The tradition surrounding Saint Patrick, who was a Christian missionary in Ireland in the 400s A.D. suggests that he used the Irish shamrock to teach pagans about the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The shamrock is a tiny plant from the clover family with three heart-shaped leaves and a stem. To many, the shamrock represents St. Patrick’s Day and is a symbol of Ireland. To Christians, the shamrock is an easy way to explain the Trinity of Christianity and the concept of one God in three persons.
The Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is not explicitly revealed as a “Trinity” in the Bible, yet the doctrine of the Trinity has helped Christians develop and strengthen an understanding of the Triune Lord. Numerous Bible verses imply a Trinity. 2 Corinthians 14 states, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Even at its inception, the Old Testament points to God in a plural form. Genesis 1 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word used for God is Elohim, which is a plural word. Genesis continues, “Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness.” The word “us” underscores the plurality of God.* Other examples in the Old Testament abound, yet for this brief article, I will focus on one by linking the Ark of the Covenant to the Last Supper.
The Ark of the Covenant
The three persons of God can be found in the rituals surrounding the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord gave very specific instructions to Moses in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, which is a gold-covered wooden chest that housed the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments (c.f., Joshua 3:11 and Exodus 25: 10-30; 37; 38; 39) or God’s Word. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in a sanctuary with a candlestick that contained seven oil lamps, which the priests were instructed to continually keep lit with olive oil. The candlestick, or “Menorah,” was the sole source of light for a 30 foot long, 15 foot wide, and 15 foot high room. The sanctuary further included a golden pot of “lechem panim,” which is literally translated as “face bread,” or the bread of the presence. The bread was to be accompanied by wine.
When these passages are considered in the context of the Gospels, one can assume that the Ark of the Covenant signifies the Father and His Word and promise to His children. The candlestick (or Menorah) represents the Holy Spirit of fire and ever-burning light. The bread of the presence represents Jesus, the Bread of Life (e.g., John 6.35). The bread and the wine together form a communion, which represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 9:2-7, the author states, “for there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread, which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna and Aron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over that the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, and not without blood [of the sacrificed blemish-free offering], which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people.”
During the Last Supper, Jesus, who became the Passover Lamb and blemish-free sacrifice, “took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, this is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22: 19-20)
The Ark of the Covenant became the cross on Calvary; the bread of the presence became the Bread of Life; while the candlestick of fire illuminated as the tongues of fire above the heads of the apostles and disciples when the Holy Spirit filled them (i.e., Acts 2:3).**
Through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins, the Ark of the Covenant gave way to the New Covenant, which is the everlasting covenant of love between God and humanity. Through Jesus’ actions on Calvary, God’s perfect mercy (forgiveness for sins), justice (punishment for sins), and love were reconciled, opening the gates to heaven to those who choose to listen.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
The Bible is a complex book written by forty authors in three continents and three languages and over 1,500 years. Skeptics often criticize the Bible as the product of “bronze-age goat herders,” yet the messages in the Bible, when thoughtfully considered, are elegant in both their simplicity and complexity. The present article offered one example of how prophecies and symbolism in the Old Testament were fulfilled in the New Testament. This example is just one piece in the only puzzle in life that we are called to solve.
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18).
Thank you for your time.
* People sometimes argue that God is referring to His angels in Genesis 1, yet it should be noted that angels do not create. Paul tells us that God created all things, visible and invisible, “whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities” (Colossians 1:16). It should further be noted that the angels in the Old Testament and New Testament (cherubim, seraphim, and living creatures) should be distinguished from the “Angel of the Lord,” who appeared multiple times in the Old Testament and who forgave and equated Himself with the Lord. The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is Jesus. Please click here for further details: https://christian-apologist.com/2018/09/02/jesus-the-angel-of-the-lord-of-the-old-testament/
** Dr. Brant Pitre explains the Ark of the Covenant and the Trinity in much detail here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=P45BHDRA7pU.
Seed of Abraham Ministries. (2018). Accessed September 25, 2018 at: https://www.torahclass.com/old-testament-studies-tc/35-old-testament-studies-exodus/145-lesson-26-chapter25