Zechariah’s Prophecy: Past Partial Fulfillment, but Future Complete Fulfillment

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

David Baron’s “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah,” (full online text available here) originally published nearly a hundred years ago, shows that indeed some ideas have been around quite a while, including the Preterist/fulfillment approach to Old Testament scripture. Preterism (and the form called “partial preterism”) has enjoyed greater popularity just in the last 15 years or so, after many decades of dominant futurism in American Christianity. But David Baron’s commentary gives answer to the same question raised today — along with proper balance of interesting details concerning the past partial fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy. We can acknowledge that, indeed, a partial fulfillment or foreshadowing has occurred, recognizing what those historical events are, while understanding that the Old Testament promises have a complete fulfillment yet to occur.

But it might be as well, before proceeding further, to pause and inquire if there is any truth in the assertion that this promise has already been fulfilled … and another, who, in an able and elaborate work, which, however, is chiefly a summary of the explanations and speculations of German commentators who, with very rare exceptions, have no place at all in their theological and exegetical schemes for any future for Israel admitting that it is of the earthly Jerusalem that the words were spoken, tells us coolly that : “There is no need to suppose that the prophecy refers to a still future period, as Von Hoffmann imagines. The prophecy was fulfilled by the restoration of the city of Jerusalem under the protection of God even in troublous days.

The 19th century preterist references the details of Jerusalem’s history during the post-exilic period:

 “Though surrounded indeed by walls, Jerusalem grew so fast that a considerable number dwelt in villages outside the walls. Its population continually increased the city was noted for its splendid appearance in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. … In the troublous times which intervened between the days of Zechariah and those of our Lord, notwithstanding the disasters which occasionally fell upon the holy city, abundant proof was given that the Lord was not forgetful of His promises, specially to shield and to protect it. The promises,” he proceeds, ” would have been fully accomplished if the people had kept the covenant committed to them, and they were accomplished in a great measure, notwithstanding their many sins.”

Also from David Baron:

A good deal is made of a letter of Aristeas, an Egyptian Jew, to Philocrates, which is referred to by Josephus in the I2th book of his Jewish Antiquities, in which a description of Jerusalem after the restoration is given; also of a fragment of Hecataeus, who lived in the time of Alexander the Great, and who describes the Jews at the time as possessing “many fortresses and towns, moreover one fortified city, by name Jerusalem, fifty stadia in circumference and inhabited by 120,000 men”; and of Josephus’ statement (see his Jewish Wars, v. 4. 2) that at the time of Herod Agrippa, “as the city grew more populous it gradually crept beyond its old limits, and those parts of it that stood northwards of the temple and joined that hill to the city made it considerably larger, and occasioned that hill, which is in number the fourth, and is called Bezetha, to be inhabited also.” All of which, according to these interpreters, show that the glorious prophecy in Zech. 2 has been fulfilled, and has no more reference to a future period.

But to say that this wonderful prophecy was completely fulfilled in that time misses the mark and misses the depth and meaning of the great words of the actual prophecy. Here are the two major reasons why the prophecy (Zechariah 2) cannot be limited to the past event, and speak of a future fulfillment:

1.  Jerusalem is still being “trodden down of the Gentiles,” which has never ceased to be the case from the time of the Babylonian Captivity to this day. The “times of the Gentiles” began with “the withdrawal of Himself from their midst,” and the darkness of the Jewish nation since then, has not ended. That this period did not terminate with the first advent of our Lord is clear from Christ’s own prophetic forecast of future events, in which He says: “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

2.  These beautiful words, “For I, saith Jehovah, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of her,” are really an announcement of the return of the Glory of the Personal Presence of Jehovah to Jerusalem, and an amplification of the words in the first vision, “I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies.” David Baron further addressed this issue, of the departure of the Glory of God from Jerusalem (Ezekiel’s vision) and the present-day “Ichabod” period of Israel’s history (reference his work, The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew).

God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: The Commentary Within the Old Testament

April 2, 2014 3 comments

James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment reads as an overview commentary on the whole Bible, from beginning to end, with the Old Testament in its original Hebrew sequence. Along the way, many parallels are brought out, as we see that parts of the Old Testament act as commentary on other sections. Thus far I have read through the Torah, the former prophets, and some of the Latter Prophets section — the Pentateuch books, then Joshua through Kings (excluding Ruth); then Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve (minor prophets books).

A few interesting points here, showing how later Old Testament books provide commentary on other sections.

