Jonah: Part 2
Issue No. 344
Jonah was called to preach the word of warning to the city of Nineveh, but he ran in the opposite direction. He knew that God was compassionate and suspected that the city might repent and be spared. He did not want the city to be spared, because he knew that the Assyrians would eventually conquer Israel.
While on the ship to Tarshish (Spain), God sent a storm that threatened to sink the ship. Jonah 1:7 then says,
7 And each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
Here we begin to see how the law of God is explained by the prophets.
Two Doves and Two Goats
In Leviticus 14:1-7 we read about the law of cleansing lepers, which requires two doves. The first is killed, and the second is released into the open field. Since leprosy is a type of slow death, it represents mortality. This law gives us the legal principles by which death is overcome.
In Leviticus 16:1-22 we read about the Day of Atonement, where the sin of the people is cleansed by two goats. The first is killed to cover sin, and the second is released to remove sin.
Jesus Christ fulfilled both doves and both goats, first by His death on the cross, and secondly by His release into the world (a living work). The law sets forth the spiritual principle, because “the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14). The prophets then walk out those principles by intercession. Jonah, whose name means “dove,” was called to illustrate the principle of the two doves and the two goats, thereby interpreting the law.
Jonah’s name means “dove,” but they cast lots for him as if he were a goat. So Lev. 16:8-10 says,
8 And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord [Yahweh] and the other lot for the scapegoat [lit., Azazel]. 9 And 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 Azazel fell, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat [lit., “for Azazel”].
The first dove and the first goat were both killed in the temple in order to prophesy of Christ’s death to overcome death and sin. Jonah’s first call (to preach to Nineveh) caused him to flee to Tarshish, but in doing so, he became a type of Christ in His first coming. For this reason, Jesus identified Himself as the fulfillment of Jonah’s prophecy, saying in Matt. 12:39, 40,
39 … 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.
Jesus was referring to Jonah’s first call to preach the word, which brought him into the belly of the whale. So also Jesus was “in the heart of the earth” while he lay in the tomb. The death experiences of both Jonah and Jesus, in turn, referred back to the laws in Leviticus 14 and 16.
The Second Work of Christ
Because there were two doves and two goats, we see Jonah being called to go to Nineveh on two occasions. The second calling fulfilled the second dove and the second goat. Likewise, we see Jesus having two appearances and two distinct works to accomplish in the earth. The first was a death work; the second is a living work of some kind. Both find their fulfillment in the gospels, and the book of Acts reveals more details about the second work of Christ.
It is important to know that Azazel does not refer to a scapegoat, but to the devil. Most translators have not understood what the law was saying, so they mistranslated it as “scapegoat.” In Hebrew, azaz means “goat,” and el means “god.” Hence, Azaz-el means “goat-god,” referring to a satyr or faun—a picture of the devil.
When the high priest sent the second goat into the wilderness, the goat was not a scapegoat as such. Lev. 16:21, 22 says of this 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 And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.
A true scapegoat is one who is blamed for the sin of another and then pays the penalty for that sin. If there is any scapegoat here, it is the first goat, not the second, for the first goat is the one that was killed. The second remained alive, for it had a living work to do.
The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place to atone (kaphar, “cover”) for the sin of the people. The high priest then laid the sin and iniquity upon the second goat and sent it into the wilderness to remove sin.
Dealing with the great problems of sin and death each require two steps. For this reason, Christ must come twice. Christ’s death on the cross finished the first work, but He must come again to complete the work.
There is a teaching known today as “the finished work of Christ.” It is based on Jesus’ statement on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Certainly, He finished His first work at that time, but in no way did He mean that the full work was finished. The law makes it clear that there are two works of Christ, not just one, and the prophet Jonah lends his prophetic voice to this truth as well.
As for the problem of death, the first dove was killed to cleanse all mortals (pictured as lepers). However, it is apparent that even believers still die. Mortality was not overcome by the first dove. Instead, the first work of Christ laid down the legal foundation of immortality, giving us the promise of life and ensuring that we will indeed achieve immortality. When Christ returns into the world (“the open field” in Lev. 14:7), His work as the second dove will fulfill His promise and grant us immortality.
The problem of sin also requires two works of Christ. His death on the cross covered our sin, providing atonement. But it is apparent that even believers continue to sin, as even Paul himself acknowledges in Rom. 7:23-25. To cover sin gives us legal perfection through imputed righteousness, where God calls what is NOT as though it were (Rom. 4:17 KJV). Hence, Paul quotes Psalm 32:1 in Rom. 4:7, saying,
7 Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.
