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11. The exiles who returned

11-1 Ezekiel’s Temple: Based Upon Solomon’s Temple || 11-2 The Nature Of Prophecy || 11-2-1 Conditional Prophecy || 11-2-2 Human Response || 11-2-3 Tyre in Ezekiel 26 || 11-2-4 Delayed Prophecies || 11-2-5 Prophecies With Changed Fulfillment || 11-2-6 The Nature Of Prophecy || 11-3 Command More Than Prediction || 11-4 The Contemporary Relevance Of Ezekiel's Temple || 11-5 The Restoration: Potential Kingdom Of God || 11-6 The Potential And The Reality || 11-6-1 The Weakness Of Judah Under Nehemiah || 11-6-2 Isaiah's Prophecies Of Restoration || 11-6-3 Jeremiah's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-4 Ezekiel's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-5 The Cherubim And The Restoration || 11-6-6 Zechariah's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-7 The Restoration Psalms || 11.7 “The prince" in Ezekiel || 11-7-1 " The prince" : Potential Messiah || 11-7-2 Zerubabbel- Potential Messiah? || 11.8 The Potential For The Surrounding World || 11-8-1 Haggai 2 || 11-8-2 Meshech And Tubal || 11-8-3 Joel Chapter 3 || 11-9 Different Sequences Of Prophetic Fulfillment || 11-10 Zechariah And Malachi: More Chances || 11-11 The Returned Exiles

11-2-5 Prophecies With Changed Fulfillment

Prophecies whose intended fulfilment was changed into something else

An example of prophesy having an intended fulfilment that was not only rescheduled but changed in its application is to be found in Am. 9:11: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins”. “That day” is defined in v.8 as the time when Judah was destroyed from the face of the land (by being taken into captivity in Babylon), and scattered among the nations (v.9). This came to pass in their scattering amongst the 127 provinces of Esther 3:8. The words of v. 11 are therefore a prophecy of how the temple was to be rebuilt and the gaps in the wall closed. “They shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof” (v. 14) could have come true at this time; indeed, it was intended to. But the Jews who returned were disobedient to Ezekiel’s vision of the temple, and did not fulfil the prophecies. So the fulfilment was not merely rescheduled until a later date. Acts 15:16 cites Am. 9:11 as now having a spiritual fulfilment- in the raising up of Jesus. Thus God’s word is not falsified even if the initially intended fulfilment does not come about due to human failure.  

Daniel 9 contains the account of Daniel reflecting upon Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 years captivity for Judah, after which there would be a glorious restoration. This prophecy didn't seem to be coming true, and so Daniel prayed to God, confessing Israel's sins- as if he realized that there was a conditionality to the prophecy, which Judah had failed to fulfil. The response to him is the prophecy of the 70 weeks in Dan. 9:24-27, a prophecy culminating in the final tribulation and then the coming of Christ. This sounds as if Jeremiah's prophecy was indeed conditional, and those conditions weren't met; and therefore the prophecy was given a reapplication and redefenition.

There’s another reason why some prophecies aren’t fulfilled- and it’s simply one word: grace. God doesn’t always bring the prophesied punishments upon His people because in wrath, He still remembers His gracious mercy, that undeserved favour which is His characteristic. This to my mind is the real explanation of why the prophecy that in the day Adam ate of the fruit, he would die…never came true, in that sense. The curses for disobedience outlined in Dt. 28 and 29 never came totally true; hence the prophecy that disobedient Israel would be poor and unsuccesful in business during their dispersion never really came true, and instead God had blessed them through His grace. The whole land of Israel was to become “brimstone and salt and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom…” (Dt. 29:22-25). It’s no good even reasoning that this will come true in the future; these were to be the punishments that would come when Israel broke covenant and went into dispersion. They’ve been in this position for many centuries, but still the full extent of the prophesied cursing hasn’t come about. And yet God keeps His word; and yet His grace is such that He can chose not to keep some of the punishments. This is a paradox of grace, beyond our human explanation in trite, logical, expositional terms.