The Former Prophets comment on the Torah. Example: the book of Kings (1 Kings and 2 Kings)

In order to understand Kings, however, readers must be aware of the terms of the covenant in order to see the justification for the visitation of the curses of the covenant. It seems that what the author of Kings has chosen to include is largely informed by the teaching of Torah, such that while the law of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14–20 is not overtly mentioned, 1 Kings 10:14–11:8 shows Solomon breaking these laws point for point (horses, wives, excessive silver and gold, disregard for the Torah he was to copy and keep).

The latter prophets likewise “provide an explanatory commentary on the narrative story line of the Torah and the Former Prophets.” As for instance, the early chapters of Jeremiah

depict the exodus from Egypt and the covenant at Sinai as a wedding between Yahweh and his virgin bride, Israel (Jer. 2:2; cf. Hos. 2:17–18, ET 15–16). While a virgin bride’s memories of the glory of the wedding day would keep her faithful to her husband, Israel has forgotten Yahweh “days without number” (Jer. 2:32). Jeremiah calls the people to repent of their spiritual adultery. The horror of covenant infidelity, forsaking Yahweh and turning to idols (1:16), should be recognized by the fruit it will bear.

Hamilton’s book should be interesting as it looks at the later Writings section (I haven’t read that far yet). From my own genre reading, one or two chapters each day from several sections of the Bible — and reading the Old Testament according to the original Hebrew section, the same order Hamilton prefers — I have noticed similar commentary, in the later Writings section, upon both the Torah and the Latter Prophets. Why does Nehemiah make such emphasis upon closing the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath, even turning away those who show up at the gates on the Sabbath and threatening physical force against them if they do it again (Nehemiah 13:15-21). Jeremiah 17 describes the very same scenario – in reverse. Jeremiah exhorted the people, (verse 21) “Thus says the Lord: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem,” promising (verses 24 -27) “But if you listen to me, declares the Lord, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, 25 then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever.But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’”  Nehemiah alludes to what the people had done in the days before the exile, a later “commentary” upon Jeremiah 17:19-23.

The Tender Conscience and Assurance: J.C. Ryle and S. Lewis Johnson

March 25, 2014 5 comments

In going through S. Lewis Johnson’s 1 John series, here is a section I can especially relate to: study of one aspect of Christian living can lead the “tender conscience” to discouragement and doubting one’s salvation, if the teaching is not properly balanced. Indeed, the superficial teaching at a local church several years ago (including its approach to 1 John), with emphasis on external, outward religion and our good works as evidence of salvation, affected me in just this way. In-depth teaching is always the remedy for proper balance on this (and any) issue, and I still remember the impact to my understanding, when I first read similarly encouraging words a few years ago, in this excerpt from J.C. Ryle’s Holiness:

The only righteousness in which we can appear before God is the righteousness of another — even the perfect righteousness of our Substitute and Representative, Jesus Christ the Lord. His work, and not our work — is our only title to Heaven. … For all this, however, the Bible distinctly teaches that the holy actions of a sanctified man, although imperfect, are pleasing in the sight of God. “With such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). “Obey your parents . . . for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). “We . . . do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). Let this never be forgotten, for it is a very comforting doctrine.
Just as a parent is pleased with the efforts of his little child to please him, though it be only by picking a daisy, or walking across a room — so is our Father in Heaven pleased with the poor performances of His believing children. He looks at the motive, principle and intention of their actions — and not merely at their quantity and quality. He regards them as members of His own dear Son, and for His sake, wherever there is a single eye — He is well pleased.

From Dr. Johnson’s 1 John series, a good analysis of the believer’s conscience, exposition of 1 John 2:12-14:

one can see that a person with a tender conscience might be tending to discouragement at this point because, if you feel as I do, and I don’t say that I have a tender conscience, but sometimes I have something like that, and when I read some of the statements of Scripture that say we know that we know him if we keep his commandments — I recognize that in my life there are many of those commandments that I have questions about whether I’m really keeping them.

And I’m not always sure that I’m always walking in the light. In fact, at times, I know I’m not walking in the light. We talked about that and how the Christian life is a sin-judged life, and that characteristic of the Christian life is the necessity of continual confession of sin. So I can understand that a person with a tender conscious might have problems, and then when this apostle says that, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now,” that really comes home because I must confess that I have had problems with some of my brethren, that is my professing brethren in Christ. And I have often had to get down upon my knees, and ask God to give me the strength to love, and the mind to love this brother or sister, as the case may be. So I can see that someone with a tenderer conscience than mine might have questions about his salvation.

