Crossroads in Prophetic Interpretation

Crossroads in Prophetic Interpretation:
Historicism versus Futurism

Paper Presented to the 1990 World Ministers Council,
July 3, 1990, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Gerhard F. Hasel
Andrews University

The matter of the interpretation of prophecy is a subject that has had the interest of Christians for centuries. There are four major schools of prophetic interpretation.

  1. Modernistic, progressive scholars follow by and large the historical-critical method[1] and do not see any significant predictive element in Biblical prophecy.[2] The function of the prophet is not to predict (foretelling) but to proclaim (forth telling). This view of modern liberalism (here used as a descriptive not pejorative term) allows at best a kind of prognostication that is based on the superior insights of a Biblical writer. It is not a divinely given prophecy in the sense of a prediction about the future.[3] It has to be admitted that the historical-critical reinterpretation of prophecy does not take the Biblical text at face value, but treats it from modern presuppositions of how a Biblical writer/editor should be evaluated from current perspectives.[4]
  2. Preterism is a method of prophetic interpretation that does not have a yet to be expected future fulfillment. All prophecies have been essentially fulfilled in the past. As regards the books of Daniel and Revelation the preterist school holds that these books found their fulfillment in the New Testament period that reaches to the early history of the Christian church.[5]
  3. The school of historicism takes the Biblical picture of prophetic prediction, also long-range prediction, at face value. It also understands the matter of conditional prophecy. More will be said about it in the following discussion.
  4. The fourth school is that of futurism[6] which has became a major part of modern dispensationalism. It will have the major concern of our investigation.

I. Historicism and Futurism Defined

1. Classical Historicism

Adventists are the proud inheritors, preservers and supporters of the historicist method of prophetic interpretation of the Bible. The historicist method, also described as the continuous historical method, is linked with the outline prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. The outline prophecies of these books trace the history of world empires and subsequent divisions in an uninterrupted chain of historical events to the Second Coming of Christ and beyond. In historicism, prophecies about Israel and its future are seen to be conditional, depending on Israel’s obedience. Historicism takes the entire Bible of both Testaments as providing the norms of prophetic interpretation.

This time-honored method of interpretation had predominance for Bible believers from the beginning of Christianity well into the beginning of the twentieth century.[7] Historicism, however, has been eclipsed by futurism in popularity in much of evangelical Christianity around the world in the latter part of this century. Futurism is “knocking at our door,”[8] urging to be received in order to modify, challenge, and, if possible, to alter and replace the historicist method of prophetic interpretation which has so profoundly shaped Protestantism and the Advent movement.

2. Modern Futurism

Futurism is essentially rooted in the Counter-Reformation through the Jesuit scholar Francisco Ribera (died 1591) who put prophetic fulfillment into the future. “In 1590, Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation as a counter interpretation to the prevailing [historicist] view among Protestants which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist. Ribera applied all of Revelation but the earliest chapters to the end time rather than to the history of the Church. Antichrist would be a single evil person who would be received by the Jews and would rebuild Jerusalem . . . and rule the world for three and a half years.”[9] Ribera was subsequently supported by Robert Cardinal Bellarmine (died 1621). Early futurists such as S.R. Maitland, James H. Todd and William Burgh followed Ribera in the 1820s and 1830s. From then on it was quickly joined by some into the system of dispensationalism.

Present-day futurism sees the establishment of the State of Israel as a direct fulfillment of prophecy.[10] Leon J. Wood, a prominent futurist-dispensational writer states, “The clearest sign of Christ’s return is the modern state of Israel.”[11] The widely read Hal Lindsey writes, “The most important prophetic sign to herald the era of Christ’s return” and “one of the most important events of our age” is the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.[12] Futurists also see the reunification of Jerusalem on June 6, 1967, as a direct sign of fulfillment of prophecy.[13]

There is an expected rebuilding of a temple in Jerusalem in the middle of the seven-year tribulation period.[14] Any traveler to Jerusalem can visit a given place and inspect temple utensils that are made ready for this temple to be built. Futurism holds that in the final millennial dispensation another temple will be built, the millennial temple, in which Jews will literally sacrifice animals again but not in an expiatory way. They will be “memorials of the one complete sacrifice of Christ.[15]

In futurism, there is the widely anticipated “secret rapture”[16] of all true Christians in the near future before the great tribulation takes place.[17] In historicism, believers will go through the tribulation of “the time of trouble” unharmed; in futurism, believers will be raptured into heaven at the beginning of the tribulation. Only unbelievers will experience the great tribulation in the end of time.

In futurism the great fulfillments are projected into the future and they center around Israel[l8] and the Middle East, including the coming of a future Antichrist and the False Prophet, the role of Russia,[19] and a literal battle of Armageddon in Palestine,[20] and so on.

3. Futurism’s Development Within Dispensationalism

“Modern dispensationalism”[21] is rooted in the teachings of John N. Darby (1800-1882),[22] a trained lawyer who became a prolific writer with more than 53 volumes, each averaging some 400 pages.[23] Darby was one of the early leaders of the Plymouth Brethren Movement in England.[24] In 1845 he broke away over the issues of ecclesiology and prophecy to form the “Exclusive Brethren,” also known as “Darbyists.”

The second key impulse for dispensationalism came from Cyrus Ingersol Scofield (1843-1921 ), a lawyer and legislator from Kansas, who produced the notes for the original Scofield Reference Bible which was first published in 1909.

There are a number of other key names that shaped dispensationalism. Among them are Lewis Sperry Chafer,[25] and more recently Arno C. Gaebelein, H.A. Ironside, Charles Caldwell Ryrie, J. Dwight Pentecost, Leon J. Wood and, of course, John F. Walvoord, the President Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary, among others. These individuals are also key figures in futurism today.

Modern dispensationalism has been popularized since 1909 by the Scofield Reference Bible.[26] In recent years Hal Lindsey, whose book, The Late Great Planet Earth,[27] is claimed to have been translated into over 30 languages and has sold over 30 million copies in its first ten years of publication,[28] has brought untold popularity to futurist-dispensationalism.[29] The majority of popular radio and TV preachers around the world belong to the futurist camp of prophetic interpretation. The futurist-dispensationalist approach is dominant among many conservative Christians of many different Protestant churches on all continents.

In contrast to “historicism”[30] “futurism” is based on the literalistic method of dispensationalist interpretational.[31] It has to be clearly understood that in futurism prophetic fulfillment is based on the concept that all promises made to ancient Israel are unconditional and, therefore, must be literally fulfilled to “natural Israel.” This literalism demands that the prophetic and apocalyptic portions of Scripture relate primarily to the future, i.e. the end of the present Church age dispensation which represents a gap or parenthesis in prophecy.[32] This so-called “church age” is outside the Biblical view of prophecy.[33] Furthermore, modern dispensationalism holds tenaciously that the history from creation through the millennial kingdom is divided into seven dispensations[34] which form a key part of the futurist hermeneutic.[35]

II. Pillars of Futurist Prophetic Interpretation

There are three essential pillars of dispensationalism wed to futurism: (1) The radical distinction between Israel and the Church; (2) the principle of a literal (literalistic) interpretation of the Bible; and (3) the unifying principle of the glory of God.[36] The first two are “basic aspects of futurist eschatology”[37] and thus they need careful analysis in this essay.

1. Israel and the Church Distinguished.

The distinction between Israel and the Church, in the words of Charles Ryrie, is “probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a man is a dispensationalist, and it is undoubtedly the most practical and conclusive.”[38] This distinction is also a pillar of the futurist interpretation of prophecy and thus dispensational eschatology.[39] This means that the entire notion of a “gap” between the 69th and 70th week of Dan 9:24-27 and the resultant dispensation of the Church age, which is supposedly outside of Biblical prophecy, is based also on the distinction of Israel and the Church. Thus it is of vital importance to investigate the Biblical evidence for this claimed distinction. It is the foundation of futurist eschatology.

In futurism (and dispensationalism), Israel refers to the earthly Jews (or Judaism), i.e. the “natural Israel,” and the Church refers to a heavenly people. “This whole distinction between Israel and the Church is based upon the unique character of the Church. The Church is unique as to its nature, its time and its relation to Israel.”[40]

Any adequate understanding of the under girding foundations of futurism must give full attention to the relationship of the Church to Israel. Light will also be thrown on the nature of the Church as the mysterious body of Christ[41] and the time of the Church age dispensation from Pentecost to the rapture.[42] The entire theory of the pretribulation rapture,[43] which means “that the Church will be taken away from the earth before the beginning of the tribulation,”[44] “grows out of the distinction between Israel and the Church”[45] and forms one of four cardinal features of dispensational eschatology.[46] This heightens the demand for us to investigate the vital distinction between Israel and the Church.

