USING ‘SYMBOLS’ ~
A LOVING GOD LOVES TO COMMUNICATE WITH US!
Using Symbols, Word Pictures, and Visions in Scripture.
> Every part of Scripture has many, many beautiful messages from the Holy LORD God, through the writers of the Bible, to any human being who wants to understand, by the Holy Spirit, what God is saying. This alone is an amazing fact! That the Great Sovereign God of the Universe, Who surely has everything He needs, would ever want to communicate messages to us ~ is so wonderful! It is all because, He is LOVE! 'Love' longs to share all that is good with others.
> So another fact is that God gave mankind three (3) parts of their personality, like Himself, “in His Image, in His likeness” (and totally different from animals), which would make communication between God and man, possible and valuable! See Genesis 1: 26 and 27!
are the ways we are actually 'made in God's image'.
1. Intellect, (a mind to think and imagine).
2. Emotions, ('a heart' to feel, care, love).
3. Volition, (free will, to make our own choices).
We need to use both our intellect
about anything, understanding information' or knowledge, because of
our mind, or brain.
2. Plus the emotional power to love - or care about what is good and right for ourselves and others.
3. To then use our will to make our good choices, for ourselves or others!
these facts in our minds, we then need to carefully understand
THE WAYS, or HOW
God communicates with human people, like us.
We believe God mainly communicates through the written Word of God.
[Therefore we feel God’s true people should be very wary of personal ‘prophetic words’ by another human being, unless they use the Word of God, wisely.]
If we really want to hear from God, we can do so, as we wait on
God in prayer and try to discern His Word to us.
He may use other clear vindications; by circumstances, provision of needs, (like money), or Godly counsel, but it MUST be in line with the Bible.
WARNING: Before very long the 'One World Government, will
New Age’ religion, (part of the ‘green agenda’/
global warming theories) on everyone. This teaches that Humans
are equal to animals. This simply is not true. If a human is
limited to the knowledge of an animal it is a real tragedy, though
some can be taught to do clever ticks, and may seem intelligent, none
of them can understand ‘ideas’ or spiritual concepts.
(If a child is born with no ability to speak, or care about good
things or is even unable to show love, that is a tragedy.) A Loving
GOD has far greater plans for people than that.
> An irony is, that magic tricks by the 'False Prophet' - (second of 2 future Leaders), which are symbols of their power, will deceive many millions of people, so even those who know God will be tested in their simple, true "faith in God". And to show the importance of this, there are TWO Scriptures repeating this warning ~ Matthew 24: 24, and Mark 13: 22, so it is important to notice false symbols!
DIFFERENT WAYS GOD COMMUNICATES WITH PEOPLE. ~
By Instructions, Illustrations, Explanations, Experiences, Parables, (stories), Live Visions, or Dreams, OR ‘word pictures’ that we call ‘symbols’, mainly in the Bible.
(Would you like to go through each of these and find examples of them in the Bible? There are hundreds! BUT BE VERY CAREFUL of any modern dreams or visions that are NOT in the Bible. They may even be from Satan!)
In this study we are looking at some Biblical Symbols,
and some meanings of them.
Modern examples of symbols. Using symbols to share an idea, should be no trouble to modern people, because in a way these are like modern ‘logos’ – that just by using a tiny picture can tell us about something, whether traffic signs, hobby or sports activities or advertising of businesses and products – symbols are something even children can recognize. Computers rely a lot on the use of little pictures or symbols, called ‘icons’ to suggest actions or information!
these ‘word pictures’ or symbols can explain ideas,
instruct us, warn or encourage us!
OF USING SYMBOLS WRONGLY!
There is a need to keep to obvious, main meanings of Symbols, and the Bible explanations.
> One Problem. Sadly, there is a danger of taking a symbolic word or description, in the Scripture and giving it some meaning it was never meant to have! This can be very serious, and will dishonour God’s Word, as well as confusing people. Sometimes frequent use, tells you what the symbol means.
