The whole bible reveals God’s plan throughout history. It starts with a basic plan such as the giving of the law and the necessity of animal sacrifices and continues to reveal more and more complexity of what God’s great plan of salvation is. This is called ‘progressive revelation.’ We now know what those animal sacrifices signified, but at the time they really didn’t have a clue!
Because God knows the end from the beginning, it is not surprising that He should give lots of clues of what He was up to.
for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10)
If you can imagine Agatha Christie writing one of her ‘whodunit’ novels, she knows how it is all going to end and so she puts little clues in the story which all cleverly tie up at the end of the book. God was including clues throughout Old Testament history and finally revealed in the New Testament that it was Jesus ‘whodunit!’
The study of this progressive revelation from the Old Testament through to the New Testament is called ‘Typology’. Events in the Old Testament are called ‘types’ and the fulfilment of a type is called the ‘antitype’. Just one of many examples would be the prophet Jonah who was ‘buried’ for 3 days in the belly of a fish and was resurrected by being spat out onto a beach. Jesus is the antitype as He spent 3 days in the grave and rose again to bring salvation to a people who were against Him. Typology is not just people foreshadowing Christ but it could also include; places, things, events, ceremonies, offices or institutions. I will explain a lot more as I go along from week to week.
It is important to note that these shadows and types are not allegorical. There is a subtle difference. They are real people and events which point to an eventual fulfilment.
This subject can get quite complicated but I’m just going to give 3 basic kinds of Typology;
(1) Firstly, this is where the New Testament explicitly states that an Old Testament person or event refers to Christ;
Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:14)
(2) Next, the New Testament declares various Old Testament passages to be fulfilled by Christ;
e.g Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21) which was the fulfilling of Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(3) Thirdly, the unmistakable allusions in the Old Testament that are applied to Christ.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
John is referring to the story of the bronze snake in Numbers 21:4-9
Some people try to make every character and event into a type of Jesus, but I think that is pushing it a bit far.
Next week I will start looking at these ‘shadows’ of Jesus in the Old Testament. At the moment I have no idea where I am going to start but I know there are quite a few in Genesis so we could well start there.