The Doctrine of Revelation: The Storyline of Scripture (Part 14)

Sometimes things just don’t turn out as you expect. I remember being in Gatlinburg, TN with a young lady that I really wanted to date. We were in line to ride the ski-lift up a snow-covered mountain. It was a perfect romantic moment. We were next to get on the lift and I stopped to put on my gloves, it was very cold out. But before I could finish I noted that “my girl” was on the taking off up the mountain with another guy! I road up the mountain completely alone. It was not only humiliating but it was a devastating (in that high school drama sort of way). And that’s what happens when things don’t go as planned. That must have been, on a much grander scale, how Israel felt when their plans for the Kingdom of Israel fell through. They must have been humiliated and devastated as they were shuttled off into exile after exile. And yet, as we read through the prophets, there was hope of a return to the Kingdom and a coming King. The prophets fit in the storyline of Scripture the same way all the other elements do: they point us to Jesus.

The people of Israel could not faithfully keep the covenant that God had made with them, and as a result they were disciplined. God sent them off into exile: Babylon, Persia, Rome. In each case the thought must have come into their minds: has God’s promised failed? God had promised Israel land, blessing, kingdom. But in exile all that seemed a distant memory. But God had not left them without hope. The prophets are God’s sent messengers there to remind Israel of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, and to point them to promise of the Messiah. Take Daniel for example.

Daniel opens with a reminder to the people of God that even their exile is sovereingly ordained by God almighty. Chapter 1:1-2a states:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim King of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand…

The author wants to assure the people of Israel, God’s promise has not failed, so he begins with this hard-to-grasp truth that God is still in control even in their exile. In Daniel too, the character of the “son of man” plays a crucial role in giving Israel hope in the promise. The Son of Man, in Daniel, is the character given the authority and the right to bring God’s promise to pass. So in Daniel 7 we read:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

This is the picture of a king, and this title is the one which Jesus takes upon himself (see Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62). Jesus is the son of man who can make the promised kingdom a reality.

And this happens all over the prophets. The authors speak to the people of Israel to give them hope and confidence in God, and part of the way they do that is to point them to the coming messiah, the coming king, the appearance of God himself who will rule over the nation. In each category it is Jesus who fulfills that role. We see Jesus in Isaiah’s suffering servant, Daniel’s son of man, in Ezekiel’s good shepherd, in Zechariah’s king, and in countless other places in the prophets. Jesus is the fulfillment of all that they would urge Israel to believe in.

The prophets get a bad wrap too often. They are said to be downers, judgmental, grumpy, complainers, and narrowly focused on eschatology. The truth however is, like my ski-lift ride, different from what we expect. The prophets are hopeful and they point us ultimately to Jesus!

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