Vol. 5, No. 4
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Our discussion of the types and antitypes of the Bible will be confined to those that have special relevance to the scheme of redemption and to those things that the Bible reveals as types and antitypes.
Even those of us who have preached many sermons on such subjects as "The Ark As a Type of the Church" need to realize that although we can properly use the ark to illustrate many things about the church, the fact that Peter says in 1 Peter 3:21, "The like figure (antitupon) whereunto even baptism doth also now save us" does not mean that we can properly say the Bible sets forth the ark as a type of the church, but only that their salvation by water was a type of our salvation by water. The denominational quibble that it could not be a type of salvation by baptism because they were saved from the water by the ark, not saved by the water, and that they were not even touched by the water has no relevance for two reasons. First, when the Bible says a thing is a type or antitype it is, whether or not you can reason or quibble yourself around it. Second, the water saved them from the ungodly world as it washed that sinful world away. That is the type and antitype, not that the ark saved them from the flood of water. So, Peter is not talking about the ark as a type of the church, but their salvation by water as a type of our salvation by water. This is not a matter of guessing or trying to find some new hermeneutic principle by which to prove a preconceived doctrine. It is a matter of taking what the Bible plainly says. It says, "They were saved by water, the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." So there are three things absolutely certain. First, they were saved by water. Second, baptism is the antitype. Third, in some fashion, baptism saves us.
We may make a mistake in trying to explain how or why baptism saves us. We may wrongly assume that baptism is a sacrament by which divine grace is conferred, and therefore that a man may be saved by baptism, even if he is asleep or drunk when he receives it! We may look upon baptism as a righteous work that saves us because by it we earn salvation. But no matter how many wrong ways we may misunderstand that "Baptism saves us," it is definitely wrong to deny that baptism does save us, and that their salvation by the water of the flood is a type of our salvation by the water of baptism.
We are not denying that there may be some things that are true types in the Old Testament which are not specifically called types. But our purpose at this time is not to dwell on the many things which we might conclude are typical, but to define what we mean by types and antitypes and talk about what we consider some of the most significant of them as they relate to the scheme of redemption.
One definition of a type is, "A figure or representation of something to come." It is vital that we understand some principles relative to types and antitypes as given in the Bible. 1. We should not try to press the type into teaching something different than that which it was designed to teach. As we discuss the tabernacle as a type, we shall not try to find the significance of every board or curtain. When we discuss the brazen serpent as a type, we shall not try to find significance in the fact that it was brass instead of gold. 2. A type must be a real object, place, event, person, ritual or office designated by God to prefigure something in the future. A reason for giving such is found in 1 Corinthians 10:11, "Now these things happened unto them by way of example (Gk. "tupikos"): and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come." 3. We need to make certain that the relationship between the type and antitype is based upon real historical biblical correspondence, and not on some general subjective spiritual concept which we might imagine.
A study of typology will probably have very little appeal to one who is a disciple of the new hermeneutics school. For the typology about which we shall be talking is built upon the assurance that God has unified his Word, and the realization that we can properly interpret the Bible by accepting what God says about the specific things in the Old Covenant being a shadow of things in the New.
First, we shall consider four persons who were typical of Christ because of their special relevance to the scheme of redemption. Adam, Moses, Melchizedek and David were all clearly types of Christ (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22-45; Deuteronomy 18:15-18; Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:5-10; 6:20; 7:17; Acts 13:33-35; Isaiah 9:6-7). In connection with the last three, we shall consider the offices they held as typical, as well as the persons, because the persons are typical primarily because of the office they held.
First, we shall consider Adam as a type of Christ, partly because of the unusual nature of the typology. By "unusual nature," I mean that Adam is a type primarily because of contrasts that are inherent in the similarities. That may sound strange, but fits exactly one definition or aspect of types. When a typewriter key hits the ribbon and makes an impression on the paper, the impression is the exact opposite of the type. Paul says in Romans 5:12 that Adam is a figure of him who is to come, or Christ. He also shows the same thing in 1 Corinthians 15:45, when he says, "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." So, as Adam was the federal head of the fleshly, sinful human family, so Christ is the head of the redeemed spiritual family. The rest of the typology is primarily that of contrast.
