Tag Archives: Prophets

2 Peter 3 Fulfilled on WordPress

I normally write about how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament, but something amazing happened today. Most Christians are familiar with Peter’s words from 2 Peter 3:4-11, but today I found out that people actually, and unironically, make the argument that Peter said they would make against the return of Christ. Here is the prophecy, followed by its fulfillment:

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

2 Peter 3:4

Given that zero in a billion people have been right so far, you think the Christian would reflect on that a bit and start asking questions. Questions like “since the odds for Jesus coming in my lifetime diminish with each passing year, should I start living like he won’t come and try and be a better person?” Or maybe “Why do I trust people that have been so wrong so many times?” Or something like “Should we care for our environment, because we might be here for a while longer?” Or possibly even “Is this religion wrong?”

Yes, your religion is wrong. And over a billion dead people can attest to that.

The Spartan Atheist, A Billion Dead People

Peter responds to this argument in four ways. Hover over the Bible citations in each point to read his words.

1. Prophets are more trustworthy than scoffers (2 Peter 3:1–3).

The prophets “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), and Peter is an eyewitness that what they promised has begun to be fulfilled (2 Peter 1:16–19).

Scoffers, on the other hand, are carried along by their sinful desires, defensively justifying their rebellion against God. They are not afraid to blaspheme what they don’t understand (2 Peter 2:12). They say exactly what the Bible says scoffers will say, then they scoff at the Bible:

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed.”

2. We are like the generations before the flood (2 Peter 3:5–7).

God’s word is powerful enough to create the world, and to destroy it. 1656 years passed between Adam’s sin and the cataclysmic judgment of the flood. Doubtless, scoffers mocked the idea that they would be punished for their sin. But 120 years before the flood, the word of God made the judgment sure (Genesis 6:3–8). Peter says that in the same way, Jesus will surely return to judge the world, because God has spoken.

3. We are experiencing God’s incredible patience (2 Peter 3:8–9).

The reason that the coming of Jesus might be delayed for thousands of years is the unfathomable patience of God. God has endured mockery about this for almost 2000 years, and to Him it felt like a couple of days.

The reason that God is willing to tolerate so much blasphemy for so long is that He is extending mecy to a world that hates him. He is showing patience toward a specific group of people, “you” (2 Peter 3:9). In the previous verse, Peter calls this group “beloved” (2 Peter 3:8). The beloved group he is addressing is the same group he addressed in his previous letter (2 Peter 3:1), the elect exiles (1 Peter 1:1). This is important to notice because if God is not willing for any human to perish, then delaying Jesus’ coming is counter-productive, as thousands of people perish every day. What Peter means is that God is not willing for any of His elect to perish; they must all come to repentance before Jesus returns. This will happen by the word of God that creates and destroys, kills and makes alive.

So the word of God will surely bring judgment, but this is delayed as the word of God brings salvation to the ends of the earth. Proud and rebellious scoffers who give their allegiance to their Creator are being welcomed into His kingdom as sons.

4. The promise of judgment inspires righteousness (2 Peter 3:10–13).

According to The Spartan Atheist, disbelieving in Jesus’ return leads to increased morality. I’m not sure what the logic behind that is, but Peter has good reasons to see it the opposite way.

First, the threat that our evil works will be exposed and judged is a warning against sin. The antidote to hypocrisy is a healthy fear of the God who sees what is done in secret.

Second, the kingdom that we look forward to is where righteousness dwells. As we look forward to this kingdom, we desire for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. We do not destroy the earth because God is going to destroy it eventually; we take care of it as God told us to in the beginning, and as we will continue to do for eternity in the new Earth.

Isaiah 49:9-13 and the Christian Life

Our security is not found in abundant circumstances, but in the care of our Shepherd. Today we look at the New Testament fulfillment of an Old Testament description of Jesus’ salvation. If you haven’t already, start with Isaiah 49:1-7 and the Servant’s Mission and Isaiah 49:8 and Three Ways Jesus Has Begun to Fulfill the Land Promises.

saying to the prisoners, “Come out,” and to those in darkness, “Appear.” They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture;

Isaiah 49:9

Jesus came to heal those oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38), and the church continues to free people from Satan’s power through repentance and forgiveness (Acts 26:18–20). We come out of Babylon now, so we are safe when she falls (Revelation 18:4–8).

