God’s Purpose as Portrayed in Typology
Even when I was young, I remember not being drawn toward ritualistic observances in religion. I wanted to know why we did the things we did, why we practiced the things we practiced. I wasn’t satisfied with the answer I was frequently given: “We do this because we’ve been doing it for years.” This answer reminded me of the part in “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which Tevye said, “You will ask how did this tradition get started. Well, I will tell you… I don’t know! But it is a tradition!”
Unlike my friends and acquaintances, I never cared to go along with things merely for the sake of going along. I remember observing my friends as it came time for all of us to have our bar mitzvah. I couldn’t help notice how my friends were more interested in how much money they were to receive than in anything that had to do with God. At about that time, I recall asking someone why we, as Jewish boys, practice this tradition at the age of 13. The answer was, “It is a celebration as you begin to embrace manhood.” I then thought, “In just a little period of time, will I not become a man anyway?”
At that time, in my teenage years, I began to speak to God about some of the thoughts and questions I had. I remember asking Him to guide me in the details of my life. Later, however, I began to search into the Bible for the answers to deeper questions, questions such as, “What is God’s purpose and plan?” “Why am I here?”; “What is reality?”; “What happens after I die?” Later, as some years passed, the answers to these questions and more began to come to light. These answers came mainly through reading the Bible, the Word of God. The Holy Scriptures reveal God’s purpose comprehensively and clearly. They detail how God raised up and chose the nation of Israel and brought them out of the bondage of Egyptian tyranny, and how, through Moses, He led them through the Red Sea and the wilderness. In the wilderness, God took care of them daily through His provision. However, God had a goal in calling the nation of Israel. His purpose was to establish His kingdom and dwelling place on the earth through this people, who were redeemed by the blood of the lamb (the Passover), saved through the water (the Red Sea), and fed in the wilderness by manna (the bread from heaven).
Later, through the law, God revealed what kind of God He was and what He required of His people. In addition, He revealed to His people how they were to build His dwelling place, the tabernacle in the wilderness. Later, in the days of Solomon, the temple was built and God’s dwelling place became permanent. The temple was God’s expression, His house. Furthermore, the gates and the city surrounding the temple were His kingdom. The house of God needed the kingdom of God as the protection. When looking at the past, however, of how God has guided and cared for His chosen people, a question arises. “How does the history of yesterday foreshadow the reality and revelation of today?”
One of the main ways the Scriptures portray God’s purpose is through the typology contained in the law (Torah) and the prophets (Nevi’im). These books illustrate God’s purpose through the use of various types. A type is a person, place, thing or event in the Bible that has a symbolic or allegorical meaning. The concept of types is crucial to understanding the Bible. Without an understanding of types, it is very difficult to see the revelation hidden in God’s Word, and how everything in it fits together to describe His purpose.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The Bible demonstrates this principle magnificently. It is hard to understand abstract, spiritual truths, so God inspired the first 39 books of the Scriptures, which are written in the Hebrew language, to be books of “illustrations.” All the people and events that are recorded in these books are historical – they were actual and physical. For example, real lambs were offered on the day of the Passover. The blood of these lambs was carefully placed on doorposts throughout the land of Egypt. Genuine animal sacrifices were offered in the outer court of the Temple throughout the year, particularly on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). God’s chosen people lived physically first in Egypt and then, after Moses led them out of Egypt, in the wilderness. Eventually, they settled in the Good Land, Israel.
These are concrete, tangible examples that are recorded in the Scriptures. These people and events, however, are much more than historical personalities and stories; they are figures and illustrations, (i.e. “types”), which carry spiritual significance. The significance of these types is particularly defined in the second half of the Bible, the New Testament. While the first half, the Hebrew part of the Bible, presents allegories concerning many spiritual matters, the second half, the New Testament, contains what we could call the “captions” that accompany these allegorical pictures. In the New Testament, the types contained in the Hebrew part of the Bible are defined and explained. It has even been said that the New Testament is concealed in the Hebrew part of the Bible and that the Hebrew part of the Bible is revealed in the New Testament. Thus, the New Testament fulfills what was symbolized in the Hebrew portion of the Scriptures.
At this point, we can address a very common misconception. Some who are Jewish still believe that the New Testament is a religious deviation made by first-century Jewish believers in Christ. This, however, is a religious concept held by men and is not according to the living Word of God. How do we know this? We know this by examining the Hebrew Bible itself. Around 600 B.C. the prophet Jeremiah foretold a New Covenant, or Testament, which was yet to come:
Indeed, days are coming, declares Jehovah, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by their hand to bring them out from the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was their Husband, declares Jehovah. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Jehovah: I will put My law in their inward parts and write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will no longer teach, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for all of them will know Me, from the little one among them even to the great one among them, declares Jehovah, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34, emphasis mine, 31:30-33 in Hebrew text).
Far from being a deviation from the Scriptures, the New Testament is part of them! Moreover, Jewish writers wrote all 27 books of the New Testament, except two. Only two books were written by a Gentile, Luke, a physician.
Do you not think that if the New Testament was written by Jews that you should read it and find out what it says?
The law written in stone is outward and physical; God’s intention is to write the inward law on our hearts. Upon receiving His life (as discussed later), a person has the ability to subjectively know God and is regulated from within. This subjective knowledge is in contrast to objectively knowing Him as a God up in the heavens and to being regulated from without by an outward law. The major difference between the time period of typology and the age of reality is characterized by the change from the outward and physical to the inward and spiritual. Would you rather have the law without, written in stone, or The Lawgiver within, writing His living law, the law of life, upon your heart? For it is written, “You are a letter… inscribed not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone but in tablets of hearts of flesh” (2 Cor. 3:2b,c).
In this short article, I have thus far formed a foundation for you to understand the concept of typology that is embodied particularly in the Hebrew part of the Scriptures. Let us look at some more examples in further detail to see who fulfills these pictures.
A Suggested Prayer
“Lord, soften and open my heart as I read. Touch my innermost being concerning Your Word. Amen.”
Continue reading From Tradition to Reality – Part 2.