There are many shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament. If you have ever wondered, “What is a type of Christ in the Bible?” read or listen to this chapter from A Father Offers His Son for answers.
Table of Contents
- Jesus Said the Old Testament Is About Him
- Jesus Is Primarily Revealed Two Ways in the Old Testament
- The New Testament identifies many shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament
- Certain people serve as shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament
- Certain practices serve as shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament
- Certain miracles serve as shadows and types of miracles Jesus would perform in a greater way
- Jesus Is Primarily Revealed Two Ways in the Old Testament
- Shadows and Types of Christ in the Old Testament Serve as a Treasure Map
- Shadows and Types Never Live up to the Reality
The text in this post is from A Father Offers His Son: The True and Greater Sacrifice Revealed Through Abraham and Isaac, and the audio is from the accompanying audiobook. I am praying God uses the book and audiobook to exalt Christ and strengthen people’s relationships with Him!
Many people search for Jesus. In the Bible, we have an account of someone finding Him and recognizing He is the Messiah. The person was Philip and he wanted his friend, Nathaniel, to meet Him too. When Philip spoke to Nathaniel, he revealed why he thought Jesus was the Messiah: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the Prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). The “Law and the Prophets” was a title for the Old Testament before the New Testament was written. Philip understood the Old Testament was about Jesus, which is why he believed Jesus was the Messiah. He expected Nathaniel to be convinced He was the Messiah as well because he would also recognize Him as the One identified in the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus Said the Old Testament Is About Him
- Luke 24:27—“Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
- Luke 24:44—“[Jesus] said, ‘All things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’”
- John 5:39, 46—”You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me…For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.”
- Hebrews 10:7—“[Jesus said,] ‘Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me.’”
Jesus Is Primarily Revealed Two Ways in the Old Testament
First, there are prophecies of Him. For example, these verses state He would:
- Be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10)
- Receive King David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
- Be spat upon and beaten (Isaiah 50:6)
- Be silent in the face of accusations (Isaiah 53:7)
- Spend a season in Egypt (Hosea 11:1)
- Ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)
And the list goes on. And on. And on. Jesus fulfilled around 350 prophecies in His first coming.
Shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament are the second way He is revealed :
- Hebrews 10:1 says, “The law [was only] a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities” (ESV).
- Colossians 2:16-17 says a “festival or a new moon or sabbaths [are] a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
“Shadows” are a fitting way to describe the types of Christ in the Old Testament because shadows provide an idea of what something looks like without completely revealing the object. The Old Testament does this with Christ. A shadow is evidence that something is casting it, or in the case of Christ, it is Someone. Finally, nobody looks at a shadow and believes it is the real thing. Nobody sees the shadow of a tree or car and thinks it is a tree or car. Shadows have no substance. They are not the reality. In Colossians 2:17, Jesus is the substance and in Hebrews 10:1, He is the reality.
The New Testament identifies many shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament
- Matthew 12:40 compares Jesus with Jonah: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
- John 3:14 compares Jesus with the Bronze Serpent: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” The bronze serpent looked forward to Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law.
- John 6:32-33 compares Jesus with the manna: “Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
- Romans 5:14 compares Jesus with Adam: “Adam is a type of Him who was to come.”
- First Corinthians 5:7 compares Jesus with the Passover Lamb: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
- First Corinthians 10:4 compares Jesus with the rock that accompanied Israel in the wilderness: “[Israel] drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
- Hebrews 6:18 compares Jesus with the cities of refuge: “We who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”
- Hebrews 10:20 compares Jesus’ body with the veil in the temple that when “torn” on the cross revealed the access believers have to the Father: “[We have] a new and living way [to God] which [Jesus] consecrated for us, through the veil, [which] is, His flesh.”
- Hebrews 11:17-19 compares Isaac with Jesus. When Abraham sacrificed his son, it was a picture of God sacrificing His Son: “Abraham…offered up Isaac…He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead.”
