Handel's Messiah: The Person and Work of Christ

5. 'And I Will Shake All Nations'

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The Scriptures of Handel's Messiah present a complete Gospel message. What does that mean?

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 5 of a series. Read part 4.

The Scriptures of Handel's Messiah present a complete Gospel message. What does that mean?

Charles Jennens' opening Scripture selections in Handel's Messiah continue with a key prophecy from Haggai, which is sung by a bass soloist:

Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come. (Haggai 2:6-7)

The Essence of the Prophecy

As we have already noted, the just-sung prophecy of Isaiah chapter 40 was written to the people of Judah as though they were already in Babylon in captivity, even though this would not take place for another century. The prophecy of Haggai, on the other hand, is written to those who have returned after the captivity, during their lifetime. Haggai chapters 1 and 2 tell us that the prophet himself was among the repatriated exiles.

In 538 B. C. King Cyrus of Persia had permitted the Jews to leave Babylon and return to their homeland after seventy years of captivity. Earlier in this series we noted that God through Isaiah foretold the coming of Cyrus, calling him by name and declaring the acts he would perform in God's redemptive plan. This prophecy was given a century-and-a-half before Cyrus was born (Isaiah 45:1-7).

As is true of the first three selections in Messiah, the words of Haggai 2:6-7 speak of the coming of the One who is "the desire of all nations." But like the words from Isaiah, they look beyond Christ's first coming to His second coming. Haggai's prophecy foreshadows the apocalyptic events described in greater detail in the book of Revelation chapters 6 through 19, which begin with the opening of the seven seals and blowing of the seven trumpets of God's wrath upon the earth and its rebellious inhabitants, and culminate in the defeat of spiritual Babylon and the triumph of Christ over the Beast and his armies. Truly, "all nations" and the cosmos itself shall be shaken to their very foundations.

Facts Essential to Genuine Gospel Proclamation

It is noteworthy, and commendable, that Jennens began the Messiah with passages that emphasize man's rebellion and God's coming judgment. This is how the Gospel must be presented. The Gospel begins with God, His holiness, man's fall from his created perfection, man's unbending rebellion and sinfulness, God's fully justified righteous wrath against man's sin, and Christ's coming and certain judgment. The Gospel begins with God and His holy Law, and the disastrous effects of man's rebellion against the Creator and Law-Giver.

Only upon this background can the rest of the Gospel be accurately presented and properly understood. Only upon this background can God's purpose in the first coming of Christ be truly comprehended: the necessity of blood atonement for sin; the incarnation of the Messiah who is both the perfect High Priest and the perfect Propitiation; redemption through the cross-work of Jesus from the wrath of God; comfort and assurance for the people of God because Christ is now risen for their justification, reigns and intercedes for them, and will come again in glory to accomplish the final defeat of His enemies, the last enemy being Death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26). The brightness of the immeasurable grace of God can only be properly seen when displayed against the backdrop of the black darkness of man's sin and its horrific results.

The Apostle Paul spoke of his great motivation for preaching the Gospel at the beginning of his letter to the believers at Rome: He preached salvation in Christ because of the impending wrath of God:

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:16-19)

The Full-Orbed Gospel and You

Dear reader, if you are not a Christian, I urge you to take careful heed to the complete Gospel message. God's wrath remains without remedy upon the unbeliever apart from Christ:

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)

And dear reader, if you are a Christian, let me ask you this: Do you understand and rejoice in this full-orbed Gospel? Do you revel in the fact that "in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7)? Are you living a life of growing sanctification in gratitude for the salvation Christ accomplished at His first coming? Are you looking forward, even in the trials and temptations of this present life, to the ultimate victory that the cross has guaranteed at His second coming?

And finally: How is your witness to others? Do you communicate a full-orbed Gospel to your fellow men? The good news of salvation in Christ and the glories of the world to come is the only answer to the horrible news of man's rebellion against God, and the chaos into which the cosmos has been plunged because of man's sin. Let us never fear to "go negative" in presenting that balanced picture. We must tell our fellow men the whole truth so that they may understand their hopeless condition, and cry from their hearts, "What must I do to be saved?"


Next: The Lord...Shall Come Suddenly to His Temple


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