Is Deuteronomy 32:35 Evidence that “Near” can refer to the Distant Future?

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    Deuteronomy 32 records the Song of Moses. Verse 35 of this song reads as follows: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them [emphasis mine].” These words were originally spoken by Moses immediately before the former Hebrew slaves entered the Promised Land. Many Biblical scholars see the Song of Moses as a prophecy ultimately fulfilled at the end of the age. And I believe that this interpretation is correct typologically. Prophetically Deuteronomy 32 appears to be similar to the virgin birth predicted in Isaiah 7:14 which was fulfilled soon thereafter in Isaiah 8:3 though this prophecy was ultimately fulfilled in a typological sense in Christ according to Matthew 1:23. If Deuteronomy 32 typologically points to the end of the age, is this evidence of “near” being used in the Bible to refer to the distant future?

    Before addressing how Deuteronomy 32:35 is not evidence of “near” being used to refer to the distant future, let us first focus on the evidence that Deuteronomy 32 was ultimately fulfilled typologically at the end of the age. The Song of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 32 is introduced at the end of Deuteronomy 31. In Deuteronomy 31:29 Moses says, “For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.” The word translated “latter” in “latter days” in the above verse is achariyth which is more accurately translated “last” as is exemplified by its use in the following verses:

    “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last [achariyth] days” (Genesis 49:1.)
    “Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end [achariyth] shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness.” (Deuteronomy 32:20)

    As illustrated by the ways in which achariyth is used in the above verses one can see that the “latter days” mentioned in Deuteronomy 31:29 would appear to be more accurately translated “last days.” (Steve Temple, Who Was The Mother of Harlots?, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2012), 24-25.) Similar language is found in Daniel 8. In vs. 17 and 19 Daniel is told that this vision “concerns the time of the end.” Daniel 8 was actually fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanies during the Maccabean Wars of the second century B.C. Having caused an abomination that causes desolation in the Temple in Jerusalem Antiochus Epiphanies, however, appears to be a type of Caesar Titus who did the same prior to destroying the Temple in A.D. 70. See How the Greek (2nd Century B.C.) and Roman Armies (1st Century A.D.) with Their Idols of Zeus Literally fulfill All Bible Prophecies Concerning the Abomination that Causes Desolation. Therefore, though Daniel 8 was fulfilled in the second century B.C. it has prophetic elements highly reminiscent of the eschaton and therefore appears to be a prophecy that also typologically points to the end of the age. That having been said, it should be stated that when the Bible refers to the “end” or “the time of the end” this language doesn’t always invariably point to the eschaton. Ezekiel 7:2-6 and Ezekiel 21:25-29 are two examples in which the “end” refers to events fulfilled in Old Testament history. See the preterist commentary on http://revelationrevolution.org/the-abomination-that-causes-desolation-explained/.

    However, the fact that the last or latter days mentioned in v. 29 does seem to point to the end of the age is strongly implied in the Book of Revelation. The Song of Moses of Deuteronomy 32 is sung by the saints in Revelation 15:3. The fact that Deuteronomy 32 is sung by the saints at the end of the age, of course, implies that this song recorded in Deuteronomy 32 points to the end of the age at least typologically.

    “They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation [emphasis mine].” (Deuteronomy 32:5)
    “Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation
    , Sons in whom is no faithfulness [emphasis mine].” (Deuteronomy 32:20)

    The “perverse generation” mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:5 and 20 also appears to prophetically point to Jesus’ own contemporary generation whom He refers to as a “perverse generation” in Matthew 17:17. It is, of course, this first-century generation who was expected to experience judgement at the end of the age as is made explicit in in Matthew 23:34-36 and 24:34. In Matthew 23:34-35 Jesus says that the Jews of His generation would kill the saints and prophets and so judgment would come upon their generation:

    Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

    Then in Revelation 17:6 John sees Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, drunk with the blood of the saints just as Jesus predicted in Matthew 23:34-36: “And I saw the woman [the whore of Babylon] drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus (Revelation 17:6).” Thus Jesus’ prediction was true, His generation had been punished for the blood of the servants of God during the Jewish War and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This divine retribution for the blood of the servants of God is also predicted in the Song of Moses: “Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people [emphasis mine].” (Deuteronomy 32:43)

    Further confirmation that Deuteronomy 32 was also fulfilled at the time of the end is found in Deuteronomy 32:32-33: “For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, And from the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes are grapes of poison, Their clusters, bitter. ‘Their wine is the venom of serpents, And the deadly poison of cobras.’” In fulfillment of v. 32, Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, is called Sodom in Revelation 11:8: “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. Therefore, Jerusalem is called Sodom in Revelation 11:8 just as she is in Deuteronomy 32:32. Similarly the wine mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:33 is also drunk by the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17:1-6 where it is said to represent the blood of the saints (Revelation 17:6).

    Having explained how Deuteronomy 32 was also fulfilled at the time of the end, can Deuteronomy 32:35 be used as evidence of a verse that refers to something in the distant future using “near” or “at hand” language? Let’s look again at Deuteronomy 32:35: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” Futurists might be tempted to cite this verse as evidence that the New Testament time statements that mention the end of the age as being “near” or “at hand” might actually refer to events thousands of years in the future. Does Deuteronomy 32:35 refer to events in the far distant future in imminent language? No.

    Deuteronomy 32:35 is not good evidence of “near” referring to the distant future. Looking at this verse in context we see that v. 35 opens by saying, “In due time their foot will slip.” It then goes on to say, “[T]heir day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” Deuteronomy 32:35 appears to be saying that in due time whenever the foot of Israel slips or in other words falls into sin, it is then that her punishment is near. In other words, the “near” mentioned in v. 35 must be understood in the context of the “due time” mentioned earlier in the verse. Thus v. 35 appears to say that in “due time” whenever it is that, that generation sins, their judgment is “near.”

    Furthermore, as noted by Jason De Costa the Song of Moses is an example of prophetic imminence.  Recall that the song of Moses opens with the following words spoken by Moses: “For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter [last] days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.”  Here Moses makes it clear that he is projecting his prophecy to the time of the last days.  Thus the “near” of Deuteronomy 32:35 must be understood in the time alluded to in this song, i.e. the last days.  In other words, this “near” refers to those living in the perverse generation of Deuteronomy 32:5 and 20 at the time of the end.  Thus Deuteronomy 32, like Isaiah 13:6, is an example of prophetic imminence.  See Is Isaiah 13:6 evidence of “Near” Referring to the Distant Future?.

    Though Deuteronomy 32 was ultimately fulfilled at the end of the age as an example of prophetic imminence, I believe the Song of Moses could also be seen as a timeless song whose curses are seemingly applicable to nearly any foreign attack the Jews faced throughout their history in the Promised Land and these curses seem to have been fulfilled immediately during and after these people settled in this new land.  Thus the “near” language used in this v. seems to have been truly imminent to Moses’ original audience.  And because these blessings and curses were timeless, this song could be sung to nearly any generation prior to the eschaton and still be relevant.  In other words, Deuteronomy 32 though certainly applicable to the end of the age is more than just an end time prophesy.  Deuteronomy 32 stands in stark contrast to Matthew 24, Revelation and Daniel which are far more specific and far less-easily placed in any generation.

    In other words, Deuteronomy 32’s intended audience could be nearly any generation who would experience judgment, especially those living at the end of the age. The fact that that final first-century generation is the ultimate generation affected by the Song of Moses is exemplified by the fact that the saints are said to sing the Song of Moses in Revelation 15:3. If Deuteronomy 32, the Song of Moses, is a prophecy typologically pointing to the time of the end then, of course, one of the intended audiences is that generation who would experience the judgments promised in this chapter. Because of Deuteronomy 32’s timeless quality and relevancy to the end of the age all previous generations were expected to carry forth this prophecy until it reached its final typological recipients. Therefore, if the generation who experienced God’s judgments at the end of the age were Deuteronomy 32’s final intended audience any reference to “near” could perhaps be applied to the perspective of that generation, while still remaining relevant and thus “near” to other generations who had experienced these same or similar judgments before it.

    Thus I believe Deuteronomy 32:35 is similar to the anticipated virgin birth predicted in Isaiah 7:14-16:

    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

    Isaiah 7:8 limits the fulfillment of this prophecy to sixty-five years in the future. The birth of the son predicted in Isaiah 7:14-16 was fulfilled soon thereafter in Isaiah 8:3. Though Isaiah 7:14-16 was fulfilled in Isaiah 8:3, the virgin birth predicted in Isaiah 7:14, of course, typologically points to the birth of Christ, the son of the virgin Mary. I believe Deuteronomy 32 is the same, this song has a fulfillment in the immediate future as Israel did immediately rebel against God amidst their inhabitation of the Promised Land and thus the “near” must also be understood in this setting. However, it also points typologically to the end of the age.

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