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THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF SALVATION
Lesson 27
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Jesus Reveals it before it Happens

Jesus told Isaiah, “…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me {on Earth}. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is still to come…What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” (Isaiah 46:9-11, insertion mine.) Jesus also told His disciples, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He {the one sent from God).” (John 13:19, insertion mine.)

Contrary to what many people say, Bible prophecy cannot be separated from the Plan of Salvation. Prophecy plays an integral role of salvation. Even the birth, death, ascension and return of Jesus to Earth are expressed in the Bible as prophesies. The Bible teaches that salvation comes by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:6-10), but it is difficult to have faith in someone we have not actually seen or heard. It is also difficult to love Someone we have never met. Therefore, God sent the gift of the Holy Spirit so we could come to know and love Jesus. (John 16:7) The Spirit makes Jesus real in our minds. Furthermore, Jesus provides us with enough reasonable evidence to demonstrate that He is God. The fulfillment of Bible prophecy provides this evidence. Bible prophecy is history stated in advance. Jesus declares what He will do and history confirms what He did. Prophecy is a progressive record and by studying it, we can observe the marvelous work of Jesus through many centuries. History confirms God’s constant vigil to verify that His promises are kept. When understood correctly, Bible prophecy demonstrates and explains the character of Jesus in many wonderful ways. Peter said, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Present Truth

On or about the time of fulfillment, Bible prophecy “suddenly becomes understandable and applicable.” This is an interesting phenomenon. For example, when Jesus was born, the prophecies surrounding His birth suddenly became clear to the honest and heart, such as the wise men. The sudden understanding and fulfillment of prophecy is sometimes called “present truth.” A good example of “present truth” is demonstrated by Paul’s preaching. (Romans 16:25-27) The arrival of present truth always centers on some new truth or event concerning Jesus. Therefore, when students of the Word understand what Jesus is about to do, they know how and when to prepare for his actions! For example, Jesus told Noah to build an ark because He was going to destroy the world with a flood. The message Jesus gave Noah was present truth at that time because Jesus was about to do something He had not done before! Because Noah lived by faith, he obeyed Jesus. With great expense and tremendous effort, Noah built an ark, thereby saving himself and his family. (Hebrews 11:7)

Having Ears That Hear

One of the biggest problems students face with Bible study is that some elements of the Bible have to be believed before they can be understood, and other elements have to be understood before they can be believed. It is important to approach Bible study with both perspectives in mind. We may have to stretch our minds to do some possibility thinking because some answers are a long time in coming. In the end, it is reassuring to know that faith and truth are inseparable – they are brother and sister. For this reason, we should not feel threatened when the big picture does not snap into focus right away. In our search for truth, we must have a humble attitude and teachable spirit. My prayer for 30 years continues to be: “Lord, I do not care what the truth is or where it may lead, just let me see it!

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reasons you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47) In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus emphasized seven times, “He that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This phrase indicates that those people who honestly listen for God’s voice will eventually hear and understand what the Holy Spirit says! Jesus said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

Afraid of Two Things

The carnal heart is afraid of two things: the truth about the future. The born again heart has nothing to fear because Jesus is the truth and He stands today where we will be tomorrow. This is the beauty of living by faith. If we are willing to confess our sins and move forward, truth is not a fearful thing. Likewise, there is nothing to fear about the future because our Savior sees the future and has made every provision for it. Jesus said, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whosoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:20,21) The Apostle Paul wrote, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that comes from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Even more, Daniel says of the wicked: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” (Daniel 12:10)

