Baptism - The Prophecy
Baptism is an important ritual in the Bible and a long-standing tradition of the church. It's a public declaration of faith that is a personal milestone in the relationship of a believer with the Lord. It is a simple act involving two believers. One believer baptizes the other by dipping them under water and bringing them back up out of the water. The one being dipped makes their profession of faith on the risen Lord Jesus and the one dipping makes a statement about what is being done and why. It is a deep spiritual matter and a one with profound signification. This study explores some of the greater depth of the subject so we at the close of the age can have a foundation for understanding the things that will be happening in the earth.
The Baptism in the Jordan - A Sketch of The First Advent
For preparation, please take this opportunity to read some of the relevant Gospel passages about the foundation of baptism in Matthew 3:1-4, Mark 1:1-12, Luke 1:57-80 and 3:1-4:1 and John 1:6-34. What are you waiting for - GO GET YOUR BIBLE! Ready? OK.
Although it's not stated openly it may be observed that Y'shua was baptized on Yom Kippur. Because events cannot be removed from the context of when they occur, this knowledge that Jesus was baptized on the Day of Atonement is a crucial aid in understanding the depth of this baptism event. Of course, light is also shed upon this holy day as the Messianic baptism was one event it foretold, foreshadowing the baptism through each of its annual "rehearsals." The fact of this Yom Kippur timing of the baptism becomes evident as you compare what was done on that day by the High Priest and what happened to Y'shua. Even further validation of the timing can be found in the celestial testimony because two distinct signs were seen in the heavens in the very year and on the very day Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptizer! (See When Jesus was Baptized - The Celestial Signs)
The following ritual God commanded to be observed on Yom Kippur is presented in Leviticus 16.
7 He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 8 Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell, and make it a sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.
The goat upon whom the lot fell for the Lord was sacrificed for a sin offering. Its life was required. The ritual for the other goat, the "scapegoat" is then described.
20 “When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. 21 Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.
Y'shua played the role of both goats in his baptism. (Some of you might feel a little uncomfortable with the symbol of a goat being used to represent Jesus but you should note that goats and lambs are sometimes interchangeable and that they are sometimes categorized together with other sacrificial animals, each symbolic of a facet of our Lord in a particular role.) As the first goat, Y'shua's blood was symbolically shed and his life given as a sacrifice for sin. This happened when he came to John and was dipped in the waters of the Jordan, as I will explain in detail shortly. Y'shua's selection as the goat being "for the Lord" can be seen in the words John the Baptist declared identifying him as "the lamb of God." (John 1:29 and 36) Y'shua then fulfilled the role of the other goat, the scapegoat. This is pretty amazing! Before the scapegoat was sent out into the desert bearing all the sins of Israel, it first had to have all the sins of Israel placed on its head. This was done by having the hands of the high priest placed on the goat's head while he confessed "all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites." John the Baptist filled the role of the High Priest. How did he first acquire all the sins of the Israelites? Matthew 3:6 declares concerning the Israelites: “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him [John] in the Jordan River.” You see, and this is a stunning revelation, the people confessed their sins to John the Baptizer who was the true High Priest as ordained of God. This High Priest then passed them on to Y'shua in the Jordan, placing his hands on Y'shua's head and making the appropriate confession. Then Y'shua, in the role of the scapegoat, carried them out into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task.
But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert.
21 Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert.
That's right! Did you ever wonder why the Spirit sent him afterward into the desert? Now you know! The Holy Sprit is very often pictured in the scriptures as an unnamed servant appointed for a particular task. Jesus was "led by the Spirit in the desert" exactly as foreshadowed "in the care of a man appointed for the task." Y'shua became that scapegoat and he did indeed carry the sins of Israel into the desert! What an awesome insight into the precision of the holy day appointment book rehearsals! And what an exhibition of the sovereignty of God and His faithfulness to every jot and tittle!
Not very far away from where that actual event that was foreshadowed in the holy day was taking place, the usual activities appointed as the foreshadowing were being carried out by the followers of Moses - at that very same time! The appointed High Priest of Israel who ministered according to the services of Herod's Temple was acting out yet another in a long series of rehearsals, wholly oblivious to the reality of the nearby and concurrent divine fulfillment!
