MESSIANIC TIMESAccording to Isaiah 61
[Isa 61:1] The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening [of the prison] to them that are bound;
[Isa 61:2] to proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
[Isa 61:3] to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified.
From the expulsion of Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden when God gave promise of a coming redeemer, man began to look forward to a king of righteousness who would reign over the earth (Gen. 3:15). An echo of this pledge is discovered in the utterance of Eve at the birth of Cain (Gen. 4:1)a misinterpretation of the Lord's prediction. References to this primitive evangel are to be found throughout the Old Testament. For instance, in Genesis 49:10 appears the definite prediction of King Messiah and His reign over all the nations. Once more we see a clear indication of this matchless, righteous King and His reign in II Samuel 7 and parallel passages, where we have an account of the covenant into which God entered with David. Practically all the prophets spoke in the most glowing terms of this future King of kings and Lord of lords.
Very frequently, however, they spoke of only one of the comingsas if there were but one. On other occasions, they described His second advent, when He shall appear in glory and power. And on still other occasions, they blended descriptions of the two advents, which fact makes such passages appear as though there were but one coming. When, however, this third Kind of prediction is studied in the light of a fourth type of prophecy, which speaks of the two comings of the one Messiah separated by an interval during which He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, one can clearly distinguish between the elements which refer to the first coming and those which relate to the second appearance. Thus when one has a clear grip upon the fourth type of prediction, which shows the entire redemptive career of King Messiah, one can see exactly where the other prophecies fit into the general scheme of things. A failure to understand Messiah's redemptive career as set forth in Old Testament prophecy has led to endless confusion.
WHAT is meant by Messianic Times? Obviously, the days of King Messiah. In various portions of the Old Testament, that period is called, "the latter days." The first occurrence of this unique expression, which by all scholars is recognized as messianic, is found in Genesis 49:1.
[Gen 49:1] And Jacob called unto his sons, and said: gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the latter days.
When anyone recognizes this fact and when he studies carefully Genesis 49:10 and understands that Jacob in vision saw the clear outline of the first coming of the Messiah in humiliation and blended that with a description of His reappearance in glory and power to reign over all the earth when all nations shall render filial obedience to Him, he will have an outline of Messiah's redemptive career into which he can fit all the prophecies relating to Messianic Times. He never has to force an unnatural or strained meaning upon any passage but can allow the language to deliver its message and can instantly see the place where it fits into this redemptive work of Messiah. I might illustrate this fact by a Jigsaw puzzle. Every piece has its place into which it fits. To use force in making it fit into the wrong place is to violate the rules of the game.
IN ISAIAH 61, we have an excellent outline of Messianic Times. In the first three verses, the prophet impersonated King Messiah. The reason for my saying this is that he used the personal pronouns "I" and "me" and at the same time spoke of doing things that no human being could possibly accomplish. When these things are viewed in the light of other predictions, we know that Messiah is the one who will perform these very acts which the prophet spoke of himself as accomplishing. We know therefore that he was impersonating King Messiah.
Very frequently the prophets impersonated either God the Father or Messiah the Son. The facts of each context must determine which one is meant.
THE spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Isa-61:1). According to this prediction, Messiah is anointed with the Holy Spirit to perform three definite things: first, to proclaim the glad tidings to the meek; second, to bind up the broken-hearted; and third, to proclaim liberty to the captives. God never did force himself upon anyone. He does not do that today. He respects man's personality and appeals to his conscience and heart, allowing him to exercise the freedom of choice with which He is endowed. Messiah, according to this prediction, does not consume His time with people who do not want the truth but gives himself to preaching the gospel to the meek.
Having given the truth to this type of people, who accept the message, He "binds up the broken-hearted." In this language the prophet was speaking of the New Testament doctrine of regeneration in terms of the process of restoring broken pottery. In the third place, He proclaims liberty to those who are in prison. Was Isaiah speaking of people who are literally incarcerated, or are we to understand this language in a spiritual sense? Since, however, he was speaking about the labors of our Lord during His personal ministry who regenerates those accepting Him as personal Saviour and gives them liberty which they have never experienced, it is evident that the prophet was speaking of the liberty which believers have in Christ. Thus in verse 1 we see that he was speaking of the personal labors of the Lord Jesus when He makes His appearance upon earth among the Chosen People. His ministry, as indicated by the accompanying chart, continued for three and a half years, beginning with His baptism by John and ending with His execution. The crucifixion was in A.D. 30 according to the generally accepted chronology.
MESSIAH is anointed not only to preach the gospel, to regenerate people, and to give them spiritual liberty, but He but he is also commissioned "to proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor." Proclaim means "to announce before hand." Of course, it does not always have this signification, but etymologically it does. The translators have chosen the correct word to express the idea conveyed by the original Hebrew expression.
