Inadequacy of Prophetic Language
Postmillennialists err when they base their interpretation of the Old Testament on a supposed inability to describe the future. Whether this fault is conceived as a weakness of the prophets, a basic limitation of language, or an inability of God, the result is the same. It becomes a means to circumvent the clear meaning of Scripture.
The Old Testament prophets, postmillennialists assert, rightly envisioned a glorious era. But because it was yet future, it could only be intelligently described by employing the thought-forms and the religious and political structures with which people of the day were familiar. They readily utilized the vocabulary of the old economy, which focused on the landof Palestine, the temple and the sacrificial system, and the kingship, to speak of the future messianic era they awaited. The prophets, therefore, could only imagine the future age, in which the whole world would worship Yahweh, in terms of the elevation of Jerusalemas the center of worldwide worship and the establishment of the ideal theocracy in Israelas the political center of the earth. In the light of the New Testament, however, we now know that these prophecies are fulfilled in the glorious victory of the church (for example, Heb 12:18-23) (Stanley Grenz, The Millennial Maze: Sorting out Evangelical Options, page 79).
This is the faulty foundation upon which Dr. Brent Sandy also builds his approach to prophecy. Sandy refers to this inability of God to communicate to us clearly about the future as “God’s dilemma” [D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares & Pruning Hooks: Rethinking The Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 25-26]. The problem is premised on two ideas: that earth-bound physical people cannot comprehend the spirit world (God, angels, and heaven) and that words are inadequate for communicating beyond previous human experience. However, those premises are incorrect. First, God created mankind with a purpose of fellowshipping with God; therefore it must be possible for physical people to comprehend the spirit world. And, second, God was the Creator of language, both inEden and again atBabel, so language is not simply a product of man’s experience. Language is designed by God to facilitate effective communication between God and man. Therefore, it is unwise to surmise that God has a “dilemma” in that he cannot clearly communicate the future to mankind.