General Remarks On The Prophetic Word

1. Old Testament.

There is at the outset a great distinction to make between the prophets. Some wrote before the captivity and called the Jews to repentance, as hoping that they might still heed the warning, whatever the solemn light on the future judgment, but with blessing at last. The others wrote a little during or after the captivity on the basis of the judgment of God. Isaiah is in the first class, Jeremiah and Ezekiel being transitional; Daniel is in the second, as well as Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Jonah stands alone as a sort of final testimony to the Gentiles while Israel was still owned as God’s people.

Isaiah prophesies in general of all the hopes of the people of God and of the nations in their relations with Israel. The book is divided into two very distinct parts, the first ending with chapter 35, the second beginning with chapter 40, and an historical portion forming a parenthesis between those two parts. The former part contains the judgment of God on Israel and on the nations; the latter presents the consolation of Israel by sovereign grace and in view of their guilt, first by idolatry, next by the rejection of Messiah, who comes again for their deliverance to the glory of God.

Chapter 1 prophesies about Jerusalem; chapter 2 is the judging of the nations in relationship with the Jews; chapters 3 and 4 develop yet more the grounds of the judgment and its divine character and result; as chapter 5 sets forth Israel’s sin and ruin, notwithstanding all the goodness and painstaking of God from the first. In chapter 6 we see a kind of introduction which gives us the character of prophecy as to the Jews only.9 The prophecy of chapter 7 does not close till chapter 9:7. It divides into two sections: from chapter 7 we learn of Immanuel, from chapter 8 of Immanuel’s land. Then commences a new subject at chapter 9:8, or rather a resumption of what began in chapter 5, which terminates with chapter 12.

Chapter 13 opens a series of judgments on the nations, beginning with Babylon, in chapter 24, involving all the earth, and concluding with chapter 27. It is to be remarked here as elsewhere that every judgment ends with blessing, the glory of Christ being the object of all these prophecies.

From chapter 28 to chapter 35 inclusively are found special judgments on Israel in the last times.

In chapters 35 to 39 we see foreshewn the overthrow of the Assyrian, the sickness unto death but raising up (in type) of the Son of David, and the power of Babylon as carrying away the Jews.

Chapters 40, etc., to the end predict the state of Israel, not externally like those before the history, but internally and Godward, as tested by their call to witness the one true God and to await the Messiah, with the grand results when mercy rejoices over judgment, in glory at the end and for ever.

As for Jeremiah, we see that, Manasseh having fully consummated the iniquity of Israel, judgment becomes necessary. (2 Kings 23:26; 24:3; Jer. 15:4.) This judgment is irrevocable: Jeremiah is the prophet of it in the midst of Jerusalem. Up to the end of chapter 24 he does the pleading of Jehovah against His people to convince them of sin in every manner.

From chapter 25 Jerusalem (considered as quite pagan) is judged with all the nations. The new covenant is introduced in these chapters. The throne of Jehovah ceases to exist at Jerusalem; but Jerusalem shall surely be so called once more when all nations shall be gathered to it.

We have in Ezekiel the rejection of all that was Jewish or Gentile. He prophesied among the captives of Israel, not of Judah. He pronounced judgments upon the nations as a whole, on those who remained in the land after the captivity, on Pharaoh who wished to help them and hinder the establishment by Jehovah of the first of the four great empires, and he speaks of what will happen to the nation (ten tribes and all) when the last of the four monarchies shall have been judged. The restoration of Israel beings with chapter 34.

In Daniel we have the history of the four great monarchies which have replaced the throne of Jehovah for the earth. They subsist on His part who reigns by them. Thence it comes that Paul declares all the powers that be ordained of God. Kings reign by His sanction; as on the contrary the principle that it is by the will of the people is the presage of the anti-christian spirit. What restrains the manifestation of the lawless one is the presence of God’s Spirit on the earth in the church. This being the object of the grace and work of God, He will not let the bridle loose to the nations for them to spoil and destroy. The presence of the church on earth hinders then the manifestation of the lawless one. The Holy Spirit being in the church recognises the powers as ordained of God, whilst the Antichrist will own no man, either God or any authority whatever. Men are advancing evidently toward this epoch; but there is something that hinders its manifestation and holds back the lawless one: it is the presence of the church, or of the Holy Spirit in the church.

In Hosea we have the judgment of Israel, though also that of Judah, and their restoration together in the latter day. Meanwhile, Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi tell the tale, Judah being specially in view up to the end of chapter 3, whilst in general the details that follow from chapter 4 look at Israel.

