Prophecy Article

Expanded Internet Edition - April 1, 2009 

When Prophecies 'Fail'

By Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1979
Transcribed and edited by David Sielaff, April 2009

Read the accompanying Newsletter for April 2009

 

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Introduction – by David Sielaff

It is important for all of us to realize that not one of God’s prophecies has failed or ever will “fail” in the sense that they do not come to pass. That being said, God always has the right (and the free will) to decide to delay or even eliminate a prophecy. 1 That does not mean that the prophecy “fails”:

“At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation [any nation, not just Israel or Judah], and concerning a kingdom [any kingdom], to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”

A changed prophecy is not a failed prophecy, except in the minds of those who think to restrict or limit God so He will not seem to be sovereign. God may change His mind on how a prophecy can come to pass, but each and every prophecy in the Bible shall come to pass, unless God says otherwise in Scripture.

Our understanding of the prophecies is what fails. The first reason why our understanding fails is because our information is incomplete. This could be due to our insufficient study of the available information or because the information is not available to us at the time, or perhaps it is not available to us yet. Even today we have incomplete information about much of prophecy because the prophetic events are still too far from our time for us to correctly identify and understand the prophetic sequence of events.

“When Prophecy ‘Fails’” – by Dr. Ernest L. Martin

I want to go into an overall theme of time prophecies and the interpretation of them. In fact, one of the main reasons the Book of Haggai was placed in the Bible was to comment on prophecies that God gave to Jeremiah and Isaiah, how they were to be fulfilled, and in some cases how they were not fulfilled as people thought they would be. The book of Haggai is put in there to give us some excellent principles on the interpretation of time prophecies. 2

How many of us have looked upon the prophecies of the Old and New Testament with such esteem (following the beliefs of what men said about them) that we were willing to sell our properties to go to a particular place on earth to be saved? How many of us have done that? Some have done so in their minds. 3

I do not denigrate time prophecies by any means because I know that the Lord Jesus Christ will come back to earth right on time. He shall appear in the clouds of heaven over Jerusalem. He will collect the saints around this world, and they shall come back to rule on the earth. There is also a celestial existence later.

What are the time periods when these things will occur? God the Father knows. I am almost certain that Christ Jesus knows at the present time. When we go into these time prophecies it is important that we look at how some were fulfilled, or not fulfilled, as some thought in the past. This is where the Book of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Daniel come into the picture. Just before Christ went back to heaven, the last thing the apostles asked him was when the Kingdom of Israel would be restored (Acts 1:6).

“He said unto them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own power.’”

He was talking to his own apostles, whom He had been with for 2½ years, instructing them precisely and specifically on many points. They wanted to know about the Kingdom of Israel, about when the prophecies of the Old Testament would be fulfilled and when the Messiah would come on the earth in glory. He tells them clearly, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which [God] the Father has put in his own power.”

He said also back in Matthew 24:36 that “No, not the angels in heaven” knew when the second coming of our Lord would occur. The angels had been around a long time. They were here when the foundations of the earth were laid (Job 38:4–7). They were here when Adam and Eve were on earth. They surely are able to date accurately the number of years that have taken place since those events of the past, yet our Lord said that not even the angels of heaven know.

Many Jews after the Babylonian captivity expected a number of things to occur from the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah that did not happen the way that they thought. Indeed, what did happen disturbed them very much. Many Jews after the Babylonian captivity, began to look around Judea, Jerusalem, and the surrounding region and noted that very specific prophecies of the Old Testament (as they interpreted them) were not occurring. Just the opposite seemed to be taking place.

The Path to Israel’s Glory

The prophet Isaiah (some 750 years before the birth of Christ) gave some prophecies concerning what would happen to the Jews and Israelites. The disobedient Jews were to be taken captive to Babylon. Later they were to be released. The prophecies said they would return to Jerusalem. Once they returned they would gather in scattered Israel from all the nations. Israel then, Judah, would become great. The capital of the world would become Jerusalem and their righteousness would branch out to the entire earth. They would be in glory and ride on the high places of the earth. The Books of Haggai along with Zechariah, and somewhat the Book of Malachi, were written to show how God uses time prophecies, which things are in the providence of God, and which things are not under our control.

Before those blessings in Isaiah could take place, the Israelites and Jews would be taken into captivity. Once in captivity, they would learn they were in disobedience to God. They would be able to come back and the glories of all the Isaiah prophecies would be given to the Jews and the Israelites. The only problem was, when would this glory take place? 4

We know the northern Israelites were taken captive by the Assyrians in a series of about four captivities in the late 8th and early 7th centuries BC. About 130 years later the Jews were taken in a series of three captivities from Jerusalem and Judea to the area of Babylon. While the Israelites were taken north of Babylon, the Jews were taken to Babylon itself. They were in juxtaposition with one another, and they knew each other. There is no doubt that both groups spoke Hebrew while the Babylonian captivity was taking place. 5 Isaiah said that some time in the future after this captivity, the Israelites and those from Judah could go back to Jerusalem and it would be built up. Though Isaiah did not make time prophecies, we know that Jeremiah did get into time prophecies.

