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Introduction to Typology

A Bible type is like a metaphor or a symbol. How should we identify and study Bible types? What are some examples of Bible types?

One of the things that make the Bible so convincing is that it hangs together so well. Written over many centuries, by many authors, this Book remains consistent and true. The parallels between the Old and New Testaments are astounding. Some of the links within the chain of continuity and consistency are Bible types. A type is like a metaphor or a symbol. Throughout the Bible hundreds, if not thousands of types connect the themes and truths of the Bible. How should we identify and study Bible types? What are some examples of Bible types?

In some ways, Bible type studies are word studies. Generally, objects are used as types. The object serves as a metaphor for what is being described. We study the characteristics of the object and gain understanding of the type. There are three basic kinds of types, the direct reference type, the implied type and the interpreted type. Using the type, “rock”, we can look at examples of each type. Start any type study with a direct type.

Christ is referred to as a rock on a number of occasions in the New Testament. One example where He clearly refers to Himself as a rock is found in Matthew 7:24: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:” Here, Christ is saying that building our faith on Him is like building a house on a rock, both have strong foundations. Christ has the characteristic of strength that a rock has. He also implies that He is our house, the place where we will be safe. This is an example of a direct type.

In Balaam’s fourth blessing, he says: “And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwelling place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.” (Numbers 24:21) A strong reference to Christ is implied here, especially if we consider surrounding verses in this passage that also imply the Christ. Here again Christ is compared to the strength of a rock. Again there is also the reference to the rock being the safe place to dwell. Though Christ is not speaking here and referring to Himself as a rock or a safe dwelling, there is an obvious metaphor that is intended to be taken figuratively. For this reason, we can be certain that this use of the word rock is a definite type.

In Proverbs, Solomon talks about small things on the earth that are wise. One of the references in his list may be a type using the word rock to again describe the Christ. The interpretation is reinforced by the use of another reference to a rock as a safe dwelling. “The conies (small rock badgers) are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;” (Proverbs 30:26) This is only possibly a type because there is no direct reference and the passage is not a clear metaphor.

Clearly, not all references to rocks in the Bible are types of Christ. Sometimes rocks are just rocks and other times rocks are types for something else entirely. When studying types, caution should be used, especially with types that are not direct. If a type is misinterpreted, the student is misled and may make serious errors in the understanding of doctrine. This is how schisms and cults form and how entire churches are divided.

But the study of types is valuable to the serious Bible student. By studying types, we gain deeper understanding of the Word of God and are able to apply it to our lives with more confidence. We are better witnesses when we have a deep understanding of the Bible and as we learn more, our relationship with God deepens.

Beyond the intrinsic values of Bible study, type studies help us connect themes that are carried throughout the Bible. There are valuable life lessons for us all through the Bible, some of them are very clear and some of them are a puzzle. The entire book of Revelation is a puzzle filled with types, lessons and warnings. The Bible is our instruction book from God on how we should live. Through the study of types, we get a better picture of what God wants for us and promises us.

Some types weave consistently through the Bible, evidencing a particular point such as the example of Christ as our solid foundation and safe haven. Other types only appear once or a few times, with or without the same meaning each time. Individual occurrences of types and chains of types are worth studying. When we gain understanding of the metaphor, parable or figure that God has presented us, we get His meaning and can apply it to our lives.

When you first begin to learn about types, it’s best to stick to direct or pure types. Type studies are made much easier with electronic Bibles that allow word searches. Looking for each instance of a word can also be done using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Sort out those instances that appear to be direct types and record them in a study notebook or electronic document.

With each instance, take a close look at the type. Look for comparisons, contrasts, likeness, characteristics and opposites. What you’re trying to do is grasp the deeper meaning in the metaphor. Using the example of a rock as a type of Christ, look at the following:

  • A rock is strong and solid
  • Rocks make a strong foundation and a strong house
  • Rocks are good hiding places
  • Rocks are unchanging

These are all qualities that we attribute to Christ. Perhaps the least obvious is the hiding place. We hide keys under rocks; we hide behind rocks or in caves. We are hid in Christ, too. Christ shields us from the punishment of sin, which is death. When we ask Him into our lives, He becomes our safe shelter; He protects us from spiritual death.

This is only a starting point. There are many kinds of types, not all of which are objects. People are often types, too. Consider Joseph as a type of Christ and look at the similarities in their lives and the impact of their lives on others. This can serve as a beginning type study.

It’s helpful to have good reference materials when you plunge into Bible study at this level. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is an excellent reference for any Bible study. For type studies try “A Dictionary of Bible Types” by Walter Wilson for reference. It’s also wise to share your study and the interpretations you arrive at with a pastor or spiritual advisor with more experience.

Your time will not be wasted as you pursue type studies. A whole new world of understanding will open up to you and your interest and excitement with the Bible will grow. Don’t forget to ask God for guidance with your study, too. You’ll be amazed at the directions He leads you as you tackle deeper understanding.

Wilson’s Dictionary of Bible Types

Lesson One

The student should first decide whether the word under consideration is used by the Spirit as a type. Not all objects are types. Care should be used in arriving at a conclusion on this matter lest one distort the Word of GOD and thus arrive at decisions which were never intended by the Lord.

