The disciples of Jesus were not aware of the fact that the Messiah must suffer and die and then be resurrected three days later. Finally, He would ascend back to heaven where He would remain until the time of the Rapture of the church.
The difficulty in identifying Old Testament prophecy is observed by the reality of the prediction not being recognized or understood until after the fulfillment has occurred. Today, we have the benefit of history to understand each of these prophecies because we can see how they were fulfilled by Jesus. It was not until after Jesus ascended back to heaven that the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul and the other disciples, how the things that Jesus had said and done were the direct fulfillment of these many predictions made—hundreds of years before.
Some have questioned why the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were not penned until many years after Jesus ascended back to heaven. I can only surmise, that it was because the passage of time that the disciples were allowed the opportunity to reflect on the scriptures and put them into proper perspective before they were ready to record what they had seen.
John 2:17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
The reason that I am able to write this book on prophecy today is that I have spent the past 39 years studying and teaching these things to people in the United States, Europe and Asia. If I had not had the benefit of these three and one half decades, I would not be able to write sufficiently about what I have seen and heard, as the Holy Spirit has revealed these things to me.
When I began writing, one of the first points which troubled me was the fact that some of these prophecies were not really that clear. A prediction would be found in an obscure verse of scripture which did not seem to have any prophetic significance when applied to the coming of the Messiah. When I began to examine the words Jesus had spoken, which He said were a fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions, I realized just how these prophetic verses operate. God has disbursed these predictions throughout the Old Testament in places that we would not think of as containing any revelation of the coming Messiah. Much like searching for gold, we must diligently dig deep into the Old Testament in order to find these bright and valuable nuggets of truth.
The following prophecy from Psalm 45, illustrates this point:
The Old Testament Prediction:
Psalms 45:2 “You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever.”
The New Testament Fulfillment:
Luke 4:16- 22 “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. … And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth…”
At first glance, when we read Psalms 45:2, we may not attribute this verse of scripture to an Old Testament prediction of the coming Messiah. It is not until we read the account described by Luke in chapter 4, verses 16-22, that we read:
“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth…
When Jesus arrived at Nazareth in Luke 4:16-22 above, as He is handed the scroll of Isaiah, chapter 61, He informs those in atttendance that He is fulfilling the words of Isaiah’s prophecy at that precise moment. Luke also describes Jesus as being very gracious in all his words—a fullfillment of Prophecy 105 from Psalms 45:2.
In this regard we can observe how an obscure verse from the Old Testament may not at first glance, appear to be a relevant prophecy of the Messiah—until we discover the fulfillment of a related prophecy in the New Testament.
For this reason, the prophecy of 2 Kings 2:11-12, may not appear to have any relevance to the coming Messiah but is in fact extremely important. In this prediction, we learn that it is the Graciousness of the Messiah that people will be most attracted to Him. As He is so very loving, patient, and kind, His goodness will draw people to Him.
2 Kings 2:11-12 “Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!’ So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces.”
In 2 Kings 2:11-12, Elijah is taken to heaven by God, but is this relevant to the ascension of Jesus back to heaven in Acts 1:9-11?
In order to fully understand why this verse in 2 Kings is applicable, we must understand that this is precisely why the Holy Spirit places these obscure verses throughout the Old Testament. Much like the parables which Jesus taught, the deeper understanding and revelation of what is being said can only be acquired by diligent searching and prayerful meditation.
Paul instructed Timothy to be diligent to divide the word of God in such a manner that all the individual parts may be understood as a single message. In other words, to search out relevant scriptures of similar context throughout the Bible and bring them together as a cohesive message.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
If we see an illustration for a bodily ascension by one of God’s prophets in the Old Testament, can we assume that it is the intention of the Holy Spirit to use this as an illustration, pointing us to the ascension of the Messiah when He returns to heaven? The testimony from the Book of Revelation is that Jesus is the spirit of all prophecy.
Revelation 19:10 “…For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
All of the Old Testament prophecies are intended to reveal who Jesus is, in one way or another. There are no accidents or coincidences in the Bible. God supernaturally designed every word, sentence, phrase, and prophecy, to point us to Jesus.
I believe that Elijah’s bodily ascension to heaven is an Old Testament allusion of the future event recorded in the Book of Acts, where Jesus ascends back to heaven right before the eyes of His disciples.
Acts 1:8-9 (Jesus Speaking) “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
It is important to understand that the true purpose of prophecy is not always to predict the future but to show us that God knows the future. In many cases, we do not understand that a particular verse of scripture is a prophetic word until after the event has already taken place. It is obvious then from this principle that God did not give us the prophetic word in every instance to predict future events but so that once the event has occurred, we would understand that He had told us these things ahead of time so that when they occur—we will know He is God. The purpose of prophecy then is to confirm His word and to establish the fact that He is God, knowing all the events of the future and controlling all things by His sovereign will.
Jesus illustrated this by His description of the events that will occur prior to, and during, the seven year Trubulation period. At the conclusion of His message to the disciples, He said this:
Matthew 24:25 See, I have told you beforehand.
In doing so, Jesus confirmed that He has the important attribute of God—Omniscinece. Jesus knew all things that would take place concerning His life, death, and resurrection, and He was following a closely scripted plan that was determined before the foundation of the world.