July 21, 2016

Revelation 7 and two major unfulfilled prophecies

by Jesse Johnson

There are two major prophecies concerning the advance of the gospel that remain unfulfilled at this very moment: that Israel would embrace the Messiah, and that the good news of Jesus would reach every tribe and ethnic group in the world.

These are not just isolated prophecies. Instead, they are repeated often, and play a significant role in how the believers are to think about the future.  

First, the Bible prophecies a future time when unbelieving Israel will see a revival as many hearts are converted to faith in the Messiah. In Psalm 14:7 David says, “Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come from Zion! When the Yahweh restores the fortunes of His people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.” Not only is this a prophecy of the coming of the Savior, but David looks beyond that to the actual conversion of Israel because of the Savior (and that’s repeated in Psalm 53:6).

Moreover, the prophets describe the future day of the Lord as a time of judgement when wrath will be poured out on Israel. The nations will surround Israel for battle with the goal of annihilating them. But then, in the midst of that battle, God will “pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David… as they look at me whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). The prophecy goes on to describe a national mourning that begins with Israel’s women, and spreads to the families, and finally through the tribes of David and Levi to the remaining tribes of Israel (Zechariah 12-14).

Zechariah makes this prophecy to a disobedient nation. In fact, their salvation is seen in the context of them breaking their idols, and Yahweh striking the evil shepherds that had scattered the sheep. The same is true of Jeremiah’s prophecies of Israel’s salvation. They are not prophecies given to those who were by faith awaiting the Messiah, but rather go to people that are future, “scattered,” and under the oppression of wicked shepherds.

Its to that group Jeremiah declares that Yahweh will one day give them a good shepherd, and after that the good shepherd will reign. When he does, “Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely” (Jeremiah 23:6; also 33:16).

Isaiah introduces his prophecy by describing a sad state in Israel—the people are rebellious and the tribes are in adultery. Nevertheless Yahweh will “redeem” Israel by justice (1:27), and he will “restore” them by burning away their sin and removing their impurities (1:25-26). In many ways the rest of Isaiah flows from this promise that God will punish Israel to one day save her.

Of course, God will save Israel through the new covenant. This is expressly what the covenant is about: Yahweh will “sprinkle clean water” on Israel, and cleanse them from all their sin (Ezekiel 36:25; 29). Those people will remember their evil ways, and then hate their previous sins, as they cling to God for salvation (Ezekiel 36:31).

These kind of prophecies are what Paul relied on in the New Testament, when he too looked forward to the future conversion of the 12 tribes. Paul would reference Isaiah 59:20-21 and Jeremiah 31:31-34 in his own prophecy: “In this way, all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

But God has never only been concerned with the salvation of Israel. Even in his separation of Israel, God explained to them that he was isolating them so that Israel would one day be able to attract the nations to the Messiah (Deut 4:6). This is exactly what Solomon has in mind when he prays at the dedication of the Temple, and he asks that God will use the temple so that “all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you as do your people Israel” (1 Kings 8:43, 54, 60).

Certainly Solomon was not meaning every individual, but rather had as his hope that the good news of the gospel would go from the temple to the nations—to every nation. This is how Isaiah predicts it: “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isiah 49:6). In other words, it is not good enough for God to simply save the 12 tribes. He instead is going to bring his salvation to even the most remote parts of the earth.

This is the hope in Psalm 117, which looks for “all nations” to worship Yahweh. Or Psalm 22:27, which predicts that all the tribes of the earth will do the same. Again, it is not sufficient for it to simply the be the 12 tribes of Israel, but this will be replicated throughout the globe.

When Jesus gives the great commission, he confirms this global understanding of the gospel’s advance: “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). He even stakes his second coming on it, when he says, “The Gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

To recap: both of these promises remain unfilled at this moment in time. But they will not remain unfulfilled forever. In fact, this is what is so remarkable about Revelation 7. There, John records a vision of the fulfillment of both sets of prophecies. He sees the 12,000 from the 12 tribes come to faith—and he belabors the point by going through the numbers tribe-by-tribe—and then he turns and he sees in heaven “a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language” fulfilling Psalm 117 by worshiping the lamb who is seated on the throne (Revelation 7:9-10).