A complete picture of the differentiation between Israel and the Church is provided in a list of twenty-four contrasts between the two entities by Lewis Sperry Chafer,[47] the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary. It is summarized by J. Dwight Pentecost.[48] The essential point is that Israel is the entity to which all the promises in the OT were literally made and that, therefore, they must be literally fulfilled to literal, natural Israel. This fulfillment started to take place in 1948 when the State of Israel was established. It will reach into the millennial kingdom, i.e. the millennium, “for the Church,” it is claimed, “is not now fulfilling them in any literal sense.”[49] Israel will see all of them fulfilled in a literal way primarily during the millennium which will be experienced on earth.[50]

It is claimed that the Church is an entity of an essentially spiritual type and the promises made to ancient Israel do not apply to the Church. Charles Ryrie summarizes as follows: “Use of the words Israel and Church shows clearly that in the New Testament national Israel continues with her own promises and the Church is never equated with a so-called ‘new Israel’ but is carefully and continually distinguished as a separate work of God in this age.”[51]

2. Analysis of the Israel/Church Distinction

How does this key pillar of futurist-dispensational hermeneutic fare in light of the total Biblical message? If it should turn out that the OT and the NT will not sustain such a distinction, then the very foundation of futurism seems to be destroyed. It would mean that the projection of events to be fulfilled through “natural Israel” in the near future in Palestine or in the distant future during the millennium on earth will have no Biblical foundations. It would also mean that the whole concept of a Church age with its gap or parenthesis would lack the support that is claimed for it. Furthermore, the whole idea of the “secret rapture” would be undercut[52] since it is tied to the distinction between Israel and the Church. Indeed, the stakes are high.

a. Israel in the Old Testament

Our attention must first turn to the OT. The first fact is that in the OT the designation “Israel” has various connotations.[53] This in itself is an important element that runs counter to futurism’s claims.

First, “Israel” is the name of an individual, Jacob: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (Gen 32:28). This struggle of Jacob “with God” and “with the angel” (Hos 12:34) “symbolizes Jacob’s new spiritual relation to Yahweh and stands for the reconciled Jacob through God’s forgiving grace.”[54] In other words, the inauguration of the term “Israel” in the Bible makes it a term for a person who is characterized and identified through a faith relationship to God. There is nothing here that makes Israel only and consistently a term for physical or ethnic lineage. It is a term for a person of a true faith response and faith relationship with the covenant God.

Second, the Israel to be redeemed from Egyptian bondage consisted for the most part of ethnic descendants of Jacob, respectively Abraham. But the Israelites were joined by a “mixed multitude” (Ex 12:38) so that their ethnicity could not be a key factor in what constituted Israel in the post-Exodus period. This total Israel, made up of ethnic descendants and the “mixed multitude of non-ethnic descendants,” was called to worship God (Ex 4:22) and were designated “his people Israel” in Ex 18:1 and later as “the Lord’s community” (Num 20:4). In this sense the term Israel seems to be more inclusive than a pure ethnic community. This may be part of the reason why God would refer to them as a “holy nation” (Ex 19:6). The term “nation” (g“y) is not typical of Israel in the OT (cf. Deut 4:6-8). Israel as a “nation” (g“y) is so because of the sovereign election of God and not because of any ethnicity or decendancy.[55] Israel is a special people in its election and not a “‘secular’ people.” Israel is a community of faith and faith makes Israel this special community.[56] In this Israel “what counts is not the ethnicity, the natural, but very uniquely her relationship to Yahweh.”[57]

Third, God made a covenant with Israel on Mt. Sinai so that this redeemed Israel could remain the covenant people of God (Ex 19-24). Israel is both a religious and political community, to whom all the covenant promises would be fulfilled as long as they remained faithful to the Lord (Deut 23-24). All the covenant promises are and remain conditional, depending whether Israel keeps the covenant with her Lord (Deut 26-27).[58] The covenant promises are dependent on the faithfulness of the people. Israel according to the flesh, or according to an ethnic line that can be traced back to Abraham, does not guarantee any promise from the Lord. What counts is a faith relationship based on the covenant and not ethnic origin.

Fourth, Israel as a religious and national entity apostatized, but a remnant of faith became the true Israel in the OT. The remnant of faith consisted of Elijah and the seven thousand in Israel that were still loyal to the covenant (1 Kgs 19:18). The Elijah experience connected with the events on Mt. Carmel promises that there will be in Elijah’s day and from his day forward a faithful remnant from Israel and in Israel, “a remnant loyal to Yahwistic covenant faith.”[59] This faithful remnant would not bow the knee to Baal. In the OT the true Israel is a religious remnant entity of the faithful and loyal ones.

In the book of Amos the picture is the same. The “remnant of Joseph” of which Amos prophesied (5:15) is a faithful remnant from Israel. National or natural Israel is rejected and is not the remnant.[60] At the same time the prophet Isaiah affirms explicitly that the remnant of faith of the future will be a “holy seed” (6:13), is “recorded for life” (4:13). It “will inherit the election promises and form the nucleus of a new faith community (10:20f.; 28:5f.; 30:15-17).”[61] This remnant will have a “new heart” and a “new spirit” affirms Ezekiel (Ezk 11:16-21). The remnant motif is used in the OT prophets only in a religious-theological sense and never in a national-ethnic one. The remnant of faith is the true Israel of God from the time that national Israel apostatized.

Let us summarize. The term “Israel” is used in the OT in several ways. First, it is used of Jacob who is renamed Israel so as to mark his conversion experience and his new spiritual relationship with God. Second, it is used of the Israel of the Exodus that was enslaved in Egypt and redeemed by Yahweh to worship him as a religious covenant community. This Israel included the “mixed multitude” and is not a purely “natural Israel.” Third, Israel can be used as a designation for the nation as such and later for the apostate nation which is rejected by God and no longer his people (Hos 2), because they have broken his covenant. Fourth, Israel is a designation used for the remnant of faith in which all the covenant promises of God reside and into which Gentile believers will be incorporated (Isa 46:3-4; 45:20; 66:19). “The total picture of the old Testament eschatological remnant reveals that Israel’s covenant blessings as a whole will be fulfilled, not in unbelieving national Israel, but only in that Israel which is faithful to Yahweh and trusts in His Messiah.”[62] This Biblical evidence from the OT indicates that the futurist-dispensational claim that only “natural Israel:[63] will experience the promises made by God can not be sustained.[64]

b. Israel in the New Testament

How is the designation “Israel” used in the NT? Futurists claim that the radical distinction between Israel as a literal people and the Church is carried on throughout the NT. Charles Ryrie refers to 1 Cor 10:32 in his claim that “natural Israel and the Church are also contrasted in the New Testament.”[65] Hans LaRondelle counters, “The question is not, Does the New Testament contrast the Church with ‘natural Israel’? but rather, Is the Church called ‘the Israel of God’ in the New Testament and is it there presented as the new Israel, the only heir of all God’s promised covenant blessings for the present and the future?”[66] If the Church is identified in the New Testament as the Israel of God, then the major pillar of futurist-dispensationalism will also be without a foundation on the basis of NT evidence.

There are two issues. One issue is the identification of the Church as the Israel of God and the other issue is the Church’s inheritance of all OT promises. With regard to the second issue, i.e. the inheritance of the OT promises by the Church, Vern S. Poythress raises several questions, “To which Old Testament promises is Christ heir? Is he an Israelite? Is he the offspring of Abraham? Is he the heir of David?”[67] He answers by quoting 2 Cor 1:20, “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (NASB). In Christ all the promises of God find their focus and fulfillment.

The second question can now be asked, “Now to which of these promises are Christians heir in union with Christ?”[68] We follow here the excellent points made by Vern Poythress who points to passages from Paul to answer this second key question. In Col 2:9-10 Paul affirms that Christ’s followers are “complete in Him [Christ].” Our connection with Christ provides us with completeness in Christ, a completeness that includes also all the promises to which Christ is heir and through Him we are heirs.[69] In Rom 8:32 Paul emphasizes, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (NASB). With Christ the Father gives us all things, including the promises made to the people of God in the OT. In Christ all believers are made coheirs. Paul insists in Rom 8:17, “and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ.” “That is to say that we inherit what he [Christ] inherits.”[70] All believers in Christ become heirs to the OT promises through him who is the heir of these promises. Thus there is no possibility to separate a “natural Israel,” which is said to be earthly, from the Church, which is said to be heavenly. The Israel of God are the fellow-heirs of Christ.

