THE TYPICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SCRIPTURES
DECLARE THEIR DIVINE AUTHORSHIP
“In the volume of the Book it is written of Me” (Hebrews 10:7). Christ is the Key to the Scriptures. Said He, “Search the Scriptures... they are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39), and the “Scriptures” to which He had reference, were not the four Gospels for they were not then written, but the writings of Moses and the prophets. The Old Testament Scriptures then are something more than a compilation of historical records, something more than a system of social and religious legislation, something more than a code of ethics. The Old Testament Scriptures are fundamentally a stage on which is shown forth in vivid symbolism and ritualism the whole plan of redemption. The events recorded in the Old Testament were actual occurrences, yet they were also typical prefigurations. Throughout the Old Testament dispensations God caused to be shadowed forth in parabolic representation the whole work of redemption by means of a constant and vivid appeal to the senses. This was in full accord with a fundamental law in the economy of God. Nothing is brought to maturity at once. As it is in the natural world, so it is in the spiritual: there is first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. Concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, God first gave a series of pictorial representations, later a large number of specific prophecies, and last of all, when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His own Son.
It is failure to discern the typical import of the Old Testament Scriptures which has caused so great a part of them to be slighted by so many readers of the Bible. To multitudes of people the Pentateuch is little more than a compilation of effete and meaningless ceremonial rites, and if there is nothing in them more excellent than their outward semblance, then, surely, it is passing strange that they should find a place in the Word of God. Take Christ out of Old Testament ritual and you are left with nothing but the dry and empty shell of a nut. It is therefore a matter of small surprise that those who see so little of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures should undervalue the instruction and edification to be derived from every part of them, and that they entertain such degrading ideas of their inspiration.
Deny that there is a spiritual meaning in all the laws and customs of the Israelites and what food for the soul can be gathered from a study of them? Deny that they are so many typical representations of Christ and His Sacrifice for sin and you cast reproach on the name and wisdom of God by suggesting that He instituted the carnal ordinances, the cumbrous ceremonies, the propitiations by sacrifice of animals, which are recorded in the opening Books of the Bible.
The typical import and the spiritual value of the Jewish economy, both as a whole and in its many parts, is expressly affirmed in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul, when referring to the narratives and events recorded in the Old Testament, declares that,
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning”
Later, when making mention of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their journey through the wilderness, he affirms, “Now these things were our examples” and “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: (marg. “types”) and they are written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11). Again; when commenting upon, and while expounding the spiritual significance of the Tabernacle, he declares that it was “the example and shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). In the next chapter he declares, “The Tabernacle...was a figure for the time then present” (Hebrews 9:8-9) and in Hebrews 10 he states, “The law” had “a shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). From these declarations it is evident that God Himself caused the Tabernacle to be erected exactly according to the pattern which He had showed Moses, for the express purpose that it should be a type for symbolizing heavenly things. Hence it becomes our privilege and bounden duty to seek by the help of the Holy Spirit to ascertain the meaning of the types of the Old Testament.
In addition to the express declarations of the New Testament quoted above, there are a number of additional passages which also teach the same thing. John the Baptist hailed our Saviour as “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” that is, as the great Antitype of the sacrificial lambs of Old Testament ritual. In His discourse with Nicodemus our Lord alluded to the lifting up of the Brazen Serpent in the wilderness as a type of His own lifting up on the Cross. Writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul said, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7), thus signifying that Exodus 12 pointed forward to the Lord Jesus. Writing to the Galatians the same Apostle makes mention of the history of Abraham, his wives and his children, and then states “which things are an allegory” (Galatians 4:24). Now there are many brethren who will own the typical significance of these things, but who refuse to acknowledge that anything else in the Old Testament has a typical meaning save those which are expressly interpreted in the New. But this we conceive to be a mistake and to place a limit upon the scope and value of the Word of God. Rather let us regard those Old Testament types which are expounded in the New Testament as samples of others which are not explained. Are there no more prophecies in the Old Testament than those which, in the New Testament, are said to be “fulfilled”? Assuredly. Then let us admit the same concerning the types.
Several volumes would be filled were we to dwell upon everything in the Old Testament which has a typical meaning and spiritual application. All we can now attempt is to single out a few illustrations as samples, leaving our readers to pursue further this entrancing study for themselves.
