Prophecy in Motion
by C. Elden McNabb
The Acts of the Apostles
Many wonderful deeds were done by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can read about some of those exploits in the four “Gospels,” and The 0f The Apostles Apostles.” They went about healing the sick and casting out devils. Some even raised the dead. Their exploits were so great that, unto this day, people think of them as some kind of super-human creatures. But they were just men of like passions as we are (James 5:17).
There was no aura around those men, or anything else to suggest that they were any different from anyone else. The Apostle Paul stated plainly, “We also are men of like passions with you.” They were simply men who God was using at the time (Acts 14:15).
Actually, there is very little said in the “Gospels,” or the “Acts,” about the majority of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. The Gospels give us barely more than their names, and tell of their appointment to that venerable office. The writer of the book of “The Acts of the Apostles” also mentions some of them by their names, and then proceeds to tell us about only three of them.
We are told of the wonders performed by the Apostle Peter, and how he and John laid hands on some, and they were baptized with the Holy Ghost. We are also told of the martyrdom of James the brother of John. As Luke continued, he told us of the apostles Paul, Apollos, Barnabas and of James, the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. A total of at least twenty men are called “Apostles” in the New Testament.
When most Christians hear the word apostle, they think “twelve,” only twelve. Or we get the generic explanation that anyone who is “sent” is an apostle. As a result, when at least eight other Apostles are named in the Bible, the truth of the words simply does not register. The one exception to this is the Apostle Paul. However, when Barnabas is called an apostle in the same sentence with Paul, it is usually not received in the conscious thought of the reader (Acts 14:14).
The apostleship of Paul is deftly explained by most Bible teachers by insulting The Twelve, whom they profess to esteem so highly. They argue that the Apostles made a mistake when they ordained Matthias. Supposedly they should have waited seven years or more for Paul to be converted. But what are we to do with the apostleship of Barnabas and seven or so others, including James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19).
Apostleship is a gift. It is not merely a number or an office. The gifts of Apostle and Prophet are given to whomever God decides to give them (1 Cor. 12:11), and He gives them according to the person’s ability (Matt. 25:15). That did not end when they finished writing the New Testament. In fact, Paul told the Church at Ephesus that those gifts were given, “until we all come in the unity of the faith.” Evidently, that has not happened yet.
Since the record tells about the exploits of only a few of the Apostles, we must conclude that God had something else in mind, other than the veneration of those great men. Neither was the record given for purely historical purposes. It was for the veneration of the true author of the Holy Scriptures: The creator Himself; showing that He, in His wisdom, had foretold of all those things from the beginning of the world. The prayer of Peter and John, with their “Company,” in Acts 4:24-28, illustrates this point well.
“They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said ‘Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.’ For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Psalm 2).
Their persecution of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was a momentous historical event, but it was much more; both Jesus and His enemies were fulfilling prophecy.
Most Christians believe in salvation through the scriptures, but they so often miss the prophetic side of the Word of God. They view the Old Testament much as the Jews did during the ministry of our Lord. Paul, in describing those Jews, also described Gentile Christianity today, saying, “Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart” (2 Corinthians 3:13-15). We do not wish to miss anything God has given us, so let us begin to heed Jesus’ admonition, and “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify (prophesy) of [Him]” (John 5:39).
The Bible does much more than show us the way of eternal life. In the Old Testament, God laid out for us the plan of God from the beginning to the end. The Old Testament is a history of sorts, but, according to Jesus that is not its stated purpose. It is an account of selected historical events involving the creation, and the first four thousand years of man’s time on earth. Each of those events was selected, and written, because it could be used to reveal something about the plan of God.
The record of the creation prophesies of the work which God planned to do during man’s first six thousand years on the Earth. For instance, on the third day, God caused life to spring forth upon the earth, and in the third millennium, God gave to Israel the living oracles. He said to Moses, “I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil” Deut. 30:15). Paul agreed, saying, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses” (Romans 5:14).
