Biblical Symbols

Biblical Symbols, Types and Shadows

Most of us only know some of the written Word but do not understand the use of symbols in the Bible. Furthermore, most are unaware that the Bible has several symbols that aid in understanding and enhancing the Word, especially in prophecy. A study module is used for a lot of website programming, such as news and others – I plan to use it in our study of the Bible.

I will write a summary in the main narrative and link it to details in study modules and Bible verses. Most of these modules can be read in less than thirty minutes. Therefore, I suggest that you spend a significant amount of time studying these modules. Make this a major study and come back often. You will find several links to Bible verses and other websites. Just click on the link. Some of these links will open a separate window – close the window to return to your study. Some links require you to click on the arrow in the upper left window to close and return to your previous study module.

This section is titled Biblical Symbols. This would include types, patterns, shadows, and numbers. It contains symbols and much information we don’t get when reading only the Biblical narrative. I will use this site to add any information that will aid your studies.


Many symbols are embedded in Biblical Scripture that we don’t understand or recognize as we read the Bible. God does not want the unbeliever to understand the Bible fully – He wants them to be saved by the blood of Jesus and to become spirit-filled believers. Therefore, he gave the born-again believers the Holy Spirit to aid in interpreting the Word.

“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:13-14, NKJV).

Many people say they cannot understand Biblical prophecy. One of the reasons is that prophecy is filled with symbols we do not understand. This study is essential if you plan to study my site on last-day prophecy that I plan to add later. Learning about ages (dispensations) and covenants is also essential in understanding the Bible. If you have yet to study this site, I recommend studying it before studying the symbols. Just click the link “Ages and Covenants.”

The author sees the Bible through a different lens than most people. He begins with a top-down view through a Biblical telescope and drills down to the details with a Biblical microscope.

He sees the Bible as a collection of books that, when taken as a whole, presents a living testimony of a Supreme Being who reigns over the universe that He himself created. In the beginning, God established a master plan for this universe, and throughout the ages, He has slowly and progressively revealed this plan to mankind.

The author also believes that at the beginning, God established a timeline that He has been following and will continue to follow until He destroys the old heavens and earth and creates new ones. This timeline is what we call “The Plan of the Ages.” We are told in Scripture that God knew all present and future occurrences from the beginning (Acts 15:18). Since He knew all His works from the beginning, He numbered the days. That means that in the timeline of the ages, from the creation of the earth’s foundations through its destruction, God planned what would happen each hour and each day and would see His plan to completion.

The heart of God’s plan was the incarnation of His son, who died for our sins and was resurrected to reign over our lives. His death, burial, and resurrection are pivotal in all events of all ages. This author has tried to tightly weave the Old and New Testaments together around the work completed upon the cross. Prophecy related to Jesus’ incarnation and crucifixion will be shown below. As the great theologian Augustine once said about Holy Scripture: “In the Old Testament, the New is concealed; in the New, the Old is revealed.”

From Genesis through Revelation, the Bible is the story of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind and the restoration of heaven and earth. The entire Levitical law was given to show God’s standard of living and to prove that mankind was unable to keep it because of their sin nature. Jesus kept the entire Levitical law and satisfied all the requirements on the cross. The apostle Paul stated it this way, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4-5a, NKJV).

Many of God’s programs could not be completed until Jesus paid for them on the cross. Therefore, the incarnation of Christ was also perfectly timed with God’s master plan. The Apostle Paul writes that in the fullness of the time, God sent His son made of a woman, made under the law.


 “A type is a divinely purposed illustration of some truth. It may be: (1) a person; (2) an event; (3) a thing; (4) an institution; or (5) a ceremony. Types occur most frequently in the Pentateuch, but are found, more sparingly, elsewhere. The antitype, or fulfillment of the type, is found generally in the New Testament” (Scofield New Reference Bible, p 6).

God uses types, numbers, patterns, and shadows as standard symbols to foretell Biblical truth. They are as much a part of the general scope of prophecy as the written prophecies are themselves.  Along with the written prophecies, number systems, and the continuity of truth, they bind the Old Testament to the New Testament and help define the golden thread of scripture.

We must be careful to recognize what makes something a valid type. They are usually found in the Old Testament and find their fulfillment in the New Testament – in the person of Jesus Christ. However, there are some types related to the coming Antichrist. If we carefully study, scripture will affirm types for us. Many are given as examples, patterns, or other forms of divine messages God wants to communicate. They are inspired in the same way as any other scripture and are intended by God for either admonition or instruction. Finally, types are predictions that foreshadow what was future at the time of the Old Testament.

Some Examples of Different Forms of Types

1. A person as Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and David – “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (Rom 5:14 NKJ).

2. An Event such as the preservation of Noah, redemption from Egypt, lifting the brazen serpent, or the sacrifices blessed which were of God – “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11 NKJ). 

4. A ceremony such as appointments for the service of God – “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7 NKJ). The leaven is a symbol of sin.

5. The entire Levitical Law was a type of Christ and His work on the cross. 

Other Types

Note: Some of the references for materials used above are from the Scofield Reference Bible and Chafer’s Systematic Theology.

There are many others we could list. For a web discussion on types of Christ: click “Types of Christ.”

Biblical Shadows


“In the letter to the Colossians Paul noted that many of the institutions and commands revealed under the Law of Moses were, “things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” Colossians 2:17. The same thrust is found in Hebrews 10:1 “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things”.  In reference to the tabernacle in the Old Testament, the Hebrew writer notes that the Levitical priests served, “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5).

“The term ‘shadow’ means, ‘A reflection, a phantom, a silhouette”’ (Barclay p. 88).  “A glimpse and shadow” (Rhm); “A mere outline and shadow” (Mof); “Only a pattern or reproduction” (Phi). The words rendered “copy” and “shadow” are nearly synonymous and are like our English words “likeness, copy, and imitation”. “It may be fairly well detailed, but it is not the original” (Reese p. 127). “Many of the Old Testament institutions were ˜types” or “previews of coming attractions” (p. 127).

Source: Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017

Many times, a shadow is a double prophecy. The first prophecy is a shadow of the second prophecy.

For examples of double prophecy and shadows in prophecy, click “Double Prophecy and Shadows.”

For a good web source for studying types and shadows, click “Shadows Of Good Things To Come.

“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things” (Heb. 10:1a, NKJV).

The Levitical Law

The Levitical Law was a portrait of Christ in types, patterns, and shadows: The book of Hebrews was written to the Jews and the writer went into detail about how the death of Jesus and the work completed on the cross fulfilled the Levitical Law. Below are two studies of a picture of Jesus. The first is a summary version, and the second is very detailed. We have very limited knowledge of the Law because it can be very difficult to read. I have tried to overcome this as we again see the Old Testament fulfilled in the New Testament.

For a summary study of the types of Christ in the Levitical Law, click: “The Levitical Law.” Then, you can return and continues your studies.

For a comprehensive study of the types, patterns, and shadows of Christ in the Levitical Law, click: “A Portrait of Christ” Note: you may want to read the summary version first.


The following is a list of other symbols and key Biblical information. Just click on the subject to link to the study module. You can return to where you were before clicking.

  1. The Biblical Number System
  2. The Seven Old Testament Feasts
  3. “The Order of the Resurrections”

Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible, copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version© NIV© 2011 by Zondervan Corporation.  Used by permission. All rights reserved. Used with permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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