He might really say, “I don’t think I’m keeping the commandments. I know I fail in loving my brothers and my sisters. Perhaps I’m not a Christian at all.” And so, I think that what John writes now is a kind of interlude in which he wants to encourage people like me, and maybe even more so, those whose consciences are even more tender than mine. I think, therefore, it’s very fitting that in this brief paragraph, this apostle of love, the elderly apostle, the last of the apostles still living — the apostolic age is drawing to its conclusion — assures the ones to whom he writes these very strong words of test, that he is confident of their faith and life.

Thoughts on Theological Labels: “Futurist Premillennialism”

March 21, 2014 4 comments

For today, just some thoughts concerning the particular doctrinal ideas often associated with larger “doctrinal labels.”  A currently popular term is “futurist premillennialism,” often considered synonymous with “dispensationalism”:  a definition of premillennialism with several defining characteristics as “essentials of dispensationalism.”  This term and definition have especially gained popularity (and perhaps were developed/created) through the work of scholars associated with a well-known seminary that teaches dispensationalism.  Though likely it was not intended, it appears that at least some people now confuse terms, such that “futurist premillennialism” (to them) means dispensationalism — as though to suggest that only the dispensational form of premillennialism is futurist in its view including recognition of a future for national, ethnic Israel.   Such use of “futurist premillennial” often comes up in online group discussions, or in online articles such as this recent post, which notes in passing “the abundance of scholarship from notable Calvinists who ascribe to futuristic premillennialism (dispensationalism).”

But consider the actual words “futurist” and “premillennial.”  Technically, futurist refers to the belief that the end times events especially as described in Revelation are to occur in the future  (see this post about millennial views and future/present/past), a concept not limited to premillennialism (there are at least a few amillennial futurists, though certainly more common for premillennialism). Also, premillennialism itself encompasses the basic ideas of a plain language “literal” hermeneutic, a future restoration of Israel as a nation, and a future literal thousand year period of time during which Christ reigns upon the Earth over the nations populated with mortal (non-glorified) peoples.

So I maintain that “futurist premillennialism” as such is not really synonymous with dispensationalism, nor limited to or exclusive to dispensationalism, but should be understood to encompass overall classic/historic premillennialism.  Though what often passes today for “historic premillennialism” is the relatively recent development of (George Ladd) one-text premillennialism, including (as for instance with author James Hamilton) a historicist approach to Revelation, many premillennialists – in the age before dispensationalism was introduced and became popular – took a clearly literal, futurist view of eschatology.  The early church fathers recognized a future literal 3 1/2 year period of Great Tribulation after which Christ would return (see the quotes in this post, for instance).  Though Protestant premillennialism began with the historicist view common to the Reformers’ amillennial historicism, the 19th century — and notably, this was before dispensationalism was popularized (Darby’s teaching, to the later Scofield Bible) — brought several premillennialists who were also futurist in their understanding regarding Daniel’s 70th week and the Great Tribulation events.  Recommended works from earlier, pre-dispensational and futurist premillennialism include  Benjamin Wills Newton’s The Antichrist Future (1859).

Despite the seeming predominance of the George Ladd view on the one hand, and the popularity of “Calvinist Dispensationalism” on the other, the classic, futurist premillennial view has its proponents today, as for instance the teachers at the Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony (more details in this post), and the (past as well as present-day) writers of online articles at Providence Baptist Ministries. The historic premillennialist speakers at the SGAT monthly meetings,  and their quarterly magazine, feature the same topics supposedly unique to dispensationalism, as for instance: the rebuilding of a literal Babylon, the future of Israel and the nations and the millennium; and literal hermeneutics in response to the problems with amillennialism.  Other resources include the teaching at this website, and a Facebook discussion group for classic premillennialists, which includes present-day non-Laddian style historic premillennial pastors and laypeople.  Consider also the many believers (as evidenced by many online discussion groups) from non-Calvinist/non-Reformed background; these generally come from a baptist Arminian Dispensational background, yet now identify as historic premillennial (not as dispensational) and are familiar with the historic premillennial writers from the early church as well as 19th century premillennialists: clearly futurist with respect to the Great Tribulation, agreeing with the literal (plain language) hermeneutic, the future restoration of Israel, and the role of Israel and the nations during the 1000 year kingdom.

So let’s help spread the word, that dispensational premillennialism is not the only form of premillennialism that is futurist, adheres to a literal plain language hermeneutic, and sees a future restoration of Israel (the basic tenets of supposed “futurist premillennialism aka dispensationalism”).