The book of Revelation is not only prophecy of future events, but in chapter 7 it shows us past prophecy fulfilled. In so doing, Revelation gives us confidence that the gospel will go forward from Jerusalem to the most remote places on the earth, and it will save people wherever it goes.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Charles Horton

    This is why the premillennial interpretation of Rev. 20 seems much more realistic than the amillennial. When the Lord, our Savior, returns to the earth, he will call all Israel from the far corners of the earth to inherit the land promised them through God’s covenant with Abraham. They will feast their eyes on their Savior, the Messiah, mourn their past rejection of him, embrace him, all the nations will come to be blessed by him – even through Israel, the world will stand in wondrous awe of him as leaders from all nations and tribes say “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and he will teach us his ways,” and watch with amazing love as they beat their swords and spears into plowshares and pruning hooks and their tanks and artillery into tractors and reapers, not to mention watching lions and lambs playing together with children in peaceful joy while Jesus’ resurrected saints reign over the earth in uncontested joy during the 1,000 years before the rest of the dead live again. All families of the earth including all Israelite families shall be blessed through this wonderful man, our Savior and Messiah, Jesus our Christ. Despite the beginnings of sorrows we are witnessing today, the best of times lie ahead. Hallelujah.

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Only problem is, there’s not any mention in Rev 20 about Israel or the Jews, an inheritance of land, a temple, Abrahamic Covenant, lions and lambs, mourning the One Whom they pierced…any of that. One can insist that it’s all there, but realize that’s reading into the passage elements that are absolutely missing.

      Yes, all those things are mentioned elsewhere in Scripture; but so is the eternal state–and it’s not believed by anyone that this chapter deals with that subject, either. So why must it be dealing with the future of Israel?

      Rev 20 only mentions “souls” and “the rest of the dead” that come to life before and after a “1,000 years”, and who “reigned” with Christ for that time. That’s not a lot to go on.

      But I do agree that the best of times lie ahead.

      • Charles Horton

        One of the first things we learn in the Bible is we are created in God’s image with
        capacity to reason in a godly way while growing to become more like him. As you
        say, the things I mentioned are all there in Scripture, but I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to link them together with Rev. 20, especially since Rev. 20 also reports that Satan is imprisoned, no longer able to deceive the nations, during the entire time.

        During the 1,000 years Christ reigns on the earth with his resurrected saints. Micah 4 tells us that many nations will go up to the mountain of the Lord, the house of Jacob’s
        God, to learn his ways. They couldn’t do this unless the Lord, Jesus, was there on Mt. Zion for them to go up to. This, Micah’s prophecy, will surely happen, even though we’ve never seen anything like it so far. It lies in the future, and could only happen after Jesus returns here. So the link between Micah and Rev. can be plainly seen. Likewise, the nations, after learning from our Lord, will beat their war weapons into farm implements and learn war no more. We have never seen anything like this either, and linking this to Rev. 20 is a steady flow and logical conclusion, even though the actual words of Micah are not in Rev. 20. But we have God-given minds with which to put things together.

        I’m not insisting on anything, just making the observation that OT prophecies such
        as I mentioned have clearly not yet been fulfilled, and only could be fulfilled with and by Jesus here on the earth. Which is the way it will be after his return here.

        Another prophecy that needs Jesus here reigning is Zech. 8, when the children of Israel play safely in the streets of Jerusalem, with parents and grandparents looking on happily and without fear. We need Jesus here for that to happen, and Rev. 20 reveals to us how that can be – kind of like all the pieces coming together in the final chapters of a book. Again, it is not a stretch to link these things.

        So, as you and Jesse Johnson say, we praise our God that the best of times lie ahead with Jews and Israelites looking to Jesus. BTW, have you ever actually meditated on what it would be like on Earth with Jesus being here in his glory with his resurrected followers, on this earth as we know it, with no evil one deceiving and trying to deceive us, but rather the peace of Christ spreading around the world? When no longer will people need to learn of the Lord because knowledge of him will cover the earth like the waters cover the seas? If you haven’t, you should try it sometime. It’s worth the time investment!

      • Charles Horton

        None us know exactly how God will fulfill all that is spoken of in the Bible that’s yet future, and none of us can cling solely to the interpretation we think is “the” correct one. Rather, we all need to joyfully share and understand each other’s interpretation, knowing full well that another viewpoint might actually be “the” one rather than our own. After all, pre-, a-, and post-millennialism all fall under the
        umbrella of ‘orthodox’ and each of these have special meaning to those who tend
        toward one or the other.

        With that said, let me respond to you 4Comm. One of the first things we learn in the Bible is we are created in God’s image with capacity to reason in a godly way while growing to become more like him. As you say, the things I mentioned are all there in Scripture, but I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to link them together with Rev. 20, especially since Rev. 20 also reports that Satan is imprisoned, no longer able to deceive the nations, during the entire time. Looking at the past 2,000
        years, we can see where he has been at work stirring people up to war and
        killing each other – even Christians against each other. During the millennium, he will be locked away and won’t be able to do that.

