Challenging Covenantalism: Type/Antitype

As I mentioned before the Types and Shadows (T/S) hermeneutic has devastated the church landscape because of its over-spiritualization and incessant allegorization of biblical truth. The indication of this hermeneutic is that few passages in the Old Testament actually mean what they say. We looked last time at the example of the temple in Ezekiel 40-48. In that section, God explicitly tells Ezekiel to write these things down, in detail, and communicate/teach them to Israel (43:10-11). Because God had said this, it would appear that God did not want these things to be allegory for a future, immaterial, spiritual reality. I wonder if Israel would have considered these measurements such?

In order to rightly understand the types of the Scripture, we must get our information from the Scriptures. The idea of “shadow” is indeed in Scripture. However, it has a very different meaning than what is assumed by CT. To begin, I want to look at a passage of Scripture that is the foundation for a proper understanding of this issue, Exodus 25:8-9. It has to do with the tabernacle which Moses was to build. A cursory study of these things will instruct us, to a large degree, how to properly understand what is meant by types and shadows.

In the Exodus 24, the people confirmed their covenant with God and they affirmed that they were willing and able to keep the covenant brought to them from God through Moses. In chapter 25, God is speaking and says to Moses,

Exodus 25:8–9 (NASB95)

Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

It is a magnificent thought that God would dwell in a sanctuary among the people of Israel. The sanctuary of which God speaks is the Tabernacle which dimensions and construction is covered in chapters 25-32 and picked up again in chapters 35-40 where it is ultimately erected (Exodus 40:17-33). Much could be said about this Tabernacle, but what needs to be pointed out is that this Tabernacle, and eventually the Temple itself (1 Chronicles 28:19), was a “pattern.” This Hebrew word for “pattern” has a general definition of a model, or image, or detailed schematic. However, it also has the more basic definition, and is used as such, of “likeness.”  It is used often when the word “likeness” is used in the OT (however not in Genesis 1:26). The twenty times this particular word is used, it more often than not refers to the replication of something that already exists. For example, Moses uses this word in Deuteronomy 4:16-18 in this manner. The children of Israel were not supposed to make a “likeness” of any animal on the earth to be a graven image such that they worship it. The likeness does not refer to actually making a living animal. It means that they are not to make a copy of something that exists in actuality. Their graven images would have been a replica, a type, a picture, or a likeness of actual animals. It is also used in this manner in 2 Kings 16:10-18 in reference to the model altar built by Urijah patterned after the actual one in Damascus.

local to the Pentateuch, Moses uses this word five times. Three of the five times it refers to the replicas of the animals that the children of Israel were not to copy. The other two times it refers to the construction of the Tabernacle. Joshua also uses the word in the sense of the replica of something that exists (Joshua 22:28). This section speaks of the altar that the sons of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built by the Jordan River away from Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was. They constructed this altar not for worshipping, but simply as a pointer back to the true altar in the Tabernacle (vv. 21-29). Thus, the altar in Gilead was a copy, replica, or scaled model of the true altar in the Tabernacle.

What does this mean? This means that the Tabernacle, and the Temple, were both patterns, or replicas of the true Temple in heaven, from where Moses and David received their detailed drawings. They were not original designs and they were not, in actuality, the true temple. The true temple is in heaven in some form. The Tabernacle and Temple that was constructed by the sons of Israel were simply copies, or “shadows,” of that Temple in heaven.

The shadow understanding is preeminent in the mind of the writer of Hebrews. It is here that we are taught the correct understanding of what the Bible actually means about types and shadows.

Hebrews 8:4–5 (NASB95)

Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”

The priest in the OT Tabernacle served a literal, physical dwelling. This is not a literary picture conjured up to teach us a moral lesson. The Tabernacle, as defined by inspired Scripture, was a “copy and shadow of heavenly things…for, ‘See,’ He says, ‘that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” Thus, we are told that the Tabernacle/Temple were both made as replicas of a heavenly Temple in some way. Again, this is not a literary figure, or allegory or allusion. This was an actual building with real people ministering in it and God actually dwelt there. The point that I think needs to be understood is that the shadow aspect of this scenario demands one-for-one correspondence. That is, the Tabernacle was the resemblance or “shadow” of the actual, or “true temple” (cf. Hebrews 8:2; 9:11, 24). The earthly Tabernacle was not simply an allegory or literary figure of a greater truth about heaven. It was an exact replica of a heavenly Temple.