Paul adds additional points in his argument. Gal 3:29 affirms unambiguously, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Since in Galatians there is an emphasis that “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal 3:26-28) and the distinction between both are done away with, then Abraham’s seed consists of both Jews and Gentiles who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The seed of Abraham are those who belong to Christ and not those who are “natural Israel.” As is pointed out correctly, “the Israel of God” in Gal 6:16 “is a profoundly religious qualification” which cannot be restricted to ethnic Israelites.[71] “The [expression] ‘Israel of God’ does not mean the unbelieving members of the Jewish people, it does likewise not mean the Jewish people in its totality and not even the Jewish Christians which have been converted, but all believers in Christ regardless of their religious or ethnic origin.”[72] The believing Church is the “Israel of God” and the inheritors of all promises through Jesus Christ with whom they are fellow-heirs.

In Ephesians the apostle continues to maintain that there is an integration of the Gentiles into the community of the faithful. Gentiles, who were once “separated from Christ, . . . and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph 2:12), are “no longer strangers and sojourners, but . . . fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (vs. 19). In Eph 3:5-6 Paul reaffirms that Gentile and Israelite believers are together heirs of the promises of God, “the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (vs. 6, NASB). This Pauline depiction does not support the distinction of “natural Israel” and the Church. The Church is made up of converted Jews and Gentiles and both together are fellow-heirs to the promise through Christ.[73]

The famous section of Rom 9-11 which climaxes with the picture of the olive tree and the famous sentence “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom 11:26) also stresses the integration of Israelites and Gentiles. Futurists have interpreted the phrase “all Israel will be saved” to a mass conversion of the Jews just before Christ’s return.[74] Is this the meaning of this passage? Nothing is said in Rom 9-11 that this will take place before the Second Coming of Christ. This projection into the future seems unwarranted. In Rom 11:17-24 branches of unbelieving Jews are broken off from the trunk of physical Israel and wild branches of believing Gentiles are grafted in, leaving a tree of believing Jews and Gentiles. God has not rejected his people Israel (vs. 1 ) . “At the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (vs. 5). Paul insists that the natural branches that have been broken off can again “be grafted back into their own olive tree” (vs. 24). The ultimate purpose is that physical Israelites can be readopted as believers into the new community of faith, so that “all Israel”[75] made up of all believing Jews and Gentiles will be saved (vs . 26).[76] As the Gentiles are grafted in during the entire span of time from the NT to the Second Coming so the Jews are grafted in during the same period of time.

We may summarize the NT picture. The consistent convergence of the NT evidence points in a single direction. The “Israel of God” is the Church as the community of believers which is made up of both converted Jews and Gentiles.[77] Together they are the inheritors through Christ of all the covenant promises ever made. Together they are the body of Christ in total unity. There is no dispensation of the Church age for Gentiles and a dispensation for Jews subsequent to that one. In Christ all things are united. The total and full body of Christ of which Christ is the head cannot be split apart into sequential Church and Israelite bodies.[78] Christ has but one body of believing Jews and Gentiles. In short, both OT and NT agree that the true Israel are believers regardless of ethnic origin or national identity.[79]

3. Israel’s Territorial Promises

We need to inquire, How are the territorial promises made by God with regard to the land of Israel to be regarded? Can they be in any sense understood to be still valid for “natural Israel”? Are they from the Biblical perspective to be fulfilled by literal Jews in Palestine today?

Futurists-dispensationalists clearly maintain that all the promises given to Israel of old are to be fulfilled to the literal descendants of Israel on earth. Thus the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the wars of 1956 and 1967 and the territorial expansions of Israel are all fulfillments of Bible prophecies.[80] John F. Walvoord summarizes, “The theological implications of the promise of the land to Israel have been shown to be central in God’s eschatological purpose for His ancient people.[81] It needs to be said that our discussions of these exegetical matters are in no way to be understood or to be interpreted as denying in any sense the right of the State of Israel to exist.

a. The Problem of Literalism

A brief consideration on the issue of the pillar of futurist-dispensational literal fulfillment of OT prophecies is in order. In dispensationalism and its attendant futurism “literal” and “literalism” is central. J. Dwight Pentecost writes, “. . . the primary consideration in relation to the interpretation of prophecy is that, like all other areas of Biblical interpretation, it must be interpreted literally.”[82] Charles Ryrie maintains that “dispensationalism is the only system that practices the literal principle of interpretation consistently.[83] He continues, “The literal interpretation of Scripture leads naturally to a second feature–the literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. This is the basic tenet of [futurist] premillennial eschatology.”[84]

It would go far beyond the confines of our purposes to engage in a detailed discussion on the correctness and adequacy of the hermeneutical principle of “consistent literal” interpretation or consistent literalism.”[85] That has been done by others already and need not be elaborated on here.[86]

For our purpose it is much more important to investigate or at least highlight key principles of prophetic interpretation which the Bible itself uses. In 2 Pet 1:20-21 we are told, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own [private, KJV; NKJV] interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (RSV). Peter is not announcing a “consistent literal interpretation” or “consistent literalism,” but an interpretation under the control of the Holy Spirit who is the giver of all of Scripture. Thus one’s “own” or “private” interests in interpretation remain under the control of the Bible, which is its own interpreter.[87]

“Is the principle of ‘consistent literalism’ the legitimate method of interpreting Biblical prophecies?”[88] As Christian interpreters, we cannot interpret the OT as if the NT does not exist. As responsible interpreters of the Bible in its entirety we must look how the Bible interpreted prophecy, or better how the Bible reveals the fulfillment of prophecy.[89]

“Consistent literalism” holds that God’s promise that Abraham would inherit “all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen 17:8; cf. 12:7; 24:7)[90] as an “unconditional covenant”[91] which “has the guarantee of God that He will effect the necessary conversion which is essential to its fulfillment.”[92] First of all the book of Genesis makes it abundantly clear that this promise is not linked to an unconditional covenant. There are three passages in Genesis that make it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that the covenant with Abraham is not unconditional. The covenant is dependent on Abraham’s and his descendants’ faithfulness, “in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him” (Gen 18:19, NASB). In Gen 22:16-18 the blessings promised to Abraham will be his, “Because you have obeyed My voice” (vs. 18). The outworking of the covenant are dependent on the obedience to God. In Gen 26:3-5 God explicitly refers to the promise “to your descendants I will give all these lands” and to other covenant promises “because Abraham obeyed me and kept My commandments, My statutes and My laws” (vs. 5, NASB). These texts reveal that the Abrahamic covenant was not unconditional.[93] Incidentally, Ellen G. White speaks of “conditions of the covenant made with Abraham.”[94]

Futurism’s insistence on “consistent literalism” forces a meaning on the text which the Biblical text and context resist. There is no statement anywhere in the OT that God would guarantee to literal, natural Israel “the necessary conversion which is essential to its fulfillment.”[95] The principle at work is that those of faith are the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:6) and not necessarily those of ethnic descent who in the future would be converted en masse in the millennial kingdom. “It is those that are of faith that are the sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:6, NASB) and “heirs according to the promise” (vs. 29, RSV). “All who through Christ should become the children of faith were counted as Abraham’s seed; they were inheritors of the covenant promises; like Abraham, they were called to guard and make known to the world the law of God and the gospel of His Son.”[96] There is no restriction here to ethnicity or a natural derivation. This example of “consistent literalism” reveals that it superimposes on Scripture a principle that is alien to the plain meaning of the text within its Biblical context.[97]

The claim for a “consistent literalism” is also made with regard to the Davidic covenant. Here is a key statement of a futurist, “According to the established principles of interpretation the Davidic covenant demands a literal fulfillment. This means that Christ must reign on David’s throne on the earth over David’s people forever.”[98] Of course, the Davidic covenant is also understood to be unconditional. The conclusion that the Davidic covenant is totally unconditional and has to be literally fulfilled is based only on a one-sided reading of the OT, not to speak of the NT. Certainly God had promised in the covenant to David that “he will raise up your descendant after you” (2 Sam 7:12) and “your throne shall be established forever” (vs. 16). This is repeated in several parts of the OT (2 Sam 23:5; Ps 89:3-4, 26-28, 34; cf. Isa 55:3-4). But in Ps 132:11-12 the Davidic covenant is seen to be dependent on the following condition, “If your sons will keep my covenant, and My testimony which I will teach them, their sons will also sit upon your throne forever” (vs. 12, NASB). The conditionality of the Davidic covenant is undeniable.[99] Considering the condition of faithfulness to God’s testimony the conclusion that “Christ must reign on David’s throne on earth over David’s people forever” is hardly faithful to the Biblical witness itself.