The people who lived when Haggai prophesied (after the return from Babylon) wondered whether the time prophecies of Jeremiah were really in effect or not. Look at Jeremiah 29:10. It is a prophecy given when the Babylonian captivity had begun. The Jews were taken out of Judea to Babylon in stages. Jeremiah gives a time prophecy about how long it would be before they could go back to Jerusalem.

“For thus says YHWH, After seventy [70] years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good work towards you in causing you to return to this place.”

Jeremiah gave this prophecy at Jerusalem to the Jewish elders while the captivity was beginning, about 11 years before the Temple would be destroyed, but the captivity was already taking place at that time. The Jews were very disturbed about it. He says they would be in Babylon for 70 years,

“I [God] will visit you and perform my good work towards you in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says YHWH, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected [a good] end. Then shall you call upon me [after 70 years]…”

In this period of peace when no evil will be around, Israel will get what they expect, the good things of life.

“Then you shall call upon me and you shall go and pray unto me that I will hearken unto you and you shall seek me and find me. When you shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, says YHWH. I will turn away your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places I have driven you, says YHWH. I will bring you again into the place whence [from where] I caused you to be carried away captive.”

After the 70 year period is over, peace will emerge on the scene, not evil. All Israelites will return from the nations where they were scattered, released from captivity, and they will be in joy and happiness, with all their prayers answered.

If you had been given a promise of that nature you would have said, it will not happen in 68 years, it will not happen in 69, but it will happen in 70 years.

Very near the end of this 70 year period, a king came on the throne named Cyrus, king of the Persian empire. There was a prophecy in Isaiah that a Cyrus, would release the Jews from captivity. They would go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. The 70 year period would be over and all the blessings stated by Jeremiah (and other prophecies) would have fulfillment:

“Then says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying [1] to Jerusalem, you shall be built, and [2] to the Temple, your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah chapter 45 also refers to Cyrus. Some people feel there may be a typical indication of the Messiah to come in the future. That is possible. But Isaiah is specifically talking about King Cyrus who would allow the Jews to rebuild the Temple, and rebuild the city of Jerusalem. That is what it says in Isaiah 44:28. Speaking of this annointed Cyrus:

“Thus says YHWH to his annointed whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; I will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two leaved gates [at Babylon], and the gate shall not be shut.”

All of these prisoners in the Babylonian captivity will have a release when the brass gates of Babylon are opened. King Cyrus, according to prophecy, will open them. This clearly took place some 70 years after Jeremiah made his prophecy. Isaiah (writing as much as 100 years before Jeremiah) goes on:

“I will go before you [Cyrus] and make the crooked places straight. I will break in pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron [those keeping the prisoners inside]. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places that you may know that I YHWH have called you by your name. I am the God of Israel.

For Jacob my servant’s sake and Israel’s mine elect, I have even called you by your name [I have surnamed you], though you have not known me. I am YHWH, and there is none else, there is no god beside me. I girded you [Cyrus] though you knew not me, that they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west that there is none beside me. I am YHWH and there is none else. ...

Drop down you heavens from above. Let the skies pour down righteousness. Let the earth open. Let them bring forth salvation and let righteousness spring up together. I YHWH have created it.”

The righteousness and peace and goodness would come to the earth with the emergence of this Cyrus at the end of a 70 year period. The history of the world points out that this actually happened. A Cyrus did come on the scene. He allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. They began to build the city of Jerusalem and the waste places up again. The 70 years ended.

The problem is, when you read the later prophecies by Jeremiah carefully, it seems that universal righteousness would come in, just as Isaiah says here: salvation, goodness, blessing, everything would come to the earth, the expected end that the Jews wanted. Historically here is the sequence: Cyrus came, the gates of brass were opened up, the people went back to Jerusalem (not all went). But when they got back to Jerusalem did they receive their expected end after the 70 years came to a conclusion? No, they did not.

The book of Haggai explains from God’s point of view what did happen and how we can best interpret time prophecies.

First, it is crucial to understand that although God may give a time prophecy, it is His prerogative to interpret that prophecy as He pleases, not the way we please.

Second, God is very open to explain His prophecies, even those that seem not to occur on time. In fact, one of the reasons Haggai was written, along with Zechariah and somewhat the Book of Malachi, was to show why the prophecies did not occur as the Jews expected at the end of the 70 years, although Jeremiah seemed to have said it would. Why?

