The more I think about and have studied how Prophecy is used in the scriptures, and how our Living Prophets and apostles execute their calling, I have come to see some very strong parallels, which perhaps should (and could) lead us to a different understanding than how we usually think of “Prophecy” and “Fulfillment of Prophecy”, and even ‘historical’ scriptural/religious narratives. It also makes clear how each member of God’s Kingdom is able to participate to a degree in receiving the prophetic vision.
The way we are accustomed to thinking of it is in terms of a prophecy being when a Prophet literally sees forward in time, and may actually see the people and names and clothing and vehicles of a latter day, and writes it down in his own language.
When the literal ‘historical’ event that they saw happens, that prophecy is said to have been ‘fulfilled’.
Personally, I think we miss the mark when, in viewing what are generally understood of Isaiah’s writings said to be about the latter-days we envision him actually seeing airplanes, iPhones, our modern dress and buildings, etc, and specifically talking about us of the 21st Century – which, frankly, the people in 6th century BCE Judah couldn’t have cared less about.
A study of the textual history of Old Testament scriptures shows that there have been layers upon layers of redaction and revision. Pieces of an ‘Older Testament‘, and older versions of Israelite theology and imagery can be seen, but, based on the context of other material, it seems out of place, confusing, and without any real explanation.
Why was history rewritten? Was any of it valid, or authorized, or understood as part of the prophetic/priestly calling? Certainly there were alterations that were done for political and other socio-religious purposes. But why was this viewed as okay? Why are such practices viewed today as generally falsifying history? How can the answers to these questions relate to the LDS text known as the Joseph Smith Translation, and even what is presented in our Temple Drama?
These are some the aspects I want to explore, in a view of Dispensations in a way in which we are not generally accustomed to thinking of them.
I. Foundational (‘Dispensational’) Prophets receive a Vision of the ‘big picture’ in relation to a mythic, spiritual structure.
Contemporary prophets often use very similar imagery. Much of what I have written on this site is in relation to such ancient imagery.
Much of it has been connected to cultic, or ritual services, pertaining to objects and building dressings of temples and shrines.
In many cases, the same Temple and shrines have been re-oriented and altered (reformed) to better portray and illustrate a New Prophetic Vision. The Vision of the Prophets is given in relation to the symbols and understanding they are familiar with – many of the Old Testament prophets were Priests, and were familiar with the symbols, layout, and imagery and teachings of the Israelite Temple.
The Prophetic Vision is overarching, and enlightens them concerning relative origins, purposes, and consequences. It places their current life and mission in a heavenly context of spiritual warfare. The Temple is used to disseminate the Vision to the Priests.
Following the dissemination of the Vision, Prophetic Oracles are manifest in recognizing and describing the world in context to that vision/mythic structure, and warning and guiding appropriately to avoid actualizing devastating aspects of it, and to prepare others how to overcome inevitable aspects of it.
Prophetic oracles interpret past events (and history) in light and in context of the Mythic Vision. History is described and re-interpreted and even re-written to emphasize the current understanding of the context of the Vision. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? Are the questions asked and answered in the terms and symbols of the Myth.
II. When current events parallel events in the Mythic Vision, or in declarations of Past Prophecy (which is in itself interpreting their contemporary events in the light of Their Myth), it can be said to be ‘fulfilling’ Prophecy, or the Vision/Myth.
For example, when the King of Babylon is overcome and defeated, it is viewed in fulfillment of the Mythic Image of the DayStar/Heavenly King being cast down from the mountain of God for pride (see Isaiah 14:4–24). Fulfillment comes when, using the words of the Lord’s prayer, that which happens, “on earth, as it is in heaven.”
III. When the end of the vision is understood to have occurred, or when a Crisis Point is reached when the vision is understood to have been ‘fulfilled’, the cycle begins again, and a New Vision is given, which re-interprets and enlarges the principles of the Old Vision. Old Prophecy understood in light of the previous revelation is re-interpreted (or even re-written) in light of the New.
Again, for example, the story of the Fallen Star is re-interpreted (and re-written) to refer to the expulsion of Israel and its kings and priesthood from the Temple and Jerusalem proper for its disobedience (as presented in the current Genesis account of Adam being cast from the Garden). History is a re-enactment – and prediction – of the events of the Heavenly Vision.
When Jesus Christ came, he and his disciples recognized in his life parallels to language and imagery in the ancient scriptures and temple/visionary ritual. Thus, those elements of prophecy were fulfilled by the events in His life – even if Isaiah never personally and literally saw in vision the personage of a 1st Century Jesus Christ being tortured and crucified. There were many choices the Savior made specifically to ‘fulfill‘ the words of the former prophets, to completely fulfill and surpass the role of the Typical Messiah.
John the Revelator saw the same vision as is found in Daniel, and Ezekiel, (and perhaps Jesus himself? See Revelation 1:1 )and interpreted it in the light of not only the now-historical life of Jesus Christ, but in terms of the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, and the surrounding persecutions.
Bringing it into the Modern Dispensation, Joseph Smith, the founding Prophet of our current Dispensation, was granted a Heavenly Vision, in terms of what we understand to be God’s Plan of Happiness.
The older myths and imagery and their central fulfillment of them in the life of Jesus Christ were re-oriented with greater clarity. Instead of the Origins Narrative being used as a parallel to foreshadow and explain the fall and loss of Israelite kingship and Priesthood, it was re-worked as a vision of our personal journey through the Plan of Salvation, with ultimate salvation through Jesus Christ as the focal point.
IV. The Temple and Ordinances: Living The Vision.
When we participate in the ritual of the Temple and other associated ordinances (such as baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, etc) , we are being given a view of the Modern Prophetic Vision. We see what the Prophets saw. We then become prophets, leaving the heavenly vision to teach and interpret and change our lives in accordance with the Heavenly Vision. We see the Mythic Vision, we Participate in the Vision, we ARE the Vision.
Our religious history is interpreted and re-written in the terms of the prophetic vision. Joseph re-edited the ancient scriptures to make them come in accordance with his new and current understanding of the Heavenly Vision. What is known as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is not intended to be read as a restoration to the ancient text of the original works, it is a new version in accordance with the new vision, the new revelation. It is not to be seen as teaching a documentary history as we are accustomed to thinking in the modern world, it is to be seen as teaching and orienting our progress within the context Prophetic Vision – God’s plan of salvation.
On a daily basis, as we see parallels of our lives and situations in the lives of scriptural figures, we are personally fulfilling scripture, and fulfilling prophecy. We make ourselves part of scriptural history, and we see ourselves as living the Heavenly Vision. We See the Kingdom of God, and participate in it.
On earth, as it is in heaven.