Substance & Shadow

The purpose of this study is to demonstrate how God uses past events in His word to foreshadow future events. We refer to this as the 'substance and shadow' principal of God's word: the past event being the 'substance' and the future event being the 'shadow'. This is a common method of operation used by God to allow man to discover some of the hidden secrets in His word.

Here we will study some of the examples that will add clarity to this principal as well as discovering two particular events that have been hidden in the word, but that are now uncovered and very relevant to our lives today.

Sign Of The Messiah

In the Old Testament there is the Book of Jonah. Events in Jonah's life foreshadow events in the future that Jesus, Himself, said determine the sign of the Messiah. Messiah to the Jews meant their expected deliverer. Let's read...

Matt 12: 38-41
12:38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove that you are from God."

12:39 But Jesus replied, "Only an evil, faithless generation would ask for a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.

12:40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

12:41 The people of Nineveh will rise up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And now someone greater than Jonah is here and you refuse to repent.

Jesus is clearly defining the 'substance' in Jonah's life that is casting the 'shadow' into the future of how to identify the Messiah when he comes; namely, death and the remaining in the tomb for three days, and resurrection back to life on the third day.

Let's compare the 'substance' in Jonah's life to the fulfillment in Jesus' life.

What Jonah did
as the "Substance"
  • Jonah lived
  • Jonah was obedient to the death
  • Jonah gave his life for others to live
  • Jonah died
  • Jonah was in his tomb for three days
  • Jonah was resurrected on the third day
  • Jonah decreed a 40 day warning from God to repent after his resurrection
What Jesus did
as the "Shadow"
  • Jesus lived
  • Jesus was obedient to the death
  • Jesus gave His life for others to live
  • Jesus died
  • Jesus was in His tomb for three days
  • Jesus was resurrected on the third day
  • Jesus decreed a warning as God for a 40 day period after His resurrection

From this example we gain a basic understanding of how God uses the principle of "Substance and Shadow" to fulfill His word, and how that which casts a shadow is distinguished from the shadow itself. Meaning that Jonah and Jesus were two different people separated by hundreds of years as to when they lived on the earth. But God used events in Jonah's life to foreshadow [to cast a shadow of] the events that Jesus would duplicate in His life hundreds of years later.

Let me add one thought here that may answer the question in some minds as to Jonah, and that is: How do we know that Jonah died? The simple answer is: Because Jesus died. Jesus pointed at Jonah and said:

"I'll do what he did to prove that I came from God".

And then Jesus did what Jonah did: He died. They both died!

Jesus completes the sign of Jonah through His death and resurrection, and thus confirms He is fulfilling the role of the Messiah to the Jews. But the Jews refused to accept Him as their Messiah.

The Feasts Of The Jews

Additionally, by His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus is simultaneously fulfilling [as the substance] another group of shadows that were cast by God for the Jews. They are known as the Feasts of the Jews. These are the 'set times' established by God for the Jews and were partially intended for them to be able to recognize their Messiah when He came. The Apostle Paul speaks directly to this issue when speaking about the Feasts he says in Col 2:17:

"they are shadows of things to come, but the substance is Christ."

There are Seven Feasts of the Jews given to them by God through Moses. Jesus fulfilled the first four at His first coming. They include:

Jewish Feast And "Shadow" Cast
  • Passover: Salvation - Blood - Obedience
  • Unleavened Bread: Overcoming corruption and evil
  • First Fruits: Presenting a sheaf of wheat from the first harvest
  • Pentecost: New offering 50 days after First Fruits of the completed loaf of bread from the sheaf of wheat
Jesus Fulfills As "Substance"
  • Passover: Jesus provides salvation through His blood
  • Unleavened Bread: Jesus overcame corruption and evil but not for himself
  • First Fruits: Jesus is the sheaf of the first harvest of Resurrection
  • Pentecost: Jesus was the new offering made by the Apostles 50 days after First Fruits

And again we see how the word of God is the substance issuing the Feast Days; and the Feast Days are cast forth as the shadows. And then Jesus comes as the substance and fulfills the shadows of these first four Feast Days.

And even though Jesus fulfilled these additional signs of their Messiah, the Jews still would not accept Him. And the Apostle John confirms this in John 1:11 which states:

"He came unto his own, and his own received him not."

This is why God revealed the mystery of the Church to Paul. The Jews refused God's Messiah, so God called on Paul to establish the Christian Church who would accept Jesus as their Messiah.

It is at this time that God looked upon the Nation Israel as separate from the Church and referred to the Church as the grafted on branch of the tree of the root of Abraham. Paul makes this very clear in Romans 11:16-22 where he explains that the "setting aside" of National Israel is like a nurseryman cutting off natural branches to allow for the grafting in of unnatural branches. The unnatural branch is the Christian Church!

For their reward for accepting Jesus as the Messiah, the Christian Church, which the Apostle Paul calls the 'Body of Christ', is promised to be taken off of this planet and taken to Heaven just prior to a seven year time period of great tribulation on the earth, which is called the wrath of God. The event of these Christians being taken off the earth or disappearing is called the Rapture of the Church.

