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Author:Rev. Arthur Van Delden
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mundijong
 Mundijong, Western Australia
 
 
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Rockingham
 Rockingham, Australia
  www.users.bigpond.net.au/avdelden/Sermons.htm
 
Title:Here's proof that God's promises are trustworthy - Ancient prophecies are fulfilled
Text:1 Peter 1:10-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Added:2004-03-11
Updated:2006-09-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1:1-9 / Daniel 7 / Belgic Confession Article 5

Text: 1 Peter 1:10-12

AM
Ps. 106:1,2
Ps. 106:3
Ps. 22:1,3,10
Hy. 37:1-3
Hy. 2:3,4

PM
Ps. 106:1,2
Ps. 107:1
Ps. 22:1,3,10
Hy. 37:1-3
Hy. 2:3,4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:

In the opening verses of Peter's letter, we read about the wonderful inheritance that God has promised us. Now the question is: Do you really believe God's promise? Are you sure that God's promise is real and trustworthy? What proof do you have? Perhaps you will say, "We have the Scriptures. God's promises are written in black and white." But are they really God's promises? How do you know that God wrote those words? How do you know that the Bible isn't just the wishful dreams of desperate men?

As Christians we take quite a risk, don't we? I mean, we have to be ready at all times to sacrifice everything that we have on earth, including our life, in order to receive something that is written on a piece of paper, something that no man has ever seen.

Would you be ready to give up everything even your life in exchange for what God promises beloved? You could only do so if you have complete trust in God's Word.

Peter knew that his readers needed to have this perfect trust in Scripture, because they were required to give up all for the sake of Christ. To elicit such trust, Peter wrote the words of our text. This morning (afternoon) I preach to you the Word of God with this theme:

HERE'S PROOF THAT GOD'S PROMISES ARE TRUSTWORTHY
- ANCIENT PROPHECIES ARE FULFILLED

We will consider two things:
1) the prophets predicted what would happen
2) the apostles proclaimed what had happened

THE PROPHETS PREDICTED WHAT WOULD HAPPEN

Peter has reminded the Christians in Asia about the wonders of God's grace towards them. God had elected them to be His own special people. The Spirit had sanctified them, to make them a holy priesthood. They were sprinkled with the blood of Christ, which meant that they were partakers of the grace of God's covenant. They were given new life through their resurrected Saviour, Jesus Christ. They were given a glorious inheritance citizenship in the kingdom of heaven a kingdom incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away. That is, they are heirs of a kingdom that would never be destroyed, a kingdom that would never become corrupt, and a kingdom whose glory would never diminish.

Peter reminded them of the wonders of God's grace in order to encourage them, lest they abandon their faith. For they were being sorely persecuted. Peter wanted to show them the great pearl of God's grace, so that they would be willing to endure the loss of all things, their status in society, their freedom, their jobs, their homes, possessions and money, even their lives rather than deny their glorious inheritance in the kingdom of God.

I think we can all agree the stakes were very high. And who would want to gamble so much without some assurance that the inheritance was real and really theirs? Wouldn't it be a shame if they lost all they had on earth for nothing? How does the saying go, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush? Better to hold fast to what they had rather than to gamble it all on some uncertain inheritance promised by some preacher.

Peter knew that these Christians in Asia needed some proof that God's promises were trustworthy and true. And Peter knew where to get that proof from the Scriptures. For Scriptures were written for the foundation and confirmation of our faith.

Peter drew the attention of his readers to the Scriptures, and then especially to all that had been written by the prophets. He doesn't specify which prophets, which means that he probably has more than one prophetic book in mind. In fact, he directs his readers to all the prophets. For they testified beforehand what would take place in the future.

Now the important thing for Peter is that what the prophets foretold actually happened. Here is the proof of the trustworthiness of the gospel. A prophecy is validated by its fulfilment. A prophecy is proven to be true by the fact that what it predicted actually happens.

Moses wrote, "If you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' --when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken" (Deuteronomy 18:22). The truth of a prophet's words were proven by the fact that what he said happens. In the same way, God's Word is proven to be true because the ancient prophecies that are contained in the Bible have been fulfilled.

I wish to stress this point, because it lies at the very heart of our text. If we don't understand this, we will not understand Peter's purpose in writing these words. For Peter proves that the gospel is trustworthy and true because all that the ancient prophets foretold was being fulfilled in their lifetime.

What things had the prophets foretold? We read in vs 10 that the prophets inquired and searched "of this salvation." In the same verse we read that they "prophesied of the grace that would come to [them]." Both of these words are very broad in meaning. They encompass all the deeds that God would do to relieve His people of their sins and the misery that sin brought into this world.

Peter realised that he must become more specific in his reference to the prophets. So in vs 11, he narrowed his scope somewhat. He wanted his readers to focus upon what the prophets "testified beforehand [concerning] the sufferings of Christ and of the glories that follow."

