Thirdly, much of their writing, especially when recording prophecy, was expressed in highly figurative and symbolic language, often beyond the comprehension of the writers themselves. As Daniel said on one occasion: “I heard, but I could not understand,” and, on inquiry, was told: “The words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end.” What do we conclude from these three factors, namely, that it took about 1600 years for thirty-five men to complete their writings, often couched in figurative language? Why, this: that those men could not possibly have put their heads together so as to make it all fit in. There could have been no collusion, but, rather, every possibility of a collision, especially since, as we shall see, they did not all write from the same viewpoint.—Dan. 12:8, 9. (See also 1 Peter 1:10-12.)
THE FIRST PROPHECY—HOW KEPT ALIVE
11. (a) From what angle is it proposed to examine Bible prophecy? (b) Relate the circumstances and wording of the first prophecy.
11 The first line of evidence we wish to examine is with regard to the way by which prophecy, especially the first one, was kept alive throughout the Bible. Remember, we are not so much looking at the fulfillment of prophecy as the way in which the Bible writers, from beginning to end, maintained their theme and conception of things, as related to God’s purpose. The first prophecy is a short one and, by its very wording, it obviously holds a key position. It was given when Jehovah God pronounced judgment, following the willful disobedience of Adam and Eve when in Eden, at the instigation of the serpent, who was used as the mouthpiece of someone unseen. After expressing judgment on the serpent itself, God went on to say: “And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”—Gen. 3:15.
12. What characters were involved in that prophecy and, humanly speaking, how only could it be kept alive?
12 There are four characters mentioned in that prophecy, namely, (1) the serpent, (2) its seed, (3) the woman, and (4) her seed. Nothing was said as to how or when it would be fulfilled, or who would ultimately be identified as corresponding to those four characters. Now, if the Scriptures were of no more than human authorship, it would necessarily follow, without question, that the only way to keep that initial prophecy alive would be by succeeding Bible writers repeating it, and enlarging on it, until they could show how the whole thing was worked out. Surely we are agreed that such a conclusion is only logical.
13 Very well. Let us put that theory to the test. Where, either in the rest of Moses’ writings or in those of the next Bible writer, or the next, do you find another prophecy mentioning those four characters? Search throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and you will not find such a prophecy. Continue searching through the Christian Greek Scriptures, and again you will not find one, no, not until you reach the last book, Revelation. There, in chapter twelve, we find a prophecy that clearly ties in with that first one given about sixteen hundred years previously. There we read about the serpent, now grown, as it were, into a “great fiery-colored dragon,” though later in the same chapter identified with the “original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.” As we shall find, the seed of the serpent is also mentioned. There, too, most vividly described, is the woman of the Edenic prophecy, and, behold! she is actually seen giving birth to the promised seed. The bruising of the serpent, in part, is also described, in his being violently “hurled down to the earth,” and his angels with him. Finally, in the last verse (Re 12:17), there is reference to the serpent’s (or dragon’s) determined effort to bruise, in a secondary way, the heel of the woman’s seed.—Rev. 12:1-3, 5, 9, 17.
14. Can it be said that John himself was attempting to clear up the mystery of that first prophecy?
14 Now our attention is drawn to another remarkable thing. Though this vision matches closely the prophecy given in Eden, it cannot possibly be said that John, who recorded the vision, was deliberately showing how it was being worked out and giving the understanding thereof. How could that be, when this vision, like the rest of this book, is in highly symbolic language? As stated in the opening words, it was a revelation given by God to Jesus Christ, who “presented it in signs . . . to his slave John.” (Rev. 1:1) If we took the theory of the Bible’s human authorship to its logical conclusion, we would have to say that John must have thought to himself, ‘Ah! that first prophecy has never been cleared up; I must have a vision about that!’ Of course not. No suggestion could be more absurd.
15. In what respects can the Scriptures be likened to a detective story?
15 The truth is, the Bible can well be likened in some ways to a detective story. You are probably familiar with the method frequently used in that kind of literature. The big problem is posed early, usually a crime by some unknown person; then, as you read, your mind is alert to every possible clue, true or false. At the conclusion the problem is solved and, through the medium of the detective, you are taken back, as it were, and shown all the clues that the author had carefully planted and skillfully hidden in the development of the plot. As a result you marvel at the ingenuity of the author in being able to construct the entire framework, yet keeping the solution so well hidden until the end.