In Isaiah, darkness represents ignorance, sin, and judgment. Jesus is the light who gives us knowledge (2 Corinthians 4:6), righteousness (1 John 2:8–11), and life (John 8:12).

I’m no shepherd, but roads and “bare heights” don’t sound like the best place for sheep to graze. Our security does not come from abundance in our circumstances, but from the care of our Shepherd.

they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun will strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.

Isaiah 49:10

The fulfillment of this verse is explained in Revelation 7:16–17. Our security is not found in physical circumstances, but in God’s seal that prevents us from worshipping the beast. The beast and the harlot might physically starve us or kill us, but we will escape the wrath of the lamb and enjoy the living waters of eternal life.

And I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up. Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and west, and these from the land of Syene.

Isaiah 7:11-12

The Lord will remove every obstacle to His people’s journey. The road to salvation is hard, but nothing can stop us if we just stay on the path.

The final place God’s people come from is unclear. “Syene” (an ancient Egyptian city) comes from the dead sea scrolls. The Masoretic text reads “Sinim,” which might mean China. The Septuagint says Persia. In any case, the picture is of the dispersed Israelites returning from every direction, and the final fulfillment is found as God gathers his elect from the ends of the earth into His kingdom.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and rejoice, O Earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

Isaiah 49:13

This passage ends with creation worshipping God for the compassion He shows in the salvation of His people. The servant’s work will glorify God (Isaiah 49:3) because it will demonstrate God’s character and inspire everlasting praise. The creation that was cursed because of sin will fulfill its ultimate purpose of glorifying God.

Isaiah 49:1-7 and the Servant’s Mission

Listen to me O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.

Isaiah 49:1, ESV

This monologue by the Servant of the Lord begins with no indication that the speaker has changed, except that someone other than the LORD is now speaking. Is it Isaiah? Or Israel? Or Cyrus? We will gradually discover that this is the Servant of the Lord who is introduced in Isa 42, who speaks in Isa 48:16, and whom Christians recognize as their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Isa 42:4, the coastlands waited for his law– and now he speaks to them. The universal scale of the message is due to the servant’s unique qualifications (Isa 49:1-3) and the universal scale of his mission (Isa 49:6). He is named Jesus while in the womb, because he will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21).

He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.

Isaiah 49:2

The servant is the Lord’s secret weapon, hidden in the Lord’s eternal plan until the right moment. A sharp sword for close combat, and a polished arrow for long range, he is effective in any battle. David built his kingdom with a sword, but the son of David judges the wicked with his mouth (Isa 11:4). Cyrus conquered with a sword, but Jesus simply annouces the arrival of his kingdom and commands obedience (Matt 4:17). Like God, he creates and destroys by his words. The sword he brings creates war within households, because his gospel demands absolute allegiance (Matt 10:34-37). In Revelation, Jesus uses the sword of his mouth to make war against heretics (Rev 2:15-16), and at his coming he will kill the lawless one with his breath (2 Thess 2:8). Christians continue Jesus’ kingdom building work by wielding the word of God as a sword (Eph 6:17, c.f. Heb 4:12, 2 Cor 10:5).

And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

Isaiah 49:3

Jesus is the righteous remnant of Israel, the heir of its blessings and responsibilities. He can be called Israel for the same reason he is called David (e.g. Hos 3:5): He is the son and heir of the man named Israel. He is also the head and source of the renewed kingdom of Israel. He inherits and fulfills the calling passed from Abraham to Israel, to bless all the families of the earth (Gen 12:3). He glorifies God (John 17:1-4), and when his people abide in him they also glorify God (John 15:5-8).

But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.”

Isaiah 49:4

The servant has poured out all of his strength, and it looks like it was all for nothing. But the Lord will always enforce justice, and so the righteous servant expects a reward from God. The Lord Jesus preached and did good to people his whole life, and what did it profit him? Few truly believed in him, and only a few friends stood with him during his execution. But the Lord raised him to eternal life, and gave him all authority in Heaven and Earth. Likewise, we should trust that our labor is not in vain, because the Lord will reward all of our work.

