The short article concerns the doctrine of fulfilled eschatology, also known as “covenant eschatology”. Simply put, the term “covenant eschatology” means that eschatology (the eschaton/the end) is about the end of the old covenant and the old covenant age. What this means is that eschatology is not about our future, or the “end of time”, nor is it about the end of the “Christian age” (which in reality, is the kingdom age which has no end – Isaiah 9:6-7, Daniel 7:13-14, 22f, Ephesians 3:21). The biblical “end” is the end of Israel’s old covenant age.
The “end” biblically speaking, was the transitional period (30-70AD) in which the remnant of Israel was receiving her inheritance in Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of the promises made to their fathers. During this transitional period, the old covenant age of types and shadows was fading away – it was “ending” – and being replaced by the new covenant kingdom-age (Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8:13, 10:9, Hebrew 12:22-29)
This definition of the “end” is what the scriptures plainly teach. When the apostles wrote of the “end” which they all expected to occur within their lifetime (1 Corinthians 10:11, 1 Peter 4:7, 1 John 2:15-18, Mathew 24:3,14,30,34), they did not refer to the “end of the physical cosmos” or the “end of time”. Rather, they connected the “end” with the end of the old covenant age and the end of their covenantal “world” under Torah. Notice what the apostle Paul said his eschatological (end time) hope was….
Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead”. (Acts 23:6 NLT)
Paul’s eschatological hope was the resurrection of the dead. And for the most part, Christians would agree. However, Paul’s hope of the resurrection was connected to the fulfillment of the old covenant promises made to Israel.
But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Acts 24:14-15 NLT)
Paul’s hope was the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, but, his hope was based on the promises given through the law and prophets. Therefore, Paul’s eschatological hope of the resurrection would be the fulfilment of the old testament law and prophets. Paul makes this clear in the next text.
Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope. Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise (present tense-is raising) the dead? (Acts 26:6-8 NLT)
Notice, Paul’s eschatological hope of the resurrection was the same hope that all 12 tribes of Israel were hoping for, which would be the fulfilment of the promise made to their ancestors and the fulfilment of the law and prophets.
For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” (Israel according to the flesh-Romans 9:3-4) (Acts 28:20 NASB)
Allow me to summarize:
Paul’s eschatological hope was the resurrection of the dead, both the righteous and the unrighteous.
The resurrection would be the fulfilment of the old covenant law and the prophets and the promises made to their ancestors.
The fulfillment of the law and prophets was the hope of Israel for which Paul and all 12 tribes of Israel eagerly hoped.
So here is the point:
Paul’s eschatological hope of the resurrection was Israel’s hope of the fulfilment of the law and the prophets (the old covenant). In other words, for Paul, the “end” (his eschatology) was the fulfillment of the old covenant and its writings.
However, scripture is clear that the writings of the law and all old testament prophets would be fulfilled at the end of the old covenant age in the events surrounding Jerusalem’s destruction in AD70. Let’s look at it.
And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mathew 24:2-4)
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. “Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled… Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. (Luke 21:20-22,32 NASB)
This is clearly covenant eschatology. Apostolic doctrine teaches that the “end” would come as the fulfilment of the promises made to the fathers of Israel, which were subsumed under the old covenant itself. Therefore, according to Jesus and the apostles, the “end” was the end of the old covenant and the age to which that old covenant belonged in AD70.
In stark contrast to apostolic doctrine, many modern teachers today claim that the old covenant and the old covenant age have been fulfilled and “abolished” yet the “end” is still to come. For them, the “end” has no relation to end of the old covenant or the old covenant age, but means the “end” of the literal cosmos or the end of time.
Remember that for Paul, the resurrection is the fulfilment of the law and prophets, the old covenant.
So according to Paul, if the resurrection has not happened then the law and prophets have not been fulfilled.
Yet many teach today that the old covenant (law and prophets) have been fulfilled, yet the resurrection has not yet taken place.To say this is a serious contradiction is a massive understatement!
What most of modern Christianity has done is created another eschaton, another “end”. By doing so, they have also created another resurrection hope radically different from Paul’s resurrection hope (the hope of Israel).
Instead of the resurrection being the fulfilment and consummation of the old covenant and the promises made to Israel to be fulfilled at the end of the old covenant age, they tell us that the old covenant was fulfilled at the cross and the resurrection is the fulfilment of “new testament prophecy” which are promises made to the church to be fulfilled at the end of time / the end of the Christian age. This is to coin a phrase, “replacement eschatology”.
The fact is that if your resurrection hope is not the “hope of Israel” in fulfilment of the law and prophets which were to be fulfilled at the “end” of the old covenant age, then you have a different eschatological (end time) hope than Jesus, Paul, and the entire first century church.
Here is the dilemma for modern Christianity….
Paul’s eschatological hope of the resurrection was the hope of Israel in fulfilment of the law and prophets, the promises made to the fathers.
Therefore, if we deny that the resurrection has taken place, then we affirm that the law and the prophets have not been fulfilled and the old covenant is yet unabolished. Furthermore, we deny the words of the Lord as to the time when “all things written” would be fulfilled (Luke 21:20-22).
However, if the law and the prophets (all old testament prophecy) have been fulfilled and the old covenant abolished through the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, then irrefutably, the resurrection has been fulfilled.
The doctrine of fulfilled (covenant) eschatology – that all prophecy was fulfilled no later than the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 which marked the “end” of the old covenant and the old covenant age – was Jesus’ eschatological doctrine. Jesus taught that “the end” was covenantal, that is, it referred to the end of the old covenant “world”.
Let’s allow Jesus to have the last word on eschatology and be humble enough to believe the words of the Master.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished….
… But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near…. because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled… Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. (Math.5:17-18 and Luke 21:20-22 NASB)