“Is the Land Inheritance Still Relevant Today?” by Michael Battle


The following study was written by Michael Battle, a friend on Facebook who also posts regularly in a group I belong to. It’s a good study of the words “forever” and “everlasting” in the Old Testament, as they are used concerning the land of Israel, circumcision, the feasts, the Sabbath, and other ordinances of the law of Moses. This study has implications for the claim that the land of Israel always has belonged, and always will belong, to the physical descendants of Abraham:

The land of Canaan is said to be an inheritance for the decedents of Abraham FOREVER (Genesis 13:15; 17:8).

Does this then mean that the promise of the land inheritance has relevance today? If we were to take Genesis 13:15 and Genesis 17:8 at face value without considering the balance of scripture, then we would certainly have to come to a conclusive yes.

Therefore we need to ask, “Does the balance of scripture support our interpretation of the land inheritance?”

To begin, let’s consider the use of the word “forever” elsewhere in the Old Testament. The same Hebrew word translated as “forever” in Genesis 13:15 is translated as “everlasting” in Genesis 17:8 mentioned above (see also Genesis 48:4; Exodus 32:13).

That’s certainly a good start if we are going to build a case that the land inheritance is still relevant.

However, we immediately have our first hurdle before we ever get out of Genesis 17. In verses 10-14 we read that physical circumcision is an EVERLASTING covenant and that the land inheritance coincides with circumcision. The “uncircumcised” have no share in the covenant through which the land was to be inherited.

This immediately becomes problematic in building a defense for the “land inheritance” having relevance today because in the New Testament the apostle Paul tells us that circumcision in the flesh no longer has any value. According to Paul it is circumcision of the heart (in the Spirit) which matters. [Adam’s note: See especially the book of Galatians and the strong language Paul uses there toward those who attempt to push circumcision as a requirement.]

As we continue through the scriptures we find that the feast of Passover and unleavened bread are said to be an ORDINANCE FOREVER (Exodus 12:14, 17, 24) and the Sabbath was to be a covenant FOREVER (Exodus 31:16-17).

Yet the New Testament tells of that these were only shadows of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17) and that Christ Himself is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The ministry of the Levitical priesthood (Aaron and his descendants) within the tabernacle is said to be a statute FOREVER (Exodus 27:21, Exodus 28:43, Exodus 30:21, Leviticus 24:1-3) and an ordinance FOREVER (Numbers 18:8). The wearing of the priestly garments by the sons of Aaron was also referred to as a PERPETURAL (FOREVER) statute. The ceremonial washing of the hands of the priests who served in the tabernacle was to be a statute FOREVER (Exodus 30:21).

Yet according to the New Testament this priesthood has been abolished and has given way to one that is greater and more glorious, and that is the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Law of Moses also declares that the Levites were to be servants to the priests and this was to be a statute FOREVER (Numbers 18:23).

The law of the meat offering’s portion for the sons of Aaron was also to be a statute FOREVER (Leviticus 6:14-19).

The daily meat offerings offered by Aaron and his descendants was to be a statute FOREVER (Leviticus 6:20).

The commandment for Aaron and his sons not to drink wine nor strong drink in the tabernacle was to be a statute FOREVER (Leviticus 10:9).

The heave and wave offerings belonging to the Levitical priests and their families was a statue FOREVER (Exodus 29:28; Leviticus 10:15; Numbers 18:19).

Like the Passover, the Day of Atonement was also to be a statue FOREVER (Leviticus 16:29, 34, Leviticus 23:31). Yet according to the New Testament, those things which were done under the Law on the Day of Atonement served as a foreshadowing of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-4) and have now been taken away because Christ has become the High Priest of a greater and more perfect tabernacle.

With regards to sacrifices for sin, the Law of Moses also says that the sin offering of the red heifer was to be a statute FOREVER (Numbers 19:9-11).

Yet Hebrews 9:13-14 says, “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

As we can see, the use of the language FOREVER as it applied to the Old Testament promises, statues, and ordinances doesn’t mean “for all eternity” without any change as they originally were.

In studying the scriptures, we should consider the qualifying clause “throughout your generations” and other similar clauses. These should be taken into account when considering those things which were said to be FOREVER.

