Types and Shadows



In the letter to the Colossians Paul noted that many of the institutions and commands revealed under the Law of Moses were, “things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17).  The same thrust is found in Hebrews 10:1 “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things”.  In reference to the tabernacle in the Old Testament, the Hebrew writer notes that the Levitical priests served, “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). 


The term “shadow” means, “A reflection, a phantom, a silhouette” (Barclay p. 88).  “A glimpse and shadow” (Rhm); “A mere outline and shadow” (Mof); “Only a pattern or reproduction” (Phi).  The words rendered “copy” and “shadow” are nearly synonymous and are like our English words “likeness, copy, and imitation”.  “It may be fairly well detailed, but it is not the original” (Reese p. 127).  “Many of the Old Testament institutions were ‘types” or ‘previews of coming attractions’” (p. 127). 


The word “type” is from the Greek tupos, which primarily denoted a blow, then the impression left by such a mark.  In Romans 5:14, Adam is spoken of as a “type” of Him who was to come, that is Christ.  Consider the following definition of a type or shadow:  “A type is essentially a prefiguring of something future from itself.  It is a person, institution, office, action, or event, by means of which some truth of the Gospel was divinely foreshadowed under the Old Testament dispensations.  Whatever was thus prefigured is called the antitype” (Biblical Hermeneutics, Milton S. Terry, p. 336).  There must be some notable point of resemblance between the type and antitype or the shadow and the substance, yet they may in many points be dissimilar as well.  Adam, for example, is made a type of Christ, yet in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Paul notes more points of unlikeness than of agreement between the two.  Secondly, the Scriptures make it clear that we always expect to find in the antitype something higher and nobler than in the type, “but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17); “Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Hebrews 9:23); “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come” (9:11).


Finding Types


Recently someone asked me if I had ever gone through the Bible and found every type and shadow in the Old Testament and their corresponding spiritual reality in the New Testament.  My answer was “no”, and thus became motivation to start this series, but how does one find a type or shadow in the Old Testament?  Terry reminds us, “There must be evidence that the type was designed and appointed by God to represent the thing typified.  To constitute one thing the type of another, something more is wanted than mere resemblance.  The former must not only resemble the latter, but must have been so designed to resemble the latter” (p. 337).  That is, there must be competent evidence from the Scriptures, that God so designed something to prefigure a spiritual reality of the Gospel, and that finding types and shadows cannot be left up to the imagination of the Bible reader to simply discover.  We must make sure that we are respecting the authority of Scripture and that we are not trying to speak for God (Deuteronomy 29:29; Proverbs 30:5-6; 2 John 9).  To say that something was a type or shadow we need New Testament confirmation to that fact. 


The Value of Such a Study


Paul notes that what was written aforetime was written for our learning (Romans 15:4), and that many of the examples and situations in the Old Testament were mean to teach Christians a lesson (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).  Therefore, we must resist the temptation to assume that types and shadows were only for the benefit of those living in Old Testament times to lead them to Christ and the spiritual truths revealed in the New Testament.  Rather, the very fact that God took the time and trouble from eternity to set up such previews of coming spiritual attractions, and explains them in the New Testament, infers that we can definitely learn something about these spiritual truths from studying the Old Testament type. 


Adam and Christ:  Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49

Through Adam, sin came into the world, through Christ the forgiveness of sins came into the world (Romans 5:15).  Through Adam came condemnation, through Jesus comes justification (5:18).  Please note that in this comparison between Adam and Christ, condemnation and justification do not come automatically to all men through either.  The condemnation brought by Adam came to all men, not automatically or inherently, but rather because each man like Adam sinned (5:12 “because all sinned”).  The justification that Jesus brings, does not automatically come to all men, rather men must act, that is believe and be baptized to receive such (Romans 5:1; 6:3-5).  Both condemnation and justification are the result of man exercising his freewill and both are potentially available to all, therefore there is no limited atonement in these passages. Adam was disobedient, Christ was obedient.  Whatever sin resulted from Adam’s transgression the sacrifice of Christ can forgive those sins if one comes to Christ (Romans 5:20). In the Corinthian letter, all physically die in Adam, and all will be physically raised by Christ (15:22).  Note, Paul is not saying that all spiritually die in Adam any more than Paul is saying that Jesus will save everyone (that is, all will be made spiritually alive in Christ).  The resurrection of the body is what is under consideration (15:23,20-21).  Adam was natural, of this earth, Christ was from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47).  Clearly Adam and Jesus are not the same person, while Adam was a mere man, Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1,14).  For Christians the point in 1 Corinthians 15:49 is that as we have borne the image of Adam, that is, our physical body is like his, at the resurrection we share have a body similar to the spiritual body in which Christ clothes Himself (Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:1-3).  We are now in the image of Adam, we will be in the image of Christ after His resurrection.  Someone also noted that both were the direct result of a biological miracle.  Adam was directly created by God, and Jesus was born of a virgin. 

