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Biblical Prophecies and Fulfillment: Michael Barrett Series

May 15, 2017 4 comments

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.

God’s Unfailing Purpose: A Study in Daniel, from Covenantal Premillennialist Michael Barrett

June 20, 2016 Leave a comment

A few months ago I read Michael P.V. Barrett’s “Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament,” a well-written, layperson-level book from a current-day covenantal premillennialist.  Now I am enjoying another of his books, also available on Kindle for 99 cents:  God’s Unfailing Purpose: The Message of Daniel.

This one is shorter (198 pages) but similar style of a well-written layperson book on an always relevant topic: God’s sovereignty over the nations and over history, as seen especially in the book of Daniel.  The focus here is not a sensationalist-type prophecy book, nor the specifically premillennial emphasis of Robert Culver’s “Daniel and the Latter Days”  (see this previous post), but more of a straight-forward commentary overview (not verse-by-verse) look at the theme of the book of Daniel.  Topics presented include a look at Daniel himself (the facts), the basics of reading prophecy including the nature of history and the nature of prophecy, and detailed consideration of several items brought out in Daniel’s prophecies.

Barrett explains the features of prophecy and types, how prophecy differs from history – progressive prediction or prophetic telescoping, in which the focus is on the events’ certainty rather than their timing.  Barrett acknowledges the never-ending debate over “partial, single, or double fulfillment—or even multiple fulfilments,” stating simply his own view of single-fulfillment of prophecy:

A single prophecy has a single fulfillment… the single fulfillment axiom works well in almost every instance. … The temporal ambiguity guarantees its relevance; one fulfillment is all that is necessary.

He provides examples from specific scriptures, as with the comparison of Isaac to Christ:

The fulfillment of the prophecy develops progressively from element to element until the completion of the whole.  For instance, both Isaac and Christ constitute Abraham’s promised Seed. Obviously, Christ was the main issue, but there had to be an Isaac before there could be the Christ.  Isaac marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy.  I prefer phrasing it that way rather than that the promise was fulfilled in Isaac and then again in Christ.

A later chapter considers the parallel prophecies in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 – pagan man’s viewpoint of a figure with gold and other metals, versus God’s view of four monsters – and brings out some interesting observations.  I knew the main points from these texts, about each type of metal or creature representing each of the successive kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Barrett goes beyond this, to note the description of the lion that “was made to stand upon the feet as a man, and man’s heart was given to it” as a reference to the individual Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar.  He brings together the prophecies given in Daniel 2 and 7, along with the events of Daniel 4 – subsequent events, the later dream to Nebuchadnezzar and what it took for God to teach the lesson to Nebuchadnezzar.

Ironically, God put a man’s heart into the beast [Daniel 7 vision] by putting a beast’s heart into a man (4:16). … The humanizing of the lion symbolized the gracious conversion of the king.

The above is just a brief sampling, from the first third of the book (my reading of it still in progress).  I recommend this book from Barrett, as one that I appreciate and enjoy: an easy, straightforward reading style, while also instructive and helpful, providing depth of material and many scripture points to study.

The Prophet Zechariah and Modern Criticism: David Baron

June 26, 2014 1 comment

The book of Zechariah, especially the last few chapters, often is mentioned as being a challenge for non-futurists and non-premillennialists.  A recent online conversation among a group of preterist amillennialists, for example, involved people citing various commentaries in support of various “spiritual” or allegorical ideas not related to the specific text itself.

David Baron’s Zechariah commentary, written nearly 100 years ago, shows that nothing is new in biblical commentary and criticism. Here is a look at this rather interesting issue, the various “interpretations” of higher criticism and the idea that Zechariah chapters 9 through 14 were not authored by Zechariah.

