Q. We are currently in Ezekiel in Sunday School, and I am stuck (I teach the adult class). I have a problem knowing which judgments and prophecies in the book have been fulfilled and which ones are yet to happen. RBP’s quarterly curriculum is helpful, but I need some direction. I just want to be thoroughly furnished in my studying, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
A.Whether it is Ezekiel or the other prophecy books of the Old Testament (and prophecies elsewhere in the Scriptures), it is true that various prophecies have been fulfilled and that others have not. Many people, such as those who embrace covenant theology, don’t seem to have a problem believing the fulfilled prophecies, but do somehow have a problem believing those that have not been fulfilled. Dispensationalists, who believe in “rightly dividing the Word,” taking a literal interpretation of Scripture, readily accept future eschatological events. If we believe the fulfilled prophecies of Scripture, we need not have a problem believing those that are yet to come, because the Bible says that all that is recorded will come to pass.
We also recognize that certain prophecies call for a “near view” and a “far view.” In other words, certain specific prophecies have been fulfilled partially already (e.g., those that came to pass later in Old Testament times), but they will have at least one further fulfillment at a time still to come, such as the tribulation period or the Millennium. I will give just one example: Ezekiel 11:17 and a number of other passages speak of Israel’s being gathered from among Gentile nations and returned to their own land. This prophecy was partially fulfilled in 538 BC under Zerubbabel (see Ezra 1:1 and 2), but it also had further partial fulfillment with the establishment of Israel in 1948, and it will ultimately be fulfilled in the millennial Kingdom when God’s Chosen People finally possess all that has been unconditionally promised to them under Christ’s millennial reign (Matthew 24:30, 31; Revelation 20:1-6).
Discovering which prophecies have been already fulfilled and which ones haven’t can certainly require some study. For one thing, we need to examine recorded history, either in the Bible if a particular nation or event is recorded there, and/or in world history. Fortunately, many reliable resources by doctrinally sound theologians can help in this study of prophecy, just as in any other Bible study. I would recommend to you writings by Charles Feinberg, Lehman Strauss, Leon Wood, J. Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, and others who have written commentaries on specific books of the Bible. I highly recommend all the books you can obtain that were written by Leon Wood. Also, I particularly recommend Walvoord and Zuck’s commentaries on the Old and New Testaments, Warren Wiersbe’s Bible Exposition Commentary, and J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come. These books are well worth purchasing. You can often get them quite reasonably priced through Amazon, eBay, and the like.
Of course, I don’t have space in this column to elaborate on all of Ezekiel’s prophecies, but let me give you a simple division: Chapters 1–24 deal with prophecies that God gave through Ezekiel against wayward Judah (the Southern Kingdom of the Divided Kingdom) before the fall of its capital, Jerusalem, in AD 586; chapters 25–32 deal with prophecies against other evil nations in that general area (Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, Egypt—history tells us the Babylonians overcame these nations); chapters 33–39 contain prophecies of Israel’s future restoration in events before the Millennium comes; and chapters 40–48 speak of worship during the Millennium. Thus we can see one basic division here between fulfilled prophecy (chapters 1–32) and prophecy yet to occur (chapters 33–48). Outlines offered by sound writers such as those I mentioned can be very helpful in mastering Ezekiel or any other Bible book. Let me say, though, that even in the first section of Ezekiel, there is some mention of a restored nation, so therein lies the challenge you are writing about. It does require some study. And the second section of Ezekiel has some overlapping as well.
I commend you for your desire to know and teach sound doctrine. This is most encouraging.
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