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9. Typology of Christ

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Not only does the Old Testament reveal the coming messiah through prophecy, it also reveals him through typology. Typology refers to historical people, places, objects, or events which foreshadow Christ and his work in the Old Testament. Consider the verses below, which speak of OT typology:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!

Colossians 2:16-17

For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship.

Hebrews 10:1

Many of the laws, festivals, and stories in the Old Testament were simply shadows of the coming messiah—meant to prepare Israel for him. As with shadows today, they reflect aspects of something real but do not fully give the picture. In this study, we will consider many of the Old Testament types of Christ.

Adam

Adam is a type of Christ. Adam was the leader of the world who failed when tempted by the devil, leading the world into sin and death. However, Christ, like Adam, was tempted by the devil but succeeded and leads his followers to righteousness and eternal life. Adam was simply an imperfect shadow of a coming perfect, human ruler. Consider the following verses:

So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:45

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed… For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!

Romans 5:14, 17

Tony Evans said this in comparing Adam and Christ—the last Adam (1 Cor 15:21-22):

…the first Adam was a death-dealer, the last Adam is a life-giver. People who are related only to the first Adam will only see physical life. Their future is eternal death. But people who are related to the last Adam not only have the life of the first Adam physically, they have the life of the last Adam eternally, which is a better life.1

Abel

Abel is a type of Christ. Abel, the son of Adam, was murdered by his older brother, Cain, simply for being righteous. Likewise, Christ was murdered by his brethren, the Jews, for being righteous. When God approached Cain about the murder in Genesis 4:10-11, God said:

But the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! So now, you are banished from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

Abel’s blood spoke about the need for justice. In contrast, Christ’s blood speaks about the need for mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. Hebrews 12:24 says, “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel’s does.” Also, Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

Noah’s Ark

Also, Noah’s ark is a type of Christ. In the same way that God saved Noah’s family who entered the ark from the judgment of the flood, God now saves all who are in Christ. All outside of Christ will experience God’s eternal wrath. First Peter 3:20-21 says:

after they were disobedient long ago when God patiently waited in the days of Noah as an ark was being constructed. In the ark a few, that is eight souls, were delivered through water. And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you—not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

When verse 21 says this “prefigured baptism,” the word “prefigured” can also be translated “type” or “antitype.” The ark which saved Noah’s family from God’s judgment through water prefigures a future baptism. Peter makes it clear that he is not referring to “water baptism,” as he says, “not the washing off of physical dirt” but the “pledge of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (v. 21). Those who put their faith in Christ are baptized into him, including his death and resurrection, and they will be saved from God’s future wrath. Several verses point to this spiritual baptism into Christ:

For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.

Romans 6:3-5

Baptism really means to be “identified” with something. Those who by faith accept Christ as Lord and Savior are identified with his life, death, and resurrection and, therefore, will be saved from God’s judgment. Noah’s ark was a type of Christ, in that people who identify with him will likewise be saved.

Melchizedek

Melchizedek was a king of Salem (an old name for Jerusalem) and priest of Yahweh who met with Abraham in Genesis 14. Abraham honored Melchizedek by paying tithes to him (v. 20). One of the things that makes Melchizedek unique is that he was a king and priest. In Israel, those roles were kept distinct. The king was not a priest, and the priest was not a king. Kings were supposed to come from the line of David and priests from the Levitical line, through Aaron’s children.

In Hebrews 7, the author makes the argument that the New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant because it has a greater priesthood. God promised that Christ would be a priest like Melchizedek instead of a Levitical priest. The priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than the Levitical priesthood for at least two reasons: As mentioned, Abraham, who is the grandfather of Levi, paid tithes to Melchizedek which shows how great Melchizedek was (Heb 4:9). Also, because there is no record of Melchizedek’s death, that means he has an eternal priesthood. Hebrews 7:3 says this about him, “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time.” Priests typically remained in office till death (Heb 7:23). Therefore, since there is no record of Melchizedek’s death, technically, he remains a priest. Because of this, Melchizedek is a type of Christ—a priest and king, with an eternal priesthood.

