The prodigal son parable, Part 1
Sep 17, 2014
The parable of the prodigal son in the last half of Luke 15 is the third in a series that Jesus told in answer to the grumbling scribes and Pharisees. It is longer than the first two parables, and for the first time Jesus compares two brothers. In the broader prophecy of the Kingdom, these two brothers are Israel and Judah. In the local application, the prodigal son represents those who repent, and the elder son represents the religious leaders who grumble at their repentance.
Luke 15:11 says,
11 And He said, “A certain man had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ And he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.”
As a Kingdom parable, this story is drawn from the history of Israel and Judah, which separated into two nations after the death of Solomon (1 Kings 12:16). Thereafter, the two brother nations showed much sibling rivalry. After 210 years, Israel was then cast out of the land, and Assyria settled the captive Israelites north between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea (2 Kings 17:6).
Jesus portrays this younger son as going on “a journey into a distant country.” Their “journey” correlates with the lost sheep and the lost coin. Their physical departure from the land was the result of their spiritual departure from God and His lawful way of life.
Ezekiel’s Prophecy of the Prodigal
About a century after Israel’s exile, the prophet Ezekiel was sent to them as a missionary. His commission came in Ezekiel 3:1 and 11,
1 Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel… 11 And go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, “Thus says the Lord God.”
In fact, it appears that he was transported to the far north in a supernatural way, for we read in Ezekiel 3:14, 15,
14 So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away; and I went embittered in the rage [chemah, “heat, anger, displeasure”] of my spirit, and the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.
The prophet appears to have been reluctant to go, on account of the difficulty of the mission. The Israelites were “stubborn and obstinate children” (Ezekiel 2:4), and so he knew that preaching to them would seem like a waste of time. In those days, when travel was difficult, he did not want to make this trip. But God told him in Ezekiel 3:18, 19,
18 When I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet if you have warned the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.
This instruction is repeated in Ezekiel 18:20-27. While Ezekiel was unsuccessful in causing Israel to repent, God expresses His heart plainly in Ezekiel 18:31, 32,
31 “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”
This appeal for repentance is, of course, the main theme of Jesus’ Kingdom parables. But this repentance would not come on a large scale until their sentence had been completed.
The Prodigal’s Lawless Way of Life in the Far Country
In Luke 15:13 we see how the prodigal “squandered his estate with loose living.” Such had also been prophesied by Moses in the Laws of Tribulation when he spoke of Israel’s future captivity. Deuteronomy 28:64 says,
64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.
This is the equivalent to the prodigal’s “loose living” during the time of their captivity. Ezekiel’s intercession for Israel and Judah indicates that Judah was given 40 years of grace (Ezekiel 4:6), while Israel was given 390 years of grace (Ezekiel 4:5). Judah’s grace period extended from Jesus’ ministry in 30-33 A.D. to the destruction of Jerusalem and Masada in 70-73 A.D.
Israel’s 390-year cycle turned out to be a period of 7 x 390 years from 721 B.C. to 2010 A.D. The final 390-year cycle began in 1620 with the arrival of the Pilgrims to America in order to worship God in good conscience. These were the first fruits of the prodigal’s return to God, which we are now seeing 390 years later since 2010. I believe that the time of Israel’s “loose living” is now coming to an end. The prodigal is coming to his senses, but the journey home has taken a few years already.
Israel’s Return to their New Country
There are other prophecies that speak of Israel’s ultimate repentance, especially Isaiah’s words of “comfort” beginning in Isaiah 40:1. Isaiah lived to see the dispersion of the House of Israel when the northern tribes were taken to Assyria, and so the second section of his book deals largely with Israel’s future return as the prodigal son. Isaiah 27:13 says,
13 It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at [New] Jerusalem.
Isaiah distinguishes between the new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17) and ties this to “Jerusalem” in the next verse; however, like the other prophets, he never distinguishes clearly between the two Jerusalems. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Jerusalem in Isaiah 65:18, 19 is not the old Jerusalem, but the new. Likewise, “Jerusalem” in Isaiah 27:13 is the heavenly city, even as “Assyria” is no longer the land of Israel’s captivity. Most of the physical Israelites emigrated from there into Europe many centuries ago, and have now settled in many parts of the world.
The divine plan for Israel’s regathering was revealed to King David at the height of his kingdom. God told David in 2 Samuel 7:10,
10 I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly.
Since Israel was already living in the land of Canaan, it is plain that God spoke of another place. Israel was certainly “disturbed” and “afflicted” by many wars and by the Assyrians in the centuries after this prophecy was given. So the old land was NOT what God had in mind. Ultimately, the prophecy confirms the promise to Abraham in Hebrews 11:13-16, where those who have faith “are seeking a country of their own,” that is, “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”
Hence, the return to God of the repentant ones is not to the old land, for Hebrews 11:15 says,
15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
The “country from which they went out” on their far journey into captivity was not the promised land to which they would return, for the children of Abraham have the revelation of “a better country.” It is a spiritual country primarily, but yet also those who become citizens of the Kingdom and of the New Jerusalem will yet inhabit the earth. The better country is not heaven, but a heavenly country on earth, for the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
America’s prophetic purpose is to be a physical type of that heavenly country. It is not the ultimate fulfillment, but it is certainly a prophetic manifestation of the place that was revealed to King David. For this reason we see the “seven times” captivity of Israel ending with the founding of America. Israel was taken captive in sections from 745-721 B.C., and “seven times” later (2,520 years) bring us to 1776-1800 A.D. America’s independence was first declared in 1776, and its capital was built in 1800.
The arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620 was a good start toward the long-term repentance manifestation of the prodigal son. But during the next 390 years, America degenerated into lawlessness once again, because God still had to deal with Judah and Jerusalem in a second stage of captivity. Judah’s captivity began in 604 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took Jerusalem.
This “seven times” captivity would have ended in 1917 with General Allenby’s capture of Jerusalem. But because Judah and Jerusalem were independent for a full century from 163-63 B.C., the “seven times” allotted to the beast empires must be extended to 2017. Even so, the transfer of authority to the saints of the Most High is occurring in 2014, which is “seven times” from 607 B.C., when God gave Babylon the dominion mandate to capture Jerusalem.
(To be continued)
This is the first part of a mini-series titled "The Prodigal Son Parable." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part of the eighty-fourth part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones