Yesterday I was reading Dr. Horace Hummel's excellent book, The Word Becoming Flesh, looking up his references to Heilsgeschichte. While doing so, I came across some other wonderful, but neglected terms: Heilseschatologie(salvation eschatology), Heilsorakel (oracle of salvation),and Heilsprophetie (salvation prophecy).
Hummel made some powerful comments regarding the Minor Prophets. Perhaps more than any other prophet, Hosea is the prophet of Heilsgeschichte (The Word Becoming Flesh 297). The Prophet Habakkuk attacks the problem of evil more directly related to the themes of Heilsgeschichte (The Word Becoming Flesh351). Many times the Minor Prophets are overshadowed by the Major Prophets. Much emphasis is focused on Isaiah and his suffering Servant themes that are so predictive of the Christ. But Hummel points out that a number of the Minor Prophets unpack the Heilsgeschichte theme.
Dr. Horace Hummel rightly notes, "Heilsgeschichte (the term may be used very positively) does not first begin with Gen. 12, as critics commonly hold, but at Gen. 3:15, the ‘Protoevangelium.’" (The Word Becoming Flesh66). This statement is vitally important to understanding Heilsgeschichte. The LORD's salvation history does not begin with Abraham, but with Eve. Abraham and Genesis 12 are merely the next steps in God's unfolding plan to save fallen, sinful humanity, a plan which the LORD undertook at the very moment mankind fell into sin and rebellion. As such, Hummel is challenging the accepted theological approach of historical criticism that devalues Genesis 1-11 as nothing more than a small step above the pagan myths.
God's Heilsgeschichte theme winds its way throughout the Old Testament. Often it is hidden in the saving acts of Israel, quietly pointing to a future, more full saving act of the LORD's Christ. Other times it cries from the roof tops, as seen in Isaiah, Hosea, and Habakkuk. God's salvation history moves forward with each generation in the Old Testament until it finds fulfillment in the New Testament with the birth of Jesus who suffers on the cross for our forgiveness and is raised from the grave on Easter for our victory. The theme of salvation history continues to move forward with the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. On the last day, Christ will return and we will experience Heilsgeschichte in our resurrected bodies.