Joel gives the revelation of the great and terrible day of Jehovah. To announce it the Spirit of God takes the occasion of some particular judgments at that time.

Amos occupies himself particularly with Israel and the nations connected with Israel.

Obadiah predicts the judgment of Edom, which alone among the nations is to be destroyed without a remnant.

Jonah furnishes the last prophetic appeal to the nations before they have assumed the Babylonish character, to prove the interest God takes in all the creation, although in His mercy He has chosen a people for Himself to preserve the knowledge of His name on the earth. The power of Nineveh was anterior to that of Babylon as imperial.

Micah prophesied during the period of Isaiah. He treats of the invasion of the Assyrian and his threats, in order to present in a special manner the judgment of Judea, but at the same time Jehovah’s blessing in Christ.

Nahum is the judgment of the world in general, not of the corruption of Babylon but of man, of his power which is presented in the case of Nineveh.

Habakkuk complains of the iniquity of God’s people and develops the chastening that will fall on them to be effected by those still more wicked than they—the Chaldeans, who, because they give loose rein to their violence, become in their turn objects of the judgment of Jehovah. But His glory and His righteousness shall be manifested in both one and the other, types of the Jewish people and of the world.

Zephaniah speaks of the awakening that God in His grace works in the midst of His people so that judgment should not fall on them. In that day shall be a time of repentance and salvation for many souls. He proves nevertheless that the divine counsels cannot be changed, that evil is always in man now, and that God will gather all the nations to punish them, but that then the remnant shall be blessed in every way.

Haggai, insisting on the re-building of the temple, takes occasion thereby to reveal the manifestation of Jesus in His glory coming to the house of God in the latter day.

Zechariah takes up all the relations of Israel with the nations after the captivity. He sets out the mutual rejection of Christ and the Jews at the time of His first coming, and the ways of God toward the Jews and the nations at the time of His second coming.

Malachi pronounces the judgment of Judea after the return to the holy land: and he makes known the message of Elijah to call the people to repentance before the day of Jehovah.

2. New Testament.

Matthew 24 up to verse 44 is the judgment of the Jews; from verse 45 of the same chapter to verse 30 of chapter 25 it is the judgment of those to whom the Lord Jesus has confided His service during His absence; and from verse 30 to the end of chapter 25 it is the judgment of the nations, not of the dead but of the quick.

2 Thessalonians 2 shews the mystery or secret of lawlessness, even in apostolic days already at work, ending, when the restraining power is gone, in the display of the lawless one in the power of Satan. It is the same personage called in the Epistles of John the Antichrist, who is predicted in Daniel 11:36 as the king who “shall do according to his will”; that is, his character not moral but political in his relations with the land and people of the Jews.

After that which concerns the seven churches, the Revelation presents the government that the Lord Jesus exercises in the midst of the throne on the earth before His manifestation here below. The general history of this government terminates at the end of chapter 11.

Chapter 12 shews the opposition of Satan to the glory of Christ; chapter 13 lets us see the instruments of that opposition, as chapter 14 the ways of God after He begins to act towards the remnant on the earth until He judges finally the body of the apostasy. These three chapter contribute to give us one vision.

Chapter 15, 16 are another vision shewing us the last judgment of God (not of the Lamb) on the earth. The saints were already before God.

Chapter 17, 18, describe the guilt and judgment of the great harlot, Babylon, the features of her character, and her relations with the beast or Roman empire.

Chapter 19 reveals the marriage of the Lamb, and the judgment of the beast, and the false prophet who is identical with the second beast of chapter 13. Chapter 20 gives us the binding of Satan in the opening verses; then from verse 4 the reign of the glorified saints over the earth for a thousand years; next the loosing of Satan for the last insurrection of the wicked then alive, and their destruction; and then the final eternal judgment of the dead, or all the wicked since the world began, followed by the new heavens and earth when God is all in all, the mediatorial office of Christ being closed, and all evil in the lake of fire. From chapter 21:9 to chapter 22:6 is a vision of the state of things in the millennium; from verse 7 final exhortations.

9 Chapter 6 presents the general character of the prophecy. Ahaz is about to accomplish the apostasy of the family of David by building an idolatrous altar. Before this happens, the glory of Christ is revealed; by the same the moral state of the people is entirely condemned and judgment pronounced. The fulfilment of the sentence is suspended until they have rejected Christ Himself, as we see in John 12. The promise of a remnant is revealed at the intercession of the prophet.