The Spirit of Prophecy

Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (July 2016)

Scripture reading: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; … and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14). The Lord Jesus said about the end-time: “Look at the fig tree [Israel] and all the trees [particularly the peoples and nations around Israel in the Middle East]. When they are already budding [being restored as nations with strong claims on national identity], you see and know for yourselves that summer [God’s revealed kingdom on earth] is now near” (Luke 21:29-30).

The restoration of Israel is the major end-time sign that the church dispensation is drawing to a close and that Jesus Christ will soon return as King of kings to fully reveal His kingdom on earth. Is your faith sound and do you have a clear Biblical expectation about the future?

All Biblical prophecies were written under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and only He can give us enlightened eyes of the mind to understand them. Biblical prophecies are inherently part of God’s absolute truth, and for that reason every word is sure and trustworthy. Peter says: “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place … knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:19-21). The prophetic word does not only help us to embrace the blessed hope that the heavenly Bridegroom will come to take us away to our eternal destination, but also to better understand dark periods of judgement, and to warn people against them.

The judgements of God are meant for those people who declined the offer of His grace made through Jesus Christ – that is the reason why the Holy Spirit also announces judgements (cf. Isa. 4:4). A world which despises and rejects the saving grace of God must inevitably hear the message of God’s wrath upon the wicked. Sin will not go unpunished. If people refuse to confess and forsake their sins before God’s throne of grace they will, themselves, be responsible to pay the penalty for their sins. They will then discover that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Unthinkable judgements are awaiting the lost. Jesus Christ is not only the Saviour but also the Judge of the world.

Every person who is committed to lead a Spirit-filled life will experience that the Holy Spirit will instil a love for biblical prophecies in his or her heart, and also provide the wisdom to understand them. Many Bible prophecies refer to the nation of Israel, for example their calling as a people of God, their establishment in the Promised Land, the birth of the Messiah in the house of David, Israel’s international dispersion due to unbelief, their end-time return to the land, their spiritual purging during the tribulation period, the second coming of the Messiah, the salvation of the entire remnant of Israel, the restoration of the throne of David in Jerusalem, followed by the Messiah’s millennial reign of peace when the fully restored Israel will have the opportunity to fulfil their calling to evangelise the whole world (Isa. 27:6). This nation plays such a pivotal role in God’s Bible’s prophetic programme that they are aptly described as “the clock of God.”

Israel and the mystery of the Church age

When Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s future are read, it should always be kept in mind that the Church dispensation was a mystery which was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets; consequently, they did not prophesy about the Church among the nations (cf. Rom. 16:25-26). That is the reason why Old Testament prophecies about the first and second coming of the Messiah are often discussed together as if the two events occur in quick succession, without any mention of the long Church dispensation between these events.

Zechariah 9:9-10 says: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. … He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” A long period has indeed elapsed (almost 2 000 years already) between the time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the establishment of His world-wide reign of peace at His second coming.

The description of the 70 year-weeks of Israel’s history of salvation after their Babylonian exile is also presented in Daniel 9:24-27 in such a way that it appears to be a continuous period without interruption. The reign of the Antichrist during the 70th week therefore seems to follow directly upon the crucifixion of the Messiah at the end of 69 year-weeks. However, it was not revealed to Daniel that the Church dispensation would follow upon Israel’s rejection of their Messiah. Jesus said to His disciples that Israel would be scattered from their land to all the nations, and that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24). This long interruption in Israel’s history of salvation continued for almost two millennia, and they (almost half of the nation) are only now back in their land. The 70th year-week can begin any time after the appearance of the false messiah and his conclusion of a seven-year covenant with Israel and the nations (Dan. 9:27).

The disciples also cherished the hope that the kingdom dispensation, with Jesus reigning from the throne of David, will follow directly upon the first coming of the Lord Jesus: “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately” (Luke 19:11). In the parable He explained that He would go to a far country (heaven) to receive His kingdom. When embarking on this journey He would empower His disciples to be the custodians of His hidden (spiritual) kingdom and establish it all over the world (Mark 16:15). When He returns He will reward His disciples for their labours, punish His enemies who refused to accept His kingdom, and then fully reveal His kingdom (Luke 19:11-27).

