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Bible Study: Types of Prophecy

September 21, 2010

I’m enjoying S. Lewis Johnson’s Isaiah series, already learning a lot about this oft-neglected yet very instructive book.  Johnson taught this class on Monday nights in the fall of 1968, with occasional reference to then- contemporary persons and events.  He sounds much younger here than in his later teachings (from the 1980s and especially the early 1990s), though he was already 53 by this time:  proof that sometimes a man is used by God more so in his later years than earlier.  The Isaiah series is one that I wish had been videotaped (of course such technology wasn’t readily available then), for sometimes he made use of a blackboard and pointed to “this here” and “this” in discussions of a timeline of events.  But most of it is straightforward enough for audio listening.

Now, from message 6 in the Isaiah series . . .
Old Testament Prophecy can be understood by grouping into different categories, different types of prophecy.
1.  Direct Messianic Prophecy:  Prophecy that is altogether predictive, a vision of the Lord Jesus.
Examples include Isaiah 9:6-7, and Isaiah 53.

2.  Indirect Messianic Prophecy:    Prophecies like these are quoted by NT writers, but the prophecies themselves only say “the Lord” without direct reference to Jesus Christ.  However, the apostles understood the trinity and the different activities of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  When OT passages refer to activities done by the Son — such as reigning over the Kingdom, etc. — the apostles recognized these as talking about the Second Person of the trinity.
Example:  Psalm 102, especially verses 25-27.

3.  Typical Messianic Prophecy:  Illustrative Messianic prophecy, as seen in the prophets, priests and kings of Israel.  They had experiences that are typical (that is, an example) of Christ.  This category can be sub-divided into two types:
a.  Historical Typical:  A historical event as an example, as a prophecy that has no direct reference to the future.  Example: Psalm 8.
b.  Historico-Prophetical Typical:  Cases where the activities of the prophets, priests or kings go beyond themselves.  Isaiah and his children (Isaiah 8:17-18)  are typical of Christ and His people, and typical of a Messianic community.   Examples:  Psalms 16 and 45, and Isaiah 8:17-18.

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