Digging Deeper into Time and Prophecy
“I’ve read the last page of the Bible.
It’s all going to turn out all right.”
The coming of Jesus split our classification of Time in the West neatly into two epochs—BC and AD.
To better appreciate who we are truly and our own future, we need to consider the Messiah, Jesus, who dominates both Old and New Testament scripture and was one with God the Father before the start of Creation.
Consider an important event that occurred soon after Jesus’ crucifixion. Philip, a disciple of Jesus, was running beside the chariot of a very important official from Ethiopia when he heard the man reading aloud from the biblical book of Isaiah, chapter 53. We know that its prophecy pre-dated Christ’s death because the book of Isaiah was written approximately seven centuries before those events in Jesus’ life and death that are described in it so graphically, and we have a full copy of the book carbon-dated to around 125 BC.
As Philip ran beside the chariot, he spoke to the official (Acts 8:30-35):
“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?”
So, he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
This is the passage of scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the Earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
Then Philip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
The good news which Philip told the important Ethiopian was that God’s Saviour, described clearly in the Isaiah passage he was reading, had now come! That Saviour was Jesus of Nazareth, who had recently been executed by the Romans, but had risen from the grave to demonstrate to hundreds of witnesses that he held the keys to resurrection life.
The official believed him about Jesus, stopped his carriage and was baptised by Philip in some water nearby. The ancient Christian church of Ethiopia traces its origin back to this incident.
Of significance, Philip and the early church already recognised soon after the crucifixion that this ancient prophecy in Isaiah 53 put God’s personal seal and signature on Jesus as the Messiah!
Their confidence was because God, in Heaven, in whatever time frame he works in there, had described in detail in Isaiah 53 an event that would happen only in the distant future on Earth, and the things they had witnessed for themselves absolutely identified this event to Philip, Peter, John and many others.
Now matters are about to become extraordinary.
Isaiah 53, which the Ethiopian was reading, describes the ministry and sufferings of Jesus in some detail and is quoted in other places of the New Testament, always in the past tense by scholars of that era and currently too, yet the events it described happened seven centuries after it was first written! How could the distant future be written about so precisely in the past tense?
This is highly significant in terms of Time and God’s timing.
Isaiah 53 was originally written in biblical Hebrew, which is not a “tenses” language. The verb is generally seen as past or future, depending on context, and if it refers to the future it is called a prophetic perfect. Scholars, translators and commentators choose the past tense for an event, past NOT future, that is absolutely definite and settled. This is the past tense that was chosen for Isaiah 53.
This explanation applies to other descriptions from Isaiah 53, e.g. verse 5
he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
The earliest Greek translation of the Book of Isaiah in the Bible is found in the Septuagint, which derived its named from the belief that seventy of the best Jewish scholars supposedly conferred and conducted its translation from Hebrew into Greek long before Jesus was born. What is extraordinary is that the Greek language, unlike Hebrew, has strict past, present and future tenses—and these early pre-Christian Hebrew scholars chose to employ the precise past tense for Isaiah 53, despite the actual events only happening in what would be the distant future. They were very particular in applying the past tense in their translations.
Therefore, Isaiah 53 confirms that the crucifixion, and all that it means for our rescue from future punishment at Judgement, was already a “done deal” from God’s point of view in Heaven, long before Christ’s actual sacrifice took place on our planet. It was essentially a completed action from the moment God decided it in Heaven.
Similarly, the Creation was a completed plan when God decided it as described in Genesis 1. It has been implemented progressively ever since in our Universe, until today. The Creation will also continue into our future.
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