Types and Shadows

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Types and Shadows

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:

John 1:45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

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

  1. Luke 24:27—“Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
  2. 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."
  3. 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.”
  4. Hebrews 10:7—“[Jesus said,] ‘Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me.’”

The Old Testament reveals Jesus is through types and shadows:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.


The New Testament identifies many types and shadows of Christ in the Old Testament

  1. Matthew 12:40 compares Jesus with Jonah:1
    “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.”

  2. John 3:14 compares Jesus with the Bronze Serpent:2 “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.3
  3. 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.”
  4. Romans 5:14 compares Jesus with Adam: “Adam is a type of Him who was to come.”
  5. First Corinthians 5:7 compares Jesus with the Passover Lamb: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
  6. First Corinthians 10:4 compares Jesus with the rock that accompanied Israel in the wilderness:4 “[Israel] drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”5
  7. Hebrews 6:18 compares Jesus with the cities of refuge:6 “We who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”
  8. 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.”
  9. Hebrews 11:17-19 compares Isaac with Jesus.7 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.”8

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,9 which means, “disregarding, or violating.”

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!


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.
  1. In the language of Hebrews 10:1, you are missing the “reality,” which is Christ.
  2. 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!

Jesus referred to another event in Israel’s history as a foreshadowing of His crucifixion. In the wilderness, the people following Moses had sinned, and God sent serpents among them to bite them. The people were dying, and they appealed to Moses for help. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole. All those who looked to it would be healed (Numbers 21:4–19). Jesus alluded to this incident in John 3:14–15: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life in him.”

God’s design for the tabernacle is another way that Jesus is in the Old Testament. The altar in the courtyard symbolizes the need for Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for our sin. The laver shows Jesus as providing the water of life (John 4:14). Inside the Holy Place, the lampstand is suggestive of Jesus as the light of the world (John 9:5). The table of showbread is Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35). In the altar of incense is seen Jesus as our heavenly intercessor, continually offering prayers for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). According to Hebrews 10:20, the veil before the ark of the covenant is a picture of Jesus’ human flesh.

The Son of God is not just in the New Testament; Jesus is in the Old Testament, too. Jesus is God’s promised Messiah. From the virgin birth in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35; Micah 5:2), through the sojourn to Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14–15), to His ministry of healing and hope (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8), all the way through His resurrection (Psalm 16:9–11; Acts 2:31), Jesus Christ is the theme of both Old and New Testaments. It could be said that Jesus is the reason for the Bible. He is the Living Word. The entire Bible is a beacon that points us to God’s offer of reconciliation, the hope of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This next one I like because I don’t like snakes, and I think of a serpent like a snake. So for me to look at a snake, I need that faith in God. Then in the New Testament we look at Jesus with our faith.

Numbers 21:4-9 “And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” – KJV

Then in the New Testament…

John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” – KJV

These types and shadows were placed by God for everyone to read, and from which to learn how all of the bible points to Jesus Christ.

“Types and Shadows”

Here are a few more verses you may look up as well:
Old Testaments Types, Shadows, and Symbols of Christ Fulfillment in the Life of Christ
Genesis 22:1-14 John 3:16; 19:16-18
Exodus 3:7-8, 10-12, 12:3, 5-7, 13-14, 46 Matthew 1:21
Exodus 16:14-15, 18 John 1:29; 19:14, 31-36
Leviticus 8:15, 30, 17:11 1 Peter 1:18-19
Leviticus 16:2-6, 17 John 6:5-10, 48-51
Leviticus 22:19-22 Hebrews 9:6-12, 14; 9:22; 10:11-12; 13:12
Numbers 21:4-9 John 3:14-15
Jonah 1:17, 2:10 Matthew 12:38-40

1. https://www.scottlapierre.org/jonah-type-of-christ
3. https://www.scottlapierre.org/christ-redeemed-us-from-the-curse-of-the-law
8. https://www.scottlapierre.org/old-testament-prophesy-jesus-raised-third-day



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