If you see the plainness of God in these matters, He is being open and clear. It might help all of us to understand time prophecies because the providence of God will not be overthrown. He will bring about His prophecies in the time period that He wants, even though He has given time prophecies that you feel must happen tomorrow (or yesterday, or next year). He has given enough examples in Scripture to demonstrate the statement that Christ made in Acts: It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own power (Acts 1:7).

Third, I want to point out that although it may seem on the surface that this or that prophecy has failed, when Jesus Christ comes back to this earth, when God the Father is here, when all His prophecies are clearly understood the way He intended, the prophecies will not have failed at all. The problem is our failure to comprehend exactly what God sometimes means. [Again, see footnote 2 above].

The Coming of the Messiah

The Jews also made a great mistake when they saw Christ Jesus on earth. They saw Him born of Mary, saw Him grow up, saw Him preach for 2½ years and they said, who are you, are you the prophet? Are you the Christ? Are you Elijah, or who? Jesus was indeed the Christ (John 1:21, 25, 6:14).

Do you know what Jesus did? He did something totally unexpected. He died on a tree of crucifixion. He did not get on His white steed and conquer the Romans. He did not do it when they thought He should. He did not do it at the apparent time of Daniel’s 9th chapter where Daniel writes about a 490 year period from the time of Cyrus giving a command to “restore and build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25). The Messiah came all right, but they expected Him to take over the entire world at the time. When I read the Old Testament prophecies I would have believed the same thing too.

What did our Lord consistently tell His apostles, even when time prophecies appeared to come into effect? He said, “It is not for you to know the times or the season ....” It appears again and again that some of these time prophecies of the Old and even of the New Testament have failed, but they have not. They are all within the providence of God. He postponed things dealing with the 1st Advent and His 2nd Advent. Christ Jesus said the Father takes care of the time periods. They are “… placed in His own power” (Acts 1:7).

When a person looks at the prophecies in the period just after the period of the Babylonian captivity, they are typical of what will occur at the end of the age just prior to the Messianic overture here on this earth. The Jews expected at the end of the 70 year period of captivity a complete overthrow of the Gentile world, the setting up of Messiah, the Temple being built and Jerusalem becoming the capital of the world. The Jews suffered all types of things they felt they should not have gone through because they thought only glory and blessings should come upon them.

Duality of Witnesses

The book of Zechariah says virtually the same thing as Haggai. In the book of Revelation, we find two witnesses coming on the scene at the end of the age. They are called the “olive trees” (Zechariah 4:3, 11; and Revelation 11:4) or the “sons of oil” (Zechariah 4:14, Hebrew). The two witnesses associated with Christ’s 2nd coming are typical of Joshua the High Priest, and Zerubbabel, governor of the land at the time mentioned in the Book of Haggai. The two witnesses are also very closely identified — in type — with Moses and Elijah. When God deals with end-time affairs, prophecies, and miracles there are usually dualities involved. Here are examples of some of them:

All these are instances of duality.

We have duality at the end of the period when the Jews expected the Messianic age to come. From the prophecies of Daniel and the 70 weeks prophecy, you go some 490 years from the going forth of the command to rebuild Jerusalem. Everyone expected at that time that the Messiah, the Christ, would emerge. He did emerge then, but they expected He would come on His white horse, rout the Romans, the Parthians and the whole world out of the Holy Land and establish universal salvation by fulfilling the messianic prophecies. At that time He did not do so, not the way people expected. Almost every one of the prophecies, whether the 70 years or the 70 weeks of years equalling 490 years, in every instance they mixed it up. Who acknowledged the mix ups? The prophets of God — clearly and openly in the Bible.

Many of us have felt that the prophets would never admit these things were not taking place the way people thought they should. We would think that if God says a 70 year period will occur, then exactly at the end of that 70 year period we can demand that God do exactly what we think He should do. Or, when the end of a 490 year period occurs, we believe we could demand that God do exactly what we think He should do. But God takes demands from no one.

How in the world can we resolve the 70 years, the 490 years, and some of the other time prophecies that seem not to have occurred? God is the one who controls time. 6 He is the one who deals with chronology. He knows exactly what He is doing.

The last thing our Lord said — and I keep emphasizing this — was that the times and seasons are in the Father’s control and not in your control no matter how good events appear to be on the surface. When we examine the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets themselves admitted that things were put off, because the Jews needed to “consider” their ways” (Hag. 1:5, 7, 2:15, 18). God knew what He was doing.

When Christ Jesus came as a babe in the manger and finally to die on the tree at His crucifixion, He did not do what many thought He should do. Still, everything fits into the Father’s plan precisely, all these things are under His control.

Haggai and Zechariah

Some may ask, how will He work all these things out? God will work them out just exactly as He wants at His time. Zechariah said the same thing. Look at the dual prophecy of Zechariah. We will not go through it entirely like we did for the Book of Haggai previously [see footnote 2 above], but they were contemporary prophets on the scene at the same time. They dealt with the same problems, doubts, and difficulties. The people were complaining because some of the prophecies were not happening as they expected them to be fulfilled. So God sent both prophets, Zechariah and Haggai together, like two witnesses, to show the reasons evil things were happening to them. These two prophets are typical of the two witnesses at the end of the age, as were Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest.

