“[Ancient Israel] Was Merely a Type, a Shadow of the Spiritual Realities of a Better Day” (Louis Berkhof, 1951)


Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) “was a Reformed systematic theologian whose written works have been influential in seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States and Canada and with individual Christians in general throughout the 20th century” (CCEL). Berkhof taught at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1906 – 1944, and served as its president during his last 14 years there. Wayne Grudem called his Systematic Theology, published in 1932, “a great treasure-house of information and analysis…probably the most useful one-volume systematic theology available from any theological perspective.”

Nine years before his death, in 1948, Berkhof watched modern Israel become a nation. Three years later, in 1951, he published a book with a long title: The Kingdom of God: The Development of the Idea of the Kingdom, Especially Since the Eighteenth Century.Here’s a quote from that book, concerning ancient Israel and the emergence of a modern nation with the same name. What do you think of Berkhof’s statement here? I find myself agreeing with him:

“The theocratic nation itself was merely a type, a shadow of the spiritual realities of a better day, and therefore destined to vanish as soon as the antitype made its appearance. The restoration of the ancient theocracy in the future would simply mean the recurrence of the type – to what purpose? – and not at all the establishment of the Kingdom. It should be borne in mind that the beginnings of the Kingdom of God existed long before the theocracy was established, and continued to develop, and even after it lost its national existence. And the founding of the Kingdom in the new dispensation was in no way dependent on the fortunes of the Jewish nation” (Louis Berkhof, The Kingdom of God…, pp.170-171).

Of course, Berkhof didn’t say that the Jewish people were “destined to vanish,” only national Israel along with its previous significance. As we know, God created “in Himself one new man” from Jews and Gentiles who trust in Him (Ephesians 2:15), and God has kept a remnant from among the Jews (Romans 9:27, 11:5).

At least two earlier posts here also address this topic:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel” shows how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John all demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus. In other words, Jesus is Israel, and it’s no surprise that Paul calls Jesus’ followers “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

[2] “Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel” deals with a passage (Isaiah 66) that many say predicted Israel becoming a nation “in one day” in 1948. It shows that Isaiah instead predicted the birth of the Church, the downfall of earthly Jerusalem, and God’s embracing of the Jerusalem from above.

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11 thoughts on ““[Ancient Israel] Was Merely a Type, a Shadow of the Spiritual Realities of a Better Day” (Louis Berkhof, 1951)

  1. What a failure God is. Unable to keep His promises to a land and a people. Having to settle for a “spiritual reality” because He was unable to keep and bear up under the disobedience of such an obstinate people. That whole costly plan and a majority of the Bible had to be discarded as simply a type and a shadow… or maybe the simple minded like myself can ignore such an arrogant take on scripture that chooses to belittle the plain meaning of Romans 11:25-36. Israel the nation, the people the land, the whole package deal that the great and precious promises were made to are shut up in disobedience until until until until “they” shall say “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord”. Jewish and Gentile believers in this day, get in on their mercy because of the disobedience of the majority of the Jewish nation, then we in gratitude for that mercy show mercy to them in a yet to come time of Jacob’s trouble. God pours out the Spirit of grace and supplication and He receives glory as for 1,000 years the redeemed nation walks in their calling. This great and marvelous plan causes Paul to “totally go off” in the most ecstatic song of praise in the Bible, Romans 11:33-36. I submit if all that he was showing was Plan A was a total bust, so God switched to Plan B, that would not have brought forth such a song to the praise of His glory. I submit that ditching 100’s of promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, specific promises about the land and the people does not inspire praise. The current political state is not it, but it is a necessary regathering in unbelief for the time that is to come and to dismiss it as unnecessary is to simply point out that you are blind to the over arching salvation plan of God that includes a redeemed born again nation. Please do not slice and dice Eph. 2:15 out of the entire section that it is a part of Eph. 2:11-22 The entire section speaks of believers being brought into their commonwealth, their promises, their covenants, NOT NOT NOT, nullifying them but being brought into them by grace. Why do the specific promises to a people and their land have to be discarded as types and shadows? Why isn’t God big enough to have the current body of believers walking in a down payment a limited expression of what will one day come in its fullness to the praise of the sovereign mighty God who KEEPS ALL of His promises. I leave you and the blind Mr. Berkhof with Romans 11:18, fair warning from the heart of the apostle… “Do not boast over the branches and pride yourself at their expense. If you do boast and feel superior, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root [that supports] you.” AMP Here is what this view of scripture misses out on….”You don’t have the Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed to all nations, you don’t have the resurrection of the righteous dead, you don’t have the consolation, regeneration and regathering of Israel, you don’t have the vindication of the Abrahamic covenant, you don’t have the vindication of the Davidic covenant, you don’t have the vindication of the new covenant, you don’t have the establishment of the earthly throne of Jesus, you don’t have the judgment of the nations, you don’t have the restoration of all things, you don’t have the comfort of the saints with the destruction of their persecutors, you don’t have the end of exile, you don’t have the blessed hope, you don’t have the completion of the mystery, you don’t have any of the glorious realities bound up in the enduring promises of God.” I pray for those reading this to simply read the scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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    • Matthew 28 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

      The kingdom of God is not a place or country but people. True Israel is the kingdom of God. Why would God only concern Himself of a tiny piece of land when His kingdom has expanded all over the earth! Of course Old Covenant Israel was the shadow of New and better and bigger Covenant!

