Ancient Patterns for the Present
MANY church-going people day regard three-fourths of Bible, the Hebrew Scriptures which they call the “Old Testament”, as a mere historical record of the dusty past. In this they greatly err. For many centuries God dealt with the Israelites in a special way and he caused their experiences, and the history of other ancient people before them, to be written down as patterns: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.”—Rom. 15:4, RS.
A type is an image or representation of something that will come to pass at some future time. The antitype is the reality of the thing which the type represents. The type may properly be called a shadow; the antitype, the reality. Dramatic episodes and experiences serve as types, a study of which will give a person a reasonable facsimile or picture of the reality, and therefore they are called prophetic pictures. A type is also a pattern that serves as a guide in understanding the reality.
Having the proper view of this matter, Paul the apostle appreciated the importance of Israel’s dramatic history. This is why in his letters he so often called up those past events and showed how they pictured, typified and cast a shadow of greater realities. For example, Paul says that the quenching of Israel’s thirst by the water that issued out of the rock was merely a pattern or type of the “living water” that issues forth out of the great Rock, Christ Jesus.—1 Cor. 10:1-4.
“Now these things,” Paul continues, “were our examples [figures, margin], to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they [the ancient Israelites] also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written [Ex. 32:6], 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 make trial of the Lord, as some of them made trial, and perished by the serpents. [Num. 21:5, 6] Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer. Now these things happened unto them by way of example [“by way of type,” Rotherham]; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.”—1 Cor. 10:6-11, AS.
Could it be that all those regulations, ordinances and commandments given Israel regarding their tabernacle services and sacrifices were pictorial of greater things to come? Most assuredly! And Paul makes this very clear by explaining the reality of many of those things. “For while the Law foreshadowed the blessings that were to come, it did not fully express them.” (Heb. 10:1, AT) The priesthood under the old Law covenant was only a shadow or pattern of the greater and heavenly and spiritual things, as it is written: “the service they engage in is only a shadow and imitation of that in heaven.” (Heb. 8:5, 6, AT) Yes, the ceremonial ordinances involving the keeping of holy days, new moons, sabbath days, meat and drink offerings, etc., the apostle tells us, were “all only the shadow of something that was to follow; the reality is found in Christ.”—Col. 2:16, 17, AT.
Not leaving the subject, Paul again refers to those tabernacle sacrifices as only “a figure for the time present”, and continues: “But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. And according to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission. It was necessary therefore that the copies of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us.”—Heb. 9:9, 11, 12, 22-24, AS, margin.
Now “Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants”. (Gal. 4:22-24) What could be plainer than this statement, that these historical happenings were prophetic pictures, allegories, of things to follow?
OTHER POWERFUL EXAMPLES CITED
Other writers of the Greek Scriptures, the so-called “New Testament”, also recognized in the Hebrew Scriptures patterns and profitable examples for Christians to follow. Sarah, in her meekness and obedience to her husband Abraham, is a good model for wives in the Christian congregation to imitate, the apostle Peter tells us. (1 Pet. 3:1-6) The disciple James calls up Abraham and Rahab as good patterns for those to follow who would prove their faith by their works. (Jas. 2:20-26) Or if it is a question of enduring affliction and persecution at the hands of the Devil and his agents, then one finds some of the finest examples in the accounts of the old Hebrew prophets. “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.” That righteous man Job, James says, is an outstanding example of patient endurance and steadfastness in integrity under stress.—Jas. 5:10, 11.
On the other hand, Jude in his short but powerful letter, in which he exhorts Christians to earnestly contend for the faith, says that they should be on guard against wicked men who would sneak in among the Lord’s people. Jude then tells us that Cain in his wickedness is an example of such ones. Also Balaam’s error pictured the mischief of this wicked class. And yet a third example is cited by Jude, when he shows that Korah in his rebellion was a picture of those that endeavor to pollute Christian congregations.—Num. 16:1-35; 22:7; 1 John 3:12; Jude 3, 4, 11.
John the Baptist and his work were further proof that the lives and work of the Hebrew prophets were pictorial of events to come to pass in the future. Malachi had foretold that one would come of whom Elijah the prophet was a picture, and while John the Baptist gave assurance that he was not Elijah, he freely admitted that he was doing the work pictured by the prophet. (Mal. 4:5; John 1:21-23) Jesus also testified that, if we are ready to accept the idea, John the Baptist was the one foreshadowed by Elijah.—Matt. 11:13, 14; 17:12, AT; Mark 9:12, 13.
CHRIST, REALITY OF MANY TYPES
Many men of old, in their special service to God, pictured in a typical way Christ Jesus and his ministry. The anointed Jesus, then, became the reality of those prophetic pictures. As the root of Jesse, the Lion of the tribe of Judah in whom good-will people of all nations must hope, Christ is the Greater David. (Rom. 15:8, 12; Rev. 5:5; 22:16) Pointing to himself as the Greater Solomon, Christ declared: “Behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” (Luke 11:31; 1 Ki. 10:1-9; 2 Chron. 9:1-8) The apostle Peter and Stephen, a servant in the early church, recognized Christ as the Greater Moses, of whom Moses was a type.—Acts 3:20, 22; 7:37; Deut. 18:15.
