The Open Scroll - The Feeding of the Five Thousand
The Feeding of the Five Thousand

By Bob Schlenker (Prints about 5 pages) updated 1/11/01

The biblical accounts known as the feeding of the five thousand prophesy about this present age and the transition into the next. This particular age will conclude with a resurrection of the Bride of Messiah and the sealing and commission of 144,000 Jews. This account seems not so much to add to the knowledge base of the other writings on this web site but to supplement it, further establishing the meanings of several prophetic symbols. In fact, an awareness of these symbolic meanings is required to see cryptic scenario for what it is. And, of course, as ever, the Lord must open the eyes of your understanding. For this reason, I will begin by seeking His grace on your behalf, to grant you eyes to see. Yes, open their eyes, Lord, according to your promise. Here is the account given in Matthew.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.' 16 Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.' 17 'We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,' they answered. 18 'Bring them here to me,' he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.  Matthew 14:15-21
This was a notable miracle because of the multiplication of the amount of food, but, even more remarkable than that is the prophetic revelation being unveiled at the end of this age!

The prophetic context of this account is revealed largely in the usage of the number five. It appears in this record both in the number of the loaves distributed and as a factor in the number of men fed by them.1 Numbers in scripture have specific themes associated with them in a consistent manner whether these numbers appear directly in the text, in the numerical value of words and phrases, in the number of times something occurs or as a factor of another number appearing in those ways. The number five is no exception, signifying grace, as noted by Bullinger. It is also known to signify the church age. According to some dispensational accountings, it is the fifth in the series of ages beginning with the original paradise. This number also signifies the Bride, noting its connection with the Bride Type Benjamin 2 and with the Bride Theft Type of Israel crossing over at the Exodus in ranks of five. The number five is a significant factor of 5000. (5 x 1000) Theomatic studies reveal that such as the series of 50, 500, 5000, etc. may be seen as sharing the meaning of the base number and even being an amplification of it. Five thousand also factors out as 54 times 8. Five signifies the church age and the number 8 signifies the Lord's people. Thus 5000 seems like the perfect number to represent this present age. I believe the 5000 men, besides women and children was a historically accurate tally, but it is probably more important for us to understand that the people being fed represent those who are Christians during the present pentecost church age.

This event took place "as evening approached." It was "already getting late" before they began, prophesying of the end of the age.

What can we learn about the significance of the 5 loaves? Five loaves represents the spiritual "food" sufficient for this age. From John 6:9 we learn that these were small barley loaves. Barley represents Y'shua HaMashiach.3 This symbolism becomes even more plain in verse 27, which follows shortly after John's record of the feeding of the 5,000.
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.
Jesus is teaching the spiritual significance of the loaves they had just eaten. The loaves symbolize the food that endures to eternal life, which Jesus, the Son of Man, had just given them. Now, verse 29 reads: Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. To be offered the bread is to be presented with the gospel message, to have the opportunity to believe in the one God has sent. Verses 32-33 read:
Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'
Just who is "he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world?"
Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'  John 6:35:
And, in John 6:51-53, he clarifies it further.
'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.' 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' 53 Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.'
The barley loaves fed to the 5,000 represent Jesus, the true bread from heaven being "fed" to those in the Church Age! Five barley loaves are sufficient for the church age.

Jesus took the 5 barley loaves, broke them and gave them to His disciples. The breaking of the bread signifies the opening of their understanding. They in turn distributed it to the others who were seated. Jesus had told the disciples: "You give them something to eat." This was their job. This is now our job! The true bread from heaven, Jesus, is being served to the people of the world so that they can believe on Him unto eternal life. Isn't this record in the gospels a beautiful portrayal of this truth?

In Mark's record of the feeding, verse 39 of chapter 6 describes Jesus' direction to organize those who will eat into groups. It reads:
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.
I believe this division of the people signifies that all the peoples of the world will receive the testimony of Jesus, every division - every people, every nation, confirming and expanding upon what we noted as the meaning of the 5000 men, plus women and children. (50 = 52x2 100=52x4) Now, did you notice where they were directed to sit? On the green grass. Colors like numbers are symbolic. Grass is also symbolic. Consider the following, just two of many very obvious scriptures.
A voice says, 'Cry out!' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.  Isaiah 40:6:

For, 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,'  I Peter 1:24
Grass represents people, specifically in the context of their inconstancy, their impermanence. In these frail temporal bodies we are merely mortal. Here today - gone tomorrow. So what is green grass signifying as the people were particularly identified with it while they ate? A time wherein man would flourish. The grass is green only for a time. Its end is ever in sight. It shortly withers. While we are in the "flower of our youth," we will eat and serve the bread of life. Soon enough as this age rushes to its conclusion, a drought will come, a wasting famine. No longer will the figurative grass be green, friends.

Now, in addition to the bread which was given, there were two small fish. What could they represent? Fish are often symbolic of a multitude of people in the context of being drawn into a net at an end of the age harvest or resurrection. In Luke 5:9-10, Jesus links those who would be harvested under the apostle Peter's ministry to fish caught under His direction.
For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men.'
This "two fish" allusion to the harvest of men harmonizes beautifully with the "breaking five barley loaves" theme that precedes it, doesn't it? Five loaves and two fish - Amen!

