Three things profoundly impress the student of prophecy as he surveys the witness of the centuries: (1) The immutable purpose of God (Isa. 14:27); (2) His divine foreknowledge (Isa. 46:10; Acts 2:23), and the inspired revelation of the outline of the ages through the Bible prophets of old (Amos 3:7); and (3) His infinite patience with willful human beings who fall short of His plan for them.
As for the great outline prophecies of Holy Writ, Seventh-day Adventists believe that they are a divinely inspired portrayal of the ages. Most of our interpretation of prophecies of this type are not original with us. They are based on the findings of many of the most godly and eminent scholars of various faiths through the centuries. With the early church we hold that prophetic fulfillments are to be looked for in historical
events, and we find a progressive, contemporary recognition of the advancing epochs and major fulfillments of the prophetic outline in history.
We believe, with the majority of expositors from the early Church Fathers to modern times, that the four world powers of Daniel's outline prophecies were the Neo-Babylonian,
Medo-Persian, Grecian (Macedonian), and Roman empires; that Rome was not to be followed immediately by a fifth world power, but was to be divided into a number of strong and weak kingdoms; that this breakup was attested as in process of fulfillment in the fourth and fifth centuries; that this was to be followed by the appearance of a powerful antichrist; and that antichrist would, in turn, be destroyed at the Second Advent, which will be accompanied by the literal resurrection of the righteous dead, and the binding of Satan during the millennium; and that the millennium will then be followed by the eternal kingdom of God.
We believe with many Reformation leaders that Rome's division into the ten kingdoms representing the various nations of Europe was followed by the papal Antichrist as the predicted dominant power of the Middle Ages (see p. 336). Thus we hold the historical view of prophecy. We reject futurism and preterism not merely because both systems were projected by the Roman Catholics in the counter-Reformation against Protestant positions, but because we find these interpretations out of harmony with Scripture specifications. Nor do we accept postmillennialism's now largely discredited thesis of gradual world betterment and approaching universal peace in a man-made kingdom of
God. Seventh-day Adventists believe that the sole hope of the world is the personal, premillennial second advent of Christ, which, we believe from the study of Bible prophecy, is imminent, but for which
we set no date.
We believe that the prophecies simply form the background for the great redemptive activity of God as centered in the two advents of Christ. Christ came the first time to live among men as the Sinless One, and to die as the all-sufficient, vicarious, atoning sacrifice for the redemption of a lost race. And His priestly ministry in heaven spans the period between His ascension and His second advent as King of kings, to gather the redeemed and to end the tragic reign of sin.
I. Adventist Views of Prophecy in Relation to others
The subject of prophecy and prophetic fulfillment is entirely too broad to be treated adequately here. This answer will therefore be limited to points that seem most relevant to the topics considered in these questions and answers.
1. Classification of Bible Prophecies.The word "prophecy" means both forthtelling and foretelling; a prophet speaks forth the message of God, relaying reproof, correction, and instruction to man; he also at times foretells events of either the immediate or the distant future, announcing in advance the development of God's purpose, or what will come to pass in the working out of certain circumstances.
Sometimes a prophet was termed a "seer," meaning one who sees with supernatural sight. Sometimes God's message comes to the prophet orally; sometimes
pictorially in vision. But whether the prophet hears or sees the message of God, he speaks it forth as the word of God, rather than of man. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21).
Prophecy may be classified in several ways:
By content, into
a. ethical messages of reform for contemporaries as through Elijah, Jeremiah;
b. predictions, in which the ethical element may often occur as through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel.
By form, into
a. literal prophecies;
c. figurative or symbolic enacted prophecies;
d. prophetic parables.
As to range, into
a. immediate or short-range prophecies;
b. predictions of single distant events;
c. long-range outline prophecies covering long periods;
d. prophecies of double application (immediate and future; or literal and
As to fulfillment, predictive prophecy may be divided into at least three categories:
a. predictions of divine purpose (independent of man's will or purpose);
b. predictions of divine foreknowledge (foretelling man's actions);
c. predictions of divine reward or punishment (conditional on man's good or
Sometimes it may be difficult to determine whether a given prophecy belongs in one category or another, but all three classes of prophecy are sure, though in different ways.
2. Fulfillments of These Three Classes of Predictions.Examples of predictions of these last three classes will make this clear:
Prophecies of the first class (God's immutable purpose) include, for example, God's prediction that Christ would die for man's salvation, and that the universe will ultimately be cleansed from sin. Prophecies of this type must come to pass, for they are a statement of God's eternal purpose or will to do something, independent of man's will or action.
Prophecies of the second class (foreknowledge) include predictions of Jesus' betrayal and crucifixion. This type of prophecy
will come to pass, because God cannot be mistaken in His foreknowledge. In His omniscience, knowing "the end from the beginning," He was aware that evil men would betray and crucify Jesus, but the predictions did not force any of them to sin. Although a prophecy may predict "what God's foreknowledge had seen would be," yet as one of our most representative writers has said, "the prophecies do not shape the characters of the men who fulfill them. Men act out their own free will."Ellen
G. White in The Review and Herald, Nov. 13, 1900, p. 721.
Prophecies of the third class (those that promise reward or threaten punishment) are exemplified by Jeremiah's twofold prediction
(ch. 17) of the permanence or the destruction of Jerusalem. We might say, further, that predictions of this class are equally sure,
but in a different way: It is certain, for example, that a man will surely experience the fulfillment of either the reward or the punishment predicted. If he fulfills the conditions for receiving the blessings, the penalties are not inflicted; if, on the other hand, he incurs the threatened punishment the alternate predictions of blessings are not fulfilled. The outcome is conditioned on man's choice of good or of evil. Thus when God utters either kind of predictionpromises or threatsto the same man or nation, it is obvious, in the very nature of the case, that any single prediction of reward or punishment may or may not be fulfilled, dependent on the freedom of the human will to comply or not to comply with the conditions; yet the certainty of prophecy is not in any way impaired, since either one or the other alternativereward or punishmentwill surely come.