      Hebrews 9 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

      All authority, all the earth, bigger, better in every way! So how can you say there are promises that have not been fulfilled when we are to gather people into God’s kingdom over the whole earth? Is the promise of eternal inheritance a lesser promise than gathering Jews to a small piece of land so they can have a new temple and a king to rule over them?

      1 Peter 1: 10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

      And finally one last scripture. Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them,[c] embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

      WE HAVE THE BETTER COUNTRY!

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    • Chuck,

      The spiritual realities (so many of them!) that we have in Christ are not something that we “settle for,” as if they are inferior. I’m sorry you see it that way – for Jews or for anyone. A remnant of the Jewish people are walking in these realities now, and have walked in them for the last 2000 years, along with non-Jews who trust in Christ. These realities are available to everyone: “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved'” (Romans 10:13, Joel 2:32).

      The realities we (Jews and non-Jews alike) have in Christ are not Plan B. They are Plan A. Jesus was the Hope of Israel, and He found prophecies “in all the Scriptures” about Himself, which He shared with a couple of representative Jews who were feeling hopeless one day after His resurrection: “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel… And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:21-27). That’s it. The land isn’t their hope. Their hope and redemption were/are found in Jesus, in every generation, and not just at an alleged cataclysmic moment at the end of human history, missed by every previous generation during the last 2000 years.

      In Jesus is “a more excellent ministry,” and “a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). This is Plan A. God has a “redeemed born again nation.” It’s the Church, and it’s bigger than the Jewish race ever was or will be. There are Jews in that nation, and those Jews on the outside of it are welcome to join.

      At the end of your comment, you said that my (and Berkhof’s) view of the Scripture misses out on the following:

      ”You don’t have the Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed to all nations, you don’t have the resurrection of the righteous dead, you don’t have the consolation, regeneration and regathering of Israel, you don’t have the vindication of the Abrahamic covenant, you don’t have the vindication of the Davidic covenant, you don’t have the vindication of the new covenant, you don’t have the establishment of the earthly throne of Jesus, you don’t have the judgment of the nations, you don’t have the restoration of all things, you don’t have the comfort of the saints with the destruction of their persecutors, you don’t have the end of exile, you don’t have the blessed hope, you don’t have the completion of the mystery, you don’t have any of the glorious realities bound up in the enduring promises of God.”

      Aside from “the establishment of the earthly throne of Jesus” being absent from Scripture, I’m completely mystified as to why you’d say these things are negated by the belief that Jesus is Israel and that no Israel outside of Him has anything to do with God’s promises. In your last point, you said, “you don’t have any of the glorious realities bound up in the enduring promises of God.” Seriously? None of them? How about all of them? “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). This was true even while national Israel was still standing, before it met its demise in 70 AD.

      The mystery of God is “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:4-6). Peter declared that the tabernacle of David was being rebuilt as God gathered multitudes of Gentiles to Himself in Christ, alongside Jews (Acts 15:12-17). Regeneration and regathering have long been taking place in Christ. Exile is ended in Christ. The Abrahamic covenant is wrapped up in Christ (see Galatians 3, etc.). I don’t know what you mean by “vindication of the new covenant,” but Jesus established the new covenant at the cross (Hebrews 8:6 again – “was established…”).

      On the first point (“You don’t have the Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed in all nations”), Scripture itself declares that this was fulfilled more than 1900 years ago:

      [1] “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven… And they were amazed and astonished, saying… ‘we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God’” (Acts 2:5-11).

      [2] “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Romans 1:8).

      [3] “Now to Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations…” (Romans 16:25-26).

      [4] “…the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing… (Colossians 1:5-6).

      [5] “…if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister (Colossians 1:23).

      Regarding “the comfort of the saints with the destruction of their persecutors,” Paul told the Thessalonians that wrath was just about to come upon those who were troubling them and that they would soon experience rest:

      “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thessalonians 2:14-16)

      “…[We] ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:4-8).

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  2. I can only find 3 references to a “shadow” in what some call the New Testament and all 3 have to do with Christ fulfilling the Mosaic Law. No argument there. My problem is that Israel as a people and a land are not referred to as merely types and shadows anywhere. Paul was not satisfied that the majority of Jews had rejected Jesus and so they were rejected end of story. What I stated about his plainly spoken, divinely given, understanding in Romans 11 is still true.
    I have no argument with the great commission and delight in every soul that is saved during this “time of the Gentiles” but I don’t pretend that our blessing steals their ultimate national blessing prophesied in so many scriptures that Adam’s blog would blow up if I listed them. We do have a heavenly country, great for us, but God can still keep His promises to them, in fact if He does not keep His promises to them He is not God. Peter’s primary ministry as recognized by Paul was “to the Jews” and the letter to the Hebrews was written to …well isn’t it obvious! In closing judgment must begin with us, the predominantly gentile gathering. There is suffering before glory. There is a great crying need for mercy to fill our body to overflowing, so that the unbelieving Jewish people who are about to re-live the nightmare of the holocaust will have some Ten boom like people in the earth who will show them mercy at the cost of their own lives. 1 Cor. 4:7 “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”

