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The Law and the Prophets
By R.S. Neaville
Just as there are keys to understanding the figurative nature of the Bible, these same keys apply to prophecy. Biblical prophecy utilizes allegory quite extensively. In fact, the bulk of biblical prophecy is allegory in its purest form.
The past and future are inextricably linked in scripture. Solomon comments in Eccl. 1:9-10:
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us
In this concept we see a cycle emerge, a cycle based upon a pattern. The cycle always repeats itself, giving us a picture of God's plan in the process.
Creation and its cycles are a perfect example of this. Its cycle runs approximately a year at a time, according to its seasonal pattern. Summer always follows spring, fall always follows summer, and winter always follows fall. The placement of the seasons are the pattern. The cycle is the pattern repeated. While this is all physical it has a spiritual counterpart.
We must understand that it is God who has designed the patterns and cycles. He has established their time and their boundaries. Because they are established we should be able to understand not only the signs of the seasons and the weather, but also their spiritual counterparts: The signs of the times as Jesus taught in Matt: 16:2-3:
He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, yea say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
As Paul informed the Romans that which is unseen , even up to the invisible God head, may be understood by the things that are created. In the cycles of nature the same principle is valid. In these patterns it is clearly seen that there is a season for everything. Solomon wrote in Eccl. 3:1-8:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
With this information applied to the subject of prophecy we may then start to discern the signs of the times.
The law and the prophets are topics very close to the heart of prophecy. They are revealed in a framework of a pattern repeated in cycles. According to Paul it is the law and the prophets that testified to Jesus and his first advent, as he expressed it in Rom.3:21:
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
We should see the law and the prophets as more than merely a body of scripture, for they are revealed as spirits of ministry. Two anointings. These anointings were personified in the lives of two men; Moses and Elijah. Moses was for the law. It was he that God used to lead the Church in the wilderness. It was He whom God gave the law on Mt. Sinai. Elijah was for the prophets. God used Elijah in ways he used no other prophet. He called fire down from Heaven, stopped the rain, and raised the dead back to life again.
The law and the prophets can be separated only as far as flesh and spirit can. They are by their nature revelations of the physical and the spiritual, both testifying to the Father and the Son. Together they represent the full revelation of Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father.
The law is keyed to the physical. The law that God gave Moses governed the physical people of God, the Israelites. All of the miracles that God did through Moses were earthly in nature (the plagues, the parting of the Red sea, water from a rock, etc.) . Elijah's miracles had more to do with the heavenlies ( stopping the rain, Calling fire from heaven). His ministry was keyed to the spiritual. Physically and spiritually they witnessed unto Christ for he is God revealed in the flesh.
The law and the prophets, which these two men represent, testify in the same way through the writings of the Old Testament. Both were written by men inspired by the Spirit of God, eternal testimonies of the promised salvation to men from the heavenly Father.
These two men as well as the collected writings of the law and the prophets are the two anointed ones that stand before the Lord at his throne. Zech. 4:11-14 says:
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, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.
While Moses and Elijah typified these two olive trees they also appeared at the first coming of Christ. Here is where the mystery of the law and the prophets deepens.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus. He was sent to prepare the way for the promised Messiah. When the Jewish leaders asked him about his identity in the prophetic scheme of things, he denied he was Elijah who was prophesied to return in John 1:19-23:
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
Here is where we seem to hit a snag, because Jesus said that John was Elijah in Matt.9:11-15:
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
So was John the Baptist Elijah or wasn't he? The answer is both. To understand the how and why we must retrace a part of the story of Elijah.
When Elijah was close to being taken up into Heaven, his student Elisha traveled with him every where he went. Elijah had promised Elisha that if he were present when Elijah was taken up, Elisha would receive the hard thing he asked of Elijah: A double portion of his spirit. Now obviously Elisha wasn't asking for a double portion of Elijah's personal spirit, but rather a double portion of the spirit of ministry that God had placed on Elijah's life. This was the spirit of the prophets (2Kings 2:9-10).
John answered the Pharisees and scribes truthfully when he denied he was Elijah. He was simply John, Elijah the man was with God. When Jesus said that John was indeed Elijah he was speaking of the spirit of ministry in operation in John's life, which was the spirit of the prophets. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 and vs.17 it is recorded that John "went forth in the spirit and power of Elijah". In this sense John was Elijah. So now we can better understand that both Moses and Elijah were graced with the spirits of the law and the prophets.