> How to get it right. We need to look first at the context, (where the meaning is often explained) and at the use of this same symbol elsewhere in the Bible. If it is not clear, let the Holy Spirit guide you and just accept what is written. People of God have written commentaries to help us too.
> As the Bible was written by Jewish people, for Jewish people first, an understanding of Jewish customs and history is important, to the over-all understanding of the Bible, which anyone can have.
This can bring extra dimensions of joyful or exciting meaning.
> If the symbol involves actually doing something, this is an even greater reminder, like Baptism, or eating some bread * and a little grape juice * to remember the death of our Lord Jesus/Yeshua. [* These are only symbols.]
>> God knows we remember better by actions, than even by seeing or reading, and more than hearing!
have included a list of some Biblical Symbols later in this study.
A. FIRST WE HAVE CHOSEN a few VERY SPECIAL SYMBOLS AND WORD PICTURES, for (1) JESUS, (2a) ISRAEL, (2b) THE CHURCH.
1. Here are some of JESUS/ YESHUA, the MESSIAH, SON OF GOD.
(Only a few examples chosen to illustrate the need to be careful in our understanding and use of symbols. You may like to add others, from your Bible.
Isaiah 63:9, "the angel of
His Presence saved them... " But
Jesus is not an ‘angel’. In the Old Testament Jesus
visited people, so they thought he was an Angel ~ and though He was
far above angels, He did bring special messages, to Abraham, Jacob,
Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel and prophets.
Apostle, Hebrews 3:1, "Jesus the Apostle..." But Jesus is far more than ‘an apostle’, which also means a special Messenger, but greater than all in the N.T!
Bridegroom, Matthew 9:15, "the time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken..."
Cornerstone, Eph. 2:20, 1 Peter 2:7, "...I lay in Zion a chosen and precious cornerstone."
Daystar, 2 Peter 1:19, Rev.22:16, "...I am the bright Morning Star."
Lamb, John 1:29, "Behold, the Lamb of God..." and Rev. 5:6.
Lion, Rev. 5:5, "See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David..."
Jesus used a total of 7 Symbols, to explain special spiritual truths, about Himself, beginning with: ‘I AM...’ ~ each with precious meanings!
Bread, John 6:48 & 51, "I am the Bread of Life..." Jesus Himself used this symbol saying that He was like ‘bread’ a basic need in every life.
Gate, and a Good Shepherd, John chapter 10, “I Am…the Gate… (used 5 times!) The Good Shepherd” ~ picturing a strong loving Person protecting and providing for us. This emphasizes that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to Heaven!
Vine, John 15:1, “I Am the Vine…” is also one of 7 sayings, in the Gospels.
Do you know what the other 3 are? [See John 14: 6!]
GOD'S PEOPLE, are also referred to in symbols and word pictures.
a) Especially the Nation of ISRAEL.
–Jeremiah 2:21, “I had planted
you like a choice vine, of choice and reliable stock. Then how did
you turn against Me into a corrupt, wild vine?”
Compare Ezekiel chapter 15!
Vineyard – Isaiah 5:1 –7, “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel and… Judah.”
Also Isaiah 27: 2-6, “Sing about a fruitful vineyard…”
Israel as a Wife – in Ezekiel 16: 32 – "unfaithful –“You adulterous wife!”
But Isaiah 54: 6, “The LORD will call you back, as if you were a wife deserted…a wife who married young…”
The book of Hosea portrays Israel as an unfaithful wife that God won back!
God’s Sheep – Psalm 100 – “We are His; we are His People, the sheep of His pasture.” And there are at least 12 other references to Israel (or People God cares about), being God’s ‘sheep’.
An earthenware pot – Jeremiah 18, “O House of Israel, cannot I do with you, as this potter…?”
City of Zion, Isaiah 14: 32. “The LORD has established Zion, in her His people will find refuge.” Other references about ZION can be read about in a study here: 'Biblical Zion'.
A Treasured Possession! Psalm 135: 4, “The LORD has chosen Jacob to be His own, Israel to be His treasured possession.” Believers in Jesus are also called this in 1 Peter 2., but it is a very rare word in Scripture!