It seems harsh but it is unavoidable to have to conclude that “consistent literalism” cannot be reconciled with the internal testimony of the Bible. “Consistent literalism” is an external system that is forced on the Bible and does not allow the Bible to speak on its own terms. Therefore, futurism seems to be a system that forces meanings of the Bible that are out of harmony with the simple and plain meaning of the witness of the OT and the witness of the OT and NT.

4. The Land Promises

How are the promises about the land to be fulfilled? Since both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are conditional and since it is an established Biblical reality that Israel of old did not remain faithful and that it also rejected Christ, is it to be concluded that the land promises are null and void, or that they are to be literally fulfilled to the “new Israel” of believing Jews and Gentiles?

a. Christ’s Testimony

In the Sermon on the Mount Christ gives the Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). Hans LaRondelle states that two conclusions have to be drawn: (1) Jesus Christ assigns in this Beatitude the whole earth to his spiritual followers and in another one the kingdom of heaven (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (vs. 31). Thus the inheritance of the faithful ones is both heaven and earth. (2) The original promise made to faithful Abraham is expanded for the Church to include the earth made new.[100] Already the Psalmist had stated in Ps 37:11, 29 that the “meek” and the “righteous” would inherit the “land” ( ‘erets). The term for “land” here as even in the original promises made to Abraham in the Hebrew is ‘erets which aside from having the meaning “land” means frequently “earth.”[101] Thus Christ brings out the larger meaning inherent in the term used in the OT.

In Christ the land promises are expanded to include the whole earth, but not in a literalistic way for the present earth. Already in the OT there is the ultimate view that God’s people will be inheritors of a recreated new heaven and a new earth (Isa 65:1719). The condition for receiving the “new haven and the new earth” is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

b. Covenant Promises Fulfilled

The letter to the Hebrews and the writings of Paul agree that from the days when Christ had come and literal Israel had failed to accept him the geographical and territorial promises were no longer valid. The earthly Jerusalem was no longer the holy city and the dwelling place of God. The temple had lost its meaning as well. The land of Palestine was no more the promised land.

The new covenant Israel of faith has a new city, the heavenly Jerusalem; the new covenant Israel has a new temple, the one which is in heaven; the new covenant Israel has a new High Priest, the exalted heavenly High Priest; the new covenant Israel has a new country, the heavenly one.

The best question to ask is, How did Abraham understand the covenant promises made to him?[102] Abraham sojourned “by faith . . . in the land of promise as in a foreign country, . . . for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:9-10, NKJV). The city he was looking for was not the Jerusalem of the Jebusites, but the one in heaven. How about the “land” that was promised to him and his descendants? Heb 11:13-16 tells us, “And having confessed that they [Abraham and his descendants] were strangers and exiles on earth, . . . they [Abraham and his descendants] desire [were longing for] a better country, that is a heavenly one” (NASB). How did Abraham understand the covenant promises? He understood them to involve the entering of the heavenly Jerusalem and the heavenly country. Abraham, according to Scripture, did not understand the promises to be literally restricted to Palestine in the past or in the future.

It is helpful also to consider Heb 12:22, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (NASB). Here believers, both Jews and Gentiles, have in a sense already reached the heavenly Jerusalem and as it were heavenly Mount Zion. This is in fulfillment of the Abrahamic and OT promise of Isa 60:14 and Mic 4:1-2. In another sense every follower of Abraham still “seeks the one [city] to come” (13:14). We have reached the heavenly Jerusalem through Jesus Christ, our Forerunner, who is already there while we are still on the way.

The book of Revelation reveals that the covenant promises given to Abraham will not be literally fulfilled to Jews during the millennium. Since any believer has prophetically come to Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem as Heb 12:22 affirms–and thus there is no need to wait for a millennial fulfillment as futurists hold–the final reality of the fulfillment in its completeness awaits the believer according to Rev 21-22. It will be fulfilled in its finality when there will be a new heaven and a new earth. “Since Christians share in Abraham’s inheritance of the heavenly city now, they will share in it then also.”[103]

III. The Seventy Weeks of Dan 9:24-27 — The Gap Hypothesis

There are not many passages in the Bible that have had as profound an influence on believers as Dan 9:24-27. Historically it has been understood to be the most direct, most extensive, most precise, and most detailed Messianic prophecy in the entire TO.[104]

a. Futurist Arguments

For futurist-dispensationalists, in the words of Alva J. McClain, “the predictions of the Seventy Weeks, [give] . . . the indispensable key to all New Testament prophecy.”[105] In addition, the gap or parenthesis hypothesis of futurists, which holds that the Church is completely ignored in Biblical prophecy, is based on their interpretation of Dan 9:24-27.[106] Furthermore, the 70th week is for futurists non-consecutive, separated from the 69 weeks and to be placed in the future. In this gap hypothesis the 70th week will commence with the secret rapture when the Church is translated. It will conclude seven years later. At its beginning a Roman prince will make a covenant with the Jews, but this covenant will be broken in the middle of the week, or 3 1/2 years later, when “the time of trouble” begins. The final 3 1/2 years come to an end with a “major world war.”[107] Then Christ descends to the Mount of Olives, delivers his people and the millennium on earth commences.[108]

A gap hypothesis is also posited by the SDA physician, Dr. Robert Hauser in his publications.[109] He denies that the “little horn” of Dan 8 has any past fulfillment in ecclesiastical Rome or the papacy. The “little horn” of Dan 8:11-12 is no human power but Satan himself[110] who used pagan Rome and the Jews until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then there is a gap.[111] Sometime in the future Satan, the little horn, will use the papacy for 3 1/2 literal years. Hauser supports (1) a gap theory as do the futurists, but in his case there is not a whole week of seven years projected into the future. It is only half a week from Dan 9:24b or 3 1/2 years.[112] He also claims that the “six specifications of [Dan] 9:24 could not have been fulfilled by Christ alone and must therefore have a last-day fulfillment.”[113] (2) From the destruction of Jerusalem to the time of the end there is nothing in Dan 8 and 9 that would predict anything for this gap. (3) The Danielic time specifications of the 1260 days of Dan 12 and the 2300 days of Dan 8 and the 3 1/2 years of the 70th week of Dan 9 are still in the future.[114] Hauser’s adoption of the theory of Jubilee cycles[115] for Dan 8-9 make his system very complex. Dr. Hauser follows the jubilee reckoning of Dr. Warren Waggerby, a dentist from California, and has stated very recently that “probation for the church could close this fall [1990]”[116] and that the return of Jesus Christ will take place 3 1/2 years later in 1994![117] Not all forms of futurism among SDA laity are joined with a jubilee-reckoned time-setting or predictions about the return of Christ to a specific year.

b. Futurist Chronology

Let us continue to investigate the basic claims of futurists in the larger evangelical community. Futurists begin their chronology of the Seventy Weeks in either 445 or 444 B.C. They take 69 weeks of prophetic years of 360 days each (or 69 x 7 x 360) and multiply them to reach a total of 173,880 calendar days.[118] This period of time is deducted from either 445 B.C. for the older futurists or from 444 B.C. for more recent ones. It is said to reach to the Triumphal Entry of Christ in A.D. 33 or 34.[119] It will not be necessary to discuss in detail the chronological problems, because that has been done elsewhere.[120]

In brief, the following chronological problems should be mentioned: (1) The 490 year prophecy is reduced to only 478 (444+33=478) or at a maximum 479 (445+34) years. Even with the 7 years in the future it does not reach 490 normal years. (2) The Seventy Week prophecy is torn apart so that there is only a 69 plus 1 week prophecy. The text, however, speaks of seventy weeks (Dan 9:24). (3) Futurists have to insert unaccounted days to reach the Triumphal Entry. They are thus inconsistent with their emphasis on consistent literalism.” (4) Futurists take as their starting point the decree of Nehemiah which most of them date to 445 B.C., but is correctly dated to 444 B.C. Regardless of which date is chosen, the death of Christ has to be dated later than seems possible,[121] if Nehemiah’s decree is chosen as the beginning.[122]

Historicists and futurists agree over against historical-critics that this is a Messianic prophecy. But futurists have made two major interpretational changes in Dan 9:24-27: (1) Futurists have an interval, or what they have called a gap and parenthesis between the 69 weeks and the 70th week. (2) Futurists have claimed that the events of Dan 9:24 are still future.

c. Is Dan 9:24 to be Fulfilled in the Future?