This in turn means that the prophesy in Mal. 4:4-6 concerning Elijah's return had at least been partially fulfilled:
Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Notice the phrase " before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord". This phrase refers not to Jesus's first advent specifically, but rather just before his second. The day of the Lord has more to do with the last days. But it is also reported in the scriptures that Elijah must first come before the Lord Jesus. He did as John the Baptist,
It is prophesied in Rev. 11:3-11 that two great witnesses, two men inhabited by these same two spirits of ministry, will prophesy in the last days:
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
And they of the people and kindred's and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
This passage calls them the two olive trees and the two anointed ones, identifying them as the law and the prophets. That these two also have the same powers as Moses and Elijah verify that Moses and Elijah are the law and the prophets personified. These two spirits of ministry will dwell for a while in the last days with two other men we do not yet know, but we will. We see these two coupled in the Bible over and over again. Take for Example their appearance with Jesus at the transfiguration recorded in Mark 9:2-9:
And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.
And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.
And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves. And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.
Moses and Elijah both existed in the old testament church though at different times. They symbolized the law and the prophets. The church they prophesied to were the twelve tribes of Jacob. In the New Testament all these same players are represented again.
The twelve tribes are symbolized by the twelve disciples of Jesus. We recognize Elijah in John the Baptist, because Jesus told us who he was. As the representative of the prophets he witnessed to Jesus's arrival and prepared the way. But what of the law's representative? Was he not also present ? Did he not also witness unto Christ? He was in fact present, and his identity has remained a secret until now. He was sent as a witness to the gentiles. He was known as Paul the apostle.
John began the first advent of Messiah and Paul ended it. John went to the Jews and Paul to the gentiles. He was considered by many to be the greatest of the Apostles but was not of the original twelve. He was in many ways distinct and unique as was John the Baptist. In 1Cor. 15:8-10 Paul tells us he was the last to see Christ:
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
As one born out of due time, one set apart even as was John, Paul labored harder than any of the apostles before him. He was the last to see the risen savior. He comments on the fact that it is not his own power he works with, but rather the grace of God working through him.
There are many similarities between Paul and Moses. Moses, for example, wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. He was able to write them because God gave him the revelation necessary. Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament, again by revelation from God. He tells us in Gal. 1:11-17:
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Not only was great revelation given to Paul, but also he was separated by God from birth to preach the Gospel. Like Moses he grew up in the enemies camp becoming a Pharisee and persecuting the people of God. Just as Moses was planted in Egypt and became a prince of Egypt, Paul was spiritually a prince of Egypt.
In Galatians 4:25 we saw how the Egyptian bondslave Hagar is called the mother of the children of Jerusalem as it existed in Paul's time. They were children under the law as it was given to them from Moses on Mt. Sinai, therefore, in bondage to it because of sin. John in his book of the Revelation refers to Jerusalem also as spiritually Egypt. In fact Rev. 11:8 has to do with the two great witnesses who also symbolize the law and the prophets:
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified
The city where our Lord Jesus was crucified was Jerusalem. This is the city where these figurative Egyptians, the Pharisees , scribes, and the rest of the Jewish ruling body had their existence. These Princes of Egypt persecuted Christ and his followers holding the people in bondage to their traditions of men. Paul was a prince here and a master of the law. We can compare Paul to Moses in Heb. 11:24-26, how he eventually rejected the riches of Egypt for the persecution of Christ:
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.
We must be careful here not to confuse the figures. Many of these same figures apply directly to Jesus. Paul and John and the law and the prophets are only his witnesses. Jesus is the prophet Moses spoke of that would come after him. Like Moses was saved as a child from Pharaoh so Jesus was also saved as a child from Herod, a type of Pharaoh. Jesus is the fulfillment of this type, not Paul. Paul's role is figurative of the law and Moses in a manner that is meant to witness to Jesus as the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is the primary fulfillment of all prophecy.
One similarity between Paul and Moses that must be expressed here is both of their roles where the law is concerned. Moses was given the Law. Paul was given the spiritual understanding of the law. Moses lead the physical church of Israel and through the law set all things to order. Paul lead the spiritual church in this spiritual wilderness and through the revelation of the law set all things to order. We still use his epistles today to settle matters of order, discipline, worship and doctrine.
Paul's life and ministry fulfilled the same type of criteria that John the Baptist's did. He reflected the law in the same way John reflected the prophets. In this comparison of the law and the prophets, Moses and Elijah and Paul and John we can see one of the keys to understanding the way prophecy is used. We catch a glimpse of God's pattern and its cycle. With this understanding we can view the nature of this cycle in its relation to the signs of the times. With it we have established the nature and identity of the two future prophets which the Apostle prophesied in Revelation. This key is the relationship of the physical and the spiritual. What we can see witnessing to what we cannot
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