I’ve been thinking of an illustration to help explain typology. I would like to trial it out here and appreciate all feedback!
To set up the illustration, let’s first look at an OT text quoted in the NT and various options for understanding it.
2 Samuel 7:12-17
12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,
15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”
17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
Here the LORD speaks to David through Nathan and promises to raise up an offspring after him. Who is this offspring? As the story unfolds, it appears to be speaking of Solomon, as he builds the temple (2 Sam 7:13). However, Hebrews 1:5 complicates things because the author applies this passage to Jesus!
This raises a few options for how to view this connection.
- Unjustified fulfillment. Whether ignorantly or carelessly, the author of Hebrews misapplied 2 Sam 7:14 to Jesus. This is not really an option as far as I’m concerned.
- Single fulfillment. The author of Hebrews sees 2 Sam 7:14a as about Jesus, at the very least that line can’t be about Solomon. So some of the passage is about Solomon, and some Christ. Some difficulties here are that 2 Sam 7:14 must not be wrenched out of context, and how is the reader to know it contains two prophecies about two people?
- Double fulfillment. There are actually two fulfillments of this prophecy. Solomon and Jesus both fulfill this passage. This seems closer to an answer, but on what basis should we actually expect two fulfillments? If we didn’t have Hebrews 1:5, would we even come up with this option? It doesn’t seem like a natural reading of 2 Sam 7 and 2 Sam 7:14b can’t apply to Jesus as He never sinned.
- Typological fulfillment. I see a typological fulfillment as the best option. We need not force the NT back into the OT passage when the context doesn’t require it (a problem with options 2 and 3). The immediate context seems clear that 2 Sam 7 is in fact about Solomon. However, Jesus fulfills this passage in being the ultimate king of Israel. If Jesus is Israel’s greatest king, then He must meet and exceed Solomon’s achievements. Jesus even sees Himself as a second Solomon (Luke 11:31).
The Typology Train
Now let me use my train example to illustrate these options. Let’s say that I’m on a train that starts in Inverness, Scotland and travels down to London, England. This train has a number of stops along the way but ultimately the line ends at London. I only want to travel from Inverness to York, which for the sake of illustration is the first stop on the way to London.
- Unjustified fulfillment. The conductor sneaks over to me as I’m finding my seat and quietly whispers, “Don’t bother with this old train, it’s slow and clunky. I’m a wizard and can teleport you there. You won’t have to travel to York, you’ll just magically appear there.” This breaks reality entirely, and the conductor should be fired anyway for discouraging people from using trains.
- Single fulfillment. The conductor looks a little shaken up and says, “Yes this train goes to York, but I must warn you that half way through the travel we’ll suddenly jump tracks and appear in London for a few minutes. It’s the darndest thing and creeps everyone out, but just sit tight and you’ll be back on track to York again”.
- Double fulfillment. The option three conductor is a little creepy, his hair wild and out of control. With eyes wide and crooked smile says, “This is a very special train. If you want to go to London, there’s no need to stop at York on the way, it travels to York and London and arrives in both destinations at the same TIME!”.
- Typological fulfillment. A smooth journey to York. Once I get off the train, I turn back and see it leave the platform, continuing on its journey to London. While I’ve arrived at my destination, the train hasn’t yet completed its journey.
The Illustration Explained
Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
Solomon is the first stop, and there are other stops along the way (future Israelite kings), but Jesus is the end of the line. This prophecy in 2 Sam 7 is pointing to the Solomon-stop, but the author of Hebrews rightly sees the entire train-line of Davidic kingship as naturally traveling on to Jesus as its final destination. It is in this typological sense that Jesus fulfils this OT passage.
Now of course, the implications of this fulfillment would require another post. And of course, not all NT quotations of the OT require this kind of ‘fulfillment’. Some of them are simply direct prophecies of Christ. But I believe my illustration helps make good sense of how this passage is fulfilled typologically.
So does this work? Does it make sense? Am I rightly explaining typology here? I’d appreciate feedback and criticism.