Take these prophecies of Haggai about the 9th month and the 24th day of the month, “from this day will I bless you” (Haggai 2:19), and put them into a proper chronological scheme that God can show us at the end of the age, all of these things will fit precisely, along with this prophecy of the 490 years or the 70 weeks.

Zechariah himself comes on the scene:

“In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of YHWH to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying …”

The 8th month, 2nd year. The first prophecy of Haggai was given in the 6th month, 2nd year of Darius (Haggai 1:1). This Zechariah prophecy was given two months later, but before the foundation of the Temple was laid.

“Then the angel of YHWH answered and said, ‘O Lord of Hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against whom you have had indignation these three score and ten [70] years?”

Here again is a reference back to the 70 year period of Jeremiah. Jeremiah said clearly that at the end of 70 years Jerusalem would have mercy given to it and that the blessings of God would come. The nations would come with their accolades to Jerusalem. The messianic age would emerge on the earth. At least, so it seemed from Jeremiah’s prophecy. What does this angel coming to Zechariah the prophet say? It says, “How long?” Notice the words, How long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem ...?”

That was what the Jews were saying in Haggai. We have been back in the land for 18 years. We have drought. We have mildew. We have plague. Our cattle are not producing. Even the men are not producing children. We have difficulties all around, and you want us to build the Lord’s House? They were saying it is not time to build the Lord’s House. Haggai said now is the time to build the Lord’s House. “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7). But they were plagued and they felt they should not be so plagued.

All this is in Scripture. God is not hiding it. Some would say, well, if a prophecy is not being “fulfilled,” the best thing to do is to hide it. Zechariah and Haggai are not hiding anything under any rugs. The angel puts in the mouth of Zechariah, “How long?” That is a good question. What all of us, right now, including me, are saying to this very day, “How long?” The apostles said just before Jesus went back to heaven, “Will You at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). What they meant was, “How long?” We have all said the same thing at one time or another.

You would think if you knew exactly about the 70 years, the 490 years, and everything perfectly, you would not have to ask “How long?” You would know. But the angel (not a man) 7 here is saying:

“Then the angel of YHWH answered and said, O YHWH of Hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah against which you have had indignation these threescore and ten years?”

God never did show the mercy to Jerusalem that He said He would give through the words of Jeremiah in all the ages from that time to the present. That is a fact. Jeremiah said that Jerusalem would be on top of the world, when you read all the prophecies. The Messiah would arrive, everything would be prosperous, and the Temple would be built. Zechariah goes on and asks, “How long?”

“And YHWH answered the angel that talked with me, with good words and comfortable words, so the angel that communed with me said unto me, ‘Why are you saying, Thus says YHWH of Hosts, I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.’”

No doubt the Jews could have said, well, it does not look like He is very jealous with us now. But YHWH says I am jealouswith a great jealousy.”

“I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease, for I was but a little displeased and they helped forward the affliction [these evil nations around]. Therefore, thus says YHWH, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies. My house shall be built in it, says YHWH of Hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.”

That “line” means a building line, a measuring line, a plumbline for the building up of the houses of Jerusalem to make it the top capital world. Yes, that time is coming. It is still future to us today.

“Cry you yet saying, ‘thus says YHWH of Hosts, My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad and YHWH shall comfort Zion and shall yet choose Jerusalem.’”

Notice the wording here. He did not say He has chosen Jerusalem, or that He is bringing prosperity. He says He will do it at some time in the future. Even the angel said “How long?,” and certainly Zechariah was saying, “How long?,” and the children of Judah were saying “How long?” No answer was given as to “How long?” was, but it will come.

Zechariah then goes into several prophecies about the condition of the nations, and how they are at peace, and he shows the condition of Jerusalem. God Himself admits that their present condition was not as they expected from Jeremiah’s prophecies about the end of the 70 years. In fact, what about Joshua the High Priest, the top man in religious government, who supervised the rebuilding of the Temple, who was able to go into the Holiest of Holies on the Day of Atonement? Look at this vision beginning in Zechariah 3:1:

“He showed me Joshua the High Priest 8 standing before the angel of YHWH and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. YHWH said unto Satan, ‘YHWH rebuke you, O Satan, even YHWH that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you. Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?’”

Look at the condition of Joshua who represented the whole nation of Israel, of Judah, and the Temple: “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and stood before the angel” (Zechariah 3:3). A priest should not be in filthy garments, but this condition shows the situation after the 70 years, during this 18 year period (in fact the entire period when Zechariah was prophesying). Here was Joshua typically, the High Priest, in filthy garments. Of course he was in clean garments when he went into the Temple, but in symbol, in this vision he was in filthy garments.

