June 18, 2022 - Latter-day Prophecy in the Minor Prophets

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Today we’re going to take a look at Latter-day prophecy we find in the Minor Prophets. The “Minor Prophets” are what we call the last 12 books of the OT. We call them “minor” not because they’re not important but because they are short. The Jews packaged all 12 Minor Prophets together on one scroll and treated them as one book.


Possibly the earliest Minor Prophet is Hosea, to whom the word of God comes beginning around 750 BC and continuing until the time of Hezekiah in the late 700’s. Hosea is famous because of God’s command to Hosea to marry an active harlot, which becomes a living example of God’s love for unfaithful Israel. The Northern Kingdom is shot through with Baal worship, which was full of sacred prostitution. Throughout Hosea, God proclaims judgment on Ephraim because of their sin (which comes true when Assyria takes them into exile). God says they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,” and to the hills, “Fall on us!”


But then in Hosea’s final chapter, God declares that he will bless Ephraim again. God says in Hosea 14, “I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely, for my anger is turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel.” Has this happened yet? Or is this a vision of the latter days? Hosea is not the only prophet who predicts that God will restore the northern kingdom. When Isaiah predicts in Isaiah 9 that the people of Zebulun and Naphtali and Galilee shall see a great light, Isaiah is pointing to the birth of the Prince of Peace, a prophecy that has been fulfilled in Christ. (“To us a child is born; to us a son is given.”)


Another prophecy that speaks of Judah and the North being reunited is in Ezekiel 37, where the sticks of Joseph and Judah stand for the 2 kingdoms that God will join together again to be one stick in God’s hand. We can also fast forward to Revelation, where God seals 144,000 servants from all the northern tribes except Dan.


We may ask: where is this restored kingdom? Where are those 10 lost tribes? Quite a few Israelites from the North appear to have fled to Judah after they were conquered by Assyria. Hundreds of years after Israel divided, we still find Anna the prophetess being identified as from the tribe of Asher. It looks like the bulk of the northern tribes melted into the people of central Asia. God knows who they are and where they are. The short answer to “where is this restored kingdom?” is that they are 1 nation, containing people from all 12 tribes.


We're not sure exactly when the book of Joel was written; dates have been suggested anywhere from the 700’s to the 300’s. A lot hangs on what exactly is the first event described by Joel as the “day of the Lord.” If it was a horror movie, we might call it “The Locust That Ate Jerusalem.” Joel describes a devastating locust plague, although it’s hard to tell if the invasion is by literal locusts or by an enemy army, and we have no idea when this was. Joel 1:15 says “The day of the Lord is at hand, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes,” although there are no particular sins named here. Joel cries, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion! …For the day of the Lord cometh, it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” But then God says, “Turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and rend your heart and not your garments.” Then God says he will restore what the locust has eaten.


Joel is best known for his prophecy that was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, where God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions, and even upon male and female slaves in those days I will pour out my Spirit,” a landmark prophecy that came true.


But this prediction of the day of Pentecost is followed by another Day of the Lord. In the very next verse, God says, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” The darkened sun and blood moon may be connected to the cross, 50 days before Pentecost, but when do the fire and blood and pillar of smoke happen? I think at this point God is fast-forwarding to the final Day of the Lord.


In Joel 3, God goes on and declares that “I will gather all nations and bring them down into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there.” Where is the Valley of Jehoshaphat? We are not sure; it’s never mentioned anywhere else in the Bible by that name. One wild guess is that it’s the Kidron Valley that separates Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives on the east. However, there’s not much space to gather all nations there. It may be named after King Jehoshaphat, but that does not tell us where to look for it. The name simply means “God judges.” Could this be the same valley that Joel also calls the “Valley of Decision” in this same chapter? If so, I suggest that the best candidate for this valley is the wide Jezreel Valley stretching from Haifa to the Jordan, which Revelation refers to as Armageddon.


“Multitudes, multitudes in the Valley of Decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the Valley of Decision! The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. And the Lord shall roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shall shake.” Here we have words of future prophecy from the prophet Joel!


