The Feeding of the Five Thousand
The biblical accounts of the feeding of the five thousand offer a wonderful story of loving concern and a miracle of provision. Beyond that it is a sign, a prophetic parable! The story is a valid historical record, yet, there is much more to it than meets the eye. This miraculous provision of physical food with a temporary physical benefit is the Author's testimony of a supernatural provision with eternal benefit! It is a prophetic witness of the last days, of this season during which eternal life is offered and which will shortly be brought to its conclusion in resurrection. It testifies to us now of the resurrection of the Bride and the sealing and commission of 144,000 sons of Israel. In its context we also find parables of the next resurrection in sequence, linked to the first in a most excellent way!
I had first written of this subject back in the mid-nineties and hadn't revisited the study until now, August 2008. I had been content with the presentation until just recently, when I was struck by how long it had been since I wrote it and how popular it has remained. In revisiting it I have been blessed with far more insight into the symbols present. That increase translates into more quantity as the page has grown from one of the more abbreviated to one of the more robust presentations on the site. While it has taken considerably longer than I anticipated to post this update, the time invested has been so thoroughly enjoyable as I have known the Lord's presence in the undertaking. What a joy it is to know and serve Him, the bread of life! I pray you will find His presence with you in this adventure in discovery that is, itself, a breaking of bread.
Here is the account as given in Matthew.
13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” 17 They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18 And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.
The sixth chapter of John opens with another account of this event. Verse 14 reveals what you will soon see in detail, that this event is a sign, a prophetic sign.
Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."
Note that we are told in the narrative what the people saw was a sign, not a miracle. They said he was a prophet, not a miracle worker, not the messiah. The event is being presented as a prophetic sign.
There are those who, when they see a sign, focus on the sign itself rather than looking beyond it to what is signified. This happened to many of those who ate, and this testimony of verse 26 is a parable of those who still read the account and see only the miraculous provision of physical food.
Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
We need to see beyond the natural to the spiritual, beyond the veil to the reality being signified in those things that were seen and done. The context within which the parable is to be understood is discovered in John 6 as we relate Jesus' subsequent teaching to the sign that had been performed. The sign is presented in verses 1-15 and the teaching about it appears later in the same chapter.
Jesus Teaches How to Interpret the Sign
The following passage indicates that the miraculous feeding was a sign pertaining to eternal life and resurrection.
39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
The food represents what the Son of Man gives that endures to eternal life, so it is a salvation message that must be heard and believed.
27 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." 28 Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."
The Bread is Y'shua
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.
Jesus taught how to interpret the sign, and those with ears to hear receive the instruction. The bread fed to the multitude represents the living bread Jesus, that came down out of heaven. This bread was not what people saw with their physical eyes, the flesh after the pattern of the first man Adam, but rather that which came down from out of heaven. This bread is the invisible, spiritual and supernatural, the eternal life that came when His mother Mary was overshadowed and became pregnant, and, when He was baptized and the spirit descended upon him like a dove.
The distribution of the food to the five thousand is a picture of Jesus revealing Himself, which is also the work of the holy spirit and through it the ministry of those with His life flowing in and through them.
The food is eaten, figuratively, as the Word Himself is revealed and believed. There is life in this eating of His flesh and in the drinking of His blood because of the living Father who sent Jesus, for Whom He lives. (47-58)
Consider the wonderful figure of speech employed in this sign, how it is perfectly appropriate for what is signified. Food that is eaten is consumed. After being eaten it is then no longer food. Its previous identity and character has been sacrificed, yet, in being eaten, its identity and beneficial value, its life is imparted to the eater! As it is in the natural with food, so it is in the supernatural with Y'shua!
Jesus took the loaves, broke them and gave them to His disciples. The act of breaking bread is a beautiful and profound symbol picturing the opening of their understanding.
This miraculous feeding is a dramatic presentation of what is declared in Romans 10! If this chapter isn't fresh in your mind you may benefit from pausing to read it now.
The loaves of bread were made from flour, which is grain that had been ground. The bread is similar in type to the "saving grain" of Egypt that Jacob had sent his sons to fetch from the hand of Joseph. (Genesis 42)
The Hour is Already Late
There are many symbolic elements of the sign that fit within the framework Jesus established in His explanation about this remarkable parable of eternal life and resurrection. The general time frame is in view as this event took place "as evening approached." It was "already getting late" before they began, speaking thus of the end of the age.
When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves."
All indications are such that we have indeed arrived at the twilight of the age, my friend.
To Buy Food
The disciples made the observation that the place was desolate and asked Jesus send the crowds away so they might buy food for themselves. This is the same figure employed in John 4.
