Jonah as a type: Jesus Christ
The book of Jonah serves as a type for several ideas taught in scripture. A type is a symbol that looks forward towards a future fulfillment. It can be defined as a “preordained representative relationship with certain persons, events, and institutions bear to corresponding persons, events, and institutions occurring at a later time in history” (Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1981, p. 184). The obvious type is that of Jesus Christ. Both Jonah and Jesus Christ spent three days and nights in “hell”. Jesus spent three days and nights among the dead in the world of spirits (see D&C 138) and Jonah mentions his three days and nights spent in the “belly of hell” (Jonah 2:2) When confronted by his enemies seeking a sign, Jesus made the following statement:
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 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 12:38-41).
Jonah as a type: The Pharisees
The message of Jonah 4 is the foundation for much of the message of the New Testament. In most prophetic literature the judgments of God upon Israel appear to be related to their faithfulness to their covenants. After the Babylonian captivity the Jews sought to reform their behavior under the leadership of people such as Ezra and Nehemiah. When the Savior comes along, the Jews of his day are so zealous in their living of the law that they “look beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14) and do not see the giver of the law when he presents himself to them.
Jonah 4 shows that the problem that Jesus sought to address was already apparent even before the return from exile. Jonah is an excellent type for the Jewish community in Jesus’ day. He boasts in his relationship with Jehovah. He sees himself as loyal to the God of the temple. He even sings Psalms (see Jonah 2) regarding the Lord’s wonderful deliverance and mercy. Yet he refuses to announce to a brutal and ungodly world that the Lord is a loving God of mercy and grace for all people.
How this applies to young people
Latter-day Saints can fall into this trap of Jonah. We too sing hymns praising the Lord. We attend the temple. We consider ourselves loyal to God. Yet there are times when the Assyrians of our lives get the better of us and we feel justified in withholding forgiveness because “reason” tells us that we are right, or because we feel “justified” in our judgment of another person. Just because someone is different than us, we should be wary of placing a final judgement on that individual.
Joseph Smith taught:
While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard. . . . He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men . . . , “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law. [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 218]
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has stated:
Since mortals cannot suppose that they will be acting as final judges at that future, sacred time, why did the Savior command that we not judge final judgments? I believe this commandment was given because we presume to make final judgments whenever we proclaim that any particular person is going to hell (or to heaven) for a particular act or as of a particular time. When we do this–and there is great temptation to do so–we hurt ourselves and the person we pretend to judge.
The effect of one mortal’s attempting to pass final judgment on another mortal is analogous to the effect on athletes and observers if we could proclaim the outcome of an athletic contest with certainty while it was still underway. Similar reasoning forbids our presuming to make final judgments on the outcome of any person’s lifelong mortal contest. (Judge Not and Judging, BYU Speeches, March 1, 1998)