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Biblical Prophecies and Fulfillment: Michael Barrett Series

May 15, 2017

The later messages in Michael Barrett’s “Refuting Dispensationalism” series  (see this previous post) consider another of Charles Ryrie’s distinctives of dispensationalism –  literal interpretation of prophecy – with a detailed look at some actual prophetic texts that have been fulfilled, to note some interesting features.  A key point here is that, contrary to the claim made by some, prophecy is NOT “as clear as yesterday’s newspaper.”

  • Prophecies Are Not Clear in the Details

The prophecy in 2 Kings 7:1-2 – Elisha, to the king’s captain who doubted Elisha’s prophecy about food in Samaria, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it,” had its fulfillment the next day, described in verses 17 through 20.  Yet the prophecy lacked details.  Surely, if the man had known the details, he would have taken steps to prevent its fulfillment!

  • Prophecies Fulfilled, but not Exact Date-Specific

Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70 years captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10) also had its fulfillment. About 70 years later, the people did return to the land of Israel.  But what was the starting point?  The deportation occurred in three stages:  605 B.C., 597 B.C. and finally, with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.  Yet if we try to date the 70 years from any of these three points, to the later decree of Cyrus, none of these starting points matches exactly to 70 years.

  • Prophecies Fulfilled, But In Different Ways

Jacob’s last words to his twelve sons, in Genesis 49, includes a prophecy about Simeon and Levi in verses 5-7:

“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
and scatter them in Israel.

The later history of Israel proved the truth of this prophecy.  Yet though we might expect the same outcome for both tribes, the details proved otherwise.  Levi was scattered and not given a portion of land, but in a positive way – the Lord was their portion, they did not inherit a specific piece of land.  Simeon, though, was given land – land that was within the territory of Judah, such that they later lost their specific identity and are infrequently mentioned as a distinct tribe.  One prophecy about both sons and their descendants, meant fulfillment in very different ways.

Along with these interesting observations, in this series Dr. Barrett also provides guidelines for the proper interpretation of prophecies, including explanation of “progressive prediction” or “prophetic telescoping.”  Of particular note, Barrett disagrees with the “double fulfillment” or “multiple fulfillment” view of prophecy; a particular prophecy only has one meaning and thus one corresponding fulfillment; a particular scripture cannot mean one thing and also mean something else.  Yet we can see a progression in the fulfillment of a prophecy.  Isaiah 61:1-2 is a classic example; Jesus quoted verse 1 through the first phrase of verse 2, as being fulfilled at that time (His First Coming); He did not read the rest of verse 2, though – because that part refers to His Second Coming.

Overall I found this series helpful: a good overview of a few key issues identified by Ryrie as distinctives of dispensationalism, and considering specific points of scripture, and examples from scripture as a contrast to these points.

  1. May 15, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  2. Robert
    May 16, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Very intersting! I have sometimes wondered about this reading the Bible… that the prophecys are is not necessarily all exact as WE would want to define it. God is the final authority about how He defines things, right?
    But why couldnt there be double fulfillments? Is there anything in the Bible that says this cannot be? What about judgements and the Day of the Lord in the O.T. being shadows or figures of the final judgement for example.

    • May 16, 2017 at 11:55 am

      He explains this in the series — but basically, it’s a hermeneutical principle that a given text has and can only have one meaning. It can have multiple *applications*; a text can be applied to us, what we can learn from it and how it relates to our daily life and situations. But, as John Owen said (and Michael Barrett quoted him), and I’m paraphrasing it here: if a text can mean more than one thing, if it has more than one meaning –then it doesn’t mean anything; or it can mean everything, which is another way to mean that it really doesn’t mean anything.

      Listen to lectures 8, 9 and 10 in this series for more detail, where he discusses this very topic of OT prophecies, judgments, and the Day of the Lord. Instead of actual “double fulfillment” or “multiple fulfillment,” we find a progression in fulfillment. Certain verses and even parts of verses had their fulfillment at a particular point in time, and certain OT nations had their Day of the Lord judgment as described; yet other prophetic texts have not been fulfilled yet and are still awaiting fulfillment.

      I agree, too, that some OT prophecy (prophecies fulfilled then) also serves as a type of a future person or event–here I’m thinking of Daniel 11. All of it was future from Daniel’s time, and the first part, up to a certain paragraph, was fulfilled in Alexander the Great and his four successors, up through Antiochus of Epiphanes. That part actually happened; the later verses in Daniel 11 through beginning of Daniel 12 have not yet been fulfilled, and await fulfillment with the future Antichrist just prior to Christ’s return. Certainly, though, Antiochus of Epiphanes is seen as a “type” of the future antiChrist; Antiochus (as well as other evil men of note in the Bible) share certain features in common with the future antichrist; there is a correspondence there regarding these men and what they did / and what the future antichrist will do. Hope that makes sense.

      • Robert
        May 16, 2017 at 5:10 pm

        Thanks Lynda!

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