Three types of sensus plenior are explained below. The first is contained in a literal history, the second is contained in a parable and the third are references to sensus plenior in the Old Testament which are problem passages for those who do not recognize sensus plenior.
Acts 12 contains sensus plenior hidden in history pointing back to the cross:
This is a picture of Christ as portrayed by the body of Christ (the church and Peter).
1 ¶ Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth [his] hands to
vex certain of the church.
stretched forth his hands
hands = works The works of Herod were to vex the body of Christ
Herod vexed the church
Herod had ‘vexed’ Christ before his death (Pilot was junior to Herod) and now he vexes the ‘body of Christ. James, John, Peter, and the other disciples in prayer now represent the body of Christ.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
Herod as the Federal head of state over Pilate, had participated in killing Christ, ‘the usurping second son’ and now he has killed James (the usurper). Just as other brothers represented Christ, such as Jacob and Esau, Issac and Ishmael, etc. so do James and John. Together they represent Christ, and now, the body of Christ, the church. Together they are the ‘first and the last’ James was the first disciple killed, and John was the last, dying on Patmos. They define Christians as those who follow the teaching of Christ through the apostles. Here though they represent Christ who was killed and resurrected. We expect the story to tell of this. The fact that they represent the church as well as Christ does not violate our rule that there is only one metaphoric meaning. The meanings are in different voices and since “we will be like him” many of the pictures of Christ are also pictures of us.
by the sword
Christ was not killed by a literal sword, but by the Word which is sharper than a sword. He was killed in accordance with the scriptures.
At the pleasure of the Jews
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to
take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
It pleased the Jews to kill Jesus rather than Barrabas, and once again the body of Christ is taken at the pleasure of the Jews. Both Jesus and Peter were taken just before Passover.
unleavened bread - leaven is 'teaching'. Prior to the cross te Jews were 'untaught' not understanding the riddles that Jesus spoke. After the cross, their eyes were opened.
Peter represents Christ as the Rock.
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put [him] in prison, and
delivered [him] to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending
after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
in prison – Jesus was placed in the grave.
four quaternions – wheels within wheels each having four faces are the Word of God as spoken by prophets, priests, kings and judges as that word is being worked out in the world.
guarded – Jesus was guarded in prison by the word of God. It had been prophesied that he would be the Lamb of God, sacrificed at Passover. No amount of beating in prison would kill him, for had he died in prison, had the days of his tribulation not been shortened, no flesh would be saved.
5 ¶ Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without
ceasing of the church unto God for him.
Christ prayed without ceasing. At Gethsemane, the church slept. But now that they were the body of Christ, they kept watch through the night as Jesus had.
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter
was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the
keepers before the door kept the prison.
when Herod would have brought him forth – the morning after the Passover. This is resurrection day! Peter was sleeping between two guards as Christ was dead between two thieves.
bound with two chains – the Word of God bound him in death as did his love for the world.
keepers before the door – They guarded Jesus’s tomb.
7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon [him], and a light
shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him
up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from [his]
a light shined in the prison – A light shined in the tomb.
*smote … on the sid*e – Jesus was poked in the side by the spear
8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals.
And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and
and the angel said – to Jesus in the grave (not recorded, applied by drash),
gird thyself - Arise!
sandals – continue your life on earth (resurrection)
garment - continue your works (not exactly the right words for describing this)
9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true
which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto
the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his
own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and
forthwith the angel departed from him.
three barriers – three days in the grave. The grave opened by it self.
11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a
surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out
of the hand of Herod, and [from] all the expectation of the people of
of a surety - the resurrection was real… not a dream or delusion.
12 And when he had considered [the thing], he came to the house of
Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were
gathered together praying.
considered the thing – he thought about it. He saw the connection to the cross and the actions that followed were intentional in order to fulfill the picture.
came to the house of Mary – Mary was the first one to see Jesus so he went to Mary’s house. (It does not matter if it is the same Mary, they are all one in riddle.)
13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to
hearken, named Rhoda.
God communicates back by arranging details that Peter could not.
Rhoda – rose, khab-ats-tseh’- leth in Hebrew with a pun of Kibbutz salah meaning ‘community of the rock’.
knocked - Christ stands at the door and knocks.
14 And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for
gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
ran in - Just as Mary had run to tell the disciples of the resurrected Christ Rhoda runs to tell the disciples.
15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed
that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
mad - the disciples had to see for themselves just as they disbelieved Mary.
16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened [the door],
and saw him, they were astonished.
17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace,
declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And
he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he
departed, and went into another place.
shew these things to James – But James was dead! Even the dead rose with Christ.
departed - Jesus departed after meeting with his disciples and Peter does to fulfill the picture.
18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the
soldiers, what was become of Peter.
Jesus only was seen by his disciples, not by unbelievers.
19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined
the keepers, and commanded that [they] should be put to death. And he
went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and [there] abode.
examined the keepers – Those who did not see him were judged.
Judea to Caesarea – He went from “praise” to being “cut off”.
This follows the nature of OT sensus plenior. The only question is, did Luke see it when he put it there. Since he records that Peter had made the connection between the circumstances and the sensus plenior being played out, it is likely that Luke saw it too. So the sensus plenior here was the drama being played out in real life which Luke knowingly recorded.
Sensus plenior also exists in the New Testament within the parables. For example:
God says he will reveal his riddles to Isreal.
'harp' or 'kinnowr' is a pun of 'kannah nor' meaning 'freshly plowed vinyard'.