        So, during the 1,000 years Christ reigns on the earth with his resurrected saints. Micah 4 tells us that many nations will go up to the mountain of the Lord, the house of
        Jacob’s God, to learn his ways. It’s akin to the points Jesse made about Rev. 7. They couldn’t do this unless the Lord, Jesus, was there on Mt. Zion for them to go up to. This, Micah’s prophecy, will surely happen, even though we’ve never seen anything like it so far. It lies in the future, and yes, as Jesse says, more Israelites will hear the Gospel in this life we are living now,
        fulfilling Rev. 7 at least in part. But we also have many nations ‘going up to the mountain of the Lord’ where the Lord will have to be in order for them to go up and be taught his ways. So the link between Micah and Rev. can be plainly seen. Likewise, the nations, after learning from our Lord, will beat their war weapons into farm implements and learn war no more. We have never seen anything like this either, and linking this to Rev. 20 is a steady flow and logical conclusion, even though the actual words of Micah are not in Rev. 20. But we have God-given minds with which to put things together. As Isaiah said, “Precept upon precept, line upon line, a little here, a little there.” Isa. 28:10-13.

        I’m not insisting on anything, just making the observation that OT prophecies such
        as I mentioned have clearly not yet been fulfilled, and which indicate there will be a righteous leader here to guide all the nations in the only right way to go…which makes Jesus being here on the earth with the families a given.

        Another prophecy that needs Jesus here reigning is Zech. 8, when the children of Israel play safely in the streets of Jerusalem, with parents and grandparents looking on happily and without fear. We need Jesus here for that to happen, and Rev. 20 reveals to us how that can be. So linking these things is not a stretch, especially considering that the NT looks forward to, over and again, Jesus’ return
        to the earth. Remember Immanuel? One of his names meaning “God with us”.

        So, as you and Jesse Johnson say, we thank our God that the best of times lie ahead with Jews and Israelites looking to Jesus. BTW, have you ever actually meditated on what it would be like on Earth with Jesus being here in his glory with his resurrected followers reigning on this earth that we are familiar with, with no
        evil one deceiving and trying to deceive us, but rather the peace of Christ spreading around the world? When no longer will people need to learn of the
        Lord because knowledge of him will cover the earth like the waters cover the seas? If you haven’t, you should try it sometime. It very much sounds like God intends to finish what he started in the garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned: a world full of his children who know him, love him, obey him, replenish the earth, dress it and keep it, as he obviously intended that it develop before Adam and Eve disobeyed.

        • 4Commencefiring4

          You must have deleted your first response, as I couldn’t find it and thought something had gone awry. Glad you followed up with what looks to be added material. Always helpful.

          I would simply remind you that OT prophecies, contrary to common teaching, are not always fulfilled literally. And the proof is how NT writers interpreted the OT: it was not as one might expect, in some instances.

          For example, in Acts 15: 14–18. James quotes Amos 9:11, which, in its original context, seemed to be predicting a future restoration of the Jewish tabernacle and what looks to be a wonderful reestablishment of the glory of Israel’s kingdom. But he takes that passage and applies it to…the future emergence of the church, which was to include the Gentile nations into the kingdom–something entirely different than a “literal” reading would yield. He’s saying no, this passage isn’t talking about temples and ceremonial laws coming back; it’s talking about the Body of Christ and the salvation of all the redeemed of the ages.

          He says, in v14, that God’s intent to “take from among the Gentiles a people for His name”–the church, in other words–is what Amos was taking about, not a rebuilding program of temples and sacrifices.

          And we have, of course, Paul applying “inheritance” language and “Abraham’s seed” to Gentiles, to the church. WE are Abraham’s seed, and “heirs according to promise.” Peter, too, calls the church “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for God’s own possession” (using Ex 19:6), a description which originally looked to be referring to a future spiritual awakening of Jews. But not so. It’s about us.

          The NT writers, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were saying something quite different with those verses, and others. So when you read in Micah of nations coming to the mountain of the Lord and children playing in the streets peacefully, etc., I would suggest to you that perhaps God is using language familiar to the Jews of that day to describe something much more expanded and glorious than just children playing in the street.

          I think a study of how the NT quoted the OT, how it reinterpreted much of it, is a very valuable study. There’s some surprises in that box.

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  • JohnStefanyszyn

    All nations know of Christ. But the nations,rulers, & beast reject Christ as Son of ONE God. All know “Your Kingdom come ,Your Will be done on earth”…and all reject Christ as 1 & ONLY KING that will rule the earth according to Will of His Father…because they desire instead FREEDOM to do own will, own rights, to worship “own gods”. Also note that Christ is the Temple and Only Way to the 1GOD….and it was raised in 3 days when Christ resurrected.