Guests: and

Relevant Biblical Passages: Hebrews 8, 9, 10 and 13

Jesus and the Sanctuary. A tantalizing question in the study of the Bible is how to relate Jesus to the Old Testament. Perhaps the most obvious tension between the two testaments is the violence of the Old Testament God and the gentleness of the New Testament Jesus, God incarnate according to the witness of the early Christians. Yet the New Testament clearly and consistently argues that it is the one and the same God at work throughout both testaments.

One of the schemes which Christians have used to link the two testaments is to see essential aspects of the Old Testament as “type” which meet their counterpart in the New Testament as “antitype.” This weeks’ Probe focuses on the differences between Old Testament type and New Testament antitype:

Crucial definitions.

    1. Type. To be brief but clear, “type” is the shadow pointing forward to the greater reality. Thus the Passover lamb was a “type” of the “real” lamb who was to come.
    2. Antitype. The Greek preposition rendered by “anti” in the word “antitype” often means “in place of” rather than “against.” Thus the “antitype” is the “real” person or event which stands “in place of” the ancient “type,” thus fulfilling it. If the Passover lamb was a type, for example, then Jesus was the true lamb, the antitype to which the “type” pointed forward.

Comment: It can be quite misleading to the mix metaphors and symbols when seeking to understand how the Bible presents salvation issues. For example, with reference to Jesus’ role in salvation history, three particular contexts emphasize three distinct aspects of the salvation story.

    1. Isaiah 53 : Suffering servant and the Passover lamb. Interestingly enough, 1 Corinthians 5:7 is the only passage in all Scripture which explicitly identifies Jesus as the true (antitypical) Passover lamb. Isaiah 53 , the suffering servant passage, is central to Jesus’ message and mission, but the Old Testament chapter itself is neither explicitly “messianic” nor does it identify the servant with the Passover lamb. The suffering servant as “Passover” lamb and as “Messiah” are later interpretations, begun in the New Testament and expounded upon in early Christian history. The Point of Passover Imagery: forgiveness of sin.
    2. Hebrews: Jesus our high priest. The interpretation which Hebrews gives to the Old Testament is only possible in the light of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The book of Hebrews is in the New Testament, not in the Old. In this case, Hebrews does not link Jesus with the Aaronic priesthood, but with the Melchizedek tradition. If Jesus portrayed lamb-like qualities in being the true, antitypical Passover lamb, he did not portray Aaronic-like qualities when it came to his priesthood. Hebrews develops its picture of Jesus’ high-priestly ministry by contrasting Jesus with the Levitical priesthood, not by drawing complementary parallels. The Point of High Priestly imagery: direct and full access to God.
    3. Leviticus 16 : Day of Atonement. Early Adventists were drawn to the Day of Atonement imagery because of their Disappointment experience. An end-time judgment came to be seen as a once-for-all antitype, fulfilling the ancient type, the annual Day of Atonement. If a “typical” passover pointed to Jesus as the antitypical passover lamb, then a “typical” day of atonement pointed to the once-for-all antitypical Day of Atonement with cosmic implications at the end of time. The Point of the Antitypical Day of Atonement: vindication of God. Note: One of the major criticisms of Adventist sanctuary teaching stems from the attempt to blend all the metaphors into a grand scheme, rather than to let each metaphor speak specifically to a particular aspect of salvation history. If the point of Hebrews is direct access to God through Jesus’ ministry, then it should not be surprising that passages from Hebrews do not readily support the “vindication of God” theme, the primary thrust of the “antitypical Day of Atonement” aspect of Adventist sanctuary teaching. By letting each metaphor serve its own purpose, there need not be panic or dismay when passages from within one metaphorical cluster do not readily support the thrust of another metaphorical cluster. By thus clarifying our methods, the following conclusion may be proposed: EXEGESIS OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS SHOULD NEITHER BE USED TO UNDERMINE NOR TO SUBSTANTIATE THE ADVENTIST UNDERSTANDING OF THE GREAT ANTITYPICAL DAY OF ATONEMENT.

      Adventists have come to see the great antitypical day of atonement as part of a free-will theodicy in which God ultimately is vindicated before the universe. The book of Hebrews, however, shows little interest in issues of theodicy. It is concerned with issues of personal salvation and access to God. For the biblical antecedents of the Adventist interpretation, one should look first of all to the book of Job, where God is on trial through his servant Job. Leviticus 16 with its presentation of the two goats is also part of this metaphorical theodicy cluster.

      In the post-Reformation era, John Milton focused on the cosmic conflict in his Paradise Lost. C. S. Lewis developed the same theme, especially in his space trilogy and in his Narnia tales. It is Lewis, the literary genius, who calls attention to the re-shaping of biblical narratives for new purposes:

      ” My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are `offended’ by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not.” (A Grief Observed, 52).

For a narrative development contrasting the “Disappointment” of the Disciples with the “Disappointment” of the early Adventists, see Alden Thompson, “The Great Disappointment(s),” published originally in Adventist Review, September 24, 1992 (available on the web at

Comments are closed.