Jacob’s Ladder

Another type of Christ is Jacob’s ladder. In Genesis 28, Jacob has a vision of a heavenly ladder with angels ascending to heaven on it and descending to earth from it (v. 12). In John 1:50-51, when Christ met with Nathaniel—who became one of the original twelve disciples—he said this to him:

… “Because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” He continued, “I tell all of you the solemn truth—you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nathaniel, as one raised hearing and studying the Old Testament stories, would have quickly understood the picture Christ gave. Jacob’s ladder typified Christ, and therefore, Christ was the way to heaven. Likewise, in John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Isaac

Though Isaac is never clearly called a type of Christ in Scripture, many have seen the similarities as unmistakable. Isaac was the child God promised to give Abraham. Isaac had a miraculous birth when Abraham was 100 years old and Abraham’s wife, Sara, was 90 years old. Abraham was called by God to sacrifice Isaac; however, Isaac was miraculously delivered from Abraham’s knife as God provided a ram in a thicket. The reason Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac was because he believed God would raise him from the dead. Hebrews 11:17-19 says this:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He had received the promises, yet he was ready to offer up his only son. God had told him, “Through Isaac descendants will carry on your name,” and he reasoned that God could even raise him from the dead, and in a sense he received him back from there.

Likewise, Christ was the only begotten Son of God. He was prophesied about soon after the creation of the earth. He had a miraculous birth, as he was born of a virgin. God chose to sacrifice him, as a substitutionary lamb, for the sins of the world and then raised him from the dead. Though never clearly declared a type of Christ, the similarities between Isaac and Christ are unmistakable.

Joseph

Likewise, Joseph is never clearly called a type of Christ, but the similarities are many. Joseph was the favorite child of his father, Jacob. He was hated by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt. While a slave, he was eventually falsely accused by his master’s wife and thrown into prison. While there, he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of seven years of plenty in the land and seven years of famine. Because of that, Pharaoh promoted him to second in command of Egypt in order to prepare the country to survive the famine. Eventually, as second in command, Joseph also saves his family, including the brothers who enslaved him, and other nations from starving during the famine. God used the bad that happened to him to save many lives.

What are some of the ways people have seen unmistakable similarities with Christ? Here are a few:

  • He was a seed of Abraham whom the nations of the earth were blessed through, even as Christ was (Gen 41:53-57; cf. Gen 22:18).
  • He was the beloved son of his father, even as Christ was (John 3:16).
  • He became a poor servant, even as Christ did (2 Cor 8:9).
  • His brothers hated him because of his dream that one day he would reign over them (37:4,8). The Jews hated Christ and would not have him reign over them (Lk 19:14).
  • The Jewish brothers would eventually bow down to Joseph, even though they previously rejected and harmed him. Likewise, Israel initially rejected Christ and killed him, but one day they will submit to him and worship him as their messiah (Zech 12:10, Rom 11:26-27).
  • Joseph and Jesus were betrayed by their brothers (the Jews) and sold for the price of a slave in pieces of silver (Gen 37:28, Matt 26:15).
  • Joseph was exalted to prince in Egypt. Everything was under Joseph’s rule except Pharaoh. In Genesis 41:40, Pharaoh said, " Only I, the king, will be greater than you." Likewise, God has exalted Christ. First Corinthians 15:27 says, “For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says ‘everything’ has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him.”
  • Joseph was given a Gentile wife, an Egyptian. Christ has been given a bride who is both Jew and Gentile, the church (Eph 2:11-22, 5:25-26, Gal 3:28, Rev 19:7-8).
  • Joseph wept over his brothers (Gen 45:2). Christ wept over the sins of the Jews as well (Lk 19:41).
  • Joseph was a prophet that received messages from God. Jesus was “the Prophet” (Deut 18:15, John 7:40, Acts 3:18-22).
  • Joseph saved the lives of those who came to him for help, including many nations in the world (Gen 41:57). Likewise, Christ saves the lives of those who come to him for help (John 3:16).

Again, though never clearly pointed to in Scripture as a type of Christ, Joseph’s story, in many ways, mirrors that of Jesus.

Moses

Moses is also a type of Christ. As God made Moses the mediator of the Old Covenant, Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant. Moses even prophesied that there would be a prophet like him who would come that Israel must listen to. Deuteronomy 18:15-19 says:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you—from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him. This accords with what happened at Horeb in the day of the assembly. You asked the Lord your God: “Please do not make us hear the voice of the Lord our God any more or see this great fire any more lest we die.” The Lord then said to me, “What they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command. I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.

Since “the Prophet” became a messianic title, the Jews were waiting for him and recognized Christ as that prophet. Consider the following verses:

Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

John 6:14

When they heard these words, some of the crowd began to say, “This really is the Prophet!”