16. How can such illustration be used regarding the Bible, leading to what results?
16 We can do the same with the Bible on this very theme we have been discussing. We can, so to speak, pick up some of the clues planted throughout the Bible, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that there could be only the one Mastermind behind all those sacred writings. We mention only a few at this time, but the more we study the evidence in detail, the more we marvel at the ingenious way by which the Author kept that first prophecy alive, though hidden from general view. Still more do we marvel at the wonderful and glorious outcome determined on for that first prophecy, calling forth our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude.
IDENTIFYING THE CHARACTERS
17. (a) Who is identified as the seed of the woman? (b) In what ways is this One further identified, resulting in what?
17 Of the four characters in that initial prophecy, it has been the seed of the woman that has received most attention. This is not surprising, since the Scriptures themselves give this the most prominence, also when we learn who the promised seed really is. Yes, he is none other than the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is not only the foretold Seed of that Edenic prophecy, but is also the Seed promised to Abraham, through whom “all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” He is also the One foretold to come through David’s line and inherit his throne and even a greater one, a heavenly throne. Jesus’ actual genealogy is traced right back to Adam by the Gospel writer Luke, tracing it through Judah, to whom the promise was given that from him the “scepter [kingdom rule] will not turn aside . . . until Shiloh comes.” The way that line was preserved and can be traced right down to the coming of Jesus at his first advent and then, as shown at Revelation, chapter twelve, takes us on to the second advent for the major fulfillment of the Edenic prophecy forms one of the most fascinating studies of God’s Word. It builds up confidence, too, in its glorious outcome, not only in the crushing out of all evil in heaven and earth, but in the certainty of that Kingdom rule, “a new heaven and a new earth,” when all can bless themselves by learning how to render full obedience, and when even “death will be no more.”—Gen. 22:18; 49:10; Luke 3:23-38; Acts 2:34-36; Gal. 3:16; Rev. 21:1-4.
18. (a) Who first identified the serpent and its seed, and when? (b) What important principle was disclosed and applied at that time?
18 The next two characters, the serpent and its seed, were not identified by name until more than four thousand years after God had pronounced judgment in Eden. That is a long time to keep a secret in suspension. It was Jesus himself who disclosed it. Some might say it was not difficult to surmise who was the one using the serpent as a mouthpiece, but who would have rightly guessed the identity of the serpent’s seed? Jesus revealed this, not by guesswork, but by disclosing a very important principle on which God works. Men always reckon the family, or people, to which they belong as governed by actual descent through birth. They know of no other way. The Jews did this when their leaders, the Pharisees, were disputing what Jesus said, and claimed: “We are Abraham’s offspring and never have we been slaves to anybody.” Jesus replied: “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; but you are seeking to kill me.” Pursuing the argument to its logical conclusion and showing that the heart attitude is the prime factor, Jesus finally said to them: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began [in Eden].”—John 8:33-44.
19. Following this principle, how does the Bible further help us to trace and identify the seed of the serpent?
19 Having this knowledge, or clue, we can now go back through the Hebrew Scriptures and see how the Devil has, from the beginning, developed his seed, those whom he could use as his tools, with the spirit of murder in their hearts. The first one on earth was “Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother.” The development continued right on to those religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and again carries right on to our own day, when the same spirit of murderous hostility is often shown by the same class toward those followers of Jesus who are obediently preaching the “good news of the kingdom.” We must also appreciate that Satan the Devil built up his organization and developed his seed from among those angels in heaven who copied his example of disobedience. As Peter discloses: “God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned.” These are the ones referred to at Revelation 12:9, who were hurled down to the earth with their leader, after the battle in heaven.—1 John 3:12; Matt. 24:9, 14; John 16:2; 2 Pet. 2:4.
20. In view of this principle, what vital lesson is thereby taught?
20 We pause here to take the lesson home to ourselves, that one’s having God’s favor does not depend on any accident of birth, or joining some earthly organization, even if claiming to be of the Christian religion. Jesus stated the simple rule: “He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father.” John commented in line with this when he wrote: “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother.”—John 14:21; 1 John 3:10.