The very first chapter of Genesis is rich in its spiritual contents. Not only does it give us the only reliable and authentic account of the creation of this world, but it also reveals God’s order in the work of the new creation. In Genesis 1:1 we have the original or primitive creation—“in the beginning”. From the next verse we infer that some dreadful calamity followed. The handiwork of God was marred, “the earth became (not “was”) without form and void” —a desolate waste and empty ruin. The earth was submerged. A scene of dreariness and death is introduced—“and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Not only was this the history of the earth, but it was also the history of man. In the beginning he was created by God—created in the image and likeness of his Maker. But a terrible calamity followed. An enemy appeared on the scene. The heart of the creature was seduced, unbelief and disobedience being the consequence. Man fell, and awful was his fall. God’s image was broken: human nature was ruined by sin: desolation and death took the place of God’s likeness and life. In consequence of his sin, man’s mind was blinded and darkness rested upon the face of his understanding.
Next, we read in Genesis 1, of the work reconstruction. The order followed is profoundly significant—“The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (vs. 3-4). The parallel holds good in regeneration. In the work of the new birth which is performed within the darkened and spiritually dead sinner, the Spirit of God is the prime mover, convicting the soul of its lost and ruined condition and revealing the need of the appointed Saviour. The instrument that He employs is the written Word, the Word of God, and in every genuine conversion God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light.
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath
shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The parallel might be followed much further, but sufficient has been said to show that beneath the actual history of Genesis 1 may be discerned by the anointed eye the spiritual history of the believer’s new creation, and as such it bears the stamp of its Divine Author and evidences the fact that the opening chapter of the Bible is no mere human compilation.
In the coats of skin with which the Lord God clothed our first parents we have an incident that is full of spiritual instruction and which could never have been invented by man. To obtain these skins life had to be taken, blood had to be shed, the innocent (animals) must die in the place of Adam and Eve who were guilty, so as to provide a covering for them. Thus, the Gospel truths of redemption by blood-shedding and salvation through a substitutionary sacrifice, were preached in Eden. Be it noted that man did not have to provide a covering for himself any more than the “prodigal son” did, nor were they asked to clothe themselves any more than was he: in the one case we read,
“The Lord God made coats of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21),
and in the other the command was, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him” (Luke 15:22), and both speak of “the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10) which is furnished in Christ.
In the offerings which Cain and Abel presented to the Lord, and in the response which they met with, we discover a foreshadowing of New testament truths. Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock with their fat. He recognized that he was alienated from God and could not draw nigh to Him without a suitable offering. He saw that his own life was forfeited through sin, that justice clamored for his death, and that his only hope lay in another (a lamb) dying in his stead. By faith Abel presented his bloody offering to God and it was accepted. On the other hand, Cain refused to take the place of a lost sinner before God. He refused to acknowledge that death was his due. He refused to place his confidence in a sacrificial substitute. He brought as an offering to God the fruits of the ground—the product of his own labors and in consequence, his offering was rejected. Thus, at the commencement of human history we have shown forth the fact that salvation is by grace through faith and altogether apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
In the great Deluge and the ark in which Noah and his house found shelter, we have a typification of great spiritual verities. From them we learn that God takes cognizance of the doings of His creatures; that He is holy and sin is abhorrent to Him; that His righteousness requires Him to punish sin and destroy sinners. Yet, here also we learn that in judgment God remembers mercy, that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; that His grace provides a refuge if only His sinful creatures will avail themselves of His provision. Yet only in one place can deliverance from the Divine wrath be found. In the ark alone is safety and security. And, in like manner, today, there is only one Saviour for sinners, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ,
In the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and their wilderness journey we see portrayed the history of God’s people in the present dispensation. We, too, were living in a world “without God and without hope.” We, too, were in bondage to the cruel taskmasters of sin and Satan. We, too, were in imminent danger of falling beneath the sword of the avenging Angel of Justice. But, for us, too, a way of escape was provided. For us, too, a Lamb was slain. Unto us, too, was given the precious promise, “When I see the blood I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13). And we, too, were redeemed by Almighty power and were
“delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Colossians 1:13)
After our exodus from Egypt there lies before us a pilgrim journey through a barren and hostile wilderness as we journey toward the Promised Land. We have to pass through a strange country and meet with enemy forces, that we are unable to overcome in our own strength. For these tasks our own resources—the things we brought with us out of Egypt—are altogether inadequate, and thus we, too, are cast upon the sufficiency of Israel’s God. And blessed be His name, ample provision is made for us and grace is furnished for every need. For us there is heavenly manna in the exceeding great and precious promises of God. For us there comes water out of the Smitten Rock in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39) who refreshes our souls by taking of the things of Christ and showing them unto us and who strengthens us with might in the inner man. For us too, there is a pillar of cloud and fire to guide us by day and by night in the Holy Scriptures which are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. For us, too, there is One to counsel and direct us, to intercede for us and help us overcome our Amalekites in the Captain of our salvation who has said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end.” And, at the close of our pilgrimage we shall enter a fairer land than that which flowed with milk and honey for we have been begotten “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that faded not away, reserved in heaven” for us.
