Nowhere is God’s use of time so profound as his interaction with the prophets.
The prophets are so important, Jesus directly referenced them to describe his own identity. When we look at Christ’s teachings, did he ever say “What do you think about what I just said?” This is standard for any teacher to ask, but not Christ. Instead, he asked:
Mat 16:15 …But whom say ye that I am?
Christ based everything on his identity, and he identified himself through the words of the prophets. That the prophets could see and write down the most important aspects of the coming Messiah, gave the Jews hope in its future fulfillment. Jesus was simply saying – the Messiah you’ve been waiting for, you’re looking at him.
Jhn 14:9 “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”
In storytelling, the idea of “prophets” is so important, they even hold a literary place in The Hero’s Journey, a fairly standardized storytelling model used by authors and storytellers since the practice first started many millennia ago. Prophets – as a model – are intriguing because their words are a source of hope.
We even see the “prophecy” model used in franchises like Star Wars, where Anakin Skywalker is the person who was prophesied to bring balance to The Force. I’ll just bet you thought “the prophecy” was a cliched idea people dredge up from older stories or films because it provides mystery. It’s actually holds a major functional role in standardized storytelling models.
Some have suggested the reason God’s story reads so much like the Hero’s Journey that it’s because humans don’t know how to tell a story any other way. Even folks who “jot down” a storyline they think is cool, if it involves a hero’s character arc you can bet it will align with the Hero’s Journey in many ways.
A better explanation is simply – God designed us to be intrigued by God’s form of storytelling. So its should not surprise us when accounts from the Bible align with a common storytelling model. God makes us tick, and built us to desire and appreciate a particular form of storytelling. The Hero’s Journey is a loose framework identifying the essential parts of this model.
It’s not like God tapped a pen to his tongue and ripped-out a novel overnight. With his master story in mind, he executed the story over over five thousand years or more, with real people recording their eyewitness accounts, from the time of Creation to the advent of Christ. Each section was carefully put in place with backstory, sub-plots, turning points, setbacks, cliffhangers, foreshadowing and yes, prophecy with no rival in modern storytelling.
The Scriptural prophets are interesting though, in that what God tells them must perfectly integrate with the future. After all, while Nostradamus may have mused on this and that, most of his stuff was junk and the rest is specious. God’s prophets got it right every time. And why shouldn’t they? If God is already in the future and can tell them what’s happening- they simply report it. As noted in another essay, God is already in that future but we haven’t caught up to him yet. The prophecy is fulfilled, but we haven’t experienced it yet.
Jesus appealed to prophecy for his own identity. He said ‘Moses wrote of me”. He expounded on his mission to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “from Moses and the prophets”. More intriguing, in the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Abraham tells the Rich man that Lazarus doesn’t have to to rise from the dead to warn the Rich Man’s brothers because if they don’t believe Moses and the Prophets, they won’t believe, though one rose from the dead.
I knew a man like this many years ago. He said he believed the people in the Bible wrote down what they saw and believed it to be true. He said, if he lived in the first century, and a man came along who could heal, calm storms, raise folks from the dead, and raise himself from the dead, he could understand why people would call him “a god”.
So this man believed Jesus rose from the dead, but clearly didn’t believe Moses and the Prophets.
Of the 330 prophecies concerning the arrival, death and burial of Christ, plus the allusions to his resurrection, and even Christ’s prophecy of a resurrection, all of these prophecies came true, with no exception. The odds of all 330 being fulfilled in one man exceeds the total electrons in the universe. To put this in perspective, if we took eight of these prophecies and expect them to come true on the first try, it would be equivalent to covering the State of Texas three feet deep in silver dollars, painting one of them yellow, and asking a blind man to get it right the first time.
One person said, it’s not impossible for another person to fulfill all these prophecies. My response was – true, another person could “possibly” fulfill all these prophecies, but one of the prophecies is for Christ alone. The other so-called prophets didn’t die and come back to life. The Resurrection sets Jesus Christ apart as the one mediator between God and man.
A short survey sample of these prophecies is found here:
God, who lives outside of time, and exists at the beginning of time, the end of time, and every nanosecond in between – at the same time – can easily gather information on what the future is like and transmit it to a prophet in his past. What we experience is a person receiving a revelation from God. He writes it down and people study it until it comes to pass.
When it comes to pass, he is regarded as a prophet of the Lord.
But wait – there’s a catch!
Deu 13:1-3 “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Clearly “just because” a prophet utters something and it comes to pass, it doesn’t make him a prophet of the Lord. The utterance cannot be used to override the worship of God. It cannot go against Scripture. The point being, even a false prophet can get lucky sometimes (or rather, even a broken clock is right – two times a day).
Just as Jesus appealed to the prophets for his identity, he also warned against false prophets.