John 7:40

Passover Lamb

The Jewish Passover lamb is also a type of Christ. While Israel was in Egypt, God judged the Egyptians by killing their firstborns. The Jews were passed over as long as they had the blood of a lamb sprinkled on their doorposts (Ex 12:3-14). During the Passover ceremony, they would not eat yeast, but would cleanse their house of it, which was a picture of getting rid of sin. Likewise, Paul said that Christ is our Passover lamb who has been slain to deliver us from God’s judgment. Therefore, we should also get rid of yeast in our lives and churches—referring to sin. First Corinthians 5:7 says: “Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough—you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Manna

God sending manna from heaven to sustain Israel in the wilderness is also a type of Christ. In Exodus 16, the Israelites complained to God because they lacked food while traveling in the wilderness. So God gave them manna from heaven to eat, which was a type of bread. Likewise, while Christ was speaking to the Jews about their need to believe in him, they asked for a sign from God, just like their fathers received manna from God in the wilderness. Christ simply responded that he was the bread from heaven—declaring that God sending manna from heaven to satisfy his people in the wilderness was always a picture of him. In the same way God gave the Israelites bread to deliver them from hunger and preserve their lives, God gave Christ, as bread from heaven, to satisfy and save all who believe in him. John 6:30-35 says:

So they said to him, “Then what miraculous sign will you perform, so that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the solemn truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but my Father is giving you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.

The Bronze Snake

The bronze snake that Moses erected for Israel to save them from death is a type of Christ. In Numbers 21, while in the wilderness, the Israelites complained and murmured against God. Because of their complaining, God disciplined them by allowing them to be bit by poisonous snakes. Then, when Moses prayed for them, God told Moses to raise a bronze snake on a pole, and when the Israelites looked at the snake, they would be healed. In John 3:14-15, Christ compared himself to the bronze snake. He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The bronze snake was always a picture of Christ. In the world, people are dying from the deadly poison of sin; however, when they put their faith in Christ who died on the cross for their sins, they will be saved.

High Priest

The high priest in the Old Covenant is also a type of Christ. In the Old Covenant, God established priests to mediate between the people and God. They would pray for the people, offer sacrifices for them, and minister to God on their behalf. Among the priests, there was a high priest, who once a year would go into the inner sanctuary of the temple to offer an atoning sacrifice for sins. Scripture says that Christ is our high priest—our mediator between us and God. However, unlike regular high priests, he is a perfect priest in that he has never sinned, and he will live forever. Consider the below verses:

For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.

Hebrews 4:15-16

For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all.

Hebrews 7:26-27

Tabernacle

The tabernacle is a type of Christ. While Moses was leading Israel in the wilderness, God had them make a tabernacle, which was a portable tent, where God would come down to meet with his people. John the apostle called Christ our tabernacle. In John 1:14, he says, “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.” The phrase “took up residence” or “dwelt” (ESV) in the Greek actually means “tabernacled.”2 Where God’s presence came down to the tabernacle to meet with Israel in the Old Testament, in Christ, God came down to meet with his people.

The Sacrificial Lamb

Sacrificial lambs are a type of Christ. In the Old Covenant, Moses gave stipulations about sacrificial lambs. The lamb had to be a male without defect; the offeror would lay hands on the lamb (symbolically transferring his sins to the animal) and then God would accept it as an atoning sacrifice (Lev 1:1-4). Likewise, Christ is called the “unblemished and spotless lamb” (1 Pet 1:19), in that he was perfect and without sin. He died to take away the sins of the world. John said this about Christ when he saw him approaching, “…Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Christ’s sacrifice is better than the blood of lambs because lambs could never take away sins—that is why they had to be continually offered (Heb 10:1-4). However, Christ offered his body once and never again for the sins of the world. Sacrificial lambs were just a shadow of the one who would take away the sins of the world (Heb 10:11-14).

The Veil

The veil in the tabernacle and temple was a type of Christ. In the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle and temple (often called the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place), there was a veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary. The Holy of Holies was where God’s presence dwelled. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter through the veil to offer sacrifices for sins. However, when Christ died on the cross, the veil in the temple was split—symbolizing how the hindrance into God’s presence was removed. The writer of Hebrews says that now Christ’s body is our veil (or “curtain”)—his body is our doorway into the presence of God. Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”

Mercy Seat

Another type of Christ in the Old Testament is the “mercy seat,” which was located in the Holy of Holies, within the tabernacle and temple. Romans 3:25 says this about Christ,

God publicly displayed him [Jesus] at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.

