The first is correspondence between events, people, places, etc., of one time, and events, people, places, etc., of a later time. This correspondence is due to the fact that God in his providence sovereignly controls history, and he is consistent in his character so that there are repetitive patterns to his works in history.
Second is escalation from type to antitype so that the later event, person, or thing that can be said to be the fulfillment of the type is much better and greater than that which foreshadows it.
3. Biblical Warrant
Third is biblical warrant. For something to be considered a type, there must be exegetical evidence in the original text that indicates that what the text is dealing with is intended to be a model or pattern for something to follow in history. For example, deliverance through the Red Sea was intended from the start to be a model for future salvation.
Thus, when the major prophets predict a future salvation through the work of a coming king, they are right to speak of it as a new exodus and describe the coming salvation in the language of God’s great deliverance in the past. They are right, because they have correctly understood Exodus 15.
The fourth factor is that the progression of the covenants throughout the narrative plot structure of the Bible both creates, controls, and develops the typological structures across the canon of Scripture. For example, in the covenant with creation, Adam is portrayed as a king-priest who must be an obedient son in relation to God and a servant king in relation to creation. This role is taken up by Noah in the covenant with God that reaffirms the covenant with creation.
Next, in the covenant with Abraham the king-priest role devolves upon him.1 In Exodus 19, we see how Israel as a nation is called to be an obedient son and servant king, functioning in a priestly role in relation to the nations of the world. In the Davidic covenant, this role is narrowed from the nation as a whole to the king in particular. Finally, in the new covenant, Jesus the Messiah fulfills these roles adequately and fully.2
This article is adapted from How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter J. Gentry.
1. See Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).
2. This last point is based on Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, where it is argued that the succession of covenants in scripture (creation, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, New Covenant) are the key to the plot structure of the Bible, and therefore typology, in terms of events, persons, and places foreshadowed, can all be tied to the covenants because these are the Bible’s own categories for structuring its message.