Old Testament Studies: Promise of A New Eden

March 13, 2014 2 comments

In my recent studies in the Old Testament I’ve looked more closely at the theme of return to creation, a return to Eden.  Previous material (reading and sermon teaching) often emphasized the Abrahamic covenant and everything that flows out from it – the Davidic and then the New Covenant – and our salvation which is rooted in the Abrahamic promises.  But as others have pointed out, the promise of redemption starts much earlier even than Abraham, back to the seed promise in Genesis 3; and the concept of covenants pre-dates Abraham, back to Adam and then Noah.

James Hamilton, in God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, frequently notes the link between the early nation Israel and Eden, the Promised Land described as a new Eden (as in the following, cited in this previous post):

the Promised Land almost becomes a new Eden. The Lord will walk among his people in the land, just as he walked in the garden (Gen. 3:8; Lev. 26:11–12; Deut. 23:15). Like the fertile garden of Eden, the Promised Land will flow with milk and honey. On the way to the Promised Land, the camp of Israel is even described in Edenic terms.

Also this interesting reference, from David Baron’s Israel in the Plan of God, commentary on Isaiah 51:3 (“​​​​​​​For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord.”)

How glorious a transformation! From a state of total barrenness into another Eden, with all its fertility and beauty, and instead of its present condition of utter desolation it shall be like “the garden of Jehovah,” as glorious as if it had been directly planted by Himself for His own joy and delight.

Searching through the Bible for references to Eden, or the garden of the Lord, reveals more of this theme in the prophets, that restored Israel will be “like the garden of Eden”  (Ezekiel 36:35, Isaiah 51:3), like a watered garden (Isaiah 58:11 and Jeremiah 31:12).  The same figure is used in reverse as well, as in Joel 2:3:  “The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.”  Ezekiel and Zechariah’s description of the future restoration of Israel and its temple structure includes a river flowing out, another likeness to the garden of Eden, bringing everything at the end back to the beginning in Eden.

Hamilton further notes the correspondences between Eden and Israel itself.  Compare Numbers 24:6, Balaam’s description of Israel, with Genesis 2.  Both passages mention the Lord God, and the words planted, garden, river, and trees:  Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters.  Also consider the following correspondences between the description of Eden (Genesis 2-3) and passages about the tabernacle (in the Pentateuch) and the temple (including the description of the future temple):

(From God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Table 2.3. Correspondences between Eden and the Tabernacle and Temple.)

Correspondences Eden Tabernacle/Temple
God walking among his people Gen. 3:8 Lev. 26:11–13; Deut. 23:14; 2 Sam. 7:6–7
Holy tree/blooming lampstand Gen. 2:9 Ex. 25:31–40; 1 Chron. 28:15
Gold and precious stones Gen. 2:11–12 Ex. 25:7, 11, etc.
Entered from the east Gen. 3:24 Num. 3:38
Guarded by cherubim Gen. 3:24 Ex. 25:10–22; 26:1; 1 Kings 7:29
Food/bread Gen. 2:9 Ex. 25:30; 1 Kings 7:48
Priest who “works and keeps” Gen. 2:15 Num. 3:7–8; 8:26; 18:5–6
Rivers flowing out Gen. 2:10–14 Ezek. 47:1; Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8

Typology and Parallels Within the Old Testament: Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan

March 7, 2014 2 comments

Continuing through James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, I’m now reading the section on the former prophets.  Hamilton’s work brings out an interesting aspect of typology:  not merely the illustrations and pictures (types) concerning the correspondences between Old Testament persons, events, or institutions, and New Testament fulfillment.  Typology can also include correspondences between one Old Testament event and a later Old Testament event.  Herein we observe the central theme of scripture, repeated throughout the unfolding story of God’s work with the nation Israel:  God’s Glory as the ultimate purpose of His works, accomplished in Salvation through Judgment.

Considering the Old Testament “Prophets” section and its beginning chapter (Joshua), Hamilton observes several interesting parallels between the Exodus experience and the later conquest of Canaan:

1. Explicit comparison between the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus) and the later crossing of the River Jordan (Josh. 4:23)

2. The judgment of circumcision:  Moses’ sons in Exodus 4:24-26.  Then, the conquest generation in Joshua 5; Through the judgment of circumcision, the reproach of Egypt is rolled away (Joshua 5:9).

