Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Prophetic interpretive clues

Last Sunday's presentation of the picture of covenant blessing poured out on and through God's people in Micah four may have presented a new way of reading Bible prophecy for some of you. Though we may initially be inclined to interpret the image of a more glorious Temple (4:1), for instance, in terms of a literal, future building in the Middle East, reading such prophecies covenantally reveals a much richer fulfillment not only through Israel's return from the exile but also Christ's first and second comings as well as the ministry and mission of the church.

In his commentary on Micah, Bruce Waltke provides six interpretive clues for helping us understand and apply Old Testament prophecies of covenantal blessing. Hopefully, you'll find them helpful in your own study of Old Testament prophecy.

1. The NT taught that such prophecies found their fulfillment in Christ and His church (Luke 24:44, Acts 3:24, I Peter 1:10, etc.)

2. Prophets represent the new age under the symbols of the old age. Prophecies about events prior to Pentecost find a material fulfillment. With Christ's ascension from earth to heaven and the outpouring of his Holy Spirit from heaven to earth, and with the transformation of his body from an earthly physical body to a heavenly spiritual body, the earthly material symbols were done away and the spiritual reality portrayed by the symbols superseded the earthly shadows.

3. The plain, normal meaning of Old Testament worship primarily had in view the eternal heavenly realities behind the symbols. For example, the tabernacle was a pattern of the heavenly (Exodus 25:9, Hebrews 8:5) and through the pattern the priestly nation participated in the heavenly. In light of such passages as John 4:21-24, the Christian will set little value on the geography and regard it as a cultural adornment to a deeper and universal truth.

4. When Christ lowered heaven to earth, first at his advent and then at Pentecost, the otiose [obsolete] symbols were forever done away, leaving the reality unveiled - which was so much greater than the symbol (Hebrews 8:13, 9:26, 10:9).

5. To show the exceeding greatness of the future, the prophets supercharged the old symbols with larger-than-life imagery.

6. There is a temporal multidimensionality to these prophecies. They embrace a beginning of fulfillment in Israel's restoration from the exile, a victorious fulfillment in the church age stretching from Christ's first advent to his second coming and a consummation in the eschatological new heaven and new earth when Christ's Kingdom becomes coextensive with creation. [Some would add a future, Millennial reign of Christ and His church to these dimensions of biblical fulfillment].

- Bruce Waltke, MICAH, 678-679

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