1 Cor. 10:4 states,
They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.
The Trinitarian mind-set would have us believe Paul was trying to tell us Christ literally existed in the time of the wanderings in the wilderness, but this is not what Paul said or was trying to convey to us.
We know that the Messiah did not literally exist as a rock, nor follow the Israelites all around in the wilderness. Nowhere in the Hebrew Testament does it mention the Messiah being with the Israelites in the wilderness. And if he had been, he certainly would not have been “following” them. The Hebrew Testament does not say the LORD “followed” the Israelites as Paul spoke of the rock that followed them; scriptures states that the LORD “went before them,” not following them. (Ex. 13:21,22) The context, however, in 1 Cor. 10:4 shows that Paul is speaking of the things as types.
There are many passages that the Messiah was the hope of Israel, and people who looked forward to him were strengthened by their anticipation of their coming Messiah.
Paul was using a “typology” with reference to Christ, who is the Messiah, accompanying Christians in their lives. We as children of God are passing through this world and wilderness as pilgrims. Our experience is being read back into the experiences of the Israelites. Twice Paul tells us he is speaking “typically” in verses 6 and 11. Here is what we can learn as one brother has well stated:
- Passing through the red sea/cloud = Christian baptism.
- The miraculous manna = Continuous supply of spiritual food.
- Striking the rock (tsur) at Rephidim= Christ in the flesh smitten for sins of man.
- The gushing out of water = The giving of holy spirit.
- Striking the rock (sela) at Kadesh= Christ our High Priest not to be smitten twice but only to be addressed. Yet “they impale the Son of God afresh”
- Water came out abundantly = The supplying of holy spirit.
The 2 rock incidents were at each end of the wanderings (Exodus 17 and Numbers 20).
Paul designates the “rock” that Moses struck as a “type,” of Jesus. Paul does not say that Christ is [present tense] that rock as assumed by many.
The spiritual “rock” was Christ, that is, that rock that the LORD had provided by means of his spirit is a type of Jesus. There is nothing in this that means that Jesus “was” LORD as in Yahweh. The food — the manna — and drink — the water — provided by the LORD is a type of the food and drink provided through Jesus. Jesus himself tells us this. (John 6:48-58) There is nothing in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 that proves that Jesus is LORD (Yahweh) who provided the rock, and the manna, and the drink through the rock.
Paul was speaking figuratively. He draws an illustration of how the literal “rock,” that the Israelites literally drank from, spiritually represents Jesus (1 Cor. 10: 6-11). Christ is our nourishment and our strength (John 6:35; Phil 4:13). Paul is giving an example by referring them back to the nation of Israel for the benefit of the Christian (v.6).
So Paul is in no way saying that Christ literally existed as a rock or that he existed in the time of the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites.