The Book of Books—Part 8

Our Day in Prophecy—Part 2


The Temple rebuilt … The greater temple … Shaking of heavens and earth … New kingdom established

HAGGAI was a prophet who served Israel after the people were released from their Babylonian captivity and had returned to Judea. King Cyrus of the Medes had issued a decree authorizing the return of the captives, and granting permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. A Jew named Zerubbabel had been made governor over Judea, and he began, with some enthusiasm, the work of rebuilding the Temple. But about the time the foundation was laid, opposition against the project arose and the governor apparently lost his courage, and the rebuilding ceased. The prophecy of Haggai is chiefly concerned with these local circumstances, particularly the delay in rebuilding the Temple, and he chides the people, especially their leaders, for building fine homes for themselves, but neglecting the house of the Lord.

The Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem is used in the Bible as a symbol of a much more glorious temple, described by a New Testament writer as one “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (II Cor. 5:1) The promised Seed, through which all the families of the earth are to be blessed, is in reality this grander temple. The Temple of God in Jerusalem was where the people, through the ministry of their religious servants, met the Lord and received of his blessings. So the Seed of promise, the Messiah (Jesus and his glorified church), will be the channel of God’s blessing to all mankind. Messiah will be the Mediator between God and men, and in this role will reestablish the will of God in the hearts of all who accept divine grace and obey the laws of the new kingdom.

Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed when the nation was taken into captivity in Babylon, was a magnificent structure. But concerning the rebuilt Temple Haggai wrote, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.” (Hag. 2:9) This undoubtedly proved to be true; but this statement will be even more true of the antityptical, spiritual temple, the one concerning which the Lord said, “I will fill this house with glory.”—Hag. 2:7

But this will not be fulfilled until after the prophetic time of trouble with which the present age is ending. Through Haggai, the Lord describes this trouble as a great shaking of society and nations. Verses six and seven read, “Yet once [more] … I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.” The heavens and the earth mentioned here are the spiritual and material aspects of the present social order, while the sea represents the restless, discontented masses of mankind. (Isa. 17:12,13) The dry land would seem to be symbolic of the poor, underprivileged millions of mankind. All segments of the people and of their governmental arrangements are being shaken.

This, however, is not because God is vindictive toward the human race, but rather, in order that they might be awakened to their need of him. This is shown by the text which states that because of this shaking, the desire of all nations shall come. This does not mean that through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom, God will satisfy every petty desire of the people. The thought is, rather, that the desire of the nations will be those proper desires in harmony with God’s righteous law. Great will be the peace and joy of the people when they thus recognize God’s right to rule in their hearts and lives.

The Lord instructs Haggai to speak to Zerubbabel and say: “I will shake the heavens and the earth. And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen [the Gentiles]; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.”—Hag. 2:21,22

This is simply explaining the manner in which the Lord will shake the symbolic heavens and earth. It is not a clash of physical worlds and planets, but a struggle within human society, in which its various elements and nations are brought down, every one by the sword of his brother. It is thus that the Lord also overthrows the throne of kingdoms. This seems to be a reference to the overlordship of Satan, the great prince of this world. His stranglehold over the nations will be broken when he can no longer maintain a semblance of peace and order among them. Thus we see the world being prepared for the rulership of Messiah’s kingdom.


Jesus’ triumph and rejection … Israel delivered … Kingdom established

The Prophet Zechariah was contemporaneous with Haggai, and his prophecy, like that of his contemporary, helped much to encourage Zerubbabel to complete the job of building the Temple in Jerusalem. But in addition to dealing with these circumstances of a local nature and of immediate concern, the Lord also used him to forecast events which were not due to occur until long after he had fallen asleep in death.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Zechariah prophesied the experience of Jesus when he rode into the city of Jerusalem on an ass. (Zech. 9:9) He also forecast a worldwide scattering of the nation of Israel, and their ultimate return to the Promised Land. Chapter twelve, verse ten, forecasts a time when the people “will look upon him whom they have pierced, and … mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son.” This is an obvious reference to a time when those who rejected Christ and pierced him, will be raised from the dead and recognize that they killed the King of glory, and will genuinely repent of their sin and deeply mourn over their wrongdoing.