“And he answered and spoke unto him who stood afar off saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’ And unto him [Joshua] he said, ‘Behold I have caused my iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with a change of garment.’”

He will put “a fair mitre on his head and give him clean garments. … And the angel of YHWH stood by …” as a witness of all this in verse 5. But go down further. Zechariah speaks about the “branch,” distinct from Joshua the High Priest who will come when this will occur.

“Hear now, O Joshua the High Priest, you and your fellows [fellow priests] that sit before you, for they are men wondered at [as signs at the time]. Behold, I will bring forth my servant, the Branch. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua [which is the building stone of the Temple] upon one stone shall be seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave the engraving thereof, says YHWH of Hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”

Who will bring the iniquity to the end? It says in verse 8, “I will bring forth my servant, the Branch.” Someone will come who is known as “the Branch,” tsemech in Hebrew, the Son of God. He does not say it right here, but a branch must come first before Israel, can have the iniquity taken off, and the filthy garments taken away. Some day that will come. Zechariah chapter 3 deals with Joshua.

What about Zerubbabel who represented the Davidic Kingdom? Recall that after the Babylonian captivity no Davidic Kingdom remained. It ended when the last Judean king was taken captive and killed by King Nebuchednezzar around 587 BC. Several prophecies say there will come a future king or a future kingdom and a king shall come out of David who will rule the world. He is called in Isaiah “the Branch” (Isaiah 4:2 and 60:1: Hebrew, tsemech; Isaiah 11:1: Hebrew, nezter).

In this Joshua section of Zechariah chapter 3 the filthy garments will be taken away when God brings “forth my servant, the Branch.” Then the Temple will be built up and all the glories of God will come that have been prophesied. But the branch must come first.

Zechariah Chapter 4

Chapter 4 is about a man named Zerubbabel, a descendant of the ancient Judean Kings, a scion of David. Since he lived in this time period when the Persians controlled the government he was not looked on as a king but rather, as it says in Haggai, as a governor. Zerubbabel had Davidic blood in him. If a kingdom would have been available Zerubbabel would have been king over all the land, with Joshua the High Priest as his associate. These two individuals in Zechariah 4:14 are called, the “sons of oil” that will be like the two witnesses that will come prior to the 2nd coming of Christ. They are typical of those two witnesses. Some time in the future a Branch has to come, but what about this Zerubbabel here in Zechariah chapter 4?

“And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of sleep, And said unto me, ‘What see you?’ And I said, ‘I have looked, and behold a candlestick [a lampstand] all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof. And two olive trees by it, one on upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.”

These two olive trees represent Zerubbabel and Joshua.

“Then he answered and spake unto me saying, ‘This is the word of YHWH unto Zerubbabel saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says YHWH of Hosts. Who are you, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? You shall become a plain.’”

A mountain is a great obstacle. It is difficult to cross a mountain chain. Here we find the question made in verse 7, “Who are you, O great mountain …?” You are like a great obstacle “before Zerubbabel.” You shall become a plain. This mountain, this great obstacle will be wiped out. You will exist as a level plain with no barrier before Zerubbabel. This means that this prophesied Zerubbabel will be powerful and great. It will not be by the might of Zerubbabel, it will be by the might and power of “my spirit, says YHWH of Hosts.”

“Who are you, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? You shall become a plain. And he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shouting [the headstone of the Temple, the cornerstone and the headstone at the same time] crying, ‘Grace, Grace unto it.’

Moreover, the word of YHWH came unto me saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house [talked of by Haggai and Zechariah, the Lord’s House]. Yes, he has laid the foundation of this House. His hands shall also finish it [putting the headstone on top].”

In the time of Christ some 400 years after this prophecy our Lord said that the headstone had been rejected by the Jews and still had not been put on the top of the Temple even in His day. But it will be placed there in the future. And you know who will place it, according to this prophecy? It will be Zerubbabel who is a Son of David himself.

You know what happened to Zerubbabel along with Joshua? True, they laid the foundation of the Temple at the exact time God said, they built the walls to it, and they put in the furniture. They had this small insignificant Temple in operation back in their time; they finally got it going. However, the headstone of the Temple was never put in place.

We find a prophecy in the Psalms about that (Psalm 118:22), and Christ Jesus referred to it. Zerubbabel not only was to lay the foundation of that Temple, he was to place the headstone of the Temple in existence when Jeremiah’s prophecies about glory and goodness and the messianic age come on the scene. That clearly means that Zerubbabel died without having placed the headstone.

As you read these prophecies, you would think they took place in the days of Zerubbabel, but they did not take place. Our Lord Himself said in his day, “The stone of the corner” has still not been placed. 9 It will come in the future. It will come when a servant comes forth called “my servant, the Branch” (Zechariah 3:8) of the tribe of David, who will do all of these things dealing with the Temple at the end of the age.