Let the careful and impartial reader weigh thoroughly what has been said above, and surely it is evident that the numerous resemblances between the story of Israel and the spiritual history of God’s children in this dispensation cannot be so many coincidences, and can only be accounted for on the ground that the writings of Moses were inspired by the Living God.
The history of Israel in Canaan as the professed people of God corresponds with the history of the professing church in the New Testament dispensation. After Moses, the one who led Israel out from their Egyptian bondage, came Joshua who led Israel in their conquest of Canaan. So after our Lord left this earth, He sent the Holy Spirit who through the Apostles caused the Jericho’s and Ai’s of Paganism to be overthrown and the greater part of the world to be evangelized. But after their occupancy of Canaan Israel’s history was a sad one, being characterized by spiritual declination and departure from God. So it was with the professing church. Very quickly after the death of the Apostles heresy corrupted the Christian profession, and just as Israel of old grew tired of a theocracy and demanded a human head and king, like the nations which surrounded them, so the professing church became dissatisfied with the New Testament form of church government and submitted to the domination of a pope. And just as Israel’s kings became more and more corrupt until God would bear with them no longer and sold His people into captivity, so after the setting up of the Papal See there followed the long period of the Dark Ages when Europe was subjected to a spiritual bondage and when the Word of God was bound in chains. Then, just as God raised up Ezra and Nehemiah to recover the living oracle and to lead out of their captivity a remnant of His people, so in the sixteenth century, A. D., God raised up Luther and honored contemporaries to bring about the great Reformation of Protestantism. Finally: just as after the days of Ezra and Hehemiah the Jews in Palestine witnessed a marked spiritual declination, ultimately lapsing into the ritualism of the Pharisees and the rationalism of the Sadducees from which God’s elect were delivered only by the appearing of His own Son, so has history repeated itself. Since Reformation and the last of the Puritans, Christendom has moved swiftly in the direction of the predicted apostasy, and today we have reproduced the ancient Phariseeism in the rapid spread of Roman Catholicism, and the ancient Sadduceeism in the far-reaching effects of the infidelistic Higher Criticism: and as it was before, so it will be again—God’s elect will be delivered only by the reappearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Thus we see how wonderfully and accurately the Old testament history runs parallel with and anticipated the history of the professing church in the New Testament dispensation. It has been truly said that “Coming events cast their shadows before them,” and who but He who knows the end from the beginning and who upholds all things by the word of His power, could have caused the shadow of the Old Testament to have taken the shape they did, and thus give a true and comprehensive parabolic setting forth of that which has taken place thousands of years later!
Every battle fought by the Israelites, every change in the administration of their government, every detail in their elaborate ceremonialism, and every personal biography narrated in the Bible, is designed for our instruction and edification. The Bible contains nothing that is superfluous. From beginning to end the Scriptures testify of Christ. Inanimate objects like the ark, which tells of security in Christ from the storms of Divine wrath; like the manna, which speaks of Him as the Bread of Life; like the brazen Serpent uplifted on the pole, of the Tabernacle, which presents Him as the meeting place of God and men—all foreshadowed the Redeemer. Living creatures like the Passover Lamb, the sacrificial bullocks, goats and rams, all pointed forward in general and in detail to the great Sacrifice for sins. Institutions like the Passover which prefigured His death; like the waving of the first-fruits, which forecast His resurrection; like the fast of Pentecost with its two loaves baken with leaven, telling of the uniting into one Body of the Jew and the Gentile; like the Burnt, the Meal and the Peace “sweet savor” offerings, which proclaimed the excellency of Christ’s person in the esteem of God—all emblemized our blessed Saviour. And, many of the leading personages of Old Testament biography gave a remarkable delineation of our Lord’s character and earthly ministry.
