Prophetic Perspective is a tricky hermeneutical tool. And we have to realize that it is really just that, an interpretive tool. It is not an authority on itself and it typically requires the interpreter to say, “I’m using prophetic perspective to conclude this or that about a prophecy”. Perspective stands as what an observer sees. No one who is honest can claim that they have absolute infallible knowledge as to the implementation of prophetic perspective.
We all have to acknowledge that when it comes to interpreting prophecy, prophetic perspective is largely an arbitrary tool. And that much of it has to do with an inability to synchronize Bible prophecy with events of history. More specifically, we may not know history well enough to be able to conclude one way or the other that a prophecy has already been fulfilled or only has had certain elements fulfilled.
Simply put, prophetic perspective is the hermeneutic tool of saying that there are two events contained in the same prophesy. They are presented as a singular event from the prophet’s or the context’s perspective. But the intention, supposedly, of the prophecy is to teach two separate events. The first event can fulfill certain portions of the prophecy, while the second event can fulfill either some or all of the prophecy in it’s entirety.
G.B. Caird confirms,
The prophets looked to the future with bifocal vision. With their near sight they foresaw imminent historical events which would be brought about by familiar human causes.… With their long sight they saw the Day of the Lord. (258)
— Timothy J. Geddert, Mark, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), 321.
Noteable Amillennialist Kim Riddlebarger comments,
A simple analogy may be useful. As I stand in the greater Los Angeles basin and look toward the mountains to the northeast, I see a single mountainous ridge on the horizon. Yet, if I were to drive directly toward the mountains, I would soon realize that what appeared to be a single ridge was actually a series of hills, valleys, and mountains separated by many miles. So it is with some Old Testament prophecies.
— Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, Expanded Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 71.
Riddlebarger cites another prominent Amillennialist, Anthony Hoekema to confirm the concept,
This outpouring of the Spirit, therefore, was another of the eschatological events on the horizon of the future for which the Old Testament believer of that time looked with eager anticipation. It is striking, however, that the next verse of Joel’s prophecy mentions … the heavens and earth.… Certain New Testament passages (for example Luke 21:25; Matt. 24:29) relate the signs mentioned above to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Yet Joel seems to predict them as if they were to happen just before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Unless one interprets these signs in a nonliteral way (in which case the turning of the sun to darkness could be understood as fulfilled in the three hours of darkness while Jesus was on the cross), it would appear that Joel in his prophecy sees as coming together in a single vision what was separated by thousands of years. This phenomenon, which we may call prophetic perspective, occurs quite frequently in the Old Testament prophets.3
3 Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 9.
— Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, Expanded Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 72.
Premillennialists would certainly agree. Matt Waymeyer presents this concept in his critique of Amillennialism’s two-age model,
There is a clear biblical precedent for this very dynamic within the progress of divine revelation. As most biblical interpreters recognize, 39 sometimes a given prophecy will predict two or more future events and present them in such a way that it appears they will occur simultaneously, and yet later revelation clarifies that a significant gap of time separates them. 40 Commonly referred to as “telescoping,” “prophetic perspective,” or “prophetic foreshortening,” this phenomenon is often compared to seeing two mountain peaks off in the distance — initially they appear to be right next to each other, but a closer look reveals that they are separated by a valley. Most amillennialists recognize this use of prophetic perspective.
Waymeyer, Matt (2016–10–12). Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model (Kindle Locations 351–358). Kress Biblical Resources. Kindle Edition.
What’s a Partial Preterist to do when futurists who live on opposites sides of the aisle from one another agree a hermeneutical tool? Waymeyer even cited noted Textual Critic and Greek scholar, Gordan Fee, to substantiate his assertions about prophetic perspective.
The reason I ask is because this hermeneutical tool is used to refute both Partial and full Preterism. Especially on the Olivet Discourse. The usual rhetoretic that I hear is that, “Clearly” the events of Matthew 24, specifically prior to verse 34, cannot have had final fulfillment. They can certainly have had immediate, partial fulfillment, but they couldn’t have had total fulfillment to where those events do not describe details that we would have an expectation of future fulfillment.
Prophetic Perspective has it’s place. Jesus crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me” in Matthew 27:46 proves that a psalm that was originally about David actually was a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ being crucified. Specific details are fulfilled in Christ on the cross in Psalm 22. Most notably are Psalm 22:16, 18, 22.
Several places have this specific interpretation where there was an “immediate” or “near” fulfillment of the prophecy but that there was also a “not yet” or “far” fulfillment.
