THE BIBLE AS SYMBOL
Our first order of business in this quest is to see if we can justify considering the Bible as symbolic rather then literal. We must use the Bible itself.
1.2Corinthians 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. So here is the Bible itself telling us not to take it literally.
2. Galatians 4:24 Which things are an allegory: the definition of a myth includes the term allegory. Here again the Bible tells us it is symbolic.
3. Matthew 13:34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: The Bible is saying that all of Jesus statements were symbolic.
4. Mark 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
5. Psalm 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Here the Bible states that GOD speaks in parables . And what are dark sayings of old. Obviously they are symbolic statements.
6. In the Book of Proverbs describes wisdom. It explains how one becomes wise. Proverbs 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. Dark sayings is mythology
7. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 2 cor.4:3
8. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 2 cor. 3:14
9. We should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:6)
10. Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak in parables? EZ:20 Here God speaks in parables
11. 1Cr 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory. Here it says god ordained the hidden wisdom, even before the world
12. Eze. 17:2 Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel. God orders riddles
13. Jdg.14:19 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house. Here it says god was pleased when they cracked the riddle, and rewarded them.
14. Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of GOD to conceal a thing: but honor of kings is to search out a matter. And here its Gods honor to conceal things, and make you figure it out.
15. 2Cor.4:3,4 "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
16. Isaiah 9,10 And he said, Go and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes
17. Col 1:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.
18. JOB 27:11 I will teach you by the hand of God: that which is with the Almighty will I not conceal.
19. MAT 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee,
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
20. psalm 89 might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."
21. Proverbs 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
22. 1 cor 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
23. IS. 48:6 Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.
24. Eziekel 3:5 For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;
25. exodus 4:11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
26. exodus 4:12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
27. Hebrews 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Here God is saying that his word is like milk to you, as a babe must drink milk before it can eat solid food. God is saying his word is for the the one who is ready for meat, in other words, when one is ready for the deeper meaning, this is the meat, for the one full of age (wisdom). Reading Gods word literally is MILK, it is for the unskillful, and they will not understand.
Here we see that God speaks in mysteries, riddles and parables, He puts riddles in peoples mouths, he shuts their eyes and ears, he sends strange and hard speeches, he sends dark sayings, and that is Gods glory that he conceal a thing, he imparts secret wisdom and make you and I search it. His word is as milk to the unskillful, without age (reason).
Theres no doubt that the bible is showing you that, you can't read it at face value, you have to look for the deeper meaning, the secret wisdom, the dark sayings, the hidden and so forth.
The problem with Christianity as a whole, including all the pastors and TV evangelist pay no attention to these verses and read and teach the bible literally, which is an abomination unto god. His word is mysterious and wants you to search it out, the truth is not given to the vain, to the once a week jesus mercenary.
There's no doubt is there, about what is being said here, the Bible was written in a certain metaphorical, symbolic language of old, which is mythology.
Here the fact that this is all consciousness is made clear. It says to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Where is the Kingdom of God?
(Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.) The statement concludes by saying that "unto them that are without". Outside of the meditative state. Outside of the inner realm of consciousness where exists the Kingdom of God.
Jesus told Peter to go get the tax money from the mouth of a fish!
"puts his money where his mouth is" demonstrates that he's put his trust in God ahead of his savings account, or insurance policy, or retirement plan. Have all three; but keep God first!
Without figures of speech we might be 'bored out of our gourd', because they furnish humor and excitement and variety to our conversation; i.e., our way-of-life. A critical or haughty listener may regard them as crude, or trite, or ignorant, or superfluous; when it may really be a deliberate and legitimate form of getting attention.
The Bible veritably hollers (yells!) at us to hear what God is saying! Forty (or thereabouts) different authors are ascribed: probably because we'd wrongly conclude it was the mythical masterpiece of some inspired genius like Aesop or Aristotle or Plato, if it were all written in the same style.
The fact that the Bible was written in an allegorical, symbolic form, gives us more reverence for the wisdom of God. Instead of dropping some dry, boring instruction manual on top of your head, he gave us a book, we have rack our brains to understand, rightly so, because any knowledge worth having is usually earned by knuckling down, burning the midnight oil, until the cows home.
I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, at least those that think there wise, but it will be given to who? The babes, babes are without EGOs, and easy to teach, once you grow older the Ego has set in, and you think you are wise and prudent, but we are fools, for not understanding the nature of God.
"Let us go down and confound their language" said God in Genesis 11:7.
Here are some figures of speech found in the good book
1. Horse of a different color. Rev/Zech 6 2. By the skin of your teeth. Job19:20 3. A drop in the bucket. Isa40:15 4. Feet of clay.. Dan 2 5. Etched in stone. Ex31:18 6. Life begins at 40. (Matthew is book #40) 7. Suffer fools gladly.. 2Cor 11:19 8. Sour grapes Ezek 18:2 9. Caught "red-handed" Mt24:27 10. Still water runs deep.. Ps23:2 11.
