The Near-Far Interpretation of Prophecy

I am in an ongoing dialogue concerning the near-far fulfillment of OT prophecy at the moment. Especially concerning text’s like Isaiah 19, considering the current situation in Egypt. How is it best to simply & clearly show that many OT testament text’s may have been spoken a few thousand years ago, even with like-kind-near-fulfillments, but with ultimate outworking at the end?

Good question, Nick. I’d have to think about that, and review some of the texts that would be best to demonstrate the near / far phenomena, so intrinsic to the OT mystery of Christ and the gospel. In every context where the eschatological day of the Lord is in view, there is usually a near and a far fulfillment. This is seen most clearly by the simple fact that the messianic salvation, everywhere identified with a climactic post tribulational day of the Lord, simply did not happen. A view of the inerrancy of the inspired scripture, will, of course, demand that a gap be recognized between the past, near and partial fulfillment, and a future fulfillment that is complete and exhaustive.

Even if you happen to deny a distinct future for natural Israel, and even if you are prone to interpret scripture allegorically, one is still obliged to recognize that the promised messianic salvation did not come until much later with the advent of Jesus. Beyond the earnest and first fruits (the “already”) of Israel’s promised salvation, there remains the “not yet” of a yet future day of the Lord that will accomplish “the restoration of all things spoken by the prophets” (Acts 3:21; Ro 11:25-29).

[Note: The difference between pre-mill and a-mill eschatology is simply the question of how much of Israel’s promised salvation came in with the revelation of the gospel? All or part? […] (The “complete” note is available as a footnote (([Note: The difference between pre-mill and a-mill eschatology is simply the question of how much of Israel’s promised salvation came in with the revelation of the gospel? All or part? If all, then nothing more remains for the “natural branches.” In such case, there’s no need of a “literal” millennium (i.e., as a distinct period of time on this earth beyond the present age.)

If nothing remains for “natural Israel,” the only choice is to spiritualize all the language of scripture that describes conditions on earth AFTER the post-tribulational day of the Lord (This process of “re-interpretation” amounts to nothing short of a bold vaporization of large portions of scripture. Such a process is particularly suspect when these sections of prophecy show an abundance of detailed description that defies easy reduction to mere symbol or poetic metaphor.

To handle prophetic speech in this way suggests something more condemnable than mere questions of hermeneutics. It permits prior theological commitments to impose on scripture what it does not say, while it denies much that scripture does say. Regardless of original intent, the end result is unbelief concerning what God has infallibly ‘said’. A faulty hermeneutic risks adding support to the question first raised by Satan, “Has God really said?” It is that serious. We are not simply engaged in academic discussion of marginal significance.)

For the prophets, no end was in sight that did not include the final deliverance of the Jewish nation and the resurrection of the righteous at the end of an unequaled tribulation of brief duration (Dan 12:1-2 with Jer 30:7; Mt 24:21). Only an “all righteous” nation (Isa 60:21; Jer 31:34), dwelling securely forever in their own land, would be sufficient to fulfill and publicly vindicate the everlasting covenant, as it stood written. This, of course, requires a post-day of the Lord fulfillment on this earth.

For the covenant to realize all its promised goals according to the plain language and manifest intent of the prophets, a millennium on earth becomes a theological necessity, even before its chronological duration is later given by John. If, on the other hand, “all” the promises made to natural Israel receive their complete fulfillment in this present age (as taught by a-mill eschatology), then WHY have a millennium at all? Why not go straight to the new heavens and earth, as in a-mill eschatology? If a future great tribulation can come and go without the covenanted salvation of the present enemies of the gospel, then a literal millennium would seem rather superfluous, if all the promises to Israel are fulfilled within the scope of the present age.])) or as a separate sub-article HERE)]

But back to your question: Despite how much scorn has been heaped on those who recognize a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Dan 9:24-27, it remains that anyone accepting the authority of the NT, must acknowledge a gap in a number places throughout the OT, where this phenomenon appears. It would be a worthwhile exercise to find and list every instance where this blending of the near and the far occurs.

Israel’s eschatology of the ever imminent day of the Lord, is typically portrayed against the backdrop of the threatening menace of the contemporary super power (Assyria, Babylon, Medes, etc.). Daniel is unique in separating the contemporary near fulfillment from the more distant and ultimate fulfillment by his vision of the seventy sevens.

At the end of the seventieth seven (the last half of the last seven, to be precise; Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11), all the historical types of the final desolator find their ultimate anti-type in the “little horn” of Daniel’s prophecy (Ezek 38:17; Dan 7:8; 8:9, 23; 11:21, 36-37 with 2Thes 2:4). His reign of terror will complete the cycle of Israel’s covenant chastisement, ending in the messianic redemption. Of course, the NT would reveal the mystery of Christ’s twofold advent that would make glorious sense of what lay hidden to the puzzling foreview of the prophets, (1Pet 1:11-12). The mystery would add to, but not change the fundamental eschatology of the OT.

In fact, where better to note the distinction between the near and far fulfillment than Daniel’s vision of the progress of human government? Unless one is prepared to spiritualize the resurrection, a gap of centuries MUST be recognized between Greece (Dan 8, 11) and Rome (Dan 2, 7, 9), and the full eschatological end that follows the last and greatest tribulation (Dan 11:35-36; 12:1-2 with Mt 24:21; 2Thes 2:4, 8).

