Prepare Ye The Way of the LORD

Isaiah 40: 3- 5.  ” The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight,  and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. ”

So much of this wonderful book of Isaiah has been set to music.  This is one of my favorite passages from The Messiah.  So–what does it all mean?

This passage, except the last part of v. 5, is quoted in Luke 3:4-6 as being fulfilled with John the Baptist and the first advent of the Messiah. The statements about preparing the way of the Lord are used here figuratively, heralding the coming of the Messiah. It was the custom in the East to send a party of men before a king or prince to prepare the way before him. They cleared the way of thorns, brambles, and bushes, made bridges, found fording places in the streams, and leveled the ground whenever necessary to make it normal for travel. To this the prophet alluded when he spoke of making a way for the Lord (v. 3-6). This was never done literally for Christ, but the custom could be applied figuratively of the preparation of the people to receive Him. If it is ever to be fulfilled literally this will be in the Millennium when a literal highway will be made from Egypt to Assyria, through Palestine, as predicted in 11:16; 19:23-25; 35:8-10.

 

A Sign

Isaiah 7:13-14. “And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign:  Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Image result for Isaiah 7:13-14

Remember, God had offered King Ahaz, of the House of David, to ask for sign of some kind that He would fulfill His promise of a Redeemer through the lineage of David.  Ahaz had refused, covering his lack of faith with an attempt to seem pious.

In what must have been complete irritation, Isaiah then told Ahaz what a chump he was, and said, “God will give a sign, and it will be amazing!”  And then we get one of the most-quoted, beloved, and hopeful verses in all of the Old Testament.

A virgin shall conceive.  Not just “a young woman,” as some translations would have it. No, a virgin.  One who had never been with a man. One who could not possibly have been pregnant, because she was a virgin. This would be a miraculous conception.

She would bear a Son, and call Him Immanuel.  The word Immanuel  means  God with us. This miraculously conceived child would be God in the flesh.  He would be with us, here on the earth. He would walk with us, eat with us, teach us, do mighty acts among us. He would be, as we learn later, the Redeemer that God had first promised way back in Genesis 3:16.

So, did Ahaz fall on his face at this amazing prophecy?  No.  Apparently he was just as unmoved as so many are today at the idea that God would provide such a miracle, such a wonder, so great a salvation.

Jesus’ Arrest

Matthew 26:55-56. “In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take Me? I sat daily with you teaching in hte temple, and ye laid no hold on Me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled.”

Indeed, one wonders why such a militant group came to arrest Jesus, Who had been a friend to them; eaten with them; taught them in the temple; healed their sick and cast demons out of some of them.  Why did they think they needed swords and cudgels to take Him?

It was, of course, a fulfillment of prophecy (Zechariah 13:7).

I believe, as well, that they knew they were doing wrong and they were doing all they could to make it seem right and justifiable. As we move into the “trial” of Jesus, we’ll saw all the efforts that were made by the Jewish leaders to make their case plausible to the Romans, who had the power of execution.

Parable of the Faithful Servant

Matthew 24:45-46. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”

A new series of predictions now comes from Jesus, as He turns His focus away from the end of the Jewish Age, which is to come in the future but has not yet occured.  The three parables that follow picture the conditions that exist in the absence of the King, and how in the professing church, Christendom, there are both the true and the false; those who profess but do not possess. These parables line up easily with those in Chapter 13, in which Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of heaven, as they show the external and internal growth of Christendom. Christ’s return will discern the true from the false, and  finally separate the two forever.

Jesus is, of course, still speaking to His disciples. But now He sees them in connection with that which has not yet been fully revealed:  The church, the Bride, the great mystery that will be established after His death and resurrection and return to heaven.

The thought in this parable is that of service to the household. The household are those who are Christ’s.  This is a simple and beautiful parable.  We’ll look more closely at it tomorrow.

Wherever the Carcase is. . .