THE WOMAN OF THE EDENIC PROPHECY
21. Who might we naturally think was the “woman” at Genesis 3:15, and how is this borne out?
21 There is one more character to discuss in that original prophecy, namely, the woman, the mother of the promised seed. Who is she? Or, as the French say when a problem is posed involving some unknown person: “Cherchez la femme” (Find the woman). Humanly speaking, this is the most intriguing character to identify. There are no obvious clues. In fact, when judgment was pronounced there was only one woman in the picture in the earthly scene, and that was Eve herself. So, not surprisingly, though quite unworthily, she evidently thought she was the woman referred to, indicated by her words when she gave birth to her firstborn son, Cain: “I have acquired a man with the aid of Jehovah.” But, no, we must look in another direction for a woman who is holy, whom Jehovah would be glad to use as a worthy means for such a sacred purpose.—Gen. 4:1.
22 Turning again to Revelation, chapter twelve, we find that this woman, though not named, is given a description that does indeed turn our attention in a different direction. Even in the first verse of that chapter Re 12:1, where she is seen ‘arrayed with the sun, and the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,’ our minds are at once lifted far above any thought of an earthly woman of humankind, including Mary, the mother of the human babe Jesus. Further, the fifth verse Re 12:5 indicates the time of the actual birth as being the time of the enthronement of the promised seed, which this magazine has often proved in its pages took place in heaven in 1914 (A.D.). Additionally, Re 12 verse seventeen of this chapter shows that this woman is also the mother of the “remaining ones of her seed,” that is, the remnant of the true church yet on earth after the Devil and his angels are hurled out of heaven. This identification of the “remaining ones” is confirmed by Paul when he explains that the members of the true church are part of Abraham’s seed, saying: “If you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed.”—Gal. 3:29.
23. How does Paul’s illustration and analogy at Galatians 4:21-31 help us, leading to what conclusion?
23 Are these true Christians spoken of as having a mother? Yes, and here is a vital clue. Shortly after making the above statement in his letter, Paul goes on to explain a “symbolic drama,” involving two women and two covenants and two cities. You might think, The plot thickens! but when we once grasp Paul’s analogy, we are well on the way to solving our problem. First, he mentions the servant girl Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s son Ishmael. Hagar corresponds to the law covenant inaugurated at Mount Sinai, made with fleshly Israel, and which covenant ‘brought forth children for slavery,’ under its binding terms. Mount Sinai, Paul says, corresponds with the city of Jerusalem of his day, “in slavery with her children [the Jews].” In contrast, the other woman, “the free woman,” is Sarah, the mother of Isaac. Sarah corresponds with the Abrahamic covenant, that produces the true church, spiritual Israel, the head of which is the Lord Jesus Christ. The church, which is the “body of Christ,” began to be brought forth at Pentecost, as part of “Abraham’s seed,” by means of whom all nations of the earth will bless themselves. So Paul, writing as a member of Abraham’s seed, says to his fellow members: “The Jerusalem above is free [like Sarah], and she is our mother.”—Gal. 3:16-18, 26-29; 4:21-31; Gen. 22:18.
24. When a woman is linked with a city in prophecy, what is signified?
24 Did you notice that Paul linked those two women with two cities? This is important. When a woman is linked with a city in prophecy, it indicates that what is symbolized thereby is something far greater than a creature, either earthly or heavenly. It indicates an organization, for a city is an apt symbol of a people living together under a closely organized arrangement. This is particularly true when it is a capital city, as in the case of Jerusalem, or Zion, which was the national center of government and true worship, with the throne and temple situated there. Thus we can appreciate that the “Jerusalem above,” the “Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem,” is in reality the theocratic, universal organization of Jehovah, which organization was also symbolized by the “woman” of the Edenic prophecy.—Heb. 12:22.
