Biblical Types, Shadows and Symbols
In previous Learning Activities on this web site, we have from time to time made reference to the use of types, shadows and symbols in the Bible. In this Learning Activity we will attempt to discover what these literary devices consist of and make the informed Christian aware of their presence and how to interpret them.
When we read and study our Bible a type is where some person, event or institution appears in the Old Testament to prefigure or tell us about a spiritual reality of some person, event or institution in the New Testament. The Old Testament appearance is known as the “type” and what it prefigures in the New Testament is known as the “antitype.”
In looking at types in the Scriptures we will discover there are two ways in which we identify types: by direct declaration of the Scriptures, and by revelation. Perhaps some illustrative examples of this statement would be helpful to the reader.
DIRECT DECLARATION TYPE: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man [Jesus] be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt.12:40). This statement was made by Jesus and He states that Jonah being in the whale for three days and nights was a type of Jesus Himself being in the tomb for three days and nights after His crucifixion.
A TYPE BY REVELATION: These are less obvious in the Scriptures and are the result of seeing them emerge as we study the Scriptures. It’s not that the Scripture itself clearly defines the type, but rather the result of a connection being made (revelation) during our study. What follows is one example, in this case Joseph of the Old Testament being a type of Jesus in the New Testament without a clear biblical statement of the association.
– Both Joseph and Jesus suffered and paid for sins they did not personally commit themselves.
– Joseph and Jesus became servants in a foreign country, so to speak. Joseph under Pharoh in Egypt and Jesus on earth in His ophysical body through Mary.
– Joseph and Jesus were both placed into the earth with the intent that their “tombs” would hold them in death. But Joseph came up out of his pit alive and Jesus was resurrected out of His tomb.
– Joseph provided a way for physical nourishment during the great famine that took place during his life to those who came to him. Jesus provides a way of relief for spiritual famine in our lives if we go to Him!
-Joseph was hated by his earthly, physical brothers and Jesus was despised by His earthly, physical siblings (who were also born of Mary).
I think you might be able to see from the above contrasting list that Joseph was indeed a type of Christ.
Christ, who is the focal point of the Scriptures, is concealed in the Old Testament by the use of types, shadows, symbols, prophecies and figures of speech. In the New Testament, Christ is revealed to us so it is obvious that being able to see these literary devices being used in the Old Testament will result in a greater awareness of the presence of Christ in the Old Testament which in turn will deepen our love for Christ.
Knowing that a type is something in the Old Testament that reveals some truth in the New Testament, complete the work below and see if you can identify the use of types in your work.
1. Romans 5:14
2. Who is the type and who is the antitype in the verse above?
3. Numbers 21:7–8
4. John 3:14–15
5. What is the type and antitype in the scriptures contained in #3 and #4 above?
6. John 1:29
7. Identify the type and the antitype in the verse above?
8. 1 Corinthians 10:4
9. Identify the type and the antitype in the verse above?
10. Genesis 3:21
11. Revelation 19:8
12. Identify the type and the antitype in the scriptures that appear in #10 and #11 above?
13. Exodus 16:15
14. John 6:51
15. Identify the type and the antitype in the scriptures that appear in #13 and #14 above?
16. Galatians 4:22–24
17. What are the types in the passage above and what do they represent?
18. Matthew 11:13, 14
19. Who is the type and who is the antitype in the two verses above?
20. What do you think the Old Covenant Temple building might be a type of?
21. Hebrews 5:5, 6
22. Who is the type and who is the antitype in the Hebrews scripture above?
Physical circumcision (Genesis 17:11) in the Old Covenant was a type/shadow of the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29; Colossians 2:11) in the New Covenant.
The Jewish people in the Old Covenant as God’s people (Lev.26:12; Ex.19:5, 5; Deut.7:6) were a type/shadow of the church who are God’s people (2 Cor.6:16; 1 P 2:9, 10) in the New Covenant.
From the examples given above and from what follows below, we may conclude that the purpose of God using types in His written word (the Bible) is to:
23. Romans 15:4
24. What does the verse above tell us the purpose of an Old Testament type could be?
NOTE: When reading and studying the Bible it is important to keep in mind that when a New Testament writer, such as Paul in #20 above, writes about “whatsoever things were written aforetime” that they are referring to the Old Testament as the New Testament was not yet written!
25. Luke 24:27
26. What does the verse above tell us the purpose of an Old Testament type could be?
27. Luke 24:44
28. What does the verse above tell us the purpose of an Old Testament type could be?
29. John 5:39
30. What does the verse above tell us the purpose of an Old Testament type could be?
Click on Self-Check below to check your answers.