For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
In John 4 (See The Bridegroom and the Bride), the Bride is distinguished as having food already, while those who are not the Bride are pictured as having the need to go to the villages or the city to buy food for themselves. A desolate place is one that is remote to a village or city, where such food may be purchased. This speaks of the dire condition of the world and of the church at the end of the age when so few have such food as required for the salvation in view. It is indeed a desolate place as that of an end-time famine of the food that is the true bread from Heaven.
Bread and Fish Fed
The account feeding of the five thousand is woven tightly together with John 21, a chapter I get very excited about since I came to understand it as a parable! (See the study: The Twenty-First Chapter of John). Aside from the accounts where the amount of food was multiplied, John 21 is the only other biblical account where Jesus feeds people bread and fish. (There is a similar account where four thousand are fed instead of five thousand, but the focus in this study is on the feeding of the five thousand.) The Greek word translated "fish" in the account of the feeding of the 5000 is "opsarion." (Strong's #g3795) It refers simply to that which is cooked and eaten with bread, and we infer from the context that it is fish. This Greek word is only found in two chapters, which fact serves to bind John 6 (verses 9 and 11) and 21 (verses 9, 10 and 13).
Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.
When considered as prophetic parables these two historical accounts that are the feeding of the five thousand and the account of the feeding of the disciples in John 21 have many elements in common. There are some important differences, too, but both testify of the same season and events.
The Number Five
The number five is the most prominent number in the account. There were five loaves of bread. Numbers in scripture have specific themes associated with them. One associated with the number five is "grace." "Five" also signifies the present church age, as it may be considered an age of particular grace. According to some dispensational accountings, this is now the fifth in the series of ages beginning with the original paradise. The number five also signifies the Bride, a truth revealed in connection with the Bride-type Benjamin.
At a ratio of a thousand to one, these loaves were fed to the people identified with the number 5×1000. In principle, any given number multiplied by tens can usually be seen having the same meaning as the number being multiplied. For example, 50, 500 and 5000 share the meaning of the number five. It may also be observed that multiples suggest the scope or scale of application. A base number may imply an interpretation on the individual level while the number multiplied by ten implies an interpretation on the level of a community, a larger collection of individuals. A number times one hundred implies national, and, times one thousand, global. As numbering five thousand, the people fed are identified to us as though tagged with the meanings of the number. The five loaves fed to the five thousand signifies the true bread from heaven fed to the world in this age. This is sufficient food and sustenance that is appointed for the fullness of this age and all its people - "about five thousand men" "besides women and children"!
The number five thousand also factors out as 54 × 8. The number eight signifies a transition, a new beginning. The sign declares both an end and a beginning, a transition from one age and people to another.
The Five-Fold Ministry
As they received of the five loaves, the disciples distributed it to those who were seated. There is in this another astounding truth to be seen in the number five! The number five has come into popularity in recent years as referencing the five-fold ministry, which I believe is quite relevant!
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
These "offices" and abilities to minister are given by Y'shua "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service." When the disciples fed the food to the people they were "building up the body of Christ," you see! Serving people the bread of the five loaves pictures the working of five-fold ministry as disciples go forth in the world ministering as apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors teachers. Jesus had told the disciples: "You give them something to eat." This was their duty. If you are one with eyes that see this is now our duty! The true bread from heaven, Jesus, is being served to the people of the world so that they can believe on Him unto eternal life, and the gifts of this service claimed by many to be extinct are manifestly active as this age draws to a close!
Isn't this prophetic sign an awesomely beautiful revelation? Praise the Lord for His works and His word!
The Meaning of Barley
From John 6:9 we learn that these loaves were made of the grain barley. Barley is known in particular as a sacrificial crop. It has been and continues to be the practice of some farmers to grow a crop of barley in a field only to plow it under as it ripens. This conditions the soil so the next crop to be grown in the field will prosper. It is thus sacrificed for the sake of the next crop. Does that sound like Y'shua, sacrificed for the sake of the next crop in the Lord's harvest field? Certainly! Others who follow His example by taking up their crosses and laying down their own lives likewise become a sacrificial crop, a barley people.
The Barley Harvest
The conclusion of this age is signified in the declaration that "They all ate and were satisfied." (Luke 9:17) This comes with what we understand as implicit, judgment and resurrection.
The account in John 6 reveals which resurrection is in view.
Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.
The Passover feast is associated with the barley harvest. This is the feast at which Y'shua as Barley was harvested and the one appointed for the harvest of His barley people, the Bride. The resurrection parable is thus associated with the barley harvest, revealing that the particular resurrection in view is the Bride Theft. Confirmation is found in the context of the account by way of a very specially related symbolic event sandwiched conspicuously between the feeding and the explanation of its meaning. I'll expand upon this later in the study.