But here’s the question, what are the hermeneutic tools to employ when one looks at prophecy? Hoekema, as cited above, doesn’t see how Joel’s prophecy could be totally fulfilled at Pentecost. Hoekema even stated that Joel saw prophetic events as being separated by thousands of years. As certain events contained within Joel’s prophecy contained elements also found in eschatological passages. Astronomical perturbations for example.
Waymeyer notes another specific example of the two-aspect prophetic model in Isaiah 61:1–2. Notice,
As a more specific example, the events prophesied in Isaiah 61: 1– 2 appear to take place at the same time, and yet later revelation in Luke 4: 16– 21 clarifies a gap of time between the first-century fulfillment of Isaiah 61: 1– 2a and the eschatological fulfillment of Isaiah 61: 2b. Luke 4 does not reinterpret, diminish, or distort the original meaning of Isaiah 61: 1– 2, but it does bring clarity to the timing of the events that were prophesied.
— Waymeyer, Matt (2016–10–12). Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model (Kindle Locations 368–371). Kress Biblical Resources. Kindle Edition.
Reading Isaiah 61:1 indicates that the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus to proclaim the Gospel, sending Him to bind up the broken hearted. Waymeyer notes the 1st century timeframe as purely fulfilling this prophecy. Including Verse 2a, that Jesus was proclaiming the year of the Lord’s grace. There’s no disputes that that had to be initiated in the 1st century, with the first coming of Christ.
But then we have peculiar interaction. Verse 2b can’t be the same timeframe. And what are the reasons given by Waymeyer? He cites Luke 4:16–21, where Christ says in verse 21, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” We see that Isaiah 61:2b wasn’t cited. And we know Waymeyer’s eschatological presuppositions demand that the day of vengenace is still in the future. And I’m not necessarily arguing against the prophetic perspective. However, what exegetical warrant is there for separating the two aspects of the prophecy by now over 2,000 years? There’s a singular, death nail, for the separating of the prophetic events by several thousand years, and that’s the Greek that was used to record Jesus.
ἤρξατο δὲ λέγειν πρὸς αὐτοὺς °ὅτι σήμερον πεπλήρωται ἡ γραφὴ αὕτη ἐν τοῖς ὠσὶν ὑμῶν
Literally, “And he began saying to them that today has been fulfilled the Scripture, this one, in the hearing of you.”
πεπλήρωται is a perfect passive, indicated past tense fulfillment with present abiding results. The Scripture has been fulfilled and there are present results, not future results. So whatever be the “not yet” fulfillment, Jesus didn’t separate the events by thousands of years. Waymeyer married his futurism with his use of prophetic perspective and set his interpretation of Scripture as the authority. If one only allowed the text and the grammar to speak one is forced by the perfect tense to conclude the absolutely near and inseparable fulfillment of the “day of vengeance”. Furthermore, Christ cited Psalm 22 on the cross without citing the rest of the passage. And yet, the rest of the passage was still relevant to the fulfillment on the cross.
Why are we supposed to believe that Isaiah 61 must separated by thousands of years? We are not told by Waymeyer, we are just told that prophetic perspective separates the events by thousands of years. Which really is actually nothing more than a convenient way of not having to explain how or why the day of vengeance was fulfilled within the timeframe of Jesus’ first coming.
Surely Waymeyer and others must see how, “comforting those who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2b) has first century fulfillment, right? Surely verse 3 must’ve had first coming of Christ implications, right? Not to mention how verses 5, 6 definitely have first century fulfillment, and we all experience the presently already accomplished reality of being priests of God.
I’m fine with allowing prophetic perspective to speak, and allowing a near and far fulfillment, but the fairness of the fulfillment isn’t separated from the nearness of the fulfillment by thousands of years. And futurist premillenniliasts wouldn’t do that with 2 Thessalonians 2, indicating that the killing of the Antichrist is inextricably linked to the appearance of the Antichrist and the Great Apostasy, even though there’s nothing grammatically to prove that. And in Isaiah 61 we have the rest of the context that demands first century, first coming of Christ fulfillment. Even Luke 4, referenced by Waymeyer, demands inextricable chronology.
But Hoekema and Riddlebarger are not innocent of committing the same exegetical fallacy in comparing Peter’s sermon on pentecost with Joel’s prophecy in Joel 2. Hoekema and Riddlebarger assume that the astronomical perturbations couldn’t have followed the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Peter, authoritatively proves that Joel 2:28–32 was fulfilled in the midst of his timeframe by indicating that the tongues that the people were seeing is apart of what Joel prophesied about.
