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When Will the Promises Be Fulfilled?

One of our readers has asked: "Jesus is to be the seed of Abraham, God promises to give the throne of David to Jesus, and promises, 'all the land you see, north, south, east, and west, will I give you.' At what point will these promises be fulfilled?" This question raises the difficult but important matter of the interpretation of prophecy, both OT and NT.

The tendency in interpreting prophecy is always, it seems, to interpret it as fulfilled in the past, or as yet to be fulfilled in the future. Some would tend to interpret it almost exclusively in one of these two ways. Others would, without much rhyme or reason, mix the two, interpreting some prophecies as past, some future and some present.

All these approaches to prophecy seem to us to be inadequate. Our chief objection is, that if a prophecy or prophecies are interpreted with reference to only one single time frame, past, present or future, they are (even though they are part of the Word of God) made unprofitable to those of God's people who live at other times in history, since they have no fulfillment and little relevance in those of other ages (cf. II Tim. 3:16).

For example, if Matt. 24:1-35 was, as some suggest, fulfilled completely at the destruction of Jerusalem, then it is difficult to see that it has any meaning or relevance for us today. Likewise, if Rev. 4-22 is exclusively concerned with the future (after a supposed secret rapture of the church), the same objection holds.

We believe, therefore, that most, if not all prophecy has an on-going fulfillment. Usually there was a fulfillment around the time the prophecy was given (in the OT, a typical and earthly fulfillment), another partial or incomplete fulfillment throughout history, and a final and complete fulfillment in the events of the last days and the glories of the heavenly kingdom of Christ.

It must be so, it seems to us, if all Scripture, including all prophecies, are profitable for us today and will continue to be profitable for succeeding generations. They cannot be just matters of curiosity that have no relevance to the world in which God has put us, to the history of our own times, and to our lives in the world and in history.

We believe, then, that Matt. 24:1-35, though it had an immediate fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. vs. 34), nevertheless was not completely fulfilled in those days and will not be completely fulfilled until the man of sin himself is revealed and Christ comes again to end history. There are verses that seem to refer primarily to the destruction of Jerusalem (vss. 15-19). There are also verses which seem as we read them to refer to events connected with the end of the world (vss. 14, 29-31). The chapter refers to both - to the destruction of Jerusalem as a foreshadowing of all that transpires until the end.

So too, we believe that the book of Revelation gives us not just a view of the end times, but of all of history and of the principles that govern and control all of history as God accomplishes his purpose, and good pleasure in history. It shows us that the great conflict between the church and world, between Christ and the dragon, that is the central motif in history and the reason for all things.

All this has to do with the very nature of prophecy. Prophecy is not the mere prediction of the future (only about 5% of prophecy explicitly concerns the future), but is the light of revelation shed upon all of history, past, present and future, a light which shows that there is nothing new under the sun except for God's sovereign grace.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 8
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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    United States
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