However, shortly before Christ’s ascension, His disciples still entertained the hope that Israel’s kingdom would immediately be restored and the Messiah’s reign of peace on earth inaugurated. They did not yet realise that the entire world first had to be evangelised to invite members of all nations to become part of God’s kingdom before this kingdom could be revealed. The uncertainty of the disciples prompted them to ask a further question to finally clarify this matter: “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8). The disciples only then fully realised that the kingdom would not immediately be revealed, as they were at the beginning of an evidently long period of world evangelisation.

The Lord Jesus will indeed return as the King of kings to fulfil all the biblical prophecies concerning the revelation of His kingdom, and then Israel’s royal throne in Jerusalem will also be restored. But that will only happen when the Messiah returns to Jerusalem in power and majesty. At Christ’s ascension, two angels appeared to Jesus’ disciples and said to them: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). He will return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and then He will judge His enemies and reveal His worldwide kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital (Zech. 14:4-5, 9, 12-13, 16).

It is therefore important to clearly understand which prophecies were fulfilled in Israel at the first coming of Christ, including the full implications of Israel’s national rejection of the Messiah. The consequence of this act was Israel’s international dispersion, and concurrently with it the command to evangelise the world (Luke 21:24; 24:46-47). Israel’s diaspora in no way suggests that their perpetual covenants with God were nullified or transferred to the Church (Lev. 26:44-45). Biblical prophecies are unequivocal that, at the end of the dispensation of world evangelism, Israel will physically and politically be restored to their own land in preparation for their national spiritual restoration when the Messiah comes again (Ezek. 11:17; 36:24-28; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 23:39; Rom. 11:25-26).

Israel’s spiritual awakening as a nation

Let us review a number of prophecies about Israel’s spiritual awakening in the end-time, and what the consequences of this will be. On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out, Israel had another opportunity to repent as a nation and accept the Messiah. However, they did not do it, and only a small minority of them reacted positively to the gospel. Peter boldly and earnestly called the nation to repentance. With reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and all the signs accompanying this event, he said:

“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:16-21; cf. Joel 2:28-32).

Although Peter said that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit almost 2 000 years ago was the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecies, it was only a partial fulfilment of the promise. The final fulfilment of these prophecies will only occur in the day of the Lord, which will be the time of judgement during the coming tribulation period of seven years. Then, there will be dramatic signs on earth and in the heavens, the sun will be darkened and the moon turn into blood before the awesome day of the Messiah’s second coming at the end of the great tribulation. In that time, after the true Church as a temple of Holy Spirit has been taken away, there will be a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel which will coincide with supernatural signs and special revelations.

It is important to understand that a distinct dispensational change will occur at the rapture as the church age will then be concluded. During the Church age we had the full revelation of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit guided us into all truth, and every Christian individually as well as congregations corporately functioned as temples of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Christ. There was no need for extra-biblical revelations; therefore, such phenomena should not be pursued (cf. Rev. 22:18-19). Supernatural signs which relate to judgement, also did not occur during the Church age as this is the age of grace – not of judgement. The judgements of God on the unbelieving world will only be poured out during the coming tribulation period.

However, after the Church age has passed, the temple of the Holy Spirit and the witnesses of Christ will no longer be here. Al those who remain behind, including the largest part of the people of Israel, will be alienated from God and His Word, and be exposed to the Antichrist’s strong power of delusion. During that time, God will again make use of prophets. At the end of the Old Testament He said to unbelieving Israel: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Mal. 4:5). The Lord says that Elijah will have an important ministry in Israel, lest He strikes the land with a curse because of their unbelief (Mal. 4:6). It is possible that the end-time Elijah will be one of the two special witnesses of Revelation 11, who will strongly oppose the false messiah and persuade people to believe in the true Messiah.