John the Baptist
An aura of mystery surrounds John, the son of Zechariah. Who was he? Was he the Christ, or, Elijah? The disciples, Herod, the common people of Israel; they all alike expressed confusion about who John was. (Luke 3:15, John 1:19-25 and Acts 13:25, etc.) The matter of identifying this unique individual is a feature of his life from its beginning to its end. By means of this feature we're drawn to seek out exactly who this man was, and, in seeking, when we find the answer we receive a vital understanding of deeper truths. The importance of knowing who he represents is given emphasis by reason of the fact that confusion about his identity stands in stark contrast to his very mission. Baptism's very purpose is to reveal identity, to clear up confusion regarding identity, as I'll soon show from the scriptures. This is related to the mystery surrounding Y'shua! Even John the Baptizer himself expressed confusion about who Y'shua was! (Matthew 11:2-19) It serves God's great purposes to conceal identity and reveal it at the right time to the right people.
I mentioned earlier that John the Baptizer filled the role of the High Priest. How does he qualify for this exalted role? As the one appointed to "fulfill all righteousness" with Jesus he had the necessary physical and spiritual credentials and qualifications. He uniquely met the requirements of both the Levitical Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.
To qualify according to the flesh he had to be a Levite descended through the line of Aaron. Both his parents were Aaronites.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.
Beyond the earthly credentials, John was notably different from other men. These differences appear to what made him uniquely qualified.
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
John was different from others who qualified for the Levitical high-priesthood in ways that speak to me of a higher order, the Melchizedek priesthood. He was qualified after the flesh and sanctified after the spirit. Every necessary credential was furnished and every legal requirement met. According to the way of fulfillment of all things, someone had to be qualified and anointed as a genuine High Priest. A shadow does not exist without the thing that casts it. Thus established with full Levitical credentials and in the highest order of priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, John the Baptizer was uniquely qualified and fully prepared (by every legal precedent) to "fulfil all righteousness" with Jesus! When Y'shua was baptized in the waters of the Jordan and given his messianic anointing, John's was the officiating High Priest under the authority of the Heavenly Father! This is one of the hidden identities of this interesting character.
Haven't you ever wondered why such a big deal was made about the naming of John in the first chapter of Luke? The name "John" means "Jehovah is gracious giver." This was the name God required to be given to Zechariah's son, contrary to the tradition of the day. Yahweh's gracious gift was manifested through John by way of his unique qualification to baptize. About this special individual there are so many curious statements made! Though I am unable to give more than a very feeble expression of it, here are some thoughts I have at the present. He is described in a rather broad fashion through much that is touched by the eternal holy spirit. He is so hard to pin down as to who he really is, as to his exact identity, that I have come to see him as modeling the Holy Spirit him- or it-self. The holy spirit is not typically presented (presented in typology) as a prominent personality. The name by which he is known is ever in association with his function - John the Baptizer. In the scriptures, as I mentioned earlier, it is pictured in type as an unnamed servant carrying out the duties assigned by the master with no independent will. In a sense, nameless, faceless. Perhaps this is why, in death, John's body didn't have a head by which to recognize or identify him. On a final note, he played a very important role, crucial to the transition from one kind of administration to another. In a sense, he could be considered as the last Old Testament prophet and the first of the New. He had to decrease while Christ had to increase.
The Symbolism of Baptism
Baptism is a ritual with numerous features. It is first a baptism of repentance. It washes, cleanses, purifies or "sterilizes." It identifies the one baptized with what he or she has been baptized in. And, it reveals.
Baptism is an act signifying personal repentance. It is a work of preparation.
Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.
On a personal level in Judaism today, Yom Kippur is about teshuva, or, repentance, and this is generally the focus of each of the Days of Awe as steps that lead up to Yom Kippur. This is the "baptism holy day."
Washing and Identification
The washing away of sins is related to the Jewish custom of a ritual purifying bath, the "mikveh," which is still observed today by some prior to Yom Kippur as well as at certain other times. (See Leviticus 16:4) Like bathing the physical body in water to remove soil, the person baptized is cleansed spiritually. This is not a mere symbolic act that is devoid of substance but rather a true and vital spiritual cleansing and preparation.