The Flood and the Final Judgment:  2 Peter 3:3-9/Matthew 24:37-39

First, I am impressed that in both cases the judgment was and will be worldwide.  God brought the flood even though the vast majority were not prepared to meet Him (2 Peter 2:5).  In both cases, God gave forewarning and the forewarning that people received was through preaching (2 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 3:19-20).  When we go back to the Old Testament and read Genesis 6:5 “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually”, and 6:11 “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence”, many assume that this means that at this point in history all the institutions in society had crumbled and that Noah’s generation was one of absolute chaos and anarchy, yet Jesus noted during this same time, “They were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:38).  The lesson for us is that the earth can be filled with violence, and every thought of man’s imagination can be evil, and yet all the institutions of society, civil government, the family, marriage, commerce, and so on, can be functioning.  In fact, the world can be filled with violence and yet quite peaceful for many people at the same time.   Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that the Lord will only come when the world is on the verge of complete self-destruction (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).  In both judgments, there were no second chances, “spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:19).  In both cases, the promised judgment did eventually arrive, yet there were no signs of such an impending doom (Matthew 24:38; Genesis 7:4). 

The Waters of the Flood and Baptism:  1 Peter 3:20-21

“And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you”.  The term corresponding means, “resembling another, its counter part” (Thayer p. 51).  ANTITUPOS:  lit., a striking back, copy, corresponding type (Vine pp. 95-96).  “Corresponding to something that has gone before.  ‘Means baptism, which is a fulfillment  (of the type) now saves you, that is, the saving of Noah from the flood is a foreshadowing of baptism, our salvation” (Arndt p. 76).  “Baptism is presented as corresponding to (pre-figured by) the deliverance of Noah’s family by water” (Robertson p. 119).  How can anyone argue that baptism is non-essential?  Water baptism in the New Testament is the original pattern, which various Old Testament practices and events foreshadowed, such as the flood, crossing the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-2); and the laver in which the priests washed prior to serving in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:18-20/Titus 3:5). Consider the parallels:  The waters of the flood delivered Noah from a corrupt society to a new world, water baptism brings one into a state of newness of life (Romans 6:3-5).   Water delivered Noah from a condemned world---baptism delivers us from condemnation (Mark 16:16).  The flood separated the saved from the lost---baptism is the line between lost and saved.  The flood was not the Savior, but the instrument or means of deliverance---water baptism is not the Savior, rather it is the last condition prior to salvation (Acts 22:16). The only warning that people received prior to the flood was preaching (1 Peter 3:20), in like manner the exhortation we receive from God to be baptized is through the preaching of the gospel message.  God was patient prior to the flood and God is still patient today (2 Peter 3:9).  The people who rejected God’s offer of salvation during Noah’s generation are now in prison, in like manner, those who reject God’s command to be baptized will not be saved. Here some try to argue that the baptism under consideration is Holy Spirit baptism, yet the context is “water, “brought safely through the water” (3:20), thus the salvation in the context is inherently linked with water.   Why would God parallel Holy Spirit baptism with an event that involved more water than any other event in human history?  Is God trying to confuse us?  The baptism associated with salvation in other passages is also water baptism (Acts 8:36-38).  Holy Spirit baptism does not save a person (Acts 10:44-48).

“Most interpreters would agree that whatever element or action is specified in the above passages as necessary for being saved should not be omitted from the teaching of salvation.  To omit any item that saves us would be to leave out hope, belief, grace, the blood of Christ, confessing Christ, and Jesus Himself!  When therefore the Scriptures also tell us baptism now saves you, one is hard pressed to shrug it off as nonessential to salvation” (Oberst pp. 183-184). Consider also the word “now”.  Baptism for the remission of sins was not commanded during the time of Noah nor during the period of the Law of Moses.  The reason that people were not baptized in the Old Testament is because baptism for the remission of sins is part of the New Testament.  The command to be baptized was given after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16).  “But an appeal to God for a good conscience”: “Earnest seeking, a craving, an intense desire, long for something” (Thayer p. 230); “primarily a question or inquiry, denotes a demand or appeal” (Vine p. 268); “the craving for a conscience right with God” (Gspd); “it means the ability to face God with a clear conscience” (Phi).  “Is another way of saying ‘a request for forgiveness of sins and a new heart’.  When God gives a sinner a clear conscience, that person has the assurance that every sin has been forgiven (Heb. 9:14; 10:22)” (Grudem p.163). 


Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017