BY TODD DENNIS
APRIL 23, 2008
Historical Israel’s Prophecy/Fulfillment Model Seen in the “Land Promises”
No matter the context, seeing predictions come true can be very exciting. For instance, baseball player Babe Ruth is famous for having pointing his bat over the outfield fence prior to a pitch, and then clouting a home run to the exact location of his gesture.
Some prophecies are not fulfilled nearly so soon after their original declaration. However, when they are finally realized, the one who foretold its accomplishment looks even more impressive, for having been correct so much earlier. For instance, Albert Einstein’s prediction of “frame dragging” (which assumed that space/time is pulled out of shape by large rotating objects) took 80 years to be confirmed. Scientists were thrilled to have been able to confirm Einstein’s genius (and the fact that neither space nor time are fixed).
Biblical prophecies about Jesus, as well as those uttered by Him, are given much attention in an attempt to prove — or disprove — that the Bible and the Lord are superhuman and Divine.
Sometimes, however, in an attempt to “confirm” a prophecy, a rush to judgment is made, whereby a mistake brings disrepute upon the supposed author. This happens often regarding supposed prophecies about “the end of the world.” For almost 2,000 years, futurist Christians have predicted the end of the world in their near futures, only to have their expectations crushed when the earth did not blow up on cue. Repeated failures have brought an odium of shame to the Bible and the Lord, even though the fault was entirely with those who mistook the prophecies for something they were not.
With Hyper Preterism (HyP), the miscues usually accrue in the other direction — declaring something as being completed when in fact it is not. However, in some cases (such as with Jesus’ “it is finished” declaration on the cross), things which are accomplished by Jesus Crhsit are said to be needing augmentation by the fall of a building in AD70.
One of the hallmarks of HyP at this blog is that form of doctrine which has, by the declaration of prophetic fulfillment in the fall of Jerusalem, undershot prophecies which use natural shadows as a signpost pointing to Jesus Christ, and which can only be truly fulfilled in Him… and which find their like expression in every generation. A good example of this, which the reader has probably never considered before, is the usage of Matthew 21:44 as the over-arching meaning behind Matthew 24:2. The stones of the earthly house (oikos) fall in revelation of how our own rebellious temples a made to fall. This is akin to Paul in 1 Cor. 3:17 “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” ; however, Jesus uses this imagery in a broader sense.
Therefore, we can see why the fall of Jerusalem has historically been used by preachers as a moral device — using the visible show of judgment as a personal warning against hard-hearted rebelliousness.
By having mistakenly put a seal on a historical shadow — saying in effect “this is that, and only that” — HyP goes too far, and likewise brings disrepute to the Lord and the Word of God by turning attention away from the lesson by focusing too closely on the teaching tool.
One example — of many that could be given — is the declaration that the “Day of the Lord” is a past event suggesting only the Fall of Jerusalem in AD70. Even if one does not confine the “day” to a single 24-hour period (as some do with the 9th of Av), the declaration that the judgment of the Day of the Lord was fulfilled entirely in AD70 is HyP. This teaching goes beyond the Bible, which declares “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.”
Another example is the declaration that the “Parousia” of Jesus Christ was on the 9th of Ab, 70, as well (though there is no consensus in full preterist literature as to when, exactly, Jesus came). Though some may retort that the parousia “started then but is ongoing,” this is not the typical view.. and is more akin to John Noe’s “many comings of the Lord” Preterist-Idealism than it is to HyP. The teaching that the Lord came to earth in AD70, and will never come again, having fulfilled his Parousia then, is Hyper Preterism. This teaching goes beyond the Bible, which declares “If any one loves me,” replied Jesus, “he will obey my teaching; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23 Weymouth)
Now, as a refresher on a comment previously made regarding the difference between opposition and advocacy, my opposition to an AD70 Parousia does not mean that I believe that A.D.70 was “a” coming of the Lord while another, more universal, coming is in store for the future. There is something else I’m getting at here… which aspires to a higher plane of fulfillment than a mere historical/chronological focus can provide.
Instead of feeling constrained to see the focal point of prophecy as a particular moment in time (whether it be in the past or the future), we bring glory to the Lord by properly acknowledging HIM as the true end to which all fulfillment points. It is a fact that Jesus Christ is always the focal point of Bible prophecy. Paul says so in First Corinthians 1:20, and declares Him to be “the Finisher” in Hebrews 12. As noted, Jesus Himself claims to be the “telos” (end) and the “eschaton” (last) numerous times, including a total of seven times in the book of Revelation alone. He is the “Omega” and in whom “all fulness” dwells.