For instance, Genesis 17 says the covenant of circumcision and the land inheritance is FOREVER in view of THOSE GENERATIONS.

In Exodus 12:14 the scripture says: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance FOREVER (see also verses 17 and 42).

The daily offering of the burnt offering was to be THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS (Exodus 29:42). The yearly consecration of the altar of incense by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement was to be THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS (Leviticus 30:10).

These references (above) regarding THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS are just a few examples of the many times this qualifying clause and others similar to it are mentioned in view of the FOREVERS in the Old Testament.

The Old Covenant was a covenant for God’s people in the flesh and was binding THROUGHOUT THEIR GENERATIONS, wherein the revelation of Christ was hidden in a mystery (Colossians 1:26).The forevers were “types” and “foreshadowings” of Christ.

God has saved us according to His mercy by the washing of REGENERATION, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3;5) and that which was “in the flesh” has now given way to that which is “in the Spirit.”

The forevers of the physical covenant have given way and been translated to FOREVER in Christ!

The forever ordinances of things like Passover continue, but now it’s in Christ and not in the outward offering of animals. The same holds true for the land inheritance, the Sabbaths and all other FOREVERS of the first covenant. True inheritance and rest is in Christ!

He is our Passover, He is our Sabbath, He is our promised land!


ADDITIONAL NOTES

  1. Israel’s right to the land, according to scripture, was dependent on their covenant relationship with God. Physical Israel has no covenant with God today because of their rejection of Jesus. Only believing Jews (those who believe in Jesus Christ) have a covenant with God. Physical Israel is a secular nation like all other nations. Covenant membership is found only in Jesus Christ. The only way that secular Israel could be considered God’s people is for there to be two covenants and two groups of people as the people of God. Dual Covenant theology is heresy.
  2. Israel’s right to the land was not exclusive to the physical descendants of Jacob. Throughout Israel’s history, Gentiles were joined to them and inherited full rights as citizens which included land inheritance (see Ester 8:17, Isaiah 56:3-7, Psalm 87:4-6, Ezekiel 47:21-23).
  3. When Israel was given the land it was divided among their tribes, which included Gentiles who had joined them. (See the book of Joshua and Ezekiel 47:21-23).
  4. The Levites were given no land inheritance.
  5. God never meant for Israelis only to have access to the land, Israel was required by God to treat those living among them justly and not to oppress them (Leviticus 19:33-34; Jeremiah 7:5-7; Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10; Exodus 22:21-24; Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 23: 7-8; Deuteronomy 10:19).
  6. Supporting Israel in everything is unscriptural. For example, God was angry with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, for making an alliance with Ahab, the King of Israel (See 2 Chronicles 18:1 – 19:2). Also the Apostle Paul tells us that the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and continued to hinder the message of the Gospel were under the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).

Hebrews 11:8-16

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

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“[Ancient Israel] Was Merely a Type, a Shadow of the Spiritual Realities of a Better Day” (Louis Berkhof, 1951)


Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) “was a Reformed systematic theologian whose written works have been influential in seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States and Canada and with individual Christians in general throughout the 20th century” (CCEL). Berkhof taught at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1906 – 1944, and served as its president during his last 14 years there. Wayne Grudem called his Systematic Theology, published in 1932, “a great treasure-house of information and analysis…probably the most useful one-volume systematic theology available from any theological perspective.”

Nine years before his death, in 1948, Berkhof watched modern Israel become a nation. Three years later, in 1951, he published a book with a long title: The Kingdom of God: The Development of the Idea of the Kingdom, Especially Since the Eighteenth Century.Here’s a quote from that book, concerning ancient Israel and the emergence of a modern nation with the same name. What do you think of Berkhof’s statement here? I find myself agreeing with him:

“The theocratic nation itself was merely a type, a shadow of the spiritual realities of a better day, and therefore destined to vanish as soon as the antitype made its appearance. The restoration of the ancient theocracy in the future would simply mean the recurrence of the type – to what purpose? – and not at all the establishment of the Kingdom. It should be borne in mind that the beginnings of the Kingdom of God existed long before the theocracy was established, and continued to develop, and even after it lost its national existence. And the founding of the Kingdom in the new dispensation was in no way dependent on the fortunes of the Jewish nation” (Louis Berkhof, The Kingdom of God…, pp.170-171).

