What did Jesus mean when He said that this generation would not pass away until all things were fulfilled? This is the big question that determines whether you believe in a future fulfillment or a past fulfillment. Furthermore, is this a simple way to say to those who audibly heard His words that in their lifetime they would see the end of the age, and that the age of Messiah would come in their time, or was it a mystery language that was meant for a generation of the future who would see all those things; thus, it did not have any importance to the first century.
INTEPRETING SCRIPTURE IN ITS TIME FRAME AND APPLYING SCRIPTURE TO OUR LIVES: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
1. First century relevance and time restrictions should always be considered.
2. Application to our times should only be applied when they don’t contradict rule 1.
3. The End should always and everywhere be interpreted as the end of the Old Covenant economy with its priesthood line, animal sacrifices, and tabernacle and temple.
4. The destruction of heaven and earth passages should never be interpreted as the destruction of the planetary universe neither the heaven or the earth. This is language used in the Bible of destruction of world economies be they governmental or of religious entity.
5. The Kingdom of Heaven, of God, and of Christ is a kingdom that was brought to the fulness of its power in the first century and is present in our time and has no end. It is not to our future in any aspect. It was to the generation of the first century and is spoken to be so by the inspired writers of the New Testament.
6. The Kingdom of God, of Heaven, and of Christ should never be thought of as being seen as physical but should always be understood as spiritual in its every aspect. Jesus said His Kingdom was not of this world, and that it did not come with physical power and observation.
7. The resurrection spoken of in the New Testament is limited to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and those who were raised when He returned in 70 AD, at which time there was a resurrection of both the good and the evil: the good (OT Saints and martyred first century believers and the evil Christ haters of that time who had died under the Old Covenant) . Christ is spoken of as the First Fruit of this resurrection and as such should be understood as the One who could not be held by the death of Adam and as such is the promise of all who are in Him for all time who also are no longer held by the death of Adam. At that time, Sheol was emptied and after the judgment both were sent to their appointed destinies. Now no one sleeps in the ground awaiting a future resurrection but at death, either goes straight to heaven or straight to hell.
8. The resurrection of the believer is never to be thought of as being a physical resurrection of the mortal body. All of Old Testament passages from the writings of the prophets speak of the resurrection of the Old Covenant regathering of the people of the northern and southern divisions of physical Israel and the Gentiles (pagans) in spiritual unity in the New Covenant Community called the Church which took place in the first century and lasts for eternity.
9. The entire New Testament was written in the context of that first century generation that Jesus said would not pass away until all things were fulfilled, meaning the law and the prophets. As stated above there are time statements such as: soon, quickly, about to, at hand, at the door, etc. which should never be interpreted as outside of the first century persecuted church.
10. The purpose of Jesus’ resurrection and first century return was to bring in the full manifestation of His eternal kingdom and to bring relief to the first century body of believers from their persecution by the first century Scribes and Pharisees of the Old Covenant order. This is known as the Vindication of the Martrys and is essential to understanding much of the New Testament.
11. The Temple would be destroyed in 70 AD, in graphic demonstration that the New Covenant body of believers (the electos of God, Jew and Gentile believers in One body) were the true sons of God and not the Old Covenant household who believed themselves to be the sons of Abraham.
12. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD, was the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy, particularly the books of Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and in the New Testament, the statements of Jesus of the Great Tribulation coming on that generation of first century Jewish non-believers.
13. The tribulation, antichrist, and judgment decribed in the Gospels, epistles, and
Revelation have no future fulfilment outside of the first century events in the 66-70 AD
14. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the end of sacrifice and offerings, and the end of the Old Covenant priesthood was the divorcement of God from Old Covenant Israel.
15. The second coming (parousia) of Christ in the first century was for the purpose of the Wedding of His New Covenant bride, the New Jerusalem, the Church, the elect Jew and Gentile believers throughout all generations into One body.
16. The Law of Moses should never be an issue with any Gentile then and now (including you and I), as it was never for us, and it is all fulfilled now since 70 AD.
“The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi” states overall that the Lord’s judgments are coming upon Israel. They have polluted the Lord’s table saying His meat is contemptible, profaned His name, and wearied Him with their perverse words denying that they have wearied Him and saying in defiance, “Where is the God of judgment? They did not recognize their own evil. Yet, the Lord declared if they would repent and return unto Him they would receive His blessings. Otherwise, the Lord who changes not, promises to corrupt their seed and send a curse upon them giving to the Gentiles their blessings. Not only did Jehovah God require their repentance but also that they receive the coming Messiah, yet they declared it “vain to serve God” and that there was no profit in keeping His ordinances. To their unbelieving, hardened hearts, a “great and dreadful day of the Lord” would come to finalize their judgment. To those who feared the Lord, “the Sun of righteousness” brought healing and after 400 years of silence, to God’s elect, Messiah came!
The Relevance of Fulfilled Prophecy on the First Century
the Twenty First Century People of God
It is my belief, as well as others, that Biblical Prophecy, that is, Biblical Eschatology, was fulfilled in the first century. Second Peter 3 is a prime example of how true understanding of the scriptures can be distorted if we interpret them literally. Also, if we do not know the Old Testament passages that are behind the scriptures we are searching, then we will not understand what the passages really mean. Many times this is the case, and we misinterpret the scriptural passage being searched. This was not so of the first century believers as they knew exactly what Peter was talking about in II Peter 3. They knew well the Old Testament scriptures.
