Promise and fulfillment in the Bible - Four main differences
The primary differences between the sequence of steps and the illustrations can be summarized in four ways.
(1) The New Testament fulfillment process has a clear and unified foundation and aim in Christ, whereas the Quran’s abrogation process does not have a clear and unified foundation and aim, but shifts according to circumstances.
The Bible is anchored in Jesus Christ, as it moves from the Old Covenant to the New. The person and work of the eternal Son of God ushers in the New Covenant by fulfilling the Old Covenant. He serves as the direction or the goal of the Old, in countless verses, like the ones in Isaiah 53 and Jeremiah 31. So the promises in the Old and their fulfillment in the New give significance to the progress of revelations. This means that the process has a completion and finality in the very being of Christ Jesus. He brings stability and security.
On the other hand, the Quran shifts in tone and revelations after the Hijrah (Emigration from Mecca to Medina in AD 622). The prophet dies of a fever in AD 632, and a number of abrogations happen in these ten years. It seems, then, that geography and the social environment from one city to the next explains, to a large degree, the many changes in revelations. The fluctuating circumstances after the Hijrah often determine the fluctuating revelations in a short time. To refer to our example again in Sura 9, everyone must fight, but then some are infirm, so not everyone must fight. What happens if the circumstances change after this? A new revelation may come down from on high and abrogate the second revelation, a process that potentially could be repeated over and over.
(2) Specific promises are found in the Bible, but not in the Quran before and during abrogation; therefore, human expectation and hope are found in the Bible, but not in the Quran in the same way.
The Old Testament specifies promises of good things for those who wait. It is our promissory note. Long ago, it promised the Messiah and the New Covenant. People expect God will act faithfully. He predicts, and it comes to pass. This is in fact what happened throughout Biblical history, as God oversaw and supervised the progress of revelation from the Old to the New. Now people’s expectations have been fulfilled.
In the Quran, a verse comes down and people receive it and live according to it. Allah commands everyone to fight without advanced notice. There is nothing wrong with not notifying a people of a revelation beforehand. But what happens if the verse is cancelled? Where is the specific promise so that people can expect its fulfillment? Most importantly, where is the fulfillment? Something different from expectation may take place in the human heart. They may be surprised at the change. Why would they not be surprised continually, as they move from one command and abrogation to the next?
This is why the person of Christ is so important in the New Testament promise and fulfillment process. The Old Testament testifies to him, and he fulfills it, so people’s expectations are answered and fulfilled in the New.
(3) God and Allah see into the future differently.
God sees ahead, and in the Old Testament he promises a diamond. The New Testament fulfills this promise. He gives us the diamond, and that is the end of the process. God is neither caught off guard nor surprised by a future event or changing circumstances. He will not abrogate the work of Christ on the cross. Fulfillment means completion and finality.
In contrast, Allah sends down a verse, but then he changes his mind, from one revelation to the next, according to the changing circumstances. Again, he says in Sura 9:41 that everyone should fight, but in 9:91 he says that some are exempt. He seems unable to see into the future clearly and to anticipate the circumstances. What does this say about his power?
(4) These differences in the process of promise and fulfillment in the Bible and abrogation in the Quran suggest that God’s and Allah’s character are different.
God’s clarity and ability to make specific promises well in advance and to fulfill them in detail means that his character is consistent and stable. He promises, gives us the ultimate diamond, and will not take it away. His gift is complete. In fact, the promise and fulfillment spring from his good character, as he speaks his revelations from one era to the next.
On the other hand, Allah may change his mind, immediately after he reveals a verse. He gives us a diamond, but a week later he takes it from us. True, he gives another diamond in its place, but the second one may not be superior, only similar. But even if the replacement were better, this process and change are still unstable and inconsistent. This means his character is needlessly unpredictable. If he was going to change his mind about the first diamond, then he should have given us the second one from the beginning. Sovereignty and testing humans is one thing, but this abrogation process is capricious, since he had not promised anything specific, which would produce the hope in us for a "new thing."