Before the modern liberal thought, 17th century Joseph Mede argued for pre-exilic authorship and attributed chapters 9 through 14: to justify inerrancy of the reference in Matthew 27:9-10, which ascribes a prophecy in Zechariah 11 to Jeremiah. And proceeding from this point of view, he discovered, as he thought, internal proof that these chapters belonged not to Zechariah’s, but to Jeremiah s time. He was followed by Hammond, Kidder, Newcome, etc. Here Baron considers the possibility that the mistake occurred with the transcribers of Matthew’s Gospel – rather than the Jewish Church making a mistake in their canon of scripture.

The more serious, unbelieving criticism came later, in the era of “modern criticism.” Like the claims of a “deutero Isaiah” and other anonymous writers who added to the original prophets’ writings, this comes from the root of naturalism and an anti-supernaturalist presupposition, the idea that it is not possible for a human writer to so well predict the future.

reading the many, and for the most part conflicting opinions of modern writers on this question, one is struck with the truth of Keil’s remarks, that the objections which modern critics offer to the unity of the book (and the same may be said also of much of their criticism of other books of the Bible) do not arise from the nature of these scriptures, but “partly from the dogmatic assumption of the rationalistic and naturalistic critics that the Biblical prophecies are nothing more than the productions of natural divination; and partly from the inability of critics, in consequence of this assumption, to penetrate into the depths of the divine revelation, and to grasp either the substance or form of their historical development so as to appreciate it fully.”

All operating from the same naturalist presupposition, the various writers come up with several different ideas, with their only thing in common their rejection of the obvious, their insistence that it could not have been written by the prophet Zechariah. Some say it was written by someone during the later, post-Zechariah, post-exile time period (anywhere from 500 to 300 B.C.), while others give it a pre-exile date as in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s time. S. Lewis Johnson’s observation so well applies here: “When we lack the will to see things as they really are, there is nothing so mysterious as the obvious. David Baron well points out the problem with the pre-exilic view:

it must be pointed out that the prophecy, had it preceded the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, could not have been earlier than the reign of Jehoiakim, since the mourning for the death of Josiah is spoken of as a proverbial sorrow of the past. But in that case the prophecy which ” anticipates” a miraculous interposition of God for the deliverance of Jerusalem would have been in direct contradiction to Jeremiah, “who for thirty-nine years in one unbroken dirge predicted the evil” which should come upon the city; and the inventive prophet would have been “one of the false prophets who contradicted Jeremiah, who encouraged Zedekiah in his perjury, the punishment whereof Ezekiel solemnly denounced, prophesying his captivity in Babylon as its penalty ; he would have been a political fanatic, one of those who by encouraging rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar brought on the destruction of the city, and in the name of God told lies against God.

It is such an intense paradox that the writing of one convicted by the event of uttering falsehood in the name of God, incorrigible even in the thickening tokens of God s displeasure, should have been inserted among the Hebrew prophets, in times not far removed from those whose events convicted him, that one wonders that any one should have invented it. Great indeed is the credulity of the incredulous!

The full chapter goes into great detail concerning the views of many scholars of that time, and their flawed reasoning. David Baron provides a good summary of those who stand on the shaky ground of human wisdom:

But there is truth in the remark that “Criticism which reels to and fro in a period of nearly 500 years, from the earliest of the prophets to a period a century after Malachi, and this on historical and philological grounds, certainly has come to no definite basis, either as to history or philology. Rather, it has enslaved both to preconceived opinions; and at last, as late a result as any has been, after this weary round, to go back to where it started from, and to suppose these chapters to have been written by the prophet whose name they bear.”

Classic Premillennialism Resources: The Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony

September 5, 2013 3 comments

As a follow-up to my recent post listing many online books from classic premillennialists, here is another interesting resource with current-day reference to these teachers: the Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony (Reformed, Protestant, Puritan, Prophetical, Expository, Doctrinal). Based in England since its founding in 1918 (with representatives in Australia, Canada and New Zealand – but apparently nothing in the U.S.), the group meets monthly; each meeting brings new topics and hour long messages from the various members.  As stated on their website: “We hold regular meetings and publish material on the subject of eschatology. The works of men such as Benjamin Wills Newton, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, JC Ryle, Dr S.P. Tregelles, Dr C.Y. Bliss, George Müller and David Baron are promoted.”