Amos preaches around the same time as Hosea. We are told that Amos gets his visions “2 years before the earthquake,” or around 762 BC. When Amos speaks of the “day of the Lord,” Amos is virtually always speaking of a day of judgment on the Northern Kingdom, that day 40 years in the future when Assyria takes them away into exile. Amos cries, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord!” You don’t know what you’re asking for! “The day of the Lord is darkness and not light, as if a man fled from a lion and a bear met him!” God warns that he will “smite the winter house with the summer house, and the houses of ivory shall perish.” God says he tried famine and drought and pestilence and even deaths by the sword on Israel, “yet you did not return to me. Therefore… prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”


Amos’s listeners can’t claim that they had no warning. That’s why Amos says (3:7), “Surely the Lord God will do nothing unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets.” This passage is not proof that today’s churches must be led by a living prophet. It does definitely apply to Amos’s day: God did not exile the entire nation of Israel without first giving them loud, clear, and timely warnings. But God does not appear to have sent warnings of Covid-19, or 9/11, or of our major world wars. Even claimed prophecies about the American Civil War can be questioned as to whether they are genuine, or whether they were specific enough to warn God’s people in a timely manner. And when major deceivers try to deceive God’s church, does God always give us warnings or intelligence that we can take action on?


Amos’s prophecies of what God would do to the Northern Kingdom proved true: Israel was taken into exile in 722 BC. But there is one verse in Amos 9:15 that has not yet come true: a promise from God that Israel will “never again be plucked up out of their land which I have given them.” Has this prophecy been fulfilled? Not yet. That’s why I take this to be the one piece of future prophecy in Amos, a word that (unless it is conditional rather than a guaranteed promise) might only come true at the end of time.


We find no prophecies of the distant future in Obadiah, Jonah, or Habakkuk. Jonah makes one prediction (“Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown”), a conditional promise that God cancels in mercy when Nineveh repents. Obadiah preaches judgment on Edom, which comes true. Habakkuk predicts that God will use Babylon to punish Judah for its sin, and then Babylon itself will be judged, all of which comes true.


In the late 700’s, Micah makes predictions far beyond his own lifetime. Micah dares to predict that “Zion shall be plowed like a field” and the Temple Mount shall become a wooded height, a prediction made 140 years before it happens. Micah also predicts that Bethlehem will be the birthplace of the One who is to be ruler in Israel, “whose origins are from of old, from everlasting,” a prediction that comes true 700 years after it was given. But Micah’s one example of a latter-day prophecy is a passage (4:1-3) that it shares word for word with Isaiah 2, where the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and all peoples shall stream to it, and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” We cannot be sure whether these words were first composed by Isaiah or Micah, or by whom. Here is Micah’s one prediction that is so far in advance that it has yet to be fulfilled.


Zephaniah prophesies between 640 and 622 BC, at a time when Judah is still deeply ensnared in the brazen idolatry practiced by their former king, Manasseh. God begins Zephaniah with these words: “I will utterly consume (or sweep away) everything from the face of the earth (or land), says the Lord.” Because the same word can mean either “earth” or “land,” it is hard to be sure whether God speaks through Zephaniah of a localized or worldwide disaster. Either way, God says he will consume or sweep away both human and animal life: “I will cut off humanity from the face of the earth.” God specifically targets the worshippers of Baal, and “those who worship the host of heaven on the rooftops, those who worship and swear by the Lord, and yet swear by Milcom,” plus the cynics who say, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.”


Zephaniah proclaims that “The great day of the Lord is near!” He says it is “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of ruin and devastation.” He declares that the mighty man shall cry bitterly. “They shall walk like blind men… Their blood shall be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to save them in the day of the Lord’s wrath, but the whole earth (or land) shall be consumed in the fire of God’s passion, for God will make a speedy riddance of all who dwell in the land.” While Zephaniah’s warnings are directed to the Judah of his day, nothing quite this disastrous happened to them, possibly because the nation repents for a short time under King Josiah, but the day of the Lord that Zephaniah describes seems to be the final day of the Lord that is still future for us.