Notice, in Matthew 11:13, how the Son of God described the Old Testament, “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” The Old Testament describes itself in the same manner. Isaiah said, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
The main theme of the New Testament is to show us what Jesus and the Church did in fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. For instance, in Acts 12:23, we are told about the death of Herod, because his death fulfilled the prophecy in Isa. 51:7-8. “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings, for the worm shall eat them.”
The central theme of those prophecies was the coming, and the work of the Son of God. He came in “the volume of the book which was written of Him” (Psalm 40:7; Hebrews 10:7). And He will come again, as it is written.
However, there is another, large volume of the book which is given to God’s Elect to fulfill, and, Peter said that Jesus will stay in heaven until we have fulfilled it (Acts 3:20-21). “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35). We believe in Jesus and His Apostles, Let us also believe what they said.
Peter wrote of witnessing the glory and majesty of Jesus at the transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:16-19). Then he compared that testimony to Old Testament prophecy, saying, “We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” In effect he said, the reason that prophesy is more sure than their marvelous experience was that the prophets did not write what they thought God meant (private interpretation), but rather, they wrote exactly what He said.
Who is that day star? It can not possibly be Jesus, because Jesus had long since risen in their hearts at the time Peter wrote about it, and He has now risen in our hearts also. Peter’s intent is clear in this passage. He is telling us to watch prophecy so we will recognize “the man of God” when he comes on the scene to prepare for the arrival of our King.
It is understandable that many preachers today do not use 2 Peter 1:19 much. The great “crusade” today is the advocacy of the doctrine of Korah, saying, “It is heresy to follow a man.” They remind me of the religious leaders in the days of Jesus. They knew that Messiah was coming, but they made a law that if anyone came professing to be the Messiah he must be killed (John 19:7).
Jesus said that the sign to their generation would be the sign of the prophet Jonas. Jesus became that sign, when He spent three days and three nights in hell, and “the earth with her bars” was around Him (Acts 2:27; Jonah 2:26). The same Jesus said that Noah would be the sign for our generation.
Who is that man “Noah” who will fulfill the prophecy in Heb. 11:7, and save the House of God “when the enemy shall come in like a flood” (Isaiah 59:19)? Paul said, “Noah, being warned of God, of things not seen as yet, prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” And in Heb. 11:7, 39-40, Paul showed clearly that this is a prophecy which must be fulfilled in the grace age.
“The day,” which Peter mentioned, is beginning to dawn. And “The Day Star,” will make the preparation for the arrival of our King. God’s Elect must quickly “awake out of sleep” (Eph. 5:14-16), and become well advised of the prophecies concerning the Man of God and his work of preparation for that great event (Col. 1:25).
You can challenge this truth, but God did not idly give us the allegory of Korah, the son of Kohath, and his fellow insurgents. They, and two hundred and fifty of the princes of the assembly, with their families, died because they challenged this truth (Numbers chapters 16 and 17).
Not only so, but the Apostle Jude told us that it also happened to some rebellious ministers in the Church in his day. He said, “Likewise also these filthy dreamers – despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. – These speak evil of those things which they know not. – Woe unto them! For they have perished in the gainsaying of Core [Korah]. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear” (Jude 1:8-13).
Many of today’s ministers have fallen into the same trap, and cannot see what God is doing in the world today. Can we reject the words of Jude? If so, we also reject the Word of God. God does not change. He would never fail to keep His word. Jesus told us, in Matthew 24:45-47, that He would find His faithful and wise servant ruling over His household and giving them “meat in due season,” upon His return.
We need to take a fresh look at every doctrine which is taught in our churches. We must carefully analyze, and appropriately adjust our view of the Bible, so that we accurately reflect the truth of God in our teaching. We must have some men like those early Apostles, who used their gift from God to guide the people in pure doctrine (Acts 2:41-43). We need councils, such as they had in Acts 15, where “the Spirit of Counsel and Might” (Isa. 11:2) can work. O how we need that Spirit operating among us today!
We cannot afford to assume that our views are correct, even though they were handed down to us by sincere, godly leaders (Jer. 16:19). God may be ready to lead us into greater light than they had (Prov. 4:18). So let us search the Scriptures, “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).