The words "testified beforehand" could also be translated "gave prior witness." The word witness is a legal term used in courts. Witnesses give evidence of what has happened. They verify the truth of a matter. But in this case the prophets gave "prior" witness. Actually, our text says that the Spirit of Christ gave this prior-witness. The Spirit of the pre-incarnate Christ was working in the hearts of these prophets, so that they bore prior-witness to the sufferings of Christ and to the glories that would follow.

What did Peter mean? Simply this: the prophets foretold the sufferings of Christ and His later glory. Didn't Christ say as he talked with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, " O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:25-27).

We can't expound all the OT Scriptures to show this. But we can take a few prominent texts that speak of Christ's suffering and His glory. Think of Psalm 22 "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, "He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!" For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots (vv. 1,7,8,16,18).

Think also of Isaiah 53:7-9 "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth."

Think also about some of the prominent texts that bore prior-witness to the glory of the ascended Christ, to whom all power in heaven and earth has been given. Psalm 2 reads: " Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion." "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel " (vv. 7-9).

Think of how the Psalm 110 portrayed the Lord Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God, invested with heavenly power and glory: "The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool." The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! (vv. 1-2).

These are the kind of texts that Peter refers to when he says that the prophets bore prior-witness to the sufferings of Christ, and of the glories that would follow.

Having said this, I would like to add that Peter means more than just this. But first I would like to show you something else from Scripture. I would like to show you that Scripture regards the suffering of the saints as the extension of the sufferings of Christ.

Do you remember what the ascended Lord Jesus said to Saul on his way to Damascus? Saul was persecuting the Christians. But Christ did not say, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my people?" He said, "Why are you persecuting Me!" The persecution of Christians is the extension of the persecution of Christ.

There are other texts that show this as well. In 2 Corinthians 1:5 Paul said, "The sufferings of Christ abound in us." He identifies the suffering that he endured for Christ as the sufferings of Christ.

In Colossians 1:24 Paul made a surprising statement: He said, "I now rejoice in my sufferings and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ." Again, Paul sees his suffering as the extension of the afflictions of Christ.

Peter speaks in the same way. In 1 Peter 4:13 Peter writes, "Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." The sufferings which the Christians endured for Christ's sake are the sufferings of Christ.

When Peter says in our text, then, that the prophets bore prior-witness to the sufferings of Christ and of His glory, then Peter is not referring only to the sufferings which Christ endured in His physical body, but also to the sufferings which Christ endures in His spiritual body, the church.

Calvin says it nicely. "Peter does not separate Christ from His body. Peter does not speak of what is peculiar to Christ, but of the universal state of the Church." In other words, Calvin said that the suffering that Peter speaks about in this verse is not restricted to the sufferings of Christ Himself, but also to the sufferings that the church of all ages would experience for the sake of Christ. Peter says that the OT prophets gave prior witness, not just to the sufferings of Christ, but to the sufferings of Christians for the sake of Christ.

But is this true? Did any of the OT prophets prophesy about the sufferings of Christians? Did any of the OT predict that Christians would be persecuted for the sake of Christ?

We read together from the prophecy of Daniel, chapter 7. If I was the minister of a church under persecution, as the Christians were to whom Peter wrote, you can be sure that I would preach a long series of sermons on this book. For it is a book that gives comfort to a persecuted people. When Daniel wrote his prophecy, the people of God were in exile. And they were put under a great deal of pressure to conform to the ways and religion of the Babylonians. Daniel and his friends were required to eat the unclean foods that the Babylonians ate. Daniel's three friends were commanded to worship the image that Nebuchadnezzar made, or be cast into the fiery furnace. Daniel was prohibited from praying to God, on threat of death. So you see that Daniel's prophecies were well suited to comfort the Christian church under persecution.

But even more, Daniel 7 contains a vision that was to find its initial fulfilment in Peter's lifetime. Daniel saw four beasts. These beasts represented four nations. Those nations were Babylon, the nation in power during Daniel's life; Medo-Persian, the nation that defeated Babylon during Daniel's life; Greece (under Alexander the Great); and finally Rome, the nation in power during Peter's life.

Notice from vs 19 that Daniel took a special interest in the fourth beast with ten horns, which refers to Rome with its various kings. This beast had iron teeth and nails of bronze which devoured, broke in pieces and trampled the residue with its feet. An eleventh horn arose from this beast, unlike the others before it. In vs. 21 we read that this horn "was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them." Again, in vs 25 we read that this beast persecuted the saints of the Most High, and that the saints were given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

Daniel gives prior-witness of the sufferings that the Christians would experience in the new dispensation. Peter had also this prophecy in mind when he wrote that the prophets bore prior-witness to the sufferings of Christ in His body, the church.

But Daniel did not only bear prior-witness of the suffering of the saints, but also of the glory that would follow. He spoke about the glory of Christ, who in this prophecy is called the Son of Man. In vs. 14 we read: "To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed."

