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Learning To Understand Bible Symbols

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#21 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:22 AM

And because the whole kingdom is the Body Politic of the king, therefore the Sun, or a tree, or a beast, or a bird, or a man whereby the king is represented, is put in a large signification for the whole kingdom: and several animals, as a lion, a bear, a leopard, a goat, according to their qualities, are put for several kingdoms and bodies politic: and sacrificing of beasts, for slaughtering and conquering of kingdoms: and friendship between beasts, for peace between kingdoms.

Yet sometimes vegetables and animals are by certain epithets or circumstances, extended to other significations; as a tree, when called the Tree of Life or of Knowledge; and a beast, when called the Old Serpent, or worshipped.

When a beast or man is put for a kingdom, his parts and qualities are put for the analogous parts and qualities of the kingdom as the head of a beast for the great men who precede and govern; the tail for inferior people, who follow and are governed: the heads, if more than one, for the number of capital parts or dynasties or dominions, in the kingdom, whether collateral or successive, with respect to the civil government:

the horns on any head for the number of kingdoms in that head, with respect to military power: seeing for understanding, and the eyes for men of understanding and policy; in matters of religion, for bishops; speaking, for making laws: the mouth for a lawgiver, whether civil or sacred: the loudness of the voice, for might and power: the faintness thereof, for weakness: eating and drinking, for acquiring what is signified by the things eaten or drank: the hairs of a beast or man, and the feathers of a bird, for people: the wings for the number of kingdoms represented by the beast:

the arm of a man for his power, or for any people wherein his strength and power consists: his feet, for the lowest of the people, or for the latter end of the kingdom: the feet, nails, and teeth of beasts of prey, for armies, and squadrons of armies: the bones, for strength, and for fortified places: the flesh for riches and possessions: and the days of their acting, for years: and when a tree is put for a kingdom, its branches, leaves and fruit, signify as do the wings, feathers, and food of a bird or beast.

#22 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:23 AM

When a man is taken in a mystical sense, his qualities are often signified by his actions, and by the circumstances of things about him. So the ruler is signified by his riding on a beast; a warrior and conqueror, by his having a sword and bow: a potent man by his gigantic stature: a judge, by weights and measures:

a sentence of absolution or condemnation, by a white or a black stone: a new dignity by a new name: moral or civil qualifications, by garments: honor and glory, by splendid apparel: royal dignity, by purple of scarlet, or by a crown:

righteousness, by white and clean robes: wickedness, by spotted and filthy garments: affliction mourning, and humiliation, by clothing in sackcloth: dishonor, shame, and want of good works, by nakedness: error and misery, by drinking a cup of his or her wine that causeth it: propagating any religion for gain, by exercising traffic or merchandize with that people whose religion it is: worshipping or serving the false gods of any nation, by committing adultery with their princes, or by worshipping them: a council of a kingdom, by its image:

idolatry by blasphemy: overthrow in war, by a wound of man or beast: a durable plague of war, by a sore or pain: the affliction or persecution which a people suffers in laboring to bring forth a new kingdom, by the pain of a woman in labor to bring forth a man-child: the dissolution of a body politic or ecclesiastic, by the death of a man or beast: and the revival of a dissolved dominion, by the resurrection of the dead.

#23 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:28 AM

In his exposition of Revelation chapter 6, Hanserd Knowles identifies a number of Biblical symbols as they are used in prophecy:

12. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth Seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.

In this Vision of the [sixth Seal] St. John had the revelation of the great revolution of the Roman pagan empire, which should put an end unto the bloody persecutions of the heathen emperors, and all their tyrannical torturing of the Christians by cruel deaths; which revolution is there set forth in a prophetical style and manner of speaking.

For when the Prophets did foretell the destruction of Kingdoms, or some great changes and revolutions therein they used such figurative and metaphorical terms, words and expressions, as are in the following verses; viz. [a great earthquake, the Sun black, the Moon blood, &c.]. (Read Isa. 26:6; Matthew 24:7; Joel 3:16; Hag. 2:6,7,21,22; Isa. 2:19-22; 13:10, Jer. 15:9; Joel 2:10,11; Ezek. 32:7; Amos 8:9; Isa. 24:13).

#24 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:29 AM

13. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mightily wind.

By [heaven] here, we are to understand the Roman pagan empire in its glorious state, with their temples, altars, idols, and worship (Isa. 34:4,5). [And by the stars of that heaven], is meant, the kings, princes, dukes and earls (who wear a golden Star), also the arch-clams, clams, and all the orders of the pagan priests (vv. 14,15; Read Ezek. 32:7,8; Joel 2:10; Jer.13:9,10,11 and Matthew 24:29).

The fall and ruin of the Roman kings and priests, are here fitly resembled by [a fig-tree that casteth her untimely figs when it is shaken with a mightily wind]; that is the dispensation of the wrath of almighty God (Dan. 2:34,35,44,45).

14. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places:

The departing of the [heaven] signifies the total revolution, and final destruction of the pagan sate of the Roman Empire; by Constantine the Great. [And every mountain], that is their high places on which they worshipped their idols. (Read Ezek. 18:6, Isa. 57:7. Eze. 6:13) Then shall ye know that I am JEHOVAH, when their slain men shall be among their idols, round about their altars, upon every high hill in all the tops of the mountains-The place where they did offer sweet savours unto all their idols.

And by every island, we may understand every separated place (as islands are from the land) so all their consecrated temples, altars, &c., were dedicated unto their idol gods, and separated from there common places, and [were removed]; that is taken away and abolished. Their [panqeon] and all the rest of their idol temples, were taken away by the Christian emperors; and the worship of Christ set up gradually throughout the whole Roman Empire, by the edicts, decrees, and government of Constantine; (as Zeph. 2:10,11). JEHOVAH will famish all the gods of the earth, and destroy the idols and the heathen.

#25 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:30 AM

15. And the kings of the earth, and the great men and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond-man, and every free-man hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains,

By [the kings of the earth], we are to understand the chief rulers of the whole Roman pagan empire, called the whole world (Luke 2:1). [And the great men]; that is, their nobles and honorable persons, and their princes (Nahum3:10). [And her great men] (honorable men) were bound in chains. This honor have all the saints (Ps. 149:7,8,9). [And the rich men]; that is, their rich merchants (Isa. 23:8,11; Rev. 18:3,15). [And the chief Captains]; that is, the chief generals, and all the great commanders in the imperial armies (Acts 25:23).

[And every bondman, and every freeman] (that had been persecutors of the Christians) [hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains]; as (Job 29:8), They were terrified, and frightened, yes, amazed at this dispensation of God, and wrath of the Lamb our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is no darkness nor shadow of death, where the workers of Iniquity may hide themselves (Job 34:22).
16. And said to the mountains and the rocks, fall on us, hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

These idolatrous potentate kings, priests, and captains, in the day of God vengeance (his temple vengeance) seek for hiding places, but find none. They had rather the rocks and mountains should have fallen on them and destroyed them, than to be brought before the judgment of seat of God and Jesus Christ, whose name they have blasphemed, whole churches, ministers, and members, they had persecuted, imprisoned, martyred and murdered, by their edicts, decrees, laws, and soldiers, and by the judges, juries, and the false witnesses (Amos 9:1,2,3).

For the great day of His wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?
This great day of God, and the Lamb's wrath, was at last acknowledged and confessed by those persecutors. This dreadful dispensation of God's wrath happened in the days of the 10th and last bloody persecution of the Christians, when Diocelsian was Emperior; as all historians testify.

#26 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:32 AM

In 'Vision Of The Ages', B W Johnson provides a useful reference glossary for Biblical symbols. Though brief, it is a good general guide:


Revelation is a book of symbols. The proper interpretation depends on the right use of these symbols. The meanings usually attached to them will be found in any symbol dictionary. I have condensed for this table from the dictionaries the definitions of the principal symbols used in Revelation.

ADULTERY.-Idolatry or apostasy. As Christ is represented as a Bridegroom, and the Church as his Bride, apostasy, or unfaithfullness to him, would be spiritual adultery and a false church properly represented as a harlot.

ANGEL.-Any agent or messenger of the divine will. It may be a Celestial spirit, or a movement of earthly nations, etc.

ASCENSION TO HEAVEN.-Exaltation in power and glory. Prosperity.

BABYLON.-The city that carried Godís people into captivity. Rome.

BALANCES.-A symbol of justice, but when used in connection with food they are a symbol of scarcity.

BEAST.-A wild, savage beast indicates a usurping, cruel, tyrannical, persecuting power.

BINDING.-This symbol implies to deprive of power, to weaken, or render helpless.

BLACK.-The color of mourning or affliction.

BLACK HORSE.-The horse is a symbol of war. A. black horse would mean calamitous war.

BLOOD.-A symbol of carnage and therefore of war.

BOOK.-To seal a book is to conceal its meaning; to open a book is to reveal its meaning. The book with seven seals is the book of destiny. The opening of the seals is the revelation of future history.

BOW.-A bow held in the hand is a symbol of war. [353]

BRIDE.-The spouse of Christ, the Church, the New Jerusalem.

BRIDEGROOM.-Jesus Christ.

CANDLESTICK.-A symbol of a church, which is the light of the world. The seven golden candlesticks are the Seven Churches.

CHAIN.-A symbol of bondage or affliction. To chain is to render powerless. To bind Satan with a chain is to destroy his power.

CLOUD.-An emblem of power and majesty. To ride upon the clouds is to appear in glory and exaltation.

CROWN.-The symbol of royal majesty. To enjoy exaltation and honor. To receive the crown of life is to receive the honors of eternal life.

DARKNESS.-The well known symbol of calamity and affliction.

DAY.-"I have given you a day for a year." One revolution of the earth on its axis is a symbol of its annual revolution in its orbit. "Twelve hundred and sixty days" means as many years.

DEATH.-A symbol of destruction.

DRAGON.-The old pagan Roman Empire. The dragon was originally a symbol of a monarch. In Revelation it means the persecuting monarchy of Rome.