In Matthew 13:47-50 we find a parable which reads:
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Here we find the only place in scripture where fish are divided into two categories. Two fish equates to two categories of fish, or people. The divisions represent the wicked and the righteous. These are being and will be separated at the times of resurrection. Those who remain behind after the Bride meets her Bridegroom will all be thrown into the fiery furnace,4 according to verse 50. Each resurrection up to the last separates the two kinds of fish.

Because the 5,000 plus who were fed each ate from one or the other of the two fish, I believe this represents the truth that not all who ate and were satisfied become righteous in that by their deeds they are found worthy. The Bride is separated out and taken first, leaving the others thrown into the fiery furnace.

Concerning the two fish, we must take this opportunity to at least mention the imagery of Pisces, the Zodiacal sign picturing two fish bound together by the tails with a cord. The significance of this sign's appearance in this account is an interesting study but outside the scope of this article.

There's another significant number in the account of the miraculous feeding. After the people had all eaten and were satisfied, the remainder of the bread and fish filled twelve baskets. These baskets contained food left over from the Church Age. Observe that this food wasn't broken anew and distributed. This signifies that this food will be distributed after the Bride has been stolen away! Twelve baskets indicates that it is Israel who will eat this food! This bread and fish broken by Y'shua for his Apostles to distribute will feed the 12 tribes of Israel. First, the 144,000 will eat of it, receiving the testimony of Jesus unto eternal life. These, who are to bear testimony to the rest of Israel, are taken from among the 12 tribes of Israel numbering 12,000 from each tribe as listed in Revelation chapter 7. They will distribute the food to the rest of Israel, just as we saw foreshadowed in Joseph's brothers taking the saving grain of Egypt back to Jacob in the Iron Gate article. Over and over again, this same scenario is played out in the hidden prophetic scriptures.

This hidden prophecy is about the time of transition into the next age! It is another view of the passing of the "baton," of the mantle. From it, we learn that the bread and fish fed to the church age which remains after we're satisfied will be for the Jews, first, for the 144,000. If you've ever wondered how they will learn about Y'shua once we're gone, you've probably figured out from reading the book of Revelation that the Lord will guide them directly by means of their spiritual abilities. But, by what means will they find the knowledge of the truths and other evidences so necessary to their ministry? Now you know. The Lord has prepared and is preparing a work of instruction which will remain behind when we're gone. Didn't the New Testament come to us during our age? Doesn't it contain much crucial information about their time, and, isn't it more appropriate in its application throughout to them in their time than it has ever been to us in ours? I should say so! Read it in this light and if the Lord opens your eyes, you will be amazed to see this truth. Have you read Hebrews lately? This book has been forced to fit our age but never has very well at all. It is convincing evidence of what I'm saying. The New Testament will be their text, searing present truth for their present time. They will understand the book of Revelation. Although it is beginning to be opened to our understanding in these last days, I suspect that much of it will not be really understood until it is directly applicable and wholly relevant.

We should note in closing when this cryptic scenario that pictures the ingathering of the Church is said to take place. John 6:4 tells us when: "The Jewish Passover Feast was near." There's a lot of controversy about whether or not this verse belongs in the Bible. If it weren't for this verse, it would seem that the most significant part of our Lord's ministry on this earth might even be seen to fit roughly into the space of one year. (if squeezed hard enough) Those who insist that it does are thereby forced to deny the validity of John 4:6. But, the evidence proves that this verse is indeed a vital part of God's perfect Word and thus we have it as a great curiosity. What's it doing there? Revealing truth! Watch the spring of 2001 closely, friends.

Endnotes (Click your browser's back button after reading the endnote to return to the place you came from in this page)

1) I should at least mention that accounts of this feeding appear in all four Gospels. Upon close examination you may conclude as I have that, because of their irreconcilable differences, they must be intended to offer different aspects of prophetic teaching. This is in contrast to their having been set forth as a stumbling stone of scholarly contention as to whether or not they represent the same identical historical event.

2) Genesis 43:34 : When portions were served to them from Joseph's table, Benjamin's portion was five times as much as anyone else's. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
Genesis 45:22 : To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. In each record, Benjamin receives five-fold compared to the other brothers. These gifts represent blessings bestowed by Y'shua upon the Bride. In addition to what is received that is common to both Benjamin and his brothers, Benjamin receives a blessing of silver. The amount of silver, three hundred shekels, can be represented as 52 ×12 thus marking it too most particularly with the number five.

3) Judges 7:13: Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. 'I had a dream,' he was saying. 'A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.' Barley is also the first grain crop to be harvested and is offered as the firstfruits during Passover. Does that remind you of Y'shua? Barley is also known as a sacrificial crop. It has been and even today remains the practice of some farmers to grow a crop of barley just to plow it under when it ripens. This conditions the soil so the next crop to be grown in the field will prosper. It is thus sacrificed for the sake of the crop to follow. Does that sound like Y'shua? And His Bride?

4) This is not the lake of fire as you might suppose but that fiery furnace of Daniel chapter three. You know, the one that was heated seven times hotter than usual? The Hebrew word for "times" is also translated "years". This fiery furnace represents the period of time so focal to our studies - the final seven years This furnace is a "trial by fire."