Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Guest Post: Great Among the Gentiles

For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen [nations], saith the Lord of hosts.


We have often pointed out in these pages that prophecy comprises nearly one-third of the Bible. Though so neglected by most of the church, prophecy is, in fact, the cornerstone of Scripture. In Isaiah:42:8-9, 46:9-10, 48:5 and many other places God declares that He will prove His existence and vindicate His Word by telling, through His prophets, what will happen in the future and watching over history to make certain that it does.

To most Christians, prophecy involves "last days" events. Yet most biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled. These are world-shaking and history-making events foretold centuries and even thousands of years in advance—and their fulfillment has been witnessed by the entire world.

No one can honestly be an atheist or agnostic in view of the evidence Scripture provides. Prophecy fulfilled provides absolute proof that the Bible is God's Word, that the Jews are His chosen people and the land of Israel belongs to them, and that Jesus Christ is Israel's Messiah and the true and only Savior of sinners (Jew or Gentile).

There are simple and often overlooked prophecies such as the declaration 3,500 years ago that the Jews would keep the Passover forever (Ex 12:14). The prophets of the goddess Vesta in Rome also swore that the sacred fires tended by the Vestal Virgins would burn forever; and the Zoroastrian prophets declared that the sacred fires in Persia would never go out. Neither remain, but the Passover is still observed, even by millions of Jews who do not believe in God or the Bible.

Then there are such well-known prophecies as Daniel:9:24-25, which foretold that "the coming of Messiah" would occur 69 weeks of years (483) after the command to rebuild Jerusalem. That command was given 100 years later to Nehemiah (Neh:2:1) by Artaxerxes Longimanus on Nisan 1, 445 B.C. And 483 years later, to the very day (by the Jewish and Babylonian calendars of 360 days), Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey and was hailed by multitudes as the Messiah (exactly as foretold in Zechariah:9:9) and then "cut off" as Daniel:9:26 and Isaiah 53 had foretold. He was crucified, as David prophesied (Ps:22:14-18) long before crucifixion was even known. His rejection by Israel was followed by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as both Daniel (9:26) and Jesus (Mat:24:2) prophesied.

Jews who are still hoping for their Messiah to come to Jerusalem must face the fact that we have passed the prophesied time of His coming by nearly 2,000 years. The undeniable historical fact is that these events have already taken place, exactly as prophesied.

Malachi:1:11, quoted above, is another powerful prophecy the fulfillment of which is one of the most amazing and inspiring and undeniable in the entire Bible. Indeed, this newsletter itself and the fact that you are reading it is part of the fulfillment of this astounding prophecy.

Malachi was the last prophet to speak exclusively to Israel. Even 1 Maccabees:9:27 and 14:41 confirm that "prophets [had] ceased to appear among the people." Therefore 1 and 2 Maccabees could not have been inspired by God and consequently were not part of Scripture. Thus, Roman Catholicism, which attempts to justify purgatory and prayers for the dead from 2 Maccabees:12:45, is in grave error.

After Malachi, the next prophets of God to arise would speak both to Jews and Gentiles. The latter would hear and heed God's voice, while the Jews would continue to disobey and to pervert the Word of God. So said Israel's prophets.

About 500 years of silence followed Malachi before God sent another prophet, John the Baptist, to introduce the Messiah to His people and to the world, as Isaiah had foretold (Isa:40:3). As Malachi declared (Mal:4:5) and as the New Testament confirmed, John came in the "spirit and power of Elijah" (Mat:11:14; 17:11-12; Mk 9:12-13; Lk 1:17), not as his reincarnation, as New Agers claim. Elijah, having been taken bodily alive into heaven (2 Kgs 2:11) and appearing bodily with Moses to speak with Jesus as witnessed by three disciples (Mat:17:3), could hardly have been reincarnated into another body as John the Baptist.

Notice the setting for this verse in Malachi: Israel has sunk so deeply into apostasy that God says, "I have no pleasure in you...neither will I accept an offering at your hand" (1:10). They have "polluted" the Temple worship (1:12); they have disobeyed His commands repeatedly, even from the very beginning (3:7); they offer unacceptable sacrifices (1:14); and the priests won't even shut a door without a fee (1:10). Worst of all, God indicts Israel with despising His Holy name (1:6, 2:2).

In this context God says, "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles..." (Mal:1:11). What a shock that statement must have been to the Jews! This contradicted everything they believed! They were a chosen people who worshiped the true God, whereas the nations around them all worshiped false gods:

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and...I will take you to me for a people, and...ye shall know that I am the LORD your God....(Ex 6:6-7)

The LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deut 7:6)

For all the gods of the nations are idols...(Ps:96:5)

How, then, could God's name become great among the Gentiles? That prophecy must have stunned the rabbis. Even the disciples couldn't believe that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles. God had to speak to Peter in a vision and take him into a Gentile house (Acts 10), where He had prepared hearts to receive the gospel of Christ, in order for Peter to see that the Gentiles as well as Jews were to be in the church. Even then, the other church leaders at that time criticized Peter for having anything to do with Gentiles (Acts11:1-3).