Let us turn our attention to the claim that Dan 9:24 has to be still future. Alva J. McClain maintains, “The fulfillment of the tremendous events in verse 24 cannot be found anywhere in history.”[123] J. Dwight Pentecost holds that “the prophecy [in vs. 24] anticipates the whole work of the Messiah for Israel: He will redeem and He will reign at the expiration of the time stipulated in the prophecy”[124] What is meant is that the six statements made in vs. 24 are not literally fulfilled in Christ’s life, death, resurrection and installation to heavenly ministry.

“Everlasting righteousness” has not come and “can refer only to the millennial kingdom promised Israel”[125] says Pentecost. Here he inadvertently admits that even during the 70th week in the future when Israel is still unrighteous this verse cannot be fulfilled. But McClain says explicitly that “they [all these great events described in vs. 24] are included within the reach of the Seventy Weeks’ Prophecy.”[124] Obviously McClain is correct in affirming that these six statements in vs. 24 are part of the 70 weeks prophecy. Pentecost has to move them out of the framework of the 70 weeks because he knows that unrighteousness and sin are still present in the 70th week as understood by futurists. This means that vs. 24 is describing things beyond the 70th week, events to take place in the millennium. In short, the kind of literalism the futurists seek to hold on to forces them to be non-literal! They go against the plain meaning of the Dan 9:24 where the six events described belong to the 70 weeks and not to a period beyond.

Is it true that a “fulfillment of the tremendous events in verse 24 [of Dan 9] cannot be found anywhere in known history”? Did not Jesus Christ bring about these events in his ministry, life, death, resurrection and inauguration as heavenly High Priest? The transgression was finished by Israel as God’s people in their rejecting Christ as Lord and Saviour. Jesus Christ brought about an end to sin and sin-offering in that he sealed and overcame in his death once-and-for-all what sin means. Jesus Christ certainly atoned for all the evil and iniquity and wickedness that the sin problem has ever brought into this world. Jesus Christ brought in righteousness that is everlasting because it was sealed with his own atoning death. Jesus Christ sealed up the prophetic office because he himself is the Prophet par excellence and thus he sealed up the vision. Jesus Christ also anointed the heavenly Most Holy as he himself was also anointed as heavenly High Priest. And all of this took place within the 70 weeks prophecy as the text specifies.

Dan 9:24 is fulfilled by and in Jesus Christ. There is no need to separate this text from its context and to project it to the future either into the 70th week or into the millennium as is done in futurism.[127]

d. The Alleged Gap Between the 69th and the 70th Week

Futurists argue that there is a “gap”[128] or “parenthesis”[129] between the 69th week during which the Messiah is cut off and the 70th week.[130] The arguments used for such a gap are as follow: (1) There are gaps in many passages of Scripture which makes the gap in Daniel not unique.[131] Does this prove that there must be a gap between Dan 9:26 and 27? Hardly so. (2) “The events of Daniel 9:26 require a gap,” because “the destruction of the city and temple did not take place until 70 A.D., or about forty years after the termination of the sixty-ninth week.[132] (3) The NT teaches that Israel has been set aside (Matt 23:37-39), and since the church now is not Israel a gap is needed until the time comes when God will deal with them again.[133] This position has been dealt with above. It is out of harmony with the NT evidence. (4) Jesus Christ refers in Matt 24:15 to the “abomination of desolation,” which means the one mentioned in Dan 9:27.[134] McClain states, “Daniel put it exactly in the middle of the Seventieth Week, while our Lord placed it at ‘the end,’ just before His second coming in glory. Therefore, the Seventieth Week must also come at the end of the present age just prior to Christ’s coming in glory.”[135]

Two of these four arguments call for particular attention. The first one claims a gap because the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple do not fit into a 70 week or 490 year period, because these two events took place outside of the events within a few years of Christ’s death.

The first part of Dan 9:26 reads, “Then after sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and having nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” There is a clear affirmation in this text that the certain things are to happen after 62 weeks. However, this text does not refer to the exact point in time when these events are to take place, except after 62 weeks. In vs. 27 the detailed information about the exact time of the cutting off of the Messiah is provided. “In the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and offering” (vs. 27, NKJV). The time of the death of the Messiah is now clearly specified. It is in the “middle” of the final week. Futurists must force another interpretation on the text, because in their reckoning the death of Christ would have to be dated to A.D. 36, a date totally ruled out by the chronology of the life of Christ. And there is no hint in the text that the events of vs. 27 are to take place after those of vs. 26.[136] To the contrary, vs. 27 is so linked to vs. 26 that it is a further explanation and amplification of what is summarized in the previous verse. This kind of approach it typical of Dan 9:24-27 and of the book of Daniel as a whole.

To our surprise, no exact time specification is made with regard to the destruction of the “city and the sanctuary.” Are we to think that this may therefore not fall within the 70-week period? This is not to be ruled out. May be we should not demand more than the text specifies. E.J. Young gives the following explanation on the relationship of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple with regard to the 70 weeks, “. . . [it] is a detail of information which is added that the Jews may know what will befall their city consequent upon the death of the Messiah. Two events, therefore, are mentioned in vs. 26. One of these, as vs. 27 shows, belongs to the 70th seven; the other does not.”[137] O.T. Allis notes, “There are consequences of the cutting off [of the Messiah], they may be regarded as involved in it, but their accomplishment may extend, and if this interpretation is correct, clearly does extend beyond the strict limits of the 70 weeks, since the destruction of Jerusalem was much more than three and a half years after the crucifixion.”[138] There is no doubt regarding the fact that the death of Jesus Christ sealed the fate of the temple and its services–and we recall that at the point of death of Christ the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt 27:51; cf. Mark 15:38)– and thus of the city, the symbol of the national state.

Another view also builds on the idea of the consequences of the cutting off of the Messiah Jesus Christ. This position was recently outlined by William H. Shea in a carefully argued article on Dan 9:24-27. He points out correctly that the word for “prince” is the same in vss. 25 and 26. This suggests that the “prince” of vs. 25 is also the “prince” in vs. 26. In both cases the “prince” (nagŒd) would then be the Messiah.[139] “It follows then that He should also be the Prince of the people who were to destroy the city and the temple (vs. 26b).”[140] The Jews who rejected the Messiah were thereby also destroying the city and the temple in that they started a “chain of events which ultimately led to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.[141] In other words, the actions of rejecting Christ on the part of “the people of the prince to come” destroyed both their city and their temple.

Jesus in Matt 24:15 refers to “the abomination of desolation” (KJV, NASB, NKJV), or “the desolating sacrilege” (RSV), “the abominable and destructive thing” (NAB), “the disastrous abomination” (JB) as other versions render this phrase,[142] referred to by Daniel the prophet. This is undoubtedly a reference to something that is still in the future. It cannot possibly refer to the temple desecration of Anitochus IV Epiphanes in the second century B.C. in the mind of Jesus. From his point of view it is still in the future. Exegetes have on the basis of Luke 21:20, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that the desolation is at hand” (NASB), and the use of the word “desolation,” which is identical in Greek with the one in Matt 24:15, concluded that the destruction foretold in Dan 9:27 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. If one follows this line of exegesis, then there is nothing that would indicate that this “abomination of desolation,” as futurists hold, is placed just before the Second Coming of Christ.[143] If Matt 24:15 is understood to quote Dan 9:27 (which is not absolutely sure) and if Matt 24:15 refers to the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it would simply mean that the consequences of what Christ had accomplished and the consequences of Israel’s rejection of Christ are reaped in the visible destruction of the city and the temple in A.D. 70. Christ died during the 70th week and thus the validity of the sacrifices in the temple had come to an end regardless of how long they were carried on beyond His death. In the same way in which the meaning of the sacrifices had ceased, so the meaning of the city had ceased and come to an end regardless of how long the city continued to be in existence. The physical destruction of both city and temple is but a consequence of the loss of their validity and legitimacy through what had been accomplished by Christ within the 70th week.

In conclusion, ample Biblical evidence indicates that the arguments for the gap hypothesis fall far short of being compelling. The Messianic prophecy of Dan 9:24-27 was totally fulfilled in the past by and with Christ at its center. No future Roman prince or Satanic prince or whatever is yet to come. Every detail of prophecy has been fulfilled within the seventy weeks. A faithful, literal exegesis does not support the gap theory. The specific fulfillment of every detail proves that the longer outline prophecies of Daniel that reach into our own time and beyond to the second coming of Christ will receive an equally detailed fulfillment in the final parts of the prophecies that are still awaiting fulfillment.

e. Dual and/or Multiple Fulfillments

Within recent years the issue of dual or twofold and multiple fulfillments of the prophecies of Daniel (and Revelation) has been raised.