It is commonly held by Christians that they cannot know the day of the Rapture of the Church. For the most part they base their understanding on the authority of Matt 24:36 or Mark 13:32. We have debunked this false understanding in our study entitled: Can we know the day when the Rapture of the Church will occur?

The answer is YES we can know the day when the Rapture of the Church will occur, and we will demonstrate how the 'substance and shadow' principal of God's word reveals the timing for the Rapture of the Church.

Rapture's Timing Revealed

Up until now we have established that Jesus: lived, died, resurrected, and remained on earth for 40 days, and how that made Him the substance that fulfilled the foreshadow of those events in the life of Jonah. Thereby, pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.

We also know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus, while remaining on earth for 40 days in His resurrected body, was appearing to His disciples and others and was instructing them in His message of repentance. It is at the conclusion of those 40 days that Jesus gives His final instructions to His disciples and then Acts 1:9 says:

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

This event is known as the "Ascension" of Jesus Christ bodily into heaven.

Now we fast forward to the future event that the Apostle Paul was shown and that the Christian Church calls the Rapture. Remember, the Christian Church is referred to as the 'Body of Christ', so the picture that is painted of the Rapture of the Christian Church is that of the 'Body of Christ' ascending into Heaven.

Once again, the "substance and shadow" principal of God's word uses past events to foreshadow future events.

So, let us ask if there is a past event in God's word that foreshadows the future event of the Rapture of the Christian Church; or asked another way; is there a foreshadow of the Body of Christ ascending into Heaven?

And the answer is indisputably YES!

The Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven is the foreshadow of the Rapture of the Christian Church!

It is the 'Body of Christ' going up into Heaven in both instances!

At this point the question becomes when did Jesus ascend? He died on Passover, was raised three days later on First Fruits, and ascended 40 days after that.

Therefore, God's 'set time' for the Rapture of the Church is 40 days after the Jewish Feast of First Fruits!

And there's more....

40 Day Warning Sign Of The Rapture

The 'substance and shadow' of God's word also reveals the WARNING sign that precedes the Rapture by 40 days. The Apostle Paul when writing to the Thessalonian Church regarding the Rapture says:

I Thes. 4:16
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

These 'dead in Christ' will rise 40 days before the Rapture, and they will go into Jerusalem and witness to living people that Jesus is the Messiah. How do I know this? Because it happened before! In the Gospel of Matthew where it is talking about Jesus coming out of the tomb it says:

Matt 27:52,53:
27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which were dead arose,

27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

This scripture is revealing that after Jesus was raised from the dead many others were also raised back to life. And they went into Jerusalem [the holy city] and appeared to many other people. Their purpose in appearing 'unto many' was as a witness that they themselves had been raised from the dead, and to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah. And 40 days after their resurrections they ascended to Heaven with Jesus.

So here we have Matt 27:52,53 as the substance casting a shadow into the future when another group of dead people, referred to as the 'dead in Christ' of Paul's Thessalonian letter, would 'rise first', and be a witness in Jerusalem as their predecessors were, and then 40 days later they will be joined by the living in Christ and together they all will ascend to Heaven in the Rapture. And thus the Rapture will have a 40-DAY WARNING period.

The Apostle Paul was emphatic for the Church to WATCH, WARN and REJOICE as they see their redemption draw near. And now you know how this will be accomplished as we are to:

WATCH for 'the dead in Christ' to rise on First Fruits.
WARN others of the countdown to the Rapture when the dead rise.
REJOICE as we watch our redemption draw near in the 40 day countdown.

What Jesus Did As The "Substance"
  • Jesus resurrected on the Jewish Feast of First fruits and others resurrected with Him. Matt 27:52,53
  • Jesus and those that rose with Jesus stayed on earth 40 days and appeared to many people in Jerusalem and declared. Jesus' resurrection as well as their own and proclaimed Him to be the Jews Messiah
  • Jesus Ascended bodily into Heaven on the 40th day after the Jewish Feast of First Fruits and at the same time also led those into Heaven who had risen with Him. Acts 1:9 Psalm 68:18
What Paul Saw As The "Shadow"
  • Paul saw the 'dead in Christ' being resurrected on the Jewish Feast of First fruits IThes 4:16 Col 2:17
  • Paul saw the 40 day time period when he uses the word 'then' in IThes 4:17 to separate the raising of the dead in Christ from the joining of them to the living believers in Christ prior to both of them meeting Jesus in the air.
  • Paul saw the Body of Christ, the Church, both those that were resurrected and those that were alive at the time, ascending into Heaven or being Raptured on the 40th day after the Jewish Feast of First fruits. IThes 4:16,17 Col 2:17


In the beginning of this study we said that here we will add clarity to this principal of 'Substance and Shadow' as well as discovering two particular events that have been hidden in the word, but that are now uncovered, understood and very relevant to our lives today.

The first of these particular events is the Rapture of the Church, and that we can know the day the Rapture will occur.

And secondly, that the Rapture will be preceded by a supernatural warning sign of the 'dead in Christ rising' 40 days prior.

Once we understand God's principal of 'Substance and Shadow' and how He uses this method of operation to show how past events reflect future events we are able to truly watch our redemption draw near.

And remember God always warns His people.

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