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 Articles: Raymond Cottrell on Dr. Ford
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Exegesis of Daniel

by Raymond Cottrell


The Apotelesmatic Principle

Ford concludes that the traditional Adventist doctrine of the sanctuary cannot be reconciled with the Bible on the basis of generally applied hermeneutical principles, and because he is fully committed to the Bible on doctrinal matters he has no alternative but to reject the traditional interpretation, at least as the primary intent of Scripture. But he does find a principle that enables him to be faithful to both the Bible and the historical integrity of the church, a principle Seventh-day Adventists have long recognized and used but never applied consistently to the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. Curiously, he points out, the traditional interpretation does apply the apotelesmatic principle to one point in Daniel 8: it makes the little horn out to be both pagan and papal Rome!82

"The resolution of our Adventist sanctuary problem," Ford says, "is found in the apotelesmatic principle.83 That principle "is the very key we need to authenticate our denominational appropriation of Dan. 8:14 to our own time and work."84 "By apotelesmatic we mean dual fulfillment or more"; "Scripture clearly shows that prophecies may have more than a single fulfillment."85 Note that Ford uses the apotelesmatic principle, not to prove the church wrong, but to authenticate the application of Daniel 8:14 to our own time and work. He explains, further:

The apotelesmatic principle . . . affirms that a prophecy fulfilled, or fulfilled in part, or unfulfilled at the appointed time, may have a later or recurring, or consummated fulfillment. The ultimate fulfillment is the most comprehensive in scope, though details of the original forecast may be limited to the first fulfillment.

The main idea rather than precise details . . is what has a recurring fulfillment.86

Of the primary application of Daniel 8:14 Ford says that "only Antiochus Epiphanes fulfills the chief specifications of Daniel's little born, and the vile person of Daniel 11. All other fulfillments, such as pagan and papal Rome, are fulfillments in principle rather than in detail."87 "Antiochus did fulfill the little horn prophecy, but he did not fill it full":88 "Every era of revival of the truths symbolized in the sanctuary may claim to be a fulfillment of Dan. 8:14."89 "Dan. 8:14 had its primary application to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes."90 "The Adventist application of Dan. 8:14 to 1844 was an application in principle, an apotelesmatic fulfillment-- a legitimate but not an exhaustive application."91 "1844 thus becomes a providential re-interpretation and an apotelesmatic fulfillment, rather than the primary intention of the apocalyptic passage."92 "1844 and the Advent movement are indeed a fulfillment of Dan. 8:14, an apotelesmatic fulfillment in the same sense that A.D. 70 was a fulfillment of Matt. 24, and John the Baptist of Mal. 4:5, 6; and Pentecost of Joel 2:28."93

Ford adopts the apotelesmatic principle because, in a number of instances, the Bible itself makes use of the principle.94 The SDA Bible Commentary acknowledges this principle and makes repeated use of it.95 In numerous instances Ellen White gives Bible prophecies, including those of Daniel, more than one fulfillment.96 For instance:

The prophecy in the eleventh (chapter) of Daniel has nearly reached its complete fulfillment. Much of the history that has taken place in fulfillment of this prophecy will be repeated.97

She similarly applies all of the signs of Christ's second coming delineated in Matthew 24 to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and to the coming of Christ:

This entire discourse was given, not for the disciples only, but for those who would live in the last scenes of earth's history.98

The Saviour's prophecy concerning the visitation of judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment, of which that terrible desolation was but a faint shadow.99

This prophecy [Matthew 24] will again be fulfilled. The abounding iniquity of that day finds its counterpart in this generation. So with the prediction in regard to the preaching of the gospel. . . . So now, before the coming of the Son of man, the everlasting gospel is to be preached "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."100

This warning [false messiahs] was given also to those who live in this age of the world. The same deceptions practiced prior to the destruction of Jerusalem have been practiced through the ages, and will be practiced again.

This prophecy [false prophets] was spoken also or the last days. This sign is given as a sign of the second advent.102

This prophecy [Joel 2:28] received a partial fulfillment in the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; but it will reach its full accomplishment in the manifestationn of divine grace which will attend the closing work of the gospel.103

Ellen White similarly applied the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids to both 1844 and its "perfect fulfillment" in the future.104 She applies Daniel 8:14 not only to 1844, but also to "the final purification of the universe from sin and sinners."105 In fact, she applies it to events prior to apostasy of the early Christian centuries106 as well as to the closing events of earth's history.107

The apostelesmatic principle is thus well attested in the Bible, in the writings of Ellen White, and in the SDA Bible Commentary.108 The word apotelesmatic may be new to many who have long been using the principle without realizing the fact.

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