Certain people serve as shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament
- Joseph is a type and shadow of Jesus Christ
- Abigail is a type and shadow of Jesus Christ
- Job is a type and shadow of Jesus Christ
- Solomon is a type and shadow of Christ
Certain practices serve as shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament
The law commanded sacrifices for sins, and each sacrifice looked forward to Jesus—the true and greater Sacrifice for sins. Circumcision has its fulfillment in Christ because He helps us put off our sinful flesh: “In [Christ] you were circumcised… without hands by putting off… the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). Hebrews 4:1-9 says the rest people enjoyed on the Sabbath was a picture of the true and greater rest that is found in Christ.
Certain miracles serve as shadows and types of miracles Jesus would perform in a greater way
- Moses unleashed ten judgments on one nation (Exodus 7–12), but Jesus will unleash twenty-one judgments on the whole earth: “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” (Revelation 6:15-16).
- When the Man of God healed King Jeroboam’s withered hand (1 Kings 13:4-6), it prefigured Jesus healing the man with the withered hand (Luke 6:10).
- God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11), but Jesus ascended to heaven on His own (Acts 1:9).
- Elisha fed one hundred men with twenty loaves (2 Kings 4:42–44), but Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000 men with five and seven loaves (Matthew 14:13–21 and 15:32–39).
- Elisha cleansed one man of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1–14), but Jesus cleansed ten men (Luke 17:11–19).
- Elisha knew what Gehazi had done (2 Kings 5:26), but Jesus knows what all men have done (John 2:24).
- Elisha’s death gave one person temporary life (2 Kings 13:21), but Jesus’ death gives many people eternal life (Romans 5:18).
What is the purpose of all the prophecies and shadows? To lead people to Christ! Jesus said, “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:13). This shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament veiled Him, but when John the Baptist arrived as the forerunner, the veil was removed. John pointed at Him and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Shadows and Types of Christ in the Old Testament Serve as a Treasure Map
Paul asked a question many people would answer incorrectly:
“What purpose then does the law serve?”Galatians 3:19a
Typical answers would be something like, “To show you how to be a good person,” or “To help you get to heaven.” The law serves the opposite purpose! Instead of showing us how to be good, it shows us we are not good. When we become familiar with the law and see what it requires to be “good”—or righteous—we see we “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed (Jesus) should come…Galatians 3:19b
The New Testament was written in Greek, and the word for “transgression” is parabasis, which means, “going over.” People transgress when they know where God has drawn the line, but they step over it anyway. Although, people can only transgress if they know where the line is drawn. The law reveals the line, and thereby also our transgressions. Romans 3:20 says, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law helps us see our need for a Savior by revealing our sinfulness to us. When we look at the standard the law sets, we see how far short we fall from keeping it.
Romans 5:20 says “the law entered that the offense might abound.” This does not mean God gave the law so we would sin more. Instead, God gave the law so our sins would become clear. They would seem to be “abounding” or springing up around us. In Romans 7:7, Paul said, “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” Paul did not know he was sinning until he learned the law said not to covet!
The Law Reveals Our Need for the Savior
We naturally think we are good. Proverbs 16:2 and 21:2 say, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,” and Proverbs 30:12 says, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.” How could filthy people think they are pure? They are not familiar with God’s law that would reveal their filthiness to them. Jeremiah had one of the most painful ministries in Scripture because he addressed sinful people who thought they were good. Notice his and God’s efforts at reaching them:
- Jeremiah 2:23—[Jeremiah said], “How can you say, ‘I am not polluted, I have not gone after the Baals’? See your way in the valley; know what you have done: you are a swift dromedary breaking loose in her ways.” They thought they were not polluted, but they pursued idols like an animal in heat pursues a mate.
- Jeremiah 2:35—[God said], “Yet you say, ‘Because I am innocent, surely His anger shall turn from me.’ Behold, I will plead My case against you, because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’” God said He would judge them because they were sinners who said they were innocent.
The problem with people who think they are not sinners is they see no need for a Savior. People only want:
- A parachute when they know the plane is crashing
- A cure when they learn they have a disease
- The fire department when they know there is a fire
The law says, “Your plane is crashing… you have a disease… there is a fire!” This is what Jesus meant in Luke 5:31 when He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” People who think they are spiritually healthy do not recognize their need for Jesus. The law can show them they are spiritually sick.
Despite how important the law is, it does not serve the same purpose throughout our lives. Paul says it lasts until we come to faith in Jesus (the Seed).
