Prophecy in Motion
by C. Elden McNabb
God's Church and Its Prophetic Role
The Church of God: God predestined it, and God defined it in the Holy Scriptures, wherein He typified it in various ways. He referred to His Church as a tabernacle, a temple, a priesthood, a man, a woman. and so forth.
When Moses was about to make the Tabernacle, God told him to “Make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount” (Heb. 8:5). And Jesus used that pattern when He laid the foundation of the Church, because it is the blueprint for the New Testament temple: “The Body of Christ.”
Paul wrote saying, “The whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16). The terms “pattern” and “fitly joined together” obviously cannot be applied to Christianity as a whole.
The early believers knew that God’s Church was a group set apart from the believers in general. This fact is mentioned in Acts 5:1-14. “Of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” After the death of Ananias and Sapphirah, many believed and accepted Jesus, but were afraid to join the Church that Peter built.
The Psalmist David mentioned this truth in Psa. 114:1-2. “When Israel went out of Egypt, Judah was His sanctuary and Israel His dominion.” Before Israel entered Caanan, God made choice among all the tribes of Israel that His temple would be built in Judah. This prophetic allegory tells us that from the very beginning of the “Kingdom of God,” it was predestined that in the New Testament era, one group was to be chosen for “the work of the Sanctuary:” the Church.
That group is variously referred to, in the New Testament, as “Jerusalem, Zion, and Judah,” and so forth. God has chosen one “city” out from among all of the cities: churches which make up the New Testament “Israel.” Therefore the angel said to John, “Come hither, I will show thee the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife. – And showed me that great city, the Holy Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:9).
The book of Hebrews also shows plainly that God’s Church is the New Testament Jerusalem (Heb. 11:8-10,39-40; Heb. 12:22-23). “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out, looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Abraham did not receive the promise, but the early Church did receive it. Wherefore, Paul said, “But ye are come to the mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Abraham searched for that city by faith, and “the children of the promise” found it by faith.
Paul named several prophets and patriarchs, giving honor to their faith. He concluded, saying, “These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Heb 11:39-40).
Hebrews 11 is about the faith of the prophets and patriarchs being fulfilled by the faith and works of God’s Church, through the working of the testimony of Jesus, which is “the Spirit of Prophecy” (Rev. 1:2; 19:10).
There are a few special tools which God has given us to expedite this work. Jesus mentioned one of them at dinner in a Pharisee’s home, saying, “Woe unto you, lawyers! – For ye have taken away “the Key of Knowledge;” ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered (Luke 11:46-52). That Key of Knowledge is under attack unto this day in our Christian Churches.
Unlike those “lawyers,” the Apostle Paul prayed earnestly for the Holy-Spirit-filled Saints at Ephesus, that God would also give them “the Spirit of Wisdom and of Revelation in the Knowledge of Him.” When that spirit is operating, together with the Spirit of the Lord, and with the Spirit of Prophecy, God’s people can begin to “come in the unity of the faith and of [the unity of] the knowledge of The Son of God, unto a perfect man.”
The Source of God’s Wisdom
Paul told us that from the beginning of the world, the fellowship of the mystery had been hid in God, and that His intention was “that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places (The Apostles and The Prophets) might be known by The Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:1-10).
In verse five, Paul explained that those “principalities and powers” are God’s holy Apostles and Prophets. Apostles and Prophets are to the New Testament Church what the two divisions of the Sons of Aaron were to the Old Testament Sanctuary. They offer the spiritual incense and light the spiritual lamps in God’s spiritual Temple (Acts 6:2-4; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:5; Rev. 4:5).
The Apostles and Prophets are the foundation of the Church. Only by them can we know “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Matt. 16:13-18). As the psalmist David said, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the people do” (Psalm 11:3)?
John wrote, in Revelation 21:9-14, that the Bride would have twelve gates of pearl: the twelve tribes (Rev. 7:1-10), and 12 Angels: 12 Apostles making up the Jewish Church. He then showed that the Bride would also have a wall: the Gentile Church, with twelve foundations: stones: Gentile Apostles (Isaiah 60:10; Rev. 14:1-4). In the first century A.D., the Jewish Church reached its glory, and in this last century A.D., the Gentile Church shall arise, and “The glory of this later house shall be greater than of the former” (Hab. 2:6-9).
The use of the allegories of pearls and stones was for the specific purpose of emphasizing to us that the Jewish Church was “created” in the fifth millennium day, and that the Gentile church would be “created” in the sixth millennium (Gen. 1:20-23; Gen. 24-31; Jeremiah 16:16-19).
The salvation part of God’s word is very easy to understand. He told, us in Isa. 35:8, that the Way of Holiness is so easily understood that even “the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” But, “The work of God from the beginning to the end is not so easily understood. In fact, it is written in such a way as to confuse those to whom He does not wish to reveal it (Isa. 28:9-13), but also in such a way that He can reveal it to whomsoever He will.
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”
From this we can see why Paul said that men with the gift of Apostle were set in The Church first in importance, with Prophets secondary to them; after that Teachers, and so forth (1 Cor. 12:28). We have a charge from the Lord, and we must have the ministry of these gifts, together with “the Key of Knowledge,” if the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife is to make herself ready for the marriage, (Luke 11:52; Rev. 19:7).
Boldly Fulfilling Prophecy
The ministers we read about in the Church of God of the New Testament had an attitude toward prophecy which we need to consider and emulate. They viewed the Old Testament in the same way which Jesus did. It was a book of instructions to them. When the time came to fulfill some prophecy in particular, they fulfilled it as they were “commanded” (Acts 13:47).
Paul is very bold in the first chapter of his epistle to the saints at Colosse. He said, “The dispensation of God is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God.” Any minister who would be so bold today would immediately become an outcast. And no wonder: that is what they did to Jesus the moment He claimed to be fulfilling prophecy (Luke 4:15-29). Until then, He had been respected and esteemed in the synagogue.
In Acts 13:47, Paul proclaimed that the prophecy in Isaiah 49:6 was a specific command to him and Barnabas, saying, ‘I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth’.” He was declaring his intentions to fulfill that prophecy.
This concept was certainly not unique to the Apostle Paul. Jesus showed us in Matthew 11:10-13 that it was John the Baptist who began the New Testament fulfillment of the prophecies in the Old Testament. He declared that John the Baptist was “more than a prophet, for this is he, of whom it is written.” John himself boldly declared, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’ as said the prophet Esaias” (John 1:23). He was fulfilling those prophecies, and he knew it.
In Acts 1:15-22, Peter asserted that he and the other apostles were obligated to fulfill prophecy by ordaining Matthias to replace Judas. He said, “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas.” Then he quoted Psalm 69:25, and one line of Psalm 109:8. He acted on the premise that those prophecies were their instructions to ordain a replacement into the office of The Twelve which Judas had vacated. He said, “It is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.’” Wherefore of these men must one be ordained to be a witness with us.”
Peter was not merely “doing something.” Jesus had made a special appearance to Peter, and later, in the presence of The Twelve, gave him the oversight of the Church (John 21:15-17; Matt. 24:45-47). Furthermore, the prophecies about the twelve apostles show that Paul could never be one of The Twelve. The Twelve were the New Testament “altar,” and could not be made up of men with “a higher education” such as the training which Paul received at the feet of Gamaliel (Deut. 27:5-6; 1 Kings 18:31-32; Heb. 13:10).