Christ in the Old Testament (Part IV)

Christ in the Old Testament, Church History, Theology

Christ in the OT 4 Christ in Typology

Christ in Typology

We have observed how Christ is seen in the OT through prophecy. In this post, we want to look at how he is seen through something called typology. Typology is basically a heavenly, eternal archetype (an original that is copied for some purpose) built into redemptive-historical persons, places, or things. As an analogy, think of a copper planchet used at a mint. The planchet is literally struck or smashed with the imprint of Abraham Lincoln to become a penny. Or think of an old typewriter, where the image of a letter is struck onto a piece of paper. These are “types.” Christ is the archetype who is “struck” into OT persons, places, and things. This idea is a bit less understood than prophecy, but it just as important.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe Greek word is tupos. It is a rather rare word, but when it is used, it is powerful in meaning. The OT LXX (Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew) has Moses telling the workers of the tabernacle, “See, you shall make them according to the pattern (tupos) showed you in the mount” (Ex 25:40). Hebrews comments on this verse saying, “They serve a copy and shadow of heavenly things” (Heb 8:5). The tabernacle had to be replicated exactly as commanded, because it was a visible created copy of the heavenly invisible temple. The tabernacle was a type (model, copy, and shadow) of the heavenly temple. It was not the heavenly temple itself, but a replica that mysteriously brought the people to the heavenly counterpart.


This drawing is my own modification of one developed (as far as I can tell) by Geerhardus Vos.

All of the things in and about the tabernacle were therefore types of the heavenly reality. This included things like the sacrificial animals and the priests who offered them. These animals were types of Christ, for he is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). His was a “better sacrifice” (Heb 9:23). His was a better priesthood (Heb 5:10). He was a better priest, because he was without sin (Heb 4:15). His offering was in a better temple (Matt 12:6), in heaven itself (Heb 9:24), as he is the temple of heaven (John 2:21). Therefore, his was a “better ministry” (Heb 8:6) and a better covenant (Heb 7:22), for the old covenant was a type of the new covenant. In these ways and more, the OT shadows and types were given to people to point forward (and backward) to a heavenly origin and a future fulfillment in someone who would fulfill their purposes.

People are the same way. The Apostle says that Adam “was a type (tupos) of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14). So, Jesus is called the “second man” (1 Cor 15:47) and “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). What is that type? “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Adam’s son Abel was also a type. Abel’s death was a sacrifice likened to Jesus’ own sacrifice which is “better” (Heb 12:24). So Jesus is a greater Abel, as both were put to death for their righteousness. Jesus says, “They repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matt 12:41) and the Queen of Sheba “came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt 12:42). Jesus is here a greater preacher who has a greater sign (three days in the earth) than Jonah, and who is full of greater wisdom than Solomon. Both men are viewed as types of Christ in these ways.

Events are also viewed typologically. “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:1-4). In another place, Christian baptism is said to correspond (antitupos) to the Flood-baptism (1 Pet 3:20-21). Christ says he is the manna that comes down from heaven (John 6:51). And the Apostle says that the many events of the exodus “took place as examples (tupos) for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Cor 10:6). This last type is ethical in nature, yet it is still rooted in Christ: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did” (1 Cor 10:9).

We should understand from these many examples that seeing Christ in typology is more complicated than making some arbitrary and forced connections as some have done. A good example from the early church was seeing the scarlet thread of Rahab as a type of Christ—because it was red. Instead, types are related to one another organically and substantially (to the substance) rather than accidentally (an attribute that does not affect the substance): temple to Heavenly Temple, wisdom to Wisdom, three days to three days, man to Man, Israel’s grumbling to our own grumbling, and so on. While not always easy to identify proper types or to apply them correctly, nevertheless, we need to be reading the OT as the shadowy pattern of things to come that it is, for all of the OT, in one way or another, finds its fulfillment in Him.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

5 thoughts on “Christ in the Old Testament (Part IV)

  1. Hey, that’s pretty cool and a lot packed into a few words…sorta like “all the books of the world could not contain….” but you will have to do with what’s written down. 🙂

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