Note some points of contrast: 1. "By the trespass of the one the many died" (Romans 5: 15). 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." The context clearly indicates that a universal resurrection will take place. There are not two resurrections, one of the just and one of the unjust, but one, as Jesus plainly says in John 5:28-29.
Space and time limitations forbid that I give an adequate exegesis of these passages in Romans and Corinthians. But, in my judgment, one of the greatest errors of theologians in this area is the assumption that the condemnation that was brought on the human race by Adam's sin was that we inherited his "fallen nature," and thus all mankind is born sinful and in a lost condition. Without properly refuting that false doctrine, I will only say now that whatever the human race lost unconditionally through Adam, it gained unconditionally through Christ. Also, we need to understand that we do not get our spiritual nature, fallen or otherwise, from Adam. We get our fleshly nature from our fleshly father, but God is the father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:9; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1). So, death came by Adam; life comes by Christ. We received a natural body as a result of our relationship with Adam; we will receive a resurrected, glorified spiritual body as a result of our relationship with Christ.
It is also appropriate to point out that though Christ is an antitype of Adam, as Romans 5:15 indicates, he is much more and gives much more.
Moses is set forth as a type of Christ in Deuteronomy 18:18. Peter clearly showed this truth in Acts 3:22ff. Note some things about Moses that were typical of Christ. First, he was a prophet of God. The word prophet, in the Bible, does not primarily refer to simply foretelling future events. It means, "one who speaks from God." As a spokesman of God, his statements were authoritative. So also with Christ, except more so. "All authority in heaven and in earth" is his claim. It is tragic that an increasingly large number of those connected in some fashion with the Lord's church are espousing the false doctrine that we neither need nor have any authority for what we do in worship or religion in general.
Let us look for a moment at Melchizedek as a type of Christ. He is mentioned in Genesis, Psalms and Hebrews. He is described as King of Salem, King of Righteousness, Priest of the Most High God. It is especially significant that Melchizedek and Christ are the only two who have occupied the two offices of priest and king at the same time. When Hebrews 7:3 says Melchizedek was without father or mother, it does not mean he had some sort of miraculous beginning more wonderful than the virgin birth. He was without father or mother in the priestly line, nor did he have descendents in that line. It could not mean that he was a type of Christ because he had no father or mother at all. Christ had both a Father and a mother.
A significant truth is that Christ is a priest on his throne. If he is not reigning on his throne now, we have no high priest now. There is no one who lives and makes intercession for us, so we are without hope and without God in this world. Christ could not be a priest on earth in a fleshly kingdom, for he was of the wrong lineage and order for that. Hebrews 7:11 plainly sets forth the fact that he was after the order of Melchizedek and not after the order of Aaron. So, the premillennial theory is proven to be false again.
Melchizedek is a wonderful type of Christ in that he was the King of Righteousness, King of Peace, not in an ordinary line of priests, but appointed of God as a special kind of priest, superior to the Aaronic priesthood and superior to Abraham (Hebrews 7:7).
Very briefly, we want to consider David as a type of Christ. The main reason we see this is because of such passages as Jeremiah 30:9, "But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them." Ezekiel 34:23 reads, "And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd." Ezekiel 37:24 records, "And David my servant shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd: they also shall walk in my judgments and observe my statutes, and do them." It is recognized by all sorts of persons, denominational, premillennial, liberal and otherwise, that those prophecies refer to Christ. It should also be easy to see that being under that gracious king does not free us from the responsibility to walk in his judgments, observe his statutes and do them. A few years ago I could not even imagine a person claiming membership in the Lord's church teaching that because we are in the kingdom of grace, we are under no obligation to obey the rules of the King! I presume that part of the problem is in the failure to recognize the relationship of two great truths: 1. Being saved by a system of law would involve perfect obedience to that law, and thus we are not saved on the basis of having kept the law. 2. But being saved by grace in no sense negates the fact that accepting that grace must be in accordance with the terms laid down by our gracious Lord, and thus we must be saved by obeying the rules or laws that relate to accepting that grace.
