Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
We need to be deeply impressed with the significance of all the types in the Old Testament. In particular, we need to have a proper understanding of the daily offerings for the sanctification of the priests. Every day for a period of seven days there was the need of a bull for a sin offering, two lambs for burnt offerings, one offered in the morning and the other in the evening, and along with the lambs a meal offering and a drink offering. The meal offering was composed of wheat flour mingled with oil. The drink offering was made of wine produced from grapes. If we consider all these types in the light of our experience, we shall realize that their significance is wonderful.
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 understanding 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.
There is also a fifth attitude toward Old Testament typology. This is the view that the types in the Old Testament may be applied only in part to the New Testament. Take as an example the history of the children of Israel. Nearly all fundamental teachers understand the Passover in Exodus 12 as a type of Christ as our Passover. Paul clearly says as much in 1 Corinthians 5:7, where he tells us that our Passover, Christ, has been sacrificed for us. Thus, concerning this type, there is no room for argument. Also, although there is no clear word, no explicit word, in the New Testament concerning the manna as a type, there are hints in chapter six of John that manna typifies Christ as our daily food. In John 6 the Lord Jesus said that He is the bread of heaven, the bread of life, the living bread, the bread that came down to give life to the world. In the light of this, those who make a partial application of the Old Testament types to the New Testament would agree that manna is a type of Christ. Because Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that the rock that went with the children of Israel in the wilderness is Christ, a good number of Bible teachers would also say that the rock flowing with living water is also a type of Christ. A good number also regard the crossing of the Red Sea as a type of baptism (1 Cor. 10:1-2). However, not many understand the crossing of the river Jordan as having a typological significance. The crossing of the Jordan is often interpreted as a picture of a believer’s physical death. Even those who do not agree with a typological interpretation of the Old Testament may regard the crossing of the Jordan River as signifying a believer’s dying and going to heaven. A number of songs have been written about this. In particular, one hymn speaks of the fact that sooner or later all believers must pass through the cold waves of Jordan. There is a serious problem with this interpretation, however. If crossing the Jordan is a type of our physical death, how can the land of Canaan signify heaven? Canaan, we should remember, was full of enemies against which the children of Israel had to fight. If Canaan typifies heaven, this means that there will be enemies in heaven. But surely this is not the situation. Thus, this interpretation of crossing the Jordan River is not accurate.
Many Bible teachers regard the early history of the children of Israel as a type. But they do not interpret typologically the Babylonian captivity and the return from captivity. Certain teachers among the Brethren and perhaps others as well, have taken the captivity and the return from Babylon as types.
We should take the Old Testament the same as we take the New Testament. The Old Testament is a picture book, and the New Testament is the explanation of this picture book. Therefore, we should not take only the part that gives the explanation and ignore that part which presents the pictures. Neither should we merely take only certain parts or aspects of the picture book. It is not adequate to take the Old Testament as a picture book only in part. Rather, our attitude should be absolute. This means that we should be absolute in taking the Old Testament as a picture book for us today.
However, this certainly does not mean that we take the Old Testament without having a proper understanding of God’s dispensation. For example, we should not take the law, in particular the Ten Commandments, in exactly the same sense they were given to the children of Israel. Concerning this, the Seventh Day Adventists have a problem with the seventh day. They claim that the law concerning the Sabbath is still binding on New Testament believers. At present, I do not care to enter into this controversy. My aim is to point out that our attitude toward the entire Old Testament is that we approach it in the way of God’s dispensation. Therefore, this should be our attitude and understanding when we consider the types in Exodus 29.
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