What We Can Learn from the First Century Fulfillment of Prophecy

In the last two posts, I discussed prophecies of Daniel and Jesus, and explained how I believe they were fulfilled in the first century, through the death and resurrection of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and the Jewish-Roman War. However, I want to emphasize now is that prophecies are not confined to a particular era. The spiritual factors at play during the first century fulfillment are still at play today. But I believe that recognizing the first century fulfillment enables us to gain insights into what is going on spiritually in the world today.

In the “Daniel 9” part of this series, I mentioned how, in the early church, many Christians, including genuine, spirit-filled believers, were trying to continue following the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament. Paul denounced the mixing of the law with the gospel of grace (Gal. 2:12, 3:1-5), but the controversy never ended. The proof that the outward ordinances of the Law were no longer binding on the world came when the temple was destroyed. The temple was meant to be a physical symbol of righteousness, and a place through which people would come to God. However, the fall of the temple symbolized the end of the flesh trying to do Law. It symbolized the end of outward reforms and ordinances to produce inward righteousness.

When this is realized, it provides insights into the social and spiritual conflict going on in the world today. I want to share my insights on what is happening today with moral condition of the United States. Many Christians believe that we are living in a time of moral decline. However, what I believe is happening, is that many people, especially young people, are realizing that they cannot make their flesh cannot obey what their church is telling them, or even what the Bible is telling them. And there are various forces in the media systems who are telling these people that they should just live in whatever way feels natural to them.

I believe that the spirit behind the Romans’ destruction of the temple is the same spirit that is in the media systems who are telling people they can live however they are inclined. I am not denying that it is a spirit of animosity toward God. However, in both cases, I believe that God allows that spirit to run its course in order to vindicate the gospel of grace. God is not panicking about this generation turning away from conservative morality. There is a method to the madness. We need to understand this in order to properly react to the things going on today.

First, I believe our starting point should be the realization that, were it not for the grace of God shown to us, we would be like the people who are disregarding Biblical morality. The fact that you are different – the fact that you are still seeking to live according to the Scriptures despite being told through the media to live as you please – indicates that God has chosen you for a special purpose and set you apart. None of us were wise enough to choose God on our own initiative.

Once that is understood, we can realize what the gospel of grace produces, or rather, what it fails to produce. A key element in the paradigm of grace is “no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Thus, we can understand the real problem with the liberal agenda that is turning people away from Biblical morality. The problem is not their denial that everybody can make themselves live a certain way. Instead, the problem is that, instead of believing in the true gospel of grace, they try to redefine morality. They are trying to modify Biblical commandments to fit the 21st century and redefine what it means to be a responsible person.

However, I believe that God is allowing this to happen in order to demonstrate His grace. I believe that God is calling out certain people who are in this situation and leading them to writings and ministries that acknowledge the struggle with the flesh they are dealing with, but also reveal the truth of justification and show how faith in the gospel can bring them into a new way of life, empowered by the Holy Spirit, instead of the flesh trying to reform itself. (Rom. 8:1-11).

Lastly, I want to address the commonly held belief that God allows disasters to happen in order to bring nations to repentance. The war and political unrest of 60-70 A.D. did not make Rome a godly empire. Although there was some unrest throughout the empire, the intense destruction only took place in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Many worldly, immoral people in other parts of the empire carried on as usual. After the conflict period of 60 – 70 A.D., Rome resumed its peak era for at least another century, despite continued persecution of Christians and Jews, and other kinds of immorality.

I bring this up because many Christians today are directing the “end-times” prophecies at worldly sinners everywhere. But when these prophecies came to a literal fulfillment in the first century, outside of Jerusalem and surrounding regions, life more or less carried on as usual despite some elevated conflict. When Jesus was on earth, he told when to flee Judea, and where to go. Anybody could have left, and been safe through the war, even if they were living in sin. We cannot truly say that this war was a judgment upon the world for its sins.

Yet in current times, I hear many Christians on the internet declaring that any day now, God is going to allow all kinds of calamities to come upon the United States as judgment upon sinners, and that through these crises, God will bring about a great revival. But is that really how God’s judgments work? I have not found historical evidence of a great revival during 66-70 A.D. And the same could be said about times of crises today.

Regarding God’s judgments, J. Preston Eby writes,

Often they [Christians] quote the scripture . . . “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” . . .   But have any of these [disasters], even one of them, in the history of the world, ever caused the world to LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS?  That is the question . . .  Do you suppose the people who died in the twin towers were greater sinners than the rest of the people in America?  . . . When God “judged” southeast Asia with the tsunami, do you suppose it was only the people in the coastal areas that were wicked, and deserving of God’s wrath? . . . [Was God] really out to “teach them righteousness” through these terrible events?  Is Thailand now a righteous nation?  Have they abandoned their false gods and stopped the filthy sex industry?  Is Sri Lanka now a godly country?  Has Indonesia ceased to harass and persecute believers, and now become a sweet Christian nation?  Has anything changed in India since the disaster?  DID EVEN ONE OF THOSE NATIONS, OR EVEN ONE CITY IN ONE OF THOSE NATIONS, LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS BY THE “JUDGMENT”?  Answer that question correctly and you will know a great mystery concerning the ways and purposes of God!

 

I believe it is not during this age that the nations of the world will undergo judgment and learn righteousness. It is during the future age of the Messianic Kingdom that a new spiritual order will be established on the earth, and then, judgments upon the nations will bring them to a state of righteousness.

So, then, what is happening with the things going on in the world today? I believe that God can work through crises to bring about redemptive outcomes for those predestined for salvation in this age. Ephesians 1:11 says that believers are “destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.” Romans 8:28 says that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” The details of how predestination works, or how God is involved or uninvolved with various events in the world, are matters which I am generally not dogmatic about. But I do not believe that God causes or allows disasters to happen as a judgment upon nations for their sins.

When the first-century fulfillment of prophecy is understood, it sheds much light on what is going on in the present day. My next post in this series will examine whether the prophecies from Daniel, and also the New Testament, reveal any things that are to happen in the future before the return of Christ.

 

Works Cited

Eby, Preston J. “From the Candlestick to the Throne Part 95.” Kingdom Bible Studies. Kingdom Bible Studies, n.d., Web. 9 August 2016.

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