This study begins my series on Old Testament prophecy. Up to this point, my focus has been on the prophecies of the New Testament, including a commentary on the book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the OT.
Old Testament prophecy can initially be very confusing. It can make one’s head hurt. However, as one continues to read it and study it and compare OT to OT prophecies, and compare OT to NT prophecies, certain keys begin to emerge. One of those keys is the realization of how significant the transitional time period was between Old Covenant and New Covenant as it relates to Israel. Israel was still central in the plan of God when Jesus came into the world, carried out His ministry, and went to the cross. Israel was, therefore, also the central focus of Christ. Furthermore, Israel was still central on the day of Pentecost when the Church began. This whole time period was significant – no – it was all-important in the life and history of Israel. This was a major, course-changing development in the purpose that this nation and people would serve in the world — as the plan of God continued to unfold.
When we consider this transitional time in the history of Israel and in the overall plan of God for the world, it would be very imperceptive not to realize that many of the OT prophecies would have to point to this period of time. Having been a Dispensational Premillennialist (DP) most of my Christian life, it’s my informed observation that dispensationalists don’t fully comprehend the significance that this period of history really was in the plan of God for Israel — and consequently, as it relates to the OT prophecies regarding that nation. Because of their (DP) rejection of the possibility that many of those OT prophecies could be using figurative language (as if adherence to a strict literal approach irrefutably has more merit), they believe that most of the OT prophecies regarding Israel do not get fulfilled until the end of the Church age when Jesus returns. How one views the time period surrounding the time of Christ and Pentecost is what separates (to a large degree) dispensationalists from proponents of Fulfillment Theology.
Therefore, I believe this transitionary period of time between Old Covenant to New Covenant, Law to Grace, Moses to Christ (De 18:15-19), Israel to the Church, must be our starting point. This must be the center of our attention. This must be the foundation of our study. Our position is only as strong as its foundation, so we must be certain we get that right. If we put ourselves in the sandals of the Apostles and early followers of Christ, would this time period not be the focus of our attention? Would this not be where we would start in order to properly understand the prophecies of the OT? Especially when Jesus Himself said that He came to fulfill the Law and prophets (Matt 5:17; Lu 16:16; Lu 24:44)? Of course it would. If we were in their place, we would understand how important this time was in the history of Israel. Consequently, how the Apostles and prophets interpreted the events of those days is a major key to understanding the OT prophecies, as they did. How they interpreted OT prophecy is where we must begin our study. We must interpret OT prophecy in light of NT teaching, especially what’s revealed in the books of Acts and Hebrews.
I think one of the biggest mistakes we make in interpreting the prophecies of Scripture, especially as it relates to the OT, is to view them through our Gentile, modern-day, current-events, American eyes. Terrible mistake. We must remove ourselves from that setting and put ourselves side by side with the Jewish believers of those early days of the Church, especially with those who walked with Christ. We must do our best to see what they did, to understand what they did. To begin this study anywhere else wouldn’t make any sense.
This time period has been a major focus of my teaching up to this point, but now we’re going to take it to a whole new level as we consider the prophecies of the OT. If we don’t begin there, then I believe misinterpretation of those prophecies will be the inevitable result. Indeed, I believe this is the catastrophic failure of Dispensational Premillennialism. They minimize the significance of the end of the OT Israel era (beginning Church era), while emphasizing the end of the Church era. Both time periods are certainly in view in the OT, but we must be careful not to confuse the two — which I think DP does in spades. Again, we must view those prophecies through the eyes of the early-Church believing Jews, who stood right in the middle of those two eras.