It is true that fulfillment is one of the tests of true prophecy. Though mere fulfillment of prediction does not necessarily prove a prophet to be genuine (Deut. 13:1, 2), a failure of fulfillment proves a prophet false (Deut. 18:20-22), unless there was a stated or implied condition. Fulfillment as a workable test obviously applies only to immediate predictions, for long-range predictions to be fulfilled long after the prophet's death can be of no use to his contemporaries in deciding whether they should believe the prophet's messages and regard him as a genuine messenger of God.
3. Conditional Prophecies.Prophecies that state or imply either promises or threats are conditional, dependent on man's actions. Conditionality is sometimes stated (Ex. 19:5, 6); sometimes not (Jonah 3:4). In
such prophecies we may find one set of fulfillments replaced by another, according to the response to the conditions, without in any way weakening the certainty of prophecy (Jer. 18:7-10).
Some predictions are delayed in fulfillment because of man's own actions or inaction; sometimes the fulfillment is different from the original possibility. There are obvious examples of both of these.
a. God had promised to take the Israelites from Egypt to the land of Canaan and to drive out the heathen inhabitants and give His people possession (Ex. 3:8; 15:17; 23:23; etc.). Yet when they neared the borders of the land, at
Kadesh-barnea, the adverse report of the spies made them rebel and refuse to go on. Consequently, God said, "Ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein" (Num. 14:30). They were to wander in the wilderness until that generation perished. God even called that "my breach of promise" (verse 34), for so it apparently was; but the next generation, nearly forty years later, did enter Canaan.
Today the long wait for the second coming of Christ leads some to ask, "Where is the promise of his coming?" The apostle answers, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to
usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
b. An example of a transformed fulfillment was the prophecy of the tribe of Levi, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" (Gen. 49:7). Yet, because of that tribe's loyalty in a crisis, the scattering
was turned into a blessing. Levi became the tribe of the priesthood, and so did not inherit a section of land like the other tribes, and was not numbered as one of the twelve, yet Levi lived scattered among all the tribes, so as to be a blessing to all (Ex. 32:26; Num. 18:20-24). Sometimes Old Testament prophecies that are primarily literal are fulfilled in a figurative manner in the New Testament. But such fulfillments must be identified for us
by inspiration; otherwise there would be no limit to speculative and fanciful interpretations.
As can be seen from these examples, the fact that we cannot always find a literal fulfillment of every detail of prophecy does not mean that the prediction has failed or that we must look for some fanciful fulfillment yet to come. Due allowance must be made, as even "literalists" know, for figurative language in ancient, as in modern, writing; also for Oriental modes of speech. Further, parables or symbols must be understood in terms of what the author intends to convey, not in terms of the irrelevant details of the picture (such as the spots on the leopard beast, or the five to five ratio of the wise and foolish virgins). When we consider the setting in which a prophetic message is given, seeking first for the direct and primary meaning, and then for any valid secondary or figurative meaning, we find that the prophecies are neither a phantasmagoria that means anything the imagination might wish to see in it, nor messages in cipher with a rigid meaning for every wordmessages that must be fulfilled in detail
or else the prophecy has failed.
4. Varying Views of the "Kingdom Prophecies."—There has been much
misunderstanding of the series of promises and prophecies, chiefly in the Old Testament, concerning the place of Israel in God's planthe so-called "kingdom prophecies."
The postmillennialist interprets the "kingdom prophecies" as wholly symbolic descriptions of a future golden age of the church, a millennium of worldwide righteousness, to be brought about by a larger measure of the present means of grace, not by the direct intervention of God. This, it is claimed, will prepare the whole world for the second coming of Christ at the end of the millennium to usher in the final judgment and eternity.
The premillennialist expects the present reign of evil to continue, and even grow worse, until the personal coming of Christ ends this age by catastrophic and supernatural means. He begins the millennium with a literal first resurrection (of "the saints") and ends it with the second resurrection (of "the rest of the dead"), and the final judgment, followed by the eternal state in the new heavens and new earth.
The amillennialist denies any millennial kingdom; rather, he equates it, like Augustine, with the triumph of Christianity in the present era. He agrees with the premillennialist that the world is not to see a golden age before the advent, that the wheat and tares will grow side by side until the direct and cataclysmic introduction of the next age by the advent of Christ, but he agrees with the postmillennialist that the advent is followed not by a millennial kingdom but by the final judgment and the eternal state.
The resurgent premillennialism of the early nineteenth century reacted vigorously against the
"spiritualizing" of the first resurrection and of the kingdom prophecies by the then-dominant postmillennialism. The premillennialists, who came to be known in Britain as "literalists," stressed not only a literal resurrection but also a literal kingdom on earth during the millennium. This would be under the direct or indirect rule of Christ, and would involve a literal application, to the Jews, of the Old Testament prophecies made to ancient Israel. Though historicists at first, most of these literalists soon took the next logical step; they became futurists. The fulfillments of the majority of the prophecies were looked for either at, or after, the end of the present age. All the kingdom prophecies that had not been completely fulfilled down to the last detailIsrael's triumph over earthly kings, her reestablishment in Palestine with the rebuilding of the Temple and the renewal of the animal sacrifices, and even the divine withholding of rain from any nation that should fail to come up to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernaclesall this, and much more, they held must be fulfilled in a literal future Jewish kingdom on earth after the second advent, during the millennium.
In North America the strong premillennialist movement of the mid-nineteenth century at first included literalists and Millerites. And since both were historicist premillennialists, they were allies against entrenched postmillennialism. But the Millerites believed, with the majority of the church through the centuries, that the prophesied kingdom was to be realized by the glorified church, not the Jews. They believed, further, that the millennium was to be the beginning of the eternal state.
Unlike most premillennialists today, Seventh-day Adventists hold that the kingdom promises are fulfilled in the experience of the churchtoday the "kingdom of grace" in the hearts of Christians, and eventually the "kingdom of glory" in the eternal state. So we differ from other Christian groups in our views on the kingdom prophecies.
II. Adventist Views on the Kingdom Prophecies
1. Promises to Abraham.The Old Testament makes it clear that the Hebrew people, the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, were chosen especially by God as the instruments for making known His purpose of salvation. Through them the Scriptures were given; through them the Messiah, the Christ, was to come; and through them all the nations of the world were to receive the blessings of salvation. Yet the Old Testament makes equally clear a fact that is often overlookedthat this status of being the chosen people was conditional.
