Types of Christ

"The Bible student should be careful to distinguish between the possible, the probable and the certain" (Oswald Allis). This wise maxim should be applied to the study of typology.

A number of terms are related to the study of typology. A few examples are:

1. typos "type" (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6,11);

2. skia "shadow" (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1);

3. hypodeigma "copy" (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23); and

4. sémeion "sign" (Matthew 12:39).

By the very nature of the case, it is not always evident what formulates a genuine type and what not. To define our terms, a type is a shadow cast on the pages of the Old Testament history by a truth whose full embodiment or antitype is found in the New Testament revelation.

When we engage in hermeneutics, the issue involved is whether a certain story or personage in the Old Testament (however historical it or he may have been) is meant to expound a significant truth about Messiah and his mission.

True types are to be distinguished from fanciful or imaginative interpretations of Scripture. They are not afterthoughts cabalistically read back into the Old Testament story, such as was the habit of many church Fathers, especially Origen. Moreover they retain their typical significance even after the antitype has appeared (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

Types have the following characteristics:

1. They are thoroughly rooted in history. Jonah's experience is jut as credible as the momentous event which it adumbrates (Matthew 12:40).

2. Types are prophetic in nature. They always point forward to messianic times. Melchizedek (Genesis 14) becomes the spiritual prefiguration of Christ's eternal priesthood (Psalms 110; Hebrews 7).

3. Types are definitely designed as an integral part of redemptive history. They serve a purpose in the course of history.

4. Types are Christocentric. They all point to Christ in one way or another. If the Old Testament as a whole has Christ as its subject (Luke 24:24,44; Acts 3:24ff), surely the types anticipate his redemption of fallen mankind.

5. They are edificatory, having spiritual meaning for God's people in both dispensations. Our faith is confirmed and built up as we consider the finger of God in the making of history.

Keeping these principles in mind would save us from gross error as we study the Old Testament in the light of the New. We must keep from extremes of seeing types behind every bush in Old Testament history, and on the other hand of ignoring all typology.

A few simple distinctions will safeguard us:

1. One must distinguish between the type backed by New Testament authority. This is certainly a type, to be distinguished on the other extreme from a speculative type. But this does not mean that no type is valid unless supported by explicit New Testament reference.

2. One must distinguish between the type that definitely corroborates a doctrine and the type that has no relevance to a supposed doctrine. Jonah's expulsion from the great fish typifies Christ's resurrection (Matthew 12: 40), but Jonah's restoration to the land does not necessarily typify Israel's restoration to Palestine.

3. One must distinguish between what is essential and central in a type and what is peripheral in the same type (just as in the study of parables). We are not meant to become so bogged down in details that absurdities and puerilities swallow up the essential truth.

The following are true types of Christ and His work:

(a) Jacob's Ladder.

"And he said to him, Verily verily I say unto you, Hereafter thou shalt see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (John 1:51).

This statement of Jesus' alludes to Jacob's vision of a ladder or stairway stretching from earth to heaven (Genesis 28:12).

Jesus presents himself as the reality to which the stairway pointed. The patriarch saw in a dream the reunion of heaven and earth through the One Mediator, Jesus Christ, which is now brought to reality both for Jacob and for all believers.

(b) Moses.

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house" (Hebrews 3:1-3).

With reference to Numbers 12:7, Moses and Christ are compared as to faithfulness and contrasted as to honour. Though privileged to speak to God face to face and to see His form (Numbers 12:8), Moses was still only "a servant" in the house of God.

Moses enjoyed a special dignity in his service to God; he is the unique minister of the law. And yet Jesus' ministry is higher still, for Moses himself pointed out that a greater Prophet will arise and the people were responsible to listen to Him. Again, as Moses was the deliverer from Egypt, Christ is now the greater Deliverer from this present evil world (Galatians 1:5), from the devil and from our sin.

(c) The Temple.

"Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them, and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said" (John 2:19-22).

After the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ the material temple became obsolete in God's economy (as Christ here prophesied) for He himself and his church (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:22) became the antitypical fulfilment (Hebrews 9:11-14) of all that which it foreshadowed and symbolically presented. It was necessary to attend to the temple to worship God properly and acceptably; in the New Testament the true worshippers do not worship locally but spiritually (John 4).

(d) Boaz.

Boaz was a wealthy Bethlehemite of the tribe of Judah, who married Ruth (the Gentile bride). As the Goel (the Kinsman-Redeemer) I have no doubt that Boaz is a type of Christ, who became incarnate, springing from Judah too, in order to acquire for himself a bride from the Gentile nations.

He was willing to do so (as Boaz was willing to redeem and marry Ruth), he has to power to do so, and he is our kinsman, with the right to do so.

(No direct reference to Boaz as a type of Christ is found in the New Testament).

