By Dr. David R. Reagan
My favorite form of prophecy is symbolic prophecy. The Bible is full of it! You will never love to read the Old Testament until you understand that if you know how to read it you can find Jesus on almost every page, because there are so many symbols of Jesus in the Old Testament.
There are symbols in events. Every feast in the Jewish calendar points to an agricultural event and to something in the past, such as the giving of the Law, and to something in the future, such as what would be fulfilled by the Messiah. Every event is prophetic in nature.
Then there are people who are symbols. The Old Testament is full of people who are prophetic in nature, making them symbolic prophecies. Take Joseph, for example. Joseph is probably the greatest of all of the symbolic prophecies in the Old Testament.
Joseph delivered a message from God to his kinsman, just as Jesus came to deliver a message of God to the Jewish people. What did his kinsman do? They rejected him, just as the Jews rejected Jesus.
What else did they do to Joseph? His brothers took him and dropped him into a pit and left him for dead. They tried to kill him. And what did the Jewish people do? They killed Jesus, along with the Gentiles and others, but they killed Him. Then what happened to Joseph? Along came a caravan that pulled Joseph out, which is a symbolic resurrection, just as Jesus was really resurrected.
Then what happened? Joseph went into a foreign country, just as Jesus went into a foreign country. He’d gone to Heaven.
Then what happened? Joseph took a Gentile bride. Jesus is taking a Gentile bride right now. When He is finished with that Gentile bride, He will take the next step that Joseph did. Joseph revealed himself to his brethren, and his brethren accepted him. Jesus will one day reveal Himself to His brethren, and the Jews will look upon Him whom they pierced and they will weep and wail and mourn. The Jewish remnant will receive Jesus as their Hamashiach, meaning as their Messiah.
All throughout the Old Testament you have these prophetic types.
Take David as another example. When David was anointed to be the king over all of Israel, Saul was still king. David became a king-in-waiting. Jesus is a king-in-waiting right now. Jesus came as our Savior, and right now He is our High Priest before God. When Jesus returns, He will be our King. He’s the anointed King waiting as David waited to come back and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Even inanimate objects are prophetic symbols. One of the most powerful is the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was made out of wood, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be human. It was overlaid with gold, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be divine.
The Ark of the Covenant had three objects in it. One of those objects was the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses, and that was a symbol that the Messiah would perfectly fulfill the Law. There was a pot of manna, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be the Bread of Life. There was the Rod of Aaron that budded, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be resurrected from the dead.
Over it all was the lid which was called the Mercy Seat. Once a year the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat to indicate that one day the Messiah would spill His blood to make it possible for the grace and mercy of God to cover the Law of God, which makes it possible for us to be reconciled. Also on the lid were two cherubim, one at each end, with their wings spread over the Mercy Seat. Their wing tips touched. That was where the Shekinah Glory of God dwelled in the Temple.
When you understand the symbols, they just bring the Bible alive in ways that it never has been understood before.
The symbols also help one understand some things in the New Testament that don’t seem to be all that important. For example, John 20:11-12 is a very simple passage that has a profound meaning. “Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping; and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain.” This seems like a simple historical statement. Mary sticks her head into the tomb, looks over to the burial chamber, sees where the body of Jesus had been lying, and there is an angel at each end. But, if you understand symbolic prophecy, you understand that what Mary really saw when she looked into the tomb was the Mercy Seat. There the blood had been spilled, with a cherubim at each end. This was a symbol that the whole meaning of the Ark of the Covenant had been fulfilled in the life, death, and burial of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 3:16 tells us something very interesting. It is speaking of the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
“Then it shall come to pass when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days, that they will no more say ‘the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit, nor shall it be made anymore. At that time Jerusalem should be called the Throne of Yahweh and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of Yahweh. To Jerusalem no more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.”
When the Millennial Temple is built, there will be no Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The room will be empty. It will not be needed, because Jesus will be there, and He is the absolute fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant as our Lord and Savior.
The Resurrection Validation
There is simply no way to overemphasize the importance of the Resurrection of Jesus to the Christian faith, for the resurrection of Jesus is the Christian faith. Christianity stands or falls on the validity – the historical reality – of the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus is either the greatest event in the history of Mankind, or it is the cruelest hoax that has ever been perpetrated.
Also, the importance of the Resurrection cannot be over emphasized. The apostle Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.” Peter makes a similar statement in 1 Peter 1 where he says that the Christian hope is based on, “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Based on these statements from Scripture, I don’t think it is any exaggeration to say that the resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Christianity stands or falls on the assertion that Jesus rose from the dead.
That’s why when Peter preached the first Gospel sermon ever on the Day of Pentecost, the focal point of his message was the Resurrection. He boldly proclaimed: “This Man Jesus of Nazareth, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross, and God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
In all their preaching and teaching, the Apostles focused on the Resurrection as the event that set Christianity apart from all other world religions. And, they were right to do so. The Resurrection is the unique stamp of Christianity, for only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder. No resurrection has ever been claimed for Abraham, Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammed.
Again, as Paul puts it in Romans 1, “Jesus was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” In other words, it is the Resurrection that validates Jesus as God in the flesh.