (Luke 10:1-9). Indeed, the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and today is present and active in serving the Lord.

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