Beale: The Importance of ‘Extended Meaning’ Part 2 of 4

“The notion of ‘extended meaning’ is instructive for understanding and analyzing the New Testament’s use of the Old. I, along with others, believe that something like this is what is entailed in Old Testament literary forms of prophecy or visionary apocalyptic. Old Testament authors appear to have only dimly, implicitly or partly comprehended the things of which they were speaking.

We may say that authorial intentions of Old Testament writers were not as comprehensive as the simultaneous divine intentions, which become progressively unpacked as the history of revelation progresses until they reach climax in Christ. The Old Testament writers prophesied events to occur not only distant in time from them but in another world, a new world, which Jesus inaugurated.

These writers are comparable in a sense to people in a spaceship above the earth. They can see only the earth and its different shading, representing clouds, seas and land masses. When, however, they see magnified pictures of the earth from satellite cameras, they are able to make out mountains, rivers, forests, cities, buildings, houses, and people. Both the distant and close-up views are ‘literal’. The close up picture reveals details that someone with a distant view could never have guessed were there. The close-up even ‘looks’ like a different reality from the distant. Nevertheless, both are ‘literal’ depictions of what is actually there. Similarly, the literal picture of Old Testament prophecy is magnified by the lens of New Testament progressive revelation, which enlarges the details of fulfilment in the beginning new world that will be completed at Christ’s last advent.

With this illustration in mind, our contention is that Christ not only fulfils all that the Old Testament temple and its prophecies represent, but that he is the unpacked meaning for which the temple existed all along. His establishment of the temple at his first coming is a magnified view of the new creational temple, and Revelation 21 is the most ultimate highly magnified picture we will have this side of the consummated new cosmos. Like the distant and close-up photographs, such a view of the temple should not be misconceived as diminishing a literal fulfillment of the Old Testament temple prophecies.

We may also compare Israel’s temple and prophecies of another to come to a small balloon with a map of the world stamped on it (indeed, [I argue] that the OT temple was a symbolic model of the cosmos). The contour lines of the map are hardly discernible when no air is blown into the balloon. As the balloon begins to fill with a little air, the details of its map are a bit more discernible but still too close together to see it clearly. When the balloon is blown to full size, however,the details are expanded and become much clearer. The blown-up version is just as ‘literal’ as the smaller one, but its details are more understandable.

In like manner, the fulfilment of the temple in the New Testament reveals that, far from a shrivelling up or fading away of the material temple complex, there is a material and spiritual expansion that begins with Christ and his people, and consummates with the entire new heavens and earth! Just as John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament era, said that he must decrease but Jesus had to increase (John 3:30), so Jesus says that with his coming the temple had to decrease and he had to increase Matt.12:6, something greater than the temple is here’).

…In some cases the Old Testament predicts a non-material temple. In other cases, however, there may be prophecies describing what would seem to be a structural temple, which we have argued are fulfilled by an entirely literal, yet non-architectural temple; that is, Christ and the church fulfil them. To explain this hermeneutically, we have…used the illustration of a father’s promise to a son of a horse and buggy in 1900 being fulfilled faithfully and on an escalated literal level by a car in 1930. This is, in fact, also an illustration of biblical typology in which Christ fulfils the Old Testament promises in ways that differ from the actual terms of the promises’ (G. Goldsworthy, According to the Plan, 1991, 87).

Typology is not mere analogy of something in the New Testament with something in the Old. Typology indicates fulfilment of the Old Testament’s indirect prophetic foreshadowing of people, institutions and events in Christ, who is the ultimate climactic expression of everything God completely intended in the older revelation—whether it be the Law, temple and its rituals, various prophets, priests, and kings, and so on.

A classic example is John 19:36. There John says that Jesus’ death on the cross, without broken bones, was a prophetic ‘fulfillment’ of the Passover lamb’s sacrifice in Exodus (see Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20). Even though the Passover sacrifice was narrated only as a historical event and not as a formal prophecy in the Old Testament, in the light of Christ’s coming, that event is seen as foreshadowing the divine Lamb’s sacrifice on an escalated scale. Whether then we speak of going from a horse to a car or from a sacrificial animal to the crucified God-man, the hermeneutical transition from Old to New is often that of going from the ‘shadow’ to the ‘substance’.

The progress of revelation reveals enlarged meanings of earlier biblical texts, and later biblical writers further interpret prior canonical writings in ways that amplify earlier texts. These later interpretations may formulate meanings of which earlier authors may not have been conscious, but which do not contravene their original organic intention but may ‘supervene’ on it. This is to say that original meanings have ‘thick’ content and that original authors likely were not exhaustively aware (in the way God was) of the full extent of that content. In this regard, fulfillment often ‘fleshes out’ prophecy with details of which even the prophet may not have been fully cognizant.”

-G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 2004, 379–381

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