Wednesday, 6 November 2013

English Syntax Ought to Be Enough to Make a Prophecy's Meaning Clear

Someone said a prophecy can be fulfilled spiritually, in essence, in application - without having had its actually fulfilment yet. But is that really necessary?
An example given is the Day of Pentecost. Peter said the outpouring of the Spirit they were experiencing fulfilled the prophecy of Joel. Yet Joel's prophecy said this outpouring would happen in the day God delivered the Jews from their enemies; and it was to be followed by something cataclysmic like the end of the world. So it's claimed that the prophecy was fulfilled outside of the timeframe which the prophecy seemed to indicate.
But let's examine that.
How about instead of saying Acts 2 was not the fulfilment of the prophecy, could we put it this way: it was a prophecy which by its very nature wasn't something which all had to happen in a day.
When Joel prophesied that God's Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, there was no statement included in the prophecy which indicated how long God would continue doing that for.
God poured out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost and He's still doing it and no-one knows when He'll stop. But when the time comes which only the Father knows, then the rest of the prophecy could unfold too.
If so then it would have been correct to say "this is that" without it being necessary that the whole passage be fulfilled on the same day. After all, how long does it take to pour out His Spirit on all flesh? The prophecy didn't say. Therefore that part of the prophecy might still be happening.
That scenario seems to me to be consistent with the way the prophecy was worded, without needing to resort to differentiating between some spiritual application of the prophecy versus its literal fulfillment.
It's different to a prophecy such as the prophecy about the destruction of the Temple. By it's very nature that was to be a momentary event, not something that can keep happening for centuries. How many times can you utterly demolish the same building? But pouring out Your Spirit on all flesh - that's something that doesn't have to finish in a day, grammatically speaking.
The prophecy about the Temple's destruction even seems to give some indication about how soon the event was to happen. And Daniel's version of the prophecy even seemed to give the number of days by which the said event was to be accomplished (assuming Daniel was speaking about the same event).
But the text of the prophecy about the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh didn't include any such time-parameters, and by its very nature is something that can happen over an undefined period of time.
If that's feasible then this might not really be a case of whether or not the prophecy was or wasn't fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, nor about whether it has a spiritual application as well as a literal fulfillment.
It would just mean that God is still doing something that He said He would do without ever having said when it would all stop.
I like to think it's possible to let the text, grammar, syntax and logic of a given prophecy be the thing that sets the time-frame of its fulfilment without needing to resort to hermeneutics like double fulfilment or the like, because otherwise I don't know how we could ever know for sure whether any prophecy has had its final and ultimate fulfilment or not. It would mean we can hardly know anything with much certainty - past, present or future.
I would like to think this is possible especially where a prophecy is given in straight prose. It might be different where a prophecy describes a symbol or where it occurs in a poetic book such as the Psalms. But where a prophecy is said in straight prose (such as in one of Jesus's conversations with His disciples, or in one of Paul's Epistles) then I would like to think we can.
I can't think of a Scriptural example of a double fulfilment. I seem to think it is clear by the text and by the nature of the prophesied event itself whether the prophecy was to happen in a moment or otherwise.

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