David sat on an earthly throne in Jerusalem over fleshly Israel. Christ, in order to fulfill the type, would be expected to sit on a heavenly throne in the New Jerusalem and reign over spiritual Israel. The Bible is plain about this. In Acts 2:30ff, Peter said, "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ." Notice that he did not speak of his second coming and his literal thousand-year reign or any other such speculations, but of his resurrection.
This sort of thing is one of the great values of the study of types. When we see Christ as the Prophet, Priest and King, properly typified by Moses, Melchizedek and David, we are constrained to praise and glorify God for the marvelous unity of his Word, for the fullness of the work and nature of our Lord as he so perfectly and beautifully fulfilled every type and shadow in every marvelous detail.
Perhaps the most widely recognized type in the Old Testament is the nation of Israel as a type of the church, the Egyptian bondage, deliverance there from and wilderness wanderings as a type of our sojourning on earth in preparation for entrance into the eternal rest. Galatians 3:24 is just one of the many passages which shows that Israel was a type of the church. All who are a part of spiritual Israel were in bondage to sin, as the Israelites were in bondage in the land of Egypt. They were not constituted a part of the nation of Israel until they were delivered from that bondage. You cannot be a part of the church, the body of Christ, until you are made free from sin.
God graciously said, "I am come down to deliver them" (Exodus 3:8). Before he delivered them, the Passover Lamb had to be slain and the blood sprinkled on the lintels and side posts of the doors (Exodus 12:22). Whether or not we understand all the elements of the lamb as a type, those who believe in the Bible as a unified and coherent story of God's scheme of redemption, can see it by what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." There is nothing in the proper use of typology that makes it necessary to search for some type in all small details. Such practice lends itself to all sorts of speculative and ridiculous conclusions.
Note some things concerning the Passover lamb that, without question, is a type of Christ. "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:28). First, although there were millions of lambs offered at different times, the Passover lamb is always spoken of in the singular. The lamb must be without spot or blemish, as 1 Peter 1:18-19 puts it, "Knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." Second, the lamb must be slain and his blood applied in the way God ordained. Christ died for the whole world, but the whole world will not be saved. "The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11). But men, in their arrogance and pride, assume that they may appropriate that blood in any way they choose, and in effect trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot and do despite to the Spirit of grace, as Hebrews 9:22 puts it.
Some who are enthralled with the new hermeneutic will doubtless conclude that when God said the lentils and door posts, he was merely suggesting one of the alternative methods of application, just as when God told Noah "gopher wood," he did not thereby exclude any other kind, and it is legalistic interpretation to conclude that he meant what he said. But whatever opprobrious terms may be applied to it, God ALWAYS meant for his commands to be carried out as he gave them.
Perhaps one of the basic differences between the Lord's church and all denominations is in our conclusion that the efficacy of the blood depends on the proper application of it. That we are saved by the blood of Christ is a truth that is admitted by almost all that claim to be Christians. But how we apply or appropriate that blood is not understood or taught by many religious groups. But the Bible is clear on that matter. When a person is scripturally baptized, he is baptized into the death of Christ, and there the blood is properly applied (Romans 6:4). This is why Revelation 1:5 can say he "washed us from our sins in his own blood" and Acts 22:16 can say, "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins."
They had to eat the lamb and let none of it be left to spoil and decay. Jesus said in John 6:53, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." This has been quoted thousands of times in connection with the Lord's Supper. This has nothing to do directly with the Lord's Supper, but has to do with letting the life of Jesus be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11). It has to do with letting this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). It is certain that if this memorial feast has no meaning and value to a person, and he is not concerned about taking it each first day of the week, he has no life in him, but that is not the subject Jesus had in mind in John 6.
When they left Egypt and came to the Red Sea, there is an event that the Bible sets forth as a significant type. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 Paul says, "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Those who tend to quibble instead of obey say this could not be typical of anything significant. But Paul specifically says in verse 11 that these things happened to them as examples (tupikos).