The result of the new outpouring of God’s Spirit, when the prophecies in Joel 2 will be finally fulfilled, will be that a remnant in Israel will be prepared to be reconciled to the Messiah when He comes again. The Lord says: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself” (Zech. 12:10-12).

The Lord adds to this: “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It shall be in that day, says the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered” (Zech. 13:1-2). The Lord will therefore, in the near future, fulfil a great and wonderful promise to Israel by also restoring them spiritually as His people. Their physical and political restoration were only preliminary phases, pending their spiritual awakening and quickening. The Lord made the following promise through the prophet Ezekiel:

“Therefore say to the house of Israel … I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; … I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. 36:22, 24-28).

God’s purpose with the spiritual restoration of Israel is that they will serve Him with all their heart. Their spiritual awakening as a people will occur progressively through the seven years of tribulation. Shortly after the rapture and the revelation of the Antichrist, the Spirit of God will start working mightily among them. From that moment onwards, Jews will specifically be saved as Jews, thereby bringing into being the “spiritual Israel” – the fully saved Israel who will be God’s special witnesses during the Millennium. Shortly after the end of the Church dispensation, the Lord will save 144 000 Jews – 12 000 from each of the 12 tribes of the children of Israel (Rev. 7:2-8). This core group will be representative of the entire nation, and they will specially be set apart to serve the Lord during the first half of the tribulation period. They will openly take a stand against the false messiah, and lead many Jews as well as Gentiles to Christ.

The largest group of Jews will, in spite of the testimony of the Messianic Jews in their midst (the 144 000 and the two witnesses), continue to recognise the false messiah under the erroneous impression that he is the true messiah (cf. John 5:43). During that stage they will still not have received the number of the Antichrist as that will only be compulsory in the second half of the tribulation period. It will therefore still be possible to abrogate their covenant with him.

That is exactly what will happen when the Antichrist enters the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem during the middle of the tribulation, set up an image of himself in the Most Holy and declare himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:15). In reaction to that, most Jews will break their covenant with the Antichrist and will then have to flee to the mountains in great haste (Matt. 24:15-22). It is likely that they will flee in a south-easterly direction to the mountains next to the Dead Sea, and then probably further south along the sea until they reach Petra, south of the Dead Sea in Jordan. Conditions will be critical for survival, as the Antichrist will order the genocide of the Jews and command his military forces to pursue the fugitive Jews and kill them.

This situation will be reminiscent of Israel’s exodus from Egypt when Pharaoh’s armies tried to overtake them and force them back into Egypt as slaves. The modern Pharaoh, the Antichrist, will try everything possible to destroy the Jews. As the Lord intervened in ancient times to split the water of the Red Sea to offer a safe passage for His people, and later made the water to flow back on the seabed when Pharaoh’s soldiers tried to follow them, He will again intervene to stop the advance of the Antichrist’s powers. In Revelation 12, Israel is depicted as a woman who will have to flee to a place in the wilderness during the middle of tribulation period, where she will be taken care of for 3½ years, i.e. 1260 days (Rev. 12:6, 14). The devil is symbolised by a serpent or dragon who chases the woman. The serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman to carry her away by the flood, but the earth tore open and swallowed the flood (Rev. 12:15-16). An earthquake will probably occur, which will stop the advance of the Antichrist’s forces, thus allowing the woman to reach her destination in a safe refuge in the mountains.

In this inhospitable place the Lord will probably again, as happened during Israel’s exodus from Egypt, supply food and water to the fugitives. It will be a time of distress such as Israel has never before experienced during her long history (Dan. 12:1). Daniel says: “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be 1 290 days” (Dan. 12:11). From the moment when the Antichrist desecrates the temple and sets up his image, 1290 days (3½ years + 30 days) will elapse until the end of the year-week and Israel’s subsequent spiritual awakening after the coming of Jesus. The extra 30 days will probably be the time of Israel’s national mourning when they are reconciled to the Messiah (Zech. 12:10–13:1; cf. Deut. 34:8).