Without a leg to stand on.. John 19:33 12. If the shoe fits Eph 6:15 13. Fox in the henhouse.. Lk 13:32 14. Money where your mouth is Mt 17:27 15. Get your feet wet.. Josh 3:5 16. Train of thought Isa 6:1 17. Raising the roof Mk 2:4 18. Beating about the bush Ex 3:3 19. Logic that "holds water" Ps 22:14 20. Seeing "eye to eye" Isa 52:8 21.
Bone of contention Ex 12:46 22. Pain in the neck.. 2Cor 12:7 23. Fat's in the fire! Ex 29:13 24. Burning your bridges. 1K19:21 25. Made the cut Rom 2:29 26. Tough row to hoe.. Acts 9:5 27. Fly in the ointment Ecc 10:1 28. Made a "scapegoat" Lev 16:10 29. Mountains from molehills Mat 21:21 30. Stewing in own juices. Deut 14:21 31. Handwriting on the wall Dan 5:5 32. Swallow a camel, gag at gnat! Mt23:24
To "bury the hatchet", or "chew the rag", or "hit the road",or "push the envelope", or "kick the bucket", or "go on the wagon", or "burn your bridges", or "bite the dust", or "carry your cross", or "drag your feet", or "dig in your heels", are figures-of-speech not meant to be taken literally; but semantically.
The Apostle Paul was really shipwrecked, 2Cor11:25, but he also used the term figuratively to describe those folks who "concerning faith have made shipwreck", 1Tim1:19.
Figures of Speech and word-play are a primary source of humor. When a simile from the Bible tells us "A merry heart does good like a medicine",
The Apostle Paul used a figure-of-speech when he quoted from Prov25:21 and told the Romans (12:20) to feed their enemies and give them to drink "for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on their heads!" It sounds harsh and hurtful in the natural and literal, but the figure only means that your kindness will make them ashamed of themselves for the way they've treated you
When the figure says something that hides the real meaning, it's like a cross between an ambiguity and an allegory. Like speaking in code, or wearing a disguise. Its a veil that one must remove to get a glimpse of the goddess ISIS.
He does a great job in showing that the scriptures are not literal, but SYMBOLIC
PARABLES ARE NOT LITERALLY TRUE STORIES
The parables of Jesus are certainly true, but they are not literally true. Example: one cannot possibly put a "beam" (a large piece of lumber) in or out of one’s eye, Mat. 7:3-5. The moral of this parable is certainly a great truth.
The symbols used to teach that truth (namely a large piece of lumber in one’s eye) is, of course, not literally or possibly true. The beam represents a huge character flaw, not foreign matter in one’s eye. It’s a figure of speech.
We also use such figures dozens of times a day without even realizing it. We say such things as "Don’t cry over spilt milk" although we are not literally speaking of crying, nor are we speaking of milk, but rather of a disappointment that has caused sadness.
When we show our respect for our country's flag, we are not even thinking about respecting a piece of cloth, but rather the nation that the flag represents. A flag is a symbol that represents a nation. A band of gold is just a band of gold, but a wedding ring is symbolic of something much larger, something huge, something GRAND!
Who "wears the pants" in your family? Has "the cat taken your tongue" lately? Can you "carry a tune in a bucket?" Do you follow the "spin doctors" with their commentary on the "movers and shakers" in Washington, DC? Where do you stand when "the tire hits the road?" Do you know for a fact that "the early bird gets the worm?" Does "a stitch in time save nine?" Are any of your friends "square?"
Is it "cool" to eat chili on a hot day? Do people turn "blue" when they are sad? Do cowards really have "a yellow stripe down their back?" Are you "worth your salt?" Do you know people who are "pigeon heads" and "hot heads?" If people realized that "silence is golden," maybe they would stop "breaking your ear drums." Do you think that I am just "pulling your leg?" And just when will "hell freeze over?"
All languages have many, many figures of speech that are not literally true. And God also uses symbols, figures, idioms, metaphors and parables, over and over in His Word hundreds and hundreds of times!
I know of very few who will believe it, but it is true nonetheless, that Jesus taught the masses in parables and parables ONLY so that they would NOT understand the message He was giving them (See Matt. 13).
Figures, parables, metaphors, and symbols are in many ways like poetry. Take the phrase, "No man is an island" from one of my favorite poems. How wonderfully worded and true are those words?
Or this line, "Every man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind."
How many unsaved friends do you have? Will YOU not be diminished for all eternity if they are not saved? Will GOD not be diminished for all eternity if billions and billions of His creatures are not saved but are rather separated and tortured in some hellhole of fire?
Elementary school children are not likely to understand such a poem as "No man is an island." They would say, of course no man is an island, neither is a man a house or a car or a telephone pole either. Yet this is the same childish mentality that many theologians use in interpreting Scripture such as the lake of fire and second death.
