The Shadow of Glory (Part 1)

They brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches,  that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5:15)

THE Bible has much to say about shadows. Some of the shadows it talks about are negative. The phrase “shadow of death,” is used quite often, most famously in the “Shepherd” Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will for no evil” (Psalm 23:4).

“Shadow” is also used as a metaphor for the brevity and transience of life. In Job 8:9, for example, we find this assessment: “For we were born yesterday, and know nothing, because our days on earth are a shadow.” Here shadows are seen as fleeting and insubstantial.

In the New Testament, James used the figure of shadow to contrast with the eternal stability and faithfulness of God: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Fathers of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God is not fleeting in any of His ways. His shadow does not shift or change.

The Scriptures also reveal to us shadows that are absolutely wonderful — in fact, they show us shadows which are divine. For example, we find shadow used to speak of refuge — the divine protection we have in God. The psalm writer says, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8). “ How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 36:7). “In the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge” (Psalm 57:1). “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

The divine shadow is not only a place of refuge, but also of refreshing and delight. “Like an apple tree among the tree of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in His shade with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song of Solomon 2:3).

Sometimes “shadow” is used figuratively of prophetic things, pointing toward the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, Paul counseled, “Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). The author of Hebrews, demonstrating the superiority of Christ, speaks of the Aaronic priesthood as those “who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things” of which Christ is the fulfillment (Hebrews 8:5). Even the Law of Moses was described as “having a shadow of the good things to come,” things which are now realized in Christ (Hebrews 10:1).

In one of Jesus’ parables, a shadow reveals the blessing of God’s presence, His power and glory graciously reaching out to the world:

Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32. The KJV says, “So that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”)

The Kingdom of God casts a powerful and pervasive shadow, so it should come as no surprise that the sons and daughters of that kingdom are also found to cast shadows of divine refuge and restoration. That is exactly what we find throughout the Book of Acts, especially in chapter 5, which explicitly employs the language of shadow:

And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:12-16)

Glory Shadowing

The Greek word for “shadow” in the New Testament is skia, and means what we normally associate with “shadow.” But there are a couple of other Greek words built on this root which intensify the concept into divine proportions.

The first one is kataskiazo, which literally means “to shadow down.” We find it only one time in the New Testament, at Hebrews 9:5, to describe the Ark of the Covenant: “And above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.” The cherubim are angelic beings who represent the glory of God and safeguard His holiness. We discover this in Genesis, when Adam and Eve fell into sin and were expelled from the Garden of Eden and cherubim were posted with flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).

In the Ark of the Covenant, the cherubim are depicted as the glory of God “shadowing down” to the place of mercy. This glory comes down from heaven, from the throne room of God to reveal the mercy of God in salvation, healing, deliverance and restoration on earth. This glory is the shadow that is cast by the Kingdom of God.

There is another word, episkiazo, which builds on the root word skia, and is generally rendered as “overshadow.” We find it only five times in the New Testament, but in each case it describes a powerful, even tangible, manifestation of the glory of God on earth. It first occurs in the Annunciation passage, where the angel of the Lord visits the Virgin Mary:

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

It was by this powerful overshadowing that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and the Lord Jesus was conceived in her womb. Heaven and earth came together in that moment, and the glory of the Father was acutely revealed. The result was the Kingdom of God breaking into the world through the birth of the infant King.

The next three uses of episkiazo are found in the three Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9). These are parallel passages, so it will be sufficient for our purposes to look at only one, Matthew 17:

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:1-5)

Some translations say that the bright cloud enveloped them. In other words, it did not simply hover over them but was all around them. It invaded their atmosphere. Not only that, but it was tangible to them. They experienced it as a brilliant cloud of light, a cloud of God’s glory made visible to them. The power and goodness of God — the very substance of heaven itself — was entering their world, materializing before their eyes. Now they could see why Jesus was transfigured before them, why His face and clothes shone so intensely.

We discover the final use of episkiazo in Acts chapter 5: “They brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5:15). The word “shadow” in this verse is the Greek skia. But there is another shadow present, found behind the words “fall on” (the KJV shows it as “overshadow”). This is episkiazo — the shadow of glory!

The believers at Jerusalem came and brought their sick before Peter. They had heard the gospel message he preached, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). They were aware of what had happened at Pentecost, how the same Spirit who anointed Jesus also anointed His disciples with power to bear evidence of who Jesus is and what He came to do (Acts 1:8). They had also just seen what happened to Ananias and Sapphira and recognized that Peter and the apostles came with the authority of heaven (Acts 5:1-11). Then they witnessed for themselves the many signs and wonders that were being performed by the apostles, Peter prominently featured among them.

It was not merely Peter’s natural shadow they were interested in, for there was no power in that to accomplish anything, but it served as an indicator that a far greater shadow was passing by. The Kingdom of God was breaking into their world, and they desired to be overshadowed by it. They wanted to be surrounded by the glory of God, where the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven. They hoped to be enveloped by the power of God, to be changed by it, saved by it, healed by it. So they came and brought their sick ones and laid them where Peter was passing by, in order that his divine shadow, the shadow of God’s anointing which was on Peter, might overshadow them, that the glory of God might fall on them with healing power. That is exactly what happened, for Luke gives the witness: “and they all were healed” (Acts 5:16).

The shadow of glory has not passed away, for the Kingdom of God has not passed away — and it never shall! In all the centuries in the history of the Church, countless multitudes have been overshadowed by the divine glory, enveloped by the power of God that saves, heals and sets the captives free. It shows up wherever those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ begin to understand who they are in Him and walk in the authority He has given them.

The fact is, we are all bearers of the glory, if we know the Lord Jesus Christ, for the glory which the Father gave to Jesus is the exact same glory Jesus has given to us (John 17:22). That is why the Bible says, “As He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Therefore, we should expect to walk with the same shadow of glory that accompanied Peter, for it is the glory of the Lord Jesus Himself.

[Continued in The Shadow of Glory (Part 2)]

© 2004 by Jeff Doles.
All rights reserved.

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“JEFF DOLES is a Christian author, blogger and Bible teacher. His books include The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew and Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the founders of Walking Barefoot Ministries. Visit their website at”

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