The doings of Antiochus IV Epiphanes was at best an only partial and typical fulfillment of the coming Antichrist, who meets his end, not in a failed attack on Susa in 164 B.C., but by the breath of the Lord (Isa 11:4; 30:31, 33; 31:8; Dan 8:25; 11:45; 2Thes 2:8), at Christ’s return and the resurrection of the righteous (Dan 11:35-37; 12:1-2; Mt 24:21; 2Thes 2:3-4, 8). Thus, all conservative schools of prophetic interpretation must recognize some kind of extended interim (gap) between the near and the far in a number of places. The only question is precisely where.

For me, OT descriptions of Israel’s ultimate redemption, is proof positive that the advance visitation of the powers of that coming day in an Assyrian, Babylonian, or Grecian invasion, does not cancel or ‘re-interpret’ a more ultimate fulfillment “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21). An earnest of Israel’s ultimate eschatological future becomes present and actual whenever the powers of that coming day break into history, whether for weal or woe. However, this pattern of fulfillment should not be taken to imply change or ‘re-interpretation” of the plain language of prophecy, and the definite timing of the post-tribulational day of the Lord. The events of the end must yet answer to the highly descript language of the prophecies down to the last jot and tittle.

Remember, the key will always be to show the basic order of Israel’s eschatology, which is no less the eschatology of the NT, with this one difference: The day of the Lord restoration of Israel is now understood in terms of Christ’s return (Acts 3:21). Though the mystery is magnificent in what it adds, it changes nothing of the plain language of promise.

That basic outline of events is as follows: The age ends with a definite and specific period of unequaled tribulation that is of a very definite but short duration. Study how to make this clear and undeniable. This coming tribulation is marked by many definite signs that distinguish it from tribulation in general (Dan 11:23-31; 12:11; Mt 24:15; 2Thes 2:3-5 etc), and unless one is willing to spiritualize, not only Christ’s post-tribulational return (Mt 24:29-31), but also the resurrection, you can show beyond reasonable dispute that the unequaled tribulation of Jer 30:7, Dan 12:1, and Mt 24:21 ends with nothing short of the resurrection of the righteous dead (Dan 12:1-2, 13; Isa 25:8; 26:19).

Once the unequaled tribulation of “the end” (Dan 8:17, 19; 9:27; 11:27, 35, 40; 12:4, 6, 8-9, 13), is seen and acknowledged, it becomes very difficult, even dishonest, to deny to chastened Israel the covenanted deliverance that comes at the post-tribulational day of the Lord. Furthermore, this final tribulation of unequaled severity is everywhere shown to be accompanied by a final and personal Antichrist. Here, a-mills are typically very inconsistent with the harmonious and highly detailed prophecies that describe the final Antichrist.

It has always amazed me how that otherwise responsible commentators and exegetes can presume to deny that the first resurrection and the millennial reign of Christ follows a last great persecution by the final Antichrist? (Dan 7:11, 21, 25; 11:35; 12:10; 2Thes 2:3-4; Rev 6:9-10; 20:4-5). Furthermore, Daniel’s vision of the kingdom cut out without hands comes significantly “in the days of these kings” (Dan 2:44; 7:24). In John’s apocalypse we learn that late in the first century the ten kings “have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast” (Rev 17:12). The kingdom that is “set up in the days of these kings” is clearly future, since the last beast, who will be contemporary to the ten kings is clearly future from John’s time (Rev 17:10). Although the kingdom has come and is present, it is coming to this earth after the “short time” of great tribulation (Dan 12:1 with Rev 12:7, 10, 12). The kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of Christ at the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:15), when the “mystery of God shall be finished (Rev 10:7).

So when it comes to making your case, I’d first establish the futurity of the tribulation and a final Antichrist, and build from there. This is hard for the replacement and allegorists to skate around. It is fundamental in both testaments. The final covenant discipline of Israel ends with the unequaled severity of “Jacob’s trouble,” which ends with Christ’s return to destroy the Antichrist and deliver the penitent remnant of Israel. It’s really just that simple, provided it is believed. That’s the order of events that I believe is most easily proven to the help of whosoever will.

When this basic order is observed, it brings us straight to all that the prophets said about what is to become of Israel, both during and after the last tribulation. Many will follow us that far, but somehow stop short of believing that part about Israel being exalted from the ashes to be acknowledged by all the nations? (Zech 14:16-18). Here is where a nerve is touched.

I believe the election of Israel is the real sticking point that makes it so difficult for many to come to terms with this otherwise simple order of events, which is found in both testaments, and in the many extant Jewish apocalypses of the inter-testamental period.

It is not the tribulation, or a coming Antichrist, that is so hard for the spiritualizing and replacement systems of a-mills and Adventists to accept; it is the implications of a tribulation and an Antichrist that is focused on natural Israel. It is the implications of a future election of grace that cannot stop short of the reinstatement of the natural branches, as a literal nation of Jews. But, “this is ‘My covenant unto THEM” (Ro 11:27; Isa 59:21; Jer 31:36; Ezek 16:61-63 etc. et al.). This is where the doctrine of a literal future tribulation and Antichrist necessarily leads, and it is this that constitutes the greatest challenge to the church’s self understanding in relation to Israel (Ro 11:25).