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
5 People went out to him (John) from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
The people came to John, confessed their sins and were baptized in the waters of the Jordan. In the Greek, the word "baptized" literally means "dipped." To be baptized or dipped in the Jordan symbolized dying. The people who were baptized in the Jordan were confessing their sins and became symbolically "dead to sin." As Romans 6:7 declares: “because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”
The waters of the Jordan are symbolically rich in meaning. "Jordan" means "their descent." The water of that river flows out from the mountains down through the body of water called Galilee. "Galilee" means "circuit" ("as enclosed or rolled around," according to J.B. Jackson.) I believe it bears the general signification of life. Life is commonly thought of as a cycle, frequently being referred to as "the circle of life." It is apparent that the inhabitants of the land of Israel depend upon this natural reservoir for its water supply, which means life to the land and its people! The waters of the Jordan flow at the last into the body of water we call the Dead Sea. It has no outlet and literally no life. Now, you see that the waters begin in the mountains, flowing through the Galilee and through the desert plain into the Dead Sea, etching man's fleshly nature and destiny upon the landscape in a wondrously simple allegory. The lesson of this river is threefold. Firstly, the Jordan can be understood as representing the nature of man in which death reigns; that of the flesh. This is the nature of man's descent into a state of decay and corruption. Secondly, this Jordan also represents man's descent into the grave that is his death and burial. These first two lessons are reflected in Hebrews 2.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—
Thirdly, as the waters of the Jordan divide the land as it flows, it divides a kingdom of flesh life from a kingdom of spirit life, a kingdom of "death" life from a kingdom of what is truly life.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:19
As you begin to understand these themes surrounding Y'shua's baptism in the waters of the Jordan you'll gain a greater sense of the beauty and depth of the promise that is Yom Kippur.
I'd like to illustrate baptism by comparison with the familiar process of canning. Let's say that you have some fruit that you want to preserve. A condition of sterility is required to avoid spoilage. You've got to put the sterile fruit in a sterile container or it won't keep. Baptism in the Jordan, in a sense, sterilized the jar. Instead of germs and bacteria, Israel had sin. Now, the whole point of sterilizing the jar is to make it a suitable container for what you're going to put in it, so after the jar is sterilized it naturally gets filled! Consider how this process is in view as it was given Matthew to record John's proclamation.
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
John prophesies about a further dipping, one not with water for repentance but with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He himself had come to prepare for what was yet to come, to sterilize the jars. He promised that another would come along later to add the fruit to the jars. This would be fulfilled in Y'shua.
Here, now is the account of Jesus being baptized by John.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15 Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.
Once this was done and Jesus went up out of the water, he received the spirit from His Father. Please make note that it was only after he came up out of the water that the spirit of God came upon him. It is at that time that Y'shua became, in a sense, the "sterile fruit" that would shortly thereafter begin to be added to the "sterilized jars."
Obviously, being dipped in water gets the thing that is dipped wet. In this way, the thing dipped becomes identified with what it is dipped in. Being dipped in green paint makes one green, right? Being baptized in the waters of the Jordan identified Y'shua with what the Jordan represents; the flesh nature of man in which death reigns. It symbolized his taking on humanity, the nature of Adam in his birth of a woman. This signaled Y'shua's full acceptance of this condition as a matter of His own choosing. Having this nature of flesh, he was consequently subject to temptation, corruption and death. But Y'shua didn't remain in the river - he came up out of the waters of the Jordan! When he had done so, the Holy Spirit came. He then had a new life nature, a spirit nature in which true life reigns!
The "Jordan," or, "their descent" is also symbolic of man's descent into the grave that is his death and burial. He ends up in the Dead Sea. Y'shua's baptism in the Jordan anticipated what was yet to come at the end of this phase of earthly ministry. It symbolized His death at the cross and burial in the tomb. His coming out of the water and receiving the spirit symbolized His resurrection from the dead! It pictured receiving a new kind of life in a new body; eternal life in an eternal spiritual body!
There are pages upon pages of relevant scripture I'd like to render for you here - but I'm not going to do it. Please look at some yourself. Read Romans 5 and 6. Colossians 2:13-14, I Corinthians 15, I Corinthians 1:13. And yet, there is one verse I must include. As succinct a statement that can be made about what baptism means today is found in Romans.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Y'shua's baptism in the Jordan marks the dividing point in his life, the point at which his existence as a "dead" man without spiritual life was officially over. Y'shua HaMashiach's powerful ministry began because He had become anointed with the powerful Holy Spirit! He was no longer a "dead" or lifeless man but one with life that is eternal and powerful! There had previously been no miracles performed but at that point He began to do the things a man with this life could do. He began to truly live! And so we see the allegory of the waters of the Jordan as dividing the land as it flows, separating a kingdom of flesh from a kingdom of spirit; a kingdom of death from a kingdom of life.
During my study of baptism I have observed that in Y'shua's baptism each of the major Feasts are in view. For example, an allusion to Rosh HaShanah is seen as the day he was born of a woman, acquiring the first Adam's nature (on their shared "birth"-day). Then Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles is seen as the Holy Spirit lighted upon him and our God began to dwell among men. Pesah is seen as our Lord would be crucified, be buried and then arise. Shavuot is seen as others too will be baptized in his name. Yom Kippur is shown in this to be as a foundation upon which all the others are based and also as something of a "summary overview holy day."