How is their baptism unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea a type and example for us? First, they were about to come out completely from the bondage of Pharaoh. They had started the journey. They had turned away from their old manner of life, but their separation was not complete. The Red Sea was the dividing line between the old life and the new. They were baptized unto Moses. This baptism brought them into a relationship with Moses that was different. One may ask, "How was it different? They were following Moses before. They had accepted him as their leader some time before. They are still following Moses." True, but his control over them was not an accomplished fact until this time. In a remarkable way, this is a type of our relationship with Christ. When we are in sin Christ says to us, "I will deliver you. Follow me." When we turn from sin and repent of it, we are following him. But we are not yet made free from sin. Romans 6:17-18 shows the comparison clearly. "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness." The significant verse in the type is found in Exodus 14:30, "Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians." They were saved when they were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
Let us look at the brazen serpent as a type of Christ. John 3:14-15 refers back to Numbers 21. As in all cases, if a person is trying to find fault with the type, or interpret types in accordance with his own fancies, he could say, "This could not properly represent the cross of Christ, for this was done for Israel after they had already been delivered from bondage." I mention that so you can again be aware that if one tries to take a type and fit all the circumstances surrounding it into his preconceived notions, he will totally miss the point of the type and arrive at all sorts of false conclusions.
Of what does the type consist? The Israelites were a sinful people. We are a sinful people. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and we have all sinned and fall sort of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The cure was not found in man searching for an antidote, killing the snakes, compromising and making an offering to the serpents, examining his wounds and applying his own medication, but in lifting up the serpent that they might look upon it and live. The antitype is Christ being lifted up and we putting our trust in him (John 3:14-15). We do not have time to preach a sermon on what is involved in the phrase "believeth in him," but if there is any one verse in the Bible that shows that believing in the Son includes obeying his commands, John 3:36 does. "He that believeth on (pisteuon) the Son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not (apeithon -- which means, "does not obey") shall not see life." To state it another way, "Saving faith is always an obedient faith."
It does not really matter whether the command to them was "Look and live," or "crawl out and touch the pole and live," the principle is that when the Christ was offered for our salvation from the poison of sin, there was a God-given method of appropriating the cure. No one was offered life on any other basis. The God-given method of appropriating the cure is an obedient faith. It involves repentance and baptism, and anyone who offers salvation to any person on some other basis is a false and misguided teacher.
What God will do with those who do not have the ability or opportunity to understand or obey must be left to his wise and gracious judgment. As far as I know, no one takes the position that God expects the moron or idiot who has no ability to understand and obey to do so. He judges us in terms of our ability, our opportunity, our motive, our faithfulness in doing what we understand and his Word. It is not our responsibility to consign a person to some fate because we determine his ability, opportunity, motive and faithfulness. He did not make us to be judges, but proclaimers of his love and grace as revealed in his Word. How he is going to apply that Word to every man's ability, opportunity and situation is his business, and it would be better if we would gladly leave it to him, for we must whether we want to or not.
Let us examine another significant type. In Exodus 16, we find the story of the children of Israel being given manna to eat. Jesus showed in John 6:30-58 that he was the antitype of that manna.
Notice the comparisons that have to do with the scheme of redemption. God sent the manna down from heaven. God sent the true bread (Christ) down from heaven (John 6:32). It was the means by which their lives were saved. He is the means by which life is given to the world (John 6:33).
They did not have to understand all about the nature and value of the manna to use it, but they did have to understand enough about it to follow God's directions for gathering and using it.
There is a very important lesson for us here. One does not have to understand all the reasons why God ordained that baptism is the point at which he forgives an alien sinner, nor does he have to understand all of the blessings that come through baptism in order for it to be the valid means by which he comes into a saved relationship with Christ. But one does have to understand what baptism is, and how, why and when it is to be performed for it to be valid.
Here is a principle that undergirds all these things, and all other things that have to do with the scheme of redemption. When God said HOW to do thing, it must be done THAT WAY in order to be valid. If God says WHEN to do a thing, it must be done at that TIME in order to be valid. When God said WHERE to do a thing, it must be done at that place in order to be valid. When God said WHY to do a thing, it must be done for that reason. This simply means that in order for our religious actions to be valid, they must be done in relation to the authority of Jesus as Lord. This is one reason why Acts 2:36 is very important before Acts 2:38 can be properly obeyed.
