Old Testament Restoration Prophecies Regarding The Nation Of Israel: Literal Or Symbolic? -- By: Benjamin L. Merkle

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:1 (Spring 2010)
Article: Old Testament Restoration Prophecies Regarding The Nation Of Israel: Literal Or Symbolic?
Author: Benjamin L. Merkle


Old Testament Restoration Prophecies Regarding The Nation Of Israel: Literal Or Symbolic?

Benjamin L. Merkle

Should Old Testament prophecies regarding God’s promise to restore the nation of Israel be taken literally? Must our eschatology allow for an age in the future in which these prophecies are fulfilled? One of the major reasons why some insist on a future millennium where Jesus will reign as king over the nation of Israel is due to the belief that many Old Testament prophecies are not yet fulfilled.1 In other words, a future reign of Jesus over the people of Israel (in fulfillment of OT prophecies) is one of the main reasons a millennial kingdom is needed.2 For without such a kingdom, it is believed that God would have failed to deliver the promises given in His word. To spiritualize these promises, it is sometimes argued, does not do justice to the specific nature of these promises. For example, Wayne Grudem explains that a characteristic of pretribulational (or dispensational) premillennialism “is its insistence on interpreting biblical prophecies ‘literally where possible.’ This especially applies to prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Israel.”3

One such prophecy is found in Amos 9:11-15:

“In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the LORD who does this. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and

they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.4

Does this prophecy refer to a time in the future when God will restore the nation of Israel and grant them unprecedented peace and prosperity? A time when their cities are restored, their enemies are defeated, and their lands yield abundant crops? Or, should this prophecy be interpreted symbolically referring to a time when God will bless his covenant people in ways ...

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