The type is not useless. The type has its redemptive-historical function. The temple in Jerusalem was not useless. It was used as the center for the acceptable worship of the true God, but it also pointed beyond itself to Christ. The Land of Canaan was likewise a type of heaven (e.g., Heb. 10:10, 16), but functioned as the holy land and the place of Yahweh’s special presence under the Old Covenant. Circumcision pointed to heart-circumcision (e.g., Rom. 2:25-29; Col. 2:11-12), but it was not useless by itself because it distinguished the covenant people of God. So likewise, forgiveness under the Old Covenant could never bring redemption whereby we are cleansed from our sins, but did provide earthly and temporary forgiveness in the Land of Canaan. It is important to realize this aspect so that we would pay attention to the types in their own specific context and not immediately jump to the antitype.
Dr. Renihan explains the vital importance of understanding two-level typology, saying:
The blood of goats and bulls took away sins only on the level of the purification of the flesh. But it could not purify the conscience. Animal blood was a way to satisfy the demands of the Mosaic covenant in order to remain in Canaan. But it could never satisfy the demands of the covenant of works in order to escape Hell. The beauty of typology is that at the same time, this entire system was designed to teach the Israelites about substitutionary atonement and remission of sins through blood.
This is typology functioning on two levels. On an earthly level, animal sacrifices had a real function and purpose and meaning. And that meaning was substantially distinct from its antitypical meaning. The blood of goats and bulls is not the blood of Christ, and their forgiveness was not the forgiveness that Christ’s blood affords. Nevertheless, they made Christ’s forgiveness known.
This is a vital point of typology. And it is the case in every example of typology. All typology functions on two levels. For instance, the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness, the provision of the wilderness manna, or the tabernacle and temple sacrifices, each had an initial and provisional meaning in their own original context. At the same time, they all point to a secondary referent and meaning in a Messianic kingdom context.
Dr. Renihan summarizes that “types reveal that which is greater and other than themselves. They have a purpose and meaning in their own contexts, and when their fulfillment arrives, they are removed.”
It is important to mention something about that which is called the Law of Creation or the Moral Law here. What I mean by that is the Moral Law of God that is put in us by virtue of us being in His image (see chapter 4:2 on the image of God). This Law of Creation was given to Adam and Eve from their creation. The Lord put into their minds and hearts certain basic laws which all humans have. This basic Law was summarized in the Ten Commandments and given at Sinai. You don’t have to know the Ten Commandments to know, for example, that stealing, coveting, lying, murdering and dishonoring God are wrong. You know it intuitively. ...