3. Angel of the Lord appearances of God: to Moses (the burning bush); then to Joshua in Joshua 5, the meeting with the Captain of the Host of Yahweh

Just as Moses drew near and inspected the burning bush, Joshua draws near the man with the drawn sword (5:13). Just as Moses was instructed to remove his sandals because of the holy ground, so Joshua is told to remove his (5:15). These historical correspondences connect the beginnings of the triumphant exodus to the beginnings of what is hereby guaranteed to be the triumphant conquest. There might be an escalation of significance in that whereas Moses was resistant to what Yahweh commanded him to do and is not said to have worshiped, Joshua not only does not question and object, as Moses did, but he worships (5:14)

4.  Likeness to Eden

This man with the drawn sword stands to the east of the land, at its entrance, creating an intriguing connection between the land Israel is crossing over to possess, and the land from which Adam and Eve were expelled.15 The way to Eden was guarded at the east by a cherubim with a flaming sword (Gen. 3:24). Similarly, Balaam likened the camp of Israel to a garden planted by Yahweh (Num. 24:6), and as he made his way to their camp, he met the angel of Yahweh, who had a drawn sword in his hand (Num. 22:22–35). With Yahweh in their midst, Israel has recaptured something of the Edenic experience. As they cross into the land, Israel moves in the direction of the reversal of the curse.

5.  Yahweh pursues His glory: He hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus) to accomplish His purpose of the Exodus.  Then He hardens the hearts of the Canaanite kings of the land, to accomplish His purpose of bringing the people into the land, the conquest.

As well summarized, God’s purpose in these great events:

The typological connections between the exodus and conquest set forth in Joshua 4:23, where the crossing of the sea is compared to the crossing of the river, and 5:13–16, where, like Moses, Joshua unshods his feet on holy ground, join with other features in the text17 to indicate that Yahweh’s goal at the conquest is the same goal He had at the exodus. There He wanted all to know that He is Yahweh. He pursued His glory—the proclamation of His name—by saving Israel through the judgment of Egypt. At the conquest, Yahweh causes the inhabitants of the land to know that He is God (2:9–11), He makes Israel know that he is among them (3:10), and He makes the peoples of the land know His might (4:24). Just as Yahweh hardened the heart of Pharaoh to accomplish His purpose at the exodus, so He hardens the hearts of the kings of the land at the conquest (11:18, 20).18 Just as Yahweh demonstrated His glory at the exodus by saving Israel through the judgment of Egypt, He demonstrates His glory at the conquest by saving Israel through the judgment of the peoples of the land.

Deuteronomy, God’s Sovereign Election and Man’s Responsibility

February 28, 2014 Leave a comment

My recent reading has included study on sections of Deuteronomy, as for instance this recent post, David Baron’s exposition of Deuteronomy 32, The Song of Moses.  The overall book of Deuteronomy also comes up in James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, with a good overview study of the book and its major themes including the great truths of God’s sovereign election and man’s responsibility.  A great summary of this point:

Israel is urged to choose life, to love Yahweh, to cleave fast to Him (30:19–20). They have a real choice, but their ‘chooser’ will always select sin because Yahweh has not given them the heart they need.  But they will make their choice, and they will be judged for the rightness or wrongness of the choice they make. The fact that Yahweh promises to change their ‘chooser’ by circumcising their hearts does not remove their responsibility for the choice they will make. Nor does it make Yahweh unjust if He chooses not to change their ‘chooser’, or if He chooses only to change the ‘choosers’ of those He chooses. People are responsible. And Yahweh is sovereign.

Through the Torah (the Mosaic law) the people of Israel are to know and love their God, and to understand how to live in a way pleasing to God.  A large portion of Deuteronomy can be seen as an expansion of and commentary upon the Ten Commandments.  Deuteronomy 5 recites the Ten Commandments, and chapters 6 through 25 explain:

Commandment Chapters in Deuteronomy Exposition
1. No other gods 6-11 Love and worship Yahweh
2. No idols 12-13 Central sanctuary and false
gods
3. Name 13–14 Holiness to Yahweh
4. Sabbath 14-16 periodic duties
5. Parents 16–18 Authority: judge, king,
priest, and prophet
6. Murder 19–22 Life and Law
7. Adultery 22-23 Regulations on sexuality
8. Theft 23-25 Property
9. False testimony 24-25 Truthfulness
10. Coveting 25 Unselfish levirate marriage

The last chapters of Deuteronomy, after this exposition of the ten commandments, address the root issue of human nature as in the specific case of the people of Israel.  Having been given every positive inducement to obey, and the warnings about not obeying, as Hamilton observes:  obedience would seem to be a reasonable consequence. Reason alone, however, does not govern the human heart. Sin never makes sense. In order to obey, one must have a circumcised heart. Circumcision of the heart, however, is not something one does to oneself. One must be given what one needs by Yahweh himself, and Moses declares to Israel that Yahweh has not given them the kind of heart they need (Deut. 29:3).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 366 other followers