#27 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:33 AM

EARTH.-The ancient civilized world, which corresponded in Johnís time with the Roman Empire.

EARTHQUAKE.-Political and moral revolutions and convulsions of society. The shaking of the established order of things. The subversion of states and fortunes.

ECLIPSE.-Or the darkening of heavenly bodies, means the obscuration of the glory of kings and potentates of which sun, moon and stars are symbols.

EGYPT.-The place of spiritual bondage. A condition of sinfullness. Opposition to Christ.

ELDERS.-Probably heavenly princes.

EUPHRATES.-The symbol of the Turkish power. To be "bound by the Euphrates" is to be restrained at that river. [354] The "drying up of the Euphrates" is the gradual decay of the Turkish power.

FIRE.-Fierce destruction. Never the symbol of a blessing, but of a curse.

FIRE FROM HEAVEN.-Divine destruction, but fire brought down from heaven by the two-horned dragon, means excommunications and anathemas of Rome.

FLOOD.-Symbol of overpowering. Distress from persecution or any cause.

FOREHEAD.-A mark in the forehead means a public profession.

FORNICATION.-Idolatry. See {Adultery}.

GRAVE.-To put into the grave, signifies to consign to oblivion. "Not to suffer dead bodies to be put into the grave," means that they shall be remembered.

HAIL.-Ravages and destruction.

HAND.-A mark in the hand means the manner of life.

HARLOT.-An idolatrous community. The great Harlot is the apostate church. See {Adultery}.

HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.-The world. The political and religious universe. A new heavens and new earth implies a passing away of the old order of things and the establishment of a new order.

HORNS.-"The great horn is the first king;" Daniel. A symbol of kings, kingdoms, or power.

HORSE.-Used only for warlike purposes by the ancients and hence a symbol of war. The color of the horse indicates the condition of his rider and the state of the war.

INCENSE.-The prayers of the saints.

ISLANDS.-European States. In the prophets the "isles of the sea" meant the countries in and beyond the Mediterranean; hence, Europe.

#28 Fortigurn



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Posted 22 November 2003 - 05:34 AM

JERUSALEM.-The capital of Judea and the seat of the temple becomes a symbol of the church of Christ. The "holy [355] city" is contrasted with the "great city," Jerusalem with Babylon, or the true with the false Church.

KING.-Supreme power of any kind.

LAMB.-The Lamb of God is the Messiah, slain as a lamb from the foundation of the world.

LOCUSTS.-Devouring armies, who pillage and ravage a country. The Arabians under Mahomet.

MANNA.-The bread of life. The truth of Christ.

MERCHANTS.-Those who traffic in religious privileges. Those who make merchandise of religion.

MOON.-A symbol of rulers or great men, but not supreme.

MOUNTAIN.-A mountain denotes one highly elevated and conspicuous among men. A great and powerful prince or government. A burning mountain is a destructive conqueror.

PALE HORSE.-A symbol of war and of the reign of death.

PALM.-A symbol of joy or victory.

RED HORSE.-A symbol of cruel, bloody war, distinguished by awful carnage.

RIVER OF LIFE.-Christ is the fountain of life. The abundant, everflowing life that the Savior. bestows is symbolized by the river of life. The tree of life means virtually the same.

ROD.-The symbol of rule. A rod of iron is a strong rule.

SCARLET.-Bloody cruelty. The color worn by the cardinals of Rome.

SEVEN.-The perfect number.

STARS.-Conspicuous men. Shining lights in the world.

SUN.-A supreme ruler. The moon and stars indicate great lights of society, but inferior to the sun. The moon is also a symbol of the Jewish state, and the sun of the Christian.

SWORD.-A symbol of slaughter, or of conquest. A sword proceeding out of the mouth indicates the spiritual conquests of the word of God.

TEMPLE OF GOD.-The Church. The Temple of God open in heaven, is the abode of God, or heaven itself.

THRONE.-A symbol of authority.

TIME.-Time, times and half a time is an annual revolution of the earth, a year, two years, a half year, or three and a half years. "Seven Times" passed over Nebuchadnezzar, or seven years.

TRUMPET.-The blast of the trumpet means the forward [356] march of armies, or the proclamation of war or peace.

WHITE.-To be clothed in white is to be innocent, pure, and to be triumphant.

WHITE HORSE.-Triumphant and glorious war. See {Horse}.

WHORE.-Apostate church. See {Adultery}.

WINDS.-Symbol of commotion; of mighty movements. The "Four Winds" are four invasions of the Roman empire.

WINE PRESS.-A symbol of an effusion of blood and of distress.

WITNESSES.-The two witnesses are the two Testaments, for such is the meaning of the latter word.

WOMAN.-A body politic, civil or religious. The "woman clothed with the sun" is the pure and faithful church. The Great Harlot is the false, faithless, apostate church.

B W Johnson, 'Vision Of The Ages', pages 353-357, 1881

#29 Zenas



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Posted 19 May 2005 - 12:33 AM

:clap2: Thanks Fort :)

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