Understanding Prophetic Scripture

James Stewart Russell (M.A., D.Div., 1816-1895) was a pastor and author of The Parousia. The book was originally published in 1878 with the title, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming. A second edition followed in 1887. A reprint of this edition by Baker Books is available today by the same title.

While reading Mr. Russell’s comments on Matthew 24:4-14, I realized the tremendous limitations on his view of prophetic Scripture. I am also aware of these same limitations upon many Christians today. Thus, this short message was born.

Matthew 24:4-14 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

The first paragraph in Mr. Russell’s commentary is very revealing: “It is impossible to read this section and fail to perceive its distinct reference to the period between our Lord’s crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem. Every word is spoken to the disciples, and to them alone. To imagine that “ye” and “you” in this address apply, not to the disciples to whom Christ was speaking, but to some unknown and yet non-existent persons in a far distant age, is so preposterous a supposition is not to deserve serious notice.”

This passage of prophetic Scripture does relate to the period between the Lord’s crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But to say that this prophecy is exhausted by this one event is also incorrect. Paul, in II Timothy 3:16, said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration.” The Greek word translated “inspiration” here is Theopneustos, which means “God-breathed.” The Scriptures are the Word of God; they come forth out of Him. The Word of God has the same characteristics of God Himself. He is eternal and His Word is eternal. God is omnipresent and so is His Word.

One event in history does not exhaust the prophetic Word of Scripture. The prophetic Scripture of Matthew 24:4-14 was realized in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. However, it is the Living Word of God and it still lives; it has been and will continue to be realized in many ways, historically and mystically. Peter tells us “that judgment must begin at the house of God” (Peter 4:17). The house of God has known and will know the judgments of God. The prophecy of Matthew 24:4-14 was realized in the destruction of the Jewish religion and it will be realized in the religion of Christianity, for much of it has gone astray just as Judaism did.

Every Christian who hungers and thirsts after righteousness (Matthew 5:6) will also realize this prophetic Scripture taking place in him, at least to some degree. The nature of man is a fallen nature and is still very much alive in many Christians. Everything in us that is ungodly must come under the judgments of God. You will ultimately know what Jesus meant when He said kingdom shall rise up against kingdom when His Kingdom begins to come forth within you and comes against every aspect of your fallen nature that has ruled and reigned within you. You will experience famines when He cuts off all supply to your life that is opposed to His Lordship. When God starts ruling and reigning in your life, your earthen nature will experience earthquakes. Can you say, “Lord, bring it on! I want you to rule and reign in my life”?

Copyright © 2007 by Henry DuBose