In the Bible, a type is a species of prophecy. Some interpreters feel that only Old Testament passages specially quoted in the New Testament as types can be legitimately regarded as such. That, I believe, is too narrow a rule. Such a rule would not allow us to regard Joseph as a type of Christ.
It can be shown that in countries ways Joseph is a deliberate and studied type of Christ, even down to the bequeathing of his body as a permanent memorial to Israel throughout their wilderness journeying. Passages quoted in the New Testament as types do not exhaust the whole species they are merely specimens.
Old Testament types illustrate specific scriptural truths. They demonstrate the fact that “the Old is in the New revealed and the New is in the Old concealed.” Much New Testament truth is concealed in the Old Testament in the types. For the most part, the types prefigure truths connected with Christ, the Church, or the Christian. Although the church itself is not a subject of direct Old Testament prophecy, the truth concerning the church is concealed in the Old Testament types—and, although it was not discernible in Old Testament times, we today, with New Testament revelation to enlighten us, can see it there.
Types may relate to persons, events, things, institutions, offices, actions, or rituals. Two kinds of types are found in the Bible, the innate type, one specifically declared to be such in the New Testament, and the inferred type, one recognizable as such because it conforms to the pattern seen in the innate types. The significance of any given typically depends on the real grounds for the similarity between the type and whatever it illustrates—the antitype. Points of difference between the type and the antitype should be carefully noted.
There are two primary rules for interpreting types. We must never attempt to prove a doctrinal position from typology. We must interpret types only on the basis of some clearly revealed New Testament truth.
The stories of many people in the Old Testament clearly foreshadow aspects of the life of Christ or the life of the Christian. Take Joseph as an example. To begin with, he was the father’s well-believed son. He was set apart from his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, by his coat of many colours, the garb of a chieftain or a priest. His brothers envied him and could not speak peaceably to him. They resented his favoured relationship with the father. His dreams, which spoke of his coming glory and power, moved them to murderous rage. When his father sent him to his brothers, they conspired against him and sold him for the price of a slave. Handed thus over to the Gentiles, he was falsely accused and made to suffer for sins not his own.
In the prison of Pharoah, he “preached” to others who were there awaiting their final sentence. For the chief butler, he had a message of life, for the chief baker he had a message of a second and worse death. Brought out of prison, Joseph was given a position second only to that of Pharaoh, exalted to the right hand of the majesty, and thus became a ruler in the land of Egypt before whom everyone would bow.
Exalted—taken from obscurity and raised up to share his place on high—Joseph was given a Gentile bride, and thereafter began to deal faithfully with his natural brethren, the children of Israel. He brought them to the place where, in deep contrition, they confessed their long rejection of him. Finally, “all nations” came to him.
There is scarcely a point in the story of Joseph that does not parallel the story of Jesus. Joseph is one of the great life types of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Moses is another and so is David. To a greater or lesser degree, such men as Adam, Noah, Melchizedek, Isaac, Samson, Boaz, Joshua, Aaron, Jeremiah, and Jonah all prefigure the Lord Jesus. So do many others.
Not only persons but events in the Old Testament is frequently typical. The redemption of Israel from Egypt typifies redemption on the ground scale. Egypt represents the world; the Pharoah is its powerful, evil king. The Hebrews, born in slavery and under the sentence of death, typify sinners and their doom. There was no help for Israel apart from God. then came the kinsman-redeemer, Moses, whose story is typical of Christ. The process of redemption and emancipation for Israel was centred in Moses. He shook Egypt with mighty signs and wonders and expose Pharoah’s vaunted power as vanity. Israel was redeemed by the blood of the Passover Lamb, “baptized unto Moses,” and separated from the old way of life in Egypt, henceforth to work by faith and not by sight.
Almost every incident in the wilderness experience of Israel is symbolic of experiences that come to the believers today. Israel feasted on bread from heaven because the wilderness (our case, the world) had nothing to sustain them in the way. They drank water from the riven rock (typical of the outpouring and infilling of the Holy Spirit as a result of Christ’s death). They had a war with Amalek and won because of the presence of Joshua-whose name means Jesus in their midst and because of the intercessory work of Moses on high (all typical of our war with the flesh and our means of victory). They came to Sinai to learn how believers must order their lives in a way pleasing to God. They entered Canaan and learned how to live victoriously in the land (Canaan typifies “the heavenly,” a place of battles and blessings). At point after point, the story is typical.
