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Haggai’s Prophecy: First or Second Coming?

July 25, 2011 Comments off

From my studies through the minor prophets with S. Lewis Johnson, some interesting points  from Haggai 2:1-7.  This prophecy contains a familiar passage, since verse 6 is cited in Hebrews 12:26-27:

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken-that is, things that have been made-in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

Haggai 2:7 contains a well-known phrase — or rather, the incorrect King James translation of it:  “the desire of all nations.”  This mistake in the grammar, a singular noun instead of plural, goes back to the Latin Vulgate, and from that translation (in the KJV as well as the NIV) has come the common misunderstanding that this passage is talking about the First Coming of Christ.  Indeed I always understood it as such, that “the desire of all nations” and the promise that this temple would be greater than the previous (Solomon’s), referred to Christ coming to that temple a few hundred years later.  The traditional emphasis at Christian churches no doubt reinforced that, with the emphasis that everything in the Old Testament refers to Christ and the New Testament era.  Along with this, many see the citation of the passage in Hebrews, and (as with so many other NT citings of the OT) distort the plain words to conclude that the very fact of the citation means that the quoted passage must have been fulfilled in the first century, Christ’s First Coming.

First, though, the original Greek, properly translated in all modern translations (excepting the NIV) — NASB, ESV, HCSB, NLT, etc. — has a plural noun.  The ESV translates the passage as:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.

Thus, this prophecy in Haggai is actually an indirect Messianic prophecy, to Christ’s Second Coming.  Another Old Testament passage that relates to this one, is Isaiah 60 , a great chapter concerning the restoration of Israel. Consider especially verses 5-7, a clear parallel to the idea here that the nations will bring their treasures to Israel and the millennial temple:

Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6 A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
and I will beautify my beautiful house.