I believe the reason for the resistance is more than mere hermeneutics or exegesis. It is more than human. When something so otherwise basic and plain is so passionately contested, I am led to expect that something is being touched that is greatly feared by Satan and the powers.

The scripture speaks of Satan’s eviction from heaven (Rev 12:7, 10) to begin the great tribulation that will be his short time (Rev 12:12). He is not eager for this. The demonic realm knows better than the church what it will mean when God will rise up to accomplish His self appointed “mission impossible” by bringing in the very people that He first brought out of Egypt. They know better than the church that this event will fill the whole earth with the glory of the Lord (Num 14:15-16,21). It will finish the mystery of God (Rev 10:7), and bind Satan.

The promise that the Deliverer comes out of Zion at the future day of the Lord (compare Ro 11:25-29 with Isa 59:16-21; 63:3-5) to turn ungodliness from Jacob, is all about the covenant (Ro 11:27). It is more than the incidental by product of the last day’s evangelism of the nations; it is a necessity of covenant fulfillment.

The Jew will always be the test of the heart concerning God’s sovereign right to “have mercy on whom He will have mercy” (Ro 9:18), as intrinsical to His glory (Ex 33:19 with Ro 11:33-36). Our understanding and attitude towards Israel is a revelation of how we perceive grace. This is why so many stumble over some of the most fundamental truisms of prophecy. It is because of where these fundamentals point, namely, the everlasting election of Israel. This is why there is such confusion. It is because of what these things threaten to the kingdom of Satan.

A future tribulation, of utter specificity cannot, without the greatest violence to the plain sense of scripture, be separated from the salvation of the penitent remnant of Israel, as the necessary end and vindication of the covenant, as foretold and understood by all the prophets understood it, and as corroborated in Ro 11 and 2Thes 2 by “Paul, the futurist.”

Well, that sure ended up going considerably beyond your question, and, other than Daniel, I did not give you many specific examples. Maybe I’ll let a few others see this correspondence, and invite their help in putting together some good examples that best illustrate the mysterious blend of the near and the far, of “the already and the not yet.” [ed. See Doc Winters’ comment at the end of this post]

I see this characteristic of prophecy as intrinsic to the meticulously foretold, albeit hidden OT mystery of Christ, which is now revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:18-21; 10:43; 26:22; Ro 1:12; 16:25-26; 2Cor 3:14-18; 1Cor 2:7-8; Eph 1:9; 6:19; Col 4:3; 1Pet 1:11; Rev 10:7) . It is one of the ways God used to strategically hide His mystery, not only from wicked men and angels, but also from the righteous (1Cor 2:7-8; 1Ro 16:25; 1Pet 1:12). Only after its fulfillment in Christ’s cross, resurrection, and ascension to God’s right hand, did the hidden interim (gap) between the advents become manifest. This was God’s intention, known only to Jesus (Mk 8:30; 9:9).

It is the mystery that made Jesus a stone of stumbling to Israel (compare Isa 8:14-15, 16-17; 28:9, 12-13, 16; 29:11; Ezek 39:29; Dan 9:24; 12:4, 9-10; Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Mk 4:11; 1Cor 2:7-8; 1Pet 2:6-8. Before the appointed time of its revelation, the gospel of Christ’s twofold advent, and all that would be become manifest through it, was a mystery of such a magnitude as to require special revelation (Mt 11:27; 16:17). It puzzled John (Lk 7:19). It offended Peter (Mt 16:22). It would be the means by which God would test the hearts of all Israel (Lk 2:34-35). I believe it will be so again.

Borrowing a line from a classic hymn of the church, I used to ask, “Must Jacob bear his cross alone and all the church go free? Well, the question might also be asked, “will first century Israel be confronted and sifted by so formidable a mystery, and the church not be tested in the same way? (1Pet 4:17).

What form will the foolishness of God take this time? What has God ordained that will reveal the true condition of every heart in the coming time of vengeance? (Isa 34:8; 59:16-17; 63:4-5). [Notice that when Jesus quotes Isa 61:1-2 in Lk 4:18-21, He deliberately refrains from finishing the second half of verse 2. Again, we see the gap! We see it in a number of places (eg., Mic 5:1-4 and Hos 3:5; 5:15-6:2 are two more amazing instances of this phenomenon of prophecy. In hindsight, we can see a strategically prepared secret. Until the appointed time of its revelation, Jesus was the lone guardian of this mystery. “By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many” (Isa 53:11).

So what form will the stone of stumbling take in the last generation of this age? What will be that form of irresistible evidence that makes all the world never more accountable? That removes the cloak, and uncovers the hiding place? What will be that ultimate offense that makes the many to stumble? What line will the nations cross that is sufficient to provoke God’s fury to come up in His face? (compare Ezek 38:18; 39:8; Rev 16:17).

I cannot help but expect that God has something prepared that will send a plum line of ultimate division, not only through Israel and the nations, but this time through the ranks of the professing church, such that will provoke and manifest the final form of the great falling away. God is faithful to give every opportunity before the last judgments fall without mixture on those who persist in their resistance of the truth to the point of final hardening (Jn 15:22, 24; 2Thes 2:11-12; Rev 14:9-10). ).