For all too many, these marvelous Scriptures have no meaning beyond the literal meaning of the literal words. And so, for most, the Word of God remains a giant enigma. How sad!
Right now, here in Miami, it is "raining cats and dogs." Or is it really? It sometimes rains real fish, but cats and dogs? But if it ever does rain cats and dogs, I’ll eat my hat.
Some of these things are extremely elementary and others are extremely complex. God told Daniel that the wise will understand. It is not wise, but foolish to insist that countless symbols in the Bible are literal.
With that all said, let us now see that most of what is said in this marvelous book called Revelation is not literal, but symbolic.
My King James Bible says:
"The Revelation of Saint John the Divine."
And then verse one says, "The revelation of Jesus Christ"
Which is it? It is, of course, the latter, seeing that the title is merely man’s interpretation which is obviously wrong. The book of Revelation is a revelation OF Jesus Christ. It is not just a revelation from Jesus Christ, but a revelation of or about Jesus Christ. It is a revelation of HIM!
Most of my life I believed that the book of Revelation was a literal prophecy about events that will happen at the END OF THE WORLD! Prophesies that had virtually no meaning for those who have lived during the past two thousand years since it was written. But for most of my life, I WAS IN ERROR!
Now for a most important understanding. Just how was this revelation to John to be recorded and preserved? Notice it:
"and he sent and SIGNIFIED it by his angel unto his servant John" (Rev. 1:1)
What does it mean to "signify?" Certainly this prophecy of the revelation or unveiling of Christ was written down (ver. 19), but it means more than just that. To "signify" has to do with signs and symbols. From my Webster's Twentieth Century Dictionary p. 1541, first definition of signify:
"to make known by signs or words"
First definition of sign:
"any symbol that represents an idea"
That which, being external, represents or signifies something internal or spiritual.
The synonym for sign is: symbol.
There is no mistaking this language. The book of Revelation is written in SYMBOLS! So what is written externally, on paper, in symbols, has a SPIRITUAL meaning and application.
Let us now see the symbolism of this prophecy. I will pick out some of the most obvious things that would be impossible to understand literally.
Notice that in verse ten John informs us that, "I was IN THE SPIRIT on the Lord’s day."
And then he begins to tell us what he hears and sees. Now the very fact that he was "in the spirit" on the Lord’s day conclusively proves that he was not literally there! Let us never lose sight of this fact: John WRITES what has been SIGNIFIED (WITH SYMBOLS) the things that he SEES and HEARS IN A VISION IN SPIRIT!
Beginning in verse twelve John starts to tell us what he saw and heard,
"And I turned to see the voice that spake with me his eyes were as a flame of fire, and his feet like unto fine brass. And he had in his right hand seven stars and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword."
NONE of what I underlined is literal. Have you ever "seen a voice?" All these things are symbols that stand for other things. And God immediately gives us proof positive of this in verse 20,
"The mystery [this is not literal--it was a mystery until God tells us that one thing really means or represents another and DIFFERENT THING] of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars ARE THE ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest ARE THE SEVEN CHURCHES."
The stars are not literal and the candlesticks are not literal. In the first 20 verses of Revelation we can find eleven statements that are not literal, but rather symbolic.
They represent truths that are presented in symbols. The literal language is not the literal truth being presented. The statements themselves do not teach us the truth OF the statements. We must look elsewhere in the Scriptures for the interpretation.
Now chapter one was pretty easy as God told us just what some of those symbols represented. But there are dozens and dozens more symbols in this book of Revelation that are not explained in the verses that follow immediately.
How shall we understand all those symbols. First of all, without the spirit of God, the answer is we will never understand these symbols. But guided by God’s spirit, God can show us in other places in His Word what these mysterious symbols represent. It is God Who provides us with "ears to hear and eyes to see."
Now look at chapter two:
Verse 5, Will God literally punish the church of Ephesus by removing a literal candlestick? NO! Removing a literal candlestick would be no great loss to anyone. But from what we learned in verse 20 of chapter one, the candlestick IS one of the churches . So Christ is threatening to REMOVE THE WHOLE CHURCH, not some piece of furniture or candlestick from the building of a church.
Verse 7, Is the tree of life a literal tree that one literally eats?
Verse 9, Was the church in Smyrna literally in poverty and literally rich at the same time? Does "synagogue of Satan" mean a literal synagogue where Satan has a Rabbi teaching the Law to a congregation every Sabbath day?
Verse 13, Is a name something that one literally holds fast to with one’s hands?
Verse 16, Will Christ literally do battle by using a literal sword which He literally keeps in His mouth? Or do we not read in another place in God’s word that this "sword" IS God’s Word? (Heb. 4:12).
Verse 17, Will Christ reward the faithful with a literal little white stone? Can’t we see that the stone and the name written in it represents something else? Something of much greater value?
Verse 20, Was the harlot Jezebel literally in the Thyatira church? Literal Jezebel died CENTURIES before this book was written by John. Jezebel in the physical represents or symbolizes a SPIRITUAL condition in the church of Thyatira.