Set in Martial Array
Another symbol may be observed as Mark's testimony of the event describes Jesus' direction to organize those who will eat into groups.
39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.
Observe how the number 5 appears again. It is the number of loaves, found in the number of men fed, and, found in the numbering of the groups. One hundred factors to 52 × 4 and fifty factors to 5 × 10, or, 52 × 2. For a simple story about the miraculous multiplication of food to contain such detail as we see here makes no sense to casual readers of the Bible. It seems to be something of a waste of space taken up with useless detail, or, perhaps, as the mere addition of color to enhance the drama in storytelling. However, those who see beyond the veil know full well there is nothing trivial or superfluous in the Bible. There is meaning in everything! Profound truths come to be known as the holy spirit draws our attention to such detail in the light of prophetic symbolism, in the matter of types and shadows. I believe this division of the people signifies that all the peoples of the world (the number 4 means "world") will ultimately receive the testimony of Jesus, every division (the number 2), every people, every nation, affirming and validating what was noted as the meaning of the 5000 men, plus women and children.
The feature of people being set in array as organized into fifties is common to another resurrection sign, the crossing of the sea at the exodus from the land of bondage. (See The Exodus Archetype) This is clear from the literal rendering of the Hebrew.
and God turneth round the people the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea, and by fifties have the sons of Israel gone up from the land of Egypt.
Exodus 13:18 (YLT)
Verse 18 has been translated in a wide variety of ways. Most translators associate the manner of organization with a battle formation.
- "and the children of Israel went arrayed out of the land of Egypt." (DARBY)
- "and the children of Israel went up by five in a rank out of the land of Egypt." (KJ21)
- "the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt" (KJV)
- "And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt. " (NKJV)
- "And the Israelites went up marshaled [in ranks] out of the land of Egypt." (AMP)
- "and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt." (NASB)
- "And the Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation." (HCSB)
- "The Israelites left Egypt, prepared for battle." (CEV)
- "The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle" (NIV)
- "and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt." (ASV)
- "Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle." (NLT)
A view presenting the people being fed at the end of the age in such a martial array has implications on the physical plane and on the spiritual. This sign speaks to me in the natural that the time of the end will be characterized by war between the nations of the world. Of the level of the supernatural, the martial array into which those who ate were organized speaks to me of the preparation for war in the heavenlies, the putting on of the whole armor of God, for the evil day is almost upon us.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Whatever the precise meaning is of this definite ordering, it is certain that it ties the two parables together. The exodus and the feeding of the five thousand are signs that bear witness to the same event!
Reclining on the Green Grass
In verse 39 more symbols were introduced as the people were directed to sit on the green grass. The symbols of "green" and of "grass" merge into one. Consider the following, just two of many scriptures that reveal the meaning of "grass."
A voice says, 'Cry out!' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.
For, 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,'
I Peter 1:24
Grass represents men who are by nature inconstant and impermanent. These bodies of flesh are merely mortal, frail and temporal. As commonly expressed in a figure, we are, indeed, "Here today and gone tomorrow." As we consider how men are like grass we understand that grass is green only for a season. Its end is ever in sight. It shortly withers. Colors, like numbers, are symbolic, and the color green signifies life as you see it in nature. The word "green" used as an adjective refers to the youthful stage of a thing, when it is vigorous, not yet having attained the fullness of age.
The direction for the people to be seated (Strong's #g347 anaklino) creates an ordered scene in contrast to some standing, some seated or perhaps without specific direction simply milling around as people tend to do in disorganized crowds. All without exception who are served and eat are fixed in this condition. The numbers of the groups are fixed and their placement on the green grass is fixed and their state of repose is fixed. The scene is ordered and all are seen as subject to the authoritative word. I have noted in other contexts where this reclining posture commonly taken while dining appears to consistently indicate that those seen in this posture are a symbolic representation of a particular body of people in the last days.
Putting this together now, in being seated on the green grass we see the signification that, as grass is green while it flourishes, men are fed during this appointed season when the church flourishes. While we as the body of Christ are in the "flower of our youth," we will eat and serve the bread of life. Soon enough, as this age draws to an end a drought will come, and a wasting famine. No longer will the figurative grass be green but withered and brown, friends. This present season of feeding and being fed will surely pass away.
Let's give more consideration to the symbolism of the food. In addition to the bread there was fish. Fish represent people.
9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."