We do not need to belabor the point that the so-called “apotelesmatic principle” of “multiple fulfillment” has been invoked in recent years.[144] The view that “prophecy [is] apotelesmatic”[145] means on the part of the interpreter of prophecy that he/she must “practice eclecticism.”[146]

This eclecticism means, of course, that the detail of prophecy has to be sacrificed for the sake of some kind of larger scheme or principle that is repetitive or there could be no “multiple fulfillment.” The “apotelesmatic principle” with its multiple fulfillment seems to rob each prophecy of its specificity with which the prophecy has been endowed. The Reformation has done away with the fourfold sense of Scripture by insisting that there is but one plain meaning of the Bible. The “multiple fulfillment” idea is in a significant sense falling back to the multiple senses of Scripture of medieval Catholic scholastic theology. In any case, it is best to follow what the Bible itself reveals about fulfillments.[147] To this we shall return shortly.

The second issue of is that of dual fulfillment. Among a few recent Adventist lay persons the idea has been advanced that there is in Dan 7:25 and Rev 13:5 a single prophecy with a “dual fulfillment”[148] or a “double fulfillment.”[149] This “dual fulfillment” concept is not to be identified with the “apotelesmatic principle.”[150] The prophecy must have had a first literal fulfillment in the past and “a last-day application [fulfillment] must fulfill each specification of the prophecy precisely.”[151] A dual fulfillment is also posited for Dan 8:11-12, but not for the other verses in Dan 8.[152] The same dual fulfillment is held for the “six specifications of [Dan] 9:24” which on the basis of “the time frame of seventy sevens interpreted jubilee cycles . . . must therefore have a last-day fulfillment.”[153]

What basis is there for such scheme of “dual fulfillment” or multiple fulfillment based on the “apotelesmatic principle”? P Any reader of the Bible wants to follow the principles laid down by the Bible itself. The most straight forward approach to answer these questions is to take a careful and determined look at the book of Daniel. Do these prophecies with their symbols lead us to follow a dual or multiple fulfillment scheme? To follow the book of Daniel as a guide is proper because that is where recent interpreters first make the claim of dual or multiple fulfillments.

We should observe to begin with that it is strange or unusual to pick out some texts here and there for more than one fulfillment. Why should not the entire vision of Dan 8:1-14, for example, have a dual or multiple fulfillment? Or the whole of Dan 9:24-27? Why are bits and pieces of vision or some parts of a larger whole selected? May it be that there is no way to fit the whole vision or all of Dan 9:24-27 or all of Dan 12 into more than a single fulfillment? The book of Daniel itself has a different picture, if allowed to speak for itself.

Since the book of Daniel provides its own interpretation, we have to suggest that it is normative. It sets the rule for the meaning of each part and its fulfillment. Daniel himself is the divinely appointed interpreter for the symbols of Dan 2. In Dan 2:38 the interpretation of the “head of gold” is provided: “You are the head of gold. ” The symbol of the “head of gold” has but one fulfillment. In Dan 8:20 the “ram” with the “two horns” are the “kings of Media and Persia.” Each symbol has one meaning. The “he-goat” of Dan 8:5 is “the kingdom of Greece” (vs. 21). One symbol has one fulfillment. “The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king” (vs. 21). Again there is a one-time fulfillment. Gabriel continues to provide the interpretation: “The four horns that arose in its place are four kingdoms” (vs. 22). The pattern is clear beyond the shadow of a doubt. Each item has but a single fulfillment and not a dual, triple, or multiple fulfillment. This conclusion is supported by none other than Jesus Christ who refers to the “abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (matt 24:15) as a single event in the future.

This pattern holds true also for the time elements of the various prophecies. The first time prophecy provided in the book of Daniel refers to “seven times” relating to Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4:16, 23, 25, 32. The word for “times” (Aram. ‘iddannin) is not the regular word for year but a symbolic word for year. Nebuchadnezzar was restored “at the end of that period” (vs. 34) of years. This time prophecy has a one time or once-for-all fulfillment in the life of the king. It is unrepeatable and it sets the stage for the other time prophecies. The “time, times, and half a time” of Dan 7:25 (cf. Dan 12:7), fitting the length of the time required for this section of the vision, is likewise to be taken as a once-for-all time specification. The time of the “2,300 evenings and mornings” of Dan 8:14 covers the full “vision” (Heb. chazon, see vss. 1-2, 13, 17) from vss. 2-12, which reaches from the two-horned ram representing Media and Persia (vs. 3) to “the time of the end” that Gabriel speaks of in vs. 17 (cf. vs. 19 “the appointed time of the end”). The symbolic usage of “evening and morning” (Heb. ‘ereb boger) can only mean years in this context. Since all the time elements of the prophetic parts of Daniel, in both visions and interpretations, are symbols, it seems natural that the word “days” with reference for the “1,290 days” and the “1,335 days” in Dan 12:1-12 is likewise symbolic in nature, standing for years as does the word for “times” and “evenings and mornings.” If a time specification is to be used in a non-symbolic way, the author of the book has a special way to express such a time element. The perfect example is his reference to “three weeks of days” (Dan 10:2-3). Daniel makes clear that he means literal, non-symbolic weeks by stating that they are “weeks of days”[154] and not prophetic, symbolic “weeks” as the “seventy weeks” in Dan 9:24 that are transferred to 490 (70×7=490) days that equal years.

In short, the evidence in the book of Daniel for the fulfillment of any symbol or prophecy points uniquely and persistently in but one direction, a consistent single fulfillment. Any different meaning is out of harmony with the internal testimony of the book. This is equally true for the time prophecies in Daniel. It does not seem coincidental that the once-for-all-time fulfillment in Daniel is in agreement with time prophecies throughout the entire OT. Each one of them has also a once-for-all-time fulfillment.[155] This total Biblical evidence from the old and New Testament does not lend any support for any suggestion of dual or multiple fulfillments.