When that generation asked for further proof that Jesus was Messiah, Christ cited the prophet Jonah as a fitting picture or type, in more ways than one, of himself, saying: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea-monster; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:39, 40, AS, margin; Jonah 1:17) “Behold, a greater than Jonah is here,” declared Jesus. “For even as Jonah became a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.”—Luke 11:30, 32, AS; Matt. 12:41; Jonah 3:1-10.
Isaiah, in declaring that “the spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek”, etc., was really prefiguring Christ Jesus. Hence, Christ was fully justified in reading this passage from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth and applying it to himself. “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”—Isa. 61:1, 2, AS; Luke 4:16-21.
The young male passover lamb, free of all blemishes, that was slain in Egypt was in truth a picture or type of the perfect young man Jesus, “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (Ex. 12:5; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19) It is the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, that validates the new covenant. “For our Passover lamb is already sacrificed; it is Christ himself.” (1 Cor. 5:7, AT) As the redeemer and purchaser of all that Adam lost, Christ takes the place of Adam as the father, “The everlasting Father,” of the new world’s population. Hence Adam, as Paul tells us, “foreshadowed the one who was to come,” namely, Christ Jesus.—Isa. 9:6; Rom. 5:14, AT.
Paul in writing to the Hebrews is very explicit that Christ as the high priest of God, ordained to offer greater sacrifices than those offered by the Aaronic priesthood, was pictured by Melchizedek. Melchizedek’s name and the name of his kingdom were significant, and the fact that there was no record of his beginning or ending made him “like no one but the Son of God” who continues as priest forever. “The point is still more clear in view of the fact that the appointment of the new priest [Christ Jesus] resembles that of Melchizedek, for he is appointed not for possessing any legal physical qualifications, but by virtue of a life that cannot end.”—Heb. 5:1-10; 6:20; 7:1-3, 15, 16, AT.
PRACTICAL PICTURES FOR OUR DAY
It would be a great mistake to think that all the prophetic pictures that God had recorded in the holy Hebrew Scriptures had their fulfillment in the days of Christ and the apostles. Rather, one should view such fulfilled pictures as tangible evidence that other prophetic pictures foretelling events in our day will likewise come to pass. In this world’s crisis, thoughtful persons will therefore diligently consider the pictorial events of long ago.
In his great prophecies on the end of the present devilish system of things, Christ said this: “In the time of the Son of Man it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. People went on eating, drinking, marrying, and being married up to the very day that Noah got into the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26, 27, AT; Matt. 24:37, 38) Plainly, then, the events of Noah’s time, the destruction of that wicked generation, and the preservation of righteous Noah and his household, were a graphic and dramatic picture of world events in this day.
“Or as it was in Lot’s time; they went on eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be like that on the day when the Son of Man appears.” Thus spoke Christ in solemn warning! And calling forth this picture of Lot’s escape and the failure of some to heed the warning, he added: “Remember Lot’s wife!”—Luke 17:28-30, 32, AT.
Sodom and Gomorrah, wicked cities beyond reform! It was from such that Lot fled for safety. And it was such cities that the Lord used to picture the present wicked world under Satan’s rule, which is likewise beyond repentance or reform. No, this is not some private assertion. God’s own Word makes this interpretation. It was in the thoroughfares and concourses of this world, of which Christendom is very much a part, that the work of God’s witnesses was killed in 1918. As lifeless as dead bodies they lay “in the street of the great city which is allegorically [“figuratively,” AT] called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified”. (Rev. 11:8, RS) Isaiah’s prophecy, in its greater and final fulfillment, is addressed to Christendom, that “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters” and whose rulers are as the “rulers of Sodom” and whose people are as the “people of Gomorrah”. (Isa. 1:4, 10) Jude warns that those wicked individuals who try to sneak into God’s organization are like those of Sodom and Gomorrah, “filthy dreamers” who “defile the flesh”.—Jude 7, 8.
Nor should the truth-seeker in this time of the end mistakenly think that the prophecies foretelling Babylon’s doom were completely fulfilled in the year 539 B.C. Especially in view of the fact that more than 600 years later a vivid description of “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”, was given in Revelation, chapters 17 and 18. The judgment of doom entered against antitypical Babylon, ‘the great whore with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication and who has made the inhabitants of the earth drunk on the wine of her fornication,’ will shortly be carried out.—Rev. 18:9, 10. From the foregoing it is clear that the Hebrew Scriptures are not mere ancient history, but contain types and shadows of things now coming to pass upon this twentieth-century generation. The entire Bible is profitable for our study, and none have authority to chop off as useless three-fourths of its instruction.—2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Rev. 22:19; Deut. 4:2.