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Why Judge Prophets by the Spirit of Prophecy: Jonah, Part 2

Why Judge Prophets by the Spirit of Prophecy: Jonah, Part 2

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Luke 11:30,31When the people were gathered thick together, he [Jesus] began to say, This is an evil generation; they seek a sign, and there shall no sign be given them, but the sign of Jonas [Jonah] the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so also shall the Son of Man be to this generation.

Matthew 28:18,19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, unto the end of the world.  Amen.

In the first part of this study series (Jonah, Part 1),[1] we reviewed why Jonah’s unfulfilled forty-day prophecy did not mean he was a false prophet.  Instead, it meant that Jonah was a true prophet of God.  Why?  God validated Jonah’s ministry by pardoning the citizens of Nineveh when they humbled themselves in response to Jonah’s pronouncement of His judgment.  By this we see that Jonah’s ministry brought God the result He desired.[2]

This aspect of Part 1 in this series highlighted how God’s forgiveness of Nineveh typified an essential principle of His grace that has been declared throughout the ages by all His true prophets.[3]  Here is how Jeremiah stated this principle:

Jeremiah 18:8If that nation against whom He has pronounced judgment, turn from their evil, I will withhold the evil that I thought to do unto them.

Part 1 also illustrated how all true prophets testify of Jesus by the spirit of prophecy, who is the testimony of Jesus.[4]  This relationship means there was much more to Jonah’s prophecy than simply the judgment and forgiveness of the Ninevites.  As a true prophet of God, Jonah testified of Jesus Christ and His work of redemption.  According to Jesus, Jonah did so in a rather remarkable way.  To better understand this connection, this next part in the series on judging prophets by the spirit of prophecy introduces how Jesus tied the principle stated in Jeremiah 18:8 to Himself through the sign of Jonah.

The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and the Baptism of Jesus

A great many generations after Jonah (or Jonas) lived, Jesus Christ confirmed the validity of Jonah’s ministry and the reliability of his account by connecting Jonah’s unique experience as a prophet to His own ministry.  Jesus did this directly by linking Jonah’s entombment in a whale to His own imminent entombment in the earth for three days and nights—between His death and His resurrection.[5]

Matthew 12:34An 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.

Mark 8:12Verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be give unto this generation, save the sign of the prophet Jonah; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so likewise shall the Son of Man be buried in the bowels of the earth.

Jesus’ words alone are sufficient to show us that Jonah was not presumptuous when prophesying over Nineveh.  This is highly significant given that Jonah’s forty-day prophecy went unfulfilled.  Why?  Moses said that prophets who state certain things will happen and then they do not happen have spoken presumptuously and we do not need to fear them.[6]

However, Moses also said everyone must hear Jesus Christ in all things or be cut off from God’s covenant people.[7]  It would not be wise on our part, then, to attempt to use Moses’ words found in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 to condemn prophets like Jonah.  To do so pits Moses against Jesus and His witness of Jonah.[8]  We would be wise, rather, to view Jonah’s ministry as a revelation of how our Lord’s judgments are part of a greater work, that of His work of seeking and saving the lost.[9]

By pardoning the Ninevites, God has shown us how prophecies of His judgment are not about dogmatically handing out punitive punishments and then sticking with those punishments regardless of their effect.  In contrast, God-inspired prophecies—including Jonah’s unfulfilled forty-day prophecy—are about our Lord drawing people back to Himself as part of His work and glory in bringing to pass their immortality and eternal life.[10]

I Peter 1:3-5Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Hebrews 7:24Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

D&C 22:23b… for this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality, and eternal life of man.

Note also how Jesus reinforced His connection with Jonah by saying that He (Jesus) was a sign to His generation like Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites of his generation.[11]

Luke 11:30,31When the people were gathered thick together, he [Jesus] began to say, This is an evil generation; they seek a sign, and there shall no sign be given them, but the sign of Jonas [Jonah] the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so also shall the Son of Man be to this generation.

