FIRST FULFILLMENT OF
PROPHECY IN THE N.T.
(Matthew 1:22, 23. Isaiah 7:14). Appendix 103 To The Companion Bible.
I. Prophecy is the word of Jehovah (2Peter 1:21); and, as Jehovah is He Who was, and is, and is to come, prophecy must partake of, and relate to, the past, present, and future also; and must have this threefold interpretation or application. The prophecy first quoted by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament will show us how He uses the prophecy which He had Himself inspired; and therefore will furnish us with the principles on which we are to interpret other prophecies.
It will be seen that a prophecy may have (1) a reference to the time and occasion on which it was first spoken; (2) a reference to a later event or circumstance (when it is quoted as having been "spoken", or "written"); and (3) a reference to a yet later or future or final event, which exhausts it (when it is quoted as being "fulfilled;" that is to say, filled full).
Hence, instead of speaking of "præterists" (preterit) and "futurists", we must sometimes take a larger view, and be prepared to see both a past, present, and future interpretation. II. The subject of this first quoted prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) is Messiah, Christ the Lord; for "the testimony concerning Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). III. Prophecy is always associated with man's failure, from Genesis 3 onward. There was no place for prophecy until man had failed; or for prophets, until the priests became absorbed in their ritual, and ceased to be God's spokesman, and the teachers of His word. Hence, God's true prophets and teachers of His word have always been opposed to the pretensions of priests. IV. This prophecy was originally uttered when AHAZ king of Judah, in a great crisis, had failed to ask the sign which Jehovah had proffered; and which He Himself afterward gave to Ahaz. It therefore of necessity had reference to the then present circumstances. There was evidently a certain damsel, spoken of as "the" well-known damsel (see the note on "virgin", Isaiah 7:14), in connection with whom this prophecy should find a then speedy accomplishment. And it evidently did so, or it would have been no "sign" to Ahaz, as nothing would have been signified by it.
But it is equally true that that did not exhaust it, for only a part of the whole prophecy was then fulfilled.
The prophecy begins at Isaiah 7:10, and runs on to Isaiah 9:7. It is clearly wrong, therefore, to take a part, and put it for the whole; for it reaches on to future Millennial times, and is connected with the glorious coming of Messiah.
The whole prophecy, therefore, is Messianic; and, although the first part had a partial and preliminary fulfillment at the time it was spoken, it cannot be separated from the last part, which takes in the fact that the "children" are used as symbolical "signs." For it ends by declaring that they "are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion" (Isaiah 8:18). The two parts are connected and linked together by the use of the word "Immanuel" (7:14 and 8:8, 10, Revised Version margin).
1.—THE PAST.As to the past: it is clear from the prophecy that Ahaz, greatly moved at the confederacy of Ephraim (put by Metonymy, Appendix 6, for Israel) with Syria, was tempted to make a counter-confederacy with the king of Assyria. A sign was given to him that he need not yield to the temptation, for the danger would pass away. That "sign" must have had a signification for Ahaz that would convince him of the truth of the prophet's words. The sign was that a man-child would be born to some certain and well-known maiden (for it is Ha-'Almah—"the maiden"), which man-child would be called Immanuel; and, before that child would know how to distinguish between good and evil, the kings of Ephraim and Syria would both be removed. No record of this birth is given; but it must have taken place; as Jehovah gave the sign for that very purpose.
In chapter 8 another "sign" was given to Ahaz. Another child would be born, this time to the prophetess. He, too, would have a fore-determined name—Maher-shalal-hash-baz; and, before he should be able to say "father" or "mother", both Syria and Ephraim should be spoiled by the king of Assyria.
In chapter 9:6 there is a third sign, and again it is a child. It is a sign connected with the future; or rather one that connects the first sign with this and with the future.
"Unto us a child is born,
SHEAR-JASHUB, 7:3 (The son of the Prophet), a "sign".
|B||IMMANUEL, 7:14, a "wonder".|
MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ, 8:1-3 (The son of the Prophet), a "sign".
|B||"WONDERFUL", etc., 9:6, 7, a "wonder".|
Does not this point to the fact that the child of chapter 7:14 is to be associated with the child of chapter 9:6? and, though it was a "sign" of events then transpiring, those events did not and could not exhaust it or the "wonders" to which it pointed. The names also of these "children" are signs. The meaning of the name Isaiah was itself a sign of that salvation of Jehovah of which he prophesied. i. SHEAR-JASHUB (7:3) meant the remnant shall return, that is to say, repent, and stay upon Jehovah, and wait for Him. ii. IMMANUEL (7:14) told of the fact that salvation would come to Israel only when God with us should be true as a blessed and glorious reality. iii. MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ (8:1-3) tells of the Assyrian hasting to make a prey and spoil of the nation, and reveals the need of the salvation of Jehovah. That, too, was only partially fulfilled. For there is another who is called "the Assyrian", and in Daniel 9:26 is called "the prince that shall come" (compare Isaiah 14:25). He will hasten to make a prey of the nation; but there is yet another—Emmanuel, the Prince of the Covenant—Who will destroy him, and bring in, for Israel, final and eternal salvation. His name is called,
(2) The prophecy is then resolved into its elements, and by the same Spirit Who gave it, the elements are re-combined in accordance with the Divine purpose.
(3) He takes up the threads of the whole prophecy (Isaiah 7:10; 9:7), and shows that the original circumstances did not allow of the complete fulfillment at the time the words were spoken and written; and finally,
(4) He connects the names and meanings with prophetic truth, and shows that even these looked forward to times and scenes far beyond their original use; so that even the IMMANUEL of 7:14 which was fulfilled in Matthew 1:22, 23 did not exhaust the IMMANUEL of Isaiah 8:10, which is yet future according to Luke 1:31, 33.