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Teachings on the Tabernacle
Introduction to the Study of Typology

by Mary Cage

What is Typology?

A type is a rite, object, person, event or institution that points to something future that is greater than the type itself.  The thing that does the pointing is a type and what it points to is the antitype (or fulfillment.)  There can be a great amount of time that passes between the type and its fulfillment in the antitype. To emphasize, the antitype "fulfills" the type, or completes the reason that the type was given.  Usually God set forth types by three elements: (1) the type put forth, (2) the passage of time and the (3) fulfillment of the type: antitype. 

A type differs from a symbol, in that a symbol is an object, event or institution that represents something else presently. There is usually no passage of time between the symbol and what it represents.  Both may be concrete, or one concrete and one abstract. For example, the American flag is a symbol of both the nation (concrete)  and the patriotism (abstract) that honors the nation.  Water baptism is a rite and a symbol of dying, being buried and then raised with Jesus Christ; i.e. it is a concrete action signifying spiritual truth. 

The Bible contains many symbols in addition to many types; but our focus here is basically on types and antitypes, which is a study of Typology.

The types of the Old Testament were physical and external.  As fulfilled in the antitypes of the New Testament, they reveal spiritual truth, which is bound up in Christ. A significant difference between the Old and New Testaments is that the Old Testament sets forth truth in physical terms, such as the institution and movements of Israel, God's people, and the law.  The New Testament is a transition from external, physical law to spiritual, internal truth. Jesus Christ is the One Who brings about this transition. 

When a ritualistic or institutional type in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the antitype of the New Testament, the "practicing" of the type becomes obsolete.  This does not mean the type loses its purpose, meaning, or importance.  When Jesus said, "I have come to fulfill the law," He did not destroy the meaning of the law.  But the greater -- the antitype -- had come; now the practice of the lesser -- the type -- was and is no longer necessary or proper.  To mix the two is a mixture of law with grace, which the New Testament explicitly forbids.

The spiritual truth of the New Covenant is present in the Old Covenant, but it is hidden in types and shadows.  To properly understand the types and shadows, we must study what is the revealed truth in the New Testament.  If one studies the ceremonial law and other types of the Old Testament and never comes into an understanding of their fulfillment in Christ, he or she will remain bogged down in the law, and thus spiritually incomplete and in spiritual error.  All Scripture, to be fully understood in Christ, must be interpreted through the meaning and fulfillment of the New Testament.

The King James version, as well as other translations, uses different words to translate the Greek word "tupos," (type.) For example, It uses the word "figure," and "shadow."  We know these terms already in literature.  Figurative language occurs when something concrete represents an abstract idea.  "My love is a red, red rose," is figurative language. "Rose" is a metaphor or figure for "my love."  We experience "shadows" in stories or novels when we are given a hint of something that is going to be revealed in its fullness later.   God used shadows in the Old Testament to give a "hint" of a greater fulfillment later.  The shadows He used we call types.


A model of the Ark of the Covenant, which is a type of the true Ark in Heaven. The earthly ark contained the tablets of law, the rod of the High Priest, and a pot of the manna God provided for food to the children of Israel in the desert. Over the ark sits the Mercy Seat, which was ritualistically sprinkled with blood on the annual Day of Atonement by the High Priest. All of these elements, rites and person of the High Priest have deep spiritual significance as types and shadows fulfilled by Christ.

Why Study Typology?

Typology demonstrates to us that Christ was in God's Plan at least as far back as the Old Testament began to be written. But even further back than that God always planned Christ and He always planned to fulfill the Old Covenant in the New. The Old Covenant is a foundation for the New; but the New Covenant was always intended by God and is greater than the Old, "made of better promises."

Typology sets the type (external and physical) in the dispensation of the Old Covenant against the antitype (Christ and the spiritual) in the dispensation of the New Covenant, and shows the antitype to be greater than the type. It sets forth in great detail and in graphic form, the great truths of the New Covenant form.

Our faith is re-inforced when we begin to see how God moved on man to record truth in the unfolding revelation and in different dispensations.  This was done over centuries through different men, who set forth types without even knowing what their fulfillment would be. We see the Omniscient Sovereignty of God in action as we see Him move on various men in different ages to carry out His Divine Will.

We see that the unfolding revelation of God moves from external and physical (Old Covenant) to spiritual and internal, teaching us not to return to Old Covenant ceremonial law.  This is a  problem in many churches that pick and choose what external and physical laws they wish to bring over into the New Testament. It is not clearly taught in many churches how we should distinguish between the Old and New Covenants.  A study of typology helps make this distinction.

We see that ritual is fulfilled in Christ and there is no longer need for ritual but for worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4:24) Entire denominations have instituted "New Testament ritual" simply because it is not understood that external ritual points to internal, spiritual truth; when the latter is revealed and received, it is wrong to revert to the former. "The law is a schoolmaster that leads to Christ that we may be justified by faith.  After Christ comes, there is no longer need for a schoolmaster (tutor.)"  (Gal. 3:24, 25.)

We come to more fully understand what God means when He says, "I will write my laws on your minds and hearts." Jeremiah 31:33, and Hebrews 10:16.

We learn God truly never changes.  What He laid down in types in the Old Covenant become spiritual reality in the New Covenant.  The same spiritual truth revealed in the New Covenant is the same spiritual truth concealed in the Old.  But in the Old Covenant there was no avenue for the truth to become spiritual to the individual.  Only Jesus Christ can make that possible. 

A few examples of Types:

Adam, Melchizedek, David, (and others) are types of Christ, Who is the antitype.

Egypt is a type of the world system.
Jerusalem is a type of the heavenly city coming down out of heaven.
Babylon is a type of a false religious system and the spirit of this world.
Canaan is a type of spiritual overcoming and resting in Christ (not a type of Heaven after one dies physically, as many suppose, although Heaven is the ultimate fulfillment.)

Creation of light: a type of God's spiritual light in Christ.
Miraculous water from the rock: a type of the Living Water of Christ -- the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer.
Manna from heaven: a type of God's spiritual provision - the Bread of Life -- Christ..

Prophets: the prophetic office of Christ.
Priests: the priestly role of Christ, as well as of the believer.
High Priest: our Heavenly High Priest, Christ.
Kings: Christ, our king.

High Priest presenting the scapegoat on Day of Atonement: Christ our High Priest and substitutionary sacrifice.
Cleansing of the leper: cleansing from sin.  (Leprosy is a type of sin.)

Passover: Christ, our passover.
Feast of firstfruits: Christ, the firstfruits of those born of God.
Day of Atonement: Redemption in Christ.

The greater part of future pages  on Typology  will be devoted to teaching on the Tabernacle and a study of the types that it contains.

Wish to discuss anything about the Tabernacle? Email me.

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