What is an antitype in the Bible?

In the Bible, an antitype is a fulfillment or completion of an earlier truth revealed in the Bible. An antitype in the New Testament is foreshadowed by a type, its counterpart in the Old Testament.

Our terms type and antitype in this situation largely stem from the word tupos in the Greek New Testament. Tupos originally referred to the mark of a blow, like a stamp, and by extension was used to refer to a copy or image, a pattern, or, in many cases, a type. One might say that types have the stamp of the antitype.

One example of type and antitype in the Bible is seen in the theme of the two Adams. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Here, Christ is the antitype, and Adam is the type. Just as death from sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and thus cursed all of humanity, life entered the world through one man, Jesus, and became available to all who would believe. The first Adam is the type fulfilled by the second Adam, Jesus.

Another example of type and antitype is the bronze serpent in the wilderness and the cross. When the Israelites spoke against God in the desert, He sent venomous snakes among them, and many were bitten and died. But upon the prayers of Moses, the Lord provided salvation. “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Numbers 21:8–9). This parallels and foreshadows the cross. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14–15).

Sometimes in the Bible, types are referred to as “shadows” of antitypes (Hebrews 10:1). In this way, one might think of the types in the Old Testament as shadows cast by their antitypes in the New Testament—sometimes distorted in scope and shape, but an indication of something to come.

One can find dozens of types and antitypes in the Scriptures. Often, New Testament writers point out these correlations with language we typically translate into English as “just as” paired with “so.” For example, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish was a type of Jesus’ time in the tomb. Jesus is again the antitype of something in the Old Testament.

Types and antitypes can be people, events, ceremonies, objects, positions (e.g., the priestly office), or even places. The sacrificial lamb foreshadowed Jesus’ sacrifice, bondage in Egypt mirrored bondage to sin, and the flood of Noah is used by Peter as a metaphor for the waters of baptism (1 Peter 3:20–21). Not all things in the Old Testament can be construed as a type, but the Bible does reveal that many elements in the Old Testament were meant as a prophetic foreshadowing of the antitypes to come.

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