Ps 49:4 I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.
In what way was Israel 'freshly plowed' at the time of Christ? Consider John the Baptist who prepared the way of the Lord.
We expect to find sensus plenior in the parables:
Ps 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
Parable of the sower
Some will object and say that the meaning of the parable was explained. This is true. The literal meaning of the parable was explained by Jesus to his disciples. The confusion arises when we don't understand what 'literal' means.
A literal understanding recognizes figures of speech as figures of speech, whereas a literalist understanding butchers meaning by insisting that words have only one meaning such that when Jesus says he is the Rock, it is interpreted to mean that he is literally a piece of granite.
Therefore when Jesus tells a parable, and explains what it means, he is explaining the literal meaning of the allegory or metaphor. Sensus plenior expects to see another metaphor hidden within the first because of Psalm 78. The second metaphor would not be revealed until after his resurrection.
Mt 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying,
Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some fell by
the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell
upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they
sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun
was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they
withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung
up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought
forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
As Jesus explained the literal meaning he gave us clues to the hidden meaning.
The seed is Christ
Lu 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
JOhn 1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. Joh 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt
among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten
of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John tells the same story plainly
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the
world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him
not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become
the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were
born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of
man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the
Father,) full of grace and truth.
John tells of three appearances of the Word.
First: He was in the world, and the world didn't know him.
Second: He came to his own, and they didn't receive him. But those few who did, he gave power to become the sons of God.
Third: He was made flesh.
The first is general revelation. God has spoken to all men through his Son. The time from the beginning to the exodus, God revealed himself through Christ, but the world did not know him.
The second is his Special Revelation through Israel, 'his own', but they did not receive him.
The third is the revelation of God in the person of Jesus.
The parable has four revelations of the word and John only mentions three to this point. The rest of the book of John will tell the details of the third and his book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ will tell the fourth.
Ambiguity, the source of riddle
Mt 13:4 And when he sowed, some [seeds] fell by the way side, and the
fowls came and devoured them up:
The word 'seeds' does not exist in the original Greek. It has been placed there by the translators to 'clarify' what 'fell'. The Greek says 'some fell'. When we consider that John tells us that the first revelation of the Word was to all men, and that some fell by the way, Remez leads us to Genesis where they knew the Word of God, and the consequence of their sin was that "the way" was guarded by two angels.
This is the hint to the riddle.
We now can say that the Word was revealed to Adam and Eve and they 'fell by the way'. Who then devoured them?
We have seen elsewhere that the Holy Ghost is represented by the foul, and just like the water and the fire, the foul can give grace or judge.
Adam and Eve were devoured or 'judged' by the Holy Ghost.
Israel on rocky ground
John tells us that the second Revelation of the Word happened to Israel. So we must ask, "In what way is Israel the 'rocky ground'?"
This verse may give us a clue:
Ex 28:21 And the stones shall be with the names of the children of
Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a
signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve
The stones appear to represent Israel.
In what way was Israel "scorched"?
Ex 17:1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed
from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the
commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no
water for the people to drink. Ex 17:2 Wherefore the people did chide
with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said
unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? Ex
17:3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured
against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us
up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with
The third revelation of the Word
John tells us that the third revelation of the Word was the incarnation:
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we
beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)
full of grace and truth.
Among the thorns
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked
In what way was Jesus, the Word, among thorns?
Jesus says the thorns represent "cares of the world" and the "deceitfulness of riches":
Mr 4:19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,
and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it
There are two things that held Isaac's ram in the thorns as well:
Ge 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold
behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went
and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead
of his son.
The sacrifice, the Ram as a representation of Christ, was caught in the thickets by it's horns. In the flesh, Christ was killed by men who were afraid to lose their power over the people. In the spirit, his "care for the world" and his "total devotion to the Father" nailed him to the cross, dying desolate.
Only in resurrection was he "fruitful and multiplying". Which is the fourth revelation of the Word.
Sensus plenior by reference
The third type of sensus plenior consists of passages that seem obscure to those unfamiliar with sensus plenior, but which are easy to understand in the context of it.
Mt 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it
might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be
called a Nazarene.
Since a prophecy cannot be found in the Old Testament concerning this using literal methods, there is speculation that some scripture must have been lost. However, this is a reference to the Nazarite law being a prophecy of Christ.
Body of Moses
Jude 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he
disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a
railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
Again, literal methods cannot find any reference for this passage which generates much speculation concerning it's source. However, in sensus plenior:
Michael refers to David as 'one who is like the Lord'. He is considered the 'archangel' or "primary messenger' because he is the principle type of Christ in the Old Testament.
The reference to the devil is to Saul:
1Sa 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil
spirit from the LORD troubled him.
The body of Moses
Since Moses is a type of Christ, the body of Moses is the body of Christ or the church. Saul wrestled with David, over the kingdom as a picture of the devil wrestling with Christ over the church.
The Lord rebuke you
Repeatedly, David refused to take matters into his own hands, having many opportunities to kill Saul, but instead he trusted the Lord to establish him as king. Likewise Jesus did not use his divinity in the flesh to conquer the devil, but waited to be established through the cross.
Jude's language is common among those discussing sensus plenior since the metaphors involved are presumed to be understood. Others listening in who do not understand the symbolism think that they speak gibberish. Jude was merely 'taking the shortcut' to communicate his thoughts to those whom he presumed would understand.