God made promises on several occasions to their ancestor Abrahamthat he would be blessed, that his seed would be numerous and become a great nation, that they would be given the land of Canaan, that this land was to extend from the "river of Egypt" (the Wadi
el-Arish) to the river Euphrates. (See Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:5, 7, 18-21; 17:1-21; 18:18, 19; 22:15-18.).
2. Promises to Israel at Sinai..When God began to fulfill these promises to Abraham's descendants by bringing them out of Egypt to give them the Promised Land and to make them a nation, He made
a covenant with them at Sinai. The conditional nature the promises to the new nation of Israel, as His closed people, was very clearly stated right at the beginning:
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above al people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation (Ex. 19:5, 6).
Their status as God's special people hinged on an if.
Nearly forty years later, as the second generation was on the borders of the Promised Land, Moses in his farewell address instructed them at length (Deut. 7:8), that if they hoped to see the fulfillment of the Promises made to their fathers they must keep faith with the ever "faithful God, which keepeth covenant aid mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations" (Dent. 7:9); that if they would "keep the commandments," the Lord would "keep unto thee the covenant . . . which he sware unto thy fathers" (Dent. 7:11, 12). On the other hand, if they disobeyed God they would perish like the nations that they were to dispossess (Deut. 8:1, 19, 20). Compare the warnings that the land would spue them out also, as it had spued out their predecessors (Lev. 18:26-28; 20:22). In a long series of blessings and cursings (Deuteronomy 27-30) the following blessings are conditioned on obedience to God's commandments: holiness, leadership, prosperity. The alternate curses include pestilence, famine, poverty, defeat, scattering among the nationswith, however, a promise of return from exile if they repented.
The alternatives presented make it clear that God's saying, "I will give" the various blessings was equivalent to "I am willing to give," "I purpose to give." But the Israelites were not left in doubt as to the conditions under which they would either gain or lose the promised blessings.
Note the specific statements of the conditional nature of the promises and prophecies to the literal nation of Israel in connection with all the points covered in the promises to Abraham. In each case the fulfillment of the promise was conditioned on obedience:
(a) their status as the chosen people, Ex. 19:5, 6; Deut. 28:9;
(b) a great nation, Deut. 28:1, 7, 9, 10, 13 (compare verses 15, 25, 48);
(c) a holy nation, Ex. 19:6; Deut. 28:9; (d) blessings, Deut. 7:9-14; 28:1-14 (compare verses 15-68); 30:16, 19;
(e) the land, Deut. 8:1, 7-9; 30: 19, 20 (compare Lev. 18:26-28; Deut. 28:15, 64); 1 Kings 9:3, 6, 7; 1
Chron. 28:8; 2 Chron. 7:16, 19, 20; Eze. 33:24-26; 36:26-28; (f) the Davidic line of kings, 1 Kings 2:3, 4; 8:25; 9:4, 5; 1
Chron. 28:4-9; 2 Chron. 6:16; 2 Chron. 7:17-22; and (g) blessing to the nations, Eze. 36:23, 33-36; 37:23, 28.
But since the conditions were only partly met, the promises were only partially
fulfilled in Hebrew history.
3. Promises to David and Solomon.To David, whom God chose "to be king over Israel for ever" (1
Chron. 28:4), and to his son Solomon, were filled many of the early promises made to Israela great name, a great nation, prosperity, victory and peace, rule over other nations, dominion "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river
Euphrates" (Gen. 15:18; compare 1 Kings 4:21). Further, in David's time, God intended that Israel should "dwell in a place of their own, and move no more" (2 Sam. 7:10; 1
This does not contradict the earlier statements that Israel was to hold the land on condition of obedience (Deut. 8:1, 19-20; etc.), nor is it invalidated by the fact that they were later removed from it. It was not God's desire that Israel should be cast out of the land on account of their sins, any more than it is His desire that anyone should be lost by rejecting salvation (Eze. 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). David understood this promise to be conditional, as is clear from his later address at the coronation of Solomon, when he admonished the assembled people: "Keep and seek for all the commandments of the Lord your God: that ye may possess this good land, and leave it for an inheritance for your children after you for ever" (1
Further, he recognized the promise concerning Solomon as conditional also: "I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and my judgments, as at this day" (verses 6, 7).
After the Temple was finished, God repeated the same promise to Solomon himself, placing the continuance of the kingship, of the Temple, and of Israel's possession of the land on condition of faithfulness to God (1 Kings 9:3-9; 2
God's statement of His purpose that Israel should "move no more" (2 Sam. 7:10), and that David's house would be established on the throne forever (verse 13) shows that He was willing to fulfill the promised blessings to Israel from the time of David and Solomon. If the conditions had been met there would never have been a series of captivities.
But Solomon apostatized, and although he saw the folly of his ways before his death, his kingdom was divided, and ten of the tribes were permanently lost to his dynasty. It is true that his descendants ruled Judah as long as it lasted as a nation, but the kingdom eventually came to an end and the crown of David's dynasty was removed "until he come whose right it is" (Eze. 21:27). This refers to the divine Son of David (Matt. 21:5, 9). Though Solomon and the royal line of David failed to realize the promises, the prophecy of David's seed meets its fulfillment in Christ, who will yet rule over an eternal kingdom (Ps. 89:3, 4; Isa. 9:6, 7; Jer. 23:5; Luke 1:32, 33).
4. Threat of Captivity Conditional.It was the nation's sins that brought the end of the Jewish kingdom in the Babylonian captivity (2
Chron. 36:14-17). The Jews need not have been carried into exile. Jerusalem, with its magnificent Temple, might have stood forever and have been the metropolis into which kings and princes would enter, if the Jews had been faithful to their covenant even if they had heeded Jeremiah's last-minute warning (Jer. 17:21-27).
In the chapter following this warning message, the acceptance of which would have averted the doom of Judah, Jeremiah records God's clear and explicit statement of the conditional nature of prophecies of rewards and punishments:
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy
it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent* of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent* of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them (Jer. 18:7-10).
