PICTURES OF SPIRITUAL THINGS
The spiritual things of the New Testament are mysterious. Because they are mysterious, it is difficult to describe them or define them. Thus, the Bible follows the principle of illustrating spiritual things by shadows, figures, and types. It is similar to the way children are taught to read in school. Along with the word "dog," the teacher will show the children a picture of a dog. Praise the Lord that the Bible firstly affords a picture and then the plain words. In the Old Testament we have the types and pictures, and in the New Testament we have the definition, the fulfillment, of the types and pictures of the Old Testament. God’s way in His wisdom is to use pictures.
The most comprehensive picture in the Old Testament is that of the children of Israel. The entire nation of Israel is a great picture of the church. God has had two peoples, one in the Old Testament, the children of Israel, and the other in the New Testament, the church. God’s people in the Old Testament are a type of His people in the New Testament. Because the church is a mysterious entity, it cannot be easily described. Therefore, God employs the picture of the children of Israel to enable us to have a clear understanding of the church. We need to look at the picture first and then read the definition. Before the church came into being, there was already a picture of the church in the Old Testament. Although the church has now come into existence, it is nevertheless difficult to understand the church because it is a spiritual entity. Thus, we still need the picture of the church in the Old Testament.
The children of Israel observed a feast called the Passover. The first Passover feast was celebrated in Egypt. The record of this is in Exodus 12. After the children of Israel fled from Egypt, they crossed the Red Sea. According to 1 Corinthians 5 and 10, both the Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea were types. The Passover is a type of Christ enjoyed in the church, and the crossing of the Red Sea is a type of baptism, which is practiced in the church today. Although many teachers and theologians have seen that the early history of the children of Israel is a type, most have neglected the fact that their later history is also a type. The entire history of the children of Israel is a type of the church.
THE PLACE GOD HAS CHOSEN
Let us turn now to Deuteronomy 12. This word was given at the time the children of Israel were about to enter into the good land to possess it and enjoy it. Moses was charged by the Lord to command the children of Israel concerning the place where they were to worship God. In this chapter Moses seemed to be saying, "In the wilderness you did what was right in your own eyes, not what was right in the eyes of God. But now as you are about to enter the good land, I must warn you to be careful about the place where you worship the Lord. The place of worship is not a matter of your choice, but of the Lord’s choice. You cannot worship God in the place of your choosing. No, you must go to the place the Lord has chosen." Sixteen times in Deuteronomy 12, 14, 15, and 16 Moses refers to the place which the Lord would choose. Because Moses was so concerned for the children of Israel, he charged them about this again and again.
(The Spirit and the Body, Chapter 19, by Witness Lee)