The Spiritual Realities of Scripture Allegories & Types

Hebrews 10:1; Galatians 4:22-24
       For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things.
      For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by 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.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Paul did not mean that they were not literal facts, but that, being literal facts, they might also be used instructively as an allegory.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Paul certainly does not mean that Moses wrote the history for the purpose of being turned into an allegory, but points out in what way the history may be made to answer the present subject. This is done by observing a figurative representation of the Church there delineated. And a mystical interpretation of this sort was not inconsistent with the true and literal meaning, when a comparison was drawn between the Church and the family of Abraham.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): “These things,” saith he, “are an allegory,” wherein, besides the literal and historical sense of the words, the Spirit of God might design to signify something further to us.

C. H. SPURGEON: Just as we give our children pictures that we may win the attention, and may by pleasing means fix truth upon their memories, so the Lord with loving inventiveness has become the author of many a charming metaphor, type, and allegory, by which He may gain our interest, and through His Holy Spirit enlighten our minds.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): When you would teach a little child in the simplest and most interesting way, you do it by means of pictures. In the very same way did God teach Israel concerning Him who was the consolation of Israel…When they followed the light of the pillar of fire, God wanted to teach them that Christ was the light of this world; that whoso followeth Him shall not walk in darkness. When they gathered the snow-white manna, and ground it in mills, and baked it pans, God wanted to teach them that a bruised Saviour must be the daily food of our soul. When they drank of the gushing river that flowed out of the smitten rock, God wanted to teach them that they might daily receive the full streams of the Holy Spirit from the smitten Saviour—that if any man thirst, he should come to Christ and drink.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Look, therefore, always for Christ in the Scripture. He is the treasure hid in the field, both of the Old and New Testament. In the Old, you will find Him under prophecies, types, sacrifices, and shadows; in the New, manifest in the flesh, to become a propitiation for our sins as a Priest, and as a Prophet to reveal the whole will of His heavenly Father.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The types of Christ in the Old Testament may be considered as twofold—personal and relative: the former describing, under the veil of history, His character and offices as considered in Himself; the latter teaching, under a variety of metaphors, the advantages those who believe in Him should receive from Him. Thus Adam, Enoch, Melchizedec, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samson, David, Solomon, and others, were, in different respects, types or figures of Christ. Some more immediately represented his person; others prefigured his humiliation; others referred to his exaltation, dominion, and glory.

J. C. PHILPOT (1802-1869): The chief difference between a typical thing or type, in the strict sense of the word, and a typical person being this, that the [type] is more marked, distinct, and clear than the latter. In a type every part, or well nigh every part, has its significance, as you would see by carefully reading and spiritually understanding the solemn transactions on the great day of atonement. But you could not say that every part of Joseph’s or of David’s life was typical and representative…Thus that Joseph was sold by his brethren for the price of a servant, that though cruelly treated by them he still loved them, that he delivered them from famine, made himself known to them, bore with all their ingratitude, fed and nourished them—in these various points Joseph resembled and typified Jesus. But we cannot take every event of Joseph’s life and say that it was typical representation which found its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus. So with David, who was eminently a typical representative of the Lord Jesus. But who could take all the events of David’s life and make out of them a typical representation of what Christ was in the flesh?

JOHN NEWTON: As to allegory, the whole Scripture is allegorical in one sense. There is not an idea there of the eternal world, but is represented to us under the image of sensible things…The ark of Noah, the rainbow, the manna, the brazen serpent, the cities of refuge, were so many emblems pointing out the nature, necessity, means, and security of that salvation which the Messiah was to establish for his people. Nor are these fanciful delusions of our own making, but warranted and taught in Scripture, and easily proved from thence, would time permit; for indeed there is not one of these persons or things which I have named, but would furnish matter for a long discourse, if closely considered in this view as typical of the promised Redeemer.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Many Christian people say that they find the books of Exodus and Leviticus so boring. “Why all this detail,” they ask, “about the meal and the salt and all these various other things?” Well, all these are just types, and they are all prophecy, in their way, of what was done perfectly once and for ever by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

JOHN NEWTON: The like may be said of the Levitical ceremonies. The law of Moses, is, in this sense, a happy schoolmaster to lead us unto Christ, Galatians 3.

C. H. SPURGEON: Hidden within their letter, like pearls in oyster shells, lie grand spiritual truths couched in allegory and metaphor.

JOHN NEWTON: The ark of the covenant, the mercy-seat, the tabernacle, the incense, the altar, the offerings, the high priest with his ornaments and garments, the laws relating to the leprosy, the Nazarite, and the redemption of lands;—all these, and many more which I have not time to mention, had a deep and important meaning beyond their outward appearance: each, in their place, pointed to “the Lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world,” John 1, derived their efficacy from Him, and received their full accomplishment in Him. Thus the Old and New Testament do mutually illustrate each other; neither can be well understood singly. The Old Testament, in histories, types, prophecies, and ceremonies, strongly delineate Him who, in the fullness of time, was to come into the world to effect a reconciliation between God and man.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): It is failure to discern the typical import of the Old Testament Scriptures which has cause so great a part of them to be slighted by so many readers of the Bible.

C. H. SPURGEON: It is our firm conviction and increasing belief, that the historical books of Scripture were intended to teach us by types and figures spiritual things. We believe that every portion of Scripture history is not only a faithful transcript of what did actually happen, but also a shadow of what happens spiritually in the dealings of God with His people, or in the dispensation of His grace towards the world at large. We do not look upon the historical books of Scripture as being mere rolls of history, such as profane authors might have written, but we regard them as being most true and infallible records of the past, and also most bright and glorious foreshadowings of the future, or else most wondrous metaphors and marvellous illustrations of things which are verily received among us, and most truly felt in the Christian heart. We may be wrong—we believe we are not.


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