biblical symbolism and types

Symbolism is the use of one thing (a symbol) to represent another thing.  A symbol points to something beyond the symbol itself. Typology is a kind of symbolism.  It also points to something.  However, typology is prophetic in nature because it prefigures, foreshadows, point to , or whispers of, a yet future something, someone, some place. or some event. 

The Bible reveals many types in the Old Testament.  Some point to New Testament fulfillments.  Others are yet to be fulfilled.  The fulfillment of a type is called the antitype.

Biblical types can be very beneficial for our understanding of God’s Word and for revealing when, where, who, in what manner, and by what means His purpose and plan for redemption and restoration will come about.  There are far too many types in the Bible to list.  Let’s take a look at some of the most significant types.  I encourage you to search the Bible for yourself.  Find more types and understand the typology.  Doing so will bless you with greater understanding of, and deeper love for, our Saviour.

Types of Christ

  • Adam as a type of Christ; Christ is the true and better Adam: Rom 5:14  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 
  • Isaac, the son of Father Abraham, was a type pointing to Jesus, the Son of God the Father.  Abraham offered his son on an altar; God offered His Son on the cross.  After Isaac rose up from the altar, he went away and didn’t return until he had found his bride.  After Jesus rose from death, He went away and one day will return for His Bride (the Church).
  • Joseph was a type of Jesus. Read AW Pink’s list of 60 ways Joseph pre-figured Jesus
  • Moses was a type of Jesus: Rejected by Israel (Ex 2:12-14, John 1:11, Mark 15:12-15); Returned to Israel (Ex 4:20, 1 Cor 15:20-26); Both were deliverers (Ex 4:18-20, 29-31, Matt 1:21, Gal 1:4)
  • Joshua led the people into the Promised Land; Jesus opened the gates of Heaven so we can enter in.  
  • Boaz points to Christ as our Kinsman Redeemer.  
  • David whispers of Jesus in many ways: born in the city of Bethlehem, conquered a giant, persecuted, rejected by one he loved, was both a prophet and a king, etc.  
  • Jonah perhaps shouts of Jesus: He was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.  Jesus was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.  Both were raised out to complete God’s purpose and plan.

    List of 45 Types of Christ

    In 1897, RA Torrey compiled a list of both human and inanimate objects that are biblical types pointing to Jesus’ Person and works.

    1. Adam Romans 5:14 ; 1 Corinthians 15:45 
    2. Abel Genesis 4:8 Genesis 4:10; Hebrews 12:24 
    3. Abraham Genesis 17:5; Ephesians 3:15 
    4. Aaron Exodus 28:1 ; Hebrews 5:4 Hebrews 5:5 ; Leviticus 16:15 ; Hebrews 9:7 Hebrews 9:24 
    5. Ark Genesis 7:16 ; 1 Peter 3:20 1 Peter 3:21 
    6. Ark of the Covenant Exodus 25:16; Psalms 40:8; Isaiah 42:6 
    7. Atonement sacrifices Leviticus 16:15 Leviticus 16:16; Hebrews 9:12 Hebrews 9:24 
    8. Brazen serpent Numbers 21:9; John 3:14 John 3:15 
    9. Brazen altar Exodus 27:1 Exodus 27:2; Hebrews 13:10 
    10. Burnt offering Leviticus 1:2 Leviticus 1:4; Hebrews 10:10 
    11. Cities of refuge Numbers 35:6; Hebrews 6:18 
    12. David 2 Samuel 8:15 ; Ezekiel 37:24 ; Psalms 89:19 Psalms 89:20 ; Philippians 2:9 
    13. Eliakim Isaiah 22:20-22; Revelation 3:7 
    14. First-fruits Exodus 22:29 ; 1 Corinthians 15:20 
    15. Golden candlestick Exodus 25:31; John 8:12 
    16. Golden altar Exodus 40:5 Exodus 40:26 Exodus 40:27 ; Revelation 8:3 ; Hebrews 13:15 
    17. Isaac Genesis 22:1 Genesis 22:2 ; Hebrews 11:17-19 
    18. Jacob Genesis 32:28; John 11:42; Hebrews 7:25 
    19. Jacobs ladder Genesis 28:12; John 1:51 
    20. Joseph Genesis 50:19 Genesis 50:20 
    21. Joshua Joshua 1:5 Joshua 1:6; Hebrews 4:8 Hebrews 4:9; Joshua 11:23; Acts 20:32 
    22. Jonah Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40 
    23. Laver of brass Exodus 30: 18-20; Zechariah 13:1; Ephesians 5:26 Ephesians 5:27 
    24. Lepers offering Leviticus 14: 4-7; Romans 4:25 
    25. Man Exodus 16: 11-15; John 6:32-35 
    26. Melchizedek Genesis 14:18-20 ; Hebrews 7:1-17 
    27. Mercy-seat Exodus 25:17-22 ; Romans 3:25 ; Hebrews 4:16 
    28. Morning and evening sacrifices Exodus 29:38-41; John 1:29 John 1:36 
    29. Moses Numbers 12:7 ; Hebrews 3:2 ; Deuteronomy 18:15 ; Acts 3:20-22 
    30. Noah Genesis 5:29; 2 Corinthians 1:5 
    31. Paschal lamb Exodus 12:3-6 Exodus 12:46; John 19:36; 1 Corinthians 5:7 
    32. Peace offerings Leviticus 3:1; Ephesians 2:14 Ephesians 2:16 
    33. Red heifer Numbers 19: 2-6; Hebrews 9:13 Hebrews 9:14 
    34. Rock of Horeb Exodus 17:6; 1 Corinthians 10:4 
    35. Samson Judges 16:30 ; Colossians 2:14 Colossians 2:15 
    36. Scapegoat Leviticus 16: 20-22; Isaiah 53:6 Isaiah 53:12 
    37. Sin offering Leviticus 4:2 Leviticus 4:3 Leviticus 4:12; Hebrews 13:11 Hebrews 13:12 
    38. Solomon 2 Samuel 7:12 2 Samuel 7:13 ; Luke 1:32 Luke 1:33 ; 1 Peter 2:5 
    39. Tabernacle Exodus 40:2 Exodus 40:34 ; Hebrews 9:11 ; Colossians 2:9 
    40. Table and showbread Exodus 25: 23-30; John 1:16; 6:48 
    41. Temple 1 Kings 6:1 1 Kings 6:38; John 2:19 John 2:21 
    42. Tree of life Genesis 2:9; John 1:4; Revelation 22:2 
    43. Trespass offering Leviticus 6: 1-7; Isaiah 53:10 
    44. Vail of the tabernacle and temple Exodus 40:21; 2 Chronicles 3:14; Hebrews 10:20 
    45. Zerubbabel Zechariah 4: 7-9; Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:3

    A Caveat

    It’s important to remember that types are not precisely defined in the Bible.  In studying the Bible, we can discern types and define them, but such research is in the hands of fallible human beings who are subject to error. 

    Very good Bible teachers and preachers will disagree on the symbolism of biblical types. Therefore, we must not be dogmatic about the meanings of types and we must understand that types can be interpreted differently and still be used to better understand the Bible.  Types and antitypes are not the same thing.  They are similar, not identical.  Enjoy finding types in the Bible. Look for the antitype to which they point — and learn from both.

    2 Tim 2:15  Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

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