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Insight #131 — Historical View of Prophecy

December 17, 2004.

The most popular view of Bible prophecy today, sometimes called futurism, says that most of Revelation and the other prophecies of Scripture have not yet been fulfilled. Rather, futurism says, all those prophecies will be fulfilled in the future — soon. An opposing view of Bible prophecy, sometimes called historicism, says that the fulfillment of Bible prophecy has been taking place throughout the history of the world. It says that there is a vast amount of Bible prophecy that has already been or is being fulfilled during the present Church Age, from the time Jesus ascended into heaven until He returns.

For many people, including believers, history is dry. For many, speculation regarding the near future is much more exciting. “History” reminds people of school. The daily newspaper and TV news is much more interesting to them. Even more interesting to many people are the imaginations of today’s would-be prophets who invent future events at will. People who fall into their trap will never understand Bible prophecy correctly.

Since many believers are quite ignorant of history, they leave themselves wide open to believe the frequent claim, “Bible prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes.” Maybe so; maybe not. Who has not heard people claim that present day earthquakes, famines, and wars are prophecy being fulfilled in our times? We must keep all such prophecies in their context. Earthquakes, famines, and wars have taken place throughout history.

Once history reveals the fulfillment of a particular prophecy, it is vain to speculate about that prophecy on the basis of today’s headlines. It is vain to consider tomorrow’s prognostications if the prophecy has already been fulfilled. If it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled.

All Bible prophecy is at least 1,900 years old. We cannot — we dare not — simply set aside 1,900 years of history and start looking for fulfillments in our own days. To do so might be easier and more interesting, but the results cannot be good. The place to start looking for the fulfillment of any given prophecy is in the historical records that immediately follow the giving of the prophecy.

For example: almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple. Some people start looking for this fulfillment in our times. Then, since they see no temple in Jerusalem, they conclude that the Jews will have to rebuild the temple in order to fulfill that prophecy. This is upside down and backward.

Jesus, over 1,900 years ago, was talking about the temple then in existence. He said, “See you not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another” (Matt. 24:2). Jesus spoke of what they were seeing with their own eyes. So, for the fulfillment, we must start with the temple they were looking at, and work forward in history. In this case, we only have to travel 40 years, to A.D. 70. There history clearly records the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that had been before the apostles’ eyes. It is a matter of history that not one stone of that temple was left upon another.

To find the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, before we look at the news on TV or read a popular prophecy-novel, we need to take a look at history.