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Types and-Shadows-Reveal-Jesus-throughout the-Old-Testament-author-Scott-LaPierre

Types and Shadows Reveal Jesus Christ in the Old Testament

Many people enjoy reading about Jesus in the New Testament without knowing He’s revealed throughout the Old Testament in types and shadows. In the Bible, we have an account of someone finding Jesus 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.

The second way the Old Testament reveals Jesus is through types and shadows:

  • 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 types and shadows 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 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 types and shadows of Christ


Watch this sermon I delivered as a guest preacher about Jonah serving as a type and shadow of Jesus Christ…

Jonah serves as one of the clearest types and shadows of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was asked for a sign, He staked His death, burial, and resurrection on the prophet. Additionally, the storm the disciples experienced with Jesus in the boat parallels the storm Jonah experienced when the sailors threw him overboard. Having Jesus in the boat with the disciples didn’t stop the storm they experienced any more than a relationship with Jesus stops the storms we experience. Jonah died and calmed the storm so they might live, but only Jesus calms the storm of God’s wrath that’s against us so we might live eternally.

Certain practices looked forward to Christ

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.

Miracles in the Old Testament prefigured 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). Jesus was veiled throughout the Old Testament in the types and shadows, but when John the Baptist arrived as Jesus’ forerunner, He was no longer veiled. John pointed at Him and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

The Old Testament Serves as a Treasure Map to Jesus

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.

Don’t Miss 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 Christ through all the wonderful types and shadows!

Discussion Questions to Answer in Comments Section

  1. Do you have any questions about types and shadows?
  2. Why did Jesus say the Old Testament is about Him?
  3. Why is it fitting to call Old Testament types of Christ shadows?
  4. What (or who) are your favorite examples of types and shadows?
  5. Can you think of types or shadows that people take too far?
  6. What purpose(s) does the law serve?

14 Responses

  1. I am in the process of writing the work I have done over the last few years regarding a Chronological approach to the Gospel Message, in and through the life of Christ. To do so I am researching materials leading up to the unveiling of the Kingdom.

    May I reference your material in points that may be helpful to the reader? I would certainly give credit where necessary.

    1. Robert,
      Yes, you can reference my material with a citation. You hyperlink to my site that would be great.

      I would love to see a copy of your work, especially the finished product. Perhaps even help support it once it’s finished.

      God bless,
      Scott

  2. For far too long I ignored the meat that is the Old Testament and I missed out on the rich treasure that can be found in abundance on every page. As Christians it is so easy to steer clear of reading it as it is a lot harder to digest and come to terms with, however when we have a change in heart as God gave me, we find that it is in fact with a little perseverance – invaluable. God is our exceedingly great reward and the most tangible form of God we have must be – His complete Word. Jesus always says it best:

    Matthew 5:17 & 18: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    We simply cannot afford to right off the Old Testament because we think that it speaks of a different God or a God of wrath. Under closer observation we find He is true to His Word and has never changed – Yesterday, today and tomorrow the same. Our beloved Father is Love, everything He has ever done was for Love. And God disciplines those He loves, when we choose to accept it we stand up in Him and become men/women of God and then He is able to bless us more richly. Sometimes we just need some encouragement. Thank you and God bless

    1. Greetings Shane,
      Thanks for the comment, and wonderful thoughts!

      Yes, regarding the “different God of the Old Testament” two of God’s most gracious acts in Scripture might be in the Old Testament:
      1. His forgiveness (and restoration) of Manasseh, one of the wickedest men in the Old Testament.
      2. His forgiveness of the Ninevites (in Jonah) some of the wickedest people in the Old Testament.

      May the Lord bless you too!

  3. That which is revealed; appropriately, the sacred truths which God has communicated to man for his instruction and direction. The revelations of God are contained in the Old and New Testament. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

    Martin Luther once observed that no sooner does someone fall off a horse on the right side, than they get back on and proceed to fall off on the left side. The Torah-observant groups are in part a reaction against negative views of the Law found in some Christian circles. It is the unfortunate case that in much of evangelical Christianity the Old Testament is hardly taught, rarely preached on and little understood by the average congregant. Where the Law is mentioned, it is often portrayed as merely a burden from which Christians are now free.