    1. For a supportive book, see Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975). For critical reactions and /or rejection of the historical-critical method, see Walter Wink, The Bible in Human Transformation. Toward a New Paradigm for Biblical Study (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973); Gerhard Maier, Das Ende der historisch-kritischen Methode (2nd ed.;
    2. Wuppertal: Brockhaus Verlag, 1975), English transl. from lst ed.
    3. The End of the Historical-Critical Method (St. Louis: Concordia
    4. Publishing House, 1974); Gerhard F. Hasel, Biblical Interpretation Today (Washington,D.C.: Biblical Research Institute, 1985).
    5. For example, Robert P. Carrol, When Prophecy Failed. Cognitive Dissonance in the Prophetic Traditions of the Old Testament (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), 112-120; Joseph Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983), 19- 52; Robert R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society- in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980).
    6. This is well stated by Klaus Koch, The Prophets. The Babylonian and Persian Periods (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 2:73-80, and G. Ernest Wright, Isaiah “The Layman’s Bible Commentary” (London: SCM Pres, 1964), 8: “The prophet had thus messages for his own people in his own day. It would not be within the primary function of his office to address another people in another time than his owns.
    7. John J. Collins, Daniel, 1-2 Maccabees (Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1981), 11-12, writes about “the authenticity of Daniel’s prophecies” as follows: “The issue is not whether a divinely inspired prophet could have foretold the events which took place . . . years before they occurred. The question is whether this possibility carries any probability: is it the most satisfactory way to explain what we find in Daniel? Modern [historical]critical scholarship has held that it is not” (italics his).
    8. Charles C. Ryrie, Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959), 346.
    9. See George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope. A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956), 35-60.
    10. See L. E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers: The Historical Development of Prophetic Interpretation. 4 vols. (Washington: Review and Herald Publ. Assoc., 1946-54).
    11. See the paper produced by the Biblical Research Institute and Ellen G. White Estate entitled, “Critique of Give Glory to Him by Robert Hauser” (August 1984). See the publications by Robert Hauser, Give Glory to Him. The Sanctuary in the Book of Revelation (Angwin, CA: Robert Hauser, 1983); idem, Daniel, Revelation and the Final Generation (Angwin, CA: Morningstar Ministries, 1987); idem, Solving Seven Ministries of the Gospel (Angwin, CA: Morningstar Ministries, 1987). See also Charles Wheeling, 4 Horns, 4 Beasts, & 4 Winds, published in Countdown, vol. 7 (Jemison, AL: Countdown Ministries, 1986).
    12. Ladd, The Blessed Hope, 37-38.
    13. So among others John F. Walvoord, The Nations, Israel and the Church in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), pp. 19-26. of the section “Israel in Prophecy.”
    14. Leon J. Wood, The Bible and Future Events: An Introductory Survey of Last-Day Events (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), p. 18.
    15. Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), p. 54.
    16. For example, C. F. Baker, A Dispensational Theolocty lgrand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), p. 606.
    17. So Thomas S. McCall, “Problems in Rebuilding_ the Tribulation Temple,” Bibliotheca Sacra (Jan. 1972), 79.
    18. John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), p. 125; cf. Charles L. Feinberg, “The Rebuilding of the Temple,” Prophecy in the making, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Carol Stream, IL: InterVarsity, 1971).
    19. John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (Rev. ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979). Samuele Bacchiocchi, The Advent Hope for Human Hopelessness (Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives, 1986), pp. 213-62, provides an evaluation and critique of futurist dispensationalism. His arguments against the “rapture” theory include: (1) The terminology for the Second Coming of Christ in such passages as 1 Thess 3:13; 2 Thess 2:8; 1 Cor 1:7; 1 Tim 6:14 and Matt 24:27, 37, 39 provide evidence for a single, one-stage and not a two-stage Second Coming; (2) Paul in 1 Thess 4:15-17 describes the Lord as descending “from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God,” which are paralleled in Matt 24:31 and 1 Cor 15:52, and demonstrated that there is no “secret rapture”; (3) In Matt 24:31 the rapture is placed after the tribulation and not before and protection is granted in the tribulation (Rev 3:10). (4) The book of Revelation gives no evidence for a pretribulation rapture, but a posttribulation return of the Lord (pp. 246-51).
    20. See J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969), pp. 156-217.
    21. See Charles L. Feinberg, Israel At the Center of History and Revelation (Portland, OR: Multomah Press, 1980); Walvoord, Israel and Prophecy reprinted in The Nations, Israel and the Church in Prophecy, pp. 15-133, and many others.
    22. Walvoord, The Nations, Israel and the Church in Prophecy, pp. 103-20, of the section “The Nations in Prophecy.”
    23. Pentecost, pp. 340-58, with earlier literature; Paul Lee Tan, The Interpretation of Prophecy (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1974), p. 349; Hal Lindsey, The Rapture: Truth or Consequences (New York, 1983).
    24. This designation is used by Arnold D. Ehlert, A Bibliographic History of Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1965), p. 5, who provides a bibliographical study of earlier writers who depict a “history of the subject of ages and dispensations.” Ehlert seeks to show that dispensationalism is old indeed. Nevertheless, “modern dispensationalism” seems to be unique. Simply to find pre-Darby writers who have dispensations does not make them into dispensationalists. See the incisive critique by Vern S. Poythress, Understanding Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987), pp. 9-11.
    25. John N. Darby, The Collected Writings of John Nelson Darby, ed. W. Kelly. 34 vols. (reprint; Sunbury, PA; Believers Bookshelf, 1971).
    26. W. G. Turner, John Nelson Darby (London: Hammond, 1944), pp. 13-15; C. B. Bass, Backgrounds to Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), pp. 48-99.
    27. H. Pickering, Chief Men Among the Brethren (2nd ed.; London: Pickering and Inglis, 1931); W. Blair Neatby, The History of the Plymouth Brethren (2nd ed.; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1902).
    28. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dispensationalism (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1936); idem, Systematic Theology. 8 vols. (Dallas Dallas Seminary Press, 1947); idem, Major Bible Themes, rev. by John F. Walvoord (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1974).
    29. Published initially by Oxford University Press in 1909. The New Scofield Reference Bible was revised and appeared in 1967.
    30. Published first in Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970.
    31. So claimed by Hal Lindsay in hi s subsequent book, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon (Toronto/New York, 1981), 4, 11.
    32. For sober reactions and critiques of Lindsey’s futurism, see George C. Miladin, Is This Really the End? A Reformed Analysis of ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ (Cherry Hill, NJ: Mack Publ. Co., 1972); T. Boersma, Is the Bible and Jigsaw Puzzle….. An Evaluation of Hal Lindsey’s Writing (St. Catherine’s, Canada, 1978); Cornelius vanderwaal, Hal Lindsey and Biblical Prophecy (St. Catherine’s, Canada, 1978); Samuele Bacchiocchi, Hal Lindsey’s Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle. Five Predictions that Failed (Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives, 1985).
    33. See particularly the definitions provided in the dissertations of Samuel Nunez, “The Vision of Daniel 8: Interpretations from 1700-1900” (Ph. D. diss., Andrews University, 1987), 1 0-11 ; Gerhard Pf andl, “The Latter Days and the Time of the End in the Book of Daniel,” (Ph. D. diss., Andrews University, 1990), 5-6.
    34. For the purpose of this study it will not be necessary to distinguish between “futurists” and “dispensationalists” (see Pfandl, 7-8), because the latter are futurist in outlook.
    35. Crutchfield, p. 244, states, “The bulk of end-time events is still ahead of us as it was future to- those of the Biblical period.” Darby, Writings, 2:Prophetic No. 1, p. 279 had himself stated, “The greater part of the prophecies, and, in a certain sense, we may say, all the prophecies, will have their accomplishment at the expiration of the dispensation in which we are.11
    36. C. C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), pp. 156-76.
    37. The seven dispensations in their classical form are those of “innocence” (Gen 1:26-3:24), “conscience” (Gen 4:1-7:24), “human government” (Gen 8:1-11:26), “promise” (Gen 11 :27-Ex 18), flaw” (Ex 19:1-Acts 1:26), “grace (Acts 2:1-Rev 19:21) and “kingdom” (Rev 20:1-6) according to Larry V. Crutchfield, “The Doctrine of Ages and Dispensations as Found in the Published Works of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)” (Ph. D. Diss., Drew University, 1985), 58-68.
    38. C. I. Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (Fincastle, VA: Scripture Truth Book Co., n.d.), 12-16.
    39. See Crutchfield, pp. 48-56, upon whom I depend heavily in this section.
    40. Crutchfield, pp. 68-71.
    41. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 44-45; similarly John F. Walvoord, “B-1@-spensational Premillenialism,” Christianity Today 15 (September, 1958), 13; Lewis Sperry Chafer, “Dispensationalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra 93 (1936), 448.
    42. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 159.
    43. Crutchfield, p. 49.
    44. See Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 133-40. 42.Ibid., p. 136


