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Presuppositions of Typology

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

The following points come from Fred Zaspel’s recent blog series on typology, at Credo magazine.  For future reference, his list of six presuppositions of Biblical Typology:

1)      the understanding of the relation of the Old Testament to the New Testament as essentially that of promise and fulfillment. This is reflected in the larger framework of the Old Testament and its patterns, and it is one aspect of typology specifically. The broad narrative of the Old Testament is incomplete in that its story never reaches a climax or conclusion. There is a hope still in place that awaits Christ.

2)      A recognition of history as revelation, a conviction that God reveals himself and his purpose in words, yes, but also in historical events and actions.

3)      An understanding of history as prophecy, an understanding that God directed and arranged historical events, institutions, and persons in a way that was not just analogous to but inherently prospective of a greater reality yet to come. There was a conviction that the patterns of history were illustrative and forward-pointing, portraying ahead of time the way God would yet work in history.

4)      The Sovereignty of God in history is also presupposed, an unshakable conviction that as Lord of history he was all along arranging and directing events and people with his own purpose and goal in mind, thus establishing a framework and declaring ahead of time what he would yet do.

5)      History is redemptive in purpose and in design, that God is working in history toward the goal of his gracious saving purpose that culminates in Christ.

6)      The centrality of Christ in history and in revelation. In a sense, typology is christology, for it all — history and revelation — culminates in Him (Ephesians 1:10).

The Corinthian Church: Over-Realized Eschatology

April 19, 2013 4 comments

Continuing through S. Lewis Johnson’s 1 Corinthians series  come some quite interesting observations from 1 Corinthians 4: the Corinthians’ eschatology.  I had read through Paul’s comments to the Corinthians at this point — where Paul sarcastically refers to them as already being kings, and wishing that they really were kings so that “we might reign with you” – but hadn’t really thought about the eschatological views implied in this section.

I don’t think the modern-day term “futurist premillennialism”  had yet been coined when Dr. Johnson delivered this message in 1994 (his last sermon book series), but here he gives an instructive overview concerning “futurist eschatology” and the then-new idea of “realized eschatology”:

 In theology, there is what is called futurist eschatology in which we look toward the future.  To see what the Bible has to say about the future we read Daniel.  We read the Book of Revelation.  We read the prophetic portions of the gospels and those prophetic portions of some of the epistles of the New Testament, the second epistles like 2nd Thessalonians and 2nd Peter, those epistles that seem to major on eschatology.  And we look into the future.  And our imagination sometimes takes over, and we seek to set dates for the things that lie ahead of us.  … one point that’s been made constantly: we do not seek to set dates.  But futurist eschatology is eschatology that centers on the coming of our Lord.

Now, theology today has invented a new term called ‘realized eschatology’, or ‘inaugurated eschatology’.  It’s very common, very popular with more liberal professing Christian professors, teachers, and preachers, because it’s an attempt, in one sense, to fight the emphasis on the future and the talk about the coming of the Lord, which to some people is a mistake — it’s not a mistake to me.  I think that’s something we ought to talk about.  We ought to have as a sense of imminence in our — imminency in our thinking about the coming of the Lord because the apostles did.  But there is a way in which we can overdo that.

And so in order to combat that, those who have held to this view have sought to stress those passages of Scripture that stress what we have already — what has already happened to us as a result of our Lord’s work on Calvary’s cross.

Fred Zaspel’s The Theology of Fulfillment is a good resource as well, concerning what we have now, along with an important caveat from Zaspel:  So in all of this “realized eschatology” we should not lose sight of the future. What we have today is the glorious realization of the OT hopes. But what lies ahead is more glorious still.  A significant hermeneutical guide arises out of all this also. That a promised blessing is realized here and now does not, ipso facto, rule out its fuller realization later. For example, there is nothing here that rules out the premillennialist’s hope of the future manifestation of the kingdom—nothing at all. That the age to come is present and coming is a matter of simple Biblical statement. And if there is already a realization of these blessings within history we should not be surprised to learn of a still fuller manifestation of them.

