What is Redemptive History?
Redemptive history is the gradual unfolding of God’s sovereign plan to redeem his people and advance his kingdom. The over-arching themes of the Bible follow several patterns of Creation/Covenant, Sin, Exile, and Resurrection/Restoration.
Therefore, we should view Scripture in the context of these structures. Knowing how a specific passage fits within God’s eternal plan aids our interpretation.
By examining the Old Testament (OT) in relation to the new covenant, we can better grasp our role in God’s plan as his kingdom expands to fill the earth.
[A related bible study is An Overview of the Bible: Creation, Sin, Exile, and Resurrection/Restoration]
What are the Primary Ways the Old Testament Points to Jesus?
The first of these is through God’s prophetic promises of a coming redeemer, as in Gen 3:15, where the Lord informed Satan “From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.”
Another means is by types, which are historical figures, objects, or events which foreshadow the coming of Christ.
Examples of these are Noah, who built an ark which saved his relatives and the animals from God’s wrath (Gen 6:11–19 and 1 Pet 3:19–21); the bronze serpent on a pole that the Israelites had to look at to recover from the bites of poisonous snakes (Num 21:4–9 and John 3:14–15); and the Passover feast, in which a lamb’s blood saved the firstborn sons among God’s people from certain death (Exod 12:1–13 and John 1:29–30).
[Related posts include The First Good News (Gen 3:15); A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); The End was Near (Gen 6:13); God Establishes a Covenant (Gen 6:18); and Overview of 1 Peter 3:18–22]
What Endorsement Do We have of the Redemptive Historical Approach?
When Christ was confronted by some religious authorities, he asserted, “If you believed in Moses, you would believe in me, for about me he wrote” (John 5:46).
After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus encountered two of his followers as they traveled to Emmaus. Since his identity was hidden from them, they expressed their grief over his crucifixion.
“Jesus said to them, ‘You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted by the prophets that the messiah would have to suffer all of these things before entering his time of glory?’ Then Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all of the Scriptures said about himself” (Luke 24:13–27).
Luke implied that the OT contains important clues about Christ and his work. I view the OT much like a set of puzzle pieces of God’s plan to renew all of creation.
Seeing how those pieces fit together through the lens of the New Testament makes reading the OT very exciting.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
[A related section is The CSER Structure: Creation, Sin, Exile, and Resurrection/Restoration]
Roy E. Ciampa, “The History of Redemption,” in Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity (ed. Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 257.