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Abraham's Sacrifice - etching by Rembrandt (cropped)
Old Testament Types of Christ
edited by Don Schwager

What is a type in Scripture?
A “type” as it is used in the Scriptures is a representation or pre-figuring of something that is to come. We might think of it as a template or even a shadow (or foreshadowing) that dimly represents what is to come.  

The Old Testament is full of “Types” of Christ (God’s Anointed Son and Messiah).  These are intentionally placed in the Scripture to describe and identify the Messiah when he came.  They were designed by God to prefigure some aspect of the person of Jesus Christ. They are Old Testament “anticipations” of Christ and since they dealt with a future person (the Messiah), they were “prophetic.” 

Some “types” are people, such as Melchizedek who was both a priest and king without end (Psalm 110:4 “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”), or Isaac, the only begotten “son of promise” (Hebrews 11:17) whom Abraham was prepared to slay as a sacrificial offering to God (Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice, and was bound and laid upon the wood, but was substituted by a lamb which God provided for Abraham).  

Some “types” are things such as Noah’s Ark and the Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem represented God’s dwelling with his people. Jesus told the Jews, “destroy this temple (referring to himself), and I will raise it in three days” (pointing to his resurrection).

Some “types” are events or ceremonies and feasts such as the Passover, Day of Atonement, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Pentecost.  Each of them beautifully picture some aspect of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ hundreds of years before his Incarnation – when the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1). 

Two other words, copy and pattern, are also used in a similar way in the Scriptures. A copy or pattern gives us a sketch, draft, or outline that foreshadows or serves as a type of the reality that will be revealed in Christ when he comes. 

A comparison of four Old Testament figures who foreshadow Christ 
Both Adam and Christ are called the son of God in the Scriptures. Both entered the world in a unique way. Both entered the world sinless. Both were appointed as God’s representative and “head” of the human race. Paul the Apostles tells us that Christ is the second Adam, the perfect and obedient Son of God who reverses the curse of Adam’s disobedience and fall. 
Romans 5:12-14
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

1 Corinthians 15:45
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit.

Isaac is the only son of Abraham. He pre-figures Christ in several aspects:
His miraculous birth/Sarah barren, old (Gen. 17:15-19); Christ’s miraculous birth (Luke 1:34-35)
Isaac is declared “only begotten son” (Hebrews 11:17); Christ is only begotten Son (John 3:16)
Isaac was offered up as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 22); Christ offered as sacrifice (Romans 8:32)
Isaac being brought back to life is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection (Hebrews 11:19).

The early fathers of the Christian church saw Joseph, the favoured son of Jacob (Genesis 37 – 50) as a type of the Messiah. A comparison between Joseph and Jesus:

1. Both were loved by their father (Genesis 37:3).
2. Both were sent to their brethren (Genesis 37:13 and John 1:11-12).
3. Both were rejected by their brethren (Genesis 37).
4. Both were falsely accused (Genesis 39).
5. Both were put into prison (Genesis 39-40).
6. Both were exalted after their suffering (Genesis 49:22-26).
7. Both offered forgiveness (Genesis 50:15-21).
8. Both were saviors to their people (Acts 7:9-16).
Jesus is explicitly compared with Melchizedek in the New Testament (Genesis 14:18-20) because both held the position of Priest and King for eternity. (Hebrews 5-7; Genesis 14/ Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6)

Melchizedek’s name means “King of Righteousness.” He ruled over “Salem” which means “peace.” He was the King of Peace. As a Priest, he was superior to the Aaronic priesthood of the Jews in the sense that even Abraham, (great-grandfather of Levi – Aaron and the priests of Israel all came from the tribe of Levi), paid tithes to Melchizedek. The Letter to the Hebrews makes the argument that even Aaron paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham. 

Genesis 14:18-20
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all.

Psalm 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

Hebrews 5:5-6,10
5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, "You are my Son, Today I have begotten you"; 6 just as He says also in another passage, "You are a priest forever according to the order of  Melchizedek." …10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:20 
...where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

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[Don Schwager is a member of The Servants of the Word and author of the Daily Scripture Reading & Meditation website.]
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