Verse 22, Will Christ literally throw literal Jezebel into a literal bed where she will literally commit adultery with literal men?
Verse 23, Will Christ kill literal children of the literal harlot, Jezebel?
Verse 27, Will the saints beat the nations with a literal rod of iron into literal small pieces like broken pottery?
Verse 28, Will Christ give the literal morning star to His saints? Where would they put it? What would they do with it?
Chapter 3:1, Was the Sardis church literally alive and literally dead at the same time?
Verse 4, Were members of the Sardis congregation wearing literally soiled clothing?
Verse 7, Is there literally a metal key of David that is needed to open a literal lock?
Verse 12, Will Christ literally turn people into stone pillars in the temple?
Verse 16, Will Christ literally spit the church of Laodicea out of His mouth?
Verse 17, Were the members of the Laodicean church literally poor and literally blind and literally naked without clothing to wear? Are there not other Scriptures that tell us what it means to be SPIRITUALLY "poor, blind, and naked?"
Verse 18, Did Christ try to sell Laodicea literal gold? What would they do with the gold? What, pray tell, would Christ do with the money?
Verse 20, Does Christ literally knock at the doors of our homes and then come in and eat a literal home cooked meal and pecan pie with us?
Is it necessary for me to go through this entire book verse by verse before we can fully realize that this book is written in figurative, symbolic, and metaphorical language?
Let’s look at just a few more:
Chapter 4, Was a literal trumpet "talking" with John?
Chapter 5, Is Jesus Christ literally a "Lion," an "animal?"
Chapter 6, Are these literal "horses?" Do the literal stars of heaven fall on the earth? The smallest known stars are a million times larger than the earth.
Chapter 7, Were angels literally holding back four "winds" on four literal "corners" of the earth? I thought the earth is round without corners? Can one literally wash his clothes "white" in red "blood?"
Chapter 8, Will an angel cast a literal mountain burning with fire into the sea?
Chapter 9, During the fifth trumpet will it literally be impossible for mortal men to die?
Will there be literal locusts shaped like "horses?" Locusts that literally have "hair like a woman, teeth like a lion, and breastplates of iron?" LOCUSTS with breastplates of "iron?"
Chapter 10, Did John eat a literal book? That was literally sweet in his taste buds, but literally bitter in his stomach? Why would anyone "eat" a literal book?
Chapter 11, Are God’s two witnesses that prophesy, literally two olive trees and two candlesticks? But if we study Zechariah 4 we can determine what is meant by "two witnesses."
Chapter 12, Will there literally be a pregnant woman "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars?" Was this same woman able to literally "fly into the wilderness with wings of an eagle?"
Chapter 13, Will there be a literal lamb that will speak like a dragon? Just how do dragons "speak" anyhow?
Will people be literally tattooed with marks (bar codes, swastikas, Social Security numbers, implanted with computer chips or one of a hundred unscriptural marks being suggested by fundamentalist prophets) in their hands and on their foreheads so that men cannot buy or sell ice cream or automobiles without these marks? Self-appointed prophets of doom haven’t a clue as to what this mark of the beast really is or the number of his name. I have already been barred from buying and selling recently because I refuse to brandish this "mark of the beast"!
Chapter 14, Does Babylon cause all nations to literally drink of the wine of the literal wrath of her fornication? I thought wine came from grapes not wrath (of course there is that famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath).
Chapter 15, Are the seven last global plagues and catastrophes really contained in seven literal tiny gold vials or bottles?
Chapter 16, Is Jesus Christ going to return to this earth as a literal "thief"? Will every island and mountain on earth literally disappear?
Chapter 17, Will there really be a woman who will ride a literal scarlet coloured beast, having seven heads and ten horns. Can whole nations literally fornicate with a harlot? But here once more in this chapter God does reveal to us who this beast is and what the symbolic horns represent which again proves that ALL OF THESE THINGS are not literal but symbolic and represent things other than what is being described.
Chapter 18, Will the entire social, political, and economic system of the world literally collapse in just one hour because one literal city (Babylon) is destroyed?
Chapter 19, Will a literal prostitute "corrupt" the entire earth? Will a literal "lamb" marry a literal "wife?" Will the King of the universe really wear clothing dripping with literal "blood?" Is God’s wrath a literal "winepress?"
Will literal armies of heaven follow Christ to earth riding on literal "flying horses?" No, NONE of these things are literal!
Any theologian or preacher on international television would be laughed to scorn if he were to preach a sermon trying to prove that all of the above Scriptures are to be taken absolutely literally. Such a sermon would be seen as foolish by nearly everyone. No educated man in the Word of God would ever dare to present anything so STUPID!
And yet and YET, when we come to verse 20: will a literal beast and a literal false prophet be cast alive into a literal "lake of fire burning with brimstone?" How do these same theologians and preachers answer? They answer: "Yes, of course they will be thrown into a literal lake of fire, because THIS IS LITERAL."