Messiah will, therefore, in addition to His spiritual ministry, make an announcement ahead of time concerning what he calls "the year of Jehovah's favor." Are we to understand the word "year" literally or does it have a figurative meaning? In order to determine this question, one may look at the next expression which is "the day of vengeance of our God." Is there to be a literal day of twenty-four hours during which God will take vengeance against all the sinners of the world? All who are acquainted with the prophetic word will immediately answer in the negative. Moreover they will call attention to the fact that there is a period called "the day of Jehovah" which is described vividly by many of the prophets. This is a period of time during which God pours out His wrath upon the world in order to purge it of its sins. The length of this time is seven years, as we learn from Daniel 9 and related passages. Since, therefore, this day of vengeance is to he interpreted figuratively, the word "year" obviously is likewise to be understood in a metaphorical sense. Since "the day of vengeance" is a period of seven years, "the year of Jehovah's favor" naturally represents another period of time which bears an approximate ratio to this day of vengeance as that which exists between a year and a day. Inasmuch as the prophet placed "the year of Jehovah's favor" between the personal ministry of the Lord and "the day of vengeance of our God," and inasmuch as it is a long period of time, as just suggested, we cannot avoid the conclusion that "the year of Jehovah's favor" is the entire Christian Dispensation, which begins at the cross and which will end at the rapture of the church. Counting from the year of the crucifixion, A.D. 30, to the present time and accepting our usual system of A.D. datings, I would say that the Christian Dispensation has been running for 1912 years (written 1942); but, since we do not know how long it will be until the rapture, it is wise to say that this era will be 1912-plus years in duration.
If one will study Luke 4:16-30, he will see that Jesus read Isaiah 61:1 and the first phrase of verse 2, stopping with the expression, "the year of Jehovah's favor." When He finished this phrase, He closed the book, gave it to the attendant, and sat down. When the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened upon Him, He declared, "To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears." What did He mean by this? The answer is plain; namely, that Isaiah was speaking of Christ and His personal ministry, who would preach the gospel to the meek, regenerate those who accept Him, and give them liberty such as they had never experiencedspiritual freedom. He would also announce ahead of time the Christian Dispensation, during which God extends His mercy to man as He never did before this era, nor will do after it closes. The one characteristic of the present Age is that God is extending mercy in an unstinted manner to all. He has a definite object in view in offering such untold blessings. Throughout all eternity He will call attention to us who accept Him as evidence of what His grace can do.
If one will study the four records of the gospel, one will see that Jesus actually preached the gospel and saved people. Furthermore, He explained the Christian Dispensation. This is clearly seen in the parables found in Matthew 13 and parallel passages. To all conservative, premillennial expositors, these parables of the kingdom are a pictorial representation of the course which Christianity has taken during the present era. Thus, Jesus during His lifetime clearly outlined the Christian Dispensation.
At the same time, He said little about the Tribulation. It is true that He referred to it, but His mention of it was only incidental in comparison with the emphasis which He laid upon the proclamation of the gospel during the present era.
It was left to the apostles, as Paul informs us in Ephesians 3, to reveal fully the nature of the body of Christ, which is the church of the First-born. The early Hebraic church did not understand the full nature of the body of Christ as is seen by an examination of Acts 15. Certain believers felt that the door of entrance into the church of Jesus Christ was through circumcision and keeping the law of Moses. In other words, according to them, the formula for Christianity was Judaism plus belief in Christ. Finally, God gave the written and permanent revelation through Paul that He is now welding into one body all Jewish and Gentile believersapart from Judaism.
When we take all these facts into consideration, we come to the conclusion that the Christian Era was foretold by the prophets, but the precise nature that affairs would take in the organization of the church of Jesus Christ was withheld from the Old Testament saints. Finally, God chose Paul as the spokesman, who explained elaborately this mystery which is Christ in us "the hope of glory."
WHEN the body of Christ has been made complete, the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. The dead in Christonly the saved during this Dispensationwill be raised to meet the Lord in the air together with the saints living at that time, who will be translated. That the rapture of the church occurs before the Tribulation is plain from many passages. God has appointed the believers, not unto wrath but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. An examination of I Thessalonians 5 shows that that the Apostle was talking about our deliverance out of this world before the wrath of the day of the Lord.
AS STATED above, the Tribulation is, according to Daniel 9:27, a period of seven years during which God pours out His judgments upon the world in order to purge it of all sin. It is brought to a close by the personal appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. A wonderful description of that marvelous event is contained in Habakkuk 3 and Revelation 19.
AT THE conclusion of the great Tribulation, after Israel shall have accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour, and called upon Him to return, He will answer her cry and hasten to her release and deliverance. He will give to them that mourn in Zion a garland for ashes. At that time He will repair the wreckage done during the Tribulation, will lift the curse from the earth, will mount the throne of David, and reign over Israel. Having accepted Him, she will go forth into all the world and will bring all nations to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. These nations will apply to Him to become their king and ruler. Thus of the increase of His government there shall be no end upon the throne of David (Isa. 9:6). Our Lord shall reign for a thousand years upon the earth as set forth in Revelation 20.
Thus, in Isaiah 61:1-3, we see the unfolding of Messianic Times, beginning with the first coming of Christ and including the Christian Dispensation, the Tribulation period, and the great Kingdom Era when the glory of God shall encircle the earth as the waters cover the sea.