Similarly, many events in the life of David are filled with typical significance. Indeed, one of the keys to studying the lives of David’s many friends and foes is to see what they did with David and what David did with them, thus to see how they illustrate what individuals do with Jesus, great David’s greater son and what, one day, he will do with them.
The book of Esther contains typical teaching as do the books of Joshua and Ruth.
In the Old Testament, a great many things are typical—the terbanacle for instance. Every part has typical significance. Henry W. Soltau’s 1850 book about the terbanacle is excellent (see “helpful books for study”). One of the best recent books on the terbanacle is Stephen Olford’s camping with God (Loizeaux brothers). A reliable guide is essential in studying the typology of the terbanacle because some expositors have gone to extremes and have made totally unsupported statements in their enthusiasm for terbanacle typology. Such interpretation brings typology into disrepute.
Many other things in the Old Testament also have typical significance. Aaron’s rod, Noah’s ark, the various things that Jonathan gave to David, the river Jordan, leprosy, the lost axe head in the story of Elisha, honey in the carcass of the lion in the story of Samson, Gideon’s lamp, and pitcher, even the Tower of Babel-all have significance above and beyond the surface.
The rituals of the Old Testament were typical. All rituals connected with the offering, the Day of Atonement, the cleansing of the paper, the Passover, the consecration of the priests, and the various annual feasts had typical significance.
Take the ritual in the Day of Atonement, for instance. On that day alone, the high priest was permitted to enter beyond the veil and minister in the holy holies. Every facet of the elaborate ritual on that occasion was of typical significance. At the heart of the ritual were the two goats. One goat became known as the scapegoat because, symbolically and typically, all the sins of the people were ritually laid upon it. It was then delivered into the hand of a fit man and taken out of the camp into the wilderness, to “a land not inhabited.” Away it went, bearing the sins of the people. The other goat was slain and its hood taken by the high priest into the holy of holies to be sprinkled on the mercy seat where God Himself was enthroned. It took the two goats to typify the work of Christ on the cross. He not only shed His blood for our holy of holies in heaven itself, as our Great High Priest, there to present before the throne the saving virtue of His blood.
A danger in handling Bible types is to strain their significance or to use artificial, overly imaginative, and Biblically unsupported methods of interpretation. If we avoid doing that, we can look to the types of the Bible for rich and rewarding teaching.
INTERPRETING THE PARABLES
A parable has been defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Beyond the human story lie a theological truth and a spiritual lesson.
Not all parables were intended to make the obvious to the hearer. Some, notably the parable;e of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13, were intended to conceal the truth. The Lord desired that His disciples understand the stories and went so far as to interpret two of them so that they might have the key for unlocking the others. At the same time, He shut up the truth from those who had rejected Him, His message, and His ministry.
A parable has three parts: the occasion that prompted it; the story itself, usually woven from some complex thing or event; and the moral, the spiritual lesson the parable was intended to teach.
In interpreting parables, therefore, we should pay attention to each of their parts. We begin by determining when, where, and why the story was told. The story itself is usually so obvious as to need little or no comment except where customs or practices of Bible times need to be taken into consideration. Finally, we must discover how the parable relates to Christ and His Kingdom.
A parable contains one central truth. It has often been said that a parable cannot be made to “run on all fours”. That is, not every single item in the parable can be pressed for an underlying meaning. The aim should be to discover its main point and not insist on giving every phrase a double meaning.
Special care must be taken when using a parable to support a doctrine. It is easy to read into a parable a position we wish to defend. But our doctrinal positions must be undergirded from the plain teaching of scripture, not from a parable.
When a parable occurs in mo0re than one Gospel, the various accounts need to be compared. Similarity does not always mean identity.
Traits that would contradict other clear scriptures must be regarded merely as background detail for the story and must not be rigidly interpreted. For example, to argue that, because there were five wise and five foolish virgins (Mathew 25:1-2), the number of saved and lost people must be equal would be to argue nonsense. The parable is intended to teach no such thing.