  1. For a penetrating analysis and critique of the origins and changes in the rapture theory, see Dave MacPherson, The Great Rapture Hoax (Fletcher, N.C.: New Puritan Library, 1983).
  2. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 159. 45.Crutchfield, p. 71.
  3. Ryrie, Dispensationalism, pp. 156-161. 47.Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:47-53.
  4. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come. A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969), pp. 201-202.
  5. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 158. 50.Ibid., p. 546.
  6. Ibid., p. 140.
  7. For a critique of the “secret rapture,” see Ladd, The Blessed Hope, 89-104; Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publ. Co., 1977), 181-91.
  8. See Gerhard von Rad, “Israel,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 3:356-59; R. Mayer, “Israel, Jew, Hebrew, Jacob, Judah,” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 2:304-16.
  9. Hans K. LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1983), p. 82.
  10. A. R. Hulst, “-amlgoi Volk,” Theologisches Handw6rterbuch zum Alten Testament, eds. E. Jenni and C. Westermann (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag/Munich: Kaiser, 1976), 2:312-14.
  11. N. A. Dahl, Das Volk Gottes (1941), p. 19. 57.Hulst, 315.
  12. LaRondelle, pp. 83-85.
  13. Gerhard F. Hasel, “Remnant,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. G. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 4:132.
  14. Ibid., 4:133; idem, The Remnant. The History and Theology of the Remnant Idea from Genesis to Isaiah (3rd ed.; Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1980), pp. 170-215.
  15. Hasel, “Remnant,” 133.
  16. LaRondelle, pp. 90-91.
  17. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 138.
  18. For a full study of Israel and its implications, see the excellent work by Hans LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy.
  19. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 138. 66.LaRondelle, pp. 98-99.
  20. Vern S. Poythress, – Understanding Dispensationalists (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987), p. 69.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid., p. 127.
  24. LaRondelle, pp. 110-111.
  25. Joachim Rhode, Der Brief des Paulus an die Galater (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1989), p. 278 (emphasis mine).
  26. Samuele Bascchiocchi, The Advent Hope for Human Hopelessness (Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives, 1986), pp. 228-29.
  27. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:105-107; Pentecost, p. 298: John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1959), pp. 171-73, and others.
  28. That this term includes both Jew and Gentiles is held among many others also by John Calvin and K. Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 416, who take “all Israel” as the Church.
  29. Hasel, “Remnant,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4:134.
  30. See also William Sanford La Sor, Israel. A Biblical View (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976), pp. 83-108.
  31. Poythress, p. 129.
  32. A more extensive analysis is provided by LaRondelle in his outstanding book, The Israel of God in Prophecy, from whom we have extensively benefited in this section as well as in the following. 80.John F. Walvoord, “Israel’s Restoration,” Bibliotheca Sacra 102 (1945), 405-16; idem, “Israel in Prophecy,” in The Nations, Israel and the Church in Prophecy, pp. 15-138.
  33. Walvoord, “Israel in Prophecy,” in The Nation, Israel and the Church in Prophecy. p. 78.
  34. Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 60. 83.Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 158. 84.Ibid.
  35. Herman Hoyt, “”Dispensational Premillennialism, ” The Meaning of the Millennium, ed. Robert G. Clouse (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1977), p. 66.
  36. Poythress, Understanding Dispensationalists, pp. 87-110. See also Bacchiocchi, pp. 220-25.
  37. See Gerhard F. Hasel, Understanding the Living Word of God (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1980), pp. 66-82.
  38. Bacchiocchi, The Advent Hope, p. 221.
  39. Gerhard F. Hasel, “Fulfillments of Prophecy,” The Seventy Weeks, Leviticus, and the Nature of Prophecy, ed. Frank B. Holbrook “Daniel and Revelation committee Series, Vol. 3” (Washington: Biblical Research Institute, 1986), pp. 288-322.
  40. See also Gen 13:14-15; 13:17; 15:7-21; 17:8; 26:3-4; 28:4, 13; 35:12; 48:4; 50:24; Exod 13:5, 11; 32:13; 33:1; Num 11:12; 14:16, 23; 32:11; Deut 1:8, 35; 4:31; 6:10, 18, 23. There are thirteen additional promises to the land in the OT outside the Pentateuch.
  41. The New Scofield Bible, pp. 20, 1318. 92.Pentecost, p. 98.
  42. Gerhard F. Hasel, Covenant in Blood (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1982), pp. 38-41.
  43. Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 138. 95.See Above note 81.
  44. Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 476. 97.For other examples, see LaRondelle, pp. 23-34.
  45. Pentecost, p. 112. See also Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 80.
  46. Frank Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 232, believes that this condionality is an early form of the Nathan oracle. John Bright, Covenant and Promise. The Prophetic Understanding of the Future in Pre-Exilic Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 64, states that “the continuance of the dynasty [of David] is made subject to conditions!”
  47. LaRondelle, p. 138. 1 01 H. H. Schmidt, ” ‘arms Erode, Land, ” Theolocfisches Wbrterbuch zum Alten Testament, 1:228-36; M. Ottosson, “‘erets,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 1:393-405.
  48. In the following I largely follow the points made by Poythress, pp. 120-21.
  49. Poythress, p. 123.
  50. Klaus Koch und Mitarbeiter, Das Buch Daniel (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1980), pp. 7-8, states that until recent times Dan 9:24-27 in the book of Daniel “contained the most pointed evidences in the OT for the Christ of the NT, because the 490 years of Dan 9:24ff. were meant to be a mathematical prediction
  51. Alva J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969), p. 10 (italics his).
  52. Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church (n.p.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing House, 1977)
  53. Walvoord, “Israel in Prophecy,” p. 98.
  54. McClain, pp. 49-67; Pentecost, pp. 239-50.
  55. Robert Hauser, Daniel, Revelation and the Final Generation  CA: Morningstar Ministries, 1987); idem, Give Glory to Him. The Sanctuary in the Book of Revelation (Angwin, CA: Morningstar Ministries, 1983).
  56. Hauser, Daniel, Revelation and the Final Generation, 62: “For the moment we must see that the prophecy of Daniel 8:Tl, 12 has a dual application, fulfilled once completely as Satan used Israel and pagan Rome to take away the daily and cast down the place of the sanctuary. But another fulfillment will certainly occur in the future. . . . The key to understanding the dual application of Daniel 8:11, 12 is the proper identification of the little horn as Satan.”
  57. Ibid., pp. 99-100.
  58. Ibid., p. 109.
  59. Ibid., P. 112.
  60. Ibid., pp. 98-113.
  61. He follows Warren Waggerby, The jubilee Cycles in Dan 8 and 9 (Loma Linda, CA: n.p., n.d.), referred to by Hauser, ibid., p. 106 n. 11.
  62. Robert Hauser, “Seventy Sevens are Determined,” (unpublished paper of April, 1990), 6.
  63. Ibid., and Daniel, Revelation and the Final Generation, 113: “The jubilee tells us without doubt that we are at the end!”
  64. Pentecost, p. 246.
  65. McClain, p. 31, concludes in A.D. 32.
  66. Gerhard F. Hasel, “Interpretations of the Chronology of the Seventy Weeks,” Seventy Weeks, Leviticus, and Nature of Prophecy, pp. 3-63.
  67. Ernest L. Martin, The Birth of Christ Recalculated (2nd ed.; Pasadena, CA: Foundations for Biblical Research, 1980), discusses the issues relating to the birth date of Christ in a careful manner and concludes that he was most likely born in 3 B.C. In that case the year o his death in 33 or 34 A.D. is a major problem.
  68. For a longer discussion and more details, see Hasel essay referred to in n. 120.
  69. McClain, p. 35.
  70. Pentecost, p. 242.
  71. Ibid., p. 241.
  72. McClain, p. 35 (underlining mine).
  73. See also Allis, p. 116; LaRondelle, pp. 175-76; William H. Shea, “The Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27,” The Seventy Weeks, Leviticus, and the Nature of Prophecy, pp. 75-118.
  74. This is the more widely accepted designation among futurists, see Pentecost, p. 246, and many others.
  75. H. A. Ironside, The Great Parenthesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1943).
  76. R. Ludwigson, A Survey of Bible Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), pp. 46-47; John F. Walvoord, “Is Daniel’s Seventieth Week Future?” Biobliotheca Sacra 101 (Jan 1944), 30-49.
  77. Walvoord, “Is Daniel’s Seventieth Week Future?”, pp. 47-48.
  78. Pentecost, p. 248.
  79. Ibid.
  80. Ludwigson, p. 47; McClain, pp. 39-40. 135.McClain, p. 40.
  81. E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949), p. 215.
  82. Ibid.
  83. Allis, p. 115.
  84. Already Tertullian took the “prince” in vs. 26 as a reference to Jesus Christ, see Franz Fraidl, Die Exegese der Siebzig Wochen Daniels in der alten und mittleren Zeit (Graz: Leuschner & Lubensky, 1883), pp. 38-39. Isodore of Pelusium (c. 360-c. 440) also took the “prince to come” as Jesus Christ (Fraidl, pp. 90-91) and so did Basil, bishop of Seleucia (c 448-458) (Fraidl, p. 93).
  85. William H. Shea, “The Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27,” p. 93. 141.Ibid.
  86. The Greek phrase used in Matthew is identical only with the LXX of Dan 12:11. Similar but not identical words are used in the LXX for Dan 11 :31 and 9:27. The Hebrew expressions in Dan 9:24; 11 :31 ; and 12:11 are similar but not identical. This , has caused some interpreters to be cautious as to whether the three expressions refer to the same thing or not.
  87. John F. Walvoord, Daniel. The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody, 1971 ), p. 236, holds that “the desolation of Daniel 9:27 . . . is going to continue until the consummation, There is nothing in Matt 24:15, Mark 13:14, or Luke 21:20 that warrants such a conclusion.
  88. See Desmond Ford, Daniel (Nashville, TN: Southern Publ. Assoc. 1978), 49-50.
  89. Desmond Ford, Crisis! Volume 1 : A Hermeneutic for Revelation (Newcastle, CA: n. p., 1982), 161.
  90. Ibid., p. 164.
  91. Gerhard F. Hasel, “Fulfillments of Prophecy,” The Seventy Weeks, Leviticus, and the Nature of Prophecy, ed. Frank B. Holbrook (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Research Institute of the General Conf. of SDA, 1986), 288-322.
  92. Hauser, Daniel, Revelation and the Final Generation, xxi-xxxi. 149.Ibid., p. xxvii.
  93. Ibid., p. xxx.
  94. Ibid.
  95. Ibid., p. 62.
  96. Ibid., p. 112.
  97. English translations have abbreviated the Hebrew expression here in Dan 10:2-3 to read simply “three weeks.” But the distinction made in the Hebrew is of decisive importance.
  98. Hasel, “Fulfillments of Prophecy,” pp. 297-302.