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Fulfillment in Christ

From Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the storyline of the Bible. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002. 114-115.

The New Testament never leads us to expect that there will be any fulfillment of Old Testament promises other than their fulfillment in Christ. We are not encouraged, for example, to look for their fulfillment in the State of Israel and to expect a new temple to be built there. That is to expect a renewal of the model that has now been dismantled. The permanent reality is found in Christ. Graeme Goldsworthy has put it like this:

‘For the New Testament the interpretation of the Old Testament is not “literal” but “Christological”. That is to say that the coming of Christ transforms all the kingdom terms of the Old Testament into gospel reality.’ [1].

Another writer draws an analogy with a father a century ago, who promises his young on that he will give him a horse on his twenty-first birthday. Cars are subsequently invented, and so, when the birthday finally comes, the boy is given a car instead of a horse. The promise has still been fulfilled, but not literally. The father could not have promised his son a car because neither could have understood the concept.

In a similar way, God made his promise to Israel in ways they could understand. He used categories they were familiar with, such as the nation, the temple and material prosperity in the land. But the fulfillment breaks the boundaries of those categories. To expect a literal fulfillment is to miss the point:

To look for direct fulfillments of, say, Ezekiel in the twentieth-century Middle East, is to bypass and short-circuit the reality and the finality of what we already have in Christ as the fulfillment of those great assurances. It is like taking delivery of the motor car but still expecting to receive a horse. [2].

All the promises of the kingdom of God are fulfilled in Christ; he is God’s people, God’s place, and God’s rule.


[1] Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom (Exeter: Patermoster, 1981), p. 91.

[2] Chris Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (London: Marshall Pickering, 1992), p. 77.

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