Everyone may have thought this small insignificant Temple was being talked of here, but when you put all the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah together, along with Malachi 4:5–6 (which says an Elijah must come first to prepare the way for this Branch to come), two witnesses are coming who are very similar to Zerubbabel and Joshua. They will come at the end of the age. These are the “sons of oil,” still future, “When my servant the Branch will come” (Zechariah 3:8). I do not know how all this will be done, but it says:

“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and you shall know that YHWH of hosts has sent me unto you. For who has despised the day of small things [the making of the small and insignificant Temple]? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven [the seven spirits of God]; they are the eyes of YHWH, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

Then answered I, and said unto him, ‘What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?’ And I answered again, and said unto him, ‘What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?’ And he answered me and said, ‘Know you not what these be?’ And I [Zechariah] said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then said he, ‘These are the two anointed ones [“sons of oil,” Hebrew], that stand by YHWH of the whole earth.’”

In the book of Revelation these two men in Zechariah are identified with the two witnesses at the end of the age (Revelation 1:1–14). Clearly the chronology looks to be disturbed. Let us not pay attention to the chronology here. That is what Christ is trying to show, and what the apostles were trying to show. That is why Christ said to the apostles, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons” (Acts 1:7), even when you think you know the times and seasons.

We find the closing chapters of Zechariah 12, 13 and 14 describe events at the end of the age, 10 events that connect with this benchmark period after the 70 years captivity. This is the benchmark, but the fulfillment of most of these things will be — according to the New Testament — at the end of the age.

In Zechariah chapter 12 the true restoration of Judah and Jerusalem is brought to bear. We will find all sorts of things happening at the end of the age. Jerusalem will become “a burdensome stone for all people” (verse 3). All people of the earth shall be gathered together against it. However, there will be a House of David in existence at the end of the age (verse 7). It says that this House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (verse 10) “will mourn for him whom they have pierced.” We all know who that person was that was pierced. 11

“In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, ...

And the land shall mourn, every family apart. …

All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain open unto the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”

This is the time when Joshua will have his filthy garments taken away. There shall be clean linen given to him and to others. The wounds of Israel will be healed as you go on through chapter 13. Then chapter 14:

“Behold the day of YHWH comes and your spoils shall be divided in the midst of you. And I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle. And the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravaged, half the city shall go forth into captivity and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall YHWH go forth and fight against those nations as when He fought in the day of battle.”

The reference to the “day of battle” is recorded in 1 Samuel chapter 13:22 when Israel first united under King Saul. There will come another period at the end of the age when Israel will become the top nation on earth under Messiah. Someone will come to fight against the nations as He fought in the day of battle, when the tribes of Israel became a nation of the ancient times. So too they will become a powerful nation at the end of the age in this day of battle. Who would lead this battle?

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west. There shall be a very great valley and half the mountain shall remove toward the north and half of it toward the South.”

This has not happened yet, but it will occur at the second coming of our Lord. Who is being talked of here? It is “My servant, the Branch” (Zechariah 3:8), the one who will cause Zerubabbel to come along who is of the House of David, to put the final touches onto the Holy Temple that will exist at the end of the age. Mountains will flee from each other, the valleys will also become level with the mountains and all of that:

“It shall come to pass in that day that the light shall be clear nor dark [generally light all the time]. It shall be as one day which will be known of YHWH, not day or night, but it shall come to pass that at eventime it shall be light. It shall be in that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem.”

Our Lord referred to this future event in the Gospel of John (specifically John 4:10, 14, 7:38).

“They shall go out from Jerusalem, half of them toward the former sea, half of them toward the hinder sea [the Mediterranean]. In summer and in winter shall it be. And YHWH shall be King over all the earth in that day. And in that day shall there be one YHWH and His name One.

All the land shall be turned as a plain [without mountains] from Gibah [7 miles north of Jerusalem] to Rimmon [south about 40 miles], and it [Jerusalem] shall be lifted up to be like on a new mountain [a new Mount Zion] and inhabited in her place [in her usual place] from Benjamin’s Gate unto the place of the first gate, under the Corner Gate and from the Tower of Hananeel under the King’s winepress.”

In other words a new and changed Jerusalem will come on the scene. The whole area around Jerusalem will become a level plain, but within that plain a new mountain will appear. On this new Mt. Zion will be Jerusalem and within it will be the Branch who will reign there, the Messiah, the Son of David.

These verses speak of the time that were originally expected to occur at the end of the 70 years of Jeremiah. But Haggai and Zechariah show that it is much farther in the future. Our Lord said even the angels do not know the time in Matthew 24:36. And the angel said in Zechariah 1:12, “How long?” Zechariah answered that question.

The apostles were asking? “How long.” Are you are saying? “How long?” We are all wondering, “How long?” Even when we have time prophecies that seem so specific, so precise, we still have our Lord saying you do not “know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power.”

At some time in the future, however, “my servant” as Zechariah said, called “the Branch,” will come (Zechariah 3:8). The last stone will be put upon the Holy Temple. Jerusalem will be the top nation of the world in that day. The final fulfillment of the 70 years of the prophecy of Jeremiah, those of Haggai, Zechariah, and Isaiah — all will take place exactly as God said. In His providence and in His understanding He will prove to us what He meant by those time prophecies back there.

What all of this in the Bible shows is that you must be very careful with dates. I know we are getting close to the end, very close in many ways of looking at it. But everyone should be careful setting any types of dates whatever, 12 because if Zechariah and Haggai ask “How long?,” and the angel of the Lord asks “How long?,” and our Lord said the angels do not know how long, perish the thought for me to say that I know. That is what the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah are all about. I would say what Haggai said to the Jews back when they felt events were not happening, why should we build a Temple when things are not occurring as we think they should. God through Haggai said to them, “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7). 13

Summation

It is important to mention one major factor of prophetic interpretation in determining time prophecies of the Bible. The 70 years prophecy given in Jeremiah 29:10 and other verses did not come to pass as the Jews expected. That is clear. But God is not trying to cover things up. The Jews thought certain things should and would occur. However, God actually gave them information prior to the Jews going back to Jerusalem and Judea that events would not occur as they expected.

Even Daniel, who lived during the Babylonian captivity, understood some of these points. Near the end of the 70 years captivity Daniel himself recalled the prophecy given by Jeremiah years before:

“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”

This is a clear reference by Daniel to the prophecy given by Jeremiah concerning the 70 years. 14

“And I set my face unto YHWH God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto YHWH my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments.”

Daniel carries on saying that he knows this period is about to end. Help clean us up Lord, Daniel was saying, to prepare us for the end of the 70 years so we can go back to Jerusalem, build it up again and the whole cities of Judah shall once again flourish as your prophet Jeremiah said would occur. Read the entire 9th chapter of Daniel to see this. When Daniel’s prayer referred to that 70 years and said the time was getting close to when it would end, suddenly the angel Gabriel was sent to Daniel:

“Yea, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation [about 3 p.m. in the afternoon]. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you skill and understanding.’”

What Daniel needed, we need today. Gabriel was listening to Daniel refer to the 70 years prophecy that was about to end, and Daniel was preparing the people for it and the glories to come afterward. Gabriel then says, Daniel, I will tell you something you probably did not know before.

“I am now come forth to give you skill and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth [says Gabriel], and I am come to show you; for you are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.”

From Daniel 9:24 to verse 27, Gabriel does not give Daniel the prophecy of the 70 years that God gave to Jeremiah, but Gabriel tells Daniel about 70 weeks of years, or a 490 year period that would take the place of the 70 years. This 490 year period was to elapse:

The angel Gabriel tells Daniel that, though God said 70 years, God changed the prophecy of Jeremiah into 70 weeks of years, which is 490 years. Daniel in turn gave this prophecy to the Jews before they went back to Jerusalem, so the Jews knew that a longer period of time was to occur:

“Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy [the Holy of Holies]. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince [or the anointed one] shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.”

He goes on with one more week which he divides in half, 3½ years on one side, 3½ years on the other. At the end of that whole 70 weeks period of 490 years would come the universal period of righteousness, Jerusalem’s exaltation and Israel’s riding on the high places of the earth — all would occur.

There was one problem. Though it says, “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” 490 years would transpire, the angel did not tell Daniel which command to rebuild the city controlled the prophecy. The Jews made many mistakes on that point. God’s prophecies have not failed. God has not told us which command. He just says, a command to rebuild Jerusalem. That is all it says.

God showed through Gabriel that the 70 years of Jeremiah were to be replaced by the 70 weeks of 490 years in Daniel. God has completely and thoroughly covered Himself in all of these matters.

The Jews Knew Daniel’s Prophecy

The Jews in the time of Zerubabbel, Joshua, and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, knew this prophecy of Daniel, given some 20 to 22 years before, which told them not to pay much attention to the time periods. They knew the Jeremiah prophecy had been altered.

There will come a time in the future when all of these things will take place. God’s prophecies will be fulfilled exactly as He wants. The trouble is that we ourselves, and sometimes even angels, do not understand the truth. When you find time prophecies being brought up by individuals today or in the future, have fun with the information, but be careful with it because even the angels are saying, “How long?” If they do not know, I find it surprising that some of us think that we do know or even can know.

