The Book of Books—Part 7

Our Day in Prophecy—Part 1

THE Bible alone, of all the books ever written, has proven to be accurate in its forecasts of things to come. This fact stamps it as being of divine authorship, its individual writers being directed by the Spirit, or power of God. Practically all the books of the Bible contain forecasts of future events. Many of its prophecies pertained to events which were imminent, while others were related to occurrences of the distant future. Indeed, the fulfillment of many of the Bible’s prophecies is still future.

The last six books of the Old Testament which we will now consider are all predominantly prophetic. Much which was foretold in these books was fulfilled soon after they were written, and they contain many reassuring promises descriptive of the blessings yet future which will come to the people under the administration of Christ’s kingdom. In addition, many of the prophecies in these six books pertain to our day, and in this review we will give particular attention to them.

The chaotic and distressing conditions through which the world has been passing beginning with 1914 came wholly unexpectedly to those who were unacquainted with the prophecies of the Bible. Worldly wisdom could not foresee a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation,” as foretold by the Prophet Daniel. (Dan. 12:1) The general belief was that man had reached such a high pinnacle of civilization that war on a large scale would no longer be possible, but now we know that this was a false outlook and that the Bible was correct in its forecast of the present worldwide distress.

The world has already experienced much of the prophetic time of trouble, but apparently there will be still more before the kingdom of Christ is established to give peace, security, and happiness to the people. It is comforting to realize, however, that it is the divine purpose to intervene in human affairs before Selfishness is permitted to take its full course in spreading havoc and devastation throughout the earth. We will become more and more assured of this as we continue our review of the Bible’s books and their teachings.


Nineveh destroyed … God is slow to anger … Rapid travel foretold … Affliction permanently destroyed

Most of the Old Testament’s prophetic books contain much pertaining to the little nation of Israel of which the Lord, through the Prophet Amos, said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) The Book of Nahum, however, in addition to its forecasts relating to the present time, also contains a prophecy of doom against the ancient Gentile city of Nineveh. Nahum describes this prophecy as the burden of Nineveh. God previously had sent Jonah to warn the Ninevites of their sin. They repented and the city was saved. Now iniquity had come to the full and the city was to be destroyed.

Throughout the ages God has permitted sin to flourish almost entirely unchecked, but there were times in the ancient past when he did interfere by destroying whole cities of the grossly wicked. In addition to Nineveh, Sodom and Gomorrah were thus dealt with by the Lord. In destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, the explanation is given that God took them away as he saw good—good for them, that is.

Permitting the people of those wicked cities to continue and increase in sin would have been so debasing to character that in the time of their future trial it would be much more difficult for them to reform and walk in the paths of righteousness. Apparently the Ninevites had sunk so deeply into sin that it was a kindness to put them to sleep in death until the time of general judgment, when, as the Prophet Isaiah informs us, the inhabitants of the world will have an opportunity to “learn righteousness.”—Isa. 26:9

The city of Nineveh was founded by Nimrod. (Gen. 10:11, margin) He was a notoriously wicked character who lived during the age of the patriarchs. Because of his idolatry and unrighteousness, he is an apt symbol of opposition to God. The city which he founded, except for the people’s temporary repentance when Jonah preached to them, continued in Nimrod’s wicked course of idolatry and licentiousness and was finally destroyed.

The second verse of the Book of Nahum expresses God’s attitude toward sin. It reads, “God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.” The next verse reads, “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”

Thus we are reminded that while God is slow to anger, he is all-powerful and fully capable at all times to prevent the continuance of evil and evildoing. We are also reminded that God is jealous, and will revenge wrongdoing. In this setting the word jealous denotes the attitude of not tolerating a rival. In the Hebrew text it is similar to the word which, throughout the Old Testament, is translated ‘zeal’. In a wonderful prophecy pertaining to the establishment of a worldwide kingdom of righteousness by Christ, Isaiah states, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:6,7

Jehovah is a God of righteousness, of justice, of love, who cannot tolerate the continuance of unrighteousness in any part of his universe. He is slow to anger, nevertheless, and when he takes action against sin it is according to a fixed plan. Thus he has permitted sin to reign for more than six thousand years, almost wholly unchecked, not because he has been powerless to prevent it, but in order that the human race might learn the dire results of disobedience to his laws.

A few times during this long reign of sin and death the Lord has acted, one of these occasions being in the destruction of Nineveh. At this remote distance, unaware of all the circumstances, we may not know just why Nineveh was made one of the exceptions at that time, while other cities were permitted to continue. But we may be sure that he who is too wise to err, and too loving to be unkind, knew that it was best for the Ninevites, and best, also, for others for whom it would serve as an object lesson.

We think it is reasonable to conclude that since the Lord had one of his holy prophets record his intentions toward the Ninevites, he may have intended the matter as an illustration of his purpose ultimately to destroy all sin, and even death itself, which has resulted from sin—in other words, the entire empire of Satan, whom Nimrod, the founder of Nineveh, so aptly symbolizes. Verses five to nine of the first chapter seem too comprehensive to be applied merely to one heathen city.

