Of course, the correct answer to the question is: Both. There is both eschatology and Christology in the Old Testament. But the reason why I write this article is to point out an overlooked point. Many passages that we were taught as referring to the “end times” or the “Tribulation Period” (the quotes around those terms will be explained later) actually refer to Christ.
The problem with much of today’s futurist theology is that it muddies insight into many of the passages that refer to Christ and His work through His church. Major passages in Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. have been switched around from Messianic promises to Anti-christian prophecies and sensational (and fictional!) scenarios. In short: the main message of the Old Testament is Christ, not Antichrist. A possible concession from some readers is that, although most of Old Testament prophecy pointed to Christ and the time of the Gospel, there are also double fulfilments, the latter fulfillment still to come in our time. Some readers have told me that Joel’s prophecy is like this, being fulfilled both in Acts 2 and in modern times. But this is not proven from Scripture. Yes, there are double prophecies. Isa. 7:14, for example, does have double fulfillment. But here is an important difference between the modern view of double prophecies and the Bible’s: If there is a double fulfillment, it is so that the lesser fulfillment can point to the greater fulfillment – in Christ. Most Old Testament prophecy points to Christ, to his earthly ministry, Incarnation, ministry, Calvary, resurrection, as well as to his post-ascension work as Prophet, Priest and King.
Here is the real danger of bad eschatology: Because it requires validating verses from the Bible it has no choice but to take away and neutralize many promises that speak of Christ and pour totally foreign meaning into them. By doing this they are actually dismissing their Christ-honoring purpose. The Old Testament is full of reference to Christ, and many of us miss the huge majority of these references. That is why Jesus said to the two disciples, Luke 24:25-27:
“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”
And then he provided an important clue as to how to view the Old Testament:
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
The Old Testament, from Moses to all the prophets speak of “things concerning” Christ. Daniel is a prophet. Many of the passages which sensational authors are “seeing” as end-time events, Antichrist, final showdowns, etc – are actually speaking of Christ.
How many modern authors and preachers have mangled Daniel 9! Only years after being a Christian did I discover what most Christians used to always know: The Prince who is to come is Christ, not Antichrist. The Covenant that is confirmed with the many is the New Covenant in Christ. The sacrifice and offering was brought to an end when He said “It is finished!”
No wonder that the post 1st-century Jewish Rabbis drew a dark line around this chapter (as well as Isaiah 53) – it witnessed too forthrightly of their Messiah!
Many of us just need to take a moratorium from reading eschatological thrillers and junky tracts and seriously dive into Scripture – and cleanse, cleanse, cleanse away all the accumulated scum of man’s teaching that has built up in our minds.
Once the difference between what the Bible says and what John Hagee, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Macarthur – or any other system-driven teacher says become apparent you will be amazed at how clearly and how strongly God’s Word speaks of Christ.
Christ’s admonition to the Jews in John 5:46 also comes to mind:
“For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.”
“But”, you might counter “what about Israel? It seems that you are also doing away with many of God’s promises to His covenant people. This is replacement theology.” Israel as a nation served it’s purpose, just the same way their religion served it’s purpose.They were tools that God used. They were to point to Christ and the Cross. Once that was done, then going back to Judaism – in any form – is as much idolatry as as worshiping Nehushtan, that thing of brass (brazen serpent).
Does this do away with Israel as nation? Well, yes, in a very real sense it does. It does away with that , the erstwhile covenant-nation, in order to give the believers among that nation something infinitely better: new life in Christ (see Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:11-22). The Israel of God, the inner wall of partition having been done away in Christ, rejoices in their Messiah. This is not replacement, but fulfillment theology.
God was never interested in any land. He was “interested” in those whom He set His love on from the beginning, the elect, from both Jews and Gentiles, 1 Peter 1:2; Eph. 1:4. It was never about the land. That is just the sort of lower view that Isaiah 55 tries to correct (“My thoughts are higher than your thoughts”). The Jews (both ancient and many modern, as well as many Dispensationalists) fix their focus on the temple, the people, the Law and “this holy place” (Acts 6:13-14; John 2:18- 21; Acts 21:27- 28) . But Christ speaks rather of the Temple of His body, the church, the heavenly Jerusalem, the New Covenant and the holy nations of priests and kings – Christians! There will never ever again be a holy place. We have the promise of Christ on that, John 4:19-24.
I had a hard time, at first, in accepting this view because it went against my desire for a literal reading of the Bible. I was taught – maybe you were too – that those who see Scripture as being mainly “spiritual” are also those who “allegorize away” the “plain meaning” of Scripture – and head down the slippery slope of outright denial and unbelief. But to my relief, the opposite seemed to happen: Once I recognized the spiritual nature of Scripture it opened it up so much more to an understanding of Christ.
For many, “spiritual” is almost a pejorative word, but it really is the key to understanding God’s Word. Those who have had similar experiences know what I am talking about. People need to get back to reading their Bibles, purposefully, like they are studying for a test (which they are), diligently, interestedly (not perfunctorily), and lovingly. We need, not to be spoon-fed and path-led by pastors, goose-bumped by authors, but built up by Truth – Christ. We need to search out the Word of God like Diogenes with his lantern. He is still searching, but we have found our Honest Man. We need to read God’s Word this way. And we all need to encourage each other to do this, and to keep doing it. That is where the real preparation comes from.
As we drawn nearer to God He draws nearer to us, engracing us to live right.