25. How is the same thing seen relative to Satan’s organization?
25 Incidentally, and in strong confirmation of the above, the linking of a woman with a city is also used in the Bible to picture Satan’s organization, when we read of a woman, described as the “great harlot,” and who is named “Babylon the Great,” and in the vision John is specifically told: “The woman whom you saw means the great city [Babylon].” (Rev. 17:1, 18) However, Genesis 3:15 does not mention any woman for the Serpent.
26, 27. (a) What further helpful references are found in Isaiah’s prophecy? (b) What important information is given therein, completing what picture?
26 Though many of the references, or clues, are found in the Christian Greek Scriptures, they all have their roots in the Hebrew Scriptures. In proof of this, we find that Paul, after explaining the foregoing “symbolic drama,” makes a supporting quotation from Isaiah’s prophecy, which was written about 800 years before Paul’s day. At Galatians 4:27, Paul says: “For it is written: ‘Be glad, you barren woman who does not give birth; . . . for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than those of her who has the husband.’” He is quoting from Isaiah 54:1. Looking at the context, we find that Isaiah, after telling how Zion would be set free and restored to Jehovah’s favor, then likens that city to a woman who had been barren, but is called on to rejoice greatly, for she is promised many sons. Who is her husband, the father of these many sons? This is most important. The prophet is inspired to write: “For your grand Maker is your husbandly owner, Jehovah of armies being his name . . . For Jehovah called you as if you were a wife.” Then the prophet again forges that same link, and likens that “woman afflicted” to a city whose “foundation” and “boundaries” are relaid with “glowing . . . delightsome stones,” and he climaxes with the grand promise: “And all your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.”—Isa. 52:1, 2; 54:1-6, 11-13.
27 Thus we now have before our mental vision a complete and fine picture of what was portrayed by the prophecy announced in Eden, with its four characters, and with the addition of the Holy One, Jehovah himself, who fulfills the role of husband in relation to the woman, the mother of the promised seed.
28. What can now be said as to the Scriptures being merely human documents, and how can we answer Christendom’s critics?
28 Who is going to say that Isaiah, in writing as he did, was knowingly planting a hidden clue that would form a vital link in identifying one of the main characters of the Edenic prophecy when naming the “husbandly owner” of the woman, or city? In fact, we might ask, How many of those who think of the Scriptures as merely human documents written under human inspiration, at all realize the significance of the things we have been discussing? Of all the brilliant scholars and commentators of Christendom, is there even one who has been able to unravel this matter and identify that prophetic woman who gives birth to the promised seed? If not, then we need not be at all disturbed by the adverse criticisms and judgments expressed by Christendom’s spokesmen as to the authenticity and divine origin of the Holy Bible. Fearlessly we can say: “Let God be found true,” being supremely confident that he will be ‘proved righteous in his words and will win when being judged.’—Rom. 3:4.
29. (a) To whom is all credit due for the understanding of the Bible? (b) Who are used by Jehovah to dispense spiritual truths, and how is this done?
29 Our understanding of these things is not due to ourselves. All the credit is due to Jehovah, through Christ Jesus. The apostle stresses this when he says to his Christian brothers: “Not many wise in a fleshly way were called, . . . but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame . . . But it is due to him [God] that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God.” As Jehovah, through the angel, promised Daniel, at the “time of the end . . . no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.” In agreement with this, and acting as his Father’s representative, Jesus promised in his prophecy concerning the “time of the end,” that he would make manifest the “faithful and discreet slave,” speaking collectively of the remnant of his true followers of the heavenly class, and that he would “appoint him over all his belongings.” In other words, this faithful slave class, accepting without reservation the entire Bible as the inspired Word of God, and the members thereof themselves filled with God’s spirit and guided by it, are used by God, acting through Christ Jesus, to dispense the spiritual truths, the “food at the proper time.”—1 Cor. 1:26-31; Dan. 12:9, 10; Matt. 24:45-47.
Jehovah’s Change of Instrument
1. (a) How do we know that Jehovah’s purpose will be carried out without fail? (b) Does this mean he cannot change the instrument he chooses to use?
“I AM the Divine One and there is no other God, . . . the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.’” (Isa. 46:9, 10) Jehovah, with his perfect wisdom and foresight, with his unlimited power and resources, does not need to change his purpose when once it has been determined. No unforeseen emergency can arise, no crafty enemy