In short, all prophecy has for its end the person of Jesus Christ, and Him alone. “In Christ” are all things made new (2 Cor. 5:17), not “in history.” Therefore, the best eschatology is a sound Christology.
Without getting too wordy, I’d like to show how HyP fundamentally changes its hermeneutic with respect to national Israel when it comes to “the end.” Doing so will show how this doctrinal error thereby compromises the validity of its chosen end-times consummation.
It is often taught by HyP, where Israel is concerned, that the accomplishment of a prophecy regarding national events yields it totally completed, in the sense that a particular historical event was the only focal point of that prophecy.
It may seem natural to consider historical accomplishment the “end of the road” when it comes to prophetic expectation ; however, the Bible reveals a better hermeneutic for interpreting the events of natural Israel’s history.
A close look at the relationship between the Old Testament and the New reveals that when it comes to Israel after the flesh, there exists a “package deal” given to natural imagery, whereby historical prophecy and fulfillment work together in pointing to invisible things fulfilled in Jesus Christ alone.
Note: Natural Israel operates as a schoolmaster pointing to Jesus in all things. This is because Jesus IS the true Israel. The law is specifically mentioned in Galatians 3 as being a schoolmaster pointing to Christ. So too is the temple (and what happens to it) a schoolmaster, as well as the sabbaths, and the feasts, and all other elements/stoicheia of that shadowy role of natural Israel pointing to Jesus.
When we see a shadow below us on a sunny day, we don’t assume that the shadow is who we are ; rather, we recognize that it is but a representation of ourselves. Likewise, the proper usage of biblical “shadows” is to recognize the body to which it is tethered.
This is an extremely important hermeneutical principle, because the HyP employs an inconsistent method of looking at history as the primary focus… as though the final generation of natural Israel’s shadowy history suddenly ceases being shadow and suddenly becomes the body (substance)! Think about it… if every other generation of Israel’s history is a shadow pointing to spiritual things, then why — all of a sudden — in their final generation would everything switch so that the natural things became the focus?
Can you imagine what life would be like for us if all of a sudden our daily shadow was given power to make decisions? Obviously, that is something that could never happen. Declaring that the historical shadow suddenly becomes the substance is no different.
Consider this illustration of a road sign and how looking at “the sign of the son of man in heaven” might actually not be the same thing as “the son of man in heaven.”
Imagine driving from San Diego to Los Angeles and seeing a sign that says “Los Angeles 26”. Would you stop your vehicle because you had arrived ? After all, the sign says “Los Angeles.” Or, once you had arrived at the sign that said “Welcome to Los Angeles” would you stop there, having reached the end of the road signs’ expectations? Likewise, the “sign” of the son of man in heaven points to Him.
Many, many times in the New Testament, rites and events relating to natural Israel are revealed to have been used as pictures pointing to Jesus Christ.. and AD70 is no exception.
This is particularly significant in the discussion of what constitutes HyP, because if fulfillment in the natural is but a shadow pointing to Jesus Christ, then one might find themselves, to use a dramatic biblical phrase, guilty of worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. This would be seen in the likes of the brazen serpent, which was eventually destoyed because the people were worshipping the symbol, and not to what the symbol pointed!
For a very well documented example, consider the “Land Promises to Israel.”
Though God’s people were promised a great number of external things — which were all fulfilled externally to the letter — these “fulfilled prophecies” still pointed to something greater.
Though there was complete fulfillment to the Abrahamic promises — such as possession of a particular tract of land — in history, we know from New Testament revelation that the true fulfillment was only receivable in Jesus Christ.
Here is one of the verses which spell out the promise:
Exodus 6:8 And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.
This promise was entirely fulfilled in the history of Israel, was it not?
Joshua 21:43 And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. 44 And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.(cf. Joshua 11.23; Joshua 23.14; 1 Kings 4.21; 1 Kings 8.56)
So, then, how could we, without teaching Futurism (circa the time of Joshua) or “Double Fulfillment” or such, say that the prophecy wasn’t entirely fulfilled then? Wouldn’t that be ignoring the simple “Bible Math” that had been plainly pointed out?
We may be tempted to consider the case closed for fulfillment; however, the greater revelation of the New Testament shows us that this historical fulfillment was not the true focal point of the promises to Abraham… but was just a road sign pointing thereto! Here is the author of Hebrews saying as much:
Hebrews 11:9,13,16 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly.
