Examples, Types, Shadows and More

Brian Kuehmichel
August 14, 2015

"The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut 29:29)

"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he reveals his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)

"My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer." (Psalm 45:1)

"For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days." (Acts 3:22-24)

"Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into." (1 Pet 1:9-12)

"Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. ... Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Cor 10:6, 11)

Things of great value

Many Old Testament illustrations are allegories, copies, examples, foreshadows, images, outlines, patterns, portrayals, previews, shadows, symbols or types of something much greater to come. They are used by God to teach us truths and whet our appetites for our: embracing of, cooperating with, participating in, and living under His plans and purposes. The Old Testament images show us glimpses of "good things to come," about real events, and of the structure of God's administration here upon earth. They point to how God will fulfill his will "on earth as it is done in heaven." (Matt 6:10) "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [substance] is of [about] Christ." (Col 2:16-18 a)

These illustrations, most often referred to as shadows and types, are declarative, explanatory, informative, instructive, and faith-building. They are a subdued form of prophecy pointing to those things that will surely come that are much greater, more splendid and truly wonderful.1 These illustrations are not like the advertisements, broadsides, infomercials, previews, trailers, and other enticements to buy or contract for a product or service, or to watch an event, movie or theatrical piece. These are insights into the deep things of God which are vitally important. Therefore God tells us about these ‘good things’ before they come to pass. (1 John 5:20)

Much more, these things demonstrate the absolute intervention of God in the affairs of men. The numerous people, places, things and circumstances used as ‘shadows’ or ‘types’ reveal so much about what God Himself will do that it is impossible to doubt the internal validity of the Holy Scriptures originating from and supervised by the Almighty God of heaven and earth. Nothing else can account for the intricate details given in the form of the shadows or types that will surely "come to pass" and have already been and will yet be fulfilled by their antitypes. So God says:

"Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them." Isa 42:9

"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure, Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it." Isa 46:9-11

"Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he." John 13:19

"For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." Luke 10:24

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Rom 15:4

"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." 1 Cor 2:10

Allegories, copies, examples, foreshadows, illustrations, images, outlines, patterns, portrayals, previews, shadows, symbols and types

Not everything is a type—some things are just an illustration or an illustrative type. "Types, like parables, are a special form of literature with a set of rules and a set of abuses." (What is biblical typology?) In a very strict interpretation, a ‘type’ is only accepted if it is identified as such in the New Testament as inspired by the Holy Spirit. (“Allusions to the Joseph Narratives in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts: Foundations of a Biblical Type,” Nicholas P. Lunn) Thus a Bible student finding any other correlations between an Old Testament event and the life of Christ or His Church would simply be finding illustrations and analogies.

This very strict interpretation does not fit with those clearly discernable types that have been presented from apostolic times. Many would argue that there is a realistic balance between the very strict (the explicit types) and the overly-imaginative creating of types. This realistic balance uses a literal approach of grammitico-historical exegesis accompanied by a restrained typology (implicit types). The historical account must be true in order for it to honestly portray a real future event fulfilled in the New Testament or yet to be fulfilled. In no case should the discerned (implicit) ‘type’ wrest from the historical text its literal meaning so as to have it only contain ‘hidden’ meanings. If the original only contains ‘hidden’ meanings, how then could the fulfillment have anything less than more ‘hidden’ meanings? Thus in the overly-imaginative creating of types both type and antitype are unintelligible. Therefore types must be real historical events or ceremonies portraying real future events. Nor should any ‘type (explicit)’ or ‘illustrative (implicit) type’ contradict true Christian doctrine or be used to teach a new Christian doctrine. Remember, too, that types are very different from declared prophecies. Theologically speaking, E. W. Bullinger says a type may be defined as "a figure or ensample of something future and more or less prophetic, called the ‘Antitype.’"

The shape of an object can generally be derived from its shadow but not the size of the object, because the size of a shadow near sunset is much longer than the shadow at noon. The shadow cannot be assumed to accurately portray every characteristic of the object. Hebrews chapter 10 in verse 1 declares, a shadow is "not the very image" of the object. So likewise the previews (types) of the Old Testament [and some in the New] give us aspects but not all of the details, they give us a glimpse into the future—into a much greater reality (the antitype).

The types in the Old Testament are a peek or preview into the future and the fulfillment is the real view, the intended reality brought about according to the will of God. In Colossians chapter 2 in verses 16 and 17 the apostle says, "Let no man judge you in meat, or drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath, which are a ‘shadow’ of things to come; but the body [substance] is of [about] Christ.." Apostle Paul explained that the intended fulfillment is about what Christ Jesus has already done and will yet do.