Colossians 1:13-14 is a good example of what we have now in “realized eschatology,” which  emphasizes our position (now) in Christ. From SLJ again:

Your position is in Christ, and you’re in the kingdom because you’re under His authority.  And that is, of course, a truth.  The balance between the emphasis on the future and the promises made to the Nation Israel and the promises made to the church in relation to Israel are very important, in the word of God; but it’s also important to realize the things that have taken place because the blood has been shed; atonement has been accomplished.

Moving past the idea of realized eschatology, we find the Corinthians – in their arrogance and puffed-up state – thinking that they have actually arrived, that they now have everything of the Christian experience: an overrealized eschatology.  S. Lewis Johnson’s comment here indicates that the term “overrealized eschatology” already existed by this time (1994) but did not originate with him:

 So evidently the Corinthians had what some of the interpreters have called an over-realized eschatology.  They not only looked to the future and looked to the present, but the present is so significant for them that they have already begun to reign.  They’re in the millennial kingdom right now, is the idea the apostle is underlining here. …

They should have been looking to the coming our Lord Jesus Christ and the entering into the kingdom of God upon the earth.  But already these individuals are in the kingdom.  Already they are full.  And so the idea of the kingdom was a place — was a kingdom in which men would have the things that they lacked.  They would have all the food, all the pleasure, all the luxuries, and they are in that kingdom before we are.  This is really an overrealized eschatology.  They thought they were in the kingdom already.

This lesson is certainly applicable to believers today, to keep the proper focus, that we have not yet arrived, that we do not yet already have everything of the Christian experience. As we look at what the New Testament says, including this passage in 1 Corinthians 4, we also affirm that this life is not the kingdom:

 what Paul regards as the present life is anything but a kingdom, in the sense in which they understand it.  He says:  “God has displayed us last, the last of the apostles, as men condemned to death for we have been made a spectacle to the world both to angels and to men.” The only glorious line — the only glorious thing that one can say about this is that we are following in the same train of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that would be glorious.

Fred Zaspel: The Earthly Kingdom and the Land Promise (Romans 11)

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From “Jews, Gentiles, and the Goal of Redemptive History.

It should be noted further that the ground on which Paul bases his hope of the future conversion of “all Israel” is nothing other than Israel’s ancient covenants. In 11:29 Paul says this directly, and in 11:26-27 he cites by way of support and explanation a composite of passages from the Old Testament (Psa.14:7; Gen.17:4; Isa.59:20-21; 27:9; Jer.31:33). The language is reminiscent of more passages, particularly from the prophets, in which the Davidic, Abrahamic, and new covenants are held in view for the people. Significantly, these same passages speak to a time when Israel, in her own land, will again enjoy her prominence among the nations.  Now clearly, no amillennialist will want to admit this; but then how are we to explain Paul’s appeal to these very passages? Are we to understand Paul as limiting their fulfillment to a soteric sense only? And if so, why? The Prophets certainly did not understand their word to be so restricted; they plainly held out a hope of salvation and restoration to the land and Israelite prominence among the nations. The hope of forgiveness which they offered the people was inseparably linked to and formed the basis of these other hopes, hence their equally vigorous heralding of them all. Nor does Paul indicate such a stripping away of the Prophets’ message. Indeed, at the very outset of his discussion he affirms that these covenants do indeed still belong to Israel (9:3-4). And at the conclusion he reaffirms the same (v.29). The question then is this: what exegetical warrant is there for allowing only a part of the covenants’ promises (i.e., the forgiveness of sins) and not the whole of them? In fact, if we would consider these covenants as still in force, the result would sound much like 11:15. And again, this fits very well with the premillennial scheme, but it is at this point the amillennialst must do some wiggling.

Nor is this an isolated argument. The prophets plainly and repeatedly spoke of the inviolability and unending certainty of Israel’s covenants. Paul alludes to and cites a sampling of these, noteworthy of which is his allusion in 11:8 to Deu.29:4. There Moses is promising the eventual realization of the land promise to Israel. He even explains that while this is conditioned on Israel’s faith, Israel will nonetheless enjoy the promise because God in grace will bring them back from their stubborn disobedience.