Theocracy and Typology

Geerhardus Vos had an insight into the typological significance of the Old Testament theocracy that I would like to share and expand vis-a-vis the discussion of theonomy. Vos writes:

The significance of the unique organization of Israel can be rightly measured only by remembering that the theocracy typified nothing short of the perfected kingdom of god, the consummate state of Heaven. In this ideal state there will be no longer any place for the distinction between church and state. The former will have absorbed the latter. (Biblical Theology, p. 126).

While the critics of theonomy have correctly pointed out that the modern church and state are distinct, what they often fail to do is tie back in the significance of the theocracy for the future. In other words, the present state of distinction between church and state is a parenthesis. One day in the future, a perfect theocracy (with no possibility of the people’s apostasy) will come into being in its fully ineradicable, eschatologically perfect state.

More can be said, however, since Reformed theology has traditionally also seen a subordinate, imperfect typological relationship between theocratic Israel and the New Testament church. Which aspects of theocratic Israel carry over typologically into the church has been up for debate for many centuries. However, assuming that some sort of relationship along these lines is appropriately biblical, what we wind up with is a double typology: theocratic Israel points forward to the church, and points still further away to the consummated state.

One last point must be made: this typology only works with the person and work of Jesus Christ being the hinge on which all the typology turns. What turns the type into the anti-type? No mere human can do this. Only the God-man can do it. Both transitions from type to antitype hinge, then, on the first and second comings of Jesus Christ, respectively. The typology of theocratic Israel turning into antitypical church promises comes into existence at the first coming of Christ, while the greater typological turn into the new heavens and new earth happens at the second coming.

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