These verses confirm the complete harmony between the operation of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. One is not antagonistic toward the other. The members of the Godhead are in one accord. The Holy Spirit will never lead a person into rebellion against a plain “thus saith the Lord” stated in Scriptures. Never! The Holy Spirit always nudges a person to obediently submit to God’s higher authority. (Acts 5:29) Whenever we face a difficult situation where sin appears to be the best solution, we are on treacherous ground. Remember Abraham. He and Sarah concluded that having a child by Hagar was the only answer to Sarah’s infertility, but look at the price of their sin. Daniel 12:10 also confirms that if we are not obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will not be able to grow spiritually and understand even greater truths about God. Even though we may be honest seekers of truth, there will always be portions of the Bible that will be unclear and challenging to understand. Do not feel intimidated. We stand on the shoulders of many honorable men and women who have experienced the same dilemma. No person can understand everything written in the Bible. However, everyone who seeks truth will find it and will be able to understand the basics. (Matthew 7:7) Even more, everyone who seeks truth will see God. (Matthew 5:8) And He will reward everyone who diligently seeks Him. (Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 1:3) Just as God’s infinite love is greater than we can ever hope for to understand, many Bible concepts are simply too broad, deep and large to be completely understood in one lifetime. Jesus reads the mind and heart of each person and all He requires is a surrendered heart, an honest inquiry, a diligent effort and an open mind. If we cooperate with the leading of the Spirit each day, Jesus will produce a spiritually maturity that is otherwise impossible to retain. (Ephesians 4:13)

Forever Immature?

Too many Christians stay on the merry-go-round of basic elements and never mature into the deeper and intricate concepts about Jesus. The Author of our Faith did not produce a third grade primer on salvation. He produced a library of 66 books that offers something at every level of spiritual development. Paul observed the fact that some people would not grow up spiritually and he chastised the Hebrews saying, “We have much to say about {the ministry of Christ}, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, which by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.” (Hebrews 5:11; 6:1, insertion mine.) Did you notice the subjects that Paul called “elementary truths?”

Of course, Paul believed that we should understand the basics of salvation first and then move on to practice them in our lives. But he did not stop there! He encouraged all of us to grow up and continue learning more about the ways and plans of Jesus. If we are satisfied with “just enough religion” to be saved (the basic truths about salvation), could it be that we are more interested in saving ourselves than knowing Jesus? How foolish! The Plan of Salvation is not an insurance policy, nor is it a scheme to obtain eternal life. Instead, the Plan of Salvation is a comprehensive way of life. When a person enrolls in the Plan of Salvation, he or she wants to grow up spiritually and reflect Jesus’ character. A hunger for spiritual food drives a born again person to the Bible.

“Prophecy is not Essential to Salvation”

When people insist that Bible prophecy is not essential to salvation, they tacitly admit they are spiritually immature and still fascinated with the milk of elementary things. (Remember Hebrews 5:11; 6:1.) Keep in mind that Jesus is neither mindless nor shallow about the things He does or says. He is the Creator of molecular physics, as well as the Revealer of the mysteries of God. He would not have included electrons in atoms or apocalyptic prophecy in the Bible if these elements were not important. Jesus would not have instructed John to write the Book of Revelation if it was meaningless and useless. On the contrary, the Book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that offers a blessing to everyone who reads it. “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3) The Book of Revelation will become, at the right time, a marvelous “road map” of present truth for the people of Earth. Prior to the Great Tribulation, the Book of Revelation will not enjoy preeminence because it will not be the time for its fulfillment. But this will suddenly change overnight; the most complicated book in the Bible will become an important roadmap explaining the actions of Jesus. Do not lessen the importance of Bible prophecy simply because you do not understand what it says. Paul wrote, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20) Jesus condemned the Pharisees for not recognizing the fulfillment of prophecy right before their eyes! He said, “Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” (Luke 12:56)

False Prophets

John warns us to be aware of false prophets. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) Jesus warned His disciples, “For false Christ’s and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.” (Matthew 24:24) Think about it. According to these texts, if a person performs great signs and miracles, does it necessarily make them a true prophet? No! (See Deuteronomy 13:1-5.) If a great sign or miracle is not proof of truth or a true prophet, then the proof of a true prophet must be found in the validity of his message. A prophet’s message will conform to bible truth and be a plan “thus saith the Lord.” A prophet is not a god. True, prophets sometimes performs miracles to confirm their testimony, but a miracle is not enough. There has to be something external (that is, a witness) to validate the testimony of the prophet. (John 8:13-20)