That this principle referred to Israel is made clear by verses 11 and 13. National repentance even then might have reversed the fate of the kingdom, but Jeremiah's pleas went unheeded, and the result was exile.
5. Restoration Prophecies and the New Covenant.The Babylonian captivity, however, was not the end of God's patience. Even in exile there was yet hope for repentance that might avert the fulfillment of the prophecy of national downfall. God reassured them through Jeremiah that this captivity, though a punishment, was not "a full end" (Jer. 5:10-18; 46:28). Beginning even before the exile, God had sent prophetic messages promising a return, and offering a full and glorious restoration under a new covenant (Jer. 31:27, 28, 31). Under the national covenant made with God at Sinai and repeatedly reaffirmed, all Israel had failed miserably, as was amply demonstrated throughout their whole national history. The apostate ten tribes, long separated from the sanctuary and the theocracy, had already been swept away; now the remnant of Israelthe kingdom of Judahwhich had fallen into apostasy more slowly, but no less surely, was being carried into
* This repenting of the good or evil God has promised is a statement in human terms that does not adequately represent the true nature of God, but is used in order to express the change in outcome. It is not actually God who changes. God has impartially announced the alternate consequences of man's Food or evil choice; His attitude and His alternatives remain unchanged; but man's change of action brings an altered relationship toward God and a reversal of the consequences.
captivity, and the royal line of David was to lose the throne until the Messiah should come, "whose right it is to reign." At this dark hour God sentthough Jeremiah in beleaguered Judah and through Ezekiel among the earlier groups of exiles already in Babyloniasimilar messages of a "new covenant," an "everlasting covenant," under which He would bless the exiles when they returned. He would restore them as God's holy nation, as a living demonstration of His love and care, and thus as an instrument of blessing to the nations of the world (see Jer. 31:31-34; 32:36-41; Eze. 37:19-28).
The people were evidently complaining that they were suffering for the sins of their fathers, for Jeremiah mentions their proverb, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Jer. 31:29). Then he continues with the announcement of the new covenant, in which God will deal, not with the fathers, but directly with human hearts. He would put His "law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts," and every man individually, from the least to the greatest, was to know the Lord. He would forgive their sins and remember them no more (Jer. 31:31-34). In the next chapter Jeremiah speaks of it as the "everlasting covenant" (Jer. 32:39, 40), which is the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 17:7).
Under the "everlasting covenant" God promised to put His "fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer. 32:40). In this connection God would "give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever" (verse 39).
Ezekiel, the prophet to the exiles already in Babylon, spoke of God's giving them "one heart," and "a new spirit," exchanging "the stony heart" for "an heart of flesh" that they might "walk in my statutes," and promising that "they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (Eze. 11:19, 20). Ezekiel elsewhere mentions the "everlasting covenant" made with the restored exiles of both Israel and Judah, and the rule of David over a people cleansed from their sins (Eze. 37:19-28). Isaiah also speaks of the everlasting covenant (Isa. 55:3; 61:8).
6. Gospel in the Everlasting Covenant..Again Ezekiel uses almost the same words: "A new heart also will I give you. . . . And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes" (Eze. 36:26, 27). The
purpose of the new covenant was to enable them to obey, "that they may fear me for ever," and "that they shall not depart from me"; "that they may walk in my statutes" (Jer. 32:39, 40; Eze. 11:19, 20); and the
means of enabling was, "I will put my spirit within you" (Eze. 36:27). But in Old Testament times, as in the New, the natural heart "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). That is why the writing of the law of God in the heart involves giving man a new heart in place of his stony heart, a free and unmerited gift that can be received only by faith.
The new covenant, then, is nothing less than salvation by grace through faith, the reception of God's Spirit, enabling one to walk in newness of life. This is the New Testament gospel in the heart of the Old Testament.
There is no incompatibility here between law and grace. Even in the time of Israel there was no incompatibility between grace and the "ceremonial" law, for until Jesus died the rites and sacrifices were God's appointed way of directing the eye of faith to the coming Saviour. Not until the offering of the Lamb of God, once for all, was the ceremonial system abolished (Eph. 2:15). Thereafter insistence upon the ceremonial observances became a denial of faith in the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ (Acts 15:1, 10; Gal. 5:1, 2). The new covenant, later ratified by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 8:6-13; Matt. 26:28), and mediated by His heavenly ministry (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24)the covenant promising the divine writing of the law in the heart, with the indwelling of the Spirit, which produces the righteousness of the law in the life (Rom. 8:4)is never at variance with the moral law of God, then or now.
7. Conditioned on Individual Acceptance.These prophecies of the restoration of Israel offered the new covenant to all, for all should know the Lord "from the least of them unto the greatest" (Jer. 31:34). God never offers forgiveness, cleansing from sin, and a new heart except on condition of
individual repentance. The restoration connected with the new covenant could go into effect only in so far as the individual Israelite would accept the covenant. Those to whom God would give a new heart "shall be my people, and I will be their God." The next verse excludes those who refuse to be cleansed: "But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way
upon their own heads, saith the Lord" (Eze. 11:20, 21).
The everlasting covenant was made with Abraham, who was called the father of the faithful (Gen. 17:1, 2, 7; compare Gen. 26:5), Isaiah introduces the everlasting covenant with the invitation, "Incline your ear," "come," "hear" (Isa. 55:3); and continues, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found," "return unto the Lord" (verses 6, 7). God pledges His word as to His faithfulness (Jer. 31:35-37; 33:20-26); but His covenant is offered, not imposed. Therefore, the restoration promises under the new covenant are conditioned upon the Israelites' voluntary acceptance and their acting by faith upon that acceptance.
If all Israel, or even a large majority, had whole-heartedly entered into the new covenant and experienced the new heart through the indwelling of the Spirit of God, resulting in wholehearted obedience, what might have been the results! God still desired to use Israel as His special instrument to share the blessings of the new covenant with other nations.
