As we again enter in on a time of special meditation on the wonder of God manifest in the flesh—come a baby in the manger—let us also meditate on the promised return of God glorified in the flesh—coming as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
As we head toward another Christmas—and a renewed time of remembrance of the fulfillment of the prophecies that God gave for millennia concerning the Christ—it would do us good to step back and consider the fact that the Old Testament prophecies about Christ were often not time-specific, neatly packaged prophecies but rather mountain-ranges of prophecy about all that the Savior would be and do in both his first and second coming.
At this time of year, our minds often turn to the prophecies concerning the virgin who would conceive and bear a Son whose name would be Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14) and prophecies of the child who would be born whose name would be Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Princes of Peace (Isa. 9:6), and of the One who would be ruler over Israel—who would be from everlasting—would be born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). We love to look back with delight as we see the way in which these prophecies, given so long before God fulfilled them, were so specifically and clearly fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.
The Old Testament prophecies about Jesus foretold both his first and second coming.
However, we often forget that the Old Testament spoke of another dimension of the advent of the Christ. The entire Old Testament pointed forward to the coming Savior—who, in his work on the cross and in his return to judge the world in righteousness—would bring about in the consummation the salvation and judgment of all men.
Louis Berkhof, in his book Principles of Biblical Interpretation, illustratively explained how it is that the prophecies made about Christ in the pages of the Old Testament appear more like mountain ranges than mountain tops. He wrote:
The element of time is a rather negligible character in the prophets. While designations of time are not wanting altogether, their number is exceptionally small. The prophets compressed great events into a brief space of time, brought momentous movements close together in a temporal sense, and took them in at a single glance. This is called “the prophetic perspective,” or as Delitzsch calls it “the foreshortening of the prophet’s horizon.” They looked upon the future as the traveller does upon a mountain range in the distance. He fancies that one mountain-top rises up right behind the other, when in reality they are miles apart. Cf. the prophets respecting the Day of the Lord and the two-fold coming of Christ.
We see how this is played out in the way in which the elderly Simeon spoke of the destiny of the baby Jesus. “This child,” he said, “is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35 NKJV).