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Series in Christology - Part 5: The Incarnation of the Son of God

Article contributed by www.walvoord.com

[Author’s note: With deep regret the series of articles on Christology are brought to a close with this Number, in order to comply with many requests for a series on the millennial issue. We hope at a later date to follow up the Christological articles published, which completed the treatment of the Old Testament contribution, with a detailed study of the New Testament records.]

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 14-16, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1-3 respectively.}

II. Christological Typology (Continued)

Typical Institutions and Ceremonies

In addition to the many typical persons, events, and things which foreshadow the person and work of Christ in the Old Testament, there are typical institutions and ceremonies. As Jesus Christ is the central theme of revelation, it is not strange that most types should speak expressly of Him and this is true in the types under consideration. Many of the types previously considered are also related to typical institutions and ceremonies. In the discussion to follow, unnecessary duplication will be avoided.

The important typical institutions and ceremonies include the Old Testament priesthoods, the sacrifices, the feasts of Jehovah, the cities of refuge, and the Sabbath. These are representative of this field, at least, and will provide another glimpse of the beauties of the person and work of Christ.

The sacrifices. It is necessary only to mention here that the sacrifices previously considered under typical things1 are in themselves typical institutions. The sin offering, trespass offering, meal offering, peace offering, and burnt offering occupy a central place. These and other offerings are an integral part of the Levitical ritual which was revealed and required by God. All of the sacrifices point to the person and work of Christ as the New Testament makes very clear. For the devout heart seeking to know more of the love and grace of God the Old Testament sacrifices provide a rich area of meditation and study. In any case they make the essential requirement of shed blood to stand out boldly in the divine pattern of salvation for lost man and erring saints.

The Old Testament priesthoods. In previous discussion both Aaron and Melchizedek were found to be types of Christ.2 Both the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods are types of the priesthood of Christ. The earliest kind of priesthood in the Old Testament followed the pattern of the patriarchs. In this system the father or head of the family was also its priest. In a general way even this priesthood anticipated Christ, but in Aaron and Melchizedek there is a full and detailed revelation.

The argument in the Epistle to the Hebrews in support of the superiority of Christ to the Aaronic priesthood is based on the anticipation in Melchizedek. As to order of priesthood, Melchizedek in type brings out the fact that Christ is supreme over all other priesthoods, introducing a new order entirely; that His priesthood is eternal, i.e., had no successors, no beginning or ending; that the priesthood of Christ is untransmitted and untransmissible (Heb 7:24); and that it is based on resurrection anticipated in the elements of memorial, bread and wine. The importance of this revelation will be brought out in later consideration of the priesthood of Christ.

In its detail the Aaronic priesthood provides light on the work of Christ as priest and His spiritual qualifications for the office. Aaron anticipated the priesthood of Christ both by similarity and contrast. As Aaron ministers in the earthly sphere, Christ ministers in the heavenly (Heb 8:1-5). Christ served realities rather than shadows (Heb 8:5), administered a new covenant rather than the Mosaic covenant (Heb 8:6). Christ in His sacrifice offered a final sacrifice for sin once for all instead of a daily sacrifice (Heb 7:27). In all these things Christ fulfilled what Aaron anticipated. There are also many similarities. Like Aaron, Christ ministered in sacred things (Heb 5:1), was made a priest by God Himself (Heb 5:4-10), was a true Mediator (1 Tim 2:5), was a part of humanity as the Second Adam as Aaron was a part of Israel, offered sacrifice to God, and on the basis of sacrifice offered intercession (Heb 7:25). There can be no question that the Aaronic priesthood not only was an ad interim dealing of God but that it was also designed to portray in type what Christ was as priest and what He did.

The consecration of the priests for the most part anticipates the priesthood of believers in the present age rather than the priesthood of Christ, but in the case of Aaron the typology seems to point to Christ. The induction into the priest’s office for Aaron began with washing with water (Lev 8:6). While it may not exhaust the meaning of the baptism of Christ, it is significant that His public ministry began with water baptism. Following the washing with water, Aaron was clothed with his priestly garments, which speak of the prerogatives and office of the priesthood of Christ. He was also anointed with oil, which has its antitype in the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ after His baptism. In the case of Aaron (contra other priests), these aspects of induction into the priestly office preceded the sacrifice, even as they preceded the sacrifice of Christ. For other priests the sacrifice came first, as for believer priests in this age.

Feasts of Jehovah. The importance of the feasts of Jehovah in Israel’s religious life cannot be overestimated. These seven feasts as outlined in Leviticus 23 and given further treatment elsewhere were the backbone of the Levitical system. Most of them have a definite typical meaning in relation to Christology.

The Passover was the first and in some respects the most important feast. It was celebrated in the first month, and signified deliverance from the judgment which overtook the Egyptians. The lamb which was sacrificed clearly was a type of Christ. In the New Testament Christ is declared to fulfill the spiritual meaning of the Passover and those who come into the safety of His shed blood are called to a holy life (1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19).

The second feast, the feast of unleavened bread, which immediately followed the Passover, speaks of Christ as the Bread of Life, the holy walk of the believer after redemption, and of communion with Christ. The absence of leaven typically represents the sinlessness of Christ and the believer’s fellowship in that holiness. The prohibition of work during the feast brings out that the holy walk of the believer like his redemption is not a result of human effort, but is a divine provision.