If a person is not acquainted with the Bible, it becomes very difficult to use “gold standards” set forth in the Bible to test a prophet. If we are left with nothing but our senses – he or she looked good, spoke authoritatively and appeared to know a lot about the Bible – we become very vulnerable to deception. The devil knows the Bible very well and makes it imperative that we know God’s Word, too. In days to come, a great contest will occur between the prophets of God and the prophets of the devil. Many people who currently claim to be “led of the Spirit” will painfully discover they were led by their foolish imaginations. (Ezekiel 13) The Spirit ever leads us towards truth – to carefully examine God’s Word. Then as we discover more truth, the Spirit confirms it in our minds by connecting more dots to form a growing picture of truth.

Wrong Conclusions and Terrible Consequences

If we interpret prophecy with faulty presuppositions, we will produce faulty conclusions. Notice how faulty presuppositions led Jewish leaders to a faulty conclusion in Jesus day. Malachi predicted, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5,6) This prophecy was given to Malachi about 400 years before Jesus was born and the Jews commonly interpreted this prophecy to mean that Elijah would physically come down from Heaven and introduces the Messiah when the time came for Him to appear. (Remember, Elijah was taken to Heaven in a whirlwind approximately 450 years before Malachi wrote these words. See 2 Kings 2:11.)

John the Baptist

This prophecy has an interesting setting. According to Luke 3:1,15, many Jews anticipated Messiah would arrive during the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. This anticipation was based on the fact that 27 A.D. marked the commencement of the 70th week since the decree to restore Jerusalem was issued by Artaxerxes on Nisan 1, 457 B.C. (Ezra 7,8) The Jews were not alone in their expectations, even the Samaritans anticipated the appearing of Messiah! (See John 4:25.)

Interest in the appearing of Messiah had been fueled by the appearance of a strange and powerful man whom many people regarded as a prophet. His name was John. It was custom of John the Baptist (John the Baptizer) to hold services out in the desert, near the Jordan River. He preferred the sobriety of the wilderness to the din of the city and many curious ventured into the wilderness to hear him. John’s preaching created a sensation for he spoke with power and penetrating insight. He claimed the kingdom of God was at hand and many people believed him. His prophetic message debunked the teaching of the religious leaders and superstitions imbedded in Judaism. People and priests were “pricked in the heart” because of their sins. As they listened to this man of God, they realized the Messiah would appear and establish His kingdom very soon! John made it clear that sinners with a rebellious attitude could not be part of God’s kingdom. “Therefore, “he cried, “repent of your sins and be baptizes.” Holy Spirit power rested on John the Baptist. His words carried much weight. They deeply stirred the hearts of his listeners and as his popularity grew, the clergy in Jerusalem became increasingly troubled with him.

“Who Are You?”

One day, the Religious Affairs Department in Jerusalem sent a group of priest to the Jordan River to question the uneducated “wild-man “who was causing such a stir among the people. (See John 1: 19-23.) Notice the sequence of the priest’s questions, because the questions were based on their understanding of prophecy. They first question to John was, “Are you Messiah?” John answered, “No.” Then, they asked if he was Elijah. Again John answered, “No.” They asked if he was the prophet that Moses had predicted. (See Deuteronomy 18:15.) John again responded, “No.” In desperation, they finally asked, “Who are you?” John answered by quoting from Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23)

Satisfied that John the Baptist was not the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet predicted by Moses, the priests returned to Jerusalem with their report. As you many guess, the problem was their misunderstanding of whom John represented. They assumed, based on their interpretation of Malachi, that the physical appearing of Elijah was mandatory fulfillment before Messiah could appear. This interpretation helped the Pharisees to reject Jesus as Messiah because John the Baptist plainly declared that he was not Elijah. They concluded that if there was no Elijah, there could be no Messiah. Look again at the prophecy of Malachi 4. How do you interpret it? If you had been a Pharisee at that time, would you have doubted that Jesus was Messiah since Elijah had not physically appeared?

