Many false teachers (yes, the wolves) teach and preach that all Bible prophecy must be fulfilled literally. A couple of simple examples should suffice to show you that their claim is false:
- Malachi 4:5: Did Elijah come back in person physically? No. Jesus said that “John [the Baptist] himself is Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11:14) and indicated that was the fulfillment of the Malachi prophecy. Luke writes further that John the Baptist came “…as a forerunner before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). The Malachi prophecy had a spiritual, not literal, fulfillment.
- Christ Prophesied in John 2:19: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Was the literal Jewish temple literally torn down and rebuilt in three days? No, the prophecy was symbolic of Christ’s body undergoing death and resurrection; the fulfillment of that prophecy was not literal as interpreted by the Jews.
- In the very first prophecy of the Bible (Genesis 2), where Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it was written: “In the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Now, did they literally drop dead and fall to the ground on the day they ate the fruit? No, they died spiritually. It is also true that on that day sin (and physical death) entered the world (and they did ultimately die physically), so the prophecy had both a literal and a spiritual aspect to it.
Another early prophecy of the Bible is given in Genesis 3, where it is written that: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” when speaking about Jesus and Satan. This is perhaps the most significant prophecy in the entire Bible. Now did Satan literally give Jesus a single actual black and blue bruise on his foot? No – it was symbolic of Christ being crucified on the cross (bruised) but then being raised to life again. Some of the prior false teachings have also shown you that literal interpretations of Bible prophecy are often wrong (e.g. Dispensational Premillenialism, a “Third Temple,” etc.).