Why did God seed the Bible with so much symbolism?
To answer that question, Dr. David Reagan and I on our television program Christ in Prophecy invited Allan Walker of Allan Walker Ministries from Nowata, Oklahoma. Most Christians are familiar with written and oral prophecies in the Bible, but few seem to be aware of symbolic prophecies. When you become familiar with these, you can find Jesus throughout the pages of the Old Testament. Allan is an expert at identifying what these symbolic prophecies represent, especially concerning the Tabernacle of Moses.
Nathan Jones: You’ll occasionally hear people say things like silver means redemption and so is a symbolic prophecy. My first thought back in the day when I was studying this was, “Where do they possibly get that meaning? And, why does this object point to Christ?” In my search of the Bible I found the answer in Colossians 2:16-17 which reads, “Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food, and drink, or the matters of a festival, or a new moon, or a Sabbath Day. These are a shadow of what was to come, the substance of the Messiah.”
All these symbols and prophetic types in the Old Testament then point to Jesus Christ, and Colossians 2:16-17 says God made them for that reason. But, Alan, why do you think God seeded the Bible with so much symbolism?
Allan Walker: You know how in children’s ministries we’ll use puppets as visual aids? Well, God uses object lessons as visual aids for us as well. We use various teaching symbols to illustrate biblical truth because man being spiritually dead is unable to comprehend spiritual truth. For example, the writings of the Apostle Paul are deep and difficult to understand for the average person, so the Old Testament has object lessons in there that illustrate these scriptural truths. Things that are otherwise seen as allegorical or perhaps just spiritual or mystical are made very real to us through these real life examples. First Corinthians 10:11 says, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”
Dr. Reagan: Speaking of object lessons, they remind me of one time when I interviewed Dr. Charles Ryrie on “Christ in Prophecy.” Dr. Ryrie is known as a great theologian and you would think of him as a great intellectual, though he was a very down to earth and funny person.
Right in the middle of the whole program I asked Dr. Ryrie, “Do you think we are living in the season of the Lord’s return?” He replied, “I can prove it.” He said, “I knew you were going to ask me that question.” He then reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. He then said, “That envelope contains two objects that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are living in the season of the Lord’s Return. Open it up.” So, I opened the envelope and inside was a Euro note and an Israeli shekel note. Then he said, “Those are proof positive that we are living in the season of the Lord’s return, because the Bible says He’s coming back at a time when Israel has been re-established, and the Roman Empire has been revived.”
Later, when the program was over, I said, “Dr. Ryrie, that was a really great illustration. It was like a children’s program where you give object lessons.” He replied, “People think of me as great theologian, but the very first book I ever wrote was a book on object lessons for children. I just love object lessons.”
The Bible is full of object lessons, as you pointed out, Allan. They point to Jesus Christ. Of course, all of that goes over to the book of Revelation where it says in Revelation 19:10, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” That’s what prophecy is all about. It’s all pointing to Jesus Christ. When you learn how to look for it symbolically, you will find Jesus in almost every page of the Old Testament.
My favorite symbolic lesson is the story of Joseph. Just think, Joseph came to his people with a special message from God and they rejected him, the same way with it happened with Jesus. They took Joseph and threw him in a pit, which was symbolic of his death, just as Jesus really died. He was taken out of that, symbolic of his resurrection, and Jesus really was resurrected. He went into a far country just as Jesus has now. He took a Gentile bride, and Jesus is doing that right now by taking a Gentile bride. It says when the Gentile bride is complete, He will appear to His people and they will receive Him. And what happened to Joseph? His brothers came and they received him. So, everything in Joseph’s life pointed to the life of Jesus Christ.
The life of David is similar. David was a person who was anointed to become the king, but he had to wait a long time before he became king, that is until Saul died. Jesus has been anointed King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but He is not yet reigning. He will not reign until He returns. Right now He’s our High Priest in Heaven, but one day He’s coming to reign. He’s just in a period of waiting right now. So, I just love the symbolism of the Old Testament and how you can find Jesus on almost page, if you really look for Him.
Allan Walker: Joseph also had a dream, or vision, which speaks of the fact that God had a plan and purpose before all of his life events came about. Joseph ended up telling his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
God had a predetermined plan and purpose which is worked out through all these stories.
Dr. Reagan: Joseph’s dream was symbolic prophecy. It was pointing to the development of the children of Israel which became the 12 tribes. We have these symbols all throughout the Bible, but we have to be very careful and let the Bible interpret itself.
In the third segment of this series on symbolic prophecy in the Old Testament, Allan will explain the symbolism within the Tabernacle of Moses.