We must avoid wild and unsupported statements. St. Augustine was given to the wildest extravagances in his interpretation of parables. His handling of the parable of the good Samaritan is a case in point. To Augustine the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho was Adam; Jerusalem was the city of peace from which Adam fell; Jericho was the moon; the thieves were the devil and his angels; the oil poured into the victim’s wounds was the comfort of hope; the wines was an exhortation to work with a fervent spirit; the beast on which the good Samaritan rode was Christ’s flesh; the inn was the Church and the innkeeper the apostle Paul. With such unrestrained use of imagination, the Bible can be made to teach anything.
Let us apply proper methods of interpretation for this parable (Luke 10:25-37). We note first the occasion on which is was given. The Lord Jesus had just been challenged by a lawyer who wanted to question the Lord’s knowledge and authority. As a Levite, or lawyer, this man was supposed to be an expert in the Mosiac Law and his task was to explain the Law to the people so that they could order their lives in a way pleasing to God. He asked Jesus to tell him what he must do to inherit eternal life. The Lord tossed the question right back to the lawyer. “What do you read in the Law?” He said. The lawyer responded with a summary of the Law—love for God, and love for one’s neighbour. Then, wishing to save face, he asked, “Who is my neighbour?” He belonged to a social class that scorned the idea that a Jew could be a “neighbour” to a Gentile or to a half-breed Samaritan. The text says that he wished to “justify himself.” It is possible that he had a sneaking suspicion that his Jewish exclusivity was not right. This gives the setting and occasion of the parable.
The actual story of the Good Samaritan hardly needs retelling Jerusalem, the city where God had set His name for more than a thousand years was the place of religion (Joshua 6:26). The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was infested with robbers. Josephus says that Herod had recently dismissed thousands of workmen from construction projects on the Temple. These unemployed men now swelled brigand bands that infested the wild country between the two cities.
In the story, the travellers were accosted, molested, robbed, sorely beaten, and left for dead. Along came a priest, a representative of the Jewish religion, a religion that called for mercy to be shown to all, including animals (Exodus 23:4-5). As a man supposedly consecrated to God and occupied daily in the sacred work of the Temple, this priest surely would have compassion on the poor fellow he saw lying beside the road. But not he. He hurried past on the other side.
Then along came a Levite. (Remember that it was a Levite who here was challenging the Lord’s authority). The Levite was of the same tribe as the priest but from a lower order. He, too, was a servant of the Temple and, in addition, an expositor of the Mosaic Law. His calling was to interpret the Mosaic Law so that the people would put its tenets into practice. Surely h would help this poor man lying there on the Jericho road. But not he. He too passed by on the other side.
Jesus introduced both priest and Levite into the parable to teach the emptiness of organized religion, the heartlessness of legality, and the failure of those who profess to know God and to do good works but who are devoid of love.
If then the Lord brought the Samaritan into the story. The Jews detested the Samaritans, regarding them as half-castes. They would go miles out of their way rather than pass through Samaria. The Samaritan, in the parable, represented the Lord Jesus Himself, despised and rejected by the leaders of Israel, yet willing to help the lost, the wretched, and the fallen. Into the poor man’s wounds, the Samaritan poured oil and wine, oil to soothe, and wine to cleanse. Then he loaded the sufferer onto his own donkey, carried him to an inn, paid his expenses, and promised to come again and settle any outstanding accounts.
Having told the story, the Lord asked, “Who was the poor man’s neighbour?” The lawyer must have squirmed, there was only one answer he could give the Samaritan. But he would not use the detested word. “He that showed mercy,” he said, clinging to his prejudices “Go thou and go likewise,” Jesus said.
What was the point of the parable? It was intended to teach us our obligation to help the needy no matter who they are or in what relation they stand to us. As we go through life we constantly meet people in dire spiritual and physical need. They are our neighbours. Hasn’t God shown us the way? Hasn’t He made Himself the neighbour of all humankind by coming don to where we are in our sin and need? This parable can also be used as a story of the gospel, once a legitimate interpretation of it has been seen.
