What is a Redemptive Historical Understanding of the Bible? Answered by Jon Moffitt
What is the redemptive-historical understanding of the Bible? It is the way we interpret God’s word – how it flows and what its overarching purpose is.
If you start in Genesis 3:15, you have the fall. Adam and Eve have tried to be like God. What is the first promise that is given to them? That glorious promise is the introduction to the gospel. It is what we call the first gospel – that God is going to provide a seed through Eve, and he’s going to come and crush the head of Satan while his heel will be bruised.
What is being said there is that he is going to take on the punishment and make right what Adam and Eve had made wrong. The Bible, from that moment forward, is the fulfillment of this promise. It is clarified as we learn that it is through Abraham that all the nations will be blessed, and then it is through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then we have the mosaic law that is given as a further explanation of our need for the gospel. We learn that the fulfillment will come through David, but we see it is Jesus Christ who ends up fulfilling the mosaic law, or obeying it. That fulfillment shows us who the Messiah is. As we continue to walk through scripture, we see the unfolding plan of redemption. God promised to Adam and Eve that he would redeem them, and it’s clarified through every chapter of God’s word through history. We read the history of the nation of Israel. We read the history of God interacting with humanity. As we do, we see that it’s a redemption unfolding through history; hence, the redemptive-historical understanding of God’s word.
As you read every section of your Bible, it is not disconnected from the main theme and purpose of God’s word. Often, we disconnect what’s going on and individualize books. We read the story of Daniel, or we read the story of David, or Nehemiah, and we try to learn how we should live a better life, or how we should interact with God. But those stories are not disconnected from what God is doing. Those stories are a part of the main theme, which is redemption.
God is fulfilling his plan as it unfolds through Adam and Eve and through Abraham and through the people of Israel and through the kingdom of David, and it keeps unfolding until you get to Matthew. You cannot disconnect these stories, including Proverbs, or Song of Solomon, or Ruth. All of these are still within the greater narrative of redemption. So, as we are interpreting them, and as we’re reading them, we have to see that each book is pushing along God’s promise to his people – that he is going to redeem them through Jesus Christ. Once we get to the New Testament, it becomes clear: we see a redeemed people who are now living in this new covenant reality of being in union with Jesus Christ, and then the full culmination of redemption where God is restoring all things. As we get to the end of Revelation, we see that what we lost in the garden, God is going to restore to us. He is not only redeeming people, but he’s also redeeming creation back to its original intention, where we can live with God in peace and harmony.
The story of the Bible is to be read with what we would say is a redemptive, historical understanding. This is what we would also call a confessional, reformed understanding – this isn’t new to Theocast. It is a very historic, old understanding of scripture: where God unfolds, through redemption, these covenants through history. As we read about each covenant, we can see that God is progressing the redemption of his people through these covenants in the unfolding of history. Hopefully, this is helpful for you.