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What Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled during the apostolic era?

TitleWhat Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled during the apostolic era?
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1976
AuthorsPayne, Albert
Issue Number7
Date PublishedJuly 1976
KeywordsDay of Pentecost; Prophecy

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Were there very many Old Testament prophecies other than those of the apostasy that were fulfilled during the apostolic era?

Albert Payne, editor and director of specialized services in the Department of Seminaries and Institutes The question reminds me of the boy who asked his father what he could see just beyond the bright light visible in the distance. He couldn’t see anything, of course. And this illustrates somewhat the situation of Old Testament prophets: they apparently saw very little concerning events immediately following the death and resurrection of Christ. It was appropriate and necessary that revelations be centered on Christ and his mission; those were topics of many prophetic utterances. These prophecies and personal witnesses of their truthfulness were the center of men’s faith, the cause of their hope, and the source of their righteousness. Because of this, consideration of anything beyond the preparation for and splendor of Christ’s mission was anticlimatic. In addition, it appears that none of those who chronicled the events following the ministry of Jesus appeared to be very concerned with making connection between these events and Jewish prophetic literature.

Old Testament prophets were concerned not only with the coming of the Messiah but also with events pertaining to the end of the world. Prophecies relative to these two events constitute an occasional problem: sometimes it is difficult to tell whether a particular prophecy had to do with the dispensation of the fulness of times, the meridian dispensation, or both.

This will be illustrated below in the first of two examples of early church leaders associating events in their own day with Old Testament prophecy.

On the day of Pentecost it is recorded that there came a sound as of a rushing, mighty wind, and there appeared cloven tongues like fire that sat upon each of the saints, who spoke in tongues as moved upon by the Holy Ghost. The people who witnessed these things expressed varying opinions as to the cause of the manifestations, but Peter taught that these events partially fulfilled a prophecy spoken by Joel. Quoting Joel, he said:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

“And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

“And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:

“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17–21.)

Although this prophecy has frequently and properly been applied to this present dispensation, it should be remembered that Peter thought an aspect of it was being fulfilled in his own day. These same verses from Joel were later quoted by Moroni to Joseph Smith. Moroni said that as of the night of September 21, 1823, Joel’s prophecy was not yet fulfilled but would soon be. This does not, of course, discredit Peter’s statement that they were seeing in part the thing Joel had prophesied, for spiritual manifestations are an integral part of the gospel at all times.

Two instances of another apostolic church leader referring to Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in his day are to be found in the writings of Paul.

You will remember that the Jews thought of themselves as being the elect of God because of their birth as children of Abraham. But Paul taught that the gospel was for all believers, and this, of course, includes the gentile believer. In his epistle to the Romans and in the third chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, Paul taught that those who had faith were children of Abraham. (See Gal. 3:7.) Taking the gospel to the gentiles and their acceptance of it are noted as being in harmony with the prophecy made by Hosea. Paul quotes Hosea as saying:

“I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

“And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (Rom. 9:25–26.)

Paul goes on to say that Isaiah had prophesied to the effect that the gentiles would obtain the righteousness of faith but that the Jews would not accept the gospel because they would not seek salvation by faith—that, in fact, Christ would be a stumbling block to them. (See Rom. 9:27–33.)

These indications of prophecy fulfilled in apostolic times fit nicely together. They teach that the Jews would not have the necessary faith to accept the gospel—that legalism and their traditions would be stumbling blocks to them; that the gospel would go to the gentiles and they would receive it; and that one of the signs of the gospel having been accepted by the gentiles would be that the Spirit of the Lord would be manifested.

It appears, therefore, that within our presently available information, there are not many instances known where Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled during the apostolic period.

Scripture Reference

Acts 2:17-21
Romans 9:25-26