Copyright 1994 - 2020 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
July 7, 1997
Last Updated :
March 21, 2018
Is Water Baptism Necessary For Salvation, Thief On The Cross, Baptism Of The Spirit, Jesus Never Water Baptized, God Is Not A Respecter Of Persons, The Apostles Followed The Old Mold, John The Baptist And Baptism With Fire, The Mosaic Laws Were A Schoolmaster To Bring Jews To Faith In Christ, Ministry Of John The Baptist, Water And Fire Signify Physical Birth And Spiritual Birth, Our Difficulty In Understanding God's Word, More Old Testament Archetypes: Noah And The Flood, Moses And Israelites Crossing Red Sea, Joshua And Israelites Pass Over Jordan River, Jonah And Jesus, Three Days And Three Nights, Joshua and Jesus, Forty Days, God's Prophetic Tapestry, We Pass Through The Water In Our Mother's Womb, Water And Fire
A number of years ago I was involved in a discussion on my old BBS -- or Bulletin Board Service -- concerning the topic of water baptism. One participant was inquiring as to whether or not water baptism is necessary for one's Salvation, as is believed and taught by certain denominations and religious organizations. In this particular case, the Scriptures which were used to substantiate this claim were the following:
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
Mark 16:16, KJV
"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Acts 22:16, KJV
Another participant who was involved in our conversation at the time responded with the following wise answer:
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"So far as I know, the thief on the cross next to Jesus was never baptized, but Jesus said he would join Him that day in paradise. If you think of baptism as spiritual rather than physical, all the passages make more sense. There is much in the Bible which I believe is intended to be interpreted spiritually, but is instead taken physically ("unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood" ...) by some Churches. I find it interesting that none of them take all the passages one way or another. Lots of picking and choosing going on, and lots of doctrines in Bible-based Churches which are not Bible-based."
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I have to agree wholeheartedly with the previous comments. Taken in that light, the above verses make a lot more sense. As I will now explain by way of this current series, I am also of the belief that the baptism which is mentioned in Mark 16:16 quoted above -- as well as in many other verses which we find in the New Testament -- is not referring to water baptism, but rather to the baptism of the Spirit. As I point out in articles such as the series "Roman Catholicism, Water Baptism and the Holy Trinity", to my knowledge, Jesus never once baptized Himself; only His chosen Disciples did. Consider these verses that are found in the Gospel of John:
"When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)"
John 4:1-2, KJV
If water baptism is really essential for Salvation as some Christians claim, doesn't it strike you as being a little odd that the Lord never performed this ritual? While some of my Christian brethren may argue that the Lord did not baptize because the Disciples did it for Him -- even though there is not a single verse in the Gospels which states this -- I hope that once you have read this series, and pondered the verses which I present in it, you will acquire a new perspective.
Similarly, would Jesus have promised the thief Salvation if one must be water baptized in order to be saved? While some people may argue that it was a unique situation, that there was no way for the thief to be baptized, and so God made an exception to His own rule, I don't accept it. If God is into making exceptions whenever He deems it appropriate, doesn't that cloud the situation and make it rather ambiguous and confusing? To the contrary, the Bible teaches us that not only is God not the author of confusion, but He is also not a respecter of persons. In other words, what applies to one, applies to all. Consider the following verses:
"Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts."
2 Chronicles 19:7, KJV
"Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:"
Acts 10:34, KJV
"For there is no respect of persons with God."
Romans 2:11, KJV
"And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him."
Ephesians 6:9, KJV
"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:"
1 Peter 1:17, KJV
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV
As I explain in the aforementioned series, I believe that the reason why Jesus' Disciples performed water baptism was because they were still following the old mold. They still hadn't caught on to the new plan, and to the new meaning of baptism. In fact, they themselves hadn't even received the Holy Spirit yet. This wouldn't happen until some three years later after Jesus had ascended back to His Father. Prior to that time, it appears that John the Baptist was more in tune to the things of the Spirit than the Apostles were. After all, John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb, as we see by this verse:
"For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb."
