Types in Scripture
In the Old Testament there are various “types”, symbols or prefigurement of New Testament realities. For instance, Adam was a “type” of Jesus.
Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.Romans 5:14
We all know that the Abraham and Isaac story prefigures the heavenly Father sacrificing his only begotten Son for our salvation. And the outer tent of the priests is a symbol of this present age (an age of preparation).
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation).Hebrews 9:11
By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper…Hebrews 9:8c-9a
Considering the pattern of the Old Testament sacrifice for sins, Jesus is the high priest, he was the sacrificial lamb who was slain; and he took that sacrifice into the “holy of holies” when he ascended into heaven.
Old Testament: A People of God
We can see God’s design and intention as he formed and gathered a people in the Old Testament.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.Hebrews 11:24-25
That Old Testament people was a “type”, a symbol, a prefigurement of what was to come.
New Testament: The People of God
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them…Revelation 21:1-3
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.1 Peter 2:9-10
As we consider Peter’s description of the people, several important characteristics emerge.
A Chosen Race
Chosen: We know from Matthew 22:14 that “many are called but few are chosen.” That’s a powerful warning to us. To be “called” is one thing, but to finish the race, to be “chosen” is another. There will be casualties. Some that we had hoped to join us in this expression of the kingdom will not make it.
Race is another strong term. Just as there are physical characteristics among the races, there are spiritual marks that identify the people of God. Races tend to stick together, to support one another, to protect one another, to identify with each other. Our very identities have been changed at the deepest level. The blood of Christ is thicker than human lines.
A Royal Priesthood
This identifier describes our worship. It will be corporate and personal. This term, as with others, has a “set apart” notion to it, but instead of outward works, it describes us as set apart for the worship of the holy God who created us and resides among us. It’s God-focused. It’s also “royal”: it’s a very special group reserved for and cared for by the King!
A Holy Nation
Holy: One of the meanings of the word “holy” is to be set apart for God. The early Christian church in the Roman empire was indeed holy. To be a Christian could cost you your life. In the year 313 A.D., the Roman emperor Constantine issued the edict of Milan which gave freedom to the practice of Christianity. That led to the issuance of the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity was forever changed.
The early church was dedicated, determined, and set apart for God. When your belief can cost you your life, you are committed with a capital ‘C’. Whenever Christianity became a safe, state religion, commitment could wane, and many members could drift from being mainly disciples to being believers. When commitment to the Lord is secondary to other values or purposes, Christianity does not work correctly. Instead of a “people”, you have a club. When many folks are marginally committed it lowers the level of faith…even the disciples can become disheartened.
For the sake of this discussion, I am making a distinction between deep commitment (disciples) and lower levels of faith or commitment (believers.) A body with lots of believers and a few disciples is likely to fail, or at least be far less than the Lord intended.
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “’I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!’”Revelation 3:14-15
Again, to be holy is to be set apart for the Lord. The Lord clearly wants a people whom he can direct: a people who can hear his word and respond to it. There is a modern saying that is used when something is exceptionally to be desired: “to die for.” It’s often used in trite ways. For example: “That restaurant’s lasagna is to die for!” The kingdom of God is something “to die for”; and that is the true and right response.
A Nation: Most of us were born into a nation where we live out our years, at least the formative years. We tend to identify with the culture, the language, the songs, even the form of government. Even those of a certain ethnicity who were not born in the homeland can experience an additional pull toward their ethnicity. I am an American. I like many American things: big band music, baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. But I’m also of Italian descent. I like being in Italy: the food, the music, the expressiveness. Most Italians are straight forward, and they’ll tell you what they think.
When we come into the Kingdom of God it’s a new nation: new ways of thinking, new music, new ways to dress, new ways to speak, new values, new mores, new ways of relating, even new languages. We are given a new identity! We are truly new creations!
A Covenant People
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of IsraelHebrews 8:10
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
By God’s design, we are a covenant people. The word ‘covenant’ appears hundreds of times in the Bible, and multiple times in the book of Hebrews. There are many types of covenants, but covenants are usually two-sided as is this one: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” We belong to him.
The Constantinian Flaw
Christian-by-edict is not how Christianity works. It’s a call, a response, and a new way of life. It was never meant to be an assigned state of life; nor is it meant to be a threshold step and a return to everyday life. There is value in a well-lived everyday life, but even that falls short of “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In Matthew 18:16-20 Jesus calls us to make disciples and to teach them his ways.
Many animals protect and care for their offspring. If we check in on Sunday and spend the rest of the week just living everyday life, is that his kingdom on earth? The early church had it right: they were a people who worship God and cared for one another, spending time together and sharing meals in their homes.
Born to Fail
We were all born totally selfish; and for most, we were born into a self-centered culture. To some extent, that gets washed out in becoming a full, functioning member of society. But the deepest roots of selfishness can never be eradicated by natural means. The process of becoming other-centered begins naturally but is completed supernaturally.
Win – Win
I’ve been involved in real estate for many years, and we had a “win – win” description for real estate deals, meaning that it is mutually beneficial to all parties involved.
The salvation process is something like that: it’s a “win – win”. We wisely (and sometimes selfishly) accept Jesus as our Savior to avoid eternal hell and gain eternal heaven. That’s a major win for us.
The second part is accepting him as Lord. That’s where he wins: the rest of our lives are HIS. By the way, this is also a very big win for us since life lived for Christ is very much more rewarding and purpose-filled than a life just focused on family and/or self. Unfortunately, too many Christians accept the Savior part, but not the Lordship. The Christian life must bear fruit and not just personal peace, patience, etc. We need to advance the Gospel, and bear fruit in the body. Christ has made an investment, and he expects a return.
The cross is our symbol. The cross is the perfect symbol for the two great commandments: Jesus showed his obedient love for the Father, and he showed his love for us. I see it as a model, a ‘type’ for us: it foreshadows the Christian life. Jesus was not lukewarm; he was fully committed.
Christianity is supposed to be like that. It’s meant to show forth the love of God and to challenge the selfish “business as usual.” It can be compared to swimming: when you dive into ten feet (3M) of water, you are committed to swimming. I have a friend who is a glider pilot. When you disconnect from the tow plane, you are committed to flying, and flying responsibly so that you can get back to the landing strip.
So, what does all of this mean for “a people”?
To be the people of God is not just a one-time Sunday-go-to-meeting proposition.
God’s design for his people is that they would be fully committed to him… to gather together and to be directed by him.
God’s design for his people is to have…
- a new way to live;
- a new way to speak and dress (modesty);
- a new way of relationship;
- a new way to think;
- a new purpose in life;
- a new King sitting on the throne;
- a new way to see others;
- a new way of relating to the culture;
- a new way to spend and invest our time;
- a new way of prioritizing what is of value …
Finally, God’s design for his people is to show forth his nature and character to a fallen world and to draw others to himself.
“I will be their God and they shall be my people”2 Corinthians 6:16
- God’s Design: Part One – Basic Principles of “Living by Design” in Scripture
- God’s Design: Part Two – Embracing the Wisdom of the Divine Architect
- God’s Design: Part Three – Christian Leaders
- God’s Design: Part Four – A People
See previous articles by Bob Tedesco in Living Bulwark ArchivesImage credit: Illustration of Christians worshipping together with raised hands, from Bigstock.com, © by paul shuang, stock photo ID: 251603902. Used with permission.
Bob Tedesco is the founder of the People of God, a Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA where he served as Senior Coordinator for 26 years. He has been involved in lay ministry for over forty-five years, and has served as Regional President of the North American region in the Sword of the Spirit.