In the Holy of Holies, there was a gold lid on the Ark of the Covenant. When the high priest entered, he placed drops of blood from a sacrificed lamb on the mercy seat. God would see this blood and spare the high priest, allowing him to have access to God. Jesus is our mercy seat. Because God sees his blood, which was shed for our sins, we have access to God at all times.

The Sabbath Day

The Old Testament Sabbath day is also a type of Christ. On the Sabbath day (Friday evening to Saturday evening), Jews were called to rest from their labor and worship God. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul said this:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!

There were apparently false teachers in Colossae saying that believers still needed to practice the Old Testament Sabbath day. However, Paul argues that the Sabbath was a shadow of Christ, and now that Christ has come, believers no longer need to practice the Sabbath. Certainly, we still should practice the principle of Sabbath—resting from labor at least one day a week. Sabbath reminds us that we are not God—we need rest. Also, it reminds us that work is not our God, so we should not be enslaved to it. In Mark 2:27, Christ said, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. In Christ, we find our spiritual rest, which the Sabbath day always pointed to. In Matthew 11:28-30, Christ said,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.

Cities of Refuge

The Old Testament cities of refuge were a type of Christ. In the Mosaic Law, the Lord set aside six cities of refuge for people to run to when they had committed murder, whether on accident or on purpose. Since God had initiated the law of capital punishment for murder (Gen 9:6), he allowed those who were accused of murder to flee to the cities of refuge to escape the avenger of blood (usually a family member) and to have a fair trial. The verses below describe this:

Now from these towns that you will give to the Levites you must select six towns of refuge to which a person who has killed someone may flee. And you must give them forty-two other towns.

Numbers 35:6

And they must stand as your towns of refuge from the avenger in order that the killer may not die until he has stood trial before the community.

Numbers 35:12

The writer of Hebrews indicates that Christ is a type of “city of refuge.” Hebrews 6:18-20 (ESV) says:

so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Previously, in Hebrews 6:8, the writer talked about being in danger of being cursed and destroyed by God for apostasy (turning away from God), then he describes the confidence of true believers who have “fled for refuge” to Jesus who is our “forerunner” and “high priest” (6:20). Since the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), we deserve death for sinning against God. However, those who run to the City of Refuge, Christ, shall be saved.

The Rock

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, Paul said this to the Corinthians:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, 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 were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.

When Paul described a spiritual rock providing spiritual drink for Israel in the wilderness (v. 4), this story was very familiar to Jews since Moses provided water for Israel from a rock that he struck two different times—once near the beginning of their journey and again near the end (Ex 17:1-7, Num 20:2-13). Though Israel received water from a physical rock, Paul was saying that Christ ultimately supplied the water and that the rock Moses struck pictured the water’s origin—Christ.3 In fact, Jewish legend said that the initial rock that Moses struck followed Israel throughout their journey, supplying water for them.4 John MacArthur’s comments on this are helpful:

I believe the apostle may have been alluding to this legend, saying, “Yes, a rock did follow Israel in the wilderness. But it was not a physical rock that provided merely physical water. It was a spiritual rock, the Messiah (the Hebrew term for Christ) whom you have long awaited, who was with our fathers even then.”5

The rock in the wilderness which supplied water for Israel was a type of Christ—helping prepare Israel for their coming messiah.

David

David is a type of Christ. Scripture teaches that Christ is the prophesied Son of David who will one day rule on his father’s throne over Israel and the world. However, sometimes in Scripture, Jesus is simply called David. For example, Ezekiel 37:24 says, “My servant David will be king over them; there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow my regulations and carefully observe my statutes.” Because of this language, some people actually believe God will resurrect David to rule over Israel in the millennial kingdom (Rev 20). However, it seems that God is just using the name David to refer to the messiah, the Son of David. Jeremiah 23:5-6 says this:

I, the Lord, promise that a new time will certainly come when I will raise up for them a righteous branch, a descendant of David. He will rule over them with wisdom and understanding and will do what is just and right in the land. Under his rule Judah will enjoy safety and Israel will live in security. This is the name he will go by: ‘The Lord has provided us with justice.’

Solomon

Solomon also is a type of Christ. In 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 (ESV), God made a covenant with David that he would have a son who would build God a house and have an everlasting rule. It says:

When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.