Of course, Berkhof didn’t say that the Jewish people were “destined to vanish,” only national Israel along with its previous significance. As we know, God created “in Himself one new man” from Jews and Gentiles who trust in Him (Ephesians 2:15), and God has kept a remnant from among the Jews (Romans 9:27, 11:5).

At least two earlier posts here also address this topic:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel” shows how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John all demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus. In other words, Jesus is Israel, and it’s no surprise that Paul calls Jesus’ followers “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

[2] “Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel” deals with a passage (Isaiah 66) that many say predicted Israel becoming a nation “in one day” in 1948. It shows that Isaiah instead predicted the birth of the Church, the downfall of earthly Jerusalem, and God’s embracing of the Jerusalem from above.

The Shadows of the Old Covenant Can’t Be Restored


A Facebook friend, Larry Siegle, posted the following book excerpt the other day, and it’s excellent. It comes from a book written in 1972 by James D. Bales titled, “Prophecy and Premillennialism” (pp. 162-163):

“If we tried to go back to the Old Testament, it would not permit it. It would send us back to the New. The substance has arrived, so the shadow tells us to abide in the substance.

First, if we go back to Moses, he sends us to Christ. (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:22, 23).

Second, if we ask Moses to be our mediator, he sends us to Christ the mediator (Heb. 8:6; 12:24).

Third, if we go back to the Old Covenant, it sends us back to the New (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:5-13; 13:20).

Fourth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which its sacrifices were but a shadow (Heb. 10:1-4).

Fifth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which the animal blood typified (Heb. 9:15-27; 23-28; 13:20).

Sixth, if we go back to the Old Temple, the way to heaven is not made manifest (Heb. 9:6-12, 24, 25, 26); so it sends us to Christ who has opened and made manifest the way (Heb. 10:19-22).

Seventh, if we go to the Old Testament priests, they send us back to the priesthood of believers (I Pet. 2:5, 9).

Eighth, if we go back to the Jewish kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom which was being received in the first century (Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:18-28; 13:20).

Ninth, if we go back to the Old Testament kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28; 13:20).

Tenth, if we go back to the Old Testament Kings and High Priests, they send us to Christ the king and priest (Psa. 110:1-4; Heb. 7:11-22, 28; 8:4).

Eleventh, if we go to Abraham, he sends us to his seed, Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-29).

We must not retreat from the substance to the shadow. Any system of the interpretation of prophecy which restores the shadow contradicts the Old Testament and the New Testament.”

James Bales (1915-1995) was “an influential Bible professor and administrator at Harding University (then Harding College) for almost 40 years.” Bales was an amillennialist (Wikipedia).

The Bible: Interesting Facts and Study Principles


Fun Quiz

(Answers are below.)

1. How many books are contained in the Bible?

A. 56 B. 66 C. 76 D. 86

2. How many books are in the Old Testament?

A. 27 B. 29 C. 37 D. 39

3. How many books are in the New Testament?

A. 21 B. 24 C. 27 D. 37

4. What is the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God?

A. Esther B. James C. Hezekiah D. Ecclesiastes

5. How many accounts of the gospel are in the Bible, and what are those books called?

6. What is the name of the last book of the Bible?

7. Which book of the Bible has the most chapters, and how many are there?

8. What book of the Bible has the shortest name (i.e. the least amount of letters)?

9. Which five books of the Bible contain only one chapter?

10. Can you name any secular historians who lived during the time when the New Testament was written, and whose writings back up many of the narratives written in the New Testament?

INTERESTING FACTS

There are many interesting facts about the Bible, which, according to Daniel Radosh of The New Yorker, is not only the best-selling book of all time, but also the best-selling book every year. The following are just a few of these facts:

  • Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, containing only two verses. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, containing 176 verses.
  • Psalm 118 is the middle chapter in the Bible (there are 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and 594 chapters after Psalm 118).
  • The middle verse in the Bible is Psalm 118:8, which reads, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
  • The book of Psalms, the longest book in the Bible, contains 150 chapters and 43,743 words. The book of 3 John is the shortest book, and contains only 299 words.
  • The longest verse in the Bible is Esther 8:9, with 90 words. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, with only two words (“Jesus wept“).
  • There are 31,102 verses in the Bible (more than 23,000 in the Old Testament, and almost 8,000 in the New Testament. That’s an average of 26 verses per chapter.
  • The Bible was only divided into chapters in the year 1228, by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The New Testament was only divided into verses in the year 1551, by Sir Robert Stephens.