8. Restoration Prophecies Partly Fulfilled.The "restoration" or "kingdom" propheciessome full of poetic imagery, others in literal languagespeak of long life and Edenic conditions of the earth, of Israel's righteousness and world leadership, drawing the nations to her, and spreading the knowledge of the Lord over the world. The house of David was to be restored, and finally the Messiah was to comethe Messiah, who was to be "cut off," who was to be the Lamb of God that would ratify the new covenant, and who was to rule the kingdom in righteousness and finally bring in eternal peace. However, the golden age
was not to lie altogether one of peace; apparently the jealousy of enemies was to bring war, which would end in final victory for God's people (Ezekiel 38; 39) before the second coming of Christ, and the transition to the eternal state,
The restoration promises were connected with the return from exile. To what extent were these predictions fulfilled after the Babylonian captivity? Cyrus granted the privilege of return to "all his people" (Ezra 1:3), which would include any worshiper of Jehovah from the northern tribes also. And under that and subsequent edicts several groups of exiles did return. They rebuilt the Temple and reconstituted the Jewish state under their own law (Ezra 6:14, 15; 7:11-26)subject to Persia, of course. But the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi show how they fell short of the restoration envisioned under the new covenant.
Their zeal for the law found expression in legalism and exclusiveness rather than in seeking the Spirit of God. The promise of the return was fulfilled; but the return was limited. Even the Temple that they built was but a modest edifice in comparison with the former. The glorious kingdom was not realized in the semi-autonomous state under the Persian Empire and under the Macedonian rule, or in the brief interval of independence under the Maccabean rulers. Finally came the subjection to Rome.
9. Messiah's Kingdom Offered and Rejected.Then came the Messiah. The Carpenter of Nazareth began to preach, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). What Jesus offered
was the blessing of the new covenant, of the renewed heart, of the Spirit within. But this seemed a disappointment to most of the Jews. They had so long set their hearts on the material aspects of the kingdom prophecies that they had forgotten the spiritual. They wanted independence from Romeeven vengeancebut they did not want the law of love written in their hearts. They wanted the conquest of the Gentiles, but they were not interested in being a source of blessing to all nations. They remembered the king who was to sit on the throne of David, but they had forgotten the Suffering Servant. Consequently they could not recognize their Messiah when He came, and had no desire for His kingdom when He offered it to them.
If the Jews had accepted the new covenant and the Messiah's proposed kingdom; if, instead of the little handful of followers that Jesus sent out into the world to give His message, He might have had the whole nation, regenerated and dedicated, to use in evangelizing the world, what victories, what blessings, what rewards, might have been theirs under the leadership of the Son of God. The Lord was even yet ready to use His chosen people as instruments of blessing, as He had been in the days of the prophets of old. But they would not.
10. Literal Israel Replaced by Christian Church.Jerusalem knew not the time of her visitation, and consequently her house was left to her "desolate" (Matt. 23:28), and the rejected Lord wept over her fate. Though the destruction was delayed forty years, there was no repentance to avert the nation's doom. There was no assurance, as before (Jer. 5:10, 18),
that the destruction was to be only temporary. The servants who had repeatedly abused the prophets had finally crucified the Son of the Owner of the vineyard, and consequently were dispossessed. The Son Himself had pronounced sentence upon them: "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21: 43). Many were to come from the east and west to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the place of the rejected children of the kingdom (Matt. 8:11, 12). These were to come from among the Gentiles and would prove themselves "Abraham's children" more truly than the Jews because they "would do the works of Abraham" (John 9:39).
When the great body of the professed seed of Abrahamthe official bodyrejected their King, the Mediator of the new covenant, they inevitably cut themselves off from the Messianic kingdom and the covenant relationship. The only Jews who retained these relationships were the remnant (Rom. 11:5), those who accepted their Messiah and became the nucleus of the Christian church; these were the true children of Israel. To them were added the Gentile converts, the "wild olive" branches who were grafted into the parent stock in place of the natural branches that had broken themselves off (Rom. 11:16-24).
Thus the rejection of the nation of Israel did not invalidate the prophecies or cut off the line of God's chosen people. "Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect" but "the children of the flesh" were replaced by "the children of the promise" (Rom. 9:6, 8)the spiritual seed of Abraham.
11. New Testament Applications of the Kingdom Promises.The children of Abraham "which are of faith"all who are Christ's, both Jew and Gentilehave thenceforth been heirs of the ancient promises (Gal. 3:7, 8, 16, 29). Both classes of Abraham's seed, Jew and Gentile, are to receive the Abrahamic promises. Paul does not say that the
earthly-kingdom promises to Israel belong to the Jew and heavenly-kingdom promises to the Christian, but rather he speaks of the inheritance of the world by all the seed:
"For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. . . . Therefore it is of faith . . . to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of all (Rom. 4:13, 16).
Further, the Christian belongs to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13; James 2:5; Rev. 1:6). Jesus Christ was promised as the David King in connection with the new, or everlasting, covenant (Eze. 37:21-28; Luke 1:32, 33; compare Zech. 9:9-11 Matt. 21:4-9). By His sacrifice He became the mediator of that covenant (Heb. 8:6-13; 12:24; 13:20; compare Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). Obviously, then, Christians are heirs of the new-covenant prophecies and the new-covenant kingdom.
That the church is now she covenant people, the chosen people, is clearly indicated by the application that two New Testament writers make of the original promise to the children of Israel at Sinai. Peter, addressing the "Christians," as they began to be called, says:
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Peter 2:9). In writing to Gentile Christians (see verse 10), he is quoting, almost verbatim, Exodus 19:5, 6 (Peter uses the identical Greek words for "royal priesthood" that occur in the LXX for the Hebrew "kingdom of priests"). John writes to Christians of Asia Minor about Jesus, who "hath made us kings and priests [preferred Greek reading "a kingdom, priests"] unto God and his Father" (Rev. 1:6). Again, he describes the redeemed in heaven as singing to the Lamb, "Thou art worthy" for thou "hast made us unto our God kings and priests [preferred Greek reading: "a kingdom and priests"]" (Rev. 5:9, 10). Both writers therefore apply to the Christian churchand not specifically to Jewish Christiansthe covenant promise made to Israel, a conditional promise that the nation of Israel, by the rejection of the Messiah, had forfeited.
