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Death and Resurrection: The Typlogical Structure of Old Testament Redemptive History

Throughout redemptive history a number of typological death and resurrection acts were revealed in Scripture to prepare us for the ultimate death and resurrection of the coming Redeemer. For instance, in the lives of covenantal figures, the life of Joseph is marked by two death and resurrection experiences: first when his brothers throw him in the well and then sell him to the Ishmaelites (death) followed by his being placed over all in Potiphar's house (resurrection). Then there is the account of his being falsely accused and thrown into prison (death) followed by his placed in the second highest place of power (resurrection). The narrative of David's life also reveals a series of death/resurrection experiences. Consider how often David underwent a typological death situation--hiding in caves and rejected by all--that was followed by a resurrected exaltation and enthronement. Daniel was thrown into the lions den (death), had a stone rolled over it, and then was brought out (resurrection) as if he had undergone a figurative resurrection. How can we not see the parallel with the resurrection of Christ in the stone being rolled away prior to this typical resurrection? Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego also underwent something of a typological death and resurrection when they were thrown into the fiery furnace and then brought out unharmed. All of these events in redemptive-history, together with the typological judgment-salvation events, were preparing God's people for the death and resurrection of all deaths and resurrections. When Jesus died and rose again, all was accomplished. The prophetic restoration came to glorious fulfillment. God's people were raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6) and seated with Him in the heavenly places. Vern Poythress makes the important point that "the Old Testament as a whole, through its promises, its symbols, and its pictures of salvation, looks forward to the actual accomplishment of salvation that took place once for all in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ."1 Again, Poythress notes:

At the heart of understanding all the Old Testament books is the truth that they point forward to the suffering of Christ, his resurrection, and the subsequent spread of the gospel to “all nations” (Luke 24:47). The Old Testament as a whole, through its promises, its symbols, and its pictures of salvation, looks forward to the actual accomplishment of salvation that took place once for all in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.2

This is not always easily recognized because of the veil that is often thrown over the anti-type, hidden from the eyes of the unbelieving heart. Poythress takes us through the steps to realizing this principle in the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea. He writes:

Baptism into Moses' in the cloud and in the sea mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 prefigures baptism into Christ, which in turn points to Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection. A whole host of typological events in the Old Testament prefigure the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. In sum, Israel came under the dominion of God by experiencing death in the form of symbolic substitutes.3

O. Palmer Robertson observes how the exodus and the exile/restoration of the prophetic period are linked in this regard. He writes:

The history of Israel in exile and restoration becomes a basis for projection into the future. Just as recapitulation eschatology in terms of a renewed experience of the exodus dominated the futuristic projections of the prophets like Isaiah and Hosea, so also the experience of Israel's exile and restoration provides the basis for prophetic prediction of the future. In this way, the prophetically typological nature of redemptive history under the Old Covenant receives reinforcement both at the beginning and the end of the chosen nation's history. As exodus, wilderness wandering and conquest of the land embodied principles of God's redemptive working, so also exile and restoration communicate truths regarding judgment and deliverance.

The permeating character of the themes of exile and restoration throughout the ministry of Israel's prophets may provide some guidelines for understanding the consummate fulfillment of prophecy in the present age. The fulfillment finds its focal point in the Person of Jesus Christ. As the suffering servant of the Lord, He has gone into the abyss of exile from the presence of God. He has also experienced restoration by His resurrection from the dead and ascension to the right hand of the Father. All who are united to Him by faith have died with Him and been raised again.

At the same time, the people of God await the final restoration that will come with the return of Jesus Christ. The blending of eschatological expectations in the prophets with the imagery of restoration after exile leads naturally to the uniting of these same themes under the expectations of the New Covenant. The rejuvenation of the world that will come with the final establishment of Messiah's reign represents the consummation of expectations embedded in the prophetic predictions of restoration after exile. 3

As to the "judgment/salvation" types of the OT, I wonder if many find their reading of the Old Testament hindered, in part, because they have not adequately come to understand that the judgment/salvation scheme of the Old Testament (consisting in typical judgments and typical restorations) were pictures of what Christ would accomplish for His people in His death and resurrection. In addition to Christ's own death and resurrection, they were types of the spiritual death and resurrection of believers in Him. In short, every picture of judgment and salvation--of exile and restoration--are pictures of the death and resurrection of Christ. Whether it was (1) the judgment of the world in Noah's day, followed by the newly created world that he and his children stepped off of the Ark to inhabit, or (2) the judgment on Babel, followed by the calling of Abraham and the creation of the covenant people, or (3) the judgment that fell on Egypt (culminating in death in the Red Sea) and the salvation of Israel coming out of that Sea (resurrection) as a typical new creation; or (4) the typical judgment-death of Jonah in the belly of the fish, and his subsequent typical restoration-resurrection from the place of the dead; or (5) the judgment-exile that Israel experienced in the Babylonian captivity, which ended in their restoration to the land--God was always foreshadowing the saving work of Jesus for His people.

The judgment-salvation structure is most clearly seen in the judgment-restoration prophecies of the major and minor prophets. The LORD was constantly threatening and executing judgment on Israel for their covenant breaking. Usually He used Israel's enemies to bring subjugating judgment on them for their sin. However, one cannot read the prophets without discovering this radical turn from judgment to blessing. How is it that in the same book the same God can prophecy radical judgment and radical salvation to the same people? The answer lies in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. Perhaps the strongest exegetical proof of this (besides the suffering Servant prophecy of Isaiah 53) is found in Zephaniah. the book of Zephaniah does not open on a happy note. God promised Israel that He would bring about severe destruction for their sin (Zeph. 1:1-7); but, by the end of the book, the LORD promised to save and bless this people (Zeph. 3:14-20). What changed? In Zephaniah 1:7 we are learn that the judgment on Israel is likened to a sacrifice. In explaining the judgment Israel is about to receive, the prophet wrote: "For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests" (Zeph. 1:7). This may be the only time in the prophets that the recipients of judgment are called "a sacrifice." It is language reminiscent to the true and great Israel, Jesus Christ--who became "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" (Eph. 5:2). Christ took the judgment that we deserve so that we might receive the blessing of salvation. In order for the wrath of God to be satisfied and propitiated Christ had to be sacrificed.

The teaching of Scripture throughout--that Christ was judged in our place in order that we might be saved--is heightened by the Adam/Israel structure of the Old Testament. There are two overarching judgment-exiles in the Old Testament. The first judgment-exile in Scripture was that of Adam and Eve from the Garden-Temple paradise. The second exile of the Scriptures is that of Israel being driven out of the Garden-Temple Land. The story of the Bible is the record of the second Adam and true Israel, Jesus Christ, coming to restore, redeem and secure that which Adam and Israel failed to secure. Both Adam and Israel were "God's son" (Luke 3:38; Ex. 4:22). Jesus is the eternal Son of God who obeyed in every way that Adam and Israel failed, and who took the judgement-curse upon Himself for our disobedience. "He was cut off from the land of the living." He rose in victorious triumph to bring in the New Heavens and New Earth for all those He represented.

1. Vern S. Poythress "A Survey of the History of Salvation" (Originally published in Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible's Origin, Reliability, and Meaning, ed. Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), pp. 169-180. Reproduced from an earlier article, "Overview of the Bible: A Survey of the History of Salvation," in The English Standard Version Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Pp. 23-26.]) p. 171

2. Ibid., p. 171-172

3. Vern S. Poythress The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses(Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing; Reprint edition, March 1, 1995) taken from the section titled, "The Significance of Holy War: Justice and Purity."

4. O. Palmer Robertson The Christ of the Prophets (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2004) p. 501

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