(e) The Cleansing with Hyssop.

"For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, and water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you" (Hebrews 9:19,20).

Hyssop was used for the cleansing of lepers (Leviticus 14:4,6,51,52; Numbers 19:6,18), a reference to our cleaning from sin by Christ. This reference, though, has its immediate allusion to Exodus 24:4-8. In this ceremony (in which hyssop was used) God, the author of the scroll, and the people of the congregation were sworn to the covenant with its penalties.

The covenant was ratified by the blood of sprinkling, applied by dipping the hyssop into it. This sprinkling of the blood finds its antitype in Jesus Christ and his shed blood on Calvary (see 1 Peter 1:2). Sprinkling of blood was part of the Old Testament ritual service. In general, the appearance of blood advertises the death of a victim. Christ's shed blood cries for forgiveness (Luke 23:34; Hebrews 12:24).

(f) The Two Turtledoves or Young Pigeons.

"And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24).

The need for Mary's purification arose from her being ceremonially unclean for seven days after the birth of a son. For another thirty-three days she was to keep away from holy things. The mother was then to offer a lamb plus a dove or pigeon. If she was poor her offering was two doves or two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:6-8). Mary gave the offering of the poor. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

At the same time the first male child of every mother was presented to the Lord (Exodus 13:2). As he was "redeemed" by the sacrifice of two turtledoves, He was to be the true Redeemer of God's children who were scattered abroad. He was "sanctified" that He might sanctify others.

(g) The Manna in the Wilderness.

"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven" (John 6:32).

The adjective "true" has a special meaning. Jesus refers to what is everlasting, as opposed to something merely representative and pointing onwards to him (the Manna). The bread provided through Moses (Exodus 16; Numbers 11), as much as it proved God's care and provision, was only material and temporary; Christ and his sacrifice satisfies the soul eternally. Just as manna came down from heaven, even so the Son came down from heaven (John 6:33). His incarnation is spoken of as "coming down" (in abasement and humiliation) that though his death we might, even during the wilderness of our temporal existence, find life and continual sustenance.

(h) Jonah as a type of Christ.

A type is an impression made by a person, an object or an event in the Old Testament that foreshadows the coming of the Messiah, in His person and/or His work. In this sense virtually all Bible students recognise certain eventualities in the life of Jonah as predictive of the last and greatest of all prophets, the Lord from heaven.

The theme of God's mercy on the nations, so prominent in the book of Jonah, is used by Jesus as a rebuke to unrepentant Israel (Matthew 12:38-41; Luke 11:29-32). If the Ninevites repented at the preaching of the prophet Jonah, who was rescued from confinement in the huge fish, how much more should Israel repent at the preaching of Jesus, the Son of man, who was resurrected from the tomb.

Specifically Jesus mentions Jonah's three-day experience in the belly of the fish as indicative of what would happen to Him: his death and resurrection the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). In this sense, Jesus' resurrection is "according to the Scriptures."

But in other ways, Jesus and Jonah are far different from each other: Jesus was willing to preach, whereas Jonah wasn't. Jesus rejoiced at the conversion of anyone; Jonah was gloomy when the city repented.

Melchizedek as a type of Christ

(a sermon outline)

Introduction: Though mentioned just a few times in the Old Testament, Melchizedek is a significant type of Jesus Christ. His history and the facts about him all point to Jesus as our King and Priest.

1. Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of the most high God. He came forth to meet Abraham after he had rescued Lot and those taken with him.

Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine, and blessed Abraham, and Abraham recognised the superiority of Melchizedek by giving him tithes of all.

2. Melchizedek is a type of Christ as a royal-priest: King of Salem (righteousness) and king of peace. His priesthood is eternal, and it is non-transferable. Being perpetual his priesthood is sufficient for us; we do not depend on human priests. Human priesthood is weak and ineffectual: Aaron and his sons, though constituted priests by God himself, pointed out the inherent weakness in themselves because they died. But Melchizedek is a priest of an entirely different order from that of Aaron, which passed from father to son.

Very significantly, there is no mention of his progenitors, nor of any descendant: "Without father, without mother, without genealogy; having neither beginning of days nor end of life." Thus Melchizedek is a beautiful type of the Son of God, who has been called by God to be "a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."

3. Nothing is said of any sacrifice being offered by Melchizedek to God; he rather brought forth from God that which symbolises life and joy (cf. John 6:51; 2:1-10), and blessed him who had the promises. Blessing characterises the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ (Genesis 14:18-20; Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:1-21).

Conclusion: Christ's priesthood is no afterthought with God; he was predestined as the blameless Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. To impress his firm intent into our hearts, God gave us (before the Son's coming) various "proofs" of his determinate counsel concerning his Son and his royal priesthood. May our faith be established as we meditate upon his unique priesthood.