Further, the pattern of the earthly Tabernacle was for the purpose of teaching something about God, Christ, atonement, justice, grace, etc.… To simply look at this as literary tools glosses over their real intent, which is instruction. For example, the death of bulls and goats surely teaches us that one day a final substitute will come. However, the greater instruction is that a substitute is needed. The fact that He will come is taught in comprehensive fashion through other Scriptures, not simply in a “figure.”

It appears that CT takes “types and shadows” to refer to existential philosophy that may be literarily represented in Scripture, but is now replaced by the antitype. It is interesting that the New Testament uses the word “type” (tupos), fifteen times. Some examples of “type” include:

  • Acts 7:43-44; Stephen indicates that Israel took “types” of false gods along with them. Moses also was told that he was to build a “type” of the Tabernacle as told by God.
  • Acts 23:25; the body of the letter from Claudius had a “type.”
  • Romans 5:14; Adam was a “type” of Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:6; Israel was a “type” for us to follow.
  • Philippians 3:17; godly men are to be “types” for us to follow (1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).
  • 1 Peter 5:3; elders are to be “types” to the flock.

The use of this word indicates a “pattern,” or “model,” or “an example that was, or is to be, followed.” In each case, however, there is an actual person at the heart of the type, and not simply a figure.

Another example refers to topics like the one covered in the previous post. Ezekiel 40-48 is the description of a Temple given in actual dimensions with actual land divisions and actual sacrifices being offered. As stated in the previous post, the perspective of the CT scheme is that of “Types and Shadows” (T/S). That is, the “Temple” found in Ezekiel 40-48 is merely a literary type or shadow of the antitype of the non-physical Temple structure on the New Earth. Dr. Riddlebarger writes,

“In other words, I believe Ezekiel is giving us a picture of the new earth in the prophetic terms with which his readers were familiar (Hoekema, The Bible and Future, 205). This is a picture of the new earth as the dwelling of God. Ezekiel prophesies it in earthly terms (complete with all the temple utensils), while John describes its fulfilled version (in eschatological terms)”

(http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/1/16/eschatology-q-a-what-about-ezekiels-vision-of-the-temple-eze.html#comment1556909 accessed 10/29/2012).

The statement made here is classical T/S interpretation. A passage in the OT does not mean what a straight-forward reading of the passage indicates. It, thus, holds a greater antitypical meaning foreign to the reader (since the words do not mean what they appear to mean). This is not sound Bible interpretation.

It would be better, and more in line with the sense of Scripture that we understand “type” as a “pattern” or “model/example,” depending upon the context, than a license to change the meaning of one text to fit the allegorized spiritual-meaning of another text contrived by the imagination of the interpreter.

Paul gives us a clear understanding in the locus classicus Colossians 2:17. Here he writes that food, drink, in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day are all “shadows” of that which is coming. This word “shadow” is exactly what it sounds like. It is an outline cast by a solid form once light hits the form. Thus, these components of Temple activity, regulation, and worship are all the shadow cast by the “substance,” the Lord Jesus Christ. What does this mean? It means that access to God was allowed by these activities, but they did not truly allow for the atonement that was required. Only Jesus Christ truly atones for sins such that access to the Father can be made. Or, to put it another way,

Hebrews 9:8–14 (NASB95)

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol (παραβολή, ‘parabole’: a teaching tool) for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come (they were still “to come” at the time of the writer), He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

That which is coming is absolute, permanent, unhindered access to the Father in His Temple (which He is-Revelation 21:22. However, the personal dwelling of God on the New Earth does not contradict a rebuilt Temple in the Millennium, as per Ezekiel40-48) because of the efficacy of the obedience of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Thus, the foods, drinks, sacrifices, and even the Sabbath-Day taught us concerning the need for atonement as well as the work that God would accomplish through the Messiah.

In future posts, we will be examining further the reality of Jesus Christ and His work in light of a true interpretation of Scripture. We will see that the program for the future is not simply a spiritual anti-type for the “typical” language of shadowy references in the OT. If were such, we would not have a perspicuous Scripture. We would have a kind of literature that carries a meaning beyond the words on the page that only the learned elite can figure out.