Only that approach to scripture is safe that not only recognizes the patterns of past fulfillment, but also insists on the exhaustive fulfillment of every element and detail of the prophecy, according to the well established conventions and forms of biblical language, according to the intent of the original author, both human and divine.

Nick, this question deserves the attention and homework of the body, because to recognize this peculiarity of prophecy is to recognize the wisdom of God in foretelling all things in a mystery, which was designed, not only to save, but also to stumble pride. For those whom Jesus would call babes, its revelation was regarded as a manifest token of divine favor (Prov 25:2; Isa 45:15; Mt 11:25-26; with Jn 15:15; 1Cor 2:7), since it can only be received in its inward character by the Spirit of revelation (Mt 11:27; 16:17; Ro 8:7; 1Cor 2:14).

By recognizing a mystery contained in the OT prophetic writings (Ro 16:26), we are able to see the surpassing glory that it adds to the covenants of promise. Yet, if we distinguish between the near and the far pattern of fulfillment, we honor the integrity of the language and intent of the original human authors of scripture, without loss to Israel, as a nation destined to be born in one day (Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 3;9), as the renewed nation is made one in Christ with the saved of all nations.

Only the yet future day of the Lord will carry to completion all the promised glories of a covenant that cannot attain to completion independently of “their fullness”, which is everywhere shown to follow a final the unequaled tribulation, also known as “Zion’s travail” (Isa 13:8: 26:17; 66:8; Mic 5:3-4; Jer 30:6-7; Dan 12:1; Mt 23:39; 24:29; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26-29; 1Tim 6:15; Rev 10:7; 11:15).

Yours in the Beloved, Reggie

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One Response to The Near-Far Interpretation of Prophecy

  1. Doc Winter says:

    Brother Reggie,

    It was with interest that I read your correspondence of 2/15 with Nick regarding near-far fulfillment of biblical prophecy. I was involved in a discussion on a forum also at that time and the discussion centered around the same subject. Many see the near / far fulfillment in interpreting prophecy as legitimate, others are somewhat familiar with it and suppose it may be true, while others reject is, as advocating that ALL prophecy must have multiple fulfillments, which, of course, is not so.

    The first question I ever sent to you some years ago was concerning this very subject. I related to you that I had begun to study prophecy again and was somewhat stumped as to how to determine which prophecies spoke of a return from Babylon by Israel and which concerned a latter day return. I kept a record of it and the very first sentences and reply you made to me were, “One of the things that must be kept in mind is the unique pattern of Old Testament fulfillment. It is often in the form of a partial first-fruit fulfillment that points on to a greater and more exhaustive fulfillment in the eschaton (i.e., the day of the Lord and the brief time of unequaled tribulation immediately leading up to that day).”

    Then there is Nick’s recent question which he posed, “How is it best to simply and clearly show that many OT testament texts may have been spoken a few thousand years ago, even with like-kind-near fulfillments, but with a more complete and ultimate outworking at the end?”

    So I think, brother Reggie, that Nick’s question revolves around the same issue that I was interested to better understand when I first sent my question along to you. How does one determine which prophecies intend only a one time fulfillment and which should be seen in the near far pattern of fulfillment, which is unique to much of Old Testament prophecy? And how do we show that simply and clearly? I start out here by offering the thoughts of two authors who definitely recognize the near far pattern of fulfillment as legitimate.

    George Eldon Ladd is a famous teacher and author. He went too far in my opinion with the view that the church is the “new spiritual Israel” etc., but I enjoy reading his works. He acknowledges the same type of fulfillment pattern of bible prophecy that we are discussing. He covers this in the introduction to his book A Commentary on the Revelation of John (copyright 1972). He discusses the preterist, historical and idealist view of Revelation then discusses the futurist view. The italicized points of emphasis are mine and are done so as to highlight passages that are relevant to our subject. I acknowledge that my comments overall are somewhat long and if the writing changes sizes, it’s because of copying and pasting. The comments from Ladd begin below.

    (BEGIN Quote)

    Preterist
    Historical
    Idealist

    Futurist: This method interprets Revelation largely as a prophecy of future events depicted in symbolic terms which lead up to and accompany the end of the world. The futurist view has taken two forms which we may call the moderate and the extreme futurist views. The latter is also known as Dispensationalism. The seven letters are seen as seven successive ages of church history symbolically portrayed. The character of the seven churches depicts the chief characteristics of the seven periods of church history, the last of which will be a period of decline and apostasy (Laodicea). The rapture of John symbolizes the rapture of the church at the end of the age. Chapters 6-18 depict the period of the great tribulation – the last short but terrible period of church history when the Antichrist will all but destroy God’s people. In the dispensational view God’s people are Israel, restored to Jerusalem, protected by a divine sealing (Rev 7:1-8, with a rebuilt temple (Rev 11:1-3), who suffer the wrath of Antichrist. The church is no longer on earth, for it has been caught up to be with the Lord in the air.