Let's recap the situation in Malachi's day to see how remarkable this prophecy was. Israel, God's chosen people, was indicted with being unfaithful to Him, the only true God, and with having repeatedly rebelled against Him and His laws. He had sent His prophets, "rising up early and sending them, saying [to Israel]...amend your doings, and go not after other gods," but Israel continued in disobedience (Jer:35:15, etc.). And now, Malachi was the last prophet, and his message was shocking: the God of Israel, to whom they had been so unfaithful, would be known among the Gentile nations from one end of the world to the other—and not through them!

The language is clear and powerful. There would not be a small enclave among the Gentiles who would know Jehovah, a few converts of Israeli evangelists, but many millions from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same! That astonishing prophecy, so unbelievable to the Jews, has come to pass. There is no explaining away the fact that approximately 1.8 billion Gentiles in every part of this earth now claim to believe in the "God of Abraham...Isaac and... Jacob" (Ex 3:6; Mat:22:32, etc.).

Even before Malachi made it so clear, other Israeli prophets had already declared that this would happen. Referring to the God of IsraelPsalm:22:27 declares that "all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." Jewish apologists who do not want to admit that the God of Israel whom they have dishonored is truly known by millions of Gentiles try to explain away this and the many other similar prophecies by arguing that they refer to the millennial reign of the Messiah. It is true that during the Millennium "every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem [at Armageddon] shall even go up from year to year [to Jerusalem] to worship the King, the Lord of hosts..." (Zech:14:16). Yet the Scriptures make it clear that long before this time millions of Gentiles will truly know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Even more disconcerting to the Jews was the way this would come about—through Gentiles believing in the Messiah! The prophets repeatedly declared that it would be through the Messiah that the Gentiles would come to know God. That truth was already innate in God's amazing promise to Abraham when He called him from Ur of the Chaldees: "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen:12:3). That promise could only be fulfilled through the Messiah's descent from Abraham and Gentiles believing in Him.

Of all the prophets, Isaiah makes most clear the connection between the Messiah, Jehovah's "servant," and God's name becoming great among the Gentiles. Interestingly, the book of Isaiah, recovered with the Dead Sea scrolls, is among the most ancient Old Testament manuscripts we have. Contrary to expectation, that manuscript turned out to be the same text that was already in our Bible. Housed in its own special museum in Jerusalem, the Isaiah scroll is proof that we have the exact words that God inspired Isaiah to write.

In Isaiah:49:6 we see that Jehovah's servant (undoubtedly the Messiah) who is called "to raise up the tribes of Jacob" will also be "a light to the Gentiles... [and] salvation unto the end of the earth." Remarkable! God's light comes to the Gentiles as salvation—obviously through the Savior, whom Jehovah himself claims to be: "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour" (Isa:43:11; 45:15; 49:26; 60:16; Hos:13:4, etc.). Isaiah explains it further:

Behold, my servant...in whom my soul delighteth...he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles...and the isles [see Gen:10:5, "the isles of the Gentiles"] shall wait for his law.... I the LORD...[will] give thee ...for a light of the Gentiles...." (Isa:42:1,4,6)

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isa:7:14)

Immanuel means "God with us." The Messiah is God himself and thus bears God's name. Isaiah makes it even more clear that the Messiah is God coming into the world as a man, which can only be through a virgin birth: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David..." (9:6); i.e., this can only be the Messiah who will rule Israel.

Isaiah thus declares that the Messiah, Jehovah's "servant," will be "The mighty God, The everlasting Father" born into this world and that God's name will become great among the Gentiles as they believe that He is the Savior of the world. Even more astonishing, the Messiah becomes the Savior of mankind and brings that salvation to the Gentiles by virtue of His own people rejecting Him. As a result of that rejection, He dies for the sins of the whole world:

...all the ends of the earth [i.e., Gentiles] shall see the salvation of our God....Behold, my servant...his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men [i.e., from his suffering for our salvation]....So shall he sprinkle many nations....(Isa:52:10, 13-15)

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows...we [Israel] hid...our faces from him;....But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:...and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all...mak[ing] his soul an offering for sin....(Isa:53:3-6, 2, 10)

The means by which the Gentiles will know and honor the name of Jehovah/Jahweh through the Messiah is clearly through the salvation the Messiah brings. After describing the Crucifixion, David declares, "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD" (Ps:22:27). So it would be through the Crucifixion that multitudes all over the world would "turn unto the Lord" and God's name would be great among the Gentiles.

The very name of Jesus means "Jehovah saves." At His birth, the angel said, "Thou shalt call His name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins" (Mat:1:21). What language is this! Call Him "Jehovah saves," for He shall save His people from their sins." He can only be Jehovah!

Jesus the Messiah, who said, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father...I and my Father are one" (Jn:10:30; 14:9), was in perfect harmony with the Old Testament Hebrew prophets when He told His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15). It is through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church which He established that God's name has become "great among the Gentiles"!

And it is through pointing to the prophecies and their undeniable fulfillment in Jesus Christ that we are to preach the gospel of God's grace and thereby bring salvation to the ends of the earth. Prophecies such as this should so fill our hearts with wonder, joy and confidence that the good news of the gospel literally overflows from us to those we meet! May it be so. TBC

By Dave Hunt