Abel was a type of Christ. His name signifies vanity and emptiness which foreshadowed the Lord Jesus who “made Himself of no reputation,” literally “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7), when He assumed the nature of man who is “like unto vanity” (Psalm 72:9). By calling, Abel, was a shepherd, and it was in his shepherd character he brought an offering to God, namely, the firstlings of his flock—speaking of the Good Shepherd who offered Himself to God. The offering which Abel brought to God is termed an “excellent” one (Hebrews 11:4) and as such it pointed forward to the precious blood of Christ, the value of which cannot be estimated in silver and gold. Abel’s offering was accepted by God, God “testifying” His approval of it; and, in like manner, God publicly witnessed to His acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice when He raised Him from the Dead (Acts 2:32). Abel’s offering still speaks to God—“by it he being dead, yet speaketh;” so, too, Christ’s offering “speaks” to God (Hebrews 12:24). Though guilty of no offense, Abel was hated by his brother and cruelly slain at his hand, foreshadowing the treatment which the Lord Jesus received at the hands of the Jews—His brethren according to the flesh.
Isaac was a type of Christ. he was the child of promise. His nativity was announced by an angel. He was supernaturally begotten. He was born at an appointed time. He was named by God (Genesis 1:18-19). He was the “seed” to whom the promises were made and through whom they were secured. He became obedient unto death. He carried on his own shoulder the wood on which he was to be offered. He was securely fastened to the alter. He was presented as a sacrifice to God. He was offered on Mount Moriah—the same on which, two thousand years later, Jesus Christ was offered. And, it was on the “third day” that Abraham received him back “in a figure” from the dead (Hebrews 11:19).
Joseph is a type of Christ. He was Jacob’s well-beloved son. He readily responded to his father’s will when asked to go on a mission to his brethren. While seeking his brethren he became a “wanderer in the field” (Genesis 37:15) —the “field” figuring the world (see Matthew 13:38). He found his brethren in Dothan which signifies the law—so the Lord Jesus found His brethren under the bondage of the law. His brethren mocked and refused to receive him. His brethren took counsel together against him that they might put him to death. Judah (Judas is the Greek form of the same word) advised his brethren to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. After he had been rejected by his brethren, Joseph was taken down into Egypt in order that he might become a Saviour to the world. While in Egypt, Joseph was tempted, not without any compromise he put from him the evil solicitation. He was falsely accused and through no fault of his own was cast into prison. There he was the interpreter of dreams—the one who threw light on what was mysterious. In prison he became the savor of life to the butler, and the savor of death to the baker. After a period of humiliation and shame, he was exalted to the throne of Egypt. From that throne he administered bread to a hungering and perishing humanity. Subsequently Joseph became known to his brethren, and in fulfillment of what he had previously announced to them, they bowed down before him and owned his sovereignty.
Moses was a type of Christ. Moses became the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter—so that legally he had a mother but no father, thus typifying our Lord’s miraculous birth of a virgin. During infancy his life was endangered by the evil designs of the ... ruler. Like Christ’s, his early life was spent in Egypt. Later, he renounced the position of royalty, refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; and he who was rich, for the sake of his people, became poor. Before he commenced His life’s work, a long period was spent in Midian in obscurity. Here he received a call and commission from God to go to deliver his brethren out of their terrible bondage. The credentials of his mission were seen in the miracles which he performed. Though despised and rejected by the rulers in Egypt, he, nevertheless, succeeded in delivering his own people. Subsequently, he became the leader and head of all Israel. In character he was the meekest man in all the earth. In all God’s house he was faithful as a servant. In the wilderness he sent twelve men to spy out Canaan as our Lord sent out the twelve Apostles to preach the Gospel. He fasted for forty days. On the mount he was transfigured so that the skin of his face shone. He acted as God’s prophet to the people, as as the people’s intercessor before God. He was the only man mentioned in the Old Testament that was prophet, priest and king. He was the giver of a Law, the builder of a Tabernacle, and the organizer of a Priesthood. His last act was to “bless the people (Deuteronomy 33:29), as our Lord’s last act was to “bless” His disciples (Luke 24:50).
Samson was a type of Christ—see the Book on Judges. An angel announced his birth (Judges 13:3). From birth he was a Nazarite (Judges 13:5)—separated to God. Before he was born it was promised that he should be a saviour to Israel (Judges 13:5). He was treated unkindly by his own nation (Judges 15:11-13). He was delivered up to the Gentiles by his own countrymen (Judges 15:12). He was mocked and cruelly treated by the Gentiles (Judges 16:19-21, 25) yet he was a mighty deliverer of Israel. His miracles were performed under the power of the Holy Spirit (Judges 14:19). He accomplished more in his death than he did in his life (Judges 16:30). He was imprisoned in the enemy’s stronghold; the gates were barred, and a watch was set; yet, rising up at midnight, in the early hours of the morning—“a great while before day”—he burst the bars, broke open the gate, and issued forth triumphant—a remarkable type of our Lord’s resurrection. He occupied the position of “judge,” as our Lord will in the last great day.