    It is, however, equally important to note that the recognition that we are not intended to keep the Law of Moses today does not mean that Christians believe in lawlessness! The specific commands of the Law of Moses each reflected something of the nature of God, and behind each commandment is a principle. Those principles, reflecting God Himself, are still incumbent on all Christians today.

    Even though there is no longer a temple for ritual/cult sacrifice making it impossible to keep the 613 laws since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE— 369 commandments remain, of which 26 are applicable only in the Land of Israel.

    There are many teachings or interpretations of Torah from the Sages, Prophets, etc., documented from ancient, to medieval to modern times interpreting how we in any given period may apply the law to strive to holiness, care for individuals, poor, the community, health, application of legalism, our home the planet Earth… I am often in a place where the more that is studied, the more I feel eternity is required to understand the nature of God (Hashem) as it relates to God’s will for man (maturity that of a child) to the end of the age.

    Today a teacher, through a simple teaching imparted a revelation, humbling a student who will always be grateful for the blessing of the old/new testaments, as presented by the teacher. Modeh Ani (ּמודה אני)

    1. Hi Adrian,
      Thanks for reading and offering these thoughts!

      That’s a great analogy from Martin Luther. I agree that we tend to swing too far to one side and then correct by swinging too far to the other side. I love the Old Testament and have enjoyed preaching from it. My first two years at Woodland Christian Church were spent teaching verse-by-verse through 1 and 2 Samuel.

      Yes, not being under the Mosaic Law, or another way I’d say it is being under the New Covenant versus the Old Covenant, doesn’t mean the Old Testament is not beneficial. There’s no distinction between the testaments when Paul says all Scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

  4. Hi Scott,

    My apologies….if what I wrote gave the impression that anything beyond “Jesus plus nothing” was required for salvation IMO. That was certainly not my intent. The paragraph you quoted wasn’t intended to convey that those were requirements of salvation….it was meant to explain the usefulness of understanding and reading Torah to better understand the faith that is Christianity as well as its roots in Judaism…in addition to convicting us of our sin as well as our inability to keep the 613 commandments which is why we needed Jesus’ sacrifice.

    What I really was saying was that unlike the new converts to “The Way” that Peter spoke to, who had a good understanding of the “Law and the Prophets”, new converts to Christianity today rarely have an OT background….so it just makes sense for them to read it along with the NT.

    I often say the biggest problem with the Bible is that people try to treat it like two different books. Rip out the page in between the OT and New….it’s the same book. It’s all inter-related.

    I will watch the sermon on Jonah, as I too believe it was literal and I believe Jesus’ commentary in Matt 12:40 was literal as well…but our timeline for “Good Friday” can’t substantiate the literal interpretation of Matt 12:40, unless Jesus wasn’t really crucified on Friday in the first place (my contention). That said, I’m perusing the site and can’t seem to find a link to the Jonah sermon.

    By chance do you have a link?

    Thanks.

    Peace be with you.

    1. Hi Sean,
      Yes, that’s the video. Sorry for the confusion. I was referring to the video in the post itself. If you look in the post you’ll see it.

      Interested to hear your thoughts!

    2. Hi Sean,
      Thanks for clarifying. That makes sense.

      Yes, I agree that Christianity has its roots in Judaism (the Old Testament). When Paul wanted to explain the Gospel he used the Old Testament to do so, primarily Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4.

      You said, “new converts to Christianity today rarely have an OT background….so it just makes sense for them to read it along with the NT.” I agree I just shared with my church today how unfortunate it is when the Old Testament is ignored. I love to teach from it and do so regularly. Yes, the Old and New are part of the same book, and should be viewed as one, with the New being the continuation of the old.

      Jesus could’ve been crucified on Thursday, to get the “three days and three nights.”

      I’m sorry, I meant the sermon about Jonah in the post itself. Scroll up and you’ll see it ?.

  5. The biblical definition of sin is transgression of Torah. Excellent article explaining how the “Law” convicts us of our sin so that we know we’ve transgressed it in the first place.

    In my other comment on the Law of Christ post, I was in agreement with the premise contained herein when I said, “…but the Torah is more like instructions on life in general, a guide to help us recognize our transgression of the Torah and convict us of our sin, and a foreshadowing of Jesus and his eventual reign on Earth.”

