Christianity 201

May 12, 2016

Biblical Typology

Today’s scriptures are found in the links of the blockquote, and the key scripture in the image below.

You’re listening to a sermon where the preacher says something like, “…in this, Joshua is a ‘type’ of Christ.” What does that mean? Maybe a ‘type’ is someone that someone else likes, as in, “She’s definitely my type.”

Bible TypologyNo, it’s actually Biblical typology. explains:

Typology is a special kind of symbolism. (A symbol is something which represents something else.) We can define a type as a “prophetic symbol” because all types are representations of something yet future. More specifically, a type in scripture is a person or thing in the Old Testament which foreshadows a person or thing in the New Testament. For example, the flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6-7) is used as a type of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20-21. The word for type that Peter uses is figure.

When we say that someone is a type of Christ, we are saying that a person in the Old Testament behaves in a way that corresponds to Jesus’ character or actions in the New Testament. When we say that something is “typical” of Christ, we are saying that an object or event in the Old Testament can be viewed as representative of some quality of Jesus.

Scripture itself identifies several Old Testament events as types of Christ’s redemption, including the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the Passover. The Old Testament tabernacle is identified as a type in Hebrews 9:8-9: “the first tabernacle . . . which was a figure for the time then present.” The high priest’s entrance into the holiest place once a year prefigured the mediation of Christ, our High Priest. Later, the veil of the tabernacle is said to be a type of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-20) in that His flesh was torn, (as the veil was when He was crucified) in order to provide entrance into God’s presence for those who are covered by His sacrifice.

The whole sacrificial system is seen as a type in Hebrews 9:19-26. The articles of the “first testament” were dedicated with the blood of sacrifice; these articles are called “the patterns of things in the heavens” and “figures of the true” (verses 23-24). This passage teaches that the Old Testament sacrifices typify Christ’s final sacrifice for the sins of the world. The Passover is also a type of Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Discovering exactly what the events of the Passover teach us about Christ is a rich and rewarding study…

For years, I assumed that this was simply a human way of defining aspects of a book with divine characteristics. After all, we say “Trinity” but the word itself isn’t in the Bible. But we know what we mean when we say it, but we recognize the actual word to be a man-made construct. Is it possible that our notion of Biblical typology is simply a human construct to try to make sense of certain parallels and similarities?

Well, it turns out, that the Bible itself makes the case for doing so.

This week as I watched a sermon online, this verse came on the screen:

Zechariah 3 8-9

What does this mean? I believe there are three things here beyond the immediate context.

Key – In a sense the Bible is herewith giving us permission to this type of textual analysis. The verse isn’t prophetic in the sense of having direct application to Joshua himself, but is Messianic in nature; referencing one who would follow after Joshua.  Thus we have a direct indication here to pursue this interpretation (hermeneutic) method.

Promise – The International Bible Commentary says it is “the divine guarantee that God is to do something better through his servant “the branch,” …a future Davidic ruler.” The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary says that Joshua and his associates are “a pledge of the approach of Messiah’s kingdom…” We can therefore look for these various ‘types’ to appear and know they indicate the One who is for them, someone who will come after but for us, someone who has already appeared.

Mystery – On the other hand, scriptures generally don’t fully connect all the dots. The correlation is there in general terms, but nowhere does the text say things with the bluntness that we, living in a bullet-point, cut-to-the-chase world would prefer. We must work these things out ourselves. We are within our rights to look for other examples of these types throughout scripture.


  • February, 2014 – Biblical Typology (This article gives far more examples than we had room for here today.)
  • April, 2012 – Jesus After the Order of Melchizedek (One of the most challenging ‘types’ we encounter since so little is actually said about him.)
  • Sermon: Prophetic Pointers – If you go to this sermon series by Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House (also the source of today’s scripture screen shot) and choose Week #4 of the series Jesus BC, you can see the sermon where I heard the verse from Zechariah. Interestingly, Week #5, The Mysterious Stranger, is entirely about Melchizedek. (Warning: Bruxy may not look like the pastor of your church!)



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