TYPES OF CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
This piece of tabernacle furniture is
described in Ex 27:1-8. It was
constructed of acacia wood overlaid with brass, and was in the form of a rectangular
box measuring five cubits long, five cubits broad, and three cubits high (a cubit is
about eighteen inches). Verse four
mentions “a grate of network of brass,” upon the corners of which were to be,
“four brazen rings,” and verse five directs that this brazen net was to be
placed, “even to the midst of the altar.” This
latter instruction is unclear, but it would seem that in the sides of the altar at
the corners, at mid point measuring from top to bottom, there were holes through
which the rings protruded; and with the staves, described in verses 6 and 7, inserted
through these rings, the net would be held in place in the center of the altar.
It thus furnished support for the fire and the sacrifices; and at the same
time afforded space for the ashes to drop through and accumulate underneath.
The fire that burned thus within the
heart of the altar, and which was never to be allowed to go out, Le 6:12-13, had been
miraculously kindled by God Himself when the tabernacle was first set up, Le 9:24.
It is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and of the zeal for God that burned
perpetually in the heart of Christ.
It was at this altar, located just
inside the courtyard gate, that all the sacrifices were offered, and upon the sides
of which their blood was sprinkled. Students
of Biblical typology are agreed that it is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as the
great Sinbearer. The altar’s dual
composition, wood and brass, typifies His dual nature: in Him were combined perfect
Deity, and perfect humanity. He was
perfect Man, and at the same time perfect God.
Inasmuch as acacia wood is impervious
to decay, it is a very appropriate symbol of the Lord’s humanity, and the reminder
that even in death His body saw no corruption. The
brass or copper which sheathed the wood, and which, though continually exposed to the
fire, was not consumed, is a fitting type of His deity.
It has been noted in earlier studies
that in Scripture, length symbolizes the duration of life; breadth, the character or
quality of the life; while height appears to indicate the character of the life as
viewed by God; and depth, the character of the life from the human perspective.
Inasmuch as five is the Biblical number of responsibility, and the length and
breadth of the altar were each five cubits, the lesson being presented is that the
Lord’s life, from Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s cross, was the perfect
fulfillment of responsibility to both God and man.
The height, three cubits, number of complete manifestation and of
resurrection, reminds us that He was the One Who was “God manifest in flesh”; but
also the perfect Man Who alone could lay down His life and take it up again, entering
heaven as a resurrected Man, the Forerunner of all who will enter that same heaven
through faith in His redemptive work.
The four rings of the brazen net,
which we assume protruded through openings in the two sides at the corners of the
altar, and through which the brass-covered staves were inserted, have also a
spiritual message for the eye and ear of faith.
Some have seen in them symbols of the four Gospels; and in the staves, types
of the two parts of the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments.
The altar thus confined between the two staves, presents us with a symbolic
picture of Him Whose whole life was similarly “confined” by the Scriptures.
Never once in thought, word or deed, did He fail to yield a perfect obedience
to the Father Whose mind and will are presented in those Scriptures.
(Though the New Testament wasn’t written until after the Lord’s death, it
existed in the mind of God, as did the Old Testament Scriptures prior to their being
The union of the altar (type of
Christ), and the staves (type of the written Word) would remind us that He Who was
revealed as the living Word is still with us as the written Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God.... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us....” Jn
addition to all the other offerings presented on that great
brazen altar, one burned continuously: the burnt or ascending offering.
Every morning and every evening a lamb was to be presented, the one to burn
throughout the day, the other, through the hours of darkness, and we may learn much
from this offering burning continuously on the brazen altar.
First, it portrays the eternal efficacy of that one sacrifice offered when the
Lord Jesus Christ, God’s unblemished Lamb, went to Calvary to fulfill all the OT
types and “... through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to
God....” Heb 9:14. The lamb that
burned throughout the day presents us with a figure of the One Whose sufferings could
be comprehended by man; the one that burned throughout the night, reminds us that
there was in the life and death of Christ that which only God could comprehend.
Many see also in the lamb that burned during the night a picture of Christ’s
agony during the three hours of darkness on the cross.
blood-splashed brazen altar and the burnt offering were inseparable, for, as we have
noted, that offering burned continuously. Where
the altar was, there was also the burnt offering.
Surely none will fail to see in this God’s OT picture of Christ.
Who can fail to discern in the blood-caked body on the middle cross, not only
the true “Brazen Altar” enduring the fire of Divine wrath against sin, but also
the true “Burnt Offering” ascending first as incense to God for His glory, and
then for man’s acceptance in the presence of that same God?
How different the OT record becomes
when we begin to see it as the revelation of Christ!
Is it any wonder that the two disciples who had just been given such a
revelation by the risen Lord, exclaimed, “Did not our heart burn within us, while
He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Lk 24:32?
I would envy those two men were it not for the assurance that the same
revelation of the Scriptures is available, through the Holy Spirit, to all who turn
to the Old Testament in sincere search of Christ.