In Part 1, we laid the foundation for a balanced approach in recognizing types – connectors or correlation’s between people, events, rituals, and props found in the Old Testament that then find their their full meaning or expression in Jesus Christ. Since God has chosen to reveal Himself through the stories of people, types serve as a way to trace the hand of God preparing the people of God for the coming Messiah. In this way, all of Old Testament history looked forward to Christ’ coming and now we look back at who Christ was (and is) in order to follow Him as His disciples. The recognition of types in the Old Testament can enable us to pull together redemptive history in a panoramic view that is meant to expand our trust in God. With this in mind, let’s consider a ranking of types in three categories of confidence when it comes to being certain that a type is in the text and not just an extension of our imagination. The three classifications of types that we mentioned in Part 1 were: the possible, the probable, and the certain. Let’s start with examples of types that we can be certain about.
In John 1:51, John records Jesus saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
This statement of Jesus’ alludes to Jacob’s vision of a ladder or stairway stretching from earth to heaven (Genesis 28:12). In quoting this, Jesus is presenting himself as the ultimate reality to which the stairway seen by Jacob was pointing. As a ladder “mediates” the distance between two objects (one above and the other being below), so Jesus is the ladder functioning as the mediator from which heaven and earth (God and man) can be united.Essentially, the ladder in Jacob’s dream served as a type of Christ, the reunion of heaven and earth through the One Mediator, Jesus Christ.
In John 2:19-22 it says, Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
After the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ the material temple became obsolete as a place to meet with God (as Christ here prophesied) for He himself and his church (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:22) became the ultimate fulfillment (Hebrews 9:11-14) of all that which it foreshadowed and symbolically presented. Previously, it was necessary to attend to the temple to worship God properly. As a matter of fact, the picture of the portable Tabernacle in the wilderness was a picture of God’s residence among the people serving as a type of what would occur when Jesus would ultimately “dwell” or “tabernacle” among His people in the incarnation. Now Jesus is our mediator and we have become the temple of God in Christ. This explains why Jesus indicated to the woman at the well that true worship was not about the right location (the Temple in Jerusalem or the Temple on Mt. Gerizim) but through the right condition – “in spirit and in truth” (see John 4:24).
Manna in the Wilderness
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33).
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 supplied by the LORD, even so the Son came down from heaven (John 6:33). His incarnation is spoken of as “coming down” that through His death we might, even during the wilderness of our temporal existence, find life and continual sustenance. This also why Jesus continues the analogy by telling the people two more times that He is the “bread” that will satisfy their spiritual hunger (John 6:48-51, 53-58).
Jesus specifically mentions Jonah’s three-day experience in the belly of the fish as indicative of what would happen to Him: his death and resurrection on the third day (Matthew 12:38-41; Luke 11:29-32; 1 Corinthians 15:1-3). The theme of the mercy and redemption of God on the nations that is the prominent theme in Jonah and it is used by Jesus as a rebuke to unrepentant Israel in His day. If the pagan Ninevites repented at the preaching of the prophet Jonah, who was rescued from confinement in the huge fish for three days, how much more should Israel repent at the preaching of Jesus? Jesus would also be rescued after three days, but He would be rescued from death through the resurrection.
We could also cite the when Moses was told at Horeb to smite the Rock in the wilderness so that fresh water would flow and how the rock was a type of Jesus taking the judgment of God (the staff being a symbol of God’s judgment expressed when Moses used it to bring judgment on the people of Egypt when he appeared before Pharaoh and during the crossing of the Red Sea) in order to produce living water for the people of God (Ex. 17:6, I Cor. 10:1-4). In this picture, we have God not judging the children of Israel for their complaining due to a lack of faith, but instead we picture God bringing His judgment (staff) down on a rock (Jesus) that would produce water (life-giving). There is also the type of Jesus being expressed in the Passover lamb that saved every firstborn of every family (Ex. 12:1-14:46; John 19:31-36; I Cor. 5:7; I Peter 1:19). Then there is the singular snake being lifted up in the desert for the healing of the people if they would simply look at it in order to escape the judgment of God. The snake that was lifted up serves as a type of Jesus who would ultimately provide salvation for all of humanity before the Father in providing a way for humanity to escape judgment through being lifted up on the cross (Num. 21:8-9, John 3:14-17).
Therefore, a type in the Old Testament rises to the level of being “certain” when that type is verified by a New Testament writer making the connection. To a lesser degree, there are types that I would rank as “probable” due to less evidence or convincing rationale. Then, there would be the types that I would deem as “possible” due to there being the least amount of evidence in connecting people, events, or rituals found in the Old Testament as being ultimately expressed in life of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. Accuracy in the area of identifying types in the Bible requires discipline, conversation among fellow believers, and, sometimes, rigorous conversation among people more fully steeped in Bible knowledge. There are many people who can help you develop a robust understanding of typology in the Bible. Look for such people and spend time listening to why they believe what they believe and give yourself to study. There is simply no substitute for the regular and thorough study of God’s Word. In the end, the goal like everything else is to see Jesus more clearly in order to love and enjoy Him more fully.
In Part 3, I will sample types that I think better fit into the categories of the possible or the probable.
Our God is so creative and desiring for us to see all of history as an unfolding of His redemptive plan! Simple amazing.