Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ready for What’s Next? (Part 1)

Volume 3, Number 2
January 3, 2009

The LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. (Isa 52:10)[1]

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-17)

We have just celebrated the first advent of the Messiah, and we now look forward to His second advent when He comes to reign on earth as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords. Just as His first coming was precisely foretold by the prophets of old, so His second coming has been predicted. Since the prophecies about His first coming were fulfilled with accuracy, we can trust that the prophecies about His second coming will also come to pass with equal accuracy.

With the prospect of the most liberal government in the history of our nation, one that for all practical purposes is anti-God and especially anti-Christ, we can start setting our eyes to the eastern sky in propitious anticipation of our Lord’s return.

In this series of articles, we will briefly cover some of the prophecies of His first coming. Next we will look at some of the prophecies of His second coming. Finally, we will analyze our own preparedness for a certain yet uncertain future.

Signs of His First Coming

Before time began, God has had a plan in place for the redemption of His creation. That immediately raises the question as to why God would create something that He would have to redeem in the first place. Why did He not make it so that there would be no opportunity for sin? We might have to ask Him that when we meet Him in heaven, but part of the reason was that He might manifest His glory. Referring to His bringing Israel back to her land after many years of dispersion, God declares, “Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (Isa 43:6b-7). Why would He do this? “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” (Isa 48:11) Jesus made a similar statement in His High Priestly prayer: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24) There is no religion on earth whose god makes such claims. It is inconceivable that any god would love or even care enough for its creation to condescend to their lowly estate, and pay the price for their redemption. On the contrary, all other gods demand that their worshipers tow the line and comply to their every whim otherwise severe punishment will ensue. That is how they get their glory. So when the true God does all He has done for His creation, we are awestruck. We are dumbfounded. We can do no less than fall before His presence in praise, adoration and worship. He is glorious, and He deserves all the glory we can give.

Another reason God planned for redemption was that He wanted a reciprocal love from His creation. Therefore, He created mankind in His own image and in His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). In doing this, he gave man a free will to choose right from wrong, to obey or disobey, to love God or not to love Him, to accept Him or to reject Him. Though the concept is inexplicable, God wants a genuine relationship with His creation. Even the hardest of hearts recognizes that a relationship between two people cannot be forced upon an individual. A relationship has to be by the mutual consent of the participating parties. Knowing this, and knowing that man would rend the relationship, God devised a plan to set things right again through His own sacrifice.

Part of His plan to redeem His creation was to make His plan clear to mankind, and so He laid it all out in His Word, the Bible. He would send (actually, He Himself would come as) a redeemer to take the penalty of mankind’s sin upon Himself. This Redeemer would be the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15) not the seed of a man. We see this prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 1:18. The Savior would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). This was fulfilled in Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:26-27, 34. He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David (Genesis 18:18, 22:18, 28:14; 49:10). Jesus’ genealogy is listed Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38. God told us that His Son would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). His birth is recorded in Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:4-5, 7. The prophet Jeremiah predicted an effort to exterminate Messiah by killing children of Bethlehem (Jeremiah 31:15), and this came to pass and was recorded by Matthew (Matthew 2:16-18). In order to save the Christ child, His parents had to flee to Egypt. This was foreseen in Hosea 11:1 and recorded in Matthew 2:14-15. David declared that He would be called the Son of God (Psalm 2:7) and Matthew testified to it in Matthew 3:17; 17:5. Isaiah said he would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3), and the fact was recorded in Luke 23:18 and John 1:11. Zechariah foresaw His public declaration to the throne of Israel and His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9) and all four Gospel writers record the event (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38; John 12:12-15). David said the Lord would be betrayed by a close friend (Psalm 41:9) and we find in Luke 22:47-53 that Judas turned Him over to the Jewish authorities. Zechariah prophesied that He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12) and his prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11 and Luke 22:3-6. Isaiah told us that He would be killed along with common criminals (Isaiah 53:12) and we read about this in Mark 15:27-28. He would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10, fulfilled in John 19:34; 20:27). The soldiers would gamble for his clothes (Psalm 22:18, fulfilled Matthew 27:35-36). David told us that none of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20). When the soldiers came to break Jesus’ legs in order to expedite His death on the cross, they found that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs (John 19:32-33, 36). Isaiah foretold that He would be buried among the rich (Isaiah 53:9). Matthew reports that Joseph of Arimathea (a rich man) requested Jesus’ body and placed Him in his own tomb (Matthew 27:57-60). His resurrection was foreseen by David (Psalm 16:10) and testified by all four Gospel writers (Mark 16:6-7).

Listed above are just 21 of over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus’ First and Second Advent. Josh McDowell in his book More Than a Carpenter quotes from Peter W. Stoner’s book Science Speaks “who says that by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, ‘we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight of the prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power.’ That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000”[2] or one in one hundred quadrillion. In his message of December 21, 2008, God in a Stable, Fact or Fable?, Dr. Robert Jeffress stated that the probability of Jesus fulfilling 48 of those prophecies was 1 in 10 to the 157th power; that would 1 in 1 followed by 157 zeros. Yet, Jesus fulfilled them all, and not one was omitted.

If God so precisely pointed us to Jesus’ first coming, we can trust the biblical indicators for His second coming. Are you ready for what’s next?

O come! O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

O come, Thou, Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel![3]

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quoted is taken from THE NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE UPDATE, (The Lockman Foundation, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995)
All rights reserved.
[2] McDowell, Josh, More Than a Carpenter, (Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, 1977), pp. 107-108.
[3] Neal, John Mason and Henry Sloane Coffin translation of a Latin Hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” The Baptist Hymnal, (Convention Press, Nashville, 1991), Hymn 76.

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