Inheritance, Isaiah 19: 25, “Israel, My inheritance,” is also used many times! Let the nations argue with that!
b) The Christian and Jewish Believers in Yeshua/ Jesus, 'The
Body of Christ, Eph. 1:23, "God...appointed [Jesus] to be Head over...the Church, which is His Body..." Also 1 Cor. 12:27, "...you are the Body of Christ..." You remember 'Christ' means 'Messiah ~ "The anointed One"
Bride, Rev. 21:2, also depicted as a City, "...the holy City, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her Husband..."
Bride the Wife of the Lamb, Rev.21: 9, "I will show you the Bride the wife of the Lamb."
Temple, 1 Cor. 3:16 “…you, yourselves are God’s Temple…” Cp. 6:19, & 2 Cor. 6:16!
Olive Tree, Romans 11: 17 -21. “And you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in… and now share in the nourishing sap, from the olive root.” A very special symbolic word picture, with many sermons about it!
Now: A PARTIAL LIST OF SYMBOLS IN THE BIBLE.
Numbers. One, (Primary
– most important); Two, (spiritual alternatives,
life and death, Heaven and hell, right and wrong, etc.)
Three, (the Tri-unity of God, and also man’s make up, body, soul, and spirit). Four, (the extent of Earth’s “four corners”, e.g. - “the 4 winds of Heaven”.) Five, (represents grace/ mercy) and Six (is the number for Mankind), created on the sixth day of Creation, and finally - extreme in the Evil Beast's number, 666.
Seven, (Spiritual perfection). Eight, (Salvation, and a new day/ beginning, also for Jesus/ Yeshua Who rose on the 8th Day of Passover, but first day of week.)
Ten, and Forty, (completeness, especially of a time of testing.)
Twelve, (foundation of leadership roles,) as the 12 tribes of Israel and Apostles.
Colours. Red, scarlet, crimson, (for sin and sacrifice, [Isaiah 1: 18] “though your sins be red like crimson…” Also as in 1 Peter 1: 19: "You were redeemed... by the precious blood of Messiah, a 'Lamb' without blemish...") White – (Heavenly purity, [Rev. 6; 11] –“a white robe …”
Blue, (Holiness, as seen in Temple use). Black - war and plague and death.
Natures Garden. There are so many symbols of plants, we can only list some; vine and vineyard, olive trees, fig trees, fir, myrtle and pine; mustard seed, wheat and tares, palm (branches), rose, lily, etc.
Natural objects. Water, rivers, springs, seas; stones ("stony hearts"), fire. Also gold, silver, and precious stones, (our faith and service for God.)
The world’s atmosphere, and 'Space'. Sky, clouds, sun, moon, stars, lightening, rain, hail and snow, rainbows, real things used as symbols.
Animals and birds. Donkeys, horse and mule, ("Don’t be like…”), also wild animals, especially snakes and serpents, (representing the Evil one.) The symbol of the Lion and the Lamb are special for Jesus/ Yeshua. Beasts or monsters represent evil political powers or their leaders. Doves, ravens, eagles, sparrows are among birds that represent different things. It’s worth checking these out!
Parts of the human Body. Head, eyes, tongue, heart, hands, arms, feet, back, (even God, Who is a Spirit is illustrated symbolically using these, to give us the sure truth ~ that God wants us to know Him as a real Saviour and Father!)
Human Occupations. Shepherd, fisherman, soldier, wrestler, athlete, sower, farmer, master of workers, servants, housewife, princes or kings, ‘keepers of vineyards’ and gardens.
Relationships. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, children, brothers and bride or wife; symbols often used especially in relation to God, which is amazing and beautiful!!!
Human actions. Kneeling, walking, running, fighting, killing, sleeping, watching, reading, and eating.
Manmade articles. There are many of these – for instance, every part of the building and furniture and furnishings in the Tabernacle and the Temple, that including the priests’ clothes and their colours and substances used to make them, were all symbolic of God’s holiness, and the only way to be near Him and worship Him is to accept His way of making us holy!
