Do the Hebrew Scriptures
contain specific and detailed prophecies and types
about the person and work of the coming Messiah?
That question has
intrigued me from the earliest days after I gave my
life to Jesus Christ and began to seriously study
Nearly sixty years ago, I
discovered the supreme joy of the two men walking
with their unknown guest along the road from
Jerusalem to Emmaus. That "stranger" said to them:
"O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all
that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary
for the Messiah (Christ) to suffer these things and
to enter into His glory? And beginning with Moses
and with all the prophets, He explained to them the
things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures"
(Luke 24:25-27). The two travelers invited Jesus
into their home for a meal that evening. As He took
the bread and blessed it, He began giving it to
them, "And their eyes were opened and they
recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight"
(v. 31). I pray that your response will be like mine
and the two men when they asked one another, "Were
not our hearts burning within us when He was
speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining
the Scriptures to us?" My desire is this will
be a fresh new beginning of an intimate journey with
our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Our Lord's own use of
the Old Testament is His invitation to us to find
Him in the Old Testament," notes Bernard Ramm. Jesus
referred to the whole Old Testament canon. "The
Christian interpretation of the Old Testament stems
directly from the teachings and example of our
The Unity of the
When we study the Bible
we should keep in mind its totality, its harmony,
and its concept of a divine plan that is being
fulfilled both in immediate historical context and
in a final, climatic realization in the last days
when Christ returns.
Augustine said, "In the
Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the
Old is revealed." Bernard Ramm observed that "the
New is latent in the Old, and the Old is patent in
the New" (Protestant Bible Interpretation).
H. R. Holcomb wrote: "In
the Old Testament we have the shadow. In the New
Testament we have the substance. In the Old
Testament we have the figure. In the New Testament
we have the true. In the Old Testament we have the
forest. In the New Testament we have the fire. Jesus
said, 'In the volume of the Book, it is written of
me.' . . . On Jesus Christ hangs en entire Bible. .
. . He has appeared to put away the penalty of sin;
He does now appear to put away the power of sin; He
shall appear to put away the presence of sin" (New
Testament Fires in Old Testament Forests, pg.
By studying the New
Testament writers we know that there are many
pictures of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Old
Testament. The New Testament continually makes the
argument that the Old Testament is a foreshadowing
of the person and work of Christ. It gives portraits
of the coming of Christ long before He came.
There is a messianic
signature that runs through the Bible. James Orr in
The Problem of the Old Testament also argued
correctly for the unity of the message. "From
Genesis to Revelation we feel that this book is in a
real sense a unity. It is not a collection of
fragments, but has, as we say, an organic character.
It has one connected story to tell from beginning to
end; we see something growing before our eyes. This
is a plan, purpose, progress, the end folds back on
the beginning, and, when the whole is finished, we
feel that here again, as in primal creation, God has
finished all His works, and behold, they are good"
Christ is the key
The person and work of
Christ is the key to our understanding the
Scriptures. The entire Bible finds its meaning and
explanation in the redemption provided by Jesus
Christ. It progressively unfolds the theme of
redemption from Genesis to Revelation. Shadows,
types and fore gleams of the great doctrine of
salvation by grace through faith in the death and
resurrection of Christ are revealed from the opening
pages. The meaning of any single passage of
Scripture is always determined and governed by the
larger context of redemption through Jesus Christ.
Michael Horton expresses this truth
beautifully: "Christ is the thread, the unifying
message from Genesis to Revelation. When we read the
Bible in the light of its main plot--Christ--things
begin to fall into place. Behind every story,
proverb, hymn, exhortation, and prophecy is the
unfolding mystery of Christ and His redemptive work"
("Interpreting Scripture by Scripture," The
Reformation Study Bible, p. 2367).
When Jesus Christ went to
the cross, died for our sins, and rose from the
dead, He provided eternal salvation for all who
would accept Him by faith. Every individual in the
Old Testament who was saved was saved by trusting in
the provision that God would make when Christ came
and died as their substitute. The ceremonies and
sacrifices pointed to a future day when God would
make sure all His promises in that one person. In
the fullness of time we know that person was God's
unique, only begotten, one of a kind Son, Jesus
Christ. Those who were saved were saved by faith in
the coming of His death as their sacrifice.
We need to read the Old
Testament with the expectation that we will
encounter Jesus Christ there. The Old Testament is
Christocentric. Christ is predicted and anticipated
in the Old and proclaimed in the New.
There is continuity
between the two testaments.
The New Testament is full
of references to the Old. The Old lays a foundation
for the New. Even a casual reading of the Scriptures
reveals God's progressive revelation of the message
of redemption that culminates in the person and work
of Jesus Christ. Ultimately the Old must be read
through the light of the New. The Old Testament
reaches its fulfillment in the New. We can
understand the Old Testament more clearly through
the light of the New Testament.
Patrick Fairbairn in
Prophecy made this keen observation: "If
believers in Christ are Abraham's children, and
heirs according to the God's promise, they are
assuredly interested in all that was said or
promised to him. And the outward and temporal can
never stand alone; rightly considered, it will be
seen to have a spiritual element pervading and
animating it." What greater understanding of the
prophecy or type can we gain from the fuller
revelation of the New Testament message on it?