During the time of Israel’s refuge in the mountains the Lord will use special revelations to instruct them and prepare them for what the near future holds for them. It is about this time in the great tribulation that Joel wrote: “… your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.” These special signs and methods of revelation are not normative for the Church age and are nowhere prescribed to us. We have the whole Bible, and the Holy Spirit uses the Word to guide us into all truth.

When Israel move out of their place of refuge at the end of that year-week to await the coming of the Messiah on the Mount of Olives, they will be surrounded by the armies of the Antichrist and again face annihilation. All the nations who are followers of the Antichrist, will besiege Jerusalem to fight against the coming Messiah as they will also be aware of His second coming in the company of a heavenly army (Zech. 14:2; Rev. 19:19). But that will be a bad day for them as the Messiah will indeed come and destroy all the forces of the enemy (Zech. 14:4-5, 12-13; Rev. 19:20-21).

The remnant in Israel will look upon Him whom they have pierced and bitterly grieve for Him. The mourning of Israel will be national and the entire remnant of the nation will be reconciled to Him. They will ask Him what wounds are in His hands, and He will reply: “Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends” (Zech. 13:6). With a shock they will realise that He is Jesus of Nazareth, who was long ago betrayed by Israel and delivered to the Romans to be crucified. He will forgive their unbelief and transgressions and fully accept them as His people. Paul says: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26).

The millennial reign of peace

Dramatic changes will occur when Christ returns as King of kings: the entire Israel will be saved, the devil will be bound and sealed in a pit so that he should deceive the nations no more, the throne of David will be restored in Jerusalem, and Christ’s glorified Church will rule with Him in His revealed kingdom. That scenario bears no resemblance to the present, sinful world which lies in the sway of the Evil One (1 John 5:19). The Lord wants us to take note of these wonderful promises and prophecies, so we can right now be prepared to participate in His heavenly kingdom of righteousness. It stands to reason that this future expectation demands a high degree of loyalty to the principles of God’s kingdom, as well as personal holiness as an answer to sin, corruption, lies and lawlessness which are so prevalent in the present world.

In this review the emphasis was mainly on Israel, up to the second coming of the Messiah. Let us also briefly consider the important and inspiring role which they will play during the Messianic kingdom. Jews who were saved during the Church dispensation will rule together with the glorified Church. Old Testament saints will form part of this group, which explains the statement that “many will come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11). However, the rest of the nation of Israel (those who survived the great tribulation and were then saved) will still be mortal people during the Millennium. They will all have changed hearts and serve the Messiah with one accord:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. … No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:31, 34). In the dispensation of the kingdom (Christ’s coming reign of peace), Israel will be instrumental in the evangelisation of the world, since the children of parents among all the nations will still be born with a sinful nature and therefore have to be spiritually regenerated to belong to the Lord. “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Isa. 27:6).

Because of their important role Israel will be highly regarded by all the nations, who will regularly send deputations to Jerusalem to be instructed in the ways of the Lord: “Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:22-23).

Since the devil will be bound during that time, no deception will take place and only the Christian faith will be recognised and practised: “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts” (Jer. 3:17).

Jerusalem will be recognised as the capital of the world, all people will live in peace, and there will be no more warfare, military training or the manufacturing of weapons: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:2-4).

Even the Arab nations around Israel will, together with God’s Chosen People, all receive the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and serve the true God just as sincerely as Israel. This spiritual change of heart will also bring about unity among the Arabs, who are presently divided into extremely hostile factions of Islam. Together they are currently also intent on destroying Israel. During the reign of the Messiah, however, there will be a highway between Cairo and Damascus, and the Egyptians and Syrians will regularly visit Jerusalem to honour the Messiah (Isa. 19:23-25).

This is the future vision which the Holy Spirit now gives to people who are committed to walk in the Spirit and who faithfully study the Bible, thereby allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them the things to come. Are you well informed about these things which are still hidden to the unbelieving world? We should contemplate the deep things of God’s everlasting kingdom:

“But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10). Devote yourself to this study and gain a vision of the everlasting kingdom which is now being prepared for all those who responded positively to the Lord’s world-wide call to repent and to come over out of spiritual and moral darkness and into His marvellous light.