Prior to this, however, as shown by the prophecy of Ezekiel, after the Israelites are regathered in their own land, and before they recognize Jesus as their Messiah, there will be a warlike gathering of nations against them. Zechariah shows that “then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:1-3) Through the Prophet Ezekiel, the Lord describes this intervention on behalf of regathered Israel, saying, “I will plead against him [Gog and his allied armies] with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself; … and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”—Ezek. 38:22,23

Zechariah 14:9 declares concerning the thousand-year reign of the Messiah that “the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one.” No longer will there be a multiplicity of gods and myriads of superstitious notions concerning deity, for then, as we have learned, Jehovah’s glory shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. Zechariah also writes:

“It shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.”—Zech. 14:16,17

This, of course, does not refer to a literal traveling to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. The thought is, rather, that all nations will be required to recognize the authority of the Lord as it will then be established in the earth. “The law shall go forth from Zion,” wrote the Prophet Micah, “and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Mic. 4:3) Over and over again, the Lord has promised that when his kingdom is established, all the families and nations of the earth will be blessed. But in order that any may receive these promised blessings of peace and health and life, it will be essential that they recognize the authority of the divine kingdom, and all who do, and continue to obey the laws of that kingdom, will live forever.


Insincere worship … The tithing system … Messenger of the covenant … The Sun of Righteousness … People blessed … Elijah first comes

Malachi is the last of the minor prophets, and his prophecy is the concluding book of the Old Testament. It was written shortly after the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity. Much of the book is utilized in reminding the people of their halfhearted, and often hypocritical, worship of God. Malachi explained to the people that because of their unfaithfulness, God was withholding his blessing from them. The climax of this scathing indictment is reached in Malachi 3:8-10, where the Lord, through the prophet, says:

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, … and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Bringing tithes into the Lord’s storehouse is a reference to the tithing system which the Lord instituted in Israel. It was an arrangement whereby the people contributed one-tenth of their income to support the religious services of the nation. None was expected to give more than this, and none could give less and be wholly pleasing to the Lord. Probably the Lord is here using the tithing arrangement to illustrate their allegiance to him in all ways.

In the text the Lord sets forth a principle which applies to his people at all times, which is that the blessings of peace and joy which they receive from the Lord are in direct proportion to their faithfulness to him in thought, word, and deed. The tithing system itself does not apply to the followers of Jesus during the present age. Christians consecrate their all to the Lord. All that we have and are belong to him. Any holding back of our full devotion to him would be a failure to bring all our tithes into the storehouse, and consequently a proportionate loss of the spiritual blessings which we might enjoy.

In addition to chiding Israel for her unfaithfulness in rendering full devotion to the Lord, Malachi, like all the other prophets, foretold developments in connection with the outworking of God’s great plan of redemption and restoration of the human race. Other prophets had foretold the coming of Jesus to be the world’s Savior, and Malachi prophesied concerning the coming of one who would prepare the way for Jesus and announce his presence among the people. The prophecy concerning this is in Malachi 3:1, and reads, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.” This was fulfilled, as the New Testament shows, in the person and ministry of John the Baptist.

In this first verse of the third chapter, another Messenger is referred to—the “Messenger of the covenant.” This is a prophecy concerning Christ. As we have learned, the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34) promised that the Lord would make a “New Covenant” with the “house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” We learn from Ezekiel, chapter sixteen, that this covenant will be extended to resurrected Gentile nations; and Malachi informs us that Christ will be the Messenger of that covenant, the one who will put its terms in operation and extend its blessings to both Jew and Gentile. Other texts of the Bible refer to him as the Mediator of that promised New Covenant.

Malachi foretold that Jesus would first come to his temple. This is a reference to his spiritual temple, made up of those who follow in his footsteps. Before this temple can become that glorious one foretold in Haggai’s prophecy (2:9), every member, or living stone, in it must be thoroughly prepared and purified. So, before Christ becomes the active Mediator of the New Covenant, he sits as a refiner of silver and gold; and he shall purify the sons of Levi.

In the Jewish dispensation, the tribe of Levi, after they left Egypt, was substituted for the firstborn of Israel, and served the nation in all religious matters. The church of Christ, antitypically, are now, therefore, the sons of Levi. Thus, during the present Gospel Age, Jesus has been working with his church, getting its members ready to be the glorious spiritual temple, the future meeting place between God and man.

