Many persons maintain that God will nullify prophecies of doom if people repent. They cite Jonah’s prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh as an example. The people of Nineveh repented of wickedness and God did not destroy Nineveh as he said he would. Jonah became embarrassed and angry when God seemed to go back on his word. The truth is that God did destroy Nineveh as he said he would—years later in the days of Tobit, as the Book of Tobit records. God fulfilled Jonah’s prophecy to the letter just as he fulfills the words of all his prophets. It just didn’t happen when Jonah thought it should. One might further question how many people in the world today repent of wickedness as swiftly as the people of Nineveh did. With one accord, king and people completely turned from their evil ways as they took Jonah’s warning to heart.
People likewise believe that prophecies of a literal restoration of God’s people as a covenant nation can be explained away spiritually. They believe that many events predicted by the Hebrew prophets are not literal but figurative. To them, the prophesied return of Israel in an exodus from the four directions of the earth to the Promised Land; the rebuilding of Israel’s ancient settlements, including Jerusalem and the temple; Jehovah’s coming to dwell with his people as he dwelt with Israel in the past—all these are merely an allegory of things that have a mystical fulfillment. In many instances, people’s current theology doesn’t make room for the literal word of God from a remote age. As with the prophecy of Jonah, however, can anyone change what God has spoken? Surely, all that God has declared will come to pass precisely as he said. Is Isaiah’s prophecy, in fact, less relevant today than it was in his own day? Rather, as the end of the world approaches it becomes more relevant than ever before.
Similarly, can it be said that Isaiah’s theology of a Savior-God is less true today than it was in his day? With all that has transpired between Isaiah’s time and ours, clearly it means as much to us now as it does to anyone. Doesn’t the life of Jesus of Nazareth fulfill to the letter Isaiah’s predictions of a suffering Savior? Can anyone explain away the New Testament theology Isaiah has encoded in his book? Not the theology of many Christians who reduce Jesus’ teachings to a mere slogan; nor the theology of those who substitute elaborate liturgies for personal righteousness; but rather the theology of Jesus and his ancient disciples in all its abundant inclusiveness?
In addition, how does one explain away legitimate Jewish expectations of a Messiah? What of the Jewish hope of a Messiah who will restore the political kingdom of God on the earth, gather Israel’s tribes from exile, and build the temple on its former site? If God’s end-time servant will not fulfill these predictions, then who will? According to Isaiah and other Hebrew prophets, Jehovah will come in glory to a people who have gathered home from exile to meet him. He will enter a temple that has been built to receive him. He will reign as King in a kingdom that has been restored for him. Shall God’s end-time servant and those servants who assist him not prepare the way before Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth? Moreover, shall the prophesied “restoration of all things God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21) not come to pass? Or shall it be a restoration only in part, not of all that once was?
(Taken from The End from the Beginning, pp 109–111)