More controversy rages over the interpretation of prophecy than over any other area of divine truth. At the heart of any approach to prophecy lies the imperative need to have a workable and uniform system. It is not possible to follow the golden rule of Bible interpretation-that Is, to seek a literal, historical, cultural, and grammatical understanding of prophetic passages-and at the same time indulge the fancies of allegorical interpretation.
If we interpret the prophecies of scripture according to the golden rule, we shall inevitably arrive at a dispensational view of scripture. We cannot have a vague mix of pre-millennial, post-millennial, and a-millennial views. We must determine our viewpoints. Or, rather, we must let our viewpoint be determined by the results of our interpretation. Above all, our interpretation must be comprehensive enough to embrace all prophetic truth, and it must be consistent.
The grammatical-literal approach to prophecy will lead to balanced dispensationalism; properly developed dispensationalism will lead to a pre-millennial view of prophecy. The Old Testament prophets foretold in plain language and glowing terms a coming golden age for the earth, during which Christ will Reign, Israel will be the head of the nations, Jerusalem will be the world’s capital, and peace, progress, and prosperity will be the universal norm. The literal approach to the interpretation of prophecy leads directly to this view.
When approaching a Biblical prophecy it is best to get the answer to a number of questions before venturing an opinion on its meaning. Is prophecy couched in literal, figurative, poetic, or symbolic language? What is the literal interpretation of this passage? When did the prophet live and what was his cultural and historical background? Has the prophecy been completely fulfilled, partially fulfilled, or not yet fulfilled? Has the prophecy had an immediate fulfilment relating to the prophet’s own times but with residual features that demand another and more complete fulfilment at a feature time? Does the prophecy relate to Jews, Gentiles, or to the church? Is a condition attached to the prophecy as, for instance, one is attached to Jonah’s prophecy concerning the doom of Nineveh? What other passages of scripture shed light on this prophecy? Is there a mystical element in the prophecy as, for example, in Hosea’s prophecy, “I… called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1), a prophecy that the Jews took to refer to Israel but which Matthew 2:12-15 shows actually referred to Christ? In what context was the prophecy given? In what kind of language is the prophecy couched: straightforward, symbolic, and apocalyptical? (Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation are all examples of apocalyptical prophecy.)
Nearly all prophecy relates to one of four great mountain peaks of fulfilment. Many prophecies in the Old Testament focus on Christ’s first advent. His birth, life and ministry, sufferings and death, resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are all foreseen. A number of Bible prophecies relate to the end-time events in Christendom culminating in the rapture of the church and the general apostasy of Christendom itself. Other prophecies have to do with Christ’s final return to earth. They speak of the coming of the beast, of the devils’ messiah, and of the universal power he will have. They speak of the great tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, and the judgment of the nations. Other prophecies concern themselves with the millennium, with the eventual establishment of Christ’s literal kingdom on earth, and with the ultimate climax in the setting up of an eternal kingdom in new heavens and new earth. Interpreting Bible prophecy will be simplified if these four chiefs’ areas of fulfilment are kept in mind.
The Bible stands apart from all other books because of its ability to foretell future events accurately and infallibly. There are certain basic requirements for genuine prophecy, and the Bible meets them all. Obviously, the prophecy must have been written before the fulfilment. It must have been beyond the possibility of human foresight alone. For instance, to foretell the visit of a comet at a specific time over a stated point on the globe is not a prophecy but mathematics. The prophecy must give details. The famous utterance of the Delphic oracle that if Croesus, the rich and victorious king of Lydia, were to make war with Persia be would destroy Persia and act accordingly. But the kingdom he destroyed was his own. In true prophecy sufficient time must elapse between the giving of the prophecy and its fulfilment to make it possible for the prophet or some other interested party to attempt a prophecy fulfilment. Further, there must be a clear and evident fulfilment of the prophecy in due course. Study, for example, the prophecy of the Lord Jesus concerning His impending death. He said, “We go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and crucify Him, and the third day He shall rise again” (Mathew 20:18-19). There are actually twelve specific details in that prophecy and every one of them was fulfilled.
Some principles for interpreting scripture are of a general nature. Others have a special application to prophecy. At the risk of some repetition, we are going to touch lightly on a dozen basic rules.