The two fish fed to the multitude were miraculously multiplied and then consumed alongside the barley loaves. From Luke 5 above ( and 1 Corinthians 12:12,27 Ephesians 5:23) we learn to interpret the fish Peter caught as individuals who become members of the body of Christ, with Y'shua as the Head. Eating the fish is therefore eating the body of Christ, which compares to eating the barley bread that Jesus taught was eating his flesh, his body. footnote #1
The Fish - Two in Number
What truth is revealed in the quantity of fish? Why are there two fish? The number two means "division." The fish are therefore of two kinds. As I search the scriptures for insight into these divisions I find two compelling interpretations.
Two Fish: the Wicked and the Righteous
The only place in scripture where fish are divided into two categories is in Matthew 13.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In a related allegory people are as a crop in the field to be harvested. Here, people are as fish in the sea to be caught in a net. The parables of Matthew 13 generally picture the church. It is shown as over time becoming Babylon, a mixture of the holy and the profane, leavened. (The meaning is hidden from those who cannot see Babylon because they are too close, themselves "Babylonian.") The fish in this parable of the kingdom of heaven are the very same fish caught by the apostle Peter and the other appointed fishers of men. They are "fish of every kind," which is to say a Gentile collection of every nation and tribe. The fish here are those as fed to the five thousand, "two fish" in number in that there are two categories of people; wicked and righteous. These are separated at the times of judgment and resurrection (like as with the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30). The event in view in this parable of the dragnet is the Bride Theft, the first harvest at the close of this age, where those not gathered into containers will be thrown away into the fiery furnace that is a picture of a season of great tribulation.
The profound lesson I see in this is that not all who eat of these fish and become satisfied during this age become righteous. Consider how each person seated on the green grass and organized into their numbered group was fed what was distributed to them. Each ate of one or the other of the two fish and consequently became in kind according to the fish eaten, whether wicked or righteous. All ate of the true Bread and therefore become "saved" but yet by their deeds a distinction is made among them. All receive a white robe, in another figure, but some soil them and at the time of accounting (being caught in the net) are found not having washed the robe in the blood of the Lamb, unworthy, wicked. With reference to yet another figure, the wicked and righteous are sorted as into sheep on the right and goats on the left.
Two Fish as Pisces, the Constellation: Jew and Gentile
The scriptures reveal that the heavens declare a salvation message about Christ. Among the heavenly witnesses is found a sign pictured as two fish bound together with a cord by the tails. This celestial sign is popularly known as Pisces. The meaning of Pisces is what I have just been presenting from scripture, the same! It symbolizes the multiplied numbers of the Lord's people in the context of His coming.
E. W. Bullinger wrote the following about Pisces in his popular work Witness of the Stars, and I believe what I quote here is valid.
The ancient Egyptian name, as shown on the Denderah Zodiac, is Pi-cot Orion, or Pisces Hori, which means the fishes of Him that cometh.
The Hebrew name is Dagim, the Fishes, which is closely connected with multitudes, as in Genesis 48:26, where Jacob blesses Joseph's sons, and says, "Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." The margin says, "Let them grow as fishes do increase." It refers to the fulfilment of Genesis 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply." The multitude of Abraham's seed is prominent in the pronouncement of the blessings, where God compared his future posterity to the stars of the sky, and the sand upon the sea shore. "A very great multitude of fish," as in Ezekiel 47:9.
The Syriac name is Nuno, the fish, lengthened out (as in posterity).
The sign, then, speaks of the multitudes who should enjoy the blessings of the Redeemer's work.
There is found in this constellation the blessing of multiplied numbers of the sons of Abraham and of Jacob. I see nothing in what remains of the names of the celestial bodies and their meanings that convinces me of one clear meaning, of a single interpretation. Perhaps we are to interpret the two fish as in the parable of Matthew 13, as the wicked and the righteous. Bullinger concludes that the two fish are exclusive to Israel and "both alike were divinely called, and chosen, and upheld." He considered them in their alignment where one points in one direction and the other perpendicular to it, taking from that the idea that one has a heavenly calling and blessing and the other, in contrast, an earthly calling and blessing. In writing about Pisces Bullinger elaborated upon his reasons for excluding the church from an interpretation of Pisces. It seems to me that his exclusion of the church was done in error.
To my mind, if the two fish should truly be seen as both alike in being accounted as righteous, they symbolize the Jew and Gentile composition of the multitudes of men. These two are distinct but yet quite specially bound together, as by a cord joining them at the tails. In the figurative language of Romans 11 they are the natural and the wild branches of the olive tree.
Twelve Baskets filled with Barley Bread
Let's consider another number that appears conspicuously in the account of the miraculous feeding. The number of baskets filled was twelve.
12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost." 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
What do twelve baskets of leftovers mean? These picture a people who are distinct and brought into focus at the close of the age. They are a people filled with the barley bread broken and distributed during the age but yet are distinguished from those of that age, set apart, and who remain after that age has closed as somehow left over. They are stamped with the number 12, thus identified to us as Israel. This is a picture of the people most popularly identified by their number, stamped with this number 12 doubly and emphatically; as 12 × 12 × 1000, as 144,000 sons of Israel.