Haggai is the first prophet to write after Judah returns from Babylon. Haggai gives us 3 specific dates that he received the word of the Lord, all in 520 BC. Twice God says through Haggai that he is about to shake the heavens and the earth and overthrow all nations. In the last verse of this book, God says to Zerubabbel the governor of Judah that on that day, “I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you.” God’s going to make Zerubbabel the seal of his authority. It sounds like Zerubbabel is going to get promoted to Messiah (he is a descendant from the royal line of David).


But when does this happen? We find no record of this in Biblical records. Neither do we find the shaking of heaven and earth and all nations – yet. If people thought this would happen in their own lifetimes, it was a mistaken hope. The very fact that Haggai’s prediction was preserved for us in God’s word is evidence that those who kept it for us believed this to be a prophecy that would come true in the latter days, beyond our day, when the true Messiah comes.


Zechariah is another prophet who writes after Judah returns from exile. One of Zechariah’s most important prophecies is in chapter 9 (the Palm Sunday prophecy), where we read, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King cometh unto thee. Triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.”


The cool fact about this Palm Sunday prophecy is that it was never seen as Messianic until Matthew and John came along. This king is righteous, which few kings have come close to resembling. He is “humble,” a meek and lowly Messiah rather than a mighty hero; he rides a royal donkey rather than a war horse. Zechariah goes on and says that this king gets rid of all weapons (like the “swords into plowshares” prophecy). He ends up ruling all the way to the ends of the earth. We think immediately of Jesus, but that’s because we know Jesus has taken charge in heaven. No one else sees Jesus on the throne yet. That’s why this part of the prophecy is still future.


Zechariah 12 predicts that one day, the people of Jerusalem “shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child.” Zechariah is quoting “me” (meaning God) as the One they have pierced. We read this as a prophecy of Jesus (God in the flesh). We also see Jesus in Zechariah 13:1, where a fountain is opened for the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity. But the grieving described here for the One they have pierced is so widespread that it sounds to me like what happens at the return of Christ, where Jesus says that “all the tribes of the earth shall mourn” (Matthew 24:30). If so, here we have future prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled.


Zechariah 14 is a chapter full of predictions about what appears to be the end of history as we know it. It seems to speak of a worldwide war against Jerusalem, where the Lord himself joins the battle in person. We are told that the Lord’s feet touch the earth at the Mount of Olives, at which point the mountain splits in two from east to west, after which “Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” There is a geological fault line that splits the Mount of Olives like this. That fault line is waiting for the feet of the Lord to touch the earth.


Remember what the angels say to the 11 disciples on the Mount of Olives just after they see Jesus ascend into heaven in Acts 1:11? “This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Here we will see Zechariah’s latter-day prophecy come true. Thousands of Jews who have long believed Zechariah’s words here to be a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah have chosen to be buried on the Mount of Olives, so that they will be the first to greet the Messiah on resurrection day. In fact, the Mount of Olives has become almost wall-to-wall gravestones because of this prophecy.


Zechariah also writes, “This shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet; their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouth.” (Hal Lindsey sees this as death in a nuclear blast.)


Zechariah 14 gives us a lot more latter-day prophecy. It predicts that when the Lord comes, “On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost, and there shall be continuous day (it is known to the Lord).” Zechariah says that living (fresh) water shall flow from Jerusalem both east and west, similar to Ezekiel (but where it only flows east). In that day we are told that “the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one.”


Finally, about 100 years after Haggai and Zechariah, long after the new Temple has been finished, Malachi describes a “great and dreadful” day of the Lord much like the other Minor Prophets do. Malachi says “the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers shall be stubble. The day that cometh shall burn them up,” and “ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under your feet.” But God says here that before that day, God will send Elijah the prophet, whom Jesus tells us was John the Baptist.


The future “day of the Lord” is the most prominent latter-day prophecy we find in the Minor Prophets. We’ve seen temporary days of reckoning, but there will be 1 great final day.


Next time, we plan to finish our series on Latter-day Prophecy with a program on the prophecies of Jeremiah. When we take a close look, we find that Jeremiah has very little future prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. The flip side is: Jeremiah has plenty of prophecy in it that has been fulfilled. Jeremiah gives us an excellent picture of how prophecy functions as the word of God. So join us as we explore the book of Jeremiah next time on Biblical Words and World!