Verse five reads, “The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.” The next verse adds, “Who can stand before his indignation and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.” As we have already learned, mountains symbolize kingdoms, or governments. World and earth are symbols of a social order. The prophet is telling us, then, that the whole social order of sin is to be destroyed.

Verse nine asks, “What do ye imagine against the Lord?” This expresses the viewpoint almost universally held that sin, sickness, and death are the normal experiences of the human race; that these things always have existed, and will continue indefinitely; that there never will be any change. This viewpoint supposes that God is not interested in human welfare. If we take him at his word we will know that he has permitted evil to reign only temporarily; that Satan and his whole empire are shortly to be destroyed, and that as Nahum tells us, “affliction shall not rise up the second time.”—Nah. 1:9

Great has been the affliction of the human race during the reign of sin and death; but Satan’s great citadel of sin, foreshadowed by Nineveh, is to be destroyed, never to rise again. This is the testimony of all God’s holy prophets. In the light of this testimony we can understand the divine permission of evil, and can understand also why he will exercise his wrath for the destruction of everything that is out of harmony with his holy will, and therefore detrimental to the best interests of his human creatures. We can be thankful also that his wrath is manifest in the destruction of evil and of willful evildoers, not in their torture forever.

Verses three and four of the second chapter of the Book of Nahum are believed by many to refer to trains, automobiles, and other means of rapid travel that would make their appearance in this end of the age. These verses read: “The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.”


A hasty nation … Made plain upon tables … Hell enlarged … Earth filled with God’s glory

The first chapter of this book foreshadows the invasion of Judea by the Chaldeans—that bitter and hasty nation. This inevitably meant trouble and suffering for the nation of Israel, and Habakkuk was greatly distressed over it. He realized, of course, that the Israelites had not been faithful, and deserved punishment; but it was difficult for him to understand why the Lord would permit the wicked Chaldeans to overrun their land and destroy their cities. He prayed to the Lord about this, saying:

“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?”—Hab. 1:13

Thus the local setting of this prophecy caused Habakkuk to ask questions which have been in the minds of all God’s people throughout the ages; that is, why the Lord permits the righteous and the innocent to suffer at the hands of the unrighteous. The Lord gave a partial answer to Habakkuk, one which, in the light of his divine plan of salvation as set forth throughout his entire Word, is most revealing and faith-strengthening. Relating it the prophet wrote:

“I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved [Hebrew text reads, argued with]. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.”—Hab. 2:1-4

Having inquired of the Lord as to why he permitted his people to suffer, Habakkuk indicated that he earnestly looked and waited for the answer. “And the Lord answered me,” he said. The Lord answered, but did not explain, except to say, “The vision is yet for an appointed time,” implying that it was not yet the due time in the outworking of his plan to reveal to his people the reason for the permission of evil.

But that such a time was coming, the prophet was assured. The vision, the understanding of the divine plan, would at the end speak and not lie, and would be made plain upon tables. While this answer really explained nothing to Habakkuk, it did assure him that God had the situation in hand and that at the appointed time his people would have his plans and purposes made known to them. This was to be at the end—not the end of time, but at the end, or toward the close, of the reign of sin and death.

As we continue our study of the Bible’s prophecies, we will become more and more assured that we are even now living in the time referred to by the expression, at the end. For this reason the vision of truth concerning God’s great plan of human redemption and restoration can now be seen and understood by the Lord’s people, being revealed by the united testimony of his holy prophets of the Old Testament; and, as we shall later see, by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament.

“But the just shall live by his faith,” the Lord told Habakkuk. It required great faith on the part of the Lord’s people in ancient times to lay hold upon his promises, when practically all of their experiences seemed contrary to what those promises indicated. It still requires faith to believe the promises of God; for although today the Lord has favored his people with a clearer understanding of his plans and purposes, and we can be confident that the fruition of his glorious plan for the overthrow of evil and the establishment of his kingdom of peace and righteousness is near, sin still is predominant in the earth, and suffering and death continue.

As Habakkuk saw it, that bitter and hasty nation, the Chaldeans, had an insatiable desire for conquest and loot, “a proud man, neither keepeth at home [always aggressively sallying forth to seek new prey] who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people.” (Hab. 2:5) So have the conquests by sin and death seemed to the righteous in every age.

Here again we find the Hebrew word sheol translated ‘hell’ in the expression ‘who enlargeth his desire as hell’. Sheol, here, as elsewhere in the Bible, describes the condition of the dead. In this passage, the Chaldeans are likened to the great enemy Death which wantonly strikes down its victims, sparing none, leaving them in the great prison-house of death, which because of its very nature, can never be filled. There is no thought of torment suggested in this text, and we can rejoice that in God’s due time sheol, the Bible hell, will be forced to give up its dead.