Among their past meetings is an interesting series from 2012, “Bible Lands in Bible Light”: ten messages about “God’s Purpose for …” with separate messages on Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Israel.  The British accent takes some getting used to, and at least some of the speakers are older age (indeed this is the one troubling thing, an indication that this group may not continue long-term, since the current speakers are quite advanced in age — perhaps reflective of the current secular climate in Great Britain), such that the lectures move at a slower pace going through lots of background material; but still very interesting topics.  Some of the messages in the “Bible Lands in Bible Light” are featured in text, summary form in their recent quarterly magazines.

SGAT main website:   Basic information about the group, as well as a collection of audio MP3s from their meetings over the last few years.

SGAT quarterly magazine and a few premillennial articles in PDF format (including their PDF of Dennis Swanson’s article, Charles H. Spurgeon and Eschatology, which is also posted at Phil Johnson’s Spurgeon site)

SGAT Facebook page also includes updates of their upcoming meetings, their video messages and PDF magazines

Al Mohler’s Theological Triage: Is Eschatology Really a Third-Order Doctrine

June 20, 2011 5 comments

I have posted previously concerning the amount of scripture that teaches eschatology, or last things, as compared to the amount of scripture concerning so-called secondary doctrines important enough to divide fellowship over:  baptism and the Lord’s supper.  See this quote for S. Lewis Johnson’s observations concerning the number of verses that teach these doctrines.

I recently had a brief discussion with someone who still maintains, like Al Mohler, that eschatology is actually a third-order doctrine, less important than even baptism and the Lord’s supper.  He put forth the following reasons for such, which I would like to respond to here:

  1. “Regardless of how much the Bible teaches about the end times it is still rather speculative. The main point is Christ is coming back and so be prepared.  Yet Baptism and the Lord’s Supper has everything to do with defining the nature and boundaries of the church and thus is a second level issue.”    — and —
  2.   those second-level issues have “only been a defining character of fellowship since the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversies.”

In reference to the specific words from S. Lewis Johnson (referenced above), this person acknowledged familiarity with Johnson, and just said that Johnson over-emphasized certain teachings whereas others have taught more concerning ecclesiology.

If his first point referenced only the timing of the rapture, I would certainly agree that such discussions can get too speculative: the rapture timing can only be inferred.  However, the context of this discussion concerned overall future things including viewpoints on the millennium and the nature of Israel and the church — and his point that “no matter how much the Bible teaches … it is still rather speculative.”

Having read so many biblical texts throughout the Old and New Testament, I cannot see that the Bible is at all unclear in its many references, especially considering the many passages in the Old Testament that speak of the future restoration of Israel, as well as describe a time that will be somewhat different from our world yet during which sin and death will still exist (such as Isaiah 65).  If words mean anything and are not merely wasted platitudes about the gospel going forth during the glorious church age, such a type of world has never existed yet, neither does it fit with the Eternal State.  Such passages are only unclear if one plays loose with words, and thinks that perhaps the word Israel doesn’t really mean Israel — and to do so is to wreak havoc with basic hermeneutical principles and head down the path towards unbelief and rejection of many other biblical doctrines.   Historic premillennialist J.C. Ryle well observed that he simply could not understand how anyone reading their Bible could not see these things, things that are so plainly set forth and as clear as a sunbeam.

Regarding his second idea, that these second-level issues were never really considered important for fellowship until the fundamentalist movement (early 20th century) — I answer from a general knowledge of church history.  Luther and Calvin and their followers, in the 16th century, parted ways over differing ideas of the Lord’s Table — and so we have Lutherans as distinct from the other Protestant denominations that followed Calvin.  The Anabaptists, also of the 16th century, sharply divided with all the Reformers over the matter of baptism:  believers baptism only for Anabaptists, versus infant baptism for the Reformers.  The Reformation period shows many other instances of the divisions amongst all the differing Protestant denominations, so to say that these divisions only occurred in the early 20th century is also quite misguided.