Why do these inspired writers apply the Israel kingdom prophecies to the non-Israelite Christians? Is it not because the true Israel is no longer the Jewish nation, but is rather the Christian church? The fact that Paul refers to "Israel after the flesh" (1 Cor. 10:18) implies that there is an Israel not after the flesh. He makes clear it several passages what he means when he refers to the true Israel. First, he mentions that not all Jews belong
to Israel"They are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom. 9:6). Elsewhere he defines a true Jew: "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly;" rather, he "which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the
heart" (Rom. 2:28, 29).
The mark of the true Israelite then, is a circumcised heart. That this does not refer only to
circumcised hearts is clear from verse 26: "If the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?" Therefore a Gentile Christian can be counted as a true, though not a literal, Israelite. Legalism? How can it be when God sent His Son "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4)? What he means by the true circumcision he explains to the Philippians: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). This sentence may seem grammatically ambiguous, but in the context it is crystal clear that Paul is defining
The foregoing statements show clearly that Paul taught that the true Israelnot Israel after the flesh but Israel after the Spiritis composed of both Jews and Gentiles, the children not merely of the flesh but of the promise, circumcised not in the flesh but in the heart (Rom. 9:8).
Again, Paul addresses Christians who were formerly Gentiles, and who are still called "uncircumcision" by the Jews who are such according to the flesh (Eph. 2:11). These Christians were once "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise" (verse 12). Now, however, in Christ, through whom they have access to God by the Spirit, they are "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (verse 19). In other words, the Gentiles, in becoming Christians, cease to be aliens and become fellow citizens, and heirs of the covenants of promise. Hence Christians,
gathered from among both Jews and Gentiles, long to the true commonwealth of Israel. That is how "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26).
12. Fullfillment of the Kingdom Prophecies.The question naturally arises, If the Christian church is heir of the promises and the covenants, where are we to look for the fulfillment of all the prophecies that were not realized by literal Israel? In the early church, the present, or the future?
Wherever the kingdom prophecies are definitely applied by New Testament writers to events in the Church, it is obvious that we are safe in following their Inspired interpretative applications. Peter sees Joel's prediction of visions, dreams, and wonders among the predictions of Israel fulfilled, at least partially, in the miracles of the early church under the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:16-21; compare Joel 2:28-32).
James, in delivering the decision of the church council of Jerusalem, quotes a prophecy of Amos concerning the restoration of Israel and applies it to the first Gentile converts to the church:
Simeon [Simon Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord (Acts 15:14-17; Cf. Amos 9:11, 12).
In other words, James is saying: Amos' prediction of what was to happen "after this" * (i.e., after Amos' day)
*Curiously, the words "after this" and "return and" are not in the Hebrew of Amos 9:11, which begins: "In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David."
Either James's phrase "return and build" is quoted from a different text of Amos or it is a paraphrase, exactly parallel to the common Hebrew idiom in which the verb "return" (shub, "to turn back") is often used to express either a reversal of attitude or a mere, repetition. That is, to "return and do" something, can mean merely to do it again. The
K.J.V. sometimes translates the phrase literally, as: "I returned, and considered all the oppressions" (Eccl. 4:1; compare 4:7; 9:11); "I will return, and have compassion" (Jer. 12:15) ; "Who knoweth if he will return and repent?" (Joel 2:14). Very often "return and" is simply translated "again," as: He built again [margin: Heb. "he returned and built"] the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down" (2 Chron. 33:3).
has now begun to meet its fulfillment in the conversion of the Gentiles in the apostle Peter's day. That is, the prophecy of the restoration of the house of David, and of the Gentiles' seeking after the Lord, is now being fulfilled by the expansion of the church to include the Gentiles. The passage quoted from Amos is a prophecy of the restoration of Israel's Davidic kingdom and the incorporation of the "Gentiles" into that kingdom (Amos 9:11, 12); but James obviously applies it figuratively to the building up of the church of Christ the Son of David.
Peter finds in Isaiah's "corner stone" (Isa. 28:16) a prediction of Jesus as the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6) of the "spiritual house" in which the Christians are built as "lively stones [E.R.V., "living stones"]" and as a "holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (verse 5).
Paul, in one short passage (2 Cor. 6:16-18), quotes from several prophecies connected with the new covenant and the restoration promised to ancient Israel phrases borrowed from Jeremiah 31:33 (compare Jer. 32:38; Eze. 11:19, 20; 37:27); Isaiah 52:11; and Jeremiah 31:9.
The fulfillments to the church of the present age are of course figurative. Many of the prophecies unrealized in Old Testament times are to be fulfilled, some of
them literally, in connection with, or after, the second coming of Christ. But the fact that inspired writers have made figurative applications shows that we cannot require a literalness in detail.
The Christian church, then, is a "holy nation," composed not of a single race or nationality, but of every individual who is voluntarily under the new-covenant relationship with his Lord. Therefore its blessings cannot be those of national prosperity, territorial holdings, or victories over invaders. Ezekiel's promise of the deliverance of postexilic Israel from the hosts of Gog was not fulfilled literally, but in the Apocalypse is applied to the final destruction of the enemies of God and of His people after the millennium.
The glorious Temple pictured by Ezekiel is not fulfilled literally in the church, and cannot be, for the sacrificial types and shadows ceased in the antitypical sacrifice of Christ on Calvary's cross. Instead we have the priestly ministry of the Son of God in the sanctuary not made with hands," in heaven itself.
Furthermore, the promise to Abraham that his seed should be heirs of the world, as well as the prophecies of the abundance and peace of Eden restored, will both find their actual fulfillment when the saints inherit the earth made new.
The Christian church, drawn from all nations, rather than from the Jewish nation, is now the vehicle for bringing God's blessing to the world. Its head is Christ, the Son of David, who now rules in the hearts of His people, and will, one day, rule in person in His eternal kingdom. It is "the kingdom of God . . . within you" (Luke 17:21), which "cometh not with
observation [margin, "outward show"]" (verse 20), but grows like a
mustard seed (Matt. 13:31, 32). Such is the spiritual kingdom to which we must
now belong if we are to enjoy the blessings of the future kingdom of glory.
Thus the kingdom prophecies will finally be fulfilled, not in the presence of
sin and repentance, birth and death, war and plague, but in the new earth. And
the final fulfillment in the eternal kingdom of Christ will surpass everything
promised to the Israel of old.