Chapter 20, Will the devil, the false prophet and the beast be cast into a literal lake of fire and be literally tortured day and night "FOR EVER AND EVER"?
And will all those not found written in the book of life be cast into a literal lake of fire? Answer: "Yes, THIS TOO IS LITERAL, ABSOLUTELY LITERAL," shout our fundamentalist friends once more.
Chapter 21, And will the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, be cast into a literal "lake of fire burning with brimstone?" "Yes, Yes, A THOUSAND TIMES YES, THIS IS SOOO LITERAL, ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY LITERAL" shouts every red-blooded fundamentalist worth his salt!
Amazing. Absolutely amazing the power of the carnal mind to self-deceive. Why are fundamentalists totally sure that these verses on a lake of fire are literal? Well, of course, they aren't sure; they just pretend to be sure. They desire with their whole heart and being that this lake of fire is real fire.
Why? Because the eternal torture of billions of men and women and boys and girls in some fabled hellhole doesn’t "diminish" them one iota! They want people who don’t believe as they believe to have their flesh barbecued over fire and brimstone for all eternity. The very idea gives them great joy. And it makes them proud. They have no love for sinners as God does. They hate sinners.
They hate unbelievers. They love only themselves. They pronounce CURSES on me for quoting Scriptures that show God will save everyone. They highly disapprove of God being the saviour of the whole world. They won’t hear of it; they won’t have it! They don’t approve of a God Who would save everyone by bringing them to repentance, and purging them, and turning their hearts to God.
If God were to save everyone through the purging of his SPIRITUAL FIRE, then they could not wag their fingers at all these people sizzling and popping like bacon in a hot skillet saying, "I told you so, I told you so..." for all eternity. Hussein and Bin Laden are not the only ones out there with depraved religious minds.
God did not write nineteen whole chapters of Revelation giving us symbol after symbol and metaphor after metaphor, and then in chapter 20 switch to writing in literal language with literal meanings.
The book of Revelation was "signified" by the use of signs and symbols. Signs and symbols always represent or mean something other than the sign or symbol itself. We are all familiar with symbols and signs so that we should never be confused as to what a sign or symbol is or is not.
A red and white striped barber’s pole is not a barber shop, neither is it a barber, but it is a sign or symbol that immediately conveys to our understanding what it represents namely a barber shop with a barber.
There are many more Scriptures that will prove that this lake of fire has a much more benevolent purpose than barbecuing human flesh for all eternity for the sheer sick and depraved entertainment of Christian Fundamentalists.
Be it known however, that the lake of fire and the second death DO INDEED picture something spiritual that relates to or has some properties of, LITERAL FIRE and LITERAL DEATH. Without some similar properties, the metaphor would be meaningless. I have read some extremely complex definitions of a metaphor which were totally wrong. A metaphor is where one thing is said to BE something else. Here’s a Scriptural example:
"All flesh is grass" (I Pet. 1:24). That’s simple enough. Now then, is that statement by Peter true? Yes, of course, it is true. Is it literally true? No, it is not literally true. Then how do we know for sure what there is ABOUT this metaphor that is true? If a metaphor is not literally true, how is it true at all?
MAKING THE SIMPLE COMPLICATED
Reading some theories about the meaning of metaphors causes me to think of the man who when describing the feats of a circus performer stated: "He performs feats of ease with the greatest of difficulty."
It is absolutely amazing how theologians can make relatively easy to understand principles seem most difficult. I will now show you an exercise of just such grammatical gymnastics. It’s just three very short paragraphs, so indulge me and I will try to simplify the whole thing immediately thereafter.
Here then is a complicated example from "Concordant Studies--The Lake of Fire" page 9:
"The lake of fire is the second death. That is, the lake of fire is the cause of, or the agency which produces, the second death. ‘This’ represents ‘that.’ The idea is, the lake of fire by figure of association in which the cause is put for the effect represents the second death. This is a compound figure.
That is, it incorporates more than one figure of speech. In such a case as this, ‘is’ itself is also a figure of speech. Instead of its literal significance (which denotes existence), ‘is,’ as a symbolic metaphor, means ‘represent.’ The concept is this: Part A represents Part B; thus Part A symbolizes Part B. As a symbol of Part B, Part A itself has become a figure."
From page 10:
"The lake of fire, which, by virtue of being its cause, thus, represents the second death." "In the interpretation of a metaphor, the goal is to take note of the essential way in which the symbolic subject is like the literal predicate.
Indeed, if in the presence of a symbolic, subject-expression, the meaning of the predicate-expression were itself unknowable which would be the case if the predicate expression were a figure of speech it would be impossible to note the likeness between the two."
And finally, from page 11:
"When one thing (or things) which represents another thing, is finally said to be that other thing, whether or not the representative thing itself is a literal entity, in any case, that which it finally represents consists in a literal expression and is a literal entity." (Italics is author’s throughout).