Finally, if some theologians “over-emphasized” certain teachings and neglected ecclesiology, it can also be justly said that the reason why these men “over-emphasize” the Second Coming, is precisely because so many other teachers have neglected that.  Someone has to over-emphasize, to compensate for the vast majority of teachers who practically ignore the prophetic word.

Charles Spurgeon: The Political Restoration of the Jews

May 28, 2011 1 comment

From Sermon #582, from June 16, 1864: The Restoration and Conversion of the Jews.

First, THERE IS TO BE A POLITICAL RESTORATION OF THE JEWS. Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations. Her sons are scattered far and wide. Her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. Her sacred song is hushed—no king reigns in Jerusalem! She brings forth no governors among her tribes. But she is to be restored! She is to be restored “as from the dead.” When her own sons have given up all hope of her, then is God to appear for her. She is to be reorganized—her scattered bones are to be brought together. There will be a native government again. There will again be the form of a political body.

A State shall be incorporated and a king shall reign. Israel has now become alienated from her own land. Her sons, though they can never forget the sacred dust of Palestine, yet die at a hopeless distance from her consecrated shores. But it shall not be so forever, for her sons shall again rejoice in her—her land shall be called Beulah—for as a young man marries a virgin so shall her sons marry her. “I will place you in your own land,” is God’s promise to them. They shall again walk upon her mountains, shall once more sit under her vines and rejoice under her fig trees!

And they are also to be reunited. There shall not be two, nor ten, nor twelve, but one—one Israel praising one God—serving one king and that one King the Son of David, the descended Messiah! They are to have a national prosperity which shall make them famous. No, so glorious shall they be that Egypt and Tyre and Greece and Rome shall all forget their glory in the greater splendor of the throne of David! The day shall yet come when all the high hills shall leap with envy because this is the hill which God has chosen! The time shall come when Zion’s shrine shall again be visited by the constant feet of the pilgrim—when her valleys shall echo with songs and her hilltops shall drop with wine and oil.

If there is meaning in words this must be the meaning of this chapter! I wish never to learn the art of tearing God’s meaning out of His own Words. If there is anything clear and plain, the literal sense and meaning of this passage—a meaning not to be spirited or spiritualized away—it must be evident that both the two and the ten tribes of Israel are to be restored to their own land and that a king is to rule over them. “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen where they are gone and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king to them all.

More Illustrations from Daniel: Chapters 4 and 6

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Continuing with S. Lewis Johnson’s Daniel series, here are some highlights from Daniel 4.

In the application part of Biblical Interpretation, we can learn these 5 things from Nebuchadnezzar’s experience (Daniel 4:34-35):
1.  The eternal self-existence of God:    He praises the Most High and honors Him who lives forever
2.  God has an eternal kingdom and eternal throne:   For His dominion … His kingdom endures
3.  The Nothingness of Mankind:   All the inhabitants of earth are accounted as nothing
4.  The Divine Power is at Work Sovereignly:  He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth
5.  God’s Fiat / God’s Decree is Irresistible:   No one can strike against His hand.

Another good point:  how long must we endure the discipline?  As long as it takes for you to learn the lesson.  In Nebuchadnezzar’s case it was 7 years — but sometimes God’s hand of discipline lasts even longer than that.  Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, and no time limit is specified for how long he had to endure it.

Back to SLJ’s use of typology, we come to Daniel 6, the well-known story of Daniel in the Lions Den, and some interesting similarities between Daniel’s story and God’s people Israel.  Daniel’s personal experience here parallels that of human history, in that other people are often jealous of the Jews, as the other governing leaders were of Daniel.  Daniel also represents those placed in captivity (Israel), among the lions (the Gentiles).  The overall story also suggests the future Great Tribulation and the deliverance of the Jews from it.