4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.
A necessary and important window of insight into the twelve basketfuls of barley bread is found in Romans 11, a chapter we should really be very familiar with by now. It is the outline of the plan that is in the process of being worked out, providing the context for all the events taking place in these last days. If you haven't yet read about Romans 11 in the study called What Will Their Acceptance be but Life from the Dead?, well, I believe you'll find it an invaluable aid! In brief, the interaction between Israel and the church is key. At each resurrection event, Jew and Gentile branches of the olive tree are in play. (Romans 11:15) The final result that will be attained is the grafting into the olive root of all men! Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever!
Consider the following verses.
30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
Mercy will ultimately be shown to all, an end wrought through a sequence of mercy being shown to one and then the other. The matter of obedience and of the disobedience that prompts the mercy is linked to the grafting in and the breaking off of two kinds of olive branches. The collection of the fragments of barley bread into twelve full baskets is pictured in Romans 11 as the grafting in of a natural branch. The conclusion of the feeding of the five thousand as marked by the people having eaten to their satisfaction signals the breaking off of a wild branch.
The fish eaten alongside the five barley loaves are two in number, which speaks to me of the two natures of the olive tree branches and the great plan that is at work and about to be fully manifested in the earth in days soon to come!
So That Nothing Will be Lost
When the food distributed and eaten is understood as people there is a subtle but profound truth exhibited in the careful collection of the leftovers. This care implies that the count of 12 baskets full is an accurate representation of the amount left over, and, beyond that, more is implied in this amazing prophetic parable!
12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
Notice the care taken "so that nothing will be lost". footnote #2 This is salvation language, where people may be saved or lost, and the food has been shown in this study to symbolize people. The Barley Bread is the true bread from Heaven and this symbol is sometimes applicable to others who fit the barley pattern. The fish, which may or may not be included in the amount filling 12 baskets but was also collected in this careful manner, certainly represents people, a people who may be lost or saved.
In the crucially important context of Romans 10 and 11 this same concern may be seen in the following expression of Paul's heart, which is in truth the expression of the Lord's heart of love.
if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.
Consider the Lord's words as He interpreted the sign that was the feeding of the five thousand.
39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
Amen! Behold, such a love! This is the love of a Shepherd for every one of His sheep!
12 What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13 If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
See the concern that nothing would be lost? Could it be a coincidence that there are one hundred sheep in this precious flock and that groups fed on the green grass bore the same number?
Its with regard to this signification of the food as people that we find a simple and concise snapshot of the resurrection. The harvest at the end of the age is pictured as the bread and the fish representing the body of Christ is gathered up. ("Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost." So they gathered them up" John 6:12b-13a) In this scene the disciples represent the angels of the parable of Matthew 13:49 pictured harvesting at the end of the age. As I mentioned earlier, the fullness and conclusion of the age is also implied in the condition of those who were fed, as, "They all ate and were satisfied." (Luke 9:17)
A Parable of the Storm Tossed Sea
Let's consider the event that is sandwiched between the feeding and its interpretation in John 6 in light of what we know about the context of the Bride Theft. If this were the only parable of the events in view I might have difficulty making sense of it, but, because it is one of many, the consistent use of the symbols and events makes it easy to understand. I believe the Lord is revealing these things in our near future to prepare us for our roles, to encourage us to prepare and enable us to stand faithful, and, so that we are not deceived in the midst of the outpouring of antichrist delusion. It may also be found as an important witness when the days in view will have come.
Now, observe how we are given a sense of close relationship in the narrative of Mark 6 by one event following immediately after the other.
44 There were five thousand men who ate the loaves. 45 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.
Further continuity is observed in that their destination is Bethsaida, which means "house of fish," or, "house of fishing." Although the previous age had passed the destination or goal is as before, on catching more men.
The Sea of Galilee is frequently a symbol of a season referred to as one of great tribulation. In John 6 we find the following account that takes place in this setting.
14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. 16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they *saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He *said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. 22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
This passage is located between the feeding and its interpretation, a fact that requires us to understand the passage within this context. The scenario on the sea happens immediately after the feeding in the historical record, and this is how it will come to pass in the fulfillment of what is prophesied in them. These are related events and we gain insight into their meaning by way of this sequence.
In what is entirely consistent with other prophetic scenarios presenting these truths we see here that great tribulation begins immediately following the Bride Theft, as the scenario on the stormy sea follows immediately after the five thousand were fed and the leftovers collected.