In addition, of course many common articles were used, such as bread, lamps, cooking pot, basket, and a plumbline.
For war: banners, swords, shields, bows, and an iron rod.
For priests or rulers: seals, (on documents), trumpets, (2 kinds: rams horns, or silver), robes, crowns, rings, diadems or victory wreaths.
Books of records, like the 'Book of Life' with names of God's Family members.
Life experiences. We list the ones to do with our Faith, such as ‘new birth’, birth pangs, baptism, marriage, memorial feast of Yeshua/ Jesus’ death, eating bread and drinking grape juice. Having God's Spirit "poured out on us."
What we actually do is the best reminders of the true meanings of the symbols we use, especially in our contacts with God.
by people. But ordinary activities
to illustrate spiritual ‘actions’ are farming, fighting,
running, walking, sleeping, and reading, kneeling and singing, which
are actual things we all do. The Bible is very practical.
Relating to royalty. Inheritances, made princes, crowned, given glory and honour because we are God’s royal children by faith!
or teachers, can use these to play games of organize
quizzes, and competitions.
We recommend a web site of a lot of easy Bible quizzes, - http://quiz.christiansunite.com
WORD PICTURES - RELATIVE TO ‘END TIMES’ AND
ISRAEL’S GLORIOUS FUTURE ON EARTH.
In these examples sometimes symbols are used inside a prophecy.
SYMBOLS IN THIS WORLD BEFORE THE RETURN OF YESHUA AT HIS
Israel ~ as a Nation of people restored to their own Land.
Ezekiel 36. Wonderful
pictures ‘painted’ by Ezekiel of returning exiled Jewish
people, large families, fertile & prosperous countryside, rebuilt
ruined cities, fulfilled symbols into reality 2,500 years later, as
in the 20th Century A.D. An example of an often used
symbol is “the Mountains of
Israel,” which can be literal – but even
part of the promised area, which today’s Israel does not live
in, (i.e. right up to the Euphrates River ‘in today’s
'Mountains' can also be a symbol for Leaders, also sometimes.
~ depicted as a panic-stricken man under enormous threat of
disaster. [A very important picture of an event in the
future for Israel only.]
Jeremiah 30: 1 – 13. "This is what the LORD says, 'Cries of fear are heard - terror, not peace... Why do I see very strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? ... [Yes] it will be a time of trouble, BUT he will be saved out of it'!" A vivid picture of even a man agonizing as a woman having labour pains, because of an event called "the time of Jacob's trouble." There are various descriptions of when this will be and for how long.
This is referring back to the first Jacob’s terrifying, one night of fear at Peni’el, where he wrestled all night with a Man – Clearly the God-man Yeshua who initiated Him into being the head of a nation with a new name, (never heard before) - ‘Isra’el’. This "time of Jacob's trouble" is often said to last 3 years – but will only be ‘one night’ – like Jacob experienced – a short, fearful time, of serious threat from an Islamic Army, as in Ezekiel 38. This will only last a few days - the threat of an attack of the Magog Army, but God will destroy the Army with a huge earthquake and save Israel! [It's NOT the same as ‘Armageddon’.]
the Nation ~ portrayed as a body, undergoing a life-saving heart
transplant operation by God, using
Ezekiel 38: 26 describes this. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Again a symbolic picture of the new attitude Israel will have to Yeshua ADONAI, in the future as He brings the nation back to their own Land.
Part of the same symbolic picture is “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean,” This recalls the symbolic sprinkling of pure water for ritual cleansing in connection with worship of God.
The Future glorious Kingdom of God ~ ' The Mountain of the LORD’S Temple’~ means the sacred 'Temple Mount' area in Jerusalem, in Israel.
This is described in almost the same words in Isaiah 2: 2 5, & Micah 4: 1-5, which must mean it is very important and special! Another name is here too, “The House of the God of Jacob”, the Temple which will be built in future.
