Biblical Studies

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews


In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are

(1) promise-fulfillment;
(2) already-but-not-yet eschatology;
(3) typology;
(4) the spatial orientation of Hebrews.

Each structure will have it’s own post, starting with the first structure, Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews.

Schreiner defines promise-fulfillment in this way: “It refers to predictions or promises in the OT that, according to Hebrews, are now fullfilled [in Christ]” (30). Though defined this way, it can overlap with typology (as we will see in a later post).

We find the first example of this in Hebrews 1.1-2 which says, Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

So, while God’s word was versatile, making its way through the mouth of many speakers, and partial, giving another picture of who Yahweh was, here “OT revelation… finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ” (30). Now all of the OT should be read in light of Jesus Christ (this is similar to reading a detective novel or watching a TV crime series. In the beginning of the story you are clueless as to “who-dunnit.” But once the perpetrator is revealed, then all of the clues fall into place [a la, The Sixth Sense] and you can never read or see the story in the same way again).

Schreiner covers quite a few passages. I’ll cover only one.

Psalm 110

The author of Hebrews (from here on referred to as “the author”) finds special fullfillment of Psalm 110 by Jesus. Ps 110.1 says, The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The author alludes to or quotes this verse five times (Heb 1.2, 13; 8.1; 10.12-13; 12.2).

So how does Jesus fulfill this prophecy?

Schreiner gives us some OT background: After Adam and Eve gave their God-given dominion of the earth over to the serpent, God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, reclaiming his rule (Gen 3.15). In Genesis 12, Yahweh “reveals that the world will be blessed through Abraham’s offspring,” and this rule will be “restored through a Davidic king according to the promise of the Davidic covenant” in 2 Samuel 7 (p 30).

The author says that this Davidic son and Lord is none other than Jesus himself, and through him God’s kingdom will be established. So in Hebrews 1.3 the author states that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” and it is tied to his “making purification for sins” (1.3; 10.12; 12.2). Jesus is higher than the angles (1.13) and is a better high priest (8.1). He “now waits until his enemies are made the footstool for his feet (10.13)” (31). He corules with God, and is worthy of and enjoys his divine stature and worship (1.6).

Reading Ps 110 in context, and then in light of how the NT authors use it can be confusing, but if we read it in context of the OT storyline (as Schreiner helps us to do), then it becomes clear how the author was able to delineate that this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Other OT verses Schreiner covers are Ps 110.4 (Heb 5.5-6), Ps 2.7 and 2 Sam 7.14 (Heb 1.5), Jer 31.31-34 (Heb 8.8-12; 10.15-18), and God’s rest (Heb 3.12-4.13).


BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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