13. Jew and Gentile in the Kingdom.In holding that the kingdom belongs
to the Christian church, we do not thereby deny the kingdom to the Jew. The
heirs of the Abrahamic promise of the kingdom embrace all the spiritual
seedall who are Christ's, all who are saved by the blood of the
everlasting covenant—both Jew and Gentile. Thus any Jew may, as a
believer in the Messiah, participate in the millennial reign of the saints as
well as in the eternal kingdom of Christ. No Jew, as a Jew, may lay claim to an
earthly, national millennial kingdom on the basis of the Old Testament kingdom
14. The Question of the Jewish State.Let it be emphatically stated
here that Seventh-day Adventist rejection of the widely held belief in a
divinely promised future Jewish world-kingdom does not justify the charge of
"anti-Jewish bias," or of blindness to the political fact of the new
Jewish state of Israel. Our prophetic interpretation does not involve either.
We believe from Scripture, as has already been set forth, that the ancient Jews
forfeited their kingdom and their special status as God's chosen people (see
Matt. 21:43; compare Jer. 18:6-10). Yet we also believe, from
Scripture, that the Jew has equal status with every other human being, and equal
eligibility to the benefits of the gospel of salvation (Rom. 10:12, 13). We
consequently invite all, Jew and Gentile, to prepare with us to meet the coming
King. That relatively few Jews have thus far accepted the offer of salvation
through Christ is a matter of deep regret. It is our earnest hope, and to this
end we pray, that many more will do so in these last days. We would rejoice if
every living Jew were to accept Christ and thus have a part along with those
from all nations, in the promised kingdom.
The existence of the modern state of Israel is no more valid evidence that the
Jews, as a nation, are yet to fulfill the kingdom prophecies in Palestine, than
was the British rule over that land a proof of the Anglo-Israel interpretation,
which claims that the Anglo-Saxon and related peoples are the "true
Israel," and thus heirs of the divinely promised kingdom. And our denial
of both claims makes us neither anti-Jewish nor anti-British. We are not
anti-any race or people on earth. But we believe that the state of Israel
cannot claim ownership of the land of Palestine on the ground of Biblical
promises. The question of mere territorial claims must be determined by
international law. There is no justifiable reason for mingling our prophetic
interpretation with such an international political problem. We are to present
the Christian message, and extend Christian sympathy and Christian justice, to
all impartially. We are not to let our theology tip the scales of justice
toward Jew or Christian, Moslem or pagan.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that it is the mission of the Christian church
to send the "everlasting gospel . . . to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people," and to set
before them the high privilege of membership in the kingdom of God.
15. Prophecies Affecting the Church Age.Since we hold, on New
Testament grounds, that the church is the heir of the new covenant and the
kingdom (as, let it be noted, has been the belief of the church throughout the
centuries, unchallenged until modern times), we find a continuity of the
covenant, the promises, and the prophecies in the church age. (After all,
"New Testament" simply means "new covenant.") Jesus
addressed Himself "to the Jew first," and had they accepted Him, He
would undoubtedly have made the whole Jewish nation, not merely a handful of
disciples, the nucleus of His kingdom. But this fact does not necessarily lead
to the conclusion that the Sermon on the Mount, the prophecy of Matthew 24, and
indeed the major portion of the teachings of Jesus, were addressed to the
Jewish nation rather than to the Christian church of which He is the chief
cornerstone. We take the New Testament as a harmonious whole, with Gospels,
Epistles, and Apocalypse, addressed to the Christian church, in which both Jew
and Gentile are one.
The new covenant, first offered by the prophets of old in connection with the
kingdom promises, was mediated by Christ (Heb. 9:15), ratified by His blood
(Heb. 13:20), typified in the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:16), and reiterated in
the Epistles. Thus it became a reality in the church, and the new-covenant
kingdom exists now in its first phase, which is commonly called the
"kingdom of grace," until at the second advent it
will become the visible "kingdom of glory," which will continue on
after the millennium as the eternal kingdom established on the new earth.
Since we see a continuity in covenant, promise, and prophecy, we do not regard
the Christian Era as an interim dispensation between past and future Jewish
dispensations, or as a gap in prophecy. We therefore look for prophetic
fulfillments in the present age; and because we find them there, we are rightly
classified as historicists in prophetic interpretation.
16. The Consummation of Prophecy.We find further strong implications
for the continuous view of prophecy in the teachings of Jesus. He told His followers
of events before they came to pass in order that, when they did come to
pass, His people might believe (John 13:19). When asked about the destruction
of the Temple, and the end of the world, or age (Matt. 24:3), Jesus spoke to
His disciples of the beginning of sorrowsthe false christs, the wars,
and calamitiesand He equated Daniel's "abomination of
desolation" with the surrounding of Jerusalem by armies, as a sign that
they should flee for safety (Matt. 24:15, 16; compare Luke 21:20, 21). Heeding
this warning (Matt. 24:16-18), the early Christians escaped, and saved their
lives by flight preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He told His
disciples to watch for the signs of the nearness of His coming. All this
indicates that Jesus expected them to be constantly on the lookout for the
fulfillment of prophecy throughout the Christian Era. This is in direct
conflict with the concept that there were to be no fulfillments until after the
removal of the church from the earth.
Furthermore, we see the outline prophecies of the successive kingdoms, of
Daniel 2 and 7, in process of continuous fulfillment in history, from the time
of the Neo-Babylonian Empire onward. And similarly, with the seventy weeks of
years (Daniel 9) reaching their culmination in the time of Christ the Messiah.
Not only that, but we find the apostles applying Old Testament prophecies to
the Christian church of their own day. Since, then, we do not find in the
kingdom prophecies, the outline prophecies, and the teachings of Christ and the
apostles any justification for divorcing prophecy from the church age, we look
for and find historical fulfillments throughout the centuries. In other words,
we are historicist premillennialists.
III. Implications of the Kingdom Prophecies
It will be seen, in this section, that the interpretation of the kingdom
prophecies provides the key not only to the differences between varying views
on the millennium, but also to other factors apparently unrelated.