Israel ~ as a glorious nation on Earth although the rest of the world is in darkness, (of terrible Tribulation and evil under the Anti-christ - a real person.)
This is a wonderful picture (often misplaced into ‘the Millennium.’) Isaiah chapter 60: 1 – 3 writes about it ~ for Israel, soon, we pray!
“Arise, Shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises on you," [this means understanding that Yeshua is Israel's Saviour and Messiah], "see 'darkness' [big Trouble] covers the Earth and [Tribulation'] 'thick darkness' is over the peoples, but ADONAI rises upon you.”
Israel as a completed Nation ~ depicted as a newly re-married bride.
Isaiah 62: 1-5. "You will be called Hephzibah. And your Land will be married" This can be linked to Isaiah 54: 5 & 6. “Your Maker is your Husband…. ADONAI will call you back, as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife that married young, only to be rejected… I will bring you back…” Absolutely lovely symbolic picture of God restoring the Nation of Israel to Himself!
Wonderful pictures of Israel ~ as a restored Nation in their own Land, spiritually holy! [Some word pictures are real, some symbolic - all good!]
Ezekiel must have been thrilled to have these good visions after some awful ones, given in chapters 36 & 37. Best of all, God says ~ "Then you will know that I AM the LORD." Notice the times "I will" comes!
INSERT: A SYMBOLIC DESCRIPTION OF HOW GOD WILL SHOW HIMSELF TO ISRAEL ONE DAY BEFORE THEY SEE HIM PHYSICALY!
God's symbolic picture is: “I will no longer hide My Face from them.”
believe this is God’s way of saying they will recognize far
more about God when they recognize that Yeshua/ Jesus
is the ‘Face of God’.
This symbol comes about 30 times, throughout the whole Bible! When
Philip asked Jesus in John 14, to show them the Father, Jesus said
"You are looking at Him in Me!"
2 Corinthians 4: 6 talks about “the Glory of God in the Face of Messiah/ Christ…” [See our study on 'The Face of God'.]
is [like] 'the Face of God', because He came as a man that people
could actually see. In other words
if you want to know what GOD is like, look at Jesus! We have 4
Gospels to read ~ accounts of some of what Jesus did!
He noticed women, children and ‘outcast people’ like lepers. He cared and cried, too! He was even willing to be called a 'servant' and died as an innocent criminal on a wooden cross to take God's punishment instead of me.
a vision [word picture, but not symbolic] of how God will
cause the Nation of Israel ~ to recognize and come know Him, as God's
Ezekiel depicts this future war, in amazing ‘technicolour detail’ in chapters 38 & 39, with the result in verse 29! It could even happen in the next ten years!
This is indeed like a video or DVD, as it gives the cast, the scene, the actions, (almost the sound effects!) of this army that threatens the very existence of the nation of Israel, but the Enemy is destroyed totally, by God, without harming anyone in Israel! But it is all actual –not symbolic, so it is a good way to learn what is real and what is symbolic. This is the ONLY war in history or the future described in careful, detail at least 2,500 years ago! [See more than one translations of this or see our articles ‘Gog and Magog – What do they mean?’]
Some very lurid pictures of 4 End time political powers, and the 5th
Good Kingdom, in Daniel chapter
Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 could hardly be clearer. (We agree with teachers who say these ‘kingdoms’ are NOT the same as those of the past, Babylon, Medo Persia, Greece and Rome - symbolised in the great stature of Ch. 2.)
The ‘beasts’ or monsters Daniel saw [in chapter 7] are symbolic pictures of actual Political groups of nations in our world, now.
The other symbols are ‘heads’ and ‘horns’ and ‘crowns’, symbolizing national powers. [See our study on ‘Daniels 5 End Time kingdoms']
Symbolic action pictures (like videos) IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Again there are many – symbols Jesus used of fishing, sowing seed, playing weddings, etc. How many can you find? A lot of these are to warn us about being READY for Jesus Second Coming!
