The Hearing of Faith
The Bible is full of types to help us understand the mysteries it contains. We can see these types, or we may say pictures, in the Old Testament along with their explanation and reality in the New Testament. Webster’s dictionary defines a type as “a person or thing [in the Old Testament] believed to foreshadow another [in the New Testament].” For example, comparing Adam in the Old Testament to Christ, Romans 5:14 says Adam “is a type of Him who was to come.”
There is an old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” God surely used many pictures that are rich in meaning in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. One may compare the Old Testament to a picture book, full of vivid pictures. However, if a reader did not have the words to go along with the colorful pictures, the story would still be difficult to follow. The New Testament gives us the “words to the pictures,” explaining the reality of the Old Testament pictures or types. Moreover, the words of revelation in the New Testament become even more clear to us when we see and understand the types in the Old Testament.
Since the Scriptures testify concerning Christ, we should not take any Scripture for granted.
If we read the entire New Testament, we can see that interpreting the pictures from the Old Testament is not only legitimate but necessary. The Lord Jesus Himself used this principle with His sad disciples as they walked on the road to Emmaus: “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He explained to them clearly in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). By this we see that all the Scriptures lead us to know Christ in a more detailed and intimate way. How could we clearly understand and appreciate the things concerning Christ as the Lamb of God in John 1:29, for example, without seeing all the aspects of the lamb in the Old Testament type? A few other examples of types portrayed in the Old Testament and explained in the New Testament include Christ as the brass serpent (Num. 21:4-9; John 3:14), Christ and the church typified by Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:21-24; Eph. 5:25-32), and Christ as our Passover (Exo. 12; 1 Cor. 5:7). The types in the Old Testament and the clear words in the New Testament together unveil to us how wonderful our Christ is.
The Lord Jesus said in John 5:39, “The Scriptures...testify concerning Me.” Since the Scriptures testify concerning Christ, we should not take any Scripture for granted. This is why types are so important to us as New Testament believers. We live by faith, and what we believe in depends on what we hear of the spiritual things (Rom. 10:17). In Ephesians 3:8, the apostle Paul said that his commission from the Lord was “to announce to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ as the gospel.” Since the riches of Christ which Paul announced are “unsearchable,” we need to learn from him to see the spiritual reality behind the physical examples used by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Otherwise, the Old Testament would remain merely a story book to us, unapplicable today, and we would miss seeing and enjoying so many rich aspects of Christ as revealed in His Word. “To you therefore who believe is the preciousness” (1 Pet. 2:7a).
For further reading on this subject, please see Life-study of Ephesians, message 30 and The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, both by Witness Lee; and Affirmation and Critique, Volume 4, no. 3 (July 1999), all published by Living Stream Ministry.
From Issue No. 31, November 2000