Verse 8 admits that such believers yet have sin, but that the Lord does not take that sin into account—that is, He does not hold men liable for their sin, because their sin has been covered. Those who have faith in Christ are forgiven, not perfected. Their sin is covered, not removed.
It takes a second work of Christ to remove iniquity from our hearts and to make us actually righteous.
It is important for believers to understand how this works, so that we do not become disappointed when we discover that our faith in Christ has not removed iniquity, that fleshly desire to sin. Some are given the impression that simple faith in Christ’s death on the cross has the power to remove all desire to sin. While such faith certainly can be helpful and motivational, the first goat cannot do the work of the second goat.
The Baptism of Christ
I believe that Jesus was born on the feast of Trumpets, September 29, 2 B.C. He turned 30 on Trumpets in 29 A.D. (Remember in your calculation that there is no Year Zero.) After Jesus turned 30 years of age, He went to John for baptism nine days later on the Day of Atonement.
His baptism was necessary “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15) and to fulfill the prophecy about the Day of Atonement set forth in the law (Leviticus 16). Baptism signifies death and resurrection (Rom. 6:4). When Jesus was baptized, He was presenting Himself to the Father as One who was willing to die for the sin of the world, knowing also that He would be raised from the dead.
John baptized Him while the first goat was being killed in the temple and its blood was being sprinkled on the mercy seat to cover sin. The dove then hovered over His head, so that we might know that He was also called to fulfill the prophecy of the doves in Leviticus 14. So we read in Matt. 3:16, 17,
16 And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
We see, then, that the timing of Christ’s baptism was set by the law setting forth the temple activities on the Day of Atonement, but He was being dedicated to do the work of the first dove as well.
The Temptation of Christ
Matt. 4:1 says,
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Here we see the start of the second work of Christ, at least insofar as Jesus Himself fulfilled it. Being tempted of the devil fulfilled the law, wherein the second goat was given to Azazel, the goat-god or “devil.”
The law was obscure as to the purpose of the second goat being given to Azazel, and this obscurity caused men to mistranslate it as “scapegoat.” A scapegoat has little or nothing to do with being tempted by the devil. But the manner in which Jesus fulfilled the law proves its meaning.
When the high priest sent the second goat alive into the wilderness “for Azazel” by the hand of man standing in readiness, he was prophesying of the day that the Spirit of God would lead Christ into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Jesus was the goat. The man standing in readiness in this case was the Spirit of God. Azazel was the devil.
It did not mean that the second goat became the property of the devil, nor did it mean that the second goat represented men who could not be saved (as I once heard a man teach). It meant that the Christ (and later His Body) was to be tested in the wilderness before His ministry could begin.
The principle of testing in the wilderness has seen more than one fulfillment. Israel was tested forty years (Num. 14:34). Jesus was tested forty days (Matt. 4:2). The Church was tested forty Jubilees from 33 to 1993 A.D. All of these times of testing, though unpleasant, utilized the calling of the devil for a good purpose.
The Reward for Overcoming Temptation
Our word temptation does not do justice to the concept being set forth in Scripture. It is better translated trial or testing. Whereas Israel and the Church both failed to pass the tests, Jesus succeeded where they failed. Yet both Israel and the Church has had its overcomers—men and women who have succeeded where the majority have failed. Israel had Caleb and Joshua. The Church has had its faithful ones, and though many were martyred for their witness, they received the promise of “a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35).
This better resurrection is “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:4-6), which is the resurrection of the overcomers only. No unbelievers are raised in that first resurrection. The general resurrection a thousand years later (as it says) will see the rest of the dead raised to stand before God at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:11, 12).
Jesus said that this general resurrection would include believers as well as unbelievers (John 5:28, 29), and the Apostle Paul concurred with this (Acts 24:15). Hence, it is clear that the first resurrection will include only a minority of believers, which we call overcomers. These receive “a better resurrection,” better than that of other believers as well as unbelievers.
The Trial of the Second Work
The trial in the wilderness can be seen as the start of the second work of Christ. In Jesus’ example, it is seen as His preparation for ministry. Likewise, Israel’s forty years in the wilderness was designed to prepare them for the work of building the Kingdom. More recently, the Church’s forty Jubilees in the wilderness was supposed to prepare the hearts of believers to build the Kingdom in the Age to come.