Okay, did you get all that? I want to just borrow a few statements from the above explanation of a metaphor and see if these things be so or not. Trust me, we will get through this quickly:
1. "The lake of fire, which, by virtue of being its cause, thus, represents the second death.
2. "the symbolic subject [the lake of fire] is like the literal predicate [the second death]."
3. When one thing (or things) [in this case the lake of fire] which represents another thing [in this case the second death], is finally said to be that other thing [the second death], whether or not the representative thing itself is a literal entity [second death], in any case, that which it finally represents consists in a literal expression and is a literal entity [a LITERAL second death]."
KEEPING THE SIMPLE , SIMPLE
Must we all be theologians with a 150 IQ to understand these things? That leaves me out.
Let’s just take a couple of very simple metaphors from the Scriptures and apply the above conclusions to them. Here’s a simple one:
"All life is grass" (I Pet. 1:24).
Can we apply the first deduction made by the author quoted above? Let’s try it:
"All life is [that is, REPRESENTS] grass."
No, this is clearly not true, anymore than all life REPRESENTS trees, or all life REPRESENTS worms, or any other thing! We can certainly use the word "represents" with reference to metaphors, but not in the way the above author does.
It is wrong to say that the subject of a metaphor "represents" the predicate, and it is equally wrong to say that the predicate of a metaphor "represents" the subject. Neither is true. However, both the subject AND the predicate TOGETHER, do "represent" something. And THAT’S why it is called a metaphor rather than a statement of fact!
What about number 2: The subject of a metaphor is symbolic, while the predicate is literal Let’s try this out on our sample metaphor:
"All [SYMBOLIC] life [the subject] is [LITERAL] grass [the predicate]."
No, that doesn’t work either. How in the world can "symbolic life" BE "literal grass?"
And now number 3: Is it true that the subject of a metaphor must "represent" something that "...consists in a literal expression and is a literal entity"?
Nope. Not true. All life is not LITERALLY grass! PEOPLE are not grass, ELEPHANTS are not grass, BIRDS are not grass, FISH are not grass, BACTERIA are not grass, and a thousand other forms of life are NOT literal grass! Am I going too fast for anyone?
Earlier I stated that most believe one of the following:
The lake of fire is literal and the second death is literal, or the lake of fire is literal but the second death is symbolic, or the lake of fire is symbolic (with literal fire) but the second death is literal.
I believe that the lake of fire AND the second death are both symbolic and figurative language.
Is it true that one part of a metaphor must be literal or there is no way to understand the metaphor? No, that is not true. Let me give you an example that I doubt many have really meditated on:
"Now at their eating, Jesus, taking the bread, and, blessing, breaks it, and, giving to the disciples, said, ‘Take eat [this bread], This [bread] IS my body" (Matt. 26:26).
The greatest minds in theology have haggled for hundreds of years over this metaphor that Christ used at the last supper. Does the bread literally turn into the body flesh of Christ when we eat that bread as the Catholic faith demands? What a silly question. IT’S A METAPHOR! And the idea that one of the two parts of a metaphor must be literal is likewise silly.
In this metaphor, the bread is a symbol. Is there anyone who cannot recognize that Christ used bread from the table as a "symbol" of something? Then when used as a symbol, neither can it be any longer literal.
Is there anyone who cannot recognize that Christ used His own body as a "symbol" of something? Then when used as a symbol it neither can be any longer literal. That being said then, the bread is symbolic AND Christ’s body is also symbolic! Jesus used literal "bread" from the table and used the literal words "my body." When Jesus picked up the bread and broke it, no one thought that He was talking about CHEESE!
When Jesus said, "my body," no one thought He was speaking of His clothing or His shoes. Everyone at that table knew what "bread" was and what Christ’s "body" was. However. HOWEVER, Christ used the words "bread" and "my body" in a METAPHOR! He said, "Take eat, this [bread] IS My body." That my friends is a METAPHOR! And as a metaphor, neither the bread nor Christ’s body is to be taken literally! "I am the BREAD OF LIFE" (John 6:35).
We do NOT eat physical bread to partake of the symbolic or spiritual life-giving food of Christ’s body. Nor would we be partaking of spiritual or symbolic bread by eating Christ’s literal flesh and blood body. Can we not see that neither part of a metaphor must always be literal. The bread is used as a symbol because literal bread is called the staff of life.
Christ’s body is used in this metaphor because our spiritual nourishment comes from no other source but Jesus Christ. They say that we are what we eat. When we partake of the real staff of life the spiritual food of Christ’s body, we ourselves BECOME the very body of Christ ourselves!
Here’s the Scriptural proof:
"I am the BREAD OF LIFE" (John 6:35).
"For we, who are many, are ONE BREAD, ONE BODY, for we all are partaking of the ONE BREAD" (I Cor. 10:17).
"The Jews, then, murmured concerning Him, that He said, ‘I AM the Bread which descends out of heaven." (John 6:41).
