A question was recently brought to my attention on the subject of prophecy. How can we view God’s Word as trustworthy when it seems like some prophecies simply can’t be fulfilled as they were originally written? The specific thrust of the issue was concerning people groups and nations that no longer exist. For instance, there is no nation of Edom, or even a people group that we know of that could represent the nation of Edom. So how do we take prophecies like Isaiah 63:1-6 (which portrays the Messiah coming in vengeance), Joel 3:15-21 (which occurs at the end of the age), and Daniel 11:40-45 (which depicts the actions of the future antichrist)???
Perhaps an example of a prophecy indisputably fulfilled during the ministry of Christ will allow us to have a perspective that isn’t quite so “picky” for lack of a better word. In Isaiah 9:1-2 we read a prophecy concerning the ministry of the Messiah. Before reading this prophecy, let’s remember the context. The nation of Israel is divided, existing in two kingdoms. The southern kingdom is Judah and the northern kingdom is Samaria, commonly known as Israel. The northern kingdom was experiencing God’s judgment. While not permitting the entire nation to be defeated (yet), the northern-most portion was allowed by God to go into captivity at the hand of Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, II Kings 15:29. This northern-most portion was then named “Galilee of the nations” since it was directly on the coast of the sea of Galilee and conquered by a foreign power. Now that we understand the affliction that the area of Galilee was experiencing, let’s read the prophecy.
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
Here is a prophecy concerning two of the tribes of Israel, Zebulun and Naphtali. Yet these two tribes of Israel went into captivity even before the fall of Samaria. A “picky” view would be to say that the nation of Israel must be reconstituted in the exact formation that it was in when the prophecy was given. Yet when Jesus the Messiah came to fulfill this prophecy, the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali had not been restored. But a remnant of Israelites had returned to this area and were living in the area of Galilee. So while the prophecy gives us details that reflect the surrounding back in Isaiah’s day, when it came time for the prophecy to be fulfilled, a slight change did not affect the outcome. In the original prophecy there was enough information for the prophecy to be fulfilled exactly as it was written. The term “Galilee of the nations” was clearly understood to be this northern-most portion around the Sea of Galilee which existed as its own territory in the days of Herod Antipas. The terms “Zebulun” and “Naphtali” shouldn’t throw us a curve. Everybody knew where those two tribes existed before they were carried away into captivity. So when Jesus the Messiah showed up doing miracles in Capernaum, it was quite clear which prophecy was being fulfilled, see Matthew 4:12-17.
In the same way, we shouldn’t let a “picky” view of scripture throw us a curve. Everybody knows where Edom existed at one point in time. Having the prophecy fulfilled in the same location as that former nation is a reasonable view of scripture. Of course there are other nations that still exist to this day which are mentioned in the scriptures such as Syria, Egypt, and Greece. Others are easily equated such as Babylon with Iraq and Persia with Iran. The prophecies concerning Edom will be fulfilled literally, even if no nation of Edom exists or even comes into existence. Don’t let some teachers lead you astray. The nation of Edom need not be resurrected in order for these prophecies to be fulfilled, just as the above example clearly illustrates. God’s Word will be fulfilled even if some are saying that it cannot.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman