These significant words from the Lord’s last message to his ecclesia are important to our understanding of the Prophetic Word be­cause they inform us that the spirit in the prophets testified beforehand “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet 1:11). As we pursue our studies of the Prophets we see that Jesus has absolute confidence that what had been foretold would be fulfilled, and this confidence sustained him in his life of total obedience. He has thereby provided a wonderful example and encouragement for believers in all ages. Prophecy, to Jesus, was not some intellectual curiosity; it prepared him for the dangers ahead, and allowed him to warn his disciples of coming troubles.

The Baptism of Jesus

It is recorded that “Jesus began to be about thirty years of age” when he presented himself for bap­tism. Why did he come at that time and not earlier, or later? It is true that the Levites’ service com­menced at 30 (see Num 4:3), but is it not likely that the Lord’s understanding of the Seventy Weeks prophecy had indicated to him that his public minis­try was to commence in the 70th “week”—483 years after the commandment to build Jerusalem? The Lord knew the times and seasons because when he preached the Gospel he said, “The time is fulfilled” (Mk 1:15). Daniel’s prophecy, we suggest, pointed forward to his “cutting off in the midst of the week” three and half years later (Dan 9:24–27). Here is the Lord’s tacit endorsement of the day for a year inter­pretation of certain time periods. He saw the way the prediction arched across nearly five centuries and had no hesitation in regulating his life’s work by this prophecy because he was acutely conscious of when the time to die should “fully come” (cp John 7:8). By agreeing to the “fullness of time” he sought to conform to his Father’s time schedule and not to his own.

The Temptation of Christ

It is recorded in Luke 4:1 that immediately follow­ing his baptism Jesus “was led by the spirit into the wilderness”. There he fasted forty days to endure a period of acute temptation where his faith was put to the proof; and we can see how he reacted to the promptings of “the devil”. On each occasion he repudiated these sinful suggestions by alluding to the words of Deuteronomy.

This was no accident. He saw in the experiences of God’s national son a shadow prophecy of his own experiences in the wilderness. What a remark­able depth of perception he had. Even historical incidents in the past were perceived as playing a part in the present. This approach supplies us with an added depth to our appreciation of the power of prophecy to the Lord.

Preparation for his Death

Throughout his life the Lord was aware that he had to face an agonising death and he attempted to pre­pare his disciples for that event and its significance. In Matthew 16:16 we have the record of Peter’s great confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”, and yet when Jesus began to speak of his death in verse 21, Peter began to rebuke him. In Luke 18:31 we learn that he spoke of “all things that are written by the prophets”. Similarly, after his resurrection, he reproved the two on the road to Emmaus, showing them “all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).

What “things” would he have mentioned? We know that his suffering was foretold in such pas­sages as Isaiah 53:4 (“Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses”—Matt 8:17). He was also aware of Psalms 22 and 69 which foretold of specific cruelties in great detail, even down to the type of vinegar he would be offered. All of this would have strengthened him with a confidence in his Father’s providential care.

Furthermore, the “sign of the prophet Jonas” was another clear indication of his coming death and resurrection. To us it might have seemed just like history, but not so to the Lord. Many times he must have meditated on Psalm 16:10—“thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption”. None of these predictions were clear to other men, but the Lord pondered them and saw in them the will of the Father. They, together with many others, would have reassured him of the certainty of his sacrificial mission. May the word of prophecy have a similar impact in our lives.

The Lord’s Entry to Jerusalem

As his earthly life reached its climax, the Lord set his face towards the “holy city”, knowing from the prophets he was to be rejected and suffer death as the sacrificial lamb of God. The dramatic entrance into the city upon the colt of an ass was a prelimi­nary fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9 (see Matt 21:1–9, the greater entrance is still future). The Lord sought to comply with the prediction by ensuring that he rode into the city on the very animal that the prophet had spoken about. Rather than seeing prophecy as something of casual interest, Jesus embraced it with enthusiasm and played his part in ensuring that it was fulfilled.