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    • Chuck,

      I believe that what Peter says in Acts 3 is key in response to what you’re saying here. All Jews who wouldn’t listen to Jesus, who was raised up as a Prophet like Moses, would be cut off from among God’s people. Yet Jesus was sent first to the people of Israel to bless them through salvation, forgiveness, and redemption, in fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.

      “22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. 25 You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:22-26).

      This is the ultimate blessing, and it’s for the people of all nations.

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  3. I have a choice believing the esteemed Mr. Berkof or believing this section of sacred scripture. “And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them. And they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever” (Ezek. 37:24-28).

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    • The scriptures speak of a “covenant” with a people and a land, promised for a 1,000 generations and an everlasting covenant. That kind of wording is way, way, way, too strong for a type and shadow that is going to pass away in a fizzle and pop of disobedience that nullifies the whole thing. Psalm 105:7-11 “He is the Lord our God;
      his judgments are in all the earth.
      8 He remembers his covenant forever,
      the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
      9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
      his sworn promise to Isaac,
      10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
      to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
      11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
      as your portion for an inheritance.”
      But how will God overcome the disobedience of this rebellious nation. The exact same way He overcame our sinful, wicked, enemies of God’s hearts, by pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication, only not on an individual, but on a nation. Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” It is all in the book and it is a whole lot more than types and shadows.

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    • I won’t say it’s easy to explain/interpret Ezekiel’s reference to the land here, so I don’t plan to try. One thing we know, though, is that Jesus sits on the throne of David today (Acts 2:29-36), and He is the King over God’s people. We also know from James that Jesus has built the tabernacle of David in the Church (Acts 15:14-19).

      We also know that, in Christ, God has already placed His sanctuary in the midst of His people. Paul quotes from this very passage in Ezekiel 37 (and/or the parallel passage in Leviticus 26:12) to say that we are the temple of the Lord, His dwelling place:

      “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[b] are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people’” (II Corinthians 6:16).

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      • “I won’t say it’s easy to explain/interpret Ezekiel’s reference to the land here, so I don’t plan to try.” I appreciate that honest assessment. When “land” is inextricably tied to the words “everlasting covenant” it is kind of hard to explain away.

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  4. Excellent post Adam.

    quote: “The theocratic nation itself was merely a type, a shadow of the spiritual realities of a better day, and therefore destined to vanish as soon as the antitype made its appearance. The restoration of the ancient theocracy in the future would simply mean the recurrence of the type – to what purpose? – and not at all the establishment of the Kingdom. It should be borne in mind that the beginnings of the Kingdom of God existed long before the theocracy was established, and continued to develop, and even after it lost its national existence. And the founding of the Kingdom in the new dispensation was in no way dependent on the fortunes of the Jewish nation” (Louis Berkhof, The Kingdom of God…, pp.170-171).

    From reading a number of accounts of 70AD, it would appear the greatest loss Israel experienced, was that of being a God sanctioned theocracy. This loss was final.

    The founding of the Zionist movement seems to be an attempt to recreate Modern day Israel into some type of misguided form of a theocracy: of course man-made. This is why i have always believed it (Zionism) will ultimately fail. In many ways, most actually, it is an exact copy of the Dominionist movement’s actions we see taking place in groups like the NAR.

    Yes, i believe ancient Israel (as a theocracy) was to have been a “type” of the glorious theocracy we will be abiding in when Jesus returns, and as we live (spiritually) in today. Just as Burkhof noted, though Israel failed to display this to the world, “the Kingdom in the new dispensation was in no way dependent on the fortunes of the Jewish nation”.

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    • Thanks, PJ. I agree that ancient Israel’s downfall in 70 AD was final, and that current attempts to resurrect it as a theocracy are futile. A couple verses in Deuteronomy 32 come to mind:

      “And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what THEIR END will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith‘” (Deut. 32:20).

      “For they are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them. Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their LATTER END! (Deut. 32:28-29).

      If Deuteronomy 32 predicted “the end” of national Israel, and this was fulfilled in 70 AD (which it was), then there would be no room for believing that the creation of modern Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy or a resurrection/continuation of ancient Israel. From Don K. Preston’s book, “Israel 1948: Countdown to Nowhere,” I learned that Tim Lahaye and Thomas Ice (2001) teach that Israel’s judgment in 70 AD was predicted in Deuteronomy 28-29 (in their 2001 book, “Charting the End Times”). Of course, both Lahaye and Ice also teach that Bible prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation in 1948, and that this was a major sign of the “end times,” etc.

      National Israel met its end in 70 AD, but God’s Israel, His Son and His Church, continues until today (and forever).

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