And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him– for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength–

Isaiah 49:5

Bringing true repentance is a spiritual task that Cyrus is unfit for, but this is what the servant was born to do. The Lord’s spirit (Isa 42:1) and the sword of the servant’s mouth (Isa 49:2) perfectly equip him for this task. The servant is now confident that the Lord will give him the success he deserves. Don’t miss the paradox between this verse and verse 3: The servant is Israel, and the servant is born to bring back Israel. This implies that Jesus is the beginning of a renewed Israel that can be distinguished from the nation of Israel. Jesus is Israel, he is on mission to Israel, and he himself fulfills the mission of Israel.

he says– “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:6

Far from failing in his mission to Israel, Jesus was overqualified! Jesus began his ministry with the lost sheep of Israel (Matt 15:24); and after his death, resurrection, and ascension he expanded his ministry to grant repentance even to us gentiles (Acts 11:18). Paul and Barnabas see Isa 49:6 as a command to them: since the Jews aren’t listening, they must do Jesus’ work of bringing salvation to the gentiles (Acts 13:46-7).

Light and darkness are recurring images in Isaiah, and the extended descriptions in Isa 8:16-9:7 demonstrate their complex meanings. Darkness is the aimlessness that comes from ignoring the Lord’s teaching, and it results in the further darkness of judgment (Isa 8:16-22). Light is the opposite of this, and will be seen in a kingdom of peace, justice, and prosperity under a divine son of David (Isa 9:1-7). Jesus is this light of revelation and salvation for Israel and for the ends of the earth (Luke 2:32).

Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Isaiah 49:7

Jesus was hated by his own nation of Israel, and he was a servant of Rome. Then he rose to eternal life and ascended to the right hand of God as king of kings. The kings of the earth will either submit to him willingly, or be conquered on the last day. The kingdom of light will fill the earth, and its enemies will be cast into outer darkness.

Why Isaiah Wrote “Deutero-Isaiah”

I promised a post on the fulfillment of Isaiah 49-55. That was silly of me; instead, expect about 10 posts on it this year. But before I write about that, I’d like to throw some bologne into a blender to prevent Isaiah from getting chopped into pieces.

The phrase “deutero-Isaiah” is just the beginning of a huge problem that modern scholars created for themselves. The reasoning is that Isaiah would have spoken to his own generation, so he wouldn’t speak in response to the Babylonian captivity. So if Isa 40-55 is about a return from exile, it must have been written during the exile. And the end of Isaiah was probably written after the exile. Oh, but we’re just getting started. The oracles against the nations in Isa 13-23 also speak to a context later than Isaiah. The eschatology of Isa 24-27 is too advanced to have been written by Isaiah. Isa 11 mentions the “stump of Jesse,” so it must have been written during the exile. Chapter 1 is an introduction to the book, so it was written after the exile. I could go on, but then Isaiah would become a minor prophet.

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive…’ Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away.”

Isaiah 6:9, 11-12, ESV

In an Old Testament class at a conservative seminary, I was told that the reason the prophets warned of judgment is so the people would repent and turn away the judgment. It sounds plausible enough, but I had to ask why God told Jeremiah not to pray for the people, since the judgment was certain (Jer 7:16, 11:14). I think the answer was along the lines of “Yes, that is a difficult exception to the rule.” In the Isaiah quote above, God tells Isaiah not to expect widespread repentance until after the exile. Was his mission really limited to his own generation?

Vos (pages 189-190) makes a helpful distinction between the former prophets and the latter prophets. The former prophets (like Elijah) spoke to their own generation to bring repentance under the law of Moses. The latter prophets (like Isaiah) also did this, but they knew that their ultimate hope was in the destruction and regeneration of the present system. That is why the former prophets only spoke, but the latter prophets also wrote. The words of the latter prophets “dealt with things in which future generations would have a share and supreme interest” (Vos, 190).

Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples.

Isaiah 8:16

Isaiah sees dark days approaching (Isa 8:17-22), so he commands his disciples to preserve the teaching until the divine Son of David brings light (Isa 9:1-7, see Isaiah 7-12 and the Divine Son of David). There would come a time when justice and righteousness would be done in Israel, but not before judgment comes upon those who ignored Isaiah’s teaching.

Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

Isaiah 39:6-7

The shift from Assyria to Babylon happens in the narrative chapters that precede what is called “deutero-Isaiah.” The angel of the Lord defeats Assyria at Jerusalem, and in Hezekiah’s later years he shows off his wealth to envoys from Babylon. Isaiah predicts the Babylonian captivity during Hezekiah’s children’s generation, and Hezekiah joins modern scholars in calling this irrelevant. But if Isaiah foretold a Babylonian captivity, is it crazy to think he also foretold a return from captivity? The truth is that Hezekiah should have been concerned for his sons, and his sons would need hope when the darkness came.

The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, “My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.” You have heard, now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known.

Isaiah 48:3-6

There is an especially great irony in saying that Isaiah wouldn’t have written Isa 40-48 because it is about future generations: the Lord explains why He is telling the future over (Isa 41:21-29) and over (Isa 42:8-9) and over (Isa 43:9-13) and over (Isa 44:6-8) and over (Isa 45:20-21). The Lord’s precise foretelling of what He will do in the future shows that He is the only God and Savior. He has the power to bring about all of His purposes, so Israel should not fear. When He brings about salvation, idols should receive no credit, and all of the glory should go to the Lord. The nations should see that He has the power to save, and they should turn to Him.

When Jesus had said these things, he departed from them and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

John 12:36-41

Why would Isaiah talk about Jesus? Because he saw his glory. John’s first quote from “the prophet Isaiah” is from Isa 53, which an incredible number of scholars would say was not written by “the prophet Isaiah.” But even more powerfully, John quotes from the same “Isaiah” in Isa 6, when Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord– and John says that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory. And the hard-hearted Israelites Isaiah spoke of were not only his own generation, but the generation that killed Jesus. Isaiah did not speak about Jesus on accident, and Isaiah 53 was not (as I’ve recently read) about the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. Anyone who believes the teaching of the apostles should believe that Isaiah intentionally spoke about Jesus, because he saw his glory.

Swords into Plowshares into Swords into Plowshares

A subconscious reason for starting this blog was to confront exactly the kind of scholarly hubris I just read. In an article on True and False Prophecy in the Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, James Brenneman spends a considerable amount of ink trying to convince the reader that either Isaiah or Joel was wrong about the end of the world, because Isaiah says the nations will beat their swords into plowshares (Isa 2:4), and Joel says the nations will beat their plowshares into swords (Joel 3:10). Obviously, if Joel inverts Isaiah’s language, he must be arguing against him, and if you disagree then you’re “ethically irresponsible” (p. 786). With incredible ethical responsibility and nuance, Brenneman points to a turn of phrase and declares once and for all that one of God’s prophets lied to generation upon generation of God’s people about God’s final act in redemptive history.

Liberal scholars think they are doing service to the Biblical authors as they dissect the Bible– by cutting it into a thousand pieces and throwing the chaff to the wind. The New Testament does real service to the Biblical authors by pressing them together into a clear and multifaceted diamond. It presents a kingdom of peace that brings God’s law to the nations, so that they (metaphorically) beat their swords into plowshares and make peace with one another. And yet, the nations rage against the Lord and His people, and beat their plowshares into swords to make war on them. The Lord violently judges His enemies, and all that is left is His kingdom of peace. So much peace that, if you took Jesus’ advice and sold your cloak to buy a sword, you can literally beat that sword into a plowshare.

Brenneman’s low view of scripture rules out the method of interpreting the prophets that I advocate and test on this blog: inaugurated fulfillment in the gospel. The way I’m phrasing it until someone proves me wrong is: The prophets are truly fulfilled by Jesus’ first coming, and visibly fulfilled by his second coming. Plowshares are truly turned into swords as Jews, Herods, Romans, and Greeks kill Jesus and persecute his people; as false teachers invade the church; as families divide over the gospel. Swords are truly turned into plowshares as Jesus makes peace between men of every nation by his blood, and gathers them by the Spirit into one body. Plowshares are visibly turned into swords as the Antichrist gathers the nations to make war on the saints. Swords are visibly turned into plowshares when Jesus judges the nations and brings the New Jerusalem into the New Earth.

As a mob rushes toward the church with swords in hand, Brenneman draws his sword and swings it at Joel– or Isaiah. The saints look up to see the beheaded prophet ruling with Christ. They look back down, wield the sword of the Spirit as a plow, and get back to work, sowing the word of the kingdom.