    A modified futurist view differs from the extreme futurist view at several points. It finds no reason, as does the latter, to distinguish between Israel and the church. The people of God who face fearful persecution are the church. Again, there is no reason to see in the seven letters a forecast of seven ages of church history. There is no internal evidence whatsoever for such an interpretation; there are bona fide letters to seven historical churches. However, this view agrees that the primary purpose of the book is to describe the consummation of God’s redemptive purposes at the end of the age.

    The objection again seems valid that if the book is conceived to deal primarily with events which lie in the distant future, its message had little relevance for the first-century churches to which it was addressed. This is an argument which cannot be pressed too far, or else it will empty many of the Old Testament prophecies of any relevance. The prophets spoke not only of contemporary events; they constantly related contemporary historical events to the last great event at the end of history: the Day of the Lord when God will visit his people and establish his kingdom.

    This brings us to a characteristic of Old Testament prophecy which is also a characteristic of the Revelation and which solves this problem of distance and relevance. As we have just pointed out, the prophets had two foci in their prophetic perspective: the events of the present and the immediate future and the ultimate eschatological event. These two are held in a dynamic tension often without chronological distinction, for the main purpose of prophecy is not to give a program or chart of the future, but to let the light of the eschatological consummation fall on the present (2Pet 1:19). Thus in Amos’ prophecy the impending historical judgment on Israel at the hands of Assyria was called the Day of the Lord (Amos 5:18, 27), and the eschatological salvation of Israel will also occur in that day (9:11). Isaiah pictured the overthrow of Babylon in apocalyptic colors as though it were the end of the world (Isa 13:1-22). Zephaniah described some (to us) unknown historical visitation as the Day of the Lord which would consume the earth and its inhabitants (Isa 1:2-18) as though with fire (Isa 1:18, 3:8). Joel moved imperceptibly from historical plagues of locust and drought into the eschatological judgments of the Day of the Lord.

    In other words, the imminent historical judgment is seen as a type of, or a prelude to, the eschatological judgment. The two are often blended together in apparent disregard for chronology, for the same God who acts in the imminent historical judgment will also act in the final eschatological judgment to further his one redemptive purpose. Thus, Daniel viewed the great eschatological enemy of God’s people as the historical king of Greece (Antiochus Epiphanes of the Seleucid Kingdom – Dan 11:3), who yet took on the coloration of the eschatological Antichrist (Dan 12:36-39) In the same way, our Lord’s Olivet Discourse was concerned with both the historical judgment of Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman armies (Luke 21:20ff.) and the eschatological appearance of Antichrist (Matt 24:15ff.). Rome was a historical forerunner of Antichrist.

    Thus, while the Revelation was primarily concerned to assure the churches of Asia of the final eschatological salvation at the end of the age, together with the judgment of the evil world powers, this had immediate relevance to the first century. For the demonic powers which will be manifested at the end in the great tribulation were also to be seen in the historical hatred of Rome for God’s people and the persecution they were to suffer at Rome’s hands.

    Therefore, we conclude that the correct method of interpreting the Revelation is a blending of the preterist and futuristic methods. The beast is both Rome and the eschatological Antichrist – and, we might add, any demonic power which the church must face in her entire history. The great tribulation is primarily an eschatological event, but it includes all tribulation which the church may experience at the hands of the world, whether by first century Rome or by later evil powers.

    This interpretation is borne out by several objective facts. First: it is the nature of apocalyptic writings to be primarily concerned with the consummation of God’s redemptive purpose and the eschatological end of the age. This is the theme of the Revelation: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him”(1:7). Second: it is the nature of apocalyptic symbolism, whether canonical or non-canonical, to refer to events in history leading up to, and associated with, this eschatological consummation. Third: as already noted, the book claims to be a prophecy. We have already seen that the nature of prophecy is to let light shine from the future upon the present.

    George Eldon Ladd: A Commentary on the Revelation of John Intro – p 12-14. William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Copyright 1972.

    (END Quote)

    Me: I also have read an article on Eli Brayley’s Olivet Discourse website (I recommend olivetdiscourse.com to everyone) and it covers the same subject. The article is by Fred Zaspel and is titled Preterism and Biblical Prophecy. I’m only sharing half of the article because it is the part which is most relevant to our discussion. I sure hope I’m not doing Eli a disservice by sharing half of an article from his fine website instead of urging people to go there and read it instead. I apologize up front if that is the case. But like Ladd, Fred Zaspel’s article covers near far fulfillment of prophecy also. Begin below.

    (BEGIN Quote)

    The Nature of Prophetic Fulfillment
    It has long been recognized that Biblical prophecy is normally fulfilled not in a single event but in a series of events which bring the prophecy to it final culmination. Seldom is the answer one-to-one but one-to-one, two, three, four, and so on. In the unfolding of redemptive history the prophecy is seen to take on a wider or more detailed significance.

    Older Bible teachers described this as “double” or “dual” fulfillment and as the “near view” and “far view” of prophecy. Interpreters today speak more in terms of sensus plenior, a phrase offered to describe the “fuller sense” seemingly given to certain OT prophecies as they are unfolded in the light of NT revelation. Others would prefer to speak in terms of a “canonical process” which develops more fully and more specifically the original sense and intent of the prophecy. More popularly, interpreters speak of the “now and not yet” aspect of Biblical prophecy, emphasizing that a given prophecy may well come to realization now yet await its fuller manifestation later; its fulfillment is both now and not yet.