PRINCIPLES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE


Distinguish Between Literary Forms and Genres

The Bible is made up of narratives (stories) more than any other type of literature (other genres include law, poetry, wisdom, prophecies, parables, and epistles). Narratives sometimes teach things indirectly, rather than directly. For example, in the story of David committing adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11), we’re not told directly that adultery is wrong. However, this was already taught directly in the law of Moses (e.g. Exodus 20:14). Still, II Samuel 11 illustrates how David’s adultery harmed his personal life and his ability to rule over Israel.

Note the Context

In the Bible, it’s rare that we seek to understand a single verse by itself, or isolated from all surrounding verses. There are exceptions to this, of course, in the book of Proverbs. Looking at a verse or a passage in context means considering a larger portion of the text as a whole.

The word “earth,” for example, is used many times in both the Old and New Testaments. In some places where it’s used, it’s not a reference to the entire globe. Instead, it’s a reference to the land of Israel (i.e. the Promised Land) only. In fact, some Bible translations will use “earth” in the same passages where other translations will use the word “land.” Luke 21:23 is one example of this pattern. Even if a translation uses the word “earth” in this verse, the context ought to clearly show that Jesus was speaking specifically about Israel. He predicted that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies (verse 20), and He warned “those living in Judea” to flee to the mountains (verse 21). He then spoke of “great distress in the earth” (or “land”) and “wrath against this people” (verse 23). The context shows that He didn’t speak of people in Chicago, or of people living in the 21st century, but of Jews living in his own generation.

Consider Audience Relevance

“Exegesis” is a literary interpretation method that involves determining what a text meant to those who first received it. This method should guide “hermeneutics,” the science of interpretation. So the first question to ask is, “What did the text mean to the original audience that first heard or read it?” Then, and only then, is it time to ask the second question: “What does this text mean to us now?”

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Old Testament prophets often announced the future. However, were they speaking about our future, or were they speaking about the more immediate future of Israel, Judah, and other surrounding nations? Many today believe that Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of a future invasion of modern-day Israel by Russia, Ethiopia, and a few other countries. This is despite the fact that Ezekiel described ancient warfare (e.g. the use of horses) in his prophecy.

In II Thessalonians 2, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica about the man of sin and the Day of the Lord. Many today assume that what Paul told them will be revealed soon and will take place for our generation to see. Yet consider what Paul said to his first century readers: “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way” (verses 5-7).

Similarly, John told his first century readers in the book of Revelation that they were capable of calculating “the number of the beast”: “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Revelation 13:18). In other words, they could figure out who the beast was. Many have not considered the audience relevance when thinking of this text, and have insisted that the beast (or “Antichrist,” they might say) was Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Barack Obama, etc.

It’s also important to note that we don’t live under the Old Covenant, as ancient Israel once did. This covenant, through Jesus, has been made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). There are commands that were given to the ancient Israelites under the law, which are no longer instructive to God’s people on how to live. We can still derive principles from those laws, understand God better by reading those portions of Scripture, and understand how certain types and shadows are now fulfilled in Jesus, etc. Yet we are not bound by the Old Covenant laws which functioned as a national constitution for ancient Israelites who lived in the land of Israel. We are told in Hebrews 8, for example, that this first covenant was not faultless (verse 7), was made obsolete (verse 13), and has been replaced by a new covenant with better promises (verse 6).

Scripture Interprets Scripture

We are not the ultimate authority when it comes to interpreting Scripture. If we believe that the Biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we can appreciate how they interpret older Scripture passages, even if it means setting aside our own preconceived notions. We see an interesting example of this principle very early in the New Testament when Matthew takes an Old Testament passage from Hosea 11:1 that clearly refers to ancient Israel (“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son“), and applies it to Jesus:

Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring your word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

The implication is that Matthew viewed Israel, not as his own homeland, the political nation of Israel, but rather as Jesus.

In Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 we see a prophecy that a wolf will lay down with a lamb. Many today believe or teach that the animal kingdom will literally be transformed in this way in a future millennium, a period lasting 1000 years. However, Paul demonstrated in Romans 15 that Isaiah 11 was fulfilled through Jesus’ work on the cross, and His bringing together Jews and Gentiles in Himself. In other words, the wolf and the lamb represented Jews and Gentiles.

In Matthew 23 Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the religious rulers of Israel, when He said:

“I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:35-36).

Who did Jesus say would be responsible for shedding the blood of all righteous people, and which generation would be held responsible? Clearly, it’s first century Israel. So what do we conclude then when we see these passages in the book of Revelation?

[1] “Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.'” (Revelation 16:4-6)

[2] “I saw the woman [Babylon the Great], drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (Revelation 17:6)

[3] “Alas, alas, that great city… Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! … And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:20, 24)

Not only do Jesus’ words in Matthew 23 tell us who shed this blood and when they did it, but the principle of “first mention” can help us here as well. “The great city” is first mentioned in Revelation 11:8. There it is described as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” We know, of course, that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. The “great city” then is Jerusalem, which also happens to be the city Jesus said in Matthew 23 would be held responsible for the shed blood of all the saints. 

Types and Shadows Point Toward Fulfillment

The New Testament follows the Old Testament in the Bible. Within the Old Testament, there were many practices and laws which foreshadowed realities that have been fulfilled in Jesus. The book of Hebrews speaks much about the types and shadows (e.g. in the sacrificial system) which pointed toward Jesus. One form of eschatology, the study of last things, teaches that in a future millennium there will be renewed animal sacrifices and offerings in a rebuilt temple. Does this teaching not promote a return to types and shadows? One author, Kim Riddlebarger, calls this ” a redemptive-historical U-turn.” Perhaps this teaching persists because some view certain prophetic passages in the Old Testament through a lens that doesn’t recognize apocalyptic language, and assumptions are made that they haven’t yet been fulfilled.

ANSWERS TO THE QUIZ

1. B (66)

2. D (39)

3. C (27)

4. A (Esther); P.S. There is no book called “Hezekiah.”

5. Four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

6. Revelation

7. Psalms; 150

8. Job

9. Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

10. Josephus (a Jew); Tacitus (a Roman)

Sources:

1. Maarschalk, Adam. “Romans 15 Shows That Isaiah 11 Is Fulfilled.” Pursuing Truth Blog. January 29, 2012. http://kloposmasm.com/2012/01/29/romans-15-shows-that-isaiah-11-is-fulfilled/
2. Radosh, Daniel. “The Good Book Business.” The New Yorker. December 18, 2006. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/12/18/061218fa_fact1
3. Riddlebarger, Kim. “Jesus, The True Temple.” The Riddleblog. April 9, 2008. http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/4/9/jesus-the-true-temple.html

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This article first appeared on the Yahoo Contributor Network

Matthew 24: Double Fulfillment Is Not Possible


In a previous post, I shared J. Stuart Russell’s argument against the idea of a dual fulfillment in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21). Russell argued (well, in my opinion) that neither in Jesus’ own words, nor in the words of any other New Testament author, does any teaching appear which supports “a twofold reference in the predictions of Jesus concerning the end.”

An article written in 2004 by Michael Fenemore goes into even more detail on why the idea of dual fulfillment does not work when it comes to Jesus’ famous words in Matthew 24:

Some prophecy teachers, while acknowledging a fulfillment of Matthew 24 in the first century, predict a future second fulfillment, but this time, with worldwide implications… We might wonder whether those who promote the double-fulfillment theory ever took the time to test it by reading over the text even once. How could this be fulfilled twice?

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come (v. 14, NASB throughout unless otherwise noted).

Will the “great commission” be fulfilled twice? Does “the end” come twice? If it does, then, the first one wasn’t the end.