Luke 1:15, KJV
John the Baptist fully understood that the baptism to which Jesus was actually referring was a SPIRITUAL BAPTISM. It was a baptism with the fire of the Holy Ghost. It is for this reason that John said the following in the Gospel of Luke:
"John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:"
Luke 3:16, KJV
So you see, just as the Apostle Paul explains in his Epistles that the Laws of Moses, and the Levitical priesthood and the Temple services and rituals were used by God as an example and a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to faith in Jesus Christ, so too, water baptism was archetypical, and a foreshadow of the real baptism by the Spirit, which was yet to come. Paul writes the following in his Epistle to the Galatian brethren:
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
Galatians 3:24-25, KJV
As I said, John the Baptist understood what God was in the process of doing. John realized that his ministry of water baptism in the Jordan River Valley, and preparing the hearts of the people to accept Christ, would eventually come to an end, once the real deal -- meaning, of course, Jesus -- had arrived. John realized that the symbolism of water baptism would be replaced by the reality of spiritual baptism by fire -- that is, by the Holy Spirit -- and that his job of preparing the way for the true Messiah would be done. In other words, water baptism would become an obsolete ritual, once it had fulfilled its purpose; just like all of the other Temple services and rituals which were nullified by Christ's Death on the Cross. Thus John the Baptist likewise said the following in the Gospel of John:
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:30, KJV
Is it just a coincidence that fire is the exact opposite of water? As I explain in the aforementioned series, in John chapter three, when speaking with Nicodemus concerning the necessity of spiritual rebirth, Jesus Himself used water to symbolize our physical birth in which we are surrounded by amniotic fluid in our mother's womb. How fitting then that fire should be used to symbolize our spiritual birth. Taken in this light, Mark 16:16 now makes a lot more sense. It is clear to me that John would not tell us that the Lord never water baptized -- John 4:1-2 -- just to have Mark contradict John in his own Gospel by saying that Jesus was referring to water baptism in the following verse:
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
Mark 16:16, KJV
To understand these verses -- John 4:1-2 and Mark 16:16 -- any other way, would be to indirectly state that the Bible contradicts itself, which I do not believe for a minute. As I explain in the article "Humility in Our Understanding of God's Word", if there is any contradiction, it is in our own minds, and is a result of our limited understanding of the things of God, and our failure to grasp the full meaning of His Word. For as the Lord says through the Prophet Isaiah:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV
As I mentioned to you just a moment ago, the Mosaic Law, the Jewish priesthood and the Temple rituals and services served as archetypical examples, or foreshadows, of the spiritual realities which would ultimately be fulfilled by and through the ministry of Jesus Christ. Well, allow me to inform you that there are other events in the Old Testament which also served in this very same fashion, and which pointed to the coming reality of Salvation through Christ, and baptism by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Let us examine a few of them.
When God judged the ancient world due to its wickedness by sending the great Flood, the Patriarch Noah and his family were spared due to God recognizing their righteousness. As a result of their faith and obedience in building the Ark, they rose above the Flood waters and were saved. In a sense, we might say that Noah and his family were symbolically baptized by the Flood. They passed through the water totally unharmed, and came out on the other side. It was a complete break with the old world, and the beginning of a wonderful, new world, untainted by the sins of men. Consider the following verses:
"And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation."
Genesis 7:1, KJV
"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith."
Hebrews 11:7, KJV
"By which also he [Jesus] went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:"
1 Peter 3:19-21, KJV
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;"
2 Peter 2:4-5, KJV
We witness the very same kind of archetypical example in the wonderful miracle which occurred at the Red Sea. This time, however, instead of sailing on top of the water, Moses and the Israelites passed through the waters, as by dry land, as we see by these sample verses:
"And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided . . . But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left."
Exodus 14:21, 29, KJV
"For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea."
Exodus 15:19, KJV
"And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters."
Nehemiah 9:11, KJV
"He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him."
Psalm 66:6, KJV
"By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned."
Hebrews 11:29, KJV
As had occurred with Noah and the Flood, the Red Sea likewise represented a barrier between the old way and slavery in the land of Egypt, and the new way, meaning God's way. Once they had crossed the Red Sea -- which again we can view as a form of baptism -- there was no going back. It was like spiritual rebirth, just as had occurred with Noah and his family.
In fact, the very same thing occurred some forty years later when Moses' successor, Joshua, led the Hebrew nation across the parted Jordan River, as by dry land. This event likewise represented a break with the old, and the beginning of the new; that is, the conquest of the Promised Land, which began with the crucial city of Jericho. It was there at the Jordan River that God wonderfully confirmed his spiritual anointing upon Joshua, and renewed the people's faith and vision for what lay ahead. Once again, these events can be viewed as a symbolic baptism by water, which ultimately resulted in their physical salvation from the harsh dry desert, and their entry into the Promised Land. Consider these verses:
"And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever."