"I am the living Bread. Now the Bread also, which I shall be giving for the sake of the life of the world IS MY FLESH" (John 6:51).
But just as most are totally blind regarding the meaning of Scriptural metaphors today, they were also ignorant of Christ’s words when He spoke them:
"The Jews, then, fought with one another, saying, ‘HOW THEN CAN THIS ONE GIVE US HIS FLESH TO EAT?" (John 6:52)
They also thought that metaphors were LITERAL! Christ is the Bread that came down FROM HEAVEN, not the bread that comes from wheat out of the ground. Christ is NO LONGER flesh and blood. He has been raised with a SPIRITUAL BODY
I Cor. 15:44, "it is raised A SPIRITUAL BODY."
Besides "flesh and blood CANNOT inherit the Kingdom of God."
We partake of Christ’s spiritual body, not literal flesh, blood and muscle protein.
If we fight and argue as the foolish Jews did over what part of metaphor must be literal, we will learn nothing. If we can’t understand a simple metaphor as "Take eat, this [bread] IS my body," how will we ever understand "The lake of fire which IS the second death?"
I don’t wish to belabor this point, but it is of paramount importance and sometimes if we would hunger and thirst after righteousness, there is definitely some labor involved.
The easiest way I know to explain a metaphor is to simply state how metaphors are used, and it all becomes rather simple. If Peter’s statement that "all life is grass" is not literally true, then why say it? Why use it? Because when we understand metaphors, they speak volumes about a subject in just a very few words--much like poetry. "All life is grass" means that all life is like grass IN CERTAIN WAYS. That’s it!
That’s just how simple it is. Life is like grass in certain ways, in that it is fragile, easily killed, short-lived, here today; gone tomorrow, etc. But, on the other hand, ALL life is NOT like grass in certain other ways. Not all life is attached to the ground, unintelligent, and colored green! Am I going too fast for anyone?
PHYSICAL FIRE VERSUS SPIRITUAL FIRE
Without realizing it, those who defend a literal fire in this judgment of God will have a very hard time showing that anyone can be "tormented day and night for ever and ever" in a literal fire. If the fire is literal, then the idea that anyone could be tormented for ever and ever is totally impossible! How so? We will see.
Notice who is thrown into this lake of fire:
1. "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20).
If the beast and false prophet are humans, then a real lake of fire would BURN THEM UP making it impossible for them to be tortured for ever and ever! If the beast and false prophet are supernatural, superhuman, or spirit in nature, then physical fire CANNOT HARM THEM in any way. So, if the fire is literal, it can serve NO useful purpose!
2."And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:10).
As this is Satan, he is a spirit, and therefore CANNOT be tortured with REAL FIRE! Real, physical fire has NO effect on SPIRIT! Since God "makes His angels SPIRITS; His ministers a FLAMING FIRE" (Psalm 104:4), it isn’t likely that the Head of the "sinning angels" would be the least bit hurt by literal fire!
3. "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:12 & 15).
"The dead, small and great" are mortals resurrected to judgment and are still mortal. Therefore physical fire will BURN THEM UP, hence there can be NO torture or torment for ever and ever.
So now what will our fundamentalist friends do with this evidence? Real, physical, literal fires, BURN UP physical bodies! And, real, physical, literal fires CANNOT burn or harm spiritual bodies! Sorry, but that’s just the way it is!
But these verses say that there is "fire" and that those in it are "tormented." So what kind of fire are we talking about and what kind of torment are we talking about? First, the fire.
If this lake of fire is not real, physical, literal fire, is there then such a thing as "figurative fire" or "spiritual fire?" I’m so glad you asked. As a matter of Scriptural fact, yes there is such a thing as "figurative and spiritual fire." Let’s start with the most profound Scripture regarding spiritual fire. As we all know, "God IS SPIRIT" (John 4:24). But have you never read:
"For our God IS A CONSUMING FIRE" (Heb. 12:29)!
God has shown Himself to be not only a fire, but a CONSUMING FIRE all through the Scriptures. You will be amazed how often God speaks of fire in bringing judgment on humanity. ALL IS OF GOD, II Cor. 5:18, Rom. 11:36, Eph. 1:11, etc. God IS a consuming FIRE.
God IS this lake of fire!
But since it is not literal fire, what does it burn? What does it consume? -- It is the "works of the flesh" that made sinners of those thrown into the lake of fire in the first place. And we shall see from the Scriptures that it is these very works of the flesh that are consumed in this lake of fire.
And don’t think for a moment that it is not a most painful and tormenting experience to have one’s carnal mind with all its ungodly passions, thoughts and deeds, burned clean and pure by the consuming fire of God’s Holy Spirit!
God doesn’t change. He will use the same method in the day of judging at the white throne as He uses on US. Although the intensity will get considerably more severe for those who blaspheme till the end.