Now just as the saints share in the sufferings of Christ, so they also share in the glory of Christ. So we read in vs. 18 that the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. Again in vs. 21 we read that the beast would make war on the saints until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favour of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. In vs. 26 we read that the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion [that is, the dominion of the eleventh horn of the fourth beast], and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.

Now much of what the prophets predicted would happen had happened. This was the gospel that the apostles proclaimed. This brings us to our second and last point.

THE APOSTLES PROCLAIMED WHAT HAD HAPPENED.

The prophets were eager to see the fulfilment of God's plan of salvation. So they inquired of God and searched through their own prophecies to see if they could discover the time when their prophecies would be fulfilled. Or if they couldn't find out the exact time, then at least to learn something of the circumstances that would accompany the fulfilment, so that they could at least get a general picture of when these things might happen. They were never told. Daniel, for example, was told to seal up the vision, for it applied to many days in the future. So they never learned exactly when fulfilment would come. But this much they knew, that they were writing these prophecies for the benefit of the saints to come.

Now Peter tells his readers that the prophets were ministering to them, the Christians to whom he was writing. By saying this, Peter was telling his readers that the old prophecies were now finding fulfilment in their lives.

Peter and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of Christ's suffering under Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion, His death and His burial. They were eyewitnesses of Christ's descent into hell. What the prophets said would happen had happened.

Peter and the other were also eyewitnesses of Christ's glory. Christ's glory was foreshadowed in His transfiguration on the mount, where His radiance blinded the disciples. The apostles were also eyewitnesses of Christ's resurrection from the dead and of His ascension into heaven. They saw Him being taken up in glory, to receive a kingdom from the Father. And on that first Pentecost Sunday they saw the initial fulfilment of what Daniel spoke, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve the Son of Man. Stephen, when he was being stoned, looked up into heaven and He saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father, and He bore witness of this before He died. Yes, the apostles saw the glory of Christ. The things spoken of by the prophets were fulfilled.

The Christians to whom Peter wrote could also experience for themselves that the prophecies of Daniel were being fulfilled in their own life. For they were living in the time of the fourth beast. And this beast was ravaging the church. The Christians were being sorely persecuted, as Daniel had predicted. The Christians in Asia needed no other witness. They experienced in their own life that the Bible was trustworthy and true.

There was only one thing that the prophets predicted that these Christians had not yet experienced. The prophets of old predicted the glory that would come to those who follow Christ. Daniel, for example, prophesied that the saints who suffered would inherit the kingdom of God a kingdom that is eternally indestructible and unfading in glory. The Christians in Asia did not yet experience this glory.

But if all the other ancient prophecies were fulfilled, then surely this last prophecy would be fulfilled as well. If God's ancient Word proved true with respect to the sufferings and glory of Christ, as well as the sufferings of the Christians, then surely this one remaining prophecy would prove true as well.

Yes, and here we see Peter's design. He knows how much is on the line, so to speak. He knows how much is at stake for these Christians. From an earthly perspective, they could expect to lose everything.

Peter has told them in the preceding verses that what they stand to lose is not worthy to be compared to what they will receive. He has shown them the great pearl, and now they must be prepared to "sell" all in order to obtain it.

There must be no uncertainty in the minds of these Christians about the trustworthiness of God's promise. For if they doubt the reality of their glorious inheritance, then they might hold on to what they have in the present rather than to risk it all on some uncertain promise for the future. As we said, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

Peter assures them of the trustworthiness of God's promise. They are heirs and citizens of the glorious kingdom of God. He gives them the proof that they need from the prophets. So much of what the inspired prophets predicted had happened. Surely the promise of glory which was still unfulfilled would be fulfilled.

Isn't this also a wonderful encouragement for us, beloved? It isn't easy for us to live the life of the pilgrim in this world. As God's elect, we are sanctified by the Spirit. We are called to live a life of holiness, denying the so-called "pleasures" that the world has to offer, and which we by nature desire. As those who have been grafted into the covenant of grace through the sprinkling with Christ's blood, we have been cleansed from our sins, and must now walk in obedience to God's covenant law. As resident aliens in this world we must make many sacrifices.

In order to make the sacrifices that God requires, beloved, we need to know, not only about the grace that God has already shown to us in Christ Jesus, but also about the glory that awaits us. We need to know and be reminded of the wonderful inheritance that awaits those who are willing to sacrifice and suffer for the sake of Christ. And we need to know that God's Word is trustworthy, reliable.

Here is the wonderful message of our text. Peter proves to us that the Scriptures are trust worthy and reliable. The Scriptures are "self-authenticating." That is what we confess in Article 5 of our Belgic Confession. As we work with Holy Scripture, "the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God for even the blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled." In the Scripture you will find proof that God's promises are trustworthy ancient prophecies are fulfilled. AMEN



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.users.bigpond.com/avdelden/WebSermons/1PT1v10t12.htm

(c) Copyright, Rev. Arthur Van Delden

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