During a church service, heard over the air several weeks ago, a prominent clergyman preached a sermon that to me seemed calculated to destroy, rather than to increase the faith of his hearers.
He was speaking on the subject “There shall be signs,” and said that some people today read the Bible and then watch the newspapers and other sources of information for the fulfillment in national and international affairs, of what they call “prophecy.”
He then went on to explain (to his own satisfaction) that there was no such thing as prophecy in the sense of foretelling . . . prophecy, to him, was only preaching, and the pronouncements of the prophets were only for, and understandable only by, the people of their own time.
Webster’s Dictionary however, defines a prophet as:
1. One who foretells events; a predictor, a foreteller.
2. In Scriptures, a religious teacher inspired or instructed by God to announce future events, utter Divine will etc.
And the Columbia Encyclopedia defines the word prophet (in the Greek) as a foreteller; and mentions the case of Baal and Elijah. It continues: “The Gospels give many examples of the interpretation of Old Testament passages as predictive, and it is part of traditional Christian belief that the Holy Ghost spoke through the prophets, who foretold the life and passion of Christ.”
The alternative definition “One who preaches” is obsolete.
The speaker then referred to the new version of the Bible that has aroused so much controversy recently, and drew attention, particularly, to Isaiah 7:14 which, in the King James Version reads, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and shall call his name Immanuel.”
In the new version the word virgin is translated “young woman”. It is significant, however, that in Matthew 1: 22,23, the apostle says, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Beho1d a virgin shall be with child. And shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us.”
Following up his disbelief in the power of the prophets to foretell events, the reverend gentleman went on to prove (as he thought) from the context immediately following, that the pronouncement of Isaiah could not have referred to the birth of Christ.
I am well aware that there is good reason for the translation “young woman” in the new version. In some other versions too, more or less similar terms are used; but it is very indiscreet for a clergyman to make pronouncements, on details of this kind, in such a manner as to leave grave doubts regarding Our Lord’s Divinity in the minds of his hearers, the vast majority of whom have probably neither the time nor the facilities for serious investigation of the basis of such statements. Anyone who has made a serious study of the Bible knows that there are numerous proofs that contradict such views, both in the Bible itself and from other sources.
And these other sources are not the “uneducated”, so much looked down upon by those whose learning is their greatest misfortune; the evidence I have in mind is the product of “scholarship”; that “authority” so dear to the hearts of the so called Modernists.
Admittedly, those scholars to whom I refer have looked in the Bible for truth whereas the Modernists look only with a critical eye. And are ever ready to seize upon the smallest detail that even appears to be contradictory, and then to set it up on a pedestal, behind a powerful magnifying glass, as a monument to their own learning.
On the question of Isaiah 7:14, the Companion Bible comments as follows, “This prophecy was originally uttered when Ahaz, king of Judah, in a great crises, had failed to ask a sign which Jehovah had proffered; and which He Himself afterward gave to Ahaz. It therefore had reference to the then present circumstances. There was evidently a certain damsel spoken of as “the” well known damsel 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 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 the 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 symbolic signs; for it ends by declaring that they are “for signs and wonders from the Lord of Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion” (Isa. 8:18). The two parts are connected and linked together by the use of the word Immanuel.