All the confusion about John the Baptizer's identity is in stark contrast to what John did. A primary purpose for baptism is to reveal identity. When you conclude that Y'shua is the Messiah and you are baptized, there's no confusion at all about who he is, Amen? However, the point I want to make here is that it is baptism itself that reveals identity. Here is John the Baptizer's declaration about Y'shua.
I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.
Baptism is a revelation event. This verse declares that the reason John came baptizing with water was that Y'shua might be revealed to Israel. The identity of Y'shua became known to John just as he testified in the verses that follow the declaration of verse 31.
32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.
So, the identity of the one upon whom the spirit came down and remained became known to John at Y'shua's baptism, and Y'shua was subsequently revealed to Israel as of that day - Yom Kippur. In John 1:29, it was actually prior to the baptism that revealed the Son of God to John that he said, seeing Y'shua approaching, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” You would think John should have at least known Y'shua's identity by then, but it was not until the sign of the dove alighting on Him at His baptism.
Please note here that the sin of the world does not refer to the sins of the individuals. In Judaism it is well known that individual sin is addressed at Pesah. This lamb John saw was to be sacrificed for corporate sin, the sin of the world. The only day on which provision was made for corporate sin was the Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur!
Baptism - Our Identification
Remember that "baptism" means dipping and you become identified with what you're dipped in. If I dunked you in water, people would look at you and say, "Hey, you're wet"! If I dunked you in blue paint... well, you get the picture. When we are baptized in "the name of our Lord" we are identified with "the name of our Lord." Perhaps now when you read the passage in Romans that speaks of our identification with Y'shua, you will understand why the term baptism is used.
2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Isn't that tremendous! You see, John's baptism took place in the waters of the Jordan - of "their descent." In verse 4 above it says that we were buried with Him through baptism into death. No matter where you were when you got baptized with water, you were baptized in the Jordan, symbolically, being baptized into death. In this, we were buried with him being baptized in the name of the Lord. In this, we died to sin. The Messiah died. He was not buried alive! Do you live your life like you were buried alive by letting sin reign in your mortal body? Do you realize that you are really DEAD to sin? It hasn't merely been covered, hidden from sight to appear at some inconvenient time in the future. Verse 7 clearly tells us that anyone who has died has been freed from sin? Hey, you have been baptized - brought from death to life! Let's be alive to God in Y'shua HaMashiach! Amen?
Consider the following:
having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
I Peter 3:18-4:2
So baptism also saves us and allows us to be brought to God. Not the symbolic act itself, but the spiritual work done in the name of our Lord. Oh, the grace of God!
The Sign of Jonah
The name "Jonah" means "dove." Therefore, when we read about the "sign of Jonah" we read about the "sign of dove." Dove also relates to baptism so I can hardly teach one and exclude the other.
39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Jonah-dove was a pattern for Y'shua, who was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth - dead and buried. This was the sign of the prophet "Dove."
Later in Matthew's gospel, the sign of Jonah is mentioned but no further information about the sign is given.
"A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.'" Jesus then left them and went away.
To me, this alludes to his earlier baptism, after which Y'shua then left them and went away - being led by the Spirit into the desert. This event, too, was a sign of Jonah-dove, as the prophet John declared.
32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."
When you realize that John's baptism of Y'shua was also a sign of Jonah, it adds an interesting perspective to the following.
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?" 24 Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John's baptism--where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?" They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' 26 But if we say, 'From men'--we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet." 27 So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
When Y'shua said no sign would be given except the sign of Jonah, he meant it. He hadn't yet died and been buried, but He had already been baptized. Think about it. The sign had already been given. When the chief priests and elders of the people questioned him about the source of his authority, they were, in effect, looking for a further miraculous sign that would confirm his authority. Y'shua replied, referring to John's baptism and, as they would not answer, refused to comply with their request. Fair deal. They had failed to discern the sign of "dove" - of Jonah!
In a previous passage, you may have noticed that I Peter 3 linked baptism with salvation, connecting our Lord's resurrection to the typical pattern of the water of the flood and Noah's ark. Does the role played by the dove in Genesis 8 mean anything to you? Did you know that the ark came to rest on the same calendar day that Y'shua was resurrected?
By the way, now that you understand about the sign of Jonah, just to further establish Y'shua's baptism as having taken place on Yom Kippur let me share with you a feature of Judaism as it is still practiced today. The book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur as part of the minhah, the afternoon service! And so is the following.
18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. 20 You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.
I love that phrase, "hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." Does that remind you of baptism? Yeah, me too!