Why Use Symbols in Scripture

Luke 8:10

And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

Symbols have been prevalent from the beginning of time.  Our Bible is filled with symbols.  Some we understand and some we do not.  The most recognized symbol in probably all the world is the cross.  Without even thinking we automatically know what it means to us personally and to all mankind as well.

The Book of Revelation is probably filed with more symbols that we do not comprehend than in any other book of the bible.  Quoting from chapter 5 of The Book of Revelation for Dummies

“The simple truth is that almost everyone would have preferred for John to be Captain Obvious, laying out the Revelation of Jesus in as clear a manner as possible.  Understanding the point of the book would be so much easier if specifics such as there were used.  Jesus will be coming back on March 3, 2019.  Be there or be square.  Beware, the Antichrist will be named Gilligan.  His cohort will be known as the Skipper.  The Millennium is a figurative term meant to represent the Super Bowl halftime show.  In other words, instead of Scripture, almost everyone would prefer a glorified legal document that lists out the complete facts of the last days.  After all, with such a document in hand, people wouldn’t need to wrestle with the interpretations.”

So why all the symbolism?  The Bible is filled with symbolism.  Consider the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah in particular.  They all use a great amount of imagery.  Imagery is simply a devise used in literature, both sacred and secular.  The sacred in this particular instance is God’s Word.  God, Himself, utilized this literary method when speaking to His prophets in His Word.

Jesus may not have used the same style exactly as John did in Revelation or as Daniel or Ezekiel, but He did speak to his listeners in parables, which are, in effect, symbolic stories meant to define and illustrate truth. 

To illustrate and explain truth, the understanding of the listener must be taken into account.  Remember all of the times the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus questions about various topics, mostly to trap Him in some blasphemy.  He answered them mostly in words or parables they could not comprehend simply because of the hardness of their hearts.  Other listeners who were spiritually hungry could understand and comprehend what He said to them.  That is why so many of them followed Him and sought out his wisdom.  He spoke their language.

1 Corinthians 2:4-14 – And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.  However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But as it is written:  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Acts 17:11 – These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The symbolism throughout the Bible is there for the hungry to search out and know, simply because of their hunger and desire.  To those wanting to create a controversy or stir up a debate, the truth in God’s Word is hidden from them. 

Seven time in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation Jesus says “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

It has been said also that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Symbolism and imagery can provide greater meaning than plain words alone.  Symbolism is also an attention getter.  Teachers of young children in particular use this style of learning.  Stories, symbols, imagery and other literary devises also make for much more interesting story.  For example, instead of saying, “The boy walked down the street,” you might say, “The young red-haired boy walked joyfully down the tree-lined street greeting friends and neighbors with a big smile and wave of the hand.’

Luke 8:10 – And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

Symbols can be utilized to win the lost.  You be a symbol.  Be Christ like!

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