It may seem like a biblical contradiction to some. Joshua and 1 Kings says that “all came to pass” … and yet here Hebrews says that Abraham and his sons died “not having received the promises.”
Adam Clarke comments on the earlier promises by pointing out that the natural, even in its fulfillment, always pointed to the spiritual, and that the natural was not the substance itself:
“(Genesis 17) Verse 8. Everlasting possession] Here appears to be used in its accommodated meaning, and signifies the completion of the Divine counsel in reference to a particular period or dispensation. And it is literally true that the Israelites possessed the land of Canaan till the Mosaic dispensation was terminated in the complete introduction of that of the Gospel. But as the spiritual and temporal covenants are both blended together, and the former was pointed out and typified by the latter, hence the word everlasting here may be taken in its own proper meaning, that of ever-during, or eternal; because the spiritual blessings pointed out by the temporal covenant shall have no end. And hence it is immediately added, I will be their God, not for a time, certainly, but for ever and ever.” – Adam Clarke, Genesis 17:8 Comment
This same principle is true of the shadowy, type-based revelation given through the entire history of natural Israel – from beginning to end (and is what I call the “prophecy/fulfillment model”). Another great example is the promise in Deuteronomy 1:10: “The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.” Though this was a promise fulfilled in the natural, we should be able to see Jesus Christ’s substance attached at the foot of this shadow.
By taking a closer look at the inheritance prophecies themselves, we can see the direct correlation between them and the gospel. For instance, Paul refers to the promises to Abraham as actually being a revelation of “the gospel” of the kingdom.
Galatians 3:8 “And the Scripture, foreseeing that in consequence of faith God would declare the nations to be free from guilt, sent beforehand the Good News (‘Gospel’ in KJV) to Abraham, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”(Weymouth)
Both Ephesians and Revelation reveal the “city which has foundations” as being the body of Christ, the true temple:
Hebrews 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Ephesians 2:19-22 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Revelation 21:9-10,14 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
By applying some Berean determination, we can see how the natural promises were always given to reveal spiritual realities. Even so, the fulfillment of the visible, historical signs are very important to “fulfil all righteousness” (as in the case of the visible baptism of Christ – Matt. 3:15). Or, to use the saying of Paul:
I Cor 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
In other words, all natural types and shadows, signs and wonders have spiritual — not mere natural — substance behind them.
Always helpful, Paul pushes us in the proper direction in II Corinthians 4:18, declaring “..look not at things seen, but things unseen; for things seen are temporary, but things unseen are eternal.” (Weymouth) And also Colossians 3:2 – Give your minds to the things that are above, not to the things that are on the earth. (Weymouth)
Having seen that Jesus is the eschaton and the telos, we should not be surprised to expect that all prophecy points to Him. By looking elsewhere (say, to things seen in AD70), Hyper Preterism is not only inconsistent, but it is dishonoring to the Lord, and this fundamental error in pointing out the fulfillment of biblical prophecy has many negative consequences. Many of these will be pointed out, but not until later.
Also, I will be adding many more examples of the “prophecy/fulfillment model” — such as the triumphal entry, and Jesus’ answer to the disciples of John — but, alas, baseball season is upon me and there is time no longer.
In the meantime, I might as well leave you will one more passage which (despite claims to the contrary) isn’t a preterist “time indicator” : Hebrews 11:38-40. Finishing the thought about the children of Abraham not having received the promises, the author of Hebrews traces the history of natural Israel all the way through to the prophets. And lest one be tempted to think that v. 13 is only about the Israelites prior to Joshua “not having received the promises” (as though those following him had), v. 39-40 declares,
“And although by their faith all these people won God’s approval, none of them received the fulfilment of His great promise, for God had provided for them and us something better, so that apart from us they were not to attain to full blessedness.” (Weymouth)
This explains it all wonderfully! This is an amazingly clear declaration that natural Israel received nothing apart from Jesus Christ, opinions that the natural land was in itself the fulness of the promise notwithstanding. We all alike inherit the same promise that was typified by the land, which is Jesus Christ.
So then, as we put AD70 in its place, we can see that this event likewise provided nothing special for natural Israel, as though they received a special resurrection or judgment or parousia as a result. AD70 was, like the land promises to Israel, only a type which points to our common property — which is receivable in Jesus Christ alone.
Revelation 21:22 – And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.