    The only *very* small nit I would pick is that many folks today come to Christ first….repent of their sins and accept him as their savior early in their belief. They were not raised in Judaism like the original people to whom Jesus preached. They lack the background of the “law and prophets” to lead them to the savior…..they intrinsically understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us by their conscience and the Holy Spirit. In light of that aspect, the Galatians 3:23-25 verses are slightly skewed in that often times newly converted “Christians” are in need of tutoring/guidance that the law and prophets help provide to further their spiritual development. After all, God wants to have an interpersonal, loving relationship with all of us and we are most effective at meeting that goal if we seek Him out and the best way I know of to accomplish that is to read all of His Word.

    One other thing; you mention the Sign of Jonah (Matt 12:40). On a few “Good Fridays” over the years I’ve done a decent amount of study on the concept. How do you account for the apparent discrepancy between the literal interpretation of the text and how many sects of Christianity choose to observe the Passion/Pesach/Feasts?

    Thanks again for an insightful article.

    1. Hello Sean,
      Again, I’ll respond below your thoughts…

      The biblical definition of sin is transgression of Torah.

      Yes, that is what 1 John 3:4 says: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”

      Excellent article explaining how the “Law” convicts us of our sin so that we know we’ve transgressed it in the first place.

      Yes, that’s what Romans 3:20 says: “through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

      In my other comment on the Law of Christ post, I was in agreement with the premise contained herein when I said, “…but the Torah is more like instructions on life in general, a guide to help us recognize our transgression of the Torah and convict us of our sin, and a foreshadowing of Jesus and his eventual reign on Earth.”

      Yes, all of the Old Testament, including the Torah, is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16-17). I just taught from Exodus 16 this past Sunday. I’m not sure what you mean by “foreshadowing.” If you mean prophecies and types (shadows) of His reign, then I completely agree. If you mean something else, you’d have to elaborate.

      The only *very* small nit I would pick is that many folks today come to Christ first….repent of their sins and accept him as their savior early in their belief. They were not raised in Judaism like the original people to whom Jesus preached. They lack the background of the “law and prophets” to lead them to the savior…..they intrinsically understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us by their conscience and the Holy Spirit. In light of that aspect, the Galatians 3:23-25 verses are slightly skewed in that often times newly converted “Christians” are in need of tutoring/guidance that the law and prophets help provide to further their spiritual development. After all, God wants to have an interpersonal, loving relationship with all of us and we are most effective at meeting that goal if we seek Him out and the best way I know of to accomplish that is to read all of His Word.

      This comes down to what’s necessary to be saved. You sound as though you’re adding quite a few necessities! I would say repentance and faith in Christ are the only necessities. The rest – such as the knowledge you listed – comes with time.

      One other thing; you mention the Sign of Jonah (Matt 12:40). On a few “Good Fridays” over the years I’ve done a decent amount of study on the concept. How do you account for the apparent discrepancy between the literal interpretation of the text and how many sects of Christianity choose to observe the Passion/Pesach/Feasts?

      May I ask you a favor? Would you consider watching the sermon I preached on Jonah? I hold that the Jonah account is literal, because that’s how it’s presented in the Old and New Testaments.

      Thanks again for an insightful article.

      Thank you as well, Sean, for the healthy dialogue and good attitude you’ve maintained. God bless!

  6. Shalom Scott, reading above teaching, Messiah types in old covenant brings this question, is the ‘panim’ or bread of presence, bread in temple , is that seen as a type of Messiah, how so, and if so then are we in line to wonder if all activities related to the bread are like a ‘treasure’ map? Mike

    1. Hi Mike,
      Good question. The manna was bread from heaven, which serves as a type of Christ, the true and greater bread from heaven. We have Jesus’ own testimony that it looked forward to Him (John 6:32-33). We don’t have the same confirmation in the New Testament regarding the showbread; however, that’s not to say that it’s not also a type and shadow.

      The showbread was meant to provide for the priests, or give them life, but they ate it and still died. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger” (John 6:35a).

      When the priests ate the bread it pictured their fellowship and communion with God. We have true and greater fellowship with God through His Son: “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6b). Communion takes place when we consume, not the showbread, but the body of Christ (Matt 26:26).

      The showbread rested on the Table of the Presence, representing God’s presence with His people. Through Jesus was the presence of God truly manifested when He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He, versus the showbread, is Immanuel (God with us).

      What are your thoughts? Do you see any other ways the showbread looked forward to Jesus?

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