“Where is Elijah”?

The only way to reach an accurate prophetic conclusion is to combine the harmony of the Scriptures with the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, spiritual things are spiritually understood. (1 Corinthians 2:14) About two years after the priests had questioned John the Baptist, Peter, James and John went with Jesus to a mountaintop now called the mount of Transfiguration. There they saw Jesus visit with Elijah and Moses. (Matthew 17:1-9) The disciples thought this was the Elijah that Malachi had predicted! But Elijah did not stay on Earth, in fact, only those men on the mountain saw him. They must have wondered why Elijah and Moses made the trip from Heaven to see Jesus. The Father sent Elijah and Moses as representatives of the human race to encourage Jesus, as He was about to meet His rendezvous with death. The salvation of the human race depended on Jesus obediently going to the cross. Elijah was a representative of people who be saved without seeing death and Moses represented those who will be resurrected from death and the grave. Of course, at the time, the disciples did not comprehend that Jesus was about to die. In fact, they were waiting for Him to establish a glorious kingdom. A short time after the mountain top experience they asked Jesus about Elijah and the prophetic argument the Pharisees used to negate the possibility that Jesus was the Messiah. They asked, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” (Matthew 17:10) Jesus responded, ‘”To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17: 17:11-13)

Was John the Baptist the promised Elijah? The answer is both no and yes. No, John the Baptist was not the physical person of Elijah. Everyone knew that John was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. But yes, John the Baptist was a spiritual type of Elijah. Notice what the angel Gabriel said to John’s father, Zechariah, before his son was born, “And he will go before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)

Jesus Applies the Prophecy

Jesus clearly understood the importance of John’s work. He said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he…And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears let him hear.” (Matthew 11:11,14) There is that phrase again, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Notice that Jesus said,”If you are willing to accept it, he {John the Baptist} is the Elijah who was to come.” (Insertion mine.) In other words, John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi. The fulfillment of the prophecy was not based on the appearing of Elijah in the flesh, but the ministry of John in spirit and power of Elijah. (Luke 1:17) There is an important reason for using this particular example of Bible prophecy. If faulty presuppositions are used to interpret Malachi’s prophecy, the prophecy contributes to the rejection of Jesus as Messiah. If Elijah does not appear, Messiah cannot appear. But according to Jesus, John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy because he appeared in the spirit and power of Elijah. This is an important lesson. We must be very careful to use the correct methods of prophetic interpretation. A wrong turn in interpretation can have very serious consequences.

Summary

Jesus is the Word, the Alpha and Omega in all things pertaining to the Godhead. He is the Revealer of love and truth about the Godhead. There is no other flawless source. Jesus is the perfect demonstration of what faith in God is all about. The role of the Holy Spirit is also central in the Plan of Salvation. His mission and work are to draw each person into a faith relationship with God. A faith relationship is defined, as an obedient surrender to Gods will – to go where the Spirit directs, to do as the Spirit convicts and to become all that the Spirit urges. When the Holy Spirit is allowed to live within our heart, He creates a thirst for knowledge about God. As we learn more about the life, teaching and doctrines of Jesus Christ, we also begin to understand more about the will, ways and truth of God. (John 16:14,15) Finally, bible prophecy is a form of present truth that becomes understandable and applicable on or about the time of fulfillment. When rightly understood and combined with progressive historical fulfillment, Bible prophecy proves that God keeps vigil over Earth. It also proves that God has a plan to save man. The good news is that very soon, the plan will be completed.

Memory Verse   Luke 1:17 “And he will go before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Quiz:

1.      What is living faith in God?

2.      Is salvation based on an absolute knowledge of Jesus?  Give an example.

3.      How important is the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life?

4.      Does our willingness and attitude have anything to do with our salvation?

5.      What two things is the carnal heart afraid of?

Notes:



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