The Problem of Unfulfilled Prophecy (Reading Romans 10:14-21)

“But I ask, did Israel not understand?” (Romans 10:19)

One of the problems with prophecy is interpreting the unfulfilled portions. People tend to interpret prophecy according to the blueprint of history as they experience it. This is why most all Christian generations since the 1st century have had some sense that they were living in the “last days.” This is not to say that there is not such a thing as the “last days” but the impending doom of world tragedy seems to give some urgency to interpretation. Whether it be the Crusades or WWII there has always been a good candidate for the Anti-Christ and all other symbols in Daniel and Revelation. Once those events pass and the Apocalypse moves out further on the horizon we are left to ask “so, what was that all about?” We go into the next dust storm saying, “this must be it.” The dust settles and we ask, “if that wasn’t it, maybe the next crisis will be it.”

The same crisis of “it” exists in Judaism. Their apocalyptic hope is how and when God will deliver them from the oppression of foreign nations and bring in an era of righteous rule to the nation. From David to the Maccabean revolt to the pop up Messiah’s following Herod’s death there has always been some sense of “maybe this is it.” Prophecy fulfilled is not a problem. It is prophecy unfulfilled that is the problem. In the rise and fall of hope, Apocalyptic literature was produced ever beckoning the fulfillment of prophecy to the next rise just over the horizon. For Israel this is their hope, their glory, and their future.

Sometimes the problem with unfulfilled prophecy is not the part you remember, but the part you forget, or maybe even ignore.

Paul takes time to remind them of an unfulfilled “this is it” moment that has been shuffled under the mental rug, the time of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25). This is a time when God will bring salvation to a people who were once not God’s people (Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 as quoted by Paul in Romans 9:25 and 26). For the opponents of Paul this mass salvation moment for the Gentiles coupled with mass rejection by the Jews, which would dictate to interpreting Jews that this “gospel” of Jesus IS NOT the promise of God for Israel. They saw no hope in a Gentile moment. Yet Paul points out, “This is it.” The salvation of the Gentiles is further verification that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s Apocalyptic hope. In a subtle way Paul outlines it and reminds them of unfulfilled prophecy shuffled under the rug:

“Did Israel not understand?” v. 19

“First Moses says . . .” v. 19

“Then Isaiah is so bold as to say . . .” v. 20.

“But of Israel he says . . .”v. 21

What happens to unfulfilled prophecy? At some point it just happens! Jesus is the “this is it” moment.


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