Signs, Symbols, and Shadows

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Matt 12:39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and {yet} no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (NAS)

Heb 9:8 The Holy Spirit {is} signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which {is} a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, (NAS)

Heb 10:1 For the Law, since it has {only} a shadow of the good things to come {and} not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. (NAS)

Following is a list of some Biblical ceremonies, events, places, and people treated as signs or prophetic “types” in the New Testament:

  1. Manna, Ex. 16 – Jesus, the true bread from heaven, John 6:25ff
  2. The bronze snake, Num. 21:4-9 – Jesus, lifted up on the cross to cure sin, John 3:14-15
  3. Jonah in the great fish, Jonah 1:17-2:10 – Jesus in the tomb, Matt. 12:39-41
  4. Solomon’s gift of wisdom, 1 Kings 10 – Jesus who is wisdom, Matt. 12:42-43, 1 Cor. 1:30
  5. The passover lamb, Ex. 12:1ff – Jesus, the Lamb of God, 1 Cor. 5:7
  6. The feast of unleavened bread, Ex. 12:15-20 – Christian purity, 1 Cor. 5:6-7
  7. The flood in Noah’s day, Gen. 6-8 – Christ’s return and judgment, Matt. 24:36-41, 2 Pet. 3:3-7
  8. Crossing the Red Sea, Ex. 14 – baptism into Christ, 1 Cor. 10:1-4
  9. The guiding pillar of cloud, Ex. 14 – Jesus guidance and protection, 1 Cor. 10:1-4
  10. Water from the rock, Ex. 17:1-7 – Jesus’ presence and provision, 1 Cor. 10:1-4
  11. Moses the faithful servant, Deut. 34;10-12 – Jesus the faithful son, Heb. 3:5
  12. Priesthood of Melchizedek, Gen. 14:18-20 – High priesthood of Christ, Heb. 5:6ff
  13. Jerusalem, 2 Sam. 5:6-10 – The church, Heb. 12:22
  14. Babylon, Daniel 1-6 – The nonChristian kingdom of this world, Rev. 17:1-18
  15. Hagar and Sarah, Gen. 16, 21:8-21 – Those under law and those freed by the Spirit, Gal. 4:21-31
  16. The tabernacle, Ex. 25-28 – heavenly access by Jesus’ ministry, Heb.8:5, 9:8-10
  17. Elijah, 2 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2:18 – John the Baptizer, Matt. 17:10-13
  18. King David, 1 Sam. 16ff – King Jesus, Acts 2:25-35
  19. Abraham, Gen. 15:6 – Those who are saved by faith in Jesus, Rom. 4
  20. Adam who brought death, Gen. 3 – Christ who brings life, Rom. 5:12ff
  21. Oil for lamps and anointing, Ex. 27:20-21, 29:7 – The Holy Spirit, Acts 10:38, Luke 4:18, Acts 2:33

This list of signs, symbols, and shadows is not an exhaustive list of those specifically mentioned in the New Testament, nor certainly of those found by consistent study of the Hebrew scriptures, but is an illustration of how the Hebrew scriptures were explored, utilized, and taught by the preachers and writers of the New Testament. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4 NIV)

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