J. Stuart Russell on the Single Fulfillment of Jesus’ Words


It’s a fairly popular idea today to say that Jesus’ predictions in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) pointed to a dual fulfillment. In other words, some say, Jesus foretold events that took place before or during the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD, but that this was only a precursor to an ultimate fulfillment of those same predictions in the far distant future. There are plenty of indications within the text of the Olivet Discourse which show that this is not possible, and Michael Fenemore points out a number of these indications in this 2004 article.

J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book, “Parousia,” offered yet another proof that Jesus didn’t promote a dual fulfillment: the complete absence of any such interpretation in the words of Luke, Paul, James, Peter, John, or any inspired author of the New Testament. Russell’s book was endorsed by Charles Spurgeon, who said that it “throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable for all.” This is what Russell said concerning the idea of dual fulfillment in the Olivet Discourse, particularly Matthew 24:34/Mark 13:30/Luke 21:32.

“There is not a scintilla of evidence that the apostles and primitive Christians had any suspicion of a twofold reference in the predictions of Jesus concerning the end. No hint is anywhere dropped that a primary and a partial fulfillment of His sayings was to take place in that generation, but that the complete and exhaustive fulfillment was reserved for a future and far distant period. The very contrary is the fact. What can be more comprehensive and conclusive than our Lord’s words, ‘Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled’? What critical torture has been applied to these words to exhort from them some other meaning than their obvious and natural one!

How has γενεά [the Greek word for “generation”] been hunted through all its lineage and genealogy to discover that it may not mean the persons then living on the earth! But all such efforts are wholly futile. While the words remain in the text their plain and obvious sense will prevail over all the glosses and perversions of ingenious criticism. The hypothesis of a twofold fulfillment receives no countenance from the Scriptures. We have only to read the language in which the apostles speak of the approaching consummation, to be convinced that they had one, and only one, great event in view, and they thought and spoke of it as just at hand.”

(“The Parousia: The New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming,” J. Stuart Russell, 1878, page 545)

Indeed, the New Testament is riddled with statements of a fast-approaching consummation of “the end-times.” Peter said that the day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of the last days prophesied by Joel (Acts 2:16-17). Hebrews 9:26 says that Jesus put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (i.e. His work on the cross) at the end of the age. James talked about greedy people already storing up earthly treasure “in the last days” (James 5:1-3). Peter said that “the end of all things” was at hand in his own day (I Peter 4:7). John said that it was “the last hour” when he wrote one of his epistles (I John 2:18). Etc. Etc. Etc.

David Green has compiled a thought-provoking list of 101 “time-indicator” passages clearly showing that the authors of the New Testament believed this consummation was just around the corner in their own time, and that they were united in holding to this idea. Where did they get this idea? They got it from the words of Jesus.

Advertisements