Matthew 24:28. “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”

Jesus referred in this verse to the carnage that will take place during the battle of Armageddon, when the scavengers will feed on the dead. There has never been a battle like the one that comes at the end of the Tribulation, and there will never be another.  It will be fought in a valley, and there will be horses ridden into this battle.  It is said in Revelation 19 that the blood of this battle will rise to the level of the bridles of the horses. Death, and the stench of death, will permeate the land, the water, and the air.  Here are some other references for you to look up:

Job 39:30; Ezek. 39:17-22; Luke17:34-37;Revelation 19:17-21.

The believers of the Church Age will have already been taken up in the Rapture that precedes the Tribulation. The events in this verse take place not in the air, but on the earth. Some have tried to interpret this prophecy as post-Tribulation Rapture, but the details don’t connect. We need to study all the different places in which this prophecy is made, and it becomes clear that this is not the Church.  Armageddon happens after the Rapture, after the Tribulation, when Christ returns with His armies of saints from all the ages to set up His kingdom on earth.

The next several verses give us more of the signs of His coming. We’ll take them up on Monday.

The Beginning of Sorrows

Matthew 24:7-8. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

Famine, pestilence, and earthquakes–terrible as they are, they have always been a part of life on this sin-cursed earth. Is there more now than there has ever been before?  I don’t know.  I haven’t researched it, and I probably will, just to saitsfy my own curiosity.  I know we’re more aware of all these things now than we were before the age of radio, TV, computers, iPads, and cell phones.  News travels around the world with the click of a button these days, and scares us all half to death.

I want to go back up to verse 4 and comment on something I forgot to include in that post. Verses 4-26 are as yet unfulfilled, and verses 27-51; 25:1-46 will be fulfilled at the second advent and in eternity. These verses are NOT about the Rapture, when Christ will meet His Bride in the air. He will not at that point actually come back to earth for the second time. When that time comes, His feet will again touch the Mount of Olives, and there will be no doubt whatsoever Who He is.

These are not yet the end times. While it would seem as if the amount of terror and trouble is increasing around the world, it is nothing compared to what it will be during the Tribulation period. Those who believe we are now in that period of time are not doing a thorough study. There must be perfect harmony between Old Testament prophecy (e.g, Daniel), The Lord’s words here in Matthew, and the prophecies of the end of the age in Revelation. Right now in this present time, that harmony does not exist.

Jesus said, after naming famine, pestilence, and earthquakes, that these things are only the beginning of sorrows. Only the beginning.

My hope and peace are in the Lord.

Observations on the Olivet Discourse, cont.

Matthew 24

The best and most sensible way to understand this chapter is to look on these predictions about the end of the Jewish age as being still future. The first part of the discourse tells how the Jewish age will end.  It is NOT yet ended; it has only been interrupted. Daniel 9:24-27 teaches us that the 70th week of that prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.  The Church Age comes between the 69th and the 70th weeks, the period of time in which the gospel is given to the Gentiles. As soon as this age is complete. God will again turn His attention to Israel.

Again, there is much disagreement  about all this, and I have only scratched the surface here. I could write for weeks on just this one topic.

When the Church is complete and taken out of the earth, then the end of the age will follow.  What is left of the “Christian” world will be complete apostasy, joining hands with Anti-Christ.

The exhortations in this chapter concern the 144,000 Jews, the Jewish remnant, who are believers and who will bear witness during the Tribulation period.  It is very exciting to me, as I study through this passage, to go back into the Old Testament to see specific prophecies there that are confirmed by Jesus’ words in Matthew 24.

From 24:45 through 25:30, Jesus changes His approach.  He again speaks in parables that concern the judgment between true and false Christianity. He completes the Discourse  in 25:31-40, which concerns the judgment of the nations.

Tomorrow, we will begin to look at Jesus’ response to the disciples request for the signs of the end of the age, which they believed would be very soon. Their hearts were fixed upon it.

So should be our own hearts. Maybe today!