"In the Old Testament there are predictions, in the New there are fulfilments. In the Old we get types, in the New antitypes. The whole of the Old is leading up to the First Advent and much of the New is leading up to the Second Advent. There is prophetical unity as well as structural unity, and historical unity everywhere in Scripture." Author unknown

The Law Covenant

God took care in making and preserving for us the previews, ‘shadows’ or ‘types,’ in the Old Testament. This should give us confidence in its fulfillment (the antitype) so that not one jot or tittle of it shall fail. (Matt 5:18) God took Moses up into the mount and gave him an illustration of the manner in which things were to be made. He charged Moses to be careful in every particular, "See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." (Heb. 8:5; Exod. 25:40) All the minutiae of the tabernacle service, every jot and tittle, had to be exactly performed in the type, because it illustrated something greater and more important to come afterward in the antitype. To make sure that these shadows or types might be exactly performed, and that the people might not become careless, the penalty exacted for any violation was death. (Exod 28:43; Num 4:15,20; 17:13; 2 Sam 6:6,7; Lev 10:1,2)

Many aspects of the Law Covenant foreshadowed God's dealings with His church. "And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them." (Exo 24:12); "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." (Heb 8:6); "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." (Heb 10:1); "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Gal 3:24)

The Apostle did not choose to give a detailed explanation of the types of the law. He sought to prove to the Jews that they should look beyond their high priests and general priests of the Aaronic order for a greater High Priest of our Profession (the order of Melchisedec, Heb 5:6, 10; 6;20; 7:1, etc.) and a superior priesthood (royal priesthood, 1 Pet 2:9). For this Jesus was the only one "who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's; for this He did once, when He offered up Himself." (Heb 7:27) "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Heb 9:11-12)

"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; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor 10:1-12 The Greek word translated "examples" is tupos, which means a "model" or a prophetic type or shadow. [See: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5179.]

"Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." Heb 8:5

Hebrews chpt 9

"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Heb 9:11-12

"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." Heb 9:23

"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." Heb 10:1

"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." 2 Pet 2:4-9

"Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction." Pro 24:32

"Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old?" Isa 43:18


Many Old Testament events show us glimpses of later events in God's plan, mostly of "good things" (Gal 6:6; Heb 9:11; 10:1) to come. The Old Testament foreshadows portray important realities, reveal "the deep things of God" (1Cor 2:10) and show the structure of God's administration here upon earth. They are some of "the things written aforetime that were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (Rom 15:4)

Everything God does in the Old and New Testament points to God fulfulling His will here "in earth, as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10)." To this end Hebrews chapter 1 in verses 1 and 2 says, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." (Heb 2:1) And Apostle Peter adds, "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Pet 1:8)

These should awaken in us a great interest in God's plan and lead us to closely examine and carefully search for the meaning and fulfillment of those shadows. There are some explicit types or allusions to types mentioned by Jesus and the Apostles in the pages of the New Testament. (e.g. Adam, Abel, David, Isaac, Jonah, Melchizedek, Moses, Solomon, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the festivals, etc.) Others in the Old Testament whose typical significance had to be discovered by research were found by learning to take the principles from the explicit types and applying them to the implicit types. The Old Testament meaning of a shadow is made certain when it is explained in the New Testament by one of God's inspired apostles.

The study of types is so valuable that we can quote Clarence Larkin, "No Bible Teacher can be fully instructed in the “Things of God,” unless he is a student of Typology." It clarifies our understanding of the scriptures and gives us great confidence in the future God has prepared 'for those who love Him.'

See next: Types and Shadows are Important

The following page contains a list of generally accepted types with a brief explanation and supporting scriptures.
Generally Accepted Types


1.  "The first Christians rejoiced to see Christ everywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (Luke 24:27-32), and we cannot accept any translation of the Bible which deliberately prevents us from doing the same. The apostle John wrote, "Isaiah said these things because he saw [Christ's] glory and spoke of him" (John 12:41). We cannot contradict these words. We are not ashamed to stand with the apostles, and we read the Old Testament as they read it. We affirm that Christ was seen by the Prophets, and was prefigured in mysterious ways in the Old Testament." The NET Bible, Michael D. Marlowe, http:///www.bible-researcher.com/net.html


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