Terry Cropper is a very good Bible student and writer. I am glad to share here the first of a two part series on God’s work of Redemption, accomplished in the first century. Take a look and be sure to share it!
In this article I will show what the Bible has to say about God’s “promise to heal falling man. And His impending judgment on the house Israel. John the Baptist understood this Old Testament promise.
The days of the revelation of the Messiah and the glorious kingdom of God had finally dawned. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would send a forerunner to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Malachi had prophesied that this forerunner would come in the “spirit of Elijah.” He would not only announce the good news that the time of the redemption of Israel had arrived, but also warn the people of God’s impending judgement.
John the Baptist came in the “spirit of Elijah.” calling the people to repentance in preparation for the coming judgement that would accompany the revelation of the Messiah (cf. Matthew 3:1-12).
Shortly afterwards, Jesus began his public ministry. He was about thirty years old when he came to John to be baptized and John testified that he saw the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus visibly like a dove. This signified the anointing of Israel’s King by the God of Israel.
Jesus began his ministry with this public announcement, taken from the book of Isaiah, which he read in the synagogue in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” – and then, when all their eyes were fastened on him, Jesus said: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).
Shortly after Jesus started his ministry John was arrested by the corrupt King Herod the tetrarch and thrown into prison. When he found himself in prison he began to wonder whether Jesus was really the Messiah of Israel.
If Jesus was the Messiah who had come to liberate the oppressed and set the prisoners free, why was he, the one chosen to prepare the way for the Messiah and announce the good news that the kingdom of God was at hand, languishing in jail at the mercy of a corrupt impostor? John earlier announced to the Pharisees and Sadducees that God’s judgment was ready – His ax is laid to the root of the trees, therefore “every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:18)
John did not see this judgment come to pass so he was wondering whether Jesus was really the Messiah of Israel. John knew about the prophecy in Israel 35:4-6 (NKJV) which says, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will (come with vengeance), With the recompense of God; He will (come and save you).” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.'” (Emphasis, mine)
Notice the prophet of Israel closely connects the coming of the Lord with (vengeance and salvation). Nowhere does the OT prophets teach a “second coming” to fulfill the rest of the things he was unable to fulfill the first time. They saw one short fulfillment period with two phases to it; a suffering in humiliation phase and a victorious consummation phase.
This is a vital point that is totally ignored today. In scripture we never find it implied or suggested that there would be two comings divided by centuries. This is why Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34)
So John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he really was the long-awaited Messiah: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus told John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:4:5)
Notice the synonymous language between Israel 35:4-6 and Matthew 11:4:5. Jesus was telling John’s disciples that he was literally fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy.
So, John the Baptist thought the long-awaited Messiah would come in vengeance at His first coming because Old Testament scripture ties his coming with salvation and vengeance together: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me (To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;) 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And (the day of vengeance of our God); To comfort all who mourn” Isaiah 61:1-2 (NKJV) (Emphasis, mine)
John’s timing was correct. That vengeance was right around the corner: “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:43-44)
The Bible is about God redeeming falling man and a final judgment on the house Israel. The Bible never promises to end sin, hate, discontent, murders, rapes, molestations, upon the earth. That idea has come from the assumptions of men and not the Bible. A good example of what the Bible says about sinners is found in Isaiah 65:20: “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
The promise of long life is regarded in the Bible as an image, everywhere, of blessing. But take note what the rest of the verse says. “But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.”
We can understand the context of (But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed) and how to apply it. When we look at the verses before this verses in Isaiah 65:17-18 (NKJV): “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.
Verses 17-18 speaks of a time when the new heavens and earth has been consummated and there is rejoicing in Jerusalem among God’s people. However according to Isaiah there are still sinners after the new heavens and earth has been consummated vs 20. Though the sinner shall reach that advanced period of life, yet he shall be accursed.
The Apostle John tell us in Revelation 21:1 the old heaven and earth was replaced with a new heaven and earth. Then he had this to say at the very end of his book Revelation 22:14-15: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
The Bible never “promise to remove sinner murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie upon the earth. More on this in the next installment