The temple class is purified and made ready for the future position in the kingdom while surrounded on every hand by evil and evil influences. Malachi 3:15 reads: “Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” Immediately following this description of the present time when truth and righteousness are on the scaffold and when error and sin are on the throne, the prophet wrote: “Then [in this time of evil] they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.”—Mal. 3:16,17

Yes, during the present time of evil, superstition, and darkness, those who know the Lord delight in their association with one another. It is a source of strength to them as they continue to combat the evils which surround and attempt to crush them. One of the great sources of strength in their fellowship is the recalling of the promises of God concerning that time when, through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom, righteousness will triumph and evil will be destroyed, and when the light of truth is diffused throughout all the earth.

This glorious climax of the divine plan is forecast in the last chapter of Malachi’s prophecy. The first verse reads, “Behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven [against all sin and unrighteousness]; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” To the extent that this refers to individuals rather than to evil institutions, it must be remembered that no one will be everlastingly destroyed until he has been given a full opportunity to turn to the Lord and serve him.

And the world will then be enlightened so that none will have the excuse of not knowing the way of righteousness. Verse two reads: “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” This Sun of Righteousness is the Christ—our Lord Jesus and his glorified church. (See Matthew 13:43.) Here his coming and the work of his kingdom is likened to the rising of the sun. Just as the sun scatters the mists and darkness of the night, so the Christ will dispel the ignorance and superstition of a benighted world, and the warmth of this symbolic Sun will heal the diseases of the people and give life everlasting to all who will yield to the influence of its healing rays.

“And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 4:3) The pronoun ‘ye’, as here used, refers to the promised Seed—they that now fear the Lord and speak often one to another concerning him. In the Book of Genesis we read that this Seed was to bruise the serpent’s head. The serpent is a symbol of Satan, the great adversary of God and man. He is the chief of sinners. Christ, primarily, is the Seed of promise which will bruise Satan’s head, but associated with him in the putting down of evil in the earth will be his footstep followers. (See Romans 16:20.) This will be done during the millennium, when the Sun of Righteousness is scattering its blessings of light and healing to all those who learn to love righteousness.

The last two verses of Malachi, and of the Old Testament, prophesy the coming of “Elijah, the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Elijah was a reformer in Israel, and among his accomplishments was the destruction of Baal worship, and inducing the nation of Israel to return to the worship of Jehovah, the true God. See I Kings, chapter eighteen.

Because of this background of experience and service, the name Elijah is prophetically associated with the reform efforts of God’s people throughout the present age. Malachi’s prophecy describes this, saying, “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” (Mal. 4:6) Then the text adds, “Lest I [the Lord] come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Briefly stated, this prophecy is a forecast of the failure of the Gospel message of repentance to convert the world during the present age, and because of this failure has come the curse of the present “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) The nations are crumbling to their fall because of their failure to heed and obey the just and loving principles of Christianity. The accuracy with which the Bible foretold this is one of the sure evidences of its divine inspiration.


In this brief examination of the thirty-nine books which comprise the Old Testament part of the Christian Bible, we have not undertaken to call attention to all that is said concerning God’s great plan. We have tried, rather, to trace from book to book the golden threads of promise relating to the divine plan for the redemption and restoration of the sin-cursed and dying race, and to note the wonderful manner in which they unfold one after another of its details.

And in doing this we have merely scratched the surface, so to speak. The Bible is indeed a rich storehouse of precious truth. Or, as the poet wrote, “‘Tis a mine, aye deeper, too, than can mortal ever go. Search we may for many years, still some new rich gem appears.” While we have ascertained much concerning God’s loving plan of salvation through our review of the Old Testament books, and have found how accurately their prophecies outlined history in advance, and foretold the shape of things yet to come, we will find the truth along these lines revealed more fully in the New Testament.

Beginning with the Genesis account of creation, we have learned that God created the earth to be man’s everlasting home. We have found that the wages of sin is death, and that God provided redemption from death through his beloved Son, Christ Jesus. We have learned that it will be during the thousand years of Christ’s reign that mankind will be delivered from death. Through the prophecies we have identified our own day as being a period of preparation, leading into the kingdom age.

We will find all of these truths clearly set forth in the New Testament, and amplified to give us a firm foundation of faith in God, and a full assurance that he is abundantly able to accomplish all of his kind designs toward his human creation. Concerning his own Word, the Lord says, “It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11) Let us, then, continue our examination of God’s Word in order that we might become more and more fully acquainted with his great plan of the ages, which we know is his pleasure to accomplish!

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