The acclamation of the people shouting “Ho­sanna to the son of David”, was foretold in Psalm 118:25. Imagine the Lord hearing this and know­ing that his Father was at work behind the scenes, encouraging him to continue steadfast unto the end. We know he was aware of this context because in Matthew 21:42 he had quoted the Psalm to the people: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner”. In these words he was anticipating not only his rejection but his ultimate glorification.

But as he rode over the mount of Olives, his mind deeply centred on the message of the proph­ets, he was caused to weep as he thought about the destiny of the city forty years hence. He said, “They shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; be­cause thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:44—a possible allusion to Psalm 137:7 and Daniel 9:26–27). He expected that they would understand the momentous time periods they were living in and respond accordingly. This presents a great warning to us as well. Are we aware of the great signs around us telling us that we are living in the latter days? Do we comprehend the urgency of our position? Do we know that the time of the Lord’s second visitation draws near?

The Temple

Upon arrival at the city he immediately entered the temple and for the second time (cp John 2:13–17) he was appalled at the desecration of his Father’s house. He removed those who were making mer­chandise of the holy place saying, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves” (a phrase literally meaning one of the dark places of the earth). He was quoting from Jeremiah 7:11 and Isaiah 56:7 but, in doing so, didn’t just leave the matter there. He was moved with zeal to rectify the problem (John 2:17; Psa 69:9). His appreciation of prophecy brought about a godly response to the evil.

The Olivet Prophecy

The last days of the Lord’s ministry were spent in controversies with the Jewish leaders and reached their culmination when he left them with a ques­tion from Psalm 110:1 concerning his sonship. This proved unanswerable by them since it proved both his humanity and his Divine origin as well as teach­ing that he would later ascend to heaven. The same Scripture formed the basis of his reply to Caiaphas at this trial when he said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power” (Matt 26:64). He not only understood the Prophetic Word, he fearlessly preached its message despite the fact that he knew it might provoke a hostile reaction from his enemies.

After his disputes with the rulers “he went out and departed from the temple” and spoke to his disciples about coming desolation. He had already spoken of coming judgment on the city and now as he looked upon the temple he spoke of its imminent dissolution (Matt 24:1,2). At the same time he saw the need to warn them of these things that when the predictions came to pass the faithful would be prepared. He knew from the words of Moses and Daniel (Deut 28:48–57; Dan 8:12,13, 24; 9:27) that a Gentile invader would come “as swift as the eagle flieth”, lay siege to the city and destroy the nation. If ever we need a confirmation of the correctness of the continuous historical approach to interpreting prophecy the Lord’s endorsement says it all. He used specific key predictions to warn his people of coming judgment upon Judea up until AD 70. There was nothing vague or uncertain about his words. They were authoritative and clear.

These times of judgment would become a se­vere trial to the first century ecclesia. Because of their refusal to join the war against the Romans he counselled them to “flee into the mountains” when the city was compassed with armies, because these signs pointed forward to coming desolation. History confirms that some believed the Lord’s prophetic warnings and acted faithfully, taking heed and flee­ing to Pella. What about those who misinterpreted the Lord’s words or didn’t give due weight to their significance? They perished in the onslaught of evil.

Conclusion

The Prophetic Word is given for our guidance. It is very needful for ecclesias in these latter days to correctly understand what was written aforetime for our learning that we also may be prepared for the events which will herald the Lord’s second com­ing. It is dangerous to suggest that we can have a multiplicity of conflicting interpretations. This only encourages uncertainty and contradiction which in turn causes the young (and the not so young) to despair of ever understanding prophecy. If study of this wonderful part of God’s word is neglected or pushed into the background because it is seen as controversial then we render a great dis-service to the Brotherhood. Let us take heed to the positive teachings of the Lord himself, together with the prophets and apostles so that when our master returns we will be ready to meet him