Old Testament “Macro-Typology” and the Christian Life

Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme GoldsworthyView book details at WTS Bookstore 

How is “macro-typology” (Goldsworthy 109-114) crucial to applying the OT Scriptures to the Christian Life?  This short essay analyzes an example of an NT author using macro-typology to explain an OT episode for his audience.

According to Goldsworthy, macro-typology is crucial to applying the OT Scriptures to the Christian Life because it is the method which Jesus and the NT authors utilized to read, interpret, and apply the OT to the believer in the new covenant epoch under the finished work of Christ.  Whereas micro-typology (i.e., typology) in the NT seeks to find in specific OT historical persons, events, or things a shadowy picture that is fulfilled in Christ as the antitype, macro-typology expands this limited typological category to include the epochal structure of the OT as it unfolds in the history of redemption.  This broader definition of typology must be taken into account for the Christian interpreter of the OT because it safeguards our contemporary applications by contextualizing the OT type in its specific historical era of redemption.  Without the use of OT-NT macro-typology, application is always in danger of misapplying the lessons of specific types by not accounting for the methods God was using in that period of history to save or judge his people.  For example, without sensitivity to macro-typology, a well-meaning seminary student, pastor, or teacher, zealous to make a typological application, could make the mistake of the theonomists, who teach that the basic theocratic polity of OT Israel should legitimately be applied to current civil-secular government.  This example is oversimplified, but it is generally true that Christians sympathetic to theonomic arguments do not fully appreciate the differences between the redemptive epochs of OT Israel and the NT church.

Perhaps the clearest example of a NT author utilizing macro-typology to explain an OT episode for his audience is Galatians 3-4 where Paul contrasts the covenant promise to Abraham with the covenant made with Israel at Sinai.  But other NT authors make use of macro-typology to interpret and apply OT passages for their Christian audiences.  In 2 Peter 3:1-13, the apostle teaches that the time of Noah leading up to the flood is a typological example of the final judgment to come at the Day of the Lord.  Peter compares the scoffing unbelievers who ridicule and persecute the God’s righteous people to the scoffers who reacted likewise to the preaching of Noah (Gen 6:1-8; cf. Heb 11:7).  But the scoffers in the NT era are even more foolish because they ignore the message of impending judgment on sin despite the clear example that God has judged sin in the past (2 Pet 3:3-6) through the flood.  This universal judgment of water that happened long ago is a testimony and a type of the judgment to come.  Peter teaches that the floodwaters are the type of judgment to the antitype judgment of fire at the Day of the Lord (2 Pet 3:7-13).  God’s patience with humankind in the old heavens and earth was trodden upon by all of Noah’s generation except his own household; God’s patience is now also trodden upon by unbelievers as they scoff at the promise of God’s coming (2 Pet 3:4) before the coming of the new heavens and earth (2 Pet 3:10-13).  Some of the typology and fulfillment at work in this passage includes (1) judgment by water (the Day of the Lord) and judgment by fire (the Day of the Lord); (2) scoffing in the time of Noah and scoffing in the time of the Church; and (3) Noah the head of the household of faith and Christ the head of the household of faith.  The macro-typology employed in this passage is found not in comparing persons and things to Christ, but in comparing the antediluvian epoch of history up to the flood with the NT epoch of history up to the coming of the Day of God, demonstrating that those under the protection of the faithful covenant head (Noah as type; Christ as antitype) will be delivered from the present evil age and ushered into the new heavens and earth (postdiluvian world as type; new creation as antitype) where evil will be no more and we will experience the blessing of living in God’s new world.

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