Broadly speaking there are two avenues for prophetic fulfillment when discussing the purposes of the biblical author. To make it simple, either the author wrote his text with an understanding of both its immediate and future impact or he did not. If authorial intent is not in view when discussing, for example, typology or Matthew’s formula citations, then sensus plenior seems to be the only possible solution (when the biblical author spoke better than he knew). Allow me to provide an example:
Matthew’s gospel is famous for bluntly telling the reader, “this is what that Old Testament text was referring to.” Consider Matthew 2:15 – “…This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” The prophet Matthew references is Hosea. Here is the actual OT verse in Hosea 11:1 – “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” So, was Hosea consciously thinking both about the exodus of Israel (definitely) and the future birth of Jesus Christ (not as clear)? Therein lies the debate.
I came across this article today on Facebook and found it to be an interesting parallel, albeit with important points of detour since literary classics are not divinely inspired. Nevertheless, I remember asking myself the same questions this 16 year old high school was asking when “symbol hunting” the great authors of the past. Take a look – what do you think?