David was a type of Christ. He was born in Bethlehem. He is described as “of a beautiful countenance and goodly to look upon.” His name means “the beloved.” By occupation he was a shepherd. During his shepherd life he entered into conflict with wild beasts. He slew Goliath—the opposer of God’s people and a type of Satan. From the obscurity of shepherdhood he was exalted to Israel’s throne. He was anointed as king before he was coronated. He was preeminently a man of prayer (see the Psalms) and is the only one in Scripture termed “The man after God’s own heart.” He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, suffering chiefly from those of his own household. Repeated attempts were made upon his life by Israel’s ruler. When his enemy (Saul) was in his power he refused to slay him, instead, he dealt with him in mercy and grace. He delivered Israel from all their enemies and vanquished all their foes.
Solomon was a type of Christ. He was Israel’s king. His name signifies “Peaceable,” and he foreshadows the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus when He shall rule as Prince of Peace. He was chosen and ordained of God before he was crowned. He rode upon another’s mule, not as a warrior, but as the king of peace in lowly guise (1 Kings 1:33). Gentiles took part in the coronation of Solomon (1 Kings 1:38) typifying the universal homage which Christ shall receive during the millennium. The Cherethites and Pelethites were soldiers, so that Solomon was followed by an army at the time of his coronation (1 Kings 1:33; cp. Revelation 19:11). Solomon began his reign by showing mercy to and yet demanding righteousness from Adonijah (1 Kings 1:51)—such will be the leading characteristics of Christ’s millennial government. Solomon was the builder of Israel’s Temple (cp. Acts 15:16). At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon was the one who offered sacrifices unto the Lord: thus the king fulfilled the office of priest (1 Kings 8:63), which typifies the Lord Jesus who “shall be a Priest upon His throne” (Zechariah 6:13). Solomon’s “fame” went abroad far and wide and “all the earth sought to Solomon” (1 Kings 10:24). The queen of Sheba, representing the Gentiles, came up to Jerusalem to pay him homage (1 Kings 10) as all the nations will to Christ during the millennium (see Zechariah 14:16). All Israel’s land enjoyed rest and peace. The glory and magnificence of Solomon’s reign has never been equaled before or since—
“And the Lord magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel” (1 Chronicles 29:25).
In the above types we have not sought to be exhaustive but suggestive by singling out only the leading lines in each typical picture. There are many other Old Testament characters who were types of Christ which we cannot now consider at length: Adam typified His Headship; Enoch His Ascension; Noah as the provider of a Refuge; Jacob as the one who served for a Wife; Aaron as the great High Priest; Joshua as the Captain of our salvation; Samuel as the Faithful Prophet; Elijah as the Miracle worker; Jeremiah as the despised and rejected Servant of God; Daniel as the Faithful Witness for God; Jonah as the One raised from the dead on the third day.
In closing this chapter let us apply the argument. Of the many typical persons in the Old Testament who prefigure the Lord Jesus Christ, the striking, the accurate, and the manifold lights, in which each exhibits Him is truly remarkable. No two of them represent Him from exactly the same viewpoint. Each one contributes a line or two to the picture, but all are needed to give a complete delineation. That an authentic history should supply a series of personages in different ages, whose characters, offices, and histories, should exactly correspond with those of Another who did not appear upon earth until centuries later, can only be accounted for on the supposition of Divine appointment. When we consider the utter dissimilarity of these typical persons to one another; when we note that they had little or nothing in common with each other; when we remember that each of them represents some peculiar feature in a composite Anti type; we discover that we have a literary phenomenon which is truly remarkable. Abel, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon (and all the others) are each deficient when viewed separately; but when looked at in conjunction they form an harmonious whole, and give us a complete representation of our Lord’s miraculous birth, His peerless character, His life’s mission, His sacrificial death, His triumphant resurrection, His ascension to heaven, and His millennial reign. Who could have invented such character? How remarkable that the earliest history in the world, extending from the creation and reaching to the last of the prophets—written by various hands through a period of fifteen centuries—should from start to finish concentrate in a single point, and that point the person and work of the blessed Redeemer! Verily, such a Book must have been written by God—no other conclusion is possible. Beneath the historical we discern the spiritual: behind the incidental we behold the typical: underneath the human biographies we see the form of Christ, and in these things we discover on every page of the Old Testament the “watermark” of heaven.