Interpreting Types

Written by Michael Vlach.

I.  Introduction to Types


A.    Type defined  “Type” literally means “impression,” “blow” or a “stamp.” In the Bible, a “type” refers to an Old Testament person, object, ceremony or institution that prefigures or foreshadows a greater reality that is revealed in the New Testament. The study of types is called “typology.”


B.      Divine Pattern  Typology assumes that there is a God-inspired pattern in salvation history. God intended for certain things in the Old Testament era to picture greater realities that would appear in the New Testament era. This can only happen if there is a God who knows and controls history.


C.     Type/Antitype  Typology has its own terminology. The Old Testament reality is called the “type” while the New Testament fulfillment is called the “antitype.”


1.       OT type—Passover (Exod. 12); NT antitype—Christ is our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7)


2.       OT type—bronze serpent that when looked upon brought healing (Num. 21:9); NT antitype—those who look to Jesus’ death on the cross will be spiritually healed (John 3:14).  “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”


D.    Difference between prophecies and types. Prophecies verbally predict what will happen in the future. Types are things that nonverbally prefigure some greater New Testament reality. You can spot an Old Testament prophecy from reading the Old Testament alone, but the New Testament must indicate either explicitly or implicitly whether some Old Testament person, object, ceremony, or institution functioned as a type.


II. Principles for Interpreting Types


A.    To conclude that a type relationship exists, the New Testament must explicitly or implicitly make the connection. For example, there is a typological relationship between Adam and Christ because Romans5:14 explicitly states that there is.


B.      With typology, the New Testament antitype is viewed as superior to the Old Testament type.


1.       Christ is superior to Melchizedek (Heb. 10:11–17).


2.       Jesus’ sacrifice is greater than that of the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7).


NOTE: Some have viewed the nation Israel as a type of the Christian Church, but this is not the case. The New Testament does not indicate that the Church is greater than or has superseded nationalIsrael as the people of God. In fact, Israel’s salvation and restoration are predicted in Romans 11:25-27.


C.     Not every detail of a type has special significance. Yes it is true that the Old Testament tabernacle prefigured the work of Jesus but this does not mean, as some have asserted, that the acacia wood and gold in the tabernacle are types of the humanity and deity of Jesus.


III. Examples of Types


A.    Persons


1.      Melchizedek is a type of Christ’s perpetual priesthood (Heb. 7:3, 15-17).

2.      Adam is the representative of fallen humanity while Christ is representative of redeemed humanity (Rom. 5:14).

3.      Aaron is a type of Christ’s priestly ministry (Heb. 5:4-5).


B.      Events


1.      The Passover feast is a type of Christ’s sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7).

2.      The Feast of Unleavened Bread typifies the believer’s holy walk (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

3.      The Day of Atonement is a type of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Heb. 9:19-28).

4.      Jonah’s three days and nights in the belly of the fish typifies Jesus in the tomb (Matt. 12:40).

5.      Noah’s flood typifies baptism (1 Pet. 3:20-21).

6.      Israel at the time of the Exodus typifies Jesus’ coming out ofEgypt (compare Matt. 2:15 with Hosea 11:1).


C.     Institutions  The Sabbath is a type of the believer’s eternal rest (Col. 2:17; Heb. 4:3, 9, 11).


D.    Things


1.      The Tabernacle typified Christ—the believer’s access to God and basis of fellowship with God (Heb. 8:2, 5; 9:23-24).

2.      The Tabernacle veil prefigures Christ as the believer’s access to God (Heb. 10:20).

3.      The Burnt Offering is a type of Christ’s offering of Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins (Lev. 1 and Heb. 10:5-7).

4.      The Brazen Serpent typifies Christ’s death on the cross (John3:14).