Home > Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics > The “Flip-Side” of Typology

The “Flip-Side” of Typology

February 18, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

I was trying to think of an interesting title for this post, but really couldn’t come up with anything captivating. The best I could come up with is The “Flip-Side” of Typology. So, what exactly do I mean with this title?

When considering the subject of typology one immediately thinks of the Christological aspects of it. Many themes and institutions from the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Christ. For example, the Old Testament tabernacle and temple were types of Christ because he is the true temple (Mark 14:58; John 1:14; 2:13-22). By virtue of Christ, God’s people are his temple both corporately and individually (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16-18; Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:4-10). Moreover, in the biblical plotline individuals are types of Christ. For example, Moses and Ezra were types of Christ who led God’s people out of captivity and instructed them in the Law. Now, Christ is the final leader and lawgiver of God’s people (Deut 18:15-18; Matt 5:17-20; John 5:45-47; Acts 7:37). In addition, many events and institutions in Israel’s history, such as the Exodus or the Feasts of Israel, foreshadow what Christ accomplishes at the cross.

Most people who subscribe to a redemptive-historical perspective of Scripture will readily recognize the type and anti-type pattern found in Scripture. However, the typological nature of Scripture is not simply regulated to this Christological pattern, but is also seen throughout Scripture when it comes to things such as God’s enemies and God’s judgments. This is what I mean by the “flip-side” of typology.

Within the biblical storyline certain themes begin to emerge in the form of symbols and types with regard to God’s enemies and the idea of judgment. For example, while Babylon was a literal city it becomes a symbol of evil and a type of a greater Babylon that will seek to destroy God’s covenant community.

1.) Babel was the original place of Babylon where the nations sought to rebel against God’s name to make a name for themselves (Gen 11:9).

2.) Babylon was the great city that took captive God’s people and oppressed them (Dan 5:1ff; 7:4; cf., Jer 50-51).

3.) Rome is identified as Babylon in the New Testament because of its idolatry and immorality (1 Pet 5:13).

4.) Babylon could even be equated with unbelieving Israel because of her idolatry and immorality (Matt 23:1-39; Luke 11:47-51; cf., Isa 1:21; Jer 2:20; Ezek 16:15; 23:1ff; Hos 2:1ff).

5.) Babylon is synonymous with the world itself (James 1:1; cf., Rev 1:9). There are descriptions found in the Old Testament that match the harlot found in Revelation 17-18. These descriptions not only speak directly of Babylon, but of other cities such as Tyre, Sidon, and Nineveh; cities of great idolatry and immorality (Isa 23:15-17; Jer 50-51; Ezek 27-28; Nah 3:4).

6.) The final and complete picture of Babylon is found in Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2-21). Babylon is much more than an individual city, empire, or king, but is representative of everything seductive and immoral. Being part of Babylon is summed up in everything that is anti-Christian. It is epitomized in loving the world more than Christ (1 Pet 4:3-4; cf., Rev 2:20-23).

Scripture presents a similar pattern with regard to Egypt, where it becomes synonymous with oppression, idolatry, and sorcery (cf., Rev 11:8).

The “flip-side” of typology also applies to individuals. For example, the emergence of false prophets or oppressive rulers becomes a pattern found in Scripture that is fulfilled in a greater way throughout biblical revelation.

1.) In the Old Testament deceptive characters such as Balaam (Num 22:5ff; 25:1-4; 31:6) and Jezebel (1 Kings 16:30-33; 19:1-2; 21:5-26; 2 Kings 9:30-37) led God’s people astray and sought to oppress them. These individuals are types of greater deceivers who come along throughout redemptive-history and seek to destroy God’s people (2 Pet 2:15; Jude 11; Rev 2:12-29; cf., Dan 11:31; 12:11; Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14). While the symbolism is clear between Old Testament and New Testament agents of deception there is also a clear pattern in the New Testament when it comes to the idea of Antichrist.

2.) John makes clear that there are many Antichrist’s in the world now (1 John 2:18, 22; 2 John 1:7; cf., Matt 24:24; Mark 13:22) and that the Antichrist is not only an individual, but a spirit or attitude of the present evil age. In other words, there are many false teachers who have sought to deceive and lead God’s people into sin. This pattern began in the Old Testament with false teachers (although they were not identified as Antichrist’s, they played the same role by leading God’s people astray) and continued into the New Testament.

3.) Paul makes reference to the man of lawlessness who will seek to destroy God’s people. He will set himself up as God in the temple of God (i.e., the church) so that he might usurp God’s authority over his people (Matt 26:61; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21; 2 Tim 3:1ff). The work of deception that will take place in the future against God’s elect has always been going on and is presently going on (cf., Rev 13:1ff); however, this future individual will represent and culminate all the evil, wickedness, and deception of past Antichrists (both Old and New Testament). In other words, this future man of lawlessness is the quintessential anti-type of all past individuals and symbols of evil. The man of lawlessness is presently restrained, but there will come a time when the restrainer will be taken away and he will be revealed. The presence of the gospel in the world restricts or restrains the full assault of the devil against the church, but one day he will be set free for a short time to gather and deceive the nations (like he did in the past) against Christ and his church. It will be through this singular individual that he will gather the nations in the future with the sole purpose of deceiving and destroying the church.

Just as the believing remnant of national Israel in the Old Testament was a picture of the true people of God, so these nations found in the Old Testament are pictures of the forces of darkness that seek to destroy the church today. Moreover, just as there were individuals who sought to deceive and destroy the Israelites with idolatry and immorality, so there are counterparts, and even a final counterpart (i.e., the man of lawlessness) who seeks to destroy the true Israel.

The Bible presents that the types and symbols found in the Old Testament were not an end unto themselves, but found their greatest meaning and significance in the person of Jesus Christ. Just as assuredly as God brought about his promises in Christ, so God will bring about his promise to judge his enemies. The judgment that befell God’s enemies in the Old Testament assures the church that these greater and more significant enemies of God’s people in the present age will surely meet the same demise at the return of Christ (1 Cor 15:24-28; Rev 20:7-15).

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  1. Tom Hicks
    February 24, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Chad, this is excellent! Thanks!

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