We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). However, that does not purge us from all our filthy thoughts and deeds. No, there is more. There is also a consuming FIRE that God uses on us:
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is JESUS CHRIST. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, WOOD, HAY, STUBBLE; Every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed BY FIRE; and the FIRE shall TRY EVERY MAN’S WORK of what sort it is.
If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be BURNED, he shall SUFFER LOSS; but [pay close attention to this BIG BUT] BUT HE HIMSELF [the one who had his works burned and consumed in God’s consuming fire] SHALL BE SAVED [What will save him?], yet so AS BY FIRE" (I Cor. 3:11-15)!!!
Ah dear readers, can we begin to understand the workings of God? God consumes with fire, the wood, hay and stubble in our lives. The things that don’t deserve to continue. But he REFINES the gold, silver, and precious stones (those doctrines and godly character traits of God’s spirit that abide the fire).
It is figurative language, it is an analogy, it is a parable, it is metaphorical (where one thing is called another thing). Our lives have either qualities of character (which are likened to gold and precious stones, things of value to refine and retain), or gross lacks in character (which are likened to wood, hay, and stubble and which are not worthy to retain or preserve).
And just as real literal fire is used to refine and purify gold and precious metals, so God’s SPIRITUAL FIRE refines and purifies us from our sinful and carnal nature. And likewise, as real literal fire is used to burn up wood and stubble, so God’s all consuming SPIRITUAL FIRE will consume and burn up all the impurities in our life.
These things MUST DIE. This purging is the SECOND DEATH. And whether the person God subjects to His consuming fire has many good qualities or none, the person himself shall be purged, purified, and SAVED BY GOD’S ALL-CONSUMING SPIRITUAL FIRE!!! We just read it in God’s Holy Word. How can any deny it? Every person who has ever lived will be subjected to the cleaning fire of God’s spirit.
God is the JUDGE (Rev. 20;12). NOT Satan. This judgment throne is "WHITE" not black! God judges in righteousness.
"He shall judge the world with RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Psalm 96:13)
"Because He [God] hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Acts 17:31)
Next I present a Scripture that many fundamentalists hate. I’ll bet if you attended a fundamentalist church, you never heard a sermon on this verse. We read that God has appointed a day (a period of time) in which He will "JUDGE" the whole world. Revelation 20:10-15 IS THAT DAY OF JUDGMENT!
Now we know that those not found in the book of life will be put into FIRE, and they will be TORMENTED. This is certainly part of this judgment. But it is not literal fire. Literal fire burns up physical things and literal fire cannot harm spiritual things. So what does the fire do or accomplish? MUCH!
This judgment in Revelation 20 IS that worldwide judgment spoken of in many prophecies. But is the purpose of this worldwide judgment to torture people by burning their flesh in real fire for all eternity? Is that HOW God judges in "righteousness"? Absolutely not.
We just read where God burns up our fleshly WORKS, and this is "tormenting" for sure. But God does not torture our flesh for all eternity. Don’t get me wrong, there will be severe chastisements on those who despise God and His Savior and His Gospel. But out of their ashes will come salvation. Here is another marvelous Scripture which answers what happens to sinning humanity when God JUDGES THE WORLD in righteousness.
"For he [GOD] bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low, HE LAYETH IT LOW, even to the ground, he bringeth it even to the dust" (Isa. 26:5)
Make no mistake, God will judge the wicked with great severity. However, ALWAYS FOR A BENEVOLENT PURPOSE:
"With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when Thy judgments are in the earth, THE INHABITANTS OF THE WORLD WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Isaiah 26:9)!!
There will come a time when those who only knew how to blaspheme the name of God, will come to LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS. They will not just "hear" of righteousness, no, they will actually "LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS"!
The whole book of Isaiah speaks of judgments on Israel and on the nations. But the end of all these judgments is SALVATION TO ALL. Notice Isa. 45:22-23,
"Look unto me, and BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by Myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness [as in, ‘For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth,’ I Tim. 2:3-4] , and shall not return, That unto me EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW, EVERY TONGUE SHALL SWEAR" (See also: Phil. 2: 9-11 & I Cor. 12:3).
God’s words will NOT return empty or void. When God speaks, it will be done. When God wills, it will be done. When God desires, His desires WILL BE DONE:
"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, MY COUNSEL SHALL STAND, and I WILL DO ALL MY PLEASURE. I have spoken it, I WILL ALSO BRING IT TO PASS; I HAVE PURPOSED IT, I WILL ALSO DO IT" (Isa. 46:10-11).
Oh the blasphemy of those who teach that God’s most heartfelt desires WILL NOT COME TO PASS, but will utterly fail!!! Jesus Christ is not the potential Savior of the world; He IS THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD!!! HE WILL SAVE THE WORLD!!!
How many self-appointed, bible-thumping, doomsday, fire and brimstone, eternal torture in hell preachers believe these verses in Isaiah? Not one that I know of! Most Christians have never been taught the Scriptures that I am giving you. These things are despised by many who call themselves "Christian." And yet, God’s Word is FULL of such statements of God’s salvation to all.