It Had Already Become Dark
When it is written in verse 17 that, "It had already become dark," the same dark time is referenced that we see in John 13's view of a counterfeit baptism. It is the season appointed to begin just prior to the Bride Theft, precisely on the thirteenth day of the first month. (See When Will the Lawless One be Revealed? (The Sign for the Bride - Part 2))
As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, Even gloom with no brightness in it?
In verse 18 it is written that "the sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing." This wind and this sea are referenced in Revelation 7, in the context of the sealing of the same 144,000 sons of Israel pictured previously as the twelve basketfuls of leftover bread.
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. 2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”
The wind will be held back by the four angels until the "twelve basketfuls are collected," after which it will begin to blow - and the storm is unleashed!
Saints who are found unworthy and left behind after the Bride Theft are as pictured in a parable of Matthew 13, fish, thrown away into a furnace of fire where "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This storm troubled sea is that furnace of fire, the same figure used in Daniel 3 where three Jews, men of notable faith, were thrown into the furnace of fire. It is the same fiery furnace of Malachi 3 that is for the purpose of smelting and refining people.
The disciples in the boat on the storm-tossed sea represent certain people in that season. Since Jesus had not yet come to them, their spiritual condition may be inferred as "unsaved" during the previous age and still remaining in that state. More will be learned of them as this study develops.
Two peculiar miracles appear in the account. Baptism symbolism is the key to interpreting both of these miracles. I'll present them first then expand upon the symbolism.
What does it mean when Jesus walks on water? Jesus represents a remnant of His people (See an example here: The Testimony of Gethsemane - Part 1 (The Mount of Olives)) who will minister in the earth as His representatives. They will be in such a condition as to be untouchable by death. Observe how the disciples in the boat are afraid as they see Jesus walking on the water drawing near to the boat. Observe, too, how these fishermen are not afraid of capsizing and perishing as you might expect, and are seen in similar accounts. This is rather the response of a people in their natural minds and bodies to the presence of angels, as to Moses when he had to veil his face, and as to those in resurrection bodies. (See the response to Peter in Acts 12: Passing Through the Iron Gate - Part II) Those who "walk on water" will manifest the bright and fearsome glory of the living God!
Upon receiving the word of identification and a command, "It is I; do not be afraid," the disciples are willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. This is the other peculiar miracle. What does it mean that the boat was immediately "at the land to which they were going"? This signifies another resurrection. It is the next-in-sequence after the Bride Theft, the wheat harvest at the Shavuot that follows shortly thereafter!
Again, baptism symbolism is the key. (I also elaborate on the symbols in the study called Baptism - The Prophecy) In baptism, the most essential symbols are, first, that being under the water represents the death of the one dipped, and second, that coming up out of the water represents being raised from the dead! Understanding the waters of the Jordan is also key. The Jordan River flows from the northern heights through the Galilee on the way to its final destination, the Dead Sea. Water is universally and rightly recognized as a symbol of life. The name "Jordan" means "their descent." As the water of the river flows from the wellsprings of its origin it winds its way through the countryside in continuing descent. This pictures the life of man in a body of flesh. This life is "death life", which is to say mortal and corruptible, in continual descent. The certain end is ever in view as the waters of the Jordan come to the ultimate destination and final resting place appropriately known as the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. The symbol is like the green grass on which the five thousand sat, representing man in the prime of life who shortly withers and dies. These different symbols express similar and profound truths!
This lake has two meanings to consider. It represents the season of great tribulation when there is a storm, and further, the water picks up the theme of the mortal life of man that descends into death.
Consider this excerpt from the study of The Twenty-First Chapter of John, the chapter that is such a close companion to the account being addressed. It comes from the part where Peter clothed himself and jumped out of the boat into the water and went to be with to Jesus who was on the shore. "When Simon Peter jumps into the water the symbolism of baptism teaches us that this represents the death of his natural body. When he comes out of the water up onto the dry land, he is symbolically raised from the dead. You have to pass through death to be raised from the dead. Even those who are changed without seeing death must still pass through death. The seed must die before it becomes a plant, and this is why Peter didn't fly through the air, get translated or walk on the water to join Y'shua on the shore. This model is true, that he had to pass through death." Now the two miracles can be understood in light of the baptism symbolism.
One who walks on water stays dry and does not get wet. They are untouched by the water that represents the "death life," which aptly describes the nature of this life in the physical and temporal realm of the flesh where all creation remains subject to corruption. To walk on water is to function within or interact with the natural realm while in a condition or state of being incorruptible. It is to walk or have one's being and existence truly and literally in the heavenly and yet be manifested concretely in the earthly reality perceived by the five senses. This state exhibits the life that is truly life and the glory thereof, the supernatural, spiritual and eternal life.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44
Who will "Walk on Water?"