The feast of first fruits celebrated for Israel the new harvest in the land and their deliverance from Egypt. The typical truth is that of the resurrection of Christ: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept…. But every man after his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor 15:20, 23). The feast occurred on the “morrow after the sabbath” (Lev 23:11), i.e., on the first day of the week, even as Christ was raised on the first day of the week. Like the feast of first fruits, the resurrection of Christ anticipates the harvest which is to follow, the resurrection of the saints.

The feast of the wave loaves, coming exactly fifty days after the feast of first fruits, without question foreshadowed the day of Pentecost at which time the two loaves, typical of Gentiles and Israel, are united into one body, the church (Eph 2:14). It does not have special Christological significance, however, except as a result of the work of Christ. The feast of trumpets, likewise, speaking of the regathering of Israel to the land, does not refer specifically to Christ.

The feast of the day of atonement represents in large measure the work of Christ on the cross. The sacrifices and preparation of the high priest, of course, were not necessary for Christ, but the sacrifices and ceremonies for the people are foreshadowings of the work of Christ. The day of atonement centers on the work of the high priest, even as the work of salvation centers in Christ. The high priest properly prepared and clothed would perform the ceremonies required on behalf of the people. The sin offering of the goat was presented first, the goat killed, and the blood was brought into the holy of holies and sprinkled upon the mercy seat (Lev 16:15). Then the live goat was allowed to escape in the wilderness after the sins of the people of Israel were confessed with the hands of the high priest on the head of the goat. The whole transaction speaks of Christ as our substitute, dying and cleansing by shed blood, and putting away our sins from before God, as represented by the scapegoat. The blood of Christ opens the way into the holiest of all and the seat of the ark of the covenant, representing God’s holiness, becomes a mercy seat. This thought is clearly indicated in the New Testament (Rom 3:25; Heb 9:7-8, 23-28). Other aspects of the day of atonement speak also of the work of Christ. The goat of the sin offering was carried outside the camp and burned, even as Christ was sacrificed outside Jerusalem (Heb 13:11-13). In addition to the sin offering, a burnt offering was provided (Lev 16:24), speaking of the obedience and devotion of Christ in His death and constituting a ground for merit for the believer—justification. Most significant is the contrast between the Aaronic high priest entering the holy of holies once a year and the open access afforded every believer priest in this age to the very presence of God in heaven. The day of atonement provides, then, not only a temporary form of worship for Israel, but it is also a beautiful and suggestive type foreshadowing the wonders of the work of Christ on the cross.

The feast of tabernacles seems to have a double meaning. It referred to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and constituted a memorial of this event. It was also prophetic of the future regathering of Israel and will be observed in the millennium (Zech 14:16-19). In contrast to the other feasts which speak of the finished work of Christ, this feast represents the unfinished work of Christ and the plan of God for the future regathering of dispersed Israel and their blessing in the land of Palestine. Present world events seem to be the beginning of this work of God to be completed after the return of Christ.

Cities of refuge. In the Mosaic law provision was made for the protection of those who innocently had taken the life of another. Six cities of refuge were established, three on either side of Jordan, and placed in the hands of the Levites (Num 35; Deut 19:1-13; Josh 20). If judged innocent of wilful murder, the party responsible could have deliverance from the avenger of blood as long as he remained in the city of refuge. It was provided that at the death of the high priest, he could return to his home, but not before. The cities of refuge are obviously a type of refuge in Christ. The sinner there finds refuge from judgment for sin and is made free by the death of the high priest. God is frequently spoken of as a refuge in the Old Testament (Ps 46:1; 142:5 ; Isa 4:6) and also in the New Testament (Rom 8:33-34; Heb 6:18-19). While God has always been the refuge of His saints, it was not until the death of the high priest, fulfilled in Christ, that complete freedom was provided.

Sabbath. As an institution in Israel, the Sabbath had a central place. It was a day of complete rest and was supplemented by other Sabbath days, and Sabbatic years. For the most part these observances were for Israel and stand in contrast rather than similarity to the Christian observance of the first day of the week. The typical significance of the Sabbath is, therefore, relatively minor.3 The Sabbath uniformly is a symbol of rest. This is its first meaning as found in the rest of God after creation, and this was carried out for Israel. In the New Testament it is used as a type of the rest of faith of the Christian who has ceased from his own works and is resting in the work of Christ. In Hebrews 4:1-11, the principal passage in the New Testament on this theme, the contrast is plainly made between the day of rest of the Sabbath and the rest of faith in Christ: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Heb 4:9-10).

Taken as a whole, it is proper to conclude that the typical ceremonies and institutions of the Old Testament have as their main theme the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, imbedded in the religious life of saints before Christ, are found the principal elements of the New Testament revelation concerning Christ. Beautiful as are the types they are exceeded by the antitype, and devout souls can long for that future complete revelation when we shall see Him face to face.

Dallas, Texas


This article was taken from the Theological Journal Library CD and posted with permission of Galaxie Software.


1 Bibliotheca Sacra, 105:420, pp. 404-7.

2 Ibid., 105:419, pp. 287-88, 292-93.

3 For a complete discussion of the meaning of the Sabbath, cf. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, IV, 100-113.