In Genesis 8:6-12 we read
These verses describe what happened at the end of the flood in the days of Noah. Shortly before God had judged the all the wicked who had since multiplied since the days of Adam. All perished with exception of one man, and his family who were saved by God's grace. That man was Noah. The secret was to build the ark and enter in before the door closed. The same holds true today for those who serve the Lord, and are partaking in His Project that leads to eternity. Just as God revealed His Project of Salvation to Noah, so too He does for us today through the Blood of Son Jesus Christ.v6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made
v7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.
v8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground.
v9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him.
v10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark.
v11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.
v12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.
At this point in the story, the flood waters were receding. Soon Noah and family would be exiting the ark. The entire earth had flooded and every creature who breathed air was destroyed, except for those on the ark. Eventually this ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. After a certain period of time Noah could see the top of the mountains, and eventually sent out two birds to see if it was time to come out yet.
First he sent out the raven. This raven kept going to and from the ark. Eventually the raven did not return. Next Noah, sent out the dove. Unlike the raven, the dove did not find a resting place, and returned to the ark. Noah then waited another 7 days, and a second time sent out the dove. This time she returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her beak. Noah waited yet another 7 days, and sent out the dove a third and final time. This time she never returned.
RAVEN - This unclean bird is a symbol of the type of person who lives in the flesh, pleasing his carnal desires. Just as the raven went to and from the ark to feast on rotten flesh, so to do those who come to Church, act holy, only to return to these unpleasing things. They live a double life. They still like to be in the world. Just like the raven, eventually these people never return, and remain in the world permanently.
DOVE - The dove is a gentle bird which does not feed on rotten flesh. It was also a clean bird. This bird eventually came back with a freshly plucked OLIVE leaf. This OLIVE TREE is where oil comes from. In the bible the TREE is a symbol of man. Jesus though perfect in deity was also the perfect Man. Through Him we receive the Holy Spirit (symbolized by the OLIVE oil), after receiving the good news of Salvation. Believers are to be just like this harmless dove. They are not to feed on dead rotten things. They do not live a double life of hypocrisy. Their identity is one in the same as the Holy Spirit (also symbolized by the DOVE), who's will they do daily.
FIRST TIME THE DOVE WAS SENT - The 1st period of God's dispensation in the period of the Old Testament. God's Holy Spirit was only resting on a few people here and there like the prophets. Afterwards the Spirit returned to God.
SECOND TIME, WITH THE OLIVE LEAF - The 2nd period of God's dispensation in the time of Jesus' ministry. The dove returning with news of LIFE, reminds us of the good news of Jesus Christ. He came to give us eternal life. He died on the cross for our sins. Then he rose to eternal life, and left us His Holy Spirit to continue spreading this good news of Salvation.
THIRD TIME, DOVE DID NOT RETURN - The 3rd period of God's dispensation since Pentecost until the Rapture. This time the dove did not return. The dove talks about the Holy Spirit who indwells the heart of the believer. Only those with the Holy Spirit will go to eternity at the rapture. One day Salvation for the Gentiles will be closed, and God's Holy Spirit will no longer be available. Soon the Lord will return.