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Does Prophecy Demand a Literal Fulfillment? #1

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One of the most common objections against Covenant Eschatology comes from the Dispensational world.  We are told:
“All of the prophecies that Christ fulfilled in His first coming were fulfilled in a literal, physical manner; therefore, we should expect Him to fulfill prophecies regarding His Second Coming in a literal, physical manner.”

Dispensationalist Grant Jeffrey goes so far as to say: “There is not one example in the Bible of a prophecy that was fulfilled in an allegorical, non-historical manner.”  (Triumphant Return, Toronto, Frontier Research Publications, 2001, 100).

Like some other objections against preterism, this objection has the initial semblance of credibility, until one looks closer. In fact, it is easily shown that Jeffrey’s claim is not only brash, but completely false and specious.

Hebrews 2:9-14 tells us that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, and, “as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”

This passages establishes the necessity for Jesus’ “physical” appearance and work: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among men” (John 1:14). In his own ministry Jesus spoke often of the necessity of giving Israel the sufficient signs that she needed to know that he was truly Messiah. His physical resurrection is distinctly given as a sign of the greater spiritual reality of his Sonship (Matthew 16). In other words, the physicalreality bore witness to the greater spiritual reality.

In fact, John’s gospel chronicles seven signs– all physical events– that all pointed, not to greater physical events, but to spiritual realities. Notice in chapter 20:30-31 that John ends his gospel with the chronicle of Jesus’ physical resurrection. He then says, “Many other signs did Jesus in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book, but, these are written that you might believe.”  Again, Jesus’ physical resurrection pointed to a greater spiritual reality, not another physical reality. Thus, the need for initial physical, visible realities to point to the greater spiritual realities.

Take a look now at Jeffrey’s rather bold statement in light of the ministry of John the Immerser.
John the Baptizer was clearly “the Voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the Way of the Lord” (Mark 1:1-3). This is indisputably true. Well, what was the Voice to do? Read what Isaiah says: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

So, according to Isaiah, the Voice, i.e. John the Baptizer, would be a master “road builder” the ultimate landscaper! Do you see the problem here, for Jeffrey’s bold claim?

John was unequivocally the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He was the Voice.
But, “the Voice” was to fill the valleys, lower the hills, straighten out the crooked hi-ways!
Jeffrey, and the objection under consideration, says no OT prophecy was ever fulfilled spiritually– non-literally.
The objection is clearly false however, when one considers John the Baptizer. John was totally unconcerned with physical hi-ways, lowering literal hills and filling up the valleys with dirt.
The Old Covenant prophecy of the Voice was patently fulfilled spiritually.

We will take a look at Jesus’ ministry in our next installment.

1 thought on “Does Prophecy Demand a Literal Fulfillment? #1

  1. Don, this is a great article showing the inconsistency of the literal hermeneutic. Why such texts as Isaiah 40:3-5 are ignored in this literal paradigm is a mystery. Thanks for your work.

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