Who will "walk on water?" There are perhaps three kinds of water walkers in the widest view of the activity; those who will have their resurrection bodies, those who will be sealed for protection and those who walk by faith.
The Bride will at that time have resurrection bodies. I believe they are pictured as though walking on water in the post-resurrection views of Bride types Benjamin and Peter. Benjamin is pictured "walking on water" as he receives five sets of Egyptian clothes and 300 shekels of silver then goes to Caanan to testify to "Jacob" and fetch "Israel" back to Goshen. That is a salvation mission related to the grain of Egypt. Peter is pictured "walking on water" as he, after having passed through the iron gate out of the prison, goes to the house of Mary. He appears at the outer entrance and yet never goes beyond to where the people had gathered to pray. The response uttered by those gathered was initially one of disbelief as they insisted to the one testifying of Peter's presence that it must be "his angel"! This, too, is a salvation message as Peter tells the witnesses present to, "Tell James and the brothers about this." James is the Greek equivalent of "Jacob." The views are many, the message is one! Open our eyes, Lord that we may see and let us magnify you in praise and worship as you reveal yourself in glory!
Others I believe may be pictured as walking on water are not yet in their resurrection bodies but rather in a state of supernatural protection with supernatural provision. Some appear to have no threat of disruption while others do. Some at that time are declared to be sealed, as those sons of Israel who number 144,000. (Revelation 7:1-3) I infer from their protection from harm that they will "walk on water." The mention of the Father God's seal being set on the son of Man in the context does allude to the sealing of the sons of Israel. This speaks to me of the 144,000 being pictured in the context as Y'shua, set with His Father's seal in the focal parables, distributing bread and fish and walking on water!
"Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
Others who will "walk on water" without a threat of disruption are perhaps those described in Revelation 12:13-17 as the woman who gave birth to the male child. Her protection from the dragon's attempt to sweep her away with the flood might imply that they, too, will "walk on water." The inference that some who will "walk on water" will have to walk by faith to sustain such a state I take from the account of Matthew 14 where Peter walks on water, then begins to sink and is helped by Y'shua back into the boat. That passage is something of a parallel view of the passage in John 6:14-25, which also occurs right after the feeding of the five thousand. It is an additional witness to this time of great tribulation that affords us even more insight into the near future in the presentation of yet another set of related truths.
Will people really walk on literal water too? Some probably will literally walk on water, as did the Lord and as Peter also did. Will boats be instantaneously transported? Again, probably. Yet, the greater signification is the parable's prophetic testimony of the spiritual reality!
Immediately the Boat was at the Land
So, what does it mean when "immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going"? As I stated earlier, this signifies another resurrection. Let me explain. Recall the essential symbols of baptism, how being under the water represents death and coming out of the water, new life in resurrection. This is the symbolism found in other familiar scenarios such as when the children of Israel passed through the Sea of Reeds at the exodus from Egypt on dry ground, then, later, some passed through the Jordan into the promised land near Jericho, also on dry ground, and Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan, again, on dry ground. (See The Exodus Archetype and The Jericho Scenario) The land where the boat arrived is the dry ground, heaven itself.
In John 21 this truth is seen as Peter jumped out of the boat into the water and went to be with Jesus, appearing with him on the shore. The shore is the land, dry ground. Peter representing the Bride was raised from the dead and joined the Lord in heaven. Not a word was recorded about his trip ashore, whether the distance traversed was by swimming or wading. He had simply cast himself into the sea. Our next report of him after that is John 21:11.
Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
And so, like as how Peter just showed up on shore, we see the boat miraculously transported to land. They departed the earthly realm and went into a heavenly realm.
Now, notice how nothing in the narrative suggests Jesus actually got into the boat. They simply became willing to receive Him into the boat.
So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
This detail compares closely to John 21. A recognition and acknowledgement of Y'shua as Lord instantly triggered a resurrection that was pictured as Peter immediately put his outer garment on and threw himself into the sea, and then appeared on the shore with Jesus. In John 6:21, the trigger that is the necessary acknowledgement is pictured in that these disciples are willing to receive Him into the boat. A resurrection must surely follow, and we see the proof of it in that "immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going." The land is dry ground, heaven. This wonderful "cause and effect" relationship is declared in Romans 11.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Prior to that insight, in verse one of chapter eleven Paul had declared by revelation, "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!" He continued on to convincingly prove his point. In verse 15, then, "their rejection" is clearly not their rejection by God but their rejection of God, of Y'shua as haMashiach! We must understand "their acceptance" accordingly. It cannot mean their acceptance by God, because they had not been rejected! It is a reference to a time of their acceptance of God, of Y'shua haMashiach whom He has sent! (John 5:23 - 1 John 2:23 - 2 John 1:9)
He is the one they rejected, as their fathers before them, and must now accept! In John 21 we find this acceptance in the parable as, "when the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord.'" Y'shua is thus recognized and acknowledged for who he is, accepted at last! This is what is pictured in the disciples on the troubled sea as they were willing to receive Him into the boat! You see, when Y'shua came to them walking on water, when he revealed his identity to them he did so spiritually, revealing Himself to them in glory, identifying Himself to them as the "I AM"! This is just as revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14-15), and later through Moses to Israel. Young's Literal Translation renders His words more literally, showing the word [he] in brackets indicating it does not appear in the Greek text but was added by the translators. He came to them and declared: "I AM," which is the revelation of Y'shua Himself to them as the one who had been rejected!