Olhausen wrote: "The
explanation of the Old Testament in the New is the
very point from which alone all explanation that
listens to the voice of divine wisdom must set out.
For we have here presented to us the sense of Holy
Scripture as understood by inspired men themselves,
and are furnished with the true key to knowledge."
Here are some basics
principles to keep in mind as we think through some
of these great pictures of Christ in the Old
Key to Interpretation
It is imperative that we
first consider the teaching of the Old Testament in
its historical and grammatical context. What was the
author saying to his original audience and how did
they understand the message? What is the literal
meaning of the message in its historical context?
The literal meaning will safeguard our falling into
allegories and extremes of interpretation.
Allegorizing results when the historical element is
ignored or downplayed. Beware of those who seek a
deeper spiritual sense in the text on the ground
that the natural historical sense is unsatisfactory
or inadequate spiritually.
What we must not do is
read into the Old Testament what was never intended
by the Holy Spirit as the author of all Scripture.
At the same time, we must not overlook the clear New
Testament interpretation of the Old Testament
passages. These authors give us the key to the
understanding of the Old Testament. From their
example and Jesus, we can discover from them the
correct principles of interpretation. How did they
handle the Scriptures?
We also need to keep in
mind the institutions and ceremonies of the Old
Testament were powerless to save the souls of men.
They were devised as types of the coming Messiah,
Jesus Christ. They pictured the work Christ would do
in His death for our sins. Jesus is the one and only
perfect priest who dealt with our sins in His
perfect sacrifice of Himself. The Tabernacle and
later the Temple typified the place and manner in
which the LORD God met with His people and dealt
with their need of a redeemer. Each of the
sacrifices and offerings, feasts and festivals dealt
with redemption of God's people and how they should
live as redeemed people. Thus, the entire Bible is
the story of God's redeeming love. Therefore, we
should seek the essential meaning of the type in its
own place after we have discovered the central focus
of the historical context.
For example, Old
Testament scholar Dr. John R. Sampey says Isaiah
52:13-53:12 is, "The highest peak in the mountain
range of Messianic prophecy." Therefore, we should
spend the time and effort to climb it, and look upon
the majestic beauty of the Suffering Servant of the
LORD, Jesus Christ. John the Baptist beheld the
glory of the Lord and declared, "Behold, the Lamb of
God who takes away the sin of the world" (John
Just like on the road to
Emmaus Jesus comes to our aid to help us understand
the Word of God. "Faith comes by hearing, and
hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Our
problem is in the heart, not the head. We have the
evidence. It's all there. Jesus rose from the dead.
He's alive! When we participate in the learning
process He opens the eyes of our minds to recognize
Him and causes our hearts to continue to burn within
us. By faith we behold His glory. We can say, even
so, let our hearts burn with conviction of who You
are and joyful submission to Your sovereignty, Lord
Later on the same day
Jesus rose from the dead He told His disciples,
"These are My words which I spoke to you while I was
still with you, that all things which are written
about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and
the Psalms must be fulfilled." Again Luke tells us,
"Then He opened their minds to understand the
Scriptures, and He said to them, 'Thus it is
written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again
from the dead the third day, and that repentance for
forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You
are witnesses of these things'" (Luke 24:44-48). Now
we are, too!
The truly great men in
the Old Testament were the prophets with their
message on the eternal redemption through the
Messiah who was to come. Jesus said the whole Old
Testament testifies to His person and work. Jesus
said, "You search the Scriptures because you think
that in them you have eternal life; it is these that
testify about Me" (John 5:39). The Old Testament
authors were "men moved by the Holy Spirit," and
what they spoke and wrote was "from God" (2 Peter
The prophets were
messengers to their own times for Israel and her
neighbors, and their message was not always
predictive or foretelling of the future. However, we
must keep in mind much that they did communicate
foretold the future. The Old Testament "prophet was
primarily a messenger of God whether he spoke of the
past, the present, or the future."
centered in Christ
"The testimony of Jesus
is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10). Russell
Jones writes: "The whole purpose pervading prophecy
is to testify to Jesus. He is at the center of all
Spiritual prophecy, for He is the central theme of
all the Scriptures. Unfortunately, some interpreters
of the Bible put other persons or things at the
center and miss the meaning. Some have put the Jews
instead of Jesus at the center of the Old Testament
prophecy and lost the truth thereby. This must never
be done. No one can share that center with the
Redeemer. Bring every prophecy to the Cross in order
to see it in hits true light" (A Survey of the
Old and New Testament, p. 182).
A Word about Types
Dr. John R. Sampey
observed, "A type may properly be defined as a
person, institution, or event in the old
dispensation which was designed to prefigure a
corresponding person, institution, or event in the
"Types are pictures,
object-lessons, by which God taught His people
concerning His grace and saving power. The Mosaic
system was a sort of kindergarten in which God's
people were trained in divine things, by which also
they were led to look for better things to come"
(Morehead, "Type", ISBE).