Joshua 4:21-24, KJV
These examples of God's prophetic future being hidden within the lines of Old Testament stories concerning water would not be complete without mentioning the Prophet Jonah. While Jonah likewise passed through the waters, as many of you will know, his predicament arose from the fact that he initially failed to obey the Lord by refusing to go and warn the Ninevites of their impending destruction. Thus, that poor fellow lay in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. Let me share the key points of the story with you, after which I will make some very interesting and relevant observations:
"So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
Jonah 1:15-3:4, KJV
Similar to Jonah, Jesus taught that following His trial and Crucifixion, He would lay dead in the tomb for a period of three days and three nights. This is made clear in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, as we see by these verses:
"But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."
Matthew 12:39-41, KJV
"A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed."
Matthew 16:4, KJV
"And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."
Luke 11:29-32, KJV
Similar to Jonah, not only did Jesus spend three days and three nights in the netherworld, but just as that Prophet of old became serious about his ministry to Nineveh after God made him pass through the waters, Jesus likewise began His public ministry after being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Here again we see a connection to Joshua and the Jordan River as well. Let me also mention that the English names "Joshua" and "Jesus" are derived from the very same Hebrew root. In both cases, it is "Yehowshuwa", which signifies "Jehovah is salvation".
But these are not the only similarities that we find between the ministries of the Prophet Jonah and Jesus. If you re-read the previous verses, you will notice a few other interesting points. For example, from the location where the great fish spat out Jonah, it was a three days journey to the city of Nineveh. Thus we see another mention of three days. Following are some additional verses regarding Jesus being raised from the dead on the third day:
"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day."
Matthew 16:21, KJV
"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry."
Matthew 17:22-23, KJV
"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again."
Matthew 20:18-19, KJV
"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."
Matthew 27:62-66, KJV
"And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him."
Mark 9:30-32, KJV
"And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again."
Mark 10:32-34, KJV
"And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day."
Luke 9:21-22, KJV
"The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected."
Luke 13:31-32, KJV
"Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again."
Luke 18:31-33, KJV
"He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
Luke 24:6-7, KJV
"Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
Luke 24:45-47, KJV
As you will recall, Jonah was told by the Lord to give the Ninevites a forty-day warning. After being baptized by John, Jesus spent a total of forty days in the wilderness area of the Jordan River Valley being tempted by Satan, after which He began His public ministry. Consider these verses:
"And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred."
Matthew 4:2, KJV
"And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him."
Mark 1:13, KJV
"Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered."
Luke 4:2, KJV
But that is not the only place where the number forty comes into play. The writer Luke also informs us that following His Resurrection from the Dead, Jesus appeared to His followers for a period of forty days before returning to His Father in Heaven. Consider this verse:
"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:"
Acts 1:3, KJV
As I explain in the article entitled "Famous Forties: One of God's Special Numbers?", the number forty plays an important role throughout Biblical history. I encourage you to read it.
At any rate, as you can see, there are some interesting links between the Prophet Jonah and Jesus Christ. In fact, the more that I study God's Word, the more I realize what an amazing prophetic tapestry is woven throughout the pages of the Bible from beginning to end. It is really quite mind-blowing when one begins to see the intricate pattern which God Himself has woven through Scriptural archetypes and foreshadows which are fully exposed to the Light of Truth in the New Testament, in the life, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ.
With the previous four examples, I hope that the profound connection which exists between the physical events of the Old Testament era, and the spiritual realities which were revealed and fulfilled in the New Testament, has become even more clear to you as well. Concerning the issue of passing through the water, we are not quite done yet. You see, as we discussed earlier, we too have passed through the water -- or been baptized -- by way of our physical birth. For nine months we each pass through the water in our mother's womb. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, the act of physical birth is just a reflection of the spiritual reality of being born in the Spirit, and being baptized with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Yet, in truth, even this baptism with fire is simply a small glimpse of what is to come for those who believe. Please refer to articles such as "A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: God's Promise of the Spirit" for a more detailed explanation regarding this topic.
This picture of the relationship between water and fire, or the transition from water to fire, would not be complete without mentioning the final outcome of this great cycle of events. Just as the baptism by water in all of its different iterations throughout Biblical history eventually led to the baptism with fire of the Holy Ghost in the New Testament, so too, just as the Earth was baptized by water during the days of the Flood, we are told that it is also baptized by fire in what appears to be a very literal sense in the following verses:
"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men . . . But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up . . . Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12, KJV
You will find these -- and related verses -- discussed in articles such as "Destruction of Planet Earth: The Wrath of God Revealed!". As alarming or frightening as the previous verses may sound, as I will be discussing later on in this series, this great destruction of the Earth is not the end of the road for all God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians; so let not your heart be troubled, and be at peace.
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
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