and he saith to them, `I am [he], be not afraid;'
John 6:20 (YLT)
There is more to glean from this remarkable testimony if we are attentive to the details. John 21 pictures the Bride Theft. In the context of John 6:21 we know the Bride theft had just previously occurred, as pictured in the feeding of the five thousand, so the resurrection in view is the next-in-sequence, one that happens during the season of great tribulation. In John 21, Peter jumped in the water then appeared on the shore as a symbol of those raised from the dead. In John 6, no one jumped into the water. Everyone remained in the boat, and it was the boat that was transported to land. I'm certain it did not leave the disciples bobbing in the surf. What could this mean? The disciples in the boat are not Gentile but rather Israel, which we know because Romans 11 declares that the trigger for resurrection is when Israel, Paul's fellow countrymen, come to acceptance. Y'shua haMashiach! Baruch haba b'Shem Adonai! We see the disciples in the boat come to such acceptance. They are of Israel. So, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? Life from the dead must immediately follow! Yet, it is not their appointed time for resurrection, only for a trip to the heavenlies to meet with Y'shua their King and Lord - and certain of the glorified saints who had just then been raised in that glorious harvest of wheat!
How can we be sure of this? It's the familiar pattern established for the Bride Theft. Here is the full scenario as I have learned it. A faction of Israel accepts Y'shua as messiah, whom they had previously rejected. All those people previously saved and found worthy are the immediate participants in a resurrection. Those resurrected and those who triggered the resurrection immediate meet with Y'shua in the heavenlies. There is a season of rewarding followed by a commission, then an equipping and, finally, a send off, a launch back into the world on a new salvation mission. I don't know if every element will be replayed at the wheat harvest as at the barley harvest, but I am convinced of those we see modeled for us in this remarkable parable of the disciples in the boat on the sea!
This remarkable scenario on the sea that happens immediately after the feeding of the five thousand provides some valuable insight into the coming tumultuous season. Considered together with the feeding of the five thousand amongst its peers, prophetic scenarios found in such as the books of Acts, John, Genesis, Exodus and Joshua, we truly find in them such precious comfort and validation of the promises we hope in and eagerly expect to be fulfilled! The biblical accounts of so many historical events offer wonderful stories, it is true. But, oh, the revelation insight that pours forth from the Master's table for our provision, for you and I, friend! Praise the Lord for such grace!!!
#1) The fish as food is a symbol I'd like to explore a little further. Eating the body-of-Christ fish is as eating the body-of-Christ barley bread. Both symbols represent a people benefitting from the sacrifice of others. To offer oneself as such a sacrifice, well, truly, greater love has no man than this! Now, it is interesting to note how this symbolic relationship may be seen in a strict literal translation of the Greek text of Mark 6:37. It reads: "give to them ye to eat." Taken without regard for context we might see in this directive the symbol of the sacrifice of love as the disciple-barley-bread-fish people are directed to give themselves to be eaten. Of course, if that was the actual directive the disciples would not likely have responded as they did by seeking to find another source of food for the people to eat.
Along this line, I found a Web page that offers some interesting insights, particularly with regard to the geometry of the numbers. Another number that appears in the account (two hundred denarii) is considered in relation to the numbers 12, 5000 and 888 (a popular number of Jesus). Such interesting outcomes usually indicate there is some truth in it. It is on jesus8880.com.
#2) I have observed that in John's account the leftover fish do not appear to be included in the amount collected into the numbered basketfuls. If this is so, the leftovers tagged with the number 12 are strictly the barley loaf fragments.
and they did all eat, and were filled, and they took up what was over of the broken pieces twelve hand-baskets full;
43 and they took up of broken pieces twelve hand-baskets full, and of the fishes, 44) and those eating of the loaves were about five thousand men.
Mark 6:43-44 (YLT)
And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.
12 When they were filled, He *said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.