The principle of prophetic perspective. Many Bible prophecies focus on two climatic events, the first and second comings of Christ. We can liken these focal points to two mountain peaks, one behind the other with a great valley in between. The prophets clearly saw the peaks, but could not see the valley that divided them, neither how deep nor how long it was. Thus we often find the two comings of Christ telescoped together in Old Testament prophecy. We are living today in that hidden valley so we have a perspective on both comings of Christ. We can hardly repeat too often that the Old Testament saints knew nothing of the Church Age at all, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:1-6 and elsewhere. We read that the prophets themselves were curious about various aspects of their prophecies (1Peter 1:10-12).
Psalm 22 is an example of the two comings of Christ being telescoped together. David details two things about Calvary in that great Messianic psalm. He speaks first of its terrible reality (1-21) and describes death by crucifixion with such clarity he could almost have been standing beside the cross. Then he speaks of its tremendous results (22-31), speaking first of Messiah as Priest (22-26), then as Prince (27-31). Next, he leaps the ages and sees Gentile nations worshipping the Lord at the establishment of the coming kingdom. The transition from one scene to the other is sudden, just as though no gap existed between the suffering of Christ and the glory that was to follow. As far as David could see, there was no gap.
Understanding this principle of interpretation is a great help when interpreting the prophecies of David, primarily the long and intricate prophecy of Daniel 11. The prophets see the onward march of events from the heyday of the Persian empire right down to the death of the Syrian oppressor Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 11:1-35). The prophecy then takes a giant step forward and describes the coming of Antichrist (verses 36-45). Failure to see this dispensational break in the prophecy will result in confusion.
The principle of panoramic reference. Bible prophecy relates to the three classes of humankind we have already discussed, “Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32). For the first two thousand years of human history (according to Bible chronology), God dealt with the nations, the Gentiles from Abraham until Pentecost, God dealt with humanity through the Jews, the Hebrew people since Pentecost, a third class has been added, the Church. All Bible prophecy relates to one or other of these classes. Many prophecies have to do with the Gentile’s nation and their place in God’s overall plans for humankind. Hundreds of prophecies have to do with the Hebrew people, their exiles, distress, and triumph. Some prophecies relate solely to the church. We must keep these three great panoramic distinctions in mind.
The principle of poetic utterances. Some prophecies are connected in poetic, figurative, and symbolic language. Sometimes prophecy is given in such a way that its meaning is deliberately hidden or veiled. The mystery parables of Mathew 13 are a case in point. They were given in a form that concealed the truth from the unbelieving while at the same time revealing it to believers (Mathew 13:10-17).
The first Biblical prophecy is poetic and cryptic in character. “And I will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This is a prophecy about the coming of Christ. It speaks of both comings Christ’s first coming when the serpent would “bruise his heel” (a veiled reference to the cross) and His second coming when the woman’s seed (Christ) would finally crush the serpent’s head.
Interpreting Bible prophecy is written in poetic form, so care must be taken to get to the literal truths behind the form. This is especially true of apocalyptic prophecy which makes extensive use of symbols. To interpret symbols properly, we need to see how the Holy Spirit handles them. It is not always easy to decide whether a given passage is to be taken literally or symbolically since many things used as symbols in scripture are also literal realities. When we read of a great mountain burning with fire being cast into the midst of the sea (Revelation 8:8-9), the reference could be literal. Obviously, a God of omnipotent power could dig up Mount Vesuvius and cast it into the Meditation. The reference, however, could be a symbolic description of a coming war. The context, the general sense of the passage, and the adequacy or inadequacy of the literal interpretation must all be taken into consideration.
The principle of progressive enlightenment. Prophetic truth (like other Bible truth) was not often resealed all at once, but in stages, a little here, a little there, now a fragment to Isaiah, now a flash of insight to Jerusalem. The classic example of this principle is seen in the prophecy of the “coming seed.” The truth of both the first and second comings of Christ is revealed little by little and is scattered over the entire Bible. In the same way, the truth regarding the coming Antichrist is not given all at once nor in one single place in the scriptures. It is given gradually and in various times and ways.
The fact that the divine interpretation of prophetic truth has been progressive should warn us that divine illustration of such truths might be equally progressive. Daniel was told, for instance, to “shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the truth of the end” (Daniel 12:4).