A safe rule is to ascertain whether an object is said plainly to be a type. When Paul wrote in 1Co_10:4, “They drank of that spiritual rock … and that rock was Christ,” we know that the rock in the wilderness was a true type of CHRIST.

When we read of the good and bad fish in Mat_13:47, we know that these fish are types though the passage does not say so. The story is a parable intended to teach a lesson. It is needful therefore to learn just what they do represent and also what the net represents.

When we read of the “Red Sea” or “the Jordan,” we know this to be a type just because it teaches so many very interesting and profitable lessons.

But even though we decide that an object is a type there still remains the problem of learning what it represents. Here great care is needed. Let us ask, “What constitutes a type?” Let us seek an answer by a series of comparisons:

– There is likeness of appearance as “clouds” and “dust.” (Nah_1:3)

– There is likeness of action as “the leopard” and “Alexander the Great.” (Dan_7:6)

– There is likeness of effect as “rain and snow” and “the Word of GOD.” (Isa_55:10)

– There is likeness of relationship as “nurse” and “Paul.” (1Th_2:7)

– There is likeness of value as “gold” and “the Lord JESUS.” (Isa_13:12)

– There is likeness of position as “head” and “Israel.” (Deu_28:13)

– There is likeness of character as “the spider” and “the sinner.” (Pro_30:23)

Lesson Two

Certain principles and processes are essential in the study of Typology. It is Scriptural to study this subject for the writers of the Scripture and our Lord Himself used types constantly for teaching great lessons. As a good knife is of most value in the hands of a skillful surgeon, so the Word of GOD is most effective when used by those who best understand its hidden meaning. The study of types is illuminating, for the Spirit uses the things which are seen, to teach us concerning the things which are unseen. The study of types equips us with a handy means and method of presenting the truth of GOD, for types are about us on every hand ready to be used.

Some suggestions for the study of types:

Think of the opposite of that which is under consideration;

– as the golden city (Rev_21:18) and the gilded city (Rev_18:16);

– the lion (Rev_5:5) and the lamb (Rev_5:6);

– the woman clothed in red (Rev_17:4) and the woman clothed in white (Rev_19:8).

Think of comparisons:

– great Goliath and little David;

– Joseph of the Old Testament and JESUS;

– the river in Ezekiel 47 and the river in John 7.

Look up the several occurrences of the type to ascertain how it is used.

Learn whether this type is referred to anywhere else in the Scripture as a type. Consider the characteristics of the type being studied as the sea with its greatness, its depth, its restlessness, its size, its waves, its commerce.

Think of the lessons which may be learned from the type as the leaves in Isa_64:6,

– how they fade,

– how they reveal the kind of tree,

– how they show whether young or old,

– how they fall from the tree or hold on.

By considering these various thoughts, the student will be enabled to quickly and easily learn lessons from the subject under consideration.

If questions should arise in regard to any of the suggestions given, the reader may feel free to address an inquiry to the author. Such communications will receive prompt attention.

Lesson Three

Quite often an object is used as the same type or a type of the same thing by several writers. This

repetition confirms the object as a type and assures us of his true meaning.

– Moses uses the rock as a type of CHRIST in Num_20:8.

– David uses the rock as a type of CHRIST in Psa_18:2.

– Isaiah does the same thing in Isa_32:2.

– The Lord Jesus also refers to Himself as the Rock upon which the church is built in Mat_16:18.

– Balaam used trees to represent the nation of Israel, Num_24:6

– David used a tree to represent a godly man in Psalm 1.

– Jeremiah follows the same plan in Jer_17:8.

– Daniel used a tree to represent the king in Dan_4:10. He received this message from GOD.

– Isaiah used the same type for the eunuch in Isa_56:3.

– Jesus used the tree as a type of the people of Israel in Luk_13:6. It is well also to note that an object cannot be a type of certain things.

I heard a preacher use “Joseph’s coat of many colors” as a type of the doctrine of sinless perfection. It was a very grotesque comparison, utterly without foundation or truth.

Leaven is often used as a type of the Gospel which, of course, it could not be. The contexts concerning leaven all through both the Old Testament and the New indicate clearly that it is a type of some evil which should be removed. It will be most helpful for the student to ask himself certain questions in regard to the study of types and this will guide him in his investigation.

How is this object or subject first used in the Scripture? What meaning does it have in the first place where it occurs? To what does this object or subject refer in the last passage where it occurs in the Scripture? What are the characteristics of this object or subject which make it a suitable type?

CHRIST is compared to a lion in Revelation 5. In Isaiah 53, CHRIST is compared to a lamb.

As the characteristics of these two animals are studied, then the likeness will be more clearly understood. This plan should be followed in each case.

Types should be grouped according to that which they represent.

There are types of CHRIST, Israel, the nations, the Christian, the hypocrites, the worker, the state of the soul, Satan, and many others.

Types may also be grouped according to their character.

There are types taken from the mineral kingdom, the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the celestial kingdom, the human family, human actions, human attitudes, postures, etc. It will help the student to understand types more fully if these groupings are made while the study is being pursued.

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