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.


  1. November 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

    Yes. Excellent! Thank you.

  2. roberty bob said,

    November 21, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Our Lord Jesus Christ is ruler of the kings of the earth — King of kings — here and now, right? If so, then every nation is under obligation to pledge their allegiance to King Jesus and to live by faith in accordance with all that He has commanded, right? In other words, Christendom! “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. We give thanks to Thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast, that Thou hast taken Thy great power and begun to reign.” — Rev. 11: 15,17

    If that reign has now begun — it has, hasn’t it? — then the righteous nations will obey Christ.

  3. roberty bob said,

    November 25, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Today many Christian denominations celebrated this Lord’s Day in honor of Christ the King: the end of the church year calendar. In my church I heard a sermon, or explanation, of Psalm 24 in which Israel prepared to enter the presence of God their King with clean hands and pure heart. I appreciated the pulpit acknowledging that there was a time when God’s kingdom actually was established here on earth — what you call the Old Testament theocracy; but then I was sorely disappointed when this same pulpit asserted that the rule of Christ is waiting to be established at his second coming. If God’s everlasting kingdom runs through Israel’s King David culminating in King Jesus, who now reigns forever, then why is it that “Christian” pulpits are so shy about proclaiming Christ’s kingdom as an established reality here and now? If we confess that Christ actually does reign, then what is this talk about Christ not establishing his rule until he returns? I thought that Christ rules over all here and now and forever, world without end! That fact that every knee has not yet bowed and every tongue confessed does not negate the reality of Christ now having an established kingdom. Does it?

  4. January 7, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    […] defective about the nature of the saeculum, which is the age between the advents of Christ. Greenbaggins invoked Vos to explain the peculiar character of the period when the ministry of word and sacrament defines […]

  5. p duggie said,

    January 7, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Does the idea of a typological picture of theocratic eschatological perfection make sense when we come to consider the book of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes?

    but those books contain holy sacred wisdom for a ruler to consider and practice and Paul cites some of the book of Proverbs as rules for Christain ethics (romans 12:20 for one, but there are lots of others)

  6. greenbaggins said,

    January 8, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Paul, you are forgetting the subordinate imperfect typology I mentioned in paragraph three. I would chalk your example mostly up to that. I still think that there would be a fuller typology pointing to the final age when sin is no more. But what that looks like, I’m not sure that the Bible has spelled out in terms of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes.

  7. Dave Sarafolean said,

    January 9, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Old Life gave you a shout out…

  8. January 20, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    […] defective about the nature of the saeculum, which is the age between the advents of Christ. Greenbaggins invoked Vos to explain the peculiar character of the period when the ministry of word and sacrament […]

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