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.Galatians 3:23
We should not interpret this literally to mean there was a time when there was not faith. Justified means “declared righteous,” and the law cannot justify us because we are too sinful to obey it perfectly; therefore, God graciously allows justification to take place by faith. He says to wretched sinners, “Because of your faith in My Son, I will give you His righteousness.” Sadly, those unfamiliar with the gospel claim they are righteous because of the way they live, but the way they live only demonstrates their unrighteousness.
Two thousand years before Christ came:
[Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.Genesis 15:6
Abraham was justified by faith. Believers in the Old Testament looked forward to Christ’s coming like believers in the New Testament look back on Christ’s coming. “Before faith” means before people put their faith in Christ. Until then the law “held [them] in custody” (NIV) or “kept [them] captive and imprisoned” (ESV).
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.Galatians 3:24
When people become Christians, the Old Testament served its purpose in being a tutor—or treasure map—that led them to Christ.
But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.Galatians 3:25
Just as “before faith came” meant before putting faith in Christ, “after faith has come” means after putting faith in Christ. At that point, we “no longer [need] a tutor,” because the law has served its purpose in our lives. The Old Testament served as a map to lead us to the treasure, which is Christ.
Shadows and Types of Christ Prevent You from Missing the Treasure
If you learned everything the Old Testament could teach—if you could recount every story, recite countless verses—but it did not lead you to Christ, then you have made the same mistake the religious leaders made in Jesus’ day. Jesus criticized them saying:
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me… If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for He wrote about Me.John 5:39, 46
If you miss that the Old Testament testifies of Christ, then you have failed to let it be your tutor.
- In the language of Hebrews 10:1, you are missing the “reality,” which is Christ.
- In the language of Colossians 2:17 you are overlooking the “substance” we find in Christ.
You have missed the treasure! You are looking at the shadow of a tree while saying, “Look at that amazing tree!” Instead, see the wonderful shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament!
Shadows and Types Never Live up to the Reality
There are many shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament, but they always come up short. Types are “shadow(s) of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:17). Types are not “the true form of these realities” (Hebrews 10:1). If shadows and types did not fall short, they would have the substance and be the reality.
Consider Abraham and Isaac. Genesis 22 contains one of the most amazing types in Scripture, but it breaks down. Abraham was with Isaac the whole time. The intimacy between them is shown when they speak to each other. Isaac called Abraham, “My father” and Abraham called Isaac, “My son” (Genesis 22:7). There was no intimacy between God the Father and God the Son when Jesus was sacrificed. Throughout the gospels Jesus called God, “My Father,” but when He hung on the cross, the intimacy was broken. There was only separation. Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Abraham carried the knife and fire, but Isaac was spared from both. Jesus, on the other hand, experienced the full weight of God’s wrath.
God did not want Isaac sacrificed because it would have accomplished nothing. Sin would not have been transmitted. Atonement would not have been made. It would not have pleased the Lord to bruise Isaac, like it “pleased the Lord to bruise” Jesus (Isaiah 53:10).
The question remains then, did God want a burnt offering? Yes, He did! He wanted our sins transmitted. He wanted atonement made. He chose His Son to be the sacrifice. If you have repented of your sins and put your faith in Christ, then “the Lord has laid on Him (your) iniquity” (Isaiah 53:6). If you have not done this, your sins remain on you.
God loves you and will forgive you, but John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world…” not, “The world so loved God.” Many will reject Jesus, which is why in Matthew 7:13-14 He said:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
The words “many” and “few” describe the number of people going to hell versus heaven. What percent do many and few represent—is it sixty-forty? Seventy-thirty? Maybe even eighty-twenty? The Lord does not tell us the percent, but He does tell us it is “many” versus “few,” and that alone should create a healthy fear. When Jesus said “narrow,” He meant narrow. There is only one way to be saved, and that is by grace through faith in Christ. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the Way (singular), and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” In Acts 4:12, the apostle Peter preached to the religious leaders: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Only one way and one name. This is narrow, and there are “few” people who find this “narrow way which leads to life.”
My prayer is that you have found “the way which leads to life.” Second Corinthians 6:2 says “now is the day of salvation.” Today you can embrace the Father’s love for you. If you wonder if the Father really loves you, remember He gave “(His) Son, (His) only Son” Whom He loved for you (Genesis 22:2 cf. Matthew 3:17).