By teaching about His connection with the sign of the prophet Jonah—Jonah’s entombment in and release from a whale[12]—Jesus has shown us how Jonah’s ministry was a manifestation of the testimony of Jesus or spirit of prophecy.[13]  That is, this unique sign of Jonah prefigured or foreshadowed the sign of Jesus’ work of redemption by way of foreshadowing His death, burial, and resurrection.  That is, Nineveh was pardoned for Jesus Christ’s sake.

What about us?  What significance do the signs of Jesus and of Jonah hold for us in our generation?  Consider water baptism.  Is not Jesus’ burial, His entombment, manifest in every baptism that is born as a fruit of His Spirit?[14]

Romans 6:3-7Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead to sin is freed from sin.

After a similar manner to baptism, Jonah was brought to die to the sin of his rebellion against God by being carried into a watery tomb within a whale.[15]  And just as Jonah was not able to escape his watery grave without God intervening on His behalf, we too cannot save ourselves without Him.  It is truly good news, then, that Jesus came into the world and died for our sins so He could intercede on our behalf.  For there is nothing we can do without Him that will bring our heavenly Father the fruit[16] that He is seeking from our lives, including baptism.[17]

John 15:1-5I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches.  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.

Amazingly, we can now be grafted into Christ to live in the hope and expectation of the newness and power of His resurrected and eternal life.[18]  Entering into Jesus’ death to sin by way of repentance and baptism—as the first-fruits of repentance—opens the way to us to live in this precious hope of the glory to be revealed in us by Him when He returns in glory.[19]

In this way, water baptism is prophetic just as Jonah’s entombment was prophetic.  It reveals Jesus Christ and His work of reconciliation within us.[20]  For although it does not yet appear what we shall be in Jesus Christ, God’s love assures us that we will be like Him.  In being made pure like Jesus (by becoming dead to our sin as Jonah was caused to die to his sin), we too can become instruments or members of His righteousness to God’s glory.[21]

I John 3:1-3Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Romans 6:13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Romans 8:18,19For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be named with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

Baptism is also prophetic when observed in the likeness or figure (example, type, or shadow) of the resurrection of the dead.[22]  When observed after this manner and for this purpose, it serves as a witness or sign to others of our hope in Jesus Christ and our willingness to covenant with Him to dwell eternally at peace in His kingdom.[23]

We become united with God in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ by dying to sin so we may be one with Him.  Moreover, if we are truly one with Him in His death to sin, He becomes our advocate, the One who intercedes for us before God’s throne of grace forever.[24]

I John 2:1-4My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.  But if any man sin and repent, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.  And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments [including repenting].  He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Hebrews 7:24Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Baptism inspired after this manner is born of the true faith of the gospel that is founded in the power of Christ’s atonement and of His resurrection.[25]  It reveals the Comforter’s assurance of our hope in Jesus Christ and the evidence of the Father’s work taking place within us in this world in preparation of the life to come.[26]

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Colossians 2:10-12And ye are complete in him [Jesus Christ], which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Galatians 3:26,27 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

As a final consideration, note how Jesus emphasized baptism before ascending into heaven.  When instructing His disciples about the work He was setting before them, Jesus told them to go into all the world teaching and baptizing all nations.  This emphasis of teaching and baptizing brought clarity to their vision regarding those things to come.  It especially pointed to the prophetic role of baptism in the life of each member of His church.[27]

Matthew 28:17-19And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, unto the end of the world.  Amen.

Mark 16:14,15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.

Luke 24:44-47Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved 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.  And ye are witnesses of these things.

By placing baptism for the remission of sins at the very heart of their message and work,[28] Jesus gave His disciples prophetic guidance to follow as they labored to bring the gospel to the world.  Wherever they would teach and practice His commands, Jesus was assuring them that they should expect baptisms according to the pattern given—those which show the sign of His burial and resurrection in the lives of individuals who believed their words.[29]

Matthew 5:4Yea, blessed are they who shall believe on your words, and come down into the depth of humility, and be baptized in my name; for they shall be visited with fire and the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.

