There are some who claim they all Bible prophecy must be “literally” fulfilled; and in particular by those who vociferously espouse dispensational premillennialism, support the “3rd temple” and seem to think that Israel never inhabited the “promised land” yet (each of those are also false teachings covered separately).
This simply isn’t true however and some simple examples should prove this. In fact, the very first prophecy of the entire Bible in Genesis 2, when speaking to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden about eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil that “in the day that you eat from it you will surely die”. Now, did they literally drop dead and fall to the ground when they ate the fruit. No, they died spiritually on that day. And another early prophecy of the Bible is given in Genesis 3 that “He [Jesus] shall bruise you [Satan] on the head, and you [Satan] shall bruise him [Jesus] on the heel” when speaking about Jesus and Satan. This is perhaps the most significant prophecy in the entire Bible. Now I ask you, did Satan literally give the Jesus a black and blue bruise on his foot? No! Of course not. It was symbolical representation of Jesus being crucified on the cross (bruised) but then yet being raised to live eternally (not killed). So we see clearly that prophecy can have a symbolic and spiritual aspect to it.
As mentioned, this false claim is used mostly by those who espouse the dispensational premillennialism false teaching. They use this as a claim that support their interpretation of Scriptures that Israel has not yet inherited all their “promised land”. And those who make this claim that prophecy must be literally fulfilled simultaneously themselves fail to discern that the Abrahamic Covenant HAS BEEN LITERALLY FULLFILLED ALREADY! Amazing isn’t it? Israel already occupied the entire promised land under the Abrahamic covenant. (see also the “promised land” false teaching covered separately below). So on one hand they demand literal fulfillment of all prophecies, while at the very same time fail to see the actual literal fulfillment of the prophecy they make so much noise about!
Another case should prove the point of spiritual prophetic fulfillment beyond a shadow of a doubt: Did Elijah “literally” came back from the dead as prophesied in Malachi 4:5? No! Jesus Himself said that “John [the Baptist] himself is Elijah who was to come.” Luke writes that John the Baptist came “It is he [John the Baptist] who will go as a forerunner before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah”, and that was the fulfillment of the prophecy! Another example, was the temple “literally” torn down and rebuilt in 3 days? No, Jesus was referring to Himself, as fulfillment of that prophecy. Other prophecies likewise have spiritual fulfillments. [Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 3:15, Malachi 4:4-6, Luke 1:17, Matthew 11:11-15]