Some of the prophecy statements in his book would not be fully understood until near the time of their fulfilment. Today we are living on the verge of the rapture and of the fulfilment of the end-time prophecies. Consequently, we have much more time on the prophetic scriptures than did devoutly. Bible students seventy or eighty years ago Prophecies about Israel and Russia are coming sharply into focus today, whereas two or three hundred years ago the significance of these prophecies could be discerned only dimly. Even so, it is astonishing how accurate some bible expositors were even in their day when writing of the rebirth of Israel and the rise and failure of Russia.
Our own personal understanding of prophetic truth is also often progressive. Sometimes we have been forced to change our position on views that once held. As we get more light, our grasp of the total prophetic picture improves.
5. The principle of perplexing details. The prophecy of scripture in Hosea 11:1 illustrates the truth sometimes a passage has a deeper meaning than appears on the surface. Israel nationally was a “son” (Exodus 4:22) and the Jews tended to treat Messianic prophecies about the son and the servant: (Isaiah 53) in a national sense rather than in a personal, Messianic sense. But while Israel as a nation is called God’s “son” the word here particularly refers to Christ. This detail concerning God’s Son being called out of Egypt was literally fulfilled in the early years of Christ’s life. Joseph and Mary were forced to flee to Egypt to protect the infant Christ from the rage of Herod. Mathew shows that thus, in an actual, historical, and literal way, this enigmatic prophecy was fulfilled (Mathew 2:13-15).
Interpreting prophecy is something like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Often we pick up a prophetic fragment and wonder where it fits. One thing is fatal to any proper piecing together of the whole picture – we must never force a piece in where it does not naturally fit. Nor must we ignore a piece just because it is awkward, because it threatens our own scheme, or because we cannot see how or where it belongs in the completed puzzle. Sooner or later, if we are patient and honest in our handling of prophet truth, the Holy Spirit show us how readily the piece fits in.
There are many perplexing details in the Old Testament prophetic scriptures dealing with Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, and other nations, details that seem to be pointed to days still future even yet. Just how and where they will all fit in is often unclear. We can be sure, however, that when the time comes for their fulfilment the solution to what puzzles us will be seen to be simple and natural after all.
6. The principles of primary association. The prophets were first of all preaching to their own generation. Prophet did not emerge in Israel except in times of apostasy. The prophets were primarily concerned with bringing the nation back to God. Therefore, when their messages are clearly predictive in character, we need to look at the immediate times in which the prophet lived to see if those times cast light on the prophecy. For instance, the prophet Isaiah devotes the first five chapters of his book to denouncing Israel for its moral and spiritual wickedness. Much of what he had to say related to his own times since on the horizon was the growing and terrifying power of Assyria. Isaiah could clearly see that the ten tribes of the northern kingdom were destined to be uprooted and scattered by the Assyrians and that Judah, too, would feel the weight of the Assyrian army. Many of his warnings have those things in mind.
In chapter 7 the background is the Syro-Ephraimitic alliance against Judah. Israel and Syria had joined forces against the little kingdom of Judah, whose king Ahaz was at his wit’s end. The prophet was told to offer a sign, which the apostate and stubborn king refused. He was given one anyway: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Mathew 1:23 makes clear that in its broader scope, this prophecy was Messianic and foretold the virgin birth of Christ. However, the prophecy has a primary association to the prophet’s own day and age and to the immediate international situation; the prophet went on to say that before this child would be grown “The land that abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings” (Isaiah 7:16). The prophecy pledged to Ahaz that, within a very short time, Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Syria, would be swept away. One aim of the prophecy was to encourage the weak and wicked Ahaz to trust God, not to appeal to Assyria for help as he was foolishly planning to do.
In chapter 8 a further elaboration of the prophecy was given. The prophet’s own wife bore a son. The prophet gave him a symbolic name Maher-shalal-hash-baz, meaning “Haste ye, haste ye to the spoil.” The prophet explained: “For before the child shall have the knowledge to cry, my father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Syria” (Isaiah 8:4). In the third year of Ahaz, Damascus was sacked, Razen was slain, and the Assyrians were reaching for Samarian.