    Arguments could be made for the precise accuracy of preferable terminology, but our point here is simply to notice that Biblical prophecy normally unfolds in a progressively fulfilling way. In the unfolding of redemptive history the prophecy is seen to take on a wider or more detailed significance.

    Yes, there is the occasional one-to-one fulfillment. The Bethlehem prophecy (Mic 5:2) provides one example. But it is generally more complex than this, and examples in the prophetic Word abound. The very first prophecy sets the stage. The Champion promised to defeat the tempter finds initial realization in the earthly ministry of Jesus and His casting out of demons (Mat 12:28). By His casting out of demons, He Himself explains, Satan’s kingdom is invaded and plundered. In Jesus, God has made good on His promise to defeat the tempter. But there is obviously more to it than that. And again Jesus Himself says so. In anticipation of His death He declares, “Now is the prince of this world cast out” (Jn 12:31). Here, in Jesus’ death, Satan loses his head (cf. Heb 2). Here the promise finds its fulfillment. Or does it? Writing to the Roman believers Paul declares that God will “crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Ro 16:20). So we find the promise is fulfilled and “not yet” fulfilled. And of course Revelation 20 fills in the final details with Satan’s bondage in the abyss and then finally being cast into the lake of fire forever. Here, at last, the prophecy is finally and fully fulfilled. Thus we see that the answer to the original promise was not one-to-one. The fulfillment came in a succession of events which brought the promise to its full consummation.

    This is the Bible’s first prophecy. And it stands as the pattern of the fulfillment of so many others. Moses’ prophecy of a prophet like him to come (Dt 18:15 ff) surely finds its answer in the long succession of Israel’s prophets (see E. J. Young, My Servants the Prophets). God made good on His promise to provide continued direction for the nation of Israel in her land. But of course the prophecy is fully realized in Christ, the Prophet par-excellence, the Son, the true revelation of God (Heb 1:1 f).

    The prophecies of the coming of the Messiah unfold similarly. They may not have known it beforehand, but it is clear that the Messiah’s coming is a two-stage event. There is the first coming and the second. At the first the promise was realized, but not until the second is it consummated.

    Indeed, the very promise of salvation is fulfilled “now” in Christ (Rom.5:1) but still awaits the people of God. It is presently realized but “not yet” fully manifested.

    Antichrist provides another example. The details of Dan 11 so graphically portray Antiochus Epiphanes that critical scholars insist that “Daniel” wrote after the fact. Of course we deny their conclusion, but the prophecy’s fulfillment in Antiochus is obvious. But then Jesus speaks of this “abomination” as yet future (Mt 24). As does Paul (2 Th 2) and, (so it would seem from the many thematic parallels) John (Rev 13). And so the prophecy is fulfilled and yet is fulfilled again and is to be fulfilled still again, only more fully. But John tells us also that Antichrist “has come” (1Jn 4). He is the false teachers who lead men astray. So Antichrist “has come” and “will come.” He is “now,” and he is “not yet.”

    As I say, examples of this abound, even in many of the OT prophecies which are already fulfilled. Prophecies of the destruction of great cities are fulfilled by the ruthless actions of some conqueror, and then again more fully by another.

    The same is true in reference to the Kingdom. It came with the coming of Jesus. His Kingdom is “now.” But He also taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come” (Mt 6:10). He taught that the Kingdom was future (Mt 7:21; 25:31 ff etc.). Paul and the other NT writers regularly spoke of Christ’s Kingdom as future (e.g., 2 Tim 4:1). The Kingdom, for Jesus and the apostles, was “now and not yet.” Its fulfillment comes in stages.

    All of history is in the minds of the Biblical writers divided into two ages this age and the age to come. The age to come is the time of outpouring of Messianic blessing, and in the first coming of Jesus that age dawned. In Christ we are they “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor 10:11). Yet while the writer to the Hebrews can speak of this time now as “these last days” (Heb 1:1-2), Paul speaks of “the last days” as still future to him (2Tim 3:1). There is both, the “now” and the “not yet,” a present realization and a future manifestation.

    In other words, the prophecy is progressively fulfilled. Nor is it a mere “dual” prophecy. It is rather that the “sooner” realization is of a piece with the full and final manifestation of it. The single prophecy finds a progressive unfolding in stages.

    I should not need to belabor the point any longer. This is enough to see that this matter of progressive fulfillment is standard issue in Biblical prophecy. It is not the exception but the rule. And it cannot be ignored. This simply must be borne in mind when seeking to interpret the prophetic Word, lest we take a mere part for the whole. The interpreter must be careful to be comprehensive in his study before announcing “this is that.” Only when the prophecy is “full” is it “fulfilled.”

    Due recognition of this principle is vital to accurate interpretation of the prophetic Word. Often it is the case that two sides of a prophetic debate, each with a part of the whole, make as though the whole were their “part.” It’s often so that neither side is wrong in what they are saying, except that they have only one half of the picture. But not until all the parts are together is there the whole. And again, we must not announce fulfillment until we are sure the prophecy has been filled.

    (END Quote)

    Me: Now, in the spirit of the body doing homework on this subject and drawing from these two articles, let me try and pick out and list examples of near far “sensus plenior” type of fulfillment of prophecy. I will not type out the scripture references themselves so as to save space.