Observations on the Olivet Discourse

Matthew 24

Referring again to the record of this discourse in Luke 21, we read in verse 24 that Jerusalem will remain “trodden down of the Gentiles” until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.This period of time has not yet run out, and will not do so until Christ calls His Bride, the Church, out of the world.

The predictions in Matthew 24:4-44 are not about the 40 or so years which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, nor with that horrific event in a.d.70.  That passage refers instead to Judea and Jerusalem, and concerns Jewish disciples  in extreme distress and tribulation in the land of Israel.

It is also incorrect to try to apply these first prophecies in the Discourse to the Christian era, or the Church. Those who hold this position believe that the Church will remain on the earth during the Great Tribulation, and that the teachings are meant, therefore, for believers in this Church Age.  The best way to dispel this incorrect interpretation is to understand what the Church truly is, and what is her calling and her destiny. Also, one must understand the teaching of the prophetic word, that the Lord will call a believing Jewish remnant, which will suffer and witness in Israel at the end of the age.

There is so much study that can and should be done.  Please keep in mind, if you search out these things on the internet, that each writer has his own position and perspective on these issues.  It is easy to get bogged down in the arguments.

Perhaps it would help if you keep in mind that, at this point, the disciples had no understanding of the Christian era that was about to explode into Jerusalem.  Jesus had taught them about His Church, telling them that the gates of hell itself would not prevail against it.  But they hadn’t seen it yet, did not fully understand, and why should they?  After all, we have the whole New Testament, and we still don’t get it right!  For instance, there was a town some years ago in which a new “church” was started.  They called themselves The Remnant.  I’m not sure what they meant by that, but it certainly was not biblically named. In the first place, it wasn’t made up of believing Jews.  In the second place, they were not witnessing in Israel and it was definitely not the time of the Great Tribulation. I don’t know if they’re still in existence there.

Does that seem like a petty issue?  Maybe it is, but it goes to show that we just don’t always understand what these terms mean, and how they should be used.

The Signs of Thy Coming

Matthew 24:3.”And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world? ”

This chapter is the great Olivet Discourse, in which Jesus revealed important prophecy of things to come.  He started with the near-future prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.  Now, in answer to the disciples’ questions, He talks about other, far-future events as well.

This first part of the discourse relates to disciples, which at this point concerns His Jewish disciples. Jesus speaks of the ending of the age, the great tribulation, and His coming again following the terrible days of the Great Tribulation.

Some want to interpret this part of His discourse as having already been fulfilled in the past, and that Jesus came again in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.These people believe that the year a.d 70 was the year in which Jesus came “in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory.” I won’t take the time to deal any further with this interpretation.  If you’re interested, you can probably find information both supporting and refuting this position quite easily in the internet.  In Luke 21:20-24 you will find a more detailed description of what Jesus foretold would soon happen in Jerusalem, an event which does not include His second coming at all.

There is more to be said concerning this chapter before we actually dig into the verses. It’s a fascinating study.  Stay tuned.

One Stone Upon Another

Matthew 24:1-2. “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Does it seem here as if the the disciples still didn’t really have a clear understanding of Who Jesus was? Why would they take Him to show Him the temple if they understood that He was God, Messiah, Immanuel? He designed the temple!

This was the temple that King Herod had built, and it was one of the wonders of those times.  Built of white marble, it was about 500 cubits squared.  Five hundred cubits is just a little more than 820 feet.  For the sake of comparison, a football field is 300 feet. You can see that this was a very large building, very impressive in its size, it’s materials, and its workmanship.

Jesus made the astonishing prophecy that not one stone of this building would be left standing upon another, and we know from 3:36 that He said it would happen in that present generation. His prophecy was fulfilled in a.d. 70, when Rome brutally destroyed the temple and subjugated Israel completely, dispersing many of the people to other lands.

What Rome didn’t understand is that this dispersal would be the vehicle of Christianity throughout Asia, Europe, and into Africa.