Unfortunately, most believers failed to prepare their hearts, both in Israel and in the Church. For this reason, the overcomers are blessed with immortality at the first resurrection, and these are called to “reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6).
There will be many other believers in that day who will then regret their lawless and blind way of life. They will wish that they had taken Jesus more seriously. They will wish they had studied the Scriptures for themselves and learned to hear His voice, rather than relying upon men or church organizations. By remaining mortal, they will die in their own wilderness, even as the Israelites died without receiving the promised inheritance. Nonetheless, they will receive their reward at the general resurrection.
The point is that the time to begin the second work of Christ is now, not later. The greater empowerment will come later with the second coming of Christ, but there is much to be done here and now, though we are yet being tried and tested by the devil.
Our wilderness test is our “Moses” phase, wherein we prepare to receive the Promise under “Joshua.” We all have ministries today on a small scale, for this is part of our on-the-job training. But we should also understand that this is preparing us for a much greater ministry to evangelize the world and bring all things under the feet of Christ after His second coming. We see this in the pattern of Jesus Himself, who began His ministry after His forty-day trial, and also in the pattern of Joshua, whose real ministry began after the death of Moses.
Many have been given the impression that the second coming of Christ will mark their retirement. They think that they will then sit on a cloud and learn to play a harp while singing songs of praise for eternity. They think that suddenly all men will be either in heaven or hell and that the time of evangelism will be finished. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Isaiah 2:2-4 tells us that in that day all nations will send representatives to learn the laws and ways of God. In other words, the greatest Kingdom work in all of history will then begin. Everyone will want to know how the overcomers achieved immortality and righteousness.
The Kingdom of God will be like a “stone” that begins small, but grows until it becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:35). This is the Kingdom of God, the fifth kingdom in the succession of world empires. Its growth will take time. It will take a thousand years. For the overcomers, retirement is not an option. Why prepare all of your life, only to retire when you have finally received the power to participate in the greatest calling ever?
Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:25-27, speaking of the time after the resurrection,
25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet…
There is no mention of retirement in these verses. It is a time of subduing all who think of Jesus Christ as their enemy. He will not subdue or subject all nations in a single moment of time, even though He certainly would have the power to do so. It will take time, because He does not intend to subdue them by military conquest, but by evangelism and by setting forth an example of righteous government and prosperity among Kingdom citizens.
It will be done “not by might, nor by power [force], but by My Spirit” (Zech. 4:6). It will be done, “not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of [godly exercise of] power” (1 Cor. 2:4).
Jonah’s Second Calling
As will see shortly, when Jonah was called the second time, he went to Nineveh and preached the word. The city repented. Their conversion was real, but Jonah did not stay to teach them the ways of God, so it did not last. It is very doubtful if anyone in the city even had a copy of the Scriptures. Nonetheless, their repentance was sufficient to prophesy of a greater work that is yet to be done at the second coming of Christ. Not just a city, but the world itself will become subject to Jesus Christ the King of Kings. His glory will fill the whole earth (Num. 14:21).
All of this will come to pass according to the pattern shown in the story of Jonah. Jonah led no armies to subdue Nineveh. He carried only the Sword of the Spirit, the same sword by which we too will subdue the nations. It is a sword that comes from our mouths through the word of God spoken with power.
The Pattern in Acts
The Spirit of God came down upon the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-3. This was the fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost, the second great feast of the Lord. But many have missed the fact that there was another outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 4:31,
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
This prophesies of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that is yet future, the final move of God that is associated with the second work of Christ. It is characterized, not by the gift of tongues, nor even by tongues of fire, but by speaking the word of God with boldness.
This points to the second work of Jonah, the prophet who spoke the word of God with boldness to the people of Nineveh. The results that Jonah saw in his day prophesy in a small way of the results that we will see in our own time.
So when Jonah 1:7 tells us that the sailors cast lots and that the lot fell upon Jonah, we are to see this as a fulfillment of Lev. 16:8, where the lots were cast to determine the two goats. The two goats in turn prophesy of the two works of Christ, and since Jonah means “dove,” they must also be linked to the two doves in Lev. 14:1-7.
The prophet Jonah is the main prophet in the Bible who illustrates these laws and gives us a prophetic story that reveals the meaning of these laws. Without understanding the story of Jonah, we would be hard pressed to see the two goats and two doves in the book of Acts.