    From the introduction by George Eldon Ladd,

    1). Amos 5:18-20, 27 – Amos’ prophecy of impending judgment of Israel at the hands of Assyria was called the day of the Lord, and the eschatological last day salvation of Israel will also occur in that day (Amos 9:11). So Amos spoke of a prophecy to be fulfilled in the immediate and near future of Israel but also prophesied of a last day fulfillment. Again, the near and the far are blended, so that a near and partial fulfillment becomes the backdrop against which is cast the ultimate and completer fulfillment in the post-tribulational day of the Lord. It is a phenomenon seen often in many places.

    2). Isaiah 13:1-22 – Babylon’s overthrow was presented in apocalyptic terms as though it also was the end of the world or age. Though it was a while before it came, Babylon’s overthrow came in the not so distant future from when Isaiah prophesied but his imagery and words also describe the end of the age. Near far fulfillment again. Is 13:10 describes some of the very same signs in nature that Jesus described as accompanying the end of the age so their exhaustive and complete fulfillment could only occur a couple of millennia after Isaiah foretold them. See also Matt 24:29, Mark 13:24-25, Luke 21:25.

    You’ve also shared with us Brother Reggie that the chapters in Isaiah 13-18 and maybe a little onward from there are known as Isaiah’s “mini-apocalypse” which spoke of judgment on the nations of that time but are also a type of the eschatological last days judgment on the nations. They were fulfilled then but would be completely fulfilled in the far distant future.

    3). Isaiah 24 – it speaks of judgment on the earth but also speaks of a day when signs in nature are seen that accompany judgment- verse 23. Again, these are the same signs Jesus spoke of as accompanying the end of the age and his return (see above).

    4). Zeph 1:1-18, 3:8 – Zephaniah described a historical visitation as the Day of the Lord which would consume the whole earth. He prophesied of then yet spoke of last day eschatological events in the same prophecy without chronological distinction or giving notice that there was a length of time between the immediate and the distant fulfillment.

    5). Joel 1:15, 2:1,11, 2:31 – really throughout the whole book of Joel he moves imperceptibly from historical plagues of locus and drought into the eschatological judgments on the Day of the Lord. Like Ladd wrote, without apparent disregard for any chronological distinction, Joel wrote of contemporary historical events yet historical events that would only find their exhaustive fulfillment in the last day judgments that would fall on the entire world. In the words of Ladd, “the imminent historical judgment is seen as a type of, or a prelude to, the eschatological judgment.”

    6). Luke 21:20 – Jesus spoke of the coming desolation of Jerusalem. It was obviously fulfilled in 70 A.D. but only partially. As you have pointed out Brother Reggie, we have come full circle. Jerusalem is again surrounded by hostile armies intent on its destruction and that sentiment is only going to increase. The original prophecy of Jesus regarding the destruction of Jerusalem can only find its final and exhaustive fulfillment within the framework of the events that precede and accompany the eschatological Day of the Lord.

    7). Daniel’s prophecies and Antiochus Epiphanes etc. In Ladd’s introduction to Revelation I cited at the beginning above, one of the scripture references he cited is Dan 12:36-39. This is obviously a mistake or a book misprint because Dan 12:36-39 doesn’t exist. It’s probable that what he was referring to was Dan 11:36-39 and the printers of the book probably got it wrong. This doesn’t take away from his main point though. But this scripture (Daniel 11:36-39) and Dan 11:3 that Ladd used were fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes the Grecian king of the Seleucid Empire but yet spoke of the eschatological Antichrist. Also, the prophecies in Daniel that refer to the one who performs the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:24-27 – *verse 27) were fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes but yet also spoke of the eschatological Antichrist showing the pattern of near far fulfillment.

    In the same way, the people in Judea fleeing from the Roman armies also spoke of a day when those in Judea will flee from a wrathful Antichrist after he has performed the abomination of desolation – Matt 24:15-21, Mk 13:14-19.

    Now, From the Fred Zaspel article: Instead of writing my own summary I’ll just paste the words Zaspel wrote to illustrate his point. The size of the writing may change here again but bear with me.

    8). Gen 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seen and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The very first prophecy sets the stage. The Champion promised to defeat the tempter finds initial realization in the earthly ministry of Jesus and His casting out of demons (Mt 12:28). By His casting out of demons, He Himself explains, Satan’s kingdom is invaded and plundered. In Jesus God has made good on His promise to defeat the tempter. But there is obviously more to it than that. And again Jesus Himself says so. In anticipation of His death He declares, “Now is the prince of this world cast out” (Jn 12:31). Here, in Jesus’ death, Satan loses his head (cf. Heb.2). Here the promise finds its fulfillment. Or does it? Writing to the Roman believers Paul declares that God will “crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Ro 16:20). So we find the promise is fulfilled and “not yet” fulfilled. And of course Revelation 20 fills in the final details with Satan’s bondage in the abyss and then finally being cast into the lake of fire forever. Here, at last, the prophecy is finally and fully fulfilled. Thus we see that answer to the original promise was not one-to-one. The fulfillment came in a succession of events which brought the promise to its full consummation.

    This is the Bible’s first prophecy. And it stands as the pattern of the fulfillment of so many others.