The primary association of a prophecy often casts light on the prophecy itself. Many Old Testament prophecies, for instance, relate to the impending Assyrian and Babylonian inversions of Israel and Judah. True, sometimes they have overtones of the end times but often much that was predicted was exhausted in the prophet’s own times.
The principle of partial fulfilment. A large number of prophecies in the Bible have a near and a far fulfilment. First, there was to be an initial, local, partial and typical fulfilment, but often some of the details were not fulfilled or were only partially fulfilled. This is because there was to be a later, wider, and complete fulfilment of the prophecy. Some prophecies connected with the fall of Babylon have been only partially fulfilled in history; hence it appears that Babylon will be rebuilt in the end times so that those prophecies about Babylon that still slumber in the womb of time can awaken to fulfilment. Revelation 18 (and additional and subsequent prophecy concerning Babylon) makes it almost certain that Babylon will be rebuilt and that it will become the financial centre of the beast’s universal empire.
Joel’s prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit had only a partial fulfilment on the day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21). Peter sighted what happened as being a fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy but quite evidently the judgment signs connected with the prophecy were not part of the Pentecostal scene. Moreover, Joel definitely related his prophecy to “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Evidently, therefore, a second more complete fulfilment is yet to come in the last days.
After the rapture of the church, things will revert back to the conditions that prevailed before Pentecost. Then God will pour out His spirit on the Jews once more. Revelation 7 shows that there will be a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the tribes of Israel and that countless millions of Gentiles will be saved. At that time the judgment signs mentioned by Joel will be present, as the Apocalypse makes clear.
8. The principle of plain fulfilment. We are to look for a literal fulfilment of prophecy, not take plain statements of scripture and allegorize them. When God speaks of Israel, He means Israel; when He speaks of the church, He means the church. Prophecies having to do with Christ’s first coming were literally fulfilled in history. Just so, prophecies that relate to His second coming will be literally fulfilled when the time comes. The literal rebirth of the state of Israel in our day Heralds the approaching of the second coming of Christ.
We may not always see how certain specific promises can be fulfilled, but we can be quite sure that God will keep His word. The famine in Samaria illustrates the simple, straightforward, natural way God works things out (2Kings 6:24—7:20).
The Syrians were besieging Samarian and the famine in the city was so great that people were eating their own children. The king heard about this particular horror and characteristically blamed the prophet, Elisha. Elisha’s reply was a prophecy: “hear ye the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord, tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.” One of the king’s courtiers scoffed at Elisha: “Behold, if the Lord will make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” he said. Elisha replied, “Behold, thou shall see it with thy eyes, but shalt not eat thereof” (2Kings 7:1-2).
The prophecy was mysterious, the fulfilment simple. During the night the Syrians heard what they took to be the noise of a chariot. Concluding that the Israelites had hired Hittite and Egyptian troops, they fled in panic, leaving behind their things, provisions, transportation, everything. The next morning, four lepers discovered the abandoned Syrian camp and reported the news to the famished people of Samarian. The king appointed the courtier who had scoffed at Elisha to the supervised arrangements at the gate of the city. When people, desperate to get at abundant Syrian provisions, mobbed the gate, the courtier was trampled to death. Thus simply, accurately, literally, and completely the prophecy was fulfilled. This is the case with all prophecies.
Numerous prophecies in the Old Testament deal with Egypt. In fact, Ezekiel has a series of seven prophecies against Egypt (chapter 29-32) and makes dozens of statements about Egypt’s future. Some of these prophecies were literally fulfilled at the time of the Babylonian inversion but others have never been fulfilled. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Joel also have much to say about the future of Egypt and that nation’s enmity towards Israel. There, too, we find details that have not as yet been fulfilled. Isaiah, for instance, says, “and the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptians sea” (Isaiah 11:15). The context clearly shows that the fulfilment of this particular prediction will be in the last days. At some future date, the Lord is going to cut off the waters of the Nile, and that will spell disaster for Egypt which is true “the gift of the Nile.” The details of when and where this fits into the end-time events are not clear.
9. The principle of pictorial type. Much Old Testament biography, history, and religion are typical in character. That is, things recorded about certain people, events, and ceremonies are really a species of prophecy designed by the Holy Spirit to illustrate things God has in mind for the future.
