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Based on Malachi 3:16-18 I believe the Lord will harken to us as we consider his word together.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our admonition, unto whom the ends of the ages have come.
Romans 15:4 For the things that were written previously were written for our instruction, in order that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
A good number of Christian teachers, including some who are professors in seminaries and Bible schools and others who are denominational pastors, do not care much for the value of the types in the Old Testament. Many regard the Old Testament merely as history or as being related only to the children of Israel and having nothing to do with us, the New Testament believers in Christ. Thus, one kind of attitude toward the biblical types is to pay little or no attention to them.
A second attitude is somewhat different. This is the attitude that since the Old Testament types have been fulfilled in the New Testament, there is no longer any need for us to pay attention to them. Those who hold this attitude claim that it is sufficient for us to have the New Testament and that there is no need for us to consider the Old Testament types any further.
A third attitude toward biblical typology concerns the interpretation of types. This attitude is held by those who acknowledge that there are types and that they are worthy of attention. However, they say that it is too difficult for anyone to interpret them. Some, they claim, interpret them in one way, and others interpret them in another way. Because of these different understandings of the types, those who hold the third attitude say that it is better for us to leave them alone and not try to understand them.
We should not hold any of these attitudes, for none of them is acceptable. The Bible says, “For whatever was written before was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope” (Rom. 15:4). This clearly indicates that what was written in the Old Testament is for us today. Furthermore in 1 Corinthians 10:6 Paul, referring to the children of Israel in the wilderness says, “Now these things occurred as types of us.” In verse 11 of the same chapter Paul goes on to say, “Now these things happened to them as types, and were written for our admonition, unto whom the ends of the ages have come.” These verses certainly indicate that the Old Testament types are for us.
Moreover, the writer of the book of Hebrews in dealing with certain Old Testament types indicated that he did not have sufficient time to go into them further. For example, after speaking of the Holy Place with the lampstand and the table, and the Holy of Holies with the ark of the covenant, the writer of Hebrews speaks of the cherubim of glory overshadowing the propitiation cover. Then he says that concerning these things he “cannot now speak in detail” (Heb. 9:5). This indicates that the author had more to say concerning the types, but did not have the time adequate to say it. But in writing the book of Hebrews he established an example to help us interpret the types in the Old Testament. By reading Hebrews we find a model that will help us in our study of the Old Testament types. Since the New Testament points to the value of the types for us today, we must regard the three attitudes we have mentioned as not being scriptural.
Let us now go on to consider a fourth attitude, an attitude that is somewhat according to the Scriptures. However, as we shall see, this view of the types is rather limited in its correctness. This is the view that something in the Old Testament may be regarded as a type if it is explicitly identified as such in the New Testament. According to this under- standing of types, if the New Testament does not indicate that a certain matter is a type, we should not consider it a type. As an example, those who hold this view of typology would refer to Paul’s word concerning Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4. In this chapter Paul clearly says that these two women are types of two covenants. Referring to such an example, those who hold this view would say strongly that we should not interpret anything in the Old Testament as a type and apply it to us unless the New Testament tells us that it is a type. Moreover, according to this view, unless the New Testament says so, we should not apply any particular matter in the Old Testament to Christ.
However, some who hold this attitude allow for exceptional cases. The outstanding exception is that of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Many Bible teachers, including those who hold this fourth attitude toward types, admit that Joseph is a type of Christ. But in the New Testament there is not so much as a word to say that Joseph typifies Christ. Nevertheless, teachers of the Bible throughout the centuries have regarded Joseph as a type of Christ.
When I was young I accepted this fourth attitude toward the Old Testament types. I also agreed that we could allow for an exceptional case such as Joseph. But later I began to wonder why there could not be many other exceptions if there could be one exception. The principle in each case would be the same. On the one hand, those who hold this fourth view set up a wall to limit the interpretation of types; on the other hand, they open one door as an exception. But why could not many other doors, even hundreds of doors, be opened? Considering this matter further over the years, I have concluded that this fourth attitude toward typology is not altogether correct.