Scripture is exceedingly rich in symbols. All kinds abound, and in most cases, they represent truths greater than themselves.
Read Genesis 4:3-7. What do their two different sacrifices symbolize?
Very early in the Bible we can see the difference between the attempt to work one’s way to heaven (in the offering of Cain) and the realization that salvation is by grace alone, made available to us only through the merits of a crucified Savior (the offering of Abel).
The Israelites saved their lives by looking upon the uplifted serpent. That look implied faith. They lived because they believed God’s word, and trusted in the means provided for their recovery.-Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 431.
All through the Old Testament, the earthly sanctuary service served as the most detailed symbolic representation of the plan of salvation. How much the Israelites understood about the meaning of all the rituals has been an open question for millennia though no doubt many did grasp the most important of all truths taught there: substitutionary atonement, the idea that in order for their sins to be forgiven a substitute had to die in their stead (see 1 Cor. 5:7).
In fact, through the sanctuary service, we have been given symbols not only of the death of Jesus but also of His high priestly ministry in heaven, the pre-Advent judgment, and the final disposition of sin at the end of the age.
What other biblical symbols of the plan of salvation can you think of? Which ones especially speak to you about God’s saving grace and the hope we can derive from it?