1. Church View of the Kingdom.Note first the implications of the
premise that has been generally held in the Christian church throughout the
centuries, namely, that when the Jews rejected Christ they were rejected as a
nation, and that thenceforth the true chosen people of covenant and
promisethe saints, the "holy nation"is the church,
composed of all true Christian believers, whether Jew or Gentile. (See Acts
15:13-18; 1 Peter 2:9.)
Those who hold this premise as true must, if consistent, hold the following ten
corollaries as also true:
(1) The "saints" who are persecuted by antichrist are not the Jewish
nation but Christians, both Jew and Gentile. Thus antichrist must come during
the Christian Era, or "church age," and not after.
(2) The Christian church is present on earth during the tribulation inflicted
by antichrist; thus there can be no pretribulation "rapture" of the
(3) There is no future period allotted to the Jewish nation as God's chosen
people; thus the fulfillment of the seventieth week cannot be a yet-future
Jewish period marked by the ending of the restored Temple sacrifices; it must
consequently have been fulfilled in the past, most fittingly at the death of
Christ. See Question 26.
(4) The future kingdom on earth cannot belong to the Jews as a people, but to
the Christian saints, both Jew and Gentile, the true chosen people; thus the
present return of the Jews to Palestine is not a forerunner of the prophesied
(5) The fulfillment of the Old Testament kingdom prophecies is not to be
expected in exact literal detail in the Christian church or spiritual Israel,
as it would have been experienced by the Jews of ancient times if they had not
forfeited their special status.
(6) The church age cannot be considered merely a "gap" between two
Jewish agesa period in which "the prophetic clock stopped
ticking";* thus prophetic fulfillments are to be expected continuously
throughout Christian history.
*H. A. Ironsides, The Great Parenthesis, 1943. p. 23.
(7) The fulfillments symbolized by the "little horn,"of Daniel's fourth beast, are to be sought within the Christian age, not after
a long gap in prophecy; thus there is no reason for a long gap between the
Roman fourth empire and the rise of the little horn.
(8) The fulfillment of the "falling away," and the "man of
sin" sitting in the "temple of God" (2 Thess. 2:3, 4), cannot
rightly be connected with the Jewish Temple; therefore, it must refer to the
Christian church. Thus it refers to an apostasy in the Christian church and an
antichrist which arises in the church.
(9) The "kingdom" teachings of Jesus, as well as of the rest of the
New Testament, belong to the church, not to the Jews (Matthew 5-7; 24; etc.).
(10) The church is heir to the new covenant, under which God's law is to be
written in the heart by the Holy Spirit. This law is not the Jewish national
and ceremonial law, which expired at the cross, but rather the moral law,
which, as the Westminster Confession says, is "summarily comprehended in
the Ten Commandments."
2. The Key to the Adventist View.This presentation sets forth the
basic difference between the Seventh-day Adventist historicist-premillennialist
view and those of the amillennialists, postmillennialists, and futurist
premillennialists. It will be seen that the key lies in the very concept of
prophetic interpretation, and specifically in the approach to the so-called
We disagree with the postmillennialist and amillennialist concept that
prophecyas applied to the kingdom prophecies and the
millenniumis wholly figurative. Such an interpretation robs the
specific meaning. We likewise disagree with the futurist view, which seems to
imply irrevocable decree in prophecy, to exclude or at least minimize any
conditional prophecy, and to demand literal fulfillment for literal Israel in
the future if not in the past. Such a concept is the root of futurism,
pretribulationism, and dispensationalism. Seventh-day Adventists have little in
common with postmillennialists, but they stand between the amillennialists and
the futurists, agreeing partly with both.
Adventists, though sometimes charged with failing to "rightly divide"
between the Jew and the church, avoid the two extremes of over-figurative and
over-literal interpretation by a view that we believe is based on "rightly
dividing" between the different types of prophecy. Holding to the
"sure word of prophecy," we deny the "decree" definition
and the literalist concept of prediction in general. We find in Scripture that
some prophetic messagessuch as the kingdom propheciesgiven
originally in a local, more immediate setting might be only partially or not at
all fulfilled in their primary context, and yet be fulfilled in a remote time
under different circumstances and in a different manner. In particular, the
kingdom prophecies regarding Israel belong in a category separate from other
predictions of decree or foreknowledge because they were conditional on man's
actions. These were "either/or" alternatives of promised blessing and
threatened penalty to Israel. As the Jews forfeited the blessing, they received
the alternate penalty, and are today scattered among the nations.
Adventists do not, as the amillennialists have been accused of doing, make the rewards to Israel figurative and the punishments
literal. Like the futurists we hold that the promises made to Israel were as
literal as were the warnings. The promises would all have been literally
fulfilled if the Jews had not, through disobedience, forfeited them. They will,
however, be ultimately fulfilled in principle to true Israel, for ancient
Israel's failure as a nation could not frustrate the purposes of God. In place
of the Jewish "branches," that were cut off, the Gentile converts
were "grafted in," along with the natural branches that had accepted
the Messiah (Rom. 11:24). Thus the spiritual children of Abraham, both Jew and
Gentile, become "heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). We do
not feel justified in making unlimited figurative applications; we must limit
such applications to those given us by inspiration. Where we find the Old
Testament prophecies unfolded in the New, we surely have a right to make the
application, and there we find the ultimate fulfillment of the kingdom
Seventh-day Adventists admittedly write and preach less on the kingdom
prophecies than on the outline prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, and for
very good reason. The latter present many specific and detailed predictions
that we believe can lie seen fulfilled in history, or are in process of
fulfillment in our own day. The past fulfillments strengthen faith in the
divine inspiration of the Word. And the fulfillments unfolding before our eyes
are needed to fortify us against the deceptions and trials of the last days.
The teaching that the Jews as a nation are no longer God's chosen people, and
that the Christian church is now heir to the promises is, we feel, sound scriptural doctrine, good historic
Protestant theology and interpretation, as well as standard Adventist teaching.
To us it seems less helpful to the average man to present the kingdom prophecies
than to present Christ and Him crucified, and to warn the sinner against the
fatal delusions of these last days.
The preaching of prophecy is for the one purpose of uplifting Christ who is the
center of all prophecy, and under the influence of the Spirit of God to prepare
men for His glorious coming as King of kings and Sovereign Lord.