A modern second fulfillment is usually presented as a worldwide catastrophe, but notice verse 20: “…pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.” What relevance would this have today? Outside modern-day Israel, relatively few people in the world keep the Sabbath. And what if they do? In ancient times, the gates of Jerusalem were shut on the Sabbath preventing escape (Neh. 13:1922Jer. 17:2124). However, this is not a problem for anyone today. Most Christians probably live out their entire lives without ever praying their “flight” will not take place on the Sabbath. Mark’s account adds this: “…be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues” (Mark 13:9). How could this be fulfilled worldwide in our time? Today’s Sanhedrin has no jurisdiction outside Israel. There are likely very few Christians in the world, if any, who worry about being “flogged in the synagogues.”

Will there be two “great” tribulations?For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again” (Matt. 24:21, NLT). Since this anguish would “never be so great again,” how could it occur twice? Some might protest that such language is hyperbolic; it was not intended to be taken literally. Perhaps that is true. But then, the same people should be able to understand that the rest of Matthew 24 is replete with the same Old Testament-style hyperbole. They should not require a second fulfillment just because some events did not occur exactly as Jesus described them.

Will the “elect” be gathered twice?He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (v. 31). This is referring to the “last trumpet” of 1 Cor. 15:51-52: the resurrection and the moment when the living Christians would be “caught up” and “changed.” If Matthew 24 was to be fulfilled twice, then, clearly, the resurrection must have occurred during the first fulfillment within the lifetimes of Christ’s listeners. But if all God’s people in Hades were resurrected in the first century, and now Christians go straight to heaven at death, how could any saints be resurrected from Hades in the future?

Jesus never said Matthew 24 would be fulfilled twice, and there’s no rule anywhere in the Bible saying prophecy should be interpreted this way. The double-fulfillment concept is simply an untenable fabrication created in desperation, probably deemed necessary because its adherents expect literal fulfillments of the highly figurative, cosmic predictions in Matthew 24 and other places, which of course, have never occurred (and never will). In some cases we find types and antitypes in scripture. For instance, Israelite worship under the Old Covenant was a type or “shadow” of things to come under the New Covenant (Col. 2:16-17). However, the New Covenant does not create more shadows for greater fulfillments later. Here is another example of biblical typology:

Old Testament types:

Sodom, Egypt, Babylon

New Testament antitype:

Jerusalem

Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon were probably the three most detestable place names from Israel’s past. To this day, Sodom symbolizes sexual perversion (sodomy). Egypt and Babylon represented sin and captivity. However, by the first century, the sins of God’s own people, the Jews, had become so repugnant that in Revelation, he called Jerusalem by all three names: “…the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8); “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev. 17:5). See also Isa. 1:21. It’s possible, if not probable, Jesus intended to draw the Babylon parallel when he described Jerusalem’s destruction in Matthew 24:

the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light (v. 29)

The same pronouncement was made against Old Testament Babylon:

The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light. (Isa. 13:10)

Jerusalem had become the antitype of Babylon. Jerusalem’s destruction would be the antitype of Babylon’s destruction.

It’s all fulfilled. There is no third fulfillment. The destruction in Matthew 24 is not a type of something in the future; it’s the antitype of something from the past. The New Testament does not create new types requiring future antitypes. Types and antitypes might be considered double fulfillments by some, but if a double-fulfillment rule should be applied to all biblical predictions without exception, we should expect two Messiahs, two crucifixions, two judgments, two kingdoms, etc. It gets ridiculous.

Evidently, many influential Bible teachers spend little time testing the double-fulfillment idea before teaching it to trusting Christians. They routinely predict events which actually occurred long ago. For instance, some prophecies require a Roman Empire, but since it no longer exists — and hasn’t for over 1,500 years — they predict a “revived” one. However, if they would give up their literal-fulfillment requirements (stars falling from heaven, etc.) and fully accept the first and only fulfillments of New Testament prophecies, there would be no need for any such flimsy double-fulfillment theories, and credulous Christians could be spared a lot of useless speculation.

Objection

Objection: Pastor John Hagee says prophecy should be interpreted by the double-fulfillment model because of “the law of double reference” (John Hagee, From Daniel To Doomsday [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 1999], 181).

Answer: Those who promote the law of double reference are unable to show where in the Bible this “law” is mentioned. It is a law only because they say it is, not because of any biblical directive.