Therefore, my prayer is that Jesus Christ will continue this work which He began with His apostles and disciples on the day of Pentecost, starting in Jerusalem where people from all nations were living.[30]  May He again show the prophetic nature of baptism in all the world,[31] and may those who believe in Him and the reason for His death and resurrection show this unique sign with their very lives as in days of old.[32]


[2] Jonah 3:10 with Jonah 4:9-11

[3] Psalm 86:5, Isaiah 55:7, Ezekiel 18:32, Joel 2:13, Micah 7:18, Zephaniah 2:3, etc., with II Chronicles7:12-14

[4] cf. I John 4:1-3 with Revelation 19:10; cf. III Nephi 5:27,33,37-38 with I John 5:7-12 & III Nephi 9:60-62

[5] Luke 11:30-33 with Matthew 12:33-36 & Mark 8:11-12

[6] cf. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 with Luke 11:30-33

[7] cf. III Nephi 9:60-63 with Deuteronomy 18:15-19 & Acts 3:22-26

[8] This statement will be explained more fully in Part 3 in this series.

[9] cf. Luke 19:10 with Luke 15:4,5 & John 10:7-13; cf. Alma 14:37,38 & Alma 19:25-27 with Helaman 3:50-54 & Ether 5:16

[10] John 3:14-17 with I Peter 1:3-25 & Matthew 18:23-34; cf. Alma 19:84-94 with Hebrews 4:7-16

[11] cf. Hebrews 2:3,4 with Luke 11:30,31

[12] Jonah 1:17: Jonah was likely dead while in the great fish or whale just as Jesus was dead in the tomb; see, for example:

[13] Revelation 19:10, Acts 2:38-40, I John 5:9-12 & III Nephi 9:60-63 with I Corinthians 12:3 & 14:32

[14] cf. Romans 6:12-18 & Ephesians 4:3-6 with Romans 6:3-7, John 3:7 & I Peter 1:22,23; cf. Moroni 8:29 & Genesis 6:63 with Revelation 19:9,10; cf. D&C 76:5b with D&C 76:6c,6g, D&C 76:7b & D&C 76:4d

[15] cf. with Luke 11:30,31 & Romans 6:3-7

[16] cf. Moroni 8:29  with II Nephi 13:24, Alma 4:2 (Alma 6:11, Alma 7:41, etc.), III Nephi 3:68 & Moroni 6:2

[17] cf. John 15:1-8 with Colossians 1:16,17 & Galatians 5:22-26; see also John 8:31-36 with II Corinthians 3:17

[18] e.g. D&C 17:7d with John 1:11-18, Romans 8:19-25 & Hebrews 6:17-20

[19] cf. Revelation 22:11-14 with I Corinthians 15:40-58 & Colossians 1:25-29; see also Acts 26:20 with Jonah 3:10

[20] II Corinthians 5:17-21 & Philippians 2:1-16 with II Nephi 6:10-37 & II Nephi 7:40-44

[21] cf. Romans 6:9-14 & I Corinthians 12:4-31 with Jeremiah 23:6 & Jeremiah 33:16

[22] cf. I Peter 3:20-22, Mark 16:14-21, I Corinthians 10:1-14, Hebrews 8:5, Mosiah 1:109-113, Mosiah 8:90, Ether 6:6, etc.

[23] D&C 17:7a-7d with Mosiah 9:38-50 Alma 5:25-28; cf. Matthew 24:32 & Hebrews 2:4 with D&C 39:2b

[24] Hebrews 4:15,16 with I John 1:5-10 & I John 2:1,2

[25] II Nephi 13:4-32 with II Nephi 7:42-44 & Matthew 28:17-19

[26] John 6:44, Philippians 2:12-16 & I Corinthians 12:13 with Alma 9:41 & D&C 83:7a-e

[27] While not all teach, every member needs to be baptized with Christ unto sin to become one with Him.

[28] cf. Luke 24:44-47 with Acts 2:37-39; see also Mark 1:1-16 with II Nephi 13:3-32

[29] cf. D&C 52:4b-5b & Mark 16:13-21 with Mormon 4:85-95 & Ether 1:114-117

[30] Acts 2:5-12 with Acts 2:38,41 & III Nephi 5:24

[31] D&C 16:5a-5g with D&C 17:7a-7d & 21a-21d

[32] Mosiah 9:38-50 & Alma 5:25-28 with Mark 16:14-21, III Nephi 3:68, Ether 1:115 & D&C 83:10c-11f