This article first appeared in the From the Editor column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 34, number 04 (2011). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
I am delighted to present the cover article for this issue, “Typological Fulfillment: The Key to Messianic Prophecy,” by CRI president Hank Hanegraaff. It represents the culmination of a three-year (in some respects, more like two-decade!) labor of love for Hank. The article is a chapter in Hank’s just-finished book, Has God Spoken? which itself is a natural follow-up to his previous major work, The Apocalypse Code. The overarching theme of The Apocalypse Code, and its greatest value, was in showing Christians how to read the Bible for all it’s worth. Has God Spoken? takes that theme to the next level with a more comprehensive teaching on the Bible. And the chapter of the book we are publishing here, on typological prophecy, is of particular relevance both to contemporary theology and apologetics. I’m also thrilled to say this material is appearing first here in the Christian Research Journal, before the publication of the book.
The mission of the Christian Research Institute, and by extension, the Christian Research Journal, is “to provide Christians worldwide with carefully researched information and well-reasoned answers that encourage them in their faith and equip them to intelligently represent it to people influenced by ideas and teachings that assault or undermine orthodox, biblical Christianity.” This mission is further elaborated in our EQUIP acronym, which states our ministry goals. As an interdenominational Parachurch ministry committed to Integrity in every aspect of our work, first-rate, primary research is literally our middle name; but we do this research not primarily so that we can answer Questions posed by cults, culture, and confused Christians, but rather so that we can provide you the same information in a Userfriendly format, effectively equipping you to articulate and defend Essential Christian doctrine.
Everyone at CRI, including me, attempts to achieve these goals, but no one does it better than Hank, who was a highly effective Christian teacher of mnemonics (the art and science of memory assistance) before he came to CRI. Hank’s passion has always been to make apologetics assimilable and retainable for every Christian; hence, virtually all of his books have been structured around memorable acronyms. This newest one is no exception. The book is divided into four parts, dealing with (1) C-O-P-I-E-S (biblical manuscript transmission and reliability), (2) S-P-A-D-E (biblical support from archaeology), (3) S-T-A-R-S (the evidential value of fulfilled prophecy), and (4) L-I-G-H-T-S (principles of hermeneutics or scriptural interpretation).
Now, Hank does not possess advanced degrees in biblical studies. He likes to describe himself as a layman, and as such, he points the way to what it is possible for a layman to achieve. That is quite a lot, for there are few people writing in the field of biblical interpretation today that I personally am finding more profitable to read. Following the biblical exhortation, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NASB), Hank has devoted himself for many years now to understanding the historical and literary context of the Bible. This has yielded profound insights into how the Ancients read and interpreted their own texts vis-à-vis many popular contemporary readings of the same texts. This study led to the “exegetical eschatology” Hank laid out in The Apocalypse Code, and in Has God Spoken? it leads to quite a few more flashes of insight and “ah ha!” moments for readers, including me.
As this issue’s excerpt from the book makes plain, the effects of this are beneficial both devotionally and apologetically. Thanks to Bart Ehrman and other liberal Bible critics, one of the most common objections to Christianity one hears today is that the New Testament takes Old Testament prophecies out of context in order to apply them to Jesus Christ. This particular objection has been a hard one for many Christians to answer, since at first blush it seems as though the critics have a point. But this is exactly where understanding how the writers of Scripture intended to be understood, and how they were understood in their own setting, is crucial. Discerning the difference between predictive prophecy and typological prophecy makes all the difference in the world, and that is precisely what this issue’s cover article will help you to do.
As we learn to read the Bible for all it’s worth, we position ourselves to receive more of what God has for us in Scripture. The divine imprint in the words of Scripture becomes more evident, and our faith is correspondingly strengthened. It also takes many of the rough edges out of apologetics. We no longer need to devise convoluted explanations for strained contemporary readings of Scripture (e.g., taking Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:34 that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” to mean “some unknown future generation”). Instead, the internal logic of Scripture becomes clear.
This issue’s cover article, and Hank’s new book, are excellent examples of how CRI, in accordance with its mission, takes the scholarly, faith-supporting findings of “top apologetics” and makes them accessible to a wider public as “pop apologetics,” while avoiding at all costs the illegitimate shortcuts of “slop apologetics.” As you take this material and run with it, our mission is truly accomplished. (Although we will be careful not to hoist any banners proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” until we hear from the Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant”!)
One final note: after a few years of not taking the time and expense of entering the Christian Research Journal in the Evangelical Press Association’s Award of Excellence and Higher Goals contests, I decided I’d better do so this year if we are to continue promoting the Journal as an “award-winning magazine.” The results were encouraging: the Journal as a whole won first place (the Award of Excellence) in its category of Organizational Publications, and our book review by Kevin DeYoung of Richard Stearns’s The Hole in Our Gospel (vol. 33, no. 2) won first place among all evangelical publications in the Critical Review competition. We also won an award in the Evangelism Article category for Mark Mittelberg’s “Faith Path: Helping Friends Find Their Way to Christ” (vol. 33, no. 3). Congratulations are due to all of our fine staff and contributing writers, whose pursuit of excellence is undeterred by such temporal obstacles as the current economic recession.