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Issues with Prophecy
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Issues with Prophecy

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A look at some common issues the exegete encounters as s/he explores Messianic Prophecies.

A look at some common issues the exegete encounters as s/he explores Messianic Prophecies.

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  • 1.  As we think about the many prophecies in Scripture that refer to Jesus, we need to think seriously about some issues in prophecy.  These issues aren’t with Scripture.  Rather, the way that we have traditionally thought about Scripture creates numerous issues when we wish to explore prophecies about Jesus.  Tonight, we want to explore these issues with prophecy that we might move fully to discuss prophecy & make appropriate application.
  • 2.  In the field of apologetics (defending the faith), circular reasoning is often used to establish the truthfulness of Scripture & the identity of Jesus Christ.  This circular reasoning goes like this:  I believe in the Bible (or Jesus) because of the prophecies.  I believe in the prophecies because I believe the Bible.  Such reasoning is far from valid logically.
  • 3. The Bible The Bible says Jesus says Jesus would bewas born in born inBethlehem Bethlehem(Lk 2:4-7).. (Mic 5:2).
  • 4.  Obviously, an unbeliever is going to have a “field day” because of such logic. We need to find a way to present biblical truth in a way that doesn’t go in that circle.
  • 5.  First, I do not know that we need to escape all circular reasoning.  Scripture itself stands as the perfect testimony to faith.  Rom 10:13-17.  Jesus declares that the Old Testament prophecies stand as a testimony to His identity:  Matt 5:17.  Lk 4:20-21.  Lk 24:44.  Jn 5:39.
  • 6.  In a world of perfect “logic,” this reasoning does not at all work.  However, God has turned the logic of this world upside down (1 Cor 1:25-27).  Biblical faith does not operate on the dictates of Aristotelian logic!
  • 7.  Second, some prophecies of the Messiah can be established outside of Scripture.  In other words, a few Old Testament prophecies that are established outside of the New Testament.  There are no serious scholars—regardless of spiritual persuasion—who doubt that Jesus was crucified.  Many prophecies point to crucifixion.  Is 53:5.  Ps 22:16.
  • 8.  Another issue with biblical prophecy has to do with the very nature of prophecy.  We often fail to understand what prophecy really is.  Scholars are divided on the origin of the Hebrew word for “prophet.”  Some believe it comes from an Arabic term meaning “spokesman.”  Ex 4:10-17.  The word “spokesman” (v 16) is Hebrew for “prophet”; the prophets were spokesmen for God.  Some believe it comes from the Hebrew word which means “bubbling up.”  This would point to the inspiration of the prophet.  Others believe the word is Akkadian in origin & originally mean “to be called.”
  • 9.  The nature of biblical prophecy comes into play as we think about messianic prophecies.  We tend to think of “prophecy” as a prophet’s being inspired to tell of future events.  That certainly happened (Mic 5:2 & the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is a perfect example).  However, prophets, more often than not, were spokesmen for God.  The role of the biblical prophet was to call the people of God back to the “straight and narrow.”  This becomes important as we think of messianic prophecies.  There are different types of messianic prophecy & not every messianic prophecy was a prediction.
  • 10.  Types of Messianic Prophecy:  Direct Fulfillment.  Double Prophecy.  Typological Fulfillment.
  • 11.  Direct Fulfillment:  Matt 2:6; Mic 5:2.  There is no indication from the text of Micah that the prophet had any incident of his day in mind.  He was looking forward to the coming of the Christ, and, being filled with the Spirit, predicted the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem.  Matt 4:15-16; Is 9:1-2.
  • 12.  Double Fulfillment:  Matt 2:17-18/Jer 31:15.  If you look at the context of Jeremiah 31, there is nothing to suggest that Jeremiah is speaking about the slaughter of the innocents under Herod.  In fact, the text in Jeremiah is one of hope, not gloom!  The mothers are weeping for their children who had gone into captivity.  But, in Jer 31:16-17, they are told to weep no more, for their children will come back from captivity.  This prophecy seems to have been fulfilled twice, not just once.  Once, when the Babylonian exiles returned.  Second, when Herod killed the innocents.
  • 13.  Typological Fulfillment.  Matt 2:15/Hos 11:1.  In reading Hosea 11, you would never get the idea that the prophet is speaking about Jesus.  The reference is to the Israelites’ being led out of Egyptian bondage.  Matthew seems to be saying, “When God delivered Jesus out of Egypt, it was like the time He delivered all the Israelites out of Egypt.”  1 Cor 10:4.
  • 14.  “He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” What prophet predicted that Jesus would be called a Nazarene?  Some have suggested this is a reference to the Nazarities (Judg 13:5-7).  Others find fulfillment in Is 11:1—The Hebrew word for “branch”(naser) is supposed to sound like the word “Nazarene.”  I personally reject both of those ideas—they seem like a stretch.
  • 15.  It’s important to note a couple things:  Matthew writes about this prophecy differently than he does any other prophecy.  He does not say that this prophecy was written—he says it was spoken.  He also doesn’t name the prophet, nor does he say “the prophet,” but he says “the prophets.”  We know that not all prophets wrote down their prophecies.  Elijah & Elisha never wrote a book, but they were still prophets of God.  I personally believe that Matt 2:23 refers to a prophecy that was handed down through generations.  The Jews of Jesus’ day would easily have recognized it.