If the spirit world wants to deceive us or draw us away from God, why wouldn’t they orchestrate an event, tell a “prophet” what to expect, and then make it comes to pass? People follow it blindly. People want hope – real hope.
There’s another catch here – also not obvious:
2 Cor 11:13-14 “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
When the Secret Service, or even bank tellers, are training on counterfeit detection, do they train them on all the different ways the counterfeiters operate, so they can keep an eye out for the techniques?
Or do they train them on the real thing – so they “know the real thing” so well, no counterfeit will fool them?
Do you think an orange dollar bill would be a dead giveaway? What counterfeiter would do that? No, the counterfeits to Christ are 99.9999% identical – making it hard to tell them apart –
Unless you know the real one so well, you won’t be fooled.
The same applies here. If we dilute our knowledge of the real thing, allowing presuppositions or “alternative” interpretations to reign in our minds, we fall prey to false teaching, false concepts, and belief in a different Christ.
Is there another Christ to believe in?
2 Cor 11:4 “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
So there is a counterfeit Christ, Gospel, and Spirit – all of which are subtle mimics to the real thing.
Someone likened it to this:
You’re on an airplane and they announce engine failure. The only way off the plane is with a parachute. Flight attendants pass out parachutes as quickly as possible. You grab one, apply it according to instructions, and jump. When you pull the rip-cord, only then do you realize the parachute looked similar to the others, and the person handing it to you had a similar uniform to the others, but not quite the same. And the parachute bag is filled with newspaper. You were deceived.
This is what it will feel like for a lot of folks. They followed or listened to the wrong voice. The real key is subtle but profound – it is embracing the “love of the truth”. We may deceive ourselves, or be deceived, but a love of truth will be a constant “compass” to the right path.
God is pouring out a “love of the truth” on everyone. He is actively involved in assisting his creation in finding Him.
2 Thess 2:10 “…because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
The wording is direct. “Received” the love of the truth. It’s coming at us, from God, and all we have to do is receive it. If we reject it, something else happens (below).
Keep in mind the meaning of “love” in Scripture – it is identified with “loyalty”. This is more than affinity, or generality, but an active pursuit. When someone is loyal, they instinctively protect what they are loyal to. They plan for its safety. They watch its back, and plan for its future. They shepherd it to a safe place and guard its safety. Our hearts are measured by our loyalties. If we are loyal to the truth, we’ll safeguard it. Keep it from being diluted or adulterated (”mixture of error”)
Let’s see what the whole verse says:
2 Thess 2:10-11 “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”
We have a choice, receive and act on the loyalty to the truth or run the risk of strong delusion. Which is worse, that we have an adulteration of error in our thinking, or that God is pouring strong delusion into our minds, effectively obliterating any capacity to think clearly?
Jesus Christ came to “testify to the truth” and to “seek and save that which was lost”.
The prophets foretold of his arrival, he proved the prophets right with his own actions, and he claimed he could conquer death. After all, anyone can claim to conquer death, but the real test is in actually doing it.
And Jesus actually did it.
All these prophets lined up at various points in history, and each one was a partial contributor to the story of Christ. Some are direct, some indirect. For example:
Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah (Gen 24) (John 6:37) (Eph 4:4)
Jesus said the “father gives unto me”, that the mechanics of the salvation protocol (at the cosmic level) is the Father gives the Bride (people) to the Groom (Jesus). The Holy Spirit calls the soul, and the Father receives it, and gives it to Christ. Ultimately Christ writes the person’s name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
In the account of Abraham, he sends his servant to another land to find a bride for his son Isaac. This is the same scenario as the Father sending his Holy Spirit into the earth to seek souls, each a bride for his Son.
When the servant arrives to town, he prays the bride will have certain qualities, namely a servant’s heart, but will also have certain behaviors desirable in a loyal bride. These are the same qualities the Holy Spirit seeks for believers as well. The Holy Spirit is selective (many are called but few are chosen).
Upon selection, the servant brings Rebekah back to Abraham and Rebekah is given to Isaac.
This is an image or word-picture of how the Holy Spirit is explicitly described to operate in the New Testament.
Abraham and Isaac (Gen 22) (John 3:16) (Heb 11:17-19) (Gen 17:19)
When God told Abraham to take Isaac upon the mountain for sacrifice, Abraham didn’t flinch. He didn’t complain to God or plea for Isaac. Nor did Isaac resist, when Isaac was clearly strong enough to resist a 100+ year-old man. Isaac carried the bundle of sticks for the altar. He is described as an able-bodied “lad”, not a young child. A lad in Scripture is a child near twelve years of age. Did we see a scene where Abraham is calling to Isaac to come down out of a tree? Or to come back from running away? No, we did not.