Ernest L. Martin, 1979
Edited by David Sielaff, April 2009


1 See Dr. Martin’s article “The Repentance of God in the Bible” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d950801.htm. Only God the Father has free will. Christ has free will as He does the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39–44; Mark 14:36; Luke 11:2, 22:42; John 5:19, 8:28, 32–33, 36, 42, 14:10). John 5:30: “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me.” We are only free in Christ, John 8:34–36:

“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abides not in the house for ever [aion, for the age]: but the Son abides ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” DWS

2 Most of this article comes from Dr. Martin’s 1979 tape “The Time Prophecies of Haggai” (no longer available). Details about the Book of Haggai were considered in a separate article (also compiled from tapes by Dr. Ernest L. Martin), “The Rebuilding of the Temple” (http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p090301.htm).  DWS

3 If we look in the history of the world we find that people have often got the white robes on, got up on the side of a mountain and expected the end to come. See Leon Festinger, Henry Reicken, and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails: A social and psychological study of a modern group that predicted the destruction of the world (London: Pinter & Martin, 2008 [1956]), pp. 3–34.  DWS

4 Consider the following rough timeline:

Event

Time Period

Result

Isaiah’s prophecies

Late 700s to early 600s BC

Some prophecies were future to Isaiah’s time (and future to Jeremiah, Zechariah, and others), Christ’s time, and some are future to us today.

Exile of the northern kingdom of Israel

Late 700s BC

Assyria takes Israel captive to territory north of Babylon

Jeremiah’s prophecies and Zechariah chapters 9–14 (written by Jeremiah)

Early 500s BC

Judah’s punishment and captivity predicted, fulfillment imminent.

                       

Exile of kingdom of Judah

Early 500s BC

Nebuchadnezzar takes Judah captive to Babylon. Babylonian captivity of 70 years.

Some Isaiah prophecies fulfilled

Late 500s BC

Partial fulfillment of Cyrus prophecies, Israel/Judah returns from exile.

Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi

Late 500s BC

Post-captivity events and supposed prophetic failure

Time of Christ

30–95 AD

More prophecies fulfilled in 1st Advent. Kingdom of God not established in 70 AD. Israel/Judah dispersed around the world again.

Present day

Early 2000s AD

Israel/Judah return to Judea. Buildup and fulfillment of many prophecies to be fulfilled in the near future to us today.

Millennium

???

Other prophecies not fulfilled before Christ’s Second Advent take place during 1,000 year Kingdom of God, Christ’s reign

 

DWS

5 See Dr. Martin’s has two articles that deal with this subject: “Who are the Ten Northern Tribes Today?”, originally written in 1990, at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p900703.htm, and “Just Who is an Israelite Today?” originally written in 1995 at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p041001.htm. Each article complements the other to answer the questions.  DWS

6 God created the ages, the eons through His Son (Hebrews 1:2, “worlds” = eons in Greek). Note the Concordant Version translation of Hebrews 11:3:

   “By faith we are apprehending the eons to adjust to a declaration of God, so that what is being observed has not come out of what is appearing.”

   Compare this to the King James rendering. God controls all factors of time and events, and when those events happen.  DWS

7 Understand that this was not just an ordinary angel, it was “the angel of YHWH,” God the Father’s personal messenger. For details about this unique angel, see Professor J.M. Wilson’s scriptural analysis quoted in chapter 2, “The Law Was Given by Angels” (at http://askelm.com/essentials/ess003a.htm) from Dr. Martin’s Essentials of New Testament Doctrine.  DWS

8 This is the same Joshua the High Priest mentioned in the Book of Haggai.  DWS

9 Read and compare all the Old and New Testament passages regarding that stone: Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Jeremiah 51:26; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; and 1 Peter 2:1–11.  DWS

10 As Dr. Martin has pointed out elsewhere, Zechariah chapters 9–14 were likely written by the prophet Jeremiah.  DWS

11 See my article “The House of David” at www.askelm.com/temple/t040801.htm for a different understanding.  DWS

12 I do not think we have long to go, I do not know when it will be, that is why I am not setting any dates.  ELM  NOTE: Did Dr. Martin look at various numbers and times in several articles? Yes, he did. Did he look at various scenarios with regard to possibilities? Yes. He even mentioned dates. I mention dates and times also. But neither Dr. Martin nor I ever intended to “set” a date by which, if the event did not occur, it disproved something about God, His Word, or His truth.  DWS

13 This is similar to the answer God gave to Job in his troubles. God said in Job chapters 38–41 in effect, I am God, you are my creation, and I shall do as I will in your life and in my creation. He did not answer Job’s question of why such great evil had come upon him, although God obviously allowed Job later to see the events that took place in heaven in Job chapters 1 and 2.  DWS

14 This was before the command to return to Jerusalem was given by Cyrus.  ELM  Understand that Darius  “the son of Ahasuerus, … of the Medes” of Daniel 9:1 was different than “Darius the king” of Haggai and Zechariah. King Cyrus of Persia ruled between the two kings called Darius. Both Daniel and Haggai were concerned with Jeremiah’s 70 years prophecy.  DWS

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