1. Many of the Parables of JESUS, e.g. 10 Virgins, the Talents, and the Sheep and Goats, are about the time before and after Jesus Second Coming back to this Earth - all in the four GOSPELS.
Matthew 25 is one of several places where end-time events are portrayed in story forms. Servants getting ready for a marriage banquet, bridal virgins hoping for a relationship with the Bridegroom. (They were not ‘bridesmaids’ in the sense we use that name. [See our article here.]) Trees for nations, getting spring leaves, and many more symbols.
2. Also many of the events in Heaven, or on Earth, or for the Jewish people are described using symbols in the BOOK OF REVELATION!
> The different visions John had, are not necessarily consecutive, that is they may not happen always in the order they are described, (some maybe at the same time as other events). Also some have 2 explanations, short and longer.
> The meanings of most of the symbols are clear to lovers of the whole Word of God. 'Candle sticks' or Menorahs, representing the Churches, 'Seals' on a scroll, indicated Divine plans for the End Time, Trumpets, for serious announcements, bowls - represent deliberate amounts of judgments being poured out...
> YET notice, the angels are real, the vision of the glorified LORD Jesus/ Yeshua as a kingly High Priest, the churches and people mentioned are real, giving us a lot of warnings, but also encouragement, from God!
SOMETIMES WITH BIBLICAL 'SYMBOLS'
THE PROBLEMS as this writer sees it, is USING SYMBOLS WRONGLY.
1. The symbolism in Scripture can be taken too literally, missing the real meanings, OR even the wrong meaning is given to the symbol!
a) God's true People are called different lovely names.
The Bride of Revelation 12. ‘Saints’ or 'the Elect', (true People of God), are also called, a Body, Temple, Royal Priesthood, Kings, Royal Family, an Olive Tree, the Branches of the Vine, Sheep, and more. Yet sometimes these are mixed up.
All are very beautiful PICTURES and one especially lovely one is: The BRIDE!
b) Yet another badly used symbol by some teachers: A Bride becomes a wife. Both symbols represent the close and caring and permanent relationship GOD and Jesus want to have with the 2 groups of God's People in Scripture: Israel and 'the Church' (real blood-bought Christians), through the death of Jesus/ Yeshua, according to the will of God.
So we must be careful NOT TO DIVIDE, what is meant to represent ONE special group of people – just because they are given several descriptions.
There are dangers in separating them, as some writers do.
c) So these are even more sad and wrong conclusions, when they divide the Godhead. Jews recite often some important words from the Tanakh, [Deuteronomy 6: 4] "The LORD, our God, the LORD, is ONE."
Hebrew: "ADONAI, Elohaynu, ADONAI, Echad!"
An example of a SYMBOL given wrongly: is the oil, in
the story of the ten Bridal Virgins waiting for (Jesus) the
Bridegroom to come back. 'The symbol -of
OIL' is NOT the Holy Spirit, (Who cannot be bought for
It is the amount of heart's devotion in the keen Bridal virgins, (true Believers in Yeshua/ Jesus) who wanted so badly to be with the Bridegroom, (Jesus), that they went to extra trouble to keep some extra oil of devotion ready, for when the testing time would come.
We are glad a lot of people visit this site to look at the subject of SYMBOLS.
What we all should ask ourselves is: "Do I care about God's Word?
Do I belong to God, through the LORD Jesus/ Yeshua?
Will I be resurrected to meet Jesus when He Returns here to be King?
But we would like to invite readers to look at some of our other interesting and informative studies – especially about being READY for ‘Messiah ~ Jesus ~ Yeshua Returns to Earth'.
Also ‘The Messiah’s Kingdom on Earth’ (in the Millennium),
a real time, not symbolic.
Or ‘Eternity ~ a New Heaven and a New Earth’.
Jesus loved teaching about ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ - and so do we!
May God bring His Kingdom into our hearts – first,
Also into the representatives we call ‘the Church’,
Then, literally in this re-created world when Jesus RETURNS to this EARTH!
May we be part of all His wonderful Plans.