The lives of men like David and Solomon, for instance, embody prophetic lessons. The Lord Jesus, at His return, will reign first like David, to put down all His foes, and then like Solomon, in prosperity, splendour, and peace. The “feast of the Lord” detailed in Leviticus 23 is typical and prophetic. They were kept annually as required but each of them had a deeper significance than appeared on the surface. The feasts were divided into two groups. Four of them (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost), kept at the beginning of the year, foreshadowed events literally fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ, and at the coming of the Holy Spirit on the actual day of Pentecost. Then followed a gap in the Hebrew religious calendar until the seventh month, when three more feasts (Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles) were kept. The calendar break between the two sets of feasts foreshadowed the present age. The remaining three feasts look forward to the final ingathering of Israel to the Land, to the cleansing of the nation and its conversion to Christ, and to the glorious and joyous millennial reign. Just as the symbolism of the remaining three feasts, will be literally fulfilled as well.
Prophecy hidden in types is everywhere in the Old Testament. The story of Joseph, from beginning to end, contains an astonishing foreshadowing of the person and work of Christ. Antiochus Epiphanies (Daniel 11:21-35) is a type of Antichrist. Some things in the life of David foreshadowed things in the life of Christ. Israel’s experiences from Egypt to Canaan contain hidden teaching brought to light in the New Testament. The list goes on and on.
The type, then, are a form of prophecy. They are not a good foundation upon which to build do doctrinal positions. Nevertheless, they clearly illustrate New Testament truth and equally clearly illuminate Bible prophecy.
10. The principle of problem translations. Because the Bible was not written in English, most of us have to rely on translations when reading it. No translation is accurate in every detail. Some Greek and Hebrew words simply have no equivalent in other languages. Sometimes the translation has to simply a word or even a phrase to make the sense. Rigid translations are stilted and hard to read, while freer translations include a degree of interpretation and sometimes the translator’s personal bias.
In 2Thessalonians 2:2 we read, “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand:” The expression the day of Christ” should be rendered “the day of the Lord.” The day of the Lord is something quite different from the day of Christ. The whole sense of the passage is charged by the proper rendering.
11. The principle of private interpretation. No one has a monopoly of truth. We all have blind spots, yet all of us like to think that our view is the correct one. We need to be very cautious in handling prophecy, if we find ourselves holding a view that is peculiar, forced, or out of line with that held by the majority of conservative, Bible-believing scholars, especially by those who are experts in the field of eschatology, we might well be wrong. Not of course, that the majority opinion never reflects a doctrinal or a denominational bias of which we must beware. Still, it is a good rule to proceed with caution if we find ourselves riding some kind of eschatological hobby horse or defending some prophetic oddity. We might have discovered an important truth, but most likely we are wrong. Crusading for an odd position is a lonely business. We need to be quite sure that our position is sound and in harmony with the rest of scripture before we advance new ideas.
12. The principle of perfect alignment. We must have what theologians call “a consistent hermeneutic.” That is, we must interpret the Bible evenly and uniformly, being intellectually honest with the text and with ourselves. When we find something that doesn’t fit into our scheme of interpretation we need to be willing to wait for more light on the subject and if necessary, to change our position. One cannot, for instance, take the position that the Antichrist is the first beast in Revelation 13 in one place. Such views would be inconsistent. A good grasp of the overall prophetic picture will help us keep things in line.
thanks for joining this intense study. I shall stop here for now till the next update.
From this part of the world, It is all thanks and be rupturable, from pastor Godstrong.
2 thoughts on “Interpeting Types, Parables And Prophecies In The Bible.”
My favorite parable in the bible is the parable of the good samaritan. I think it is more than just a lesson to be good to your neighbor, I think it is also a perfect example of how discrimination needs to be shunned by followers of Christ. As you mentioned the Samaritans were hated by the Jews at that time. Samaritans were considered, dirty, heathen, and less than Jews. Jesus’s audience when he was giving the parable was to a bunch of Jews, and Jewish leaders. So this parable would have been especially controversial for his day.
This is a perfect example for our day as well, who are our Samaritans? Who do we look down on, or think that they are less then us. It is a perfect lesson in humility and treating all people with respect and dignity.
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