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EVERY PROPHECY OF THE BIBLE
Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times
By John F. Walvoord
David C. CookCopyright © 2011 John F. Walvoord
All rights reserved.
PROPHECY IN THE PENTATEUCH
THE BEGINNINGS OF PROPHETIC REVELATION
First Prophecy of Judgment
Genesis 2:16–17. When the divine work of creation was completed and Adam was created, God gave him the first command that is in the form of a conditional prophecy. According to verses 16–17, "The LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'"
Genesis 3:1–3. After Eve was created, Satan approached her in the form of a serpent (cf. Rev. 20:2). The serpent said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Gen. 3:1) The question implies the restriction necessarily deprived her of something that is rightfully hers. In reply, Eve said, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die'" (v. 2).
In her reply, Eve added the restriction that she was not to touch the fruit, and omitted the word surely. The Devil immediately attacked the statement of the certainty of death by denying that Eve would surely die. He found fault with the restriction by affirming that when the fruit was eaten they would be like God and would know good and evil. What he did not say was that they would know the good without being able to do it, and know the evil without being able to avoid it.
Genesis records, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it" (v. 6).
The temptation that Adam and Eve faced followed the pattern described in 1 John 2:16: "For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world." The temptation that Eve faced was her belief that the fruit was good and appealed to actual desires of man described in 1 John as "the cravings of sinful man." That it was "pleasing to the eye" corresponds to "the lust of his eyes." That it was "desirable for gaining wisdom" appealed to pride, which relates to "the boasting of what he has and does."
In approaching Christ in His temptation, Satan tempted Christ along these same lines: appeal to the desires of the natural man, appeal to hunger, and appeal to pride in tempting Christ to cast Himself down from the temple as the Son of God. In the revelation of the glory of the kingdoms of the world, Satan appealed to the desire of the eyes for beauty (Matt. 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–13). The same avenues of temptation are illustrated in Saul, who was tempted by pride (1 Sam. 13:1–14); David, who was tempted by the desires of the human nature (2 Sam. 11:2–27); and Solomon, who was tempted by the desire for beautiful things (1 Kings 10:14–29; 2 Chron. 9:13–28).
Judgment and Promise of Salvation
Genesis 3:14–24. This first prophecy was fulfilled by the spiritual death of Adam and Eve and their ultimate physical death (vv. 7–24; 5:5). In fulfilling the prophecy of death, God added other prophecies, including the curse on the serpent (3:14–15). God prophesied that Eve would give birth to children in pain and that her husband would rule over her. To Adam, God predicted that the ground would be cursed and he would have difficulty raising the food necessary for his continued existence.
In the midst of these promises, which enlarged the judgment that had come on mankind because of the entrance of sin, a plan for redemption was also revealed.
In pronouncing the curse on the Devil and the serpent, it was prophesied that there would always be enmity between the serpent and the descendants of the woman (v. 15). Referring to one of the woman's descendants (Christ), God said, "He will crush your head." In regard to the judgment on Satan, made sure by the cross of Christ, the prophecy was further enlarged, "You will strike his heel" (v. 15). This referred to the fact that Christ would die, but unlike the effect on Satan, His death would be conquered by resurrection. This was fulfilled in Christ's death and resurrection (Rom. 3:24–25).
Importance of the First Two Major Prophecies of Scripture
In subsequent prophecies, both the judgment of sin and the promise of salvation can be traced throughout Scripture. The importance of these prophecies can be seen in the context of the early chapters of Genesis.
The divine plan for man is stated in detail in Genesis 1:26–27: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground'" (v. 28). The fulfillment of this was hindered by the fact that sin had entered the human race. The ultimate fulfillment, of course, will be by Christ as "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45), who will rule the earth in the millennial kingdom (Ps. 72:8–11).
The fulfillment of these first prophecies of Scripture provides the first insight into the normal rule of interpreting prophecy, that is, to interpret prophecy literally. When Adam and Eve sinned, they literally died spiritually and later physically. The prophecies of cursing on the serpent and Satan, the prophecies of Eve's suffering pain in childbirth and being subject to her husband, and the prophecies to Adam of raising food with great toil have all been subject to literal fulfillment (vv. 14–19).
PROPHECY CONCERNING CAIN AND ABEL
The Birth of Cain and Abel
Genesis 4:1–15. In keeping with the prophecy that Eve would bear children, Cain and Abel were born (vv. 1–2). When they were grown, "Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil" (v. 2). Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruits of the soil (v. 3), but "Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock" (v. 4).
God rejected the offering of Cain and accepted the offering of Abel (v. 5). Though Scripture does not indicate the reason for this, Scripture emphasizes that a bloody sacrifice is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22). It may also be that Cain did not bring his offering in the proper spirit. God may have given instruction concerning offerings that Cain had ignored.
The Curse on Cain
Because God rejected his offering, Cain attacked Abel and murdered him (Gen. 4:8). As a result, God prophesied a curse on him, stating, "When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth" (v. 12). This prophecy was fulfilled when Cain left his home in Eden and established a civilization to the east (v. 16).
PROPHECY RELATED TO THE DAYS OF NOAH
The Prediction of the Flood
Genesis 6:1–22. Because of the wickedness of the human race, God declared His purpose to destroy them: "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them" (v. 7).
Of all the people on earth, apparently Noah and his family were the only ones who found favor with God (vv. 8–10). God revealed to Noah His purpose to destroy the human race: "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth" (v. 13). After describing the major dimensions of the ark that Noah was instructed to build, God added, "I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish" (v. 17).