Solomon, David’s son, did build the temple for God to dwell in. However, Solomon died, just like his father, David, did. Solomon only partially fulfilled God’s promise. It is ultimately fulfilled in Christ—a future son of David. Christ also built God a house. Many have seen this fulfilled in at least two ways. (1) Christ built God a house by building the universal church, which is called the temple of God. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul says this to the church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” Also, in 1 Peter 2:5, Peter says this to believers, “you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (2) But many also believe that Christ will one day build a future physical temple, even as Solomon did in his day. In Ezekiel 40-43, Ezekiel prophesies about the dimensions of a magnificent temple that has never yet been built, which many believe will exist during Christ’s millennial reign on the earth (Rev 20).

Jonah

Jonah also was a type of Christ. When Jonah was in the big fish for three days and nights and then spit up onto dry land, that was a picture of Christ being in the earth for three days and nights and then resurrecting. In Matthew 12:38-41, Christ said this:

Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them—and now, something greater than Jonah is here!

Israel

The final typology of Christ we will consider is the nation of Israel. Matthew 2:14-15 pictures Israel as a type of Christ. It says:

Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Matthew describes how Joseph and his family (including Jesus) hid in Egypt while Herod was executing babies in Israel. Then, Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 which says, “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Without close examination, it seems that Matthew was saying Christ fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy about him. However, Matthew is really describing how Israel was always a typology—a shadow which pictured the coming messiah. Hosea 11:1 says this: “When Israel was a young man, I loved him like a son, and I summoned my son out of Egypt.” The quoted text, as originally written, had nothing to do with Christ. It originally was spoken by Hosea about how God called Israel out of Egypt, but Matthew uses it for how Joseph left Egypt with his son, Jesus, after initially fleeing there from Herod. This wasn’t a prophecy; it was a typology. Matthew was saying Israel leaving Egypt was an Old Testament shadow of Christ. No doubt, Israel’s forty years of being tempted and tried in the wilderness before going into the promised land was also meant to picture how Jesus was tempted and tried by the devil in the wilderness for forty days before beginning his ministry. However, where Israel failed God when tempted, Christ succeeded.

In fact, with the Servant Songs in Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 53), many struggle to discern when God is speaking about Israel or Jesus as the suffering servant. Sometimes it is clearly talking about Israel. At other times, it is clearly talking about Jesus (as in Isaiah 53), and sometimes, it is unclear. Consider Isaiah 49:1-6:

Listen to me, you coastlands! Pay attention, you people who live far away! The Lord summoned me from birth; he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the hollow of his hand; he made me like a sharpened arrow, he hid me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.” But I thought, “I have worked in vain; I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.” But the Lord will vindicate me; my God will reward me. So now the Lord says, the one who formed me from birth to be his servant—he did this to restore Jacob to himself, so that Israel might be gathered to him; and I will be honored in the Lord’s sight, for my God is my source of strength—he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel? I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”

In verse 3, God calls the servant “Israel.” But in verse 5, the servant is separate from Israel and is called to bring “Jacob” back to God. How do we explain this? Israel was meant to be a type of Christ—to reflect the future glory of the Savior to the Gentile world. However, because they failed God, the Savior, Jesus Christ, needed to turn the nation back to God and ultimately bring salvation to the unbelieving, Gentile world (v. 6). Israel is a type of Christ—a shadow of the greater reality.

Conclusion

In the Old Testament, there are many shadows of Christ—dim pictures of the greater reality. (1) This reminds us that God is the God of history, as it tells “His Story.” He controls events in such a way that they testify of him and bring glory to him. God used stories such as the murder of Abel, Jacob’s dream of a ladder, Moses delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt, Israel being bitten by snakes in the wilderness, Jonah being swallowed by a big fish, and much more, all to picture Christ and point people to salvation in Christ. (2) This not only reminds us that God is the author and controller of history, but also that the major theme of Scripture is Christ—not only the Old Testament but also the New Testament. The Old Testament prophesies about him and pictures him through types. The Gospels tell the story of his birth, life, death, and resurrection. The book of Acts shows the spread of Christ’s gospel through his apostles. The Epistles declare his teaching through the apostles, and finally, Revelation describes Christ’s wrath and coming to rule on the earth. Christ is the major theme of Scripture, and therefore, we must recognize him throughout and allow the pictures and messages about him to draw us to worship and obedience.

Reflection

  1. Which types of Christ stood out most and why?
  2. What types were new to you?
  3. Should historical people like Isaac and Joseph be considered types of Christ when Scripture never clearly teaches that they are?
  4. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

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1 Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2 Hart, J. F. (2014). John. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (p. 1608). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

3 Vanlaningham, M. G. (2014). 1 Corinthians. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (pp. 1788–1789). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 220). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 220). Chicago: Moody Press.

Related Topics: Christology

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