Why did Isaac so willingly lay down on the altar? Allow himself to be tied? Why did Abraham obey so unflinchingly?
God had already promised Abraham that his seed would be called through Isaac. God had miraculously blessed Sarah with Isaac after promising Abraham his son would be an everlasting covenant. Clearly God had special, eternal plans for Isaac.
We read later in the New Testament that Abraham thought God would raise Isaac from the dead. After all, if God promised Isaac into an everlasting covenant, God would either have to stop Abraham from killing Isaac, or raise Isaac from the dead.
Some may read this as God testing Abraham, but Abraham was testing God as well. If God is not able to keep his promises, is God worthy of worship? Clearly Abraham’s faith was stronger than any person we know, if he trusted God enough to raise Isaac from the dead.
This again likens Abraham to the Father and Isaac to the Son (in imagery or type) as a model of the faithfulness of a father to both God and to his own offspring.
Abraham says prophetically to Issac, “God will provide a lamb.” This account has power in the Gospel, because it reminds us Christ’s death was necessary. Many people believe Christ “chose” to die. And while Christ laid down his life, he also asked God (in the garden) to “let this cup pass from me”. Christ asked for any other way besides his death. But Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). His death was not only necessary, but a foundation stone of the Creation.
Jacob’s Ladder (Gen 28) (John 1:51)
When Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord, he saw a vision of a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Later in the New Testament, angels would ascend and descend on the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. Jacob’s ladder was a foreshadowing of Christ.
Noah’s Ark (Gen 6,7,8) (Col 1:28) (Matt 24:37)
Noah’s Ark is coated with “pitch” as a finishing touch. A similar word is used where God wants to make people “perfect” in Christ. This word means “complete” or “finished”.
Jesus likened his second coming to the “days of Noah” and the Flood. This type of “escape plan” is an “evacuation before judgment” just as he likens the Rapture, and evacuation before the judgment to follow.
The Ark launches on the 17th day of the second month, which is the first month of the religious calendar. Meaning the Ark launched on the same day of the month as the Resurrection.
Adam and Eve (1 Cor 15:45) (John 3:29) (Eph 5:25-32)
Christ is likened to a husband to his church the bride. Wedding imagery is all over the New Testament. Christ is also called the “last Adam”.
When God created woman, he caused Adam to fall asleep. When God created the Bride for Christ, Christ also had to enter a form of sleep (death) to bring forth his bride (the church).
When Eve brought Adam the forbidden fruit, Adam deliberately bit the fruit. This was a man who loved his bride enough to die for her. Christ exhibited this same love.
Moses and the Rocks – (Ex 17:6) (Numbers 20:8-12)
Moses was told to strike a rock and bring forth water, and he did so. Later he was told to speak to the rock to achieve the same result, but instead he struck it. For this, God told him that he and the generation with him would never see the promised land. Why so harsh?
Think about the model God was building here. When Jesus (The Rock) was struck (on the Cross) it only needed to happen once. Afterward we merely speak (Romans 10) to the Rock to receive living water (salvation). Moses damaged the imagery God was painting prophetically, and it mattered enough for God to exact extraordinary punishment.
Moses and the Serpent – (Numbers 21:8,9) (John 3:14)
The people of Israel were being attacked by fiery serpents (seraphs) and would die if bitten. These are described as “flying fiery serpents”, so were able to take flight and breathe fire.
If bitten, all one had to do was look at the serpent on the pole Moses had prepared, look and believe they would be healed, and God would heal them.
Jesus (talking to Nicodemus) says just as Moses lifted up the serpent, the Son of Man must be lifted up, and all who look on him and believe will be saved.
This is a prophetic model, where Jesus makes clear he will save all who look upon him and believe. Jesus focused on belief alone, no additional works required.
The Veil of the Temple (Ex 26:31) (Matt 27:51)
The Veil was the covering for the Holy of Holies, both for the Tabernacle and the Temple. The Holy of Holies is where God’s Spirit would personally come and interact with the High Priest. In short, the veil is a covering for God’s presence on earth.
Fast-forward to the advent of Christ, and Jesus said he and the Father are one (John 10:30) and that his body was a temple (John 2:19). This is demonstrated in glory at the transfiguration (Matt 17:2). We are also told we as believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:17).
Tying all this together, the Veil was a physical covering for God’s Spirit on earth. It was a foreshadowing of Christ, who is the physical covering of God’s Spirit on earth. It is also a foreshadowing of the Church, as God’s Spirit indwells us (1 Cor 3:17), our bodies are a covering for God’s Spirit on earth.
That the veil was rent in two (Matt 27:51) at the Crucifixion, is symbolic of God’s no longer using a physical temple to host His Spirit, but to use people for this purpose. In other words, the Temple’s physical veil was no longer needed.