One might call attention to the fact that the manna was small, which supposedly indicates the small, humble nature of Christ's coming. It was round, suggesting his perfection and eternal nature. It was white, indicating his purity. It was sweet, indicating the preciousness and sweet peace that is the gift of God's love. It came in the night. Jesus came in the night of sin to give life and light to the world. It was beaten in a mortar. Christ was bruised for our iniquities. I do not care to dwell on such things in our study, but only on those that the Bible indicates are included in the type, and related lessons. For example, manna was a free gift of God. Moses did not give it, but God did. It could not be bought, nor paid for. It was provided for all, but only those who accepted it on God's terms got the promised blessings from it. We may safely say these are types, for Christ says so.
Let us look at the tabernacle as a type. It seems apparent as we read Hebrews 9 that the tabernacle was a type of things pertaining to the scheme of redemption. In Hebrews 9:8-9, we find, "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present." It may be noted that the term "figure" is from "parabole" rather than "tupos." But in Hebrews 9:24, we read, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." The word figures here is "antitupa." It seems evident that when Hebrews 8:5 says the priests "serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things," and Hebrews 10:1 says, "The law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things," that we are justified in seeing in the tabernacle a type of heavenly things, including the church.
So, let us examine what is specifically said about the tabernacle, its furnishings and significance of some of them. In Exodus 25:8 God said to Moses, "And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." Paul makes clear that he is talking about the church when he says in 2 Corinthians 6:16, "God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Surely there can be no doubt that this is what Jesus had in mind when he said in John 14:23, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." In Exodus 25:8, God said, "Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." So, it was called the tabernacle of the congregation (Exodus 29:42, 44). It was the place where the people of Israel met God. When we talk of the church as the "place" where we come to the Father by Christ (John 14:6), we do not mean a physical locality, but a spiritual "place." Jesus entered into the holy place with his blood to prepare such a "place" for us (Hebrews 9:12). The "place" is not a locality, but a relationship.
It was called the Tabernacle of testimony (Numbers 1:50). The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), the place where the testimony of God's love is to be proclaimed.
I do not see how we can escape the conclusion that the brazen altar that stood outside the tabernacle proper, which was the place where the sacrifice for sin was offered, was a type of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. The laver which was between the altar and the door of the tabernacle stood for the what Titus 3:5 calls "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit," and what Ephesians 5:26 refers to when he says about the church, "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." In both cases, he uses the word "loutron," which means laver. The ceremonial cleansing of one who wanted to enter the holy place of communion with God had to take place before he could properly enter. The washing away of our sins in his own blood must take place at baptism before we can enter the holy place. The Hebrew writer also suggests this in Hebrews 10:19-22 when he speaks of our ability to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Both the holy place and the most holy place are called a part of the tabernacle. Properly so, because the most holy place, which was typical of heaven itself (Hebrews 9:24), is simply an extension of the church. By that, I mean that it will be the assembly of God's people from every age. It seems evident to me that we get a warped conception of the church and heaven when we think of either of them as a "place" in any geographic or materialistic sense.
When we speak of the church as a "place" where we have fellowship with God, or worship acceptably, or find salvation, or all sorts of other things, there is no question that many think of it as a building or physical locality. "I am going to church" may mean, "I am going to the building." In our more spiritual moments, we know, admit and teach that the church is not a physical "place," but a spiritual "place" or relationship with Christ. When we have come to the "place" where we accept Christ as Lord and are baptized into him for the remission of sins, we are at the "place" where we may worship God acceptably and have fellowship with him. We should think of heaven in the same way. When we sing, "There is a beautiful place called heaven," we may think of it as a locality beyond the bright blue, when it should be thought of as an extension of the church, a relationship of a more intimate, intensive and glorious nature than we now have.