Notice the events,
a. Acts 2:17, 18 — in those days, the Spirit will be poured out and Charismatic occurences ensue.
b. Verse 19, “And” Signs and wonders will be shown in Heaven and on Earth. Blood, fire, vapor of smoke, darkened sun, blood moon.
c. Verse 20 these are supposed to happen before the day of the Lord. That day is going to be great and glorious.
The problem for the interpreter isn’t what’s said in the context about the miraculous signs but what’s said by the Apostolic Interpreter whose interpretation is infallible.
Peter says, that the speaking in tongues belongs to that prophecy. As Joel clearly indicated. But why would Peter include the section about powerful disturbances of nature? If all Peter was wanting to show was that the speaking in tongues proves the beginning portion of the prophecy, why not stop short of including the powerful displays from heaven as well? Because those displays are inseparable from the charismatic displays.
While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
— Hebrews 2:4 (ESV)
Acts 2:19 indicates from Joel’s prophecy that God is saying that He will show the signs and the wonders from Heaven and signs on the earth.
God said in Joel’s prophecy that He would show the τέρας (wonders) and the σημεῖον (signs). And Hebrews 2:4 tells us that God did just that. Even Acts 2:22 tells us that God confirmed Christ by those signs and wonders.
In fact the indication of the continuation of signs and wonders in the first century is staggering,
Acts 2:43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
Acts 4:30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Acts 5:12 ¶ Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.
Acts 6:8 ¶ And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 14:3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Acts 15:12 ¶ And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
Rom. 15:19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God — so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;
2Cor. 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
Who are we, dear readers, to judge these things as having not happened in the context in which they were indicated as happening?
The real issue with prophetic perspective is the fact that in order to conclude prophetic perspective there must be undeniable proof that the entirety of the prophecy has not been fulfilled. The task of the futurist is to prove from history that the events of the Olivet Discourse have not been totally fulfilled. They can’t just sit back and claim prophetic perspective.
The other issue as well is the fact of Apostolic, infallible prophetic interpretation. We can’t conclude an interpretation has a future fulfillment if we do not have authoritative, Apostolic reason to believe so. We can’t state that prophesy has not been totally or finally fulfilled if we are looking at a context that has a timeframe fulfillment in it, without an Apostolic authority, infallibly interpreting a prophecy as having further fulfillment.
Another way of putting it is neither a Partial Preterist or a Futurist assertion for either side. But our understanding of fulfilled prophecy requires special revelation from God in order for us to conclude dogmatically one way or the other. The point of this article is that no one in eschatological should be using hermeneutic principles to pick and choose interpretations from texts that substantiate their position only.
And finally, we have to recognize that prophecy can only be concluded as “not yet” totally fulfilled if there are elements within the prophecy that have not been fulfilled. But that really begs the question, shouldn’t we then conclude that a prophecy just simply hasn’t been fulfilled? Just like with Antiochus Epiphenes, he may have “desolated” the Temple, but Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24 indicates that the abomination of desolation is also supposed to destroy the Temple. So technically Antiochus didn’t fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy. Furthermore, Israel desecrated the Temple constantly and yet they weren’t a fulfillment of the desolation. They also desecrated the Temple in Jesus day, turning it into a den of thieves. That’s not a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. After Titus destroys the temple and after having set up Nero’s standard in the Temple it’s impossible for their to be continued Antichrists who continue to desecrate the Temple, when the Temple isn’t standing. Popes, or Hitler, or any other leader may demonstrate “antichrist” qualities or characteristics but cannot fulfill the prophecy of the Antichrist setting himself up in the Temple and destroying it.
I understand Futurists believe that the Temple will be rebuilt in the future, but there’s definitely a lot of confusion on that point. If the Temple is rebuilt, then it must purely be for the purpose of the Antichrist setting himself up and destroying it. This means it won’t be standing during the Millennial reign. And if it’s set up during the Millennial reign, it can’t have the Antichrist desolate it, he would already be destroyed before the Millennium started. So if there is a Temple in the Millennium there would also have to be a Temple prior that the Antichrist destroys and then a new one is built and then even that one is destroyed, because in the New Heavens and New Earth there is no Temple. Seems like futurists need to work this one out, and prophetic perspective can’t really help them here.