    9.) Dt 18:15 – “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to Him.” See also Dt 15:18-19.

    Moses’ prophecy of a prophet like him to come (Dt 18:15 ff) surely finds its answer in the long succession of Israel’s prophets (see E. J. Young, My Servants the Prophets). God made good on His promise to provide continued direction for the nation of Israel in her land. But of course the prophecy is fully realized in Christ, the Prophet par excellence, the Son, the true revelation of God (Heb 1:1 f).

    10). The prophecies of the coming of the Messiah unfold similarly. They may not have known it beforehand, but it is clear that the Messiah’s coming is a two-stage event. There is the first coming and the second. At the first the promise was realized, but not until the second is it consummated. Indeed, the very promise of salvation is fulfilled “now” in Christ (Rom.5:1) but still awaits the people of God. It is presently realized but “not yet” fully manifested.

    *Note – Zaspel mentions Antiochus Epiphanes here and the Antichrist, but since I have already mentioned it being addressed by Ladd, I will not give it a number here. Zaspel wrote, “Antichrist provides another example. The details of Dan.11 so graphically portray Antiochus Epiphanes that critical scholars insist that “Daniel” wrote after the fact. Of course we deny their conclusion, but the prophecy’s fulfillment in Antiochus is obvious. But then Jesus speaks of this “abomination” as yet future (Mt 24). As does Paul (2 Thes 2) and, (so it would seem from the many thematic parallels) John (Rev 13). And so the prophecy is fulfilled and yet is fulfilled again and is to be fulfilled still again, only more fully. But John tells us also that Antichrist “has come” (1Jn 4). He is the false teachers who lead men astray. So Antichrist “has come” and “will come.” He is “now,” and he is “not yet.”

    11). I say, examples of this abound, even in many of the OT prophecies which are already fulfilled. Prophecies of the destruction of great cities are fulfilled by the ruthless actions of some conqueror, and then again more fully by another.

    12). The same is true in reference to the Kingdom. It came with the coming of Jesus. His Kingdom is “now.” But He also taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come” (Mat.6:10). He taught that the Kingdom was future (Mt 7:21; 25:31 ff etc.). Paul and the other NT writers regularly spoke of Christ’s Kingdom as future (e.g., 2 Tim 4:1). The Kingdom, for Jesus and the apostles, was “now and not yet.” Its fulfillment comes in stages.

    All of history is in the minds of the Biblical writers divided into two ages this age and the age to come. The age to come is the time of outpouring of Messianic blessing, and in the first coming of Jesus that age dawned. In Christ we are they “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor 10:11). Yet while the writer to the Hebrews can speak of this time now as “these last days” (Heb 1:1-2), Paul speaks of “the last days” as still future to him (2Tim 3:1). There is both, the “now” and the “not yet,” a present realization and a future manifestation.

    In other words, the prophecy is progressively fulfilled. Nor is it a mere “dual” prophecy. It is rather that the “sooner” realization is of a piece with the full and final manifestation of it. The single prophecy finds a progressive unfolding in stages.

    Me: Again, Zaspel concludes this section of his article with, “I should not need to belabor the point any longer. This is enough to see that this matter of progressive fulfillment is standard issue in Biblical prophecy. It is not the exception but the rule. And it cannot be ignored. This simply must be borne in mind when seeking to interpret the prophetic Word, lest we take a mere part for the whole. The interpreter must be careful to be comprehensive in his study before announcing “this is that.” Only when the prophecy is “full” is it “fulfilled.”

    Me: Besides the above, I can also think of one passage of scripture that I believe fits the pattern.

    13). Jeremiah 23:3-6.

    3 – “Then I shall Myself gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and shall bring them back to their pasture; and they will be fruitful and multiply.

    4 – “I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing.” declares the Lord.

    5 – “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do righteousness and justice in the land.

    6 – In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is the name by which He will be called, The Lord our righteousness.’

    It seems to me that Jeremiah was perhaps prophesying of a return from Babylon (verses 3-4) but then, without warning or giving notice of an interruption in chronological sequence, he steps out of his present time and prophesies ahead to a day when Christ is ruling physically in the land of Israel when Judah and Israel are saved and dwelling securely in the land. Then in verse 7 he steps right back into the time or immediate future in which he was living.

    So, there are thirteen examples of near far “sensus plenior” type of fulfillment right there Brother Reggie. I’m sure there are others and, as you suggest, trying to find and list all of them would be a good endeavor for us to undertake. I just want to throw this in the common pot as sort of a beginning for us all to try and come up with a more comprehensive list. If people want to get together and try and make a more comprehensive list then count me in. I’ve also looked at the passage in Isaiah 19 Nick spoke of and I don’t see why that couldn’t be included. In summary, if there is any question as to much of biblical prophecy having a near far multiple fulfillment pattern or not then the Bible is full of long recognized evidence that it indeed does! Recognizing this vital principle of interpretation helps give us clarity and insight to the days we are living in and the future destiny of Israel and the role of the church towards that end.

    I don’t always get everything right. Any comments, adjustments or corrections to anything I have shared are welcome. Blessings to Brother Eli and his website Olivet Discourse, which looks to be the fruit of considerable labor, also to Nick, and to everyone.

    “Doc”

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