What is the significance of biblical typology?

by Hank Hanegraaff

torah-readingA type (from the Greek word typos) is a person, event, or institution in the redemptive history of the Old Testament that prefigures a corresponding but greater reality in the New Testament. A type is thus a copy, a pattern, or a model that signifies an even greater reality. The greater reality to which a type points and in which it finds its fulfillment is referred to as an antitype.

The writer of Hebrews specifically employs the word antitype to refer to the greatness of the heavenly sanctuary of which the Holy Land, the Holy City, and the holy temple are merely types or shadows (Hebrews 9:23-24). First, in Hebrews, as in the rest of the New Testament, the Old Testament history of Israel is interpreted as a succession of types that find ultimate fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. As such, far from being peripheral, typology is central to a proper interpretation of the infallible Word of God. Indeed, throughout the New Testament Jesus is revealed as the antitype of the Hebrew prophets through his preaching of repentance, his ministry of healing, his concern for the poor and the social outcasts, and his death near Jerusalem (Luke 13:33).

This, of course, is not to confuse the biblical principle of typology with an allegorical method of biblical interpretation that ignores or rejects the historical nature of the Old Testament narratives. On the contrary, typology is firmly rooted in historical fact and always involves historical correspondence. Furthermore, biblical typology, as evidenced in the writings of the New Testament, always involves a heightening of the type in the antitype. It is not simply that Jesus replaces the temple as a new but otherwise equal substitute. No, Jesus is far greater than the temple…

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