By Kirt. A Schneider
In John 13:18, Yeshua quotes Psalm 41:9 and says, “He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.” Yeshua was drawing attention to how Judas was going to betray Him. The words He quoted were familiar to His listeners—they knew this as a line from the Psalms, the hymnal and prayer book of the Hebrew Bible. The psalm Jesus quoted were words first spoken by David, Israel’s most celebrated king, while he was experiencing his own personal betrayal. David was
most likely not thinking about Yeshua when he wrote the psalm nor intending to make a prediction about how Jesus would one day be betrayed by one of His friends. Why, then, would the Jewish apostle Yochanan (the Hebrew way to say John) take this psalm of David, apply it to Jesus, and say He fulfilled it?
To understand this dilemma, we must return to the mindset of the Jews of Yeshua’s day. They didn’t approach the Scriptures one-dimensionally. The writers of the New Testament are not suggesting that Yeshua fulfilled a prediction about the future but rather that Jesus once again brought Israel’s destiny to fulfillment in Himself. The same things that happened to Israel historically happened to Jesus in His own life. Yeshua, as Israel’s divine representative, repeated the same things Israel and its key leaders went through in their history.
Then the New Testament writers speak about how Jesus fulfilled many scriptures in the Old Testament, they are not necessarily saying Jesus fulfilled a prediction but are referring to how Jesus filled up Israel’s story with meaning.
Buried deep beneath the surface of the Scriptures were prophecies that pointed to Jesus but were not immediately evident as Messianic prophecies at the time they were written. This is why Jesus had to show His apostles how many of the events that took place in the Hebrew Bible and in the lives of the prophets were actually foreshadowing His own life and ministry.
The Birth Pains of Prophecy
Typological prophecy is when a prophecy has already been fulfilled historically and then is fulfilled again in a more intense way. It could be compared to a pregnant woman who has mild contractions hours before feeling the full force of the labor pains.
For example, in Isaiah 7:14, the prophet says, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
Traditional rabbis argue that this verse does not apply to Jesus but rather to the son of Isaiah himself. (Other traditional Jewish sources ponder whether this prophecy anticipated the birth of Hezekiah, who was the son of Ahaz, the king of Israel.) Either way, in both of these instances, traditional Rabbinic Jews maintain that Isaiah 7:14 was already fulfilled.
But Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 in reference to Yeshua. (See Matthew 1:23.) Matthew claims that the virgin (Mary) has conceived and given us a child (Yeshua), called Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” and that this is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. In other words, although Matthew is aware that Isaiah 7:14 had already been fulfilled through the birth of Isaiah’s or Ahaz’s son, the ultimate fulfillment of this scripture is in the person and the birth of Messiah Jesus.
The fact is, Isaiah did have a son, and so did Ahaz. Typological prophecy does not deny that certain prophecies have already been fulfilled historically in a measurable way—only that they had not yet been fulfilled in the fullest sense. The New Testament writers declare that Messiah Jesus has brought these typological prophecies to the pinnacle of fulfillment.
Here is another example of typological prophecy: In Daniel 11:31, Daniel speaks of an Antichrist who will rise up to oppose the Messiah and the kingdom of heaven.
Daniel says he “will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation” (Dan. 11:31, emphasis added; see also Daniel 9:27). This phrase, “the abomination of desolation,” is used by Yeshua in Matthew 24:15, when He tells us that He will return “when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through the prophet Daniel” (emphasis added).
So how does Yeshua say that before His return, the abomination of desolation Daniel spoke of will yet take place?
It is not that the prophecy wasn’t fulfilled in a prior historical event but rather that the full meaning of the prophecy hadn’t reached its climax. Ultimately, God is going to break in and judge the anti-Messiah, and the fire of God will eradicate evil from the earth. So we see once again that typological prophecy will be fulfilled again in the ultimate sense when the Antichrist creates a false world religion—the abomination of desolation—before Yeshua returns.