It is easy to look at the candlestick or lamp stand in the tabernacle and think of the words of Jesus, "I am the light of the world." Whether we think of the Word of God incarnate, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, or the Word of God as revealed in the book as David put it, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway" (Psalm 119:105) it makes no difference. He is the source of all our light, and the only way we get light on any subject is the revealed Word. It is easy to see the table of shewbread, placed every Sabbath day and eaten by the priests, as typical of the spiritual food of all Christians, who are said to be a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). It is easy to see the altar of incense as the prayers of the saints as Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 suggest.
When we come to the Most Holy place, there is little doubt that it speaks of heaven itself, for Hebrews 8, 9 and 10 make this about as clear as it could be made. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom evidencing that we could now enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way (Hebrews 10:19-20).
As in some other cases, the riches of the typology can be shown by contrasts as well as similarities. Those high priests offered the blood of bulls and goats. Our high priests offered his own blood. Those offered for themselves and the sins of the people (Hebrews 9:7). Ours did not need to offer up for his own sins (Hebrews 7:27) for he had none. They offered up daily; he did only once. It was not possible for their sacrifices to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4), but his offering has perfected forever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). Many theologians pervert this to mean that a saved person can never sin again. This idea would contradict many passages. The whole context shows clearly the meaning. Verse 1 says that those sacrifices could not make the comers thereunto perfect. It could not take away their sins. The blood of Jesus can make me perfect, for it takes away all my sin, and it is taken away forever. Once I accept the offering of Christ for my sin on his terms, I never have to ask for forgiveness of it again. But that has nothing whatever to do with whether or not one can sin again. A marvelous truth is that, "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth [that is, keeps on cleansing] us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). But rather than teaching that we cannot sin, that passage specifically teaches that we do sin, but if we are walking in the light, with a loving, faithful penitent attitude, his blood keeps on cleansing us.
Inside the most holy place was the Ark of the Covenant. On it was the mercy seat (Hebrews 9:5), translated from the Greek word "hilasterion." It means a place of propitiation. This is the word used in Romans 3:25, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." In my judgment, neither the English word "propitiate" nor "atonement" does justice to what happens at the mercy seat in the New Covenant. "Propitiate" is almost synonymous with "appeasement," and "atonement" is equivalent to "covering." In the Old Testament, the words "atonement" and "covering" were fairly accurate to describe what was done, but the riches of the grace of Christ involve more than covering. They involve the taking away. You may notice that the term "remission" of Romans 3:25 is not "aphesin" (taking away), but "paresin" (passing over).
So, the mercy seat of the Old Testament was a place where man's sins were covered, passed over or winked at (Acts 17:30) in view of the shedding of the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 9:15 speaks of the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament. It seems evident that since the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins, they could not be said to be forgiven in a strictly legal sense, but they were said to be forgiven insofar as any practical considerations were concerned, and treated as forgiven in view of the coming sacrifice of Christ. If this is not what the Hebrew writer had in mind when he talked in Hebrews 9:15 of the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, I confess I do not know what he meant.
As in all cases, the mercy seat is a type, but merely a shadow of the riches of his grace as found in the antitypes in the scheme of redemption.
Keep in mind that the tabernacle was to be built after the pattern showed to Moses in the mount (Exodus 26:30). There are those who seem to think there is no pattern for the New Testament church or worship, but a careful study of types shows that there was and is a pattern, and it is our responsibility to follow it.
We have but touched the hem of the garment in our consideration of types, but we have tried to touch the subject in terms of persons, events, things and rituals, all of which are related to the scheme of redemption. The fact that our Savior is Prophet, Priest and King all are important and vital to our understanding of our relationship with him. The fact that physical Israel is a type of spiritual Israel should help us to see more clearly the spiritual nature of the kingdom, and not to fall into the materialistic trap of premillennialism and various other false doctrines. The place of the serpent on the pole and their baptism unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, plus the fact that those in the ark were saved by water should help us to see that although the lifting up of Christ is the central thing, no value of his death can be ours if we do not appropriate it in accordance with his expressed will.
If our consideration of typology in the Bible has helped you to see the unity of the Scriptures, to sense the glory and wisdom of God as he planned for our salvation before the foundation of the world, to be humbly and gratefully obedient to his expressed will and to let all you do in word or deed be done for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), we shall have succeeded in our purpose.