Correct Bible Interpretation Rules Part 4 — Introduction to Symbolism in the Bible!
(Ver 2.2) This is Part 4 in the series of Bible lessons on Correct Bible Interpretation Rules. If you have not read this series from the beginning it would be advised that you go back and start reading at “Part 1” first and continue forward through the series. Getting a firm grasp on God’s usage of symbolism is very critical to correctly understanding and interpreting the Bible. Many times we read the Bible and see the mention of something that can be taken either literally or symbolically and this makes correct Bible interpretation infinitely more complex. The Bible is full of symbolism from the very 1st chapter of Genesis to the very last chapter in Revelation. We will eventually discuss why God uses symbolism but for now let’s attempt to define what it is. I like to view symbolism as a method used by God to convey hidden spiritual information in a coded format or reference. Symbolic Bible reference almost always describe concealed and hidden spiritual things using the terms, descriptions, names or titles of natural things, events or people that we all should be familiar with or at the least should be able to look at them and then learn to understand them with study. For example, have you ever seen God? No, God is a hidden spiritual being and the Bible says no man has ever seen God, but yet for you to get to know who God is, He describes Himself in the terms of natural things like the Sun so that we can understand Him and learn about His hidden qualities.
If while you are reading the Bible you encounter a reference to something or someone that doesn’t make a lot of sense to be a real physical entity it would be a good time to ask is this a symbolic reference to a higher spiritual truth. Let me give you an example in Genesis 3, the Bible speaks of a creature called the serpent in Genesis 3:1. Most Bible scholars agree that this is Satan, but the controversy comes when they attempt to say that Satan appeared in the garden of Eden as a physical snake. If you ever attended Sunday School as a child you have seen the picture of a naked man and woman in the garden with an apple in their hand and a talking snake near them tempting them. I guess this is the picture that these verses in Genesis 3 have conjoured up within the minds of men and women who have read the story. I could give you several scriptures in the Bible that directly contradict this account that helps us to see the real meaning behind this symbol, but I guess because of the time it would take to do that, I won’t go into that level of detail until we get to those verses in Genesis 3 later. What I will say is that this serpent in Genesis 3 is a symbolic reference and not an actual literal physical talking snake and you will have to wait for why I know this until later.
Please realize that the first three chapters of Genesis are heavily covered with symbolic references and not literal references. God is attempting to teach you about spiritual things and not about natural things and this is the failure that many Bible students fall into by simply ignoring which references are natural and which ones are just symbolic of a much greater spiritual reality. The book of Daniel has many symbolic references throughout the book. The beasts seen in the visions, are all symbolic of earthly empires and spiritual beings behind them. The book of Revelation is literally the most symbolic book that I know of. There are very literally few things in the book of Revelation that are mentioned that are not symbolic of something that is spiritual. You can find Daniel’s beasts repeated in Revelation, you can find the serpent from Genesis 3 repeated and finally being revealed to who this was in Revelation 12. There are two major symbolic women in Revelation, one in Revelation 12 and the other in Revelation 17 called the Whore of Babylon. There is another symbolic city called a woman in Revelation 21 named the New Jerusalem and the bride of the Lamb.
I hope that you understand symbolism and can learn to identify God’s usage of this technique. God Bless!
Posted on October 13, 2009, in Bible Interpretation, Rules and tagged Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Holy Spirit, Interpretation, Jesus, Prophecy, Religion, Revelation, Rules, Satan, Truth, understanding. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.