Chapter two, verse fourteen reads, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea,” and the twentieth verse reads, “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” Verses eighteen and nineteen describe the futility and the sin of worshiping false gods, symbolized by man-made idols. Thus we are reminded that the time will come in the outworking of the divine plan when Jehovah, the Creator of the universe, will be universally worshiped, and when all false gods, together with the evils associated with them, will be destroyed.

The Old Testament prophets wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and while they doubtless comprehended much of what they wrote concerning events immediately at hand, or soon to transpire, their writings concerning the outworking of the larger features of the divine plan were not clearly understood by them. This was true of Habakkuk. It was benevolent of God not to let them know that the glorious Golden Age which they foretold was thousands of years in the future. As it was, they continued to live by faith, and were determined to trust in the Lord, even though frequently they did not understand his providences. It is this determination that Habakkuk expresses in concluding his book:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”—Hab. 3:17,18


The day of the Lord … Fire of God’s jealousy … Money cannot save … People to receive pure language

Zephaniah’s prophecy was written only a short time before the nation of Israel was taken captive to Babylon in 606 B.C. Verses two to five of the first chapter very graphically forecast the overthrow of the nation. But, as with the other Old Testament prophecies, the Lord uses the setting of events pertaining to Israel as a background upon which to prophesy future developments which would be worldwide in nature. The overthrow of Israel because of her sins would thus be illustrative of the divine overthrow of all evil and evil institutions as it would be accomplished at the end of the present age and throughout the promised Millennium.

The time of the overthrow of this present evil world is described by the prophet as the “day of the Lord [Jehovah].” It is the day, that is, in which the Lord would intervene in human affairs to end the reign of sin and death, and destroy all the enemies of righteousness. The Bible teaches that this day of the Lord (Jehovah) will precede the thousand-year reign of Christ and his church.

The day of the Lord is therefore represented in the prophecies as one of trouble, of darkness, of gloom, a day in which, as the Prophet Daniel wrote, there would be “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) The Prophet Joel described it as “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” (Joel 2:2) Zephaniah describes it in much the same language, saying that it would be “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess.”—Zeph. 1:15

Describing the hopelessness of all human efforts to preserve man-made institutions in this time of trouble, Zephaniah prophesied: “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” (Zeph. 1:18) The prophecies clearly indicate that we are even now living in this foretold day of the Lord. It has been given to this generation to witness the beginning of the disintegration of a civilization which has existed for centuries and which was considered firmly established and impregnable to assault.

The first and second global wars, the great depression of the nineteen-thirties, and the head-on clashes of ideologies have been some of the hammer blows which, one after another, have left the foundation and the superstructure of the present social order reeling and in many ways crumbling. Many frantic efforts have been made, meanwhile, to shore up the crumbling institutions of the world, among them the bolstering of the European segment of civilization with gold and silver, or, if you prefer, American dollars. But, as Zephaniah warned, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath.”

Chapter three, verse eight, presents another aspect of the day of the Lord. It is God’s answer to the heart cry of millions as to why he permits the continuance of evil, of oppression, of wars, and other plagues upon the human race which have resulted from man’s inhumanity to man. The text reads, “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured by the fire of my jealousy.”

“Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord.” It has required much faith, in the face of continued and increasing evil, to wait for the Lord to intervene in human affairs and establish his rule of righteousness. And even when he does, the first results, from the human standpoint, are everything but pleasant, and necessarily so, for entrenched wickedness does not willingly give up its rulership in the affairs of men.

So the Lord in his own way, brings precipitous action. “I will gather the nations,” he says, and “assemble the kingdoms.” Never before have the nations been gathered as they are today. They have gathered together for war, and have assembled in efforts to keep the peace. Now they are gathered in two huge armed camps in which the more or less free world and the largely dictator-led world are pitted against each other, and it seems each would rather, if need be, destroy the human race itself than yield to the other’s demands.

Yes, they are gathered for global action. This has been made possible through the increase of knowledge foretold by the Prophet Daniel. This increase of knowledge has come in the providence of God, and he knew, nation-wise, what the result would be. While God will permit man to destroy his own world, he declares it to be by the fire of his jealousy. Here, again, the word in the Hebrew text is ‘zeal’. God’s zeal in this final struggle of the nations will assure that the whole social structure, the symbolic earth of the Bible, will be destroyed to make way for the glorious kingdom of his Messiah.

The destruction of human beings is not what is particularly forecast in this prophecy, but rather, the destruction of a social order. Millions of lives have, of course, already been lost in the two global wars, and many cities reduced to rubble. But more important in the fulfillment of the prophecies is the fact that basically what is happening is the ending of a world, the end of the world of which the Bible has so much to say.

In the next verse (Zeph. 3:9) the Lord says, “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.” This promise proves two things; first, that the human race will still exist after the symbolic earth has been devoured by the fire of God’s zeal; and second, that then, Satan’s world being destroyed, Christ’s kingdom of righteousness will take control, and through its agencies the people will learn to know and serve the true God. While this particular prophecy does not mention it, many others do reveal that then the dead will be awakened in order that they also may enjoy the blessings of the new kingdom.

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