In obedience to God, Noah directed the animals into the ark (vv. 19–20). Noah was instructed to provide food for them in the ark (v. 21), and to bring his wife, his sons, and their wives also into the ark (v. 18).
Genesis 7:1–24. God further revealed that seven days after the ark was finished the flood would come (vv. 1–4). Scriptures record the fulfillment of the coming food by which every living person on the face of the earth was destroyed except for Noah and his family (vv. 21–23).
God's Covenant with Noah
Genesis 8:1–9:17. After the flood subsided and Noah and his family were able to leave the ark, according to Genesis 8:20, "Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it." The Lord was pleased with Noah's offering and prophesied, "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease" (vv. 21–22).
Additional details concerning the covenant with Noah were given in 9:1–17. As part of God's prophetic program for Noah and his family, for the first time mankind was given permission to eat meat, but not the blood. For the first time capital punishment was established as an essential ingredient in the concept of government. According to verse 6, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." In addition to emphasizing provisions of the covenant (v. 13), God said, "Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth" (vv. 15–16).
Genesis 9:18–29. Because Ham, Noah's son, the father of Canaan, treated Noah with disrespect (vv. 20–24), Noah delivered a prophecy concerning his descendants: "When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, 'Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.' He also said, 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave'" (vv. 24–27). This was fulfilled in history (10:1–32).
The Failure of Man under the Covenant with Noah
Genesis 11:1–9. Symbolic of their rejection of God, those who were living in the Babylonian area said to each other, "'Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly.' They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth'" (vv. 3–4).
God judged this effort and confused their language so that they could not understand each other (v. 7). The stage was now set for God's tremendous revelation to Abram.
THE PROPHETIC COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM
Background of the Covenant
Genesis 11:10–31. The historical background of Abraham is given in Genesis 11. He and his family were descendants of the line of Shem. According to verses 31–32, Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot and their wives and started out for the land of Canaan. However, when they came to Haran they settled down until Terah died. The fuller explanation is given in the Scripture that follows, giving the precise provisions of the covenant that was revealed to Abraham.
Provisions of the Covenant
Genesis 12:1–3. God revealed to Abram the basic provisions of His covenant with him while Abram was still in Ur of the Chaldeans: "The LORD had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you'" (vv. 1–3).
The covenant with Abram was a major step in divine revelation, indicating that God had selected Abram and his posterity to fulfill His purpose to reveal Himself to the world and bring salvation to mankind. Though only eleven chapters were used to trace the whole history of the world prior to Abram, including creation and all the major events that followed, the rest of the book of Genesis was devoted to Abram and his immediate descendants, indicating the importance of this covenant.
The covenant required Abram to leave his country and his people and go to the land that God would show him. The expression you will be a blessing (v. 2), could be translated "be a blessing." Abram was essential to God's program of bringing blessing and revelation to the world and ultimately salvation through Jesus Christ. In keeping with Abram's obedience, God made the promises: (1) "I will make you into a great nation"; (2) "I will bless you"; (3) "I will make your name great" (vv. 2–3).
The promise of a great nation was fulfilled in the nation Israel, which has had a large place in the history of the world. Their number would be like the stars of the heavens, innumerable (15:5) and like the sand of the sea (32:12). As Abram had no children at that time, the promise seemed too extensive to be true.
The promise of personal blessing on Abram (12:2) is evident in God's special dealing with him in calling him, choosing him for his important role, and caring for him throughout his life. It followed that Abram would be famous (v. 2), as his name is prominent in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament and highly regarded in Judaism, Christianity, and the Muslim faith. These promises have been literally fulfilled (Heb. 11:8–19).
Through Abram and the nation that would descend from him came the blessing promised to "all peoples on earth" (Gen. 12:3). God's promises included blessing on those who blessed Abram and his descendants, curses on those who would curse Abram and his descendants, and the promise of blessing to all peoples of the earth. While most of these promises had a direct effect on Israel, the promised blessing on all peoples would include the Gentiles mentioned in Galatians 3:6–9. These basic provisions of God's covenant with Abram were subsequently enlarged in the book of Genesis and throughout Scripture. Later prophecies emphasized the fact that Israel would continue as a nation throughout human history.
The Prophecy of Possession of the Land
Genesis 12:7. Though not included in the basic provisions of the covenant with Abram, the central feature of the promise of the land is immediately picked up in the narrative of the book of Genesis. This promise was part of the original revelation that God gave to Abram when he was still in Ur (v. 1). Now it became an important proof of God's continuing purpose for Abram and his people.
According to verse 7, "The LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.'" From this point on throughout the Old Testament, the land became one of the central features of God's prophetic program for Israel. As simple and direct as this prophecy is, interpreters of prophecy have made this a decisive point of departure, some interpreting the land as not a literal reference to the Holy Land but rather a promise of heaven. Those who interpret this prophecy in a nonliteral sense point to Hebrews 11:9–10: "By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
All serious interpreters of Scripture agree that Abram had an eternal hope of dwelling forever in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21–22). This eternal hope, however, does not satisfy the Old Testament description of a literal land in human history. The point is that Abram had a future temporal hope—the land—as well as an eternal hope—the New Jerusalem. It is not too much to say that the interpretation of Genesis 12:7 determines in a large measure the prophetic interpretation of the rest of the Bible.
Excerpted from EVERY PROPHECY OF THE BIBLE by John F. Walvoord. Copyright © 2011 John F. Walvoord. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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