Today after many years of Hal Lindsey and more futurism preachers, most church members think the world will be destroyed by a nuclear war. No one questions the fact that the world will be destroyed, and a new world supposedly comes after the destruction. Is this what Peter meant by his words in II Peter 3? Many of you will probably want to stop reading at this point because like everyone else, you believe that the futuristic interpretation of the passage is the right understanding. In addition, others believe that only the preachers of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries had the truth, and that there are no truths coming out of books of our time. The truth of the matter is that in our times those trying to explain the scriptures of eschatology have taken a deeper look into those scriptures that speak of the end times. Thus, many started asking what end times are meant, especially what Jesus had to say about the generation in which He lived and walked among. Was this end time the real Terminal Generation of Hal Lindsey? The futurist say this generation means the future generation that sees all the predicted events that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24, and that other scriptures are the generation that will see the rapture of the church, the great tribulation, the war of Armageddon, the one thousand-year kingdom, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment, and the second coming of Christ in power and great glory. We may justly ask then, what relevance did this have on the first century believers who were suffering persecution at the hands of the adherents and practitioners of the Old Covenant Law? In the forth-coming articles, we will expound the true meaning of the words recorded for us in II Peter 3 and other passages concerning this matter of the end times.
A Closer Look at 2 Peter 3
II Peter begins with these words about stirring up the “beloved” saint’s minds to remember the words of the holy prophets and the commandment of the apostles. He writes, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior:”(verses 1-2) Then he begins to talk about the scoffers of the second coming of the Lord which he clearly illustrates by Old Testament scriptures speaking of scoffers of the judgment that was coming in their lifetime. Peter says, “that there shall come in the last days scoffers” (verse 3) of the coming judgment that Jesus clearly says would come upon that generation of vipers. Once again the last days of the Old Covenant, not our last days of which is never spoken of, is said, indeed, to never end; that is, the Kingdom that Christ began in His lifetime which has no end, for it is an everlasting kingdom.
If the second coming of Christ is in our future, then why are there scoffers in the first century? These scoffers were voicing the Old Covenant people’s idea that God would never cast away Israel and would never destroy Jerusalem and the Temple that stood in the city during the time of Jesus. While here upon the earth, He promised to return with a destroying army to judge that generation of murderers. They were scoffing at the words both of the holy prophets and the Lord Jesus and His apostles. You say, yes, but they were right because the second coming has not occurred yet even in our lifetime. Do you realize what you just said? You said those that the Bible says were scoffers were right, and that the holy prophets and apostles were wrong, and worst of all, Jesus lied!
Truly, there was a gap between the time that Jesus ascended up to the throne of the Father on High to perform the duties of High Priest and to receive the Kingdom of David, and then return again to His suffering people here on the earth with a destroying army to rid His people of their persecutors: the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Hypocrites, that He denounced while living amongst them in the first century. (Matthew 23) All of the scriptures speaking of the last days, the end of time soon coming, the last hour, and any other phrase indicating a delay of any type, needs to be interpreted as the last days of the Old Covenant Economy involving the priesthood, (all records of the lineage of the priesthood were destroyed in the temple in 70 AD), animal sacrifice, and last, but certainly not least, the Temple. It is a little known fact today and may sometimes be considered heresy to say that the crucifixion did not destroy all these things. After all we know that from the cross, Jesus said “It is finished”, but who would argue that those things listed were not threats to the New Covenant people of God in the first century. If you think they were destroyed and did not exist anymore, just look at the life of Paul as Saul of Tarsus, and you will see what the first century New Covenant believers went through. They were constant debates between Old Covenant adherents and New Covenant believers over who were the true Sons of God ( ref. 1 John3:2). Often times these debates would erupt into all out persecution of the New Covenant believers, who were taught by their Lord not to war after the flesh.
I hope this has given you enough to think about for now. I can only say, search the scriptures whether they are so or not. Certainly, if you begin to see them as truth you will be swimming against the tide of present day understanding.
OLD TESTAMENT IMAGERY
II Peter 3
If we interpret the universal flood of Noah’s day as destroying the whole planet (which, of course, no one does), then, why do we consider the destruction in II Peter 3 as effecting the entire planet and also the heavens. I believe that believers and the ungodly men of that generation clearly understood by the terms employed in 2 Peter 3 that Peter was speaking of the destruction of the Old Covenant relationship between God and the Jews of that generation. The scoffers of that generation scoffed at the words of Jesus and his apostles that a soon coming judgment on the society of the first century, that is, the then present generation, was about to come to pass as prophesied by the Old Testament prophets and our Lord and His apostles. All of which said the same truth, that judgment was soon to come on that present generation. Can you imagine that the burning wrath of God was soon to be released upon that world of unbelieving Old Covenant apostates, who rejected the claims and the evidences presented by our Lord Jesus, that He was who He said He was, and whom they took and by wicked hands slew the Lord of Glory? No wonder the Old Covenant Torah was spoken of as the elements that were to melt in the fervent heat of judgment in 70 AD, and the heavens and the earth or the Hebrew word, erets, meaning land, were to pass away. All of this was future in Peter’s day, but it would soon come to pass as the last days of that generation of which Jesus spoke would not cease to exist until all be fulfilled.
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Matthew 24: 34
Below are words and phrases from II Peter 3 to reflect upon.
The world that then was . . . .
The heavens and earth which are now . . . .
Fire . . . .
The day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men . . .
A thousand years as one day . . . .
Thief in the night
Heavens pass away with a great noise
Elements shall melt with fervent heat
The earth and its works shall be burned up
All these things shall be dissolved
The Coming Day of God
The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved
Elements shall melt with fervent heat
What manner of persons ought you to be
How are we to view this passage of II Peter 3?
Here are three scenarios:
1) One could take these passages literally and other parts as imagery.
2) One could take all of it literally.
3) One could take all of it as Old Testament imagery, which is the correct view in
understanding the passage of II Peter 3.
As you read these passages in II Peter 3, consider: Was the Old Testament planet, earth, of Noah’s day destroyed, or was it the societies of man that were destroyed?