Donald Campbell notes, "A
type is an Old Testament institution, event, person,
object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in
Biblical history, but which also by divine design
foreshadows something yet to be revealed" (Interpretation
of Types: Biblioteca Sacra).
Roy Zuck in Basic
Bible Interpretation defines and contrasts type
and illustration. "A type may be defined as an Old
Testament person, event, or thing having historical
reality and designed by God to prefigure
(foreshadow) in a preparatory way a real person,
event, or thing so designated in the New Testament
and that corresponds to and fulfills (heightens) the
type. An illustration, on the other hand, may be
defined as a biblical person, event, or thing having
historical reality, that pictures or is analogous to
some corresponding spiritual truth in a natural and
unforced way and is not explicitly designated in the
NT as a type."
A type is the
initial person, event, thing or institution in the
Old Testament while the corresponding and later
person, event, thing or institution is called the
Only God can make types
because they always prefigure something in the
future. The type is by divine appointment because
God designs it in the likeness of the antitype. Both
are in the overall design of redemption. God plans
the resemblances and shows the fulfillment in the
"heightening" of the type.
Do not go looking for
"deeper" or "hidden" meanings or secret codes. Stick
to the historical facts as recorded in the Old
Testament. Do not read something into the text that
is not there. Let the text speak for itself. A good
example is the Tabernacle which is a Biblical type.
However, every small detail in its construction is
not intended to teach some New Testament truth. How
many have gone astray looking for details in types!
Stick to the tested
methodology: observation, interpretation,
application, and in that order.
In these devotions and
meditations on Christ in the Old Testament, we will
keep our focus on the coming of Jesus Christ as the
redeemer of lost mankind.
An allegory is not a
type. Allegorical interpretation is not typology.
The theological road is littered with allegorical
interpretations and applications.
Types were always
prophetic pointing to the future with the emphasis
on some aspect about our redemption. Someone said,
"Types are predictions woven into history." They
have a predictive element. They foreshadow something
greater. It is a shadow that points ahead to another
but superior reality. A type is a form of prophecy
that predicts by correspondence between two
realities. Prophecy is a prediction by use of words.
There must be a predictive element or it is not a
We should always keep in
mind the type and antitype were both specific,
concrete, historical realities in the lives of
individuals in both the Old and the New Testaments.
What is the resemblance or correspondence of the
type and antitype? Many things that are resemblance,
similarity or correspondence in the Old Testament to
the New are not types. There must be more than mere
resemblance between the two.
In typology, the physical
object, event or person is used to represent a
greater truth. It always points to something greater
in the future. The type is not an allegory because
it affirms the reality of the historical context,
and points to a future higher fulfilment. Keep the
historical fulfilment clearly in mind as you
interpret the passage.
Look for the consistent
use of the specific symbol or type in the Old
Testament. It must be an illustration of and
consistent with New Testament truth. It cannot
represent one thing in the Old and something
unrelated in the New. What is the common principle
that binds the type and antitype together? There
must be unity or common principle that binds the two
Keep in mind that the Old
Testament teaches the same truth as the New
Testament. There is a heightening and increase or
escalation in the antitype. The antitype is greater
than and superior to the type. A good example is the
use of the types in the Book of Hebrews. There is a
fuller unfolding of the truth in the New (cf. Heb.
1:1-3). Christ is superior to Melchizedek. Christ's
redemptive work is greater than the Passover.
Therefore, don't use type to build essential
Christian doctrines. They can illuminate what is
clearly taught in other scriptures. The antitypes
are always on a high plane than the types in the Old
Limit the topic under
consideration to the context of the Scripture
passage. Don't expect the type to cover every
subject of theology.
Examine the meaning of
the details in the passage under observation, but
don't expect every detail to fit a type. Every
analogy, by its very nature, falls short of the full
reality. Don't force details that aren't there to
materialize from a passage.
Set aside the superficial
speculative interpretations and look for the basic
meaning of the symbol. What is the central focus of
the passage? What does the passage say, not what do
you want it to say.
Determine an accurate
definition of any type or symbol by identifying
interpretational constants that fit all the uses of
that type in Scripture. For example, "lion"
symbolizes power, whether applied to Satan as "a
roaring lion" or to Christ as the "lion of the tribe
Perhaps this unknown
author says it best. "God in the types of the last
dispensation was teaching His children their
letters. In this dispensation He is teaching them to
put the letters together, and they find that the
letters, arrange them as they will, spell Christ,
and nothing but Christ."
Perhaps the ultimate
question to consider, is the examination of the
"type" profitable or is it simply entertaining, a
tickling of the ears. Be careful not to see types
everywhere in the Bible. Keep focused on the central
message -- redemption.
Keep your heart tender
toward God and humbly submit to the teaching of His
Like the apostle Paul: "I
count all things to be loss in view of the
surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and
count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness
of my own derived from the Law, but that which is
through faith in Christ, the righteousness which
comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may
know Him and the power of His resurrection and the
fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His
death; in order that I may attain to the
resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:8-11).
Title: Introduction to
Christ in the Old Testament
Christ in the Old Testament