Symbolism and Metaphor
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Jesus warns us, in Matthew 24, that there will be an end-time period of tribulation.
Matthew 24:21 ‘For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.’
I have written before, that the warnings of Matthew 24 are like a fire-alarm, preparing us for the days ahead, but that many have sought to ‘turn off the fire-alarm’ for the sake of a quieter life.
These warnings of a coming tribulation are not just confined to Matthew 24 but are to be found wherever you go in scripture, including Revelation; Paul’s letters and throughout the Old Testament.
One proven way of evading these warnings is to resort to symbolism. Everything then becomes a symbol or metaphor of this or that, according to the imagination of the writer.
Brian Simmons, in his book ‘The Passion Translation’ writes:
‘There is always a deeper meaning to the literal understanding of the text of the Bible. This deeper meaning does not negate the literal, but gives a fuller comprehension.’ 1
And I would kind of agree with this. Scripture does contain symbolism and metaphor and allegory and so on. And scripture does have its levels of understanding.
But then Brian describes the ‘beast’ of Revelation 13:1:
‘The “beast” is our self-life (Ps. 73:22). We are called to overcome this beast through the life of Jesus within us.’ 1 location 29342
And I would sort of agree with this level of understanding. But then Brian goes on to ‘negate the literal’ by denying the very existence of an end-time ‘beast’ that is clearly the Antichrist.
Brian writes: ‘There is no reference to the Antichrist in the book of Revelation. The beast is equated to the nature of humanity. 1location 29230
With the greatest of respect, I would have to disagree. I would suggest that the Antichrist is mentioned clearly throughout scripture but not given the specific name ‘Antichrist.’ Brian is not seeing the wood for the trees.
By using symbolism, Brian has done what he said we should never do, by negating the literal warning of an end-time Antichrist and the need to prepare for his emergence, by suggesting that the ‘beast’ is just the ‘inner self-life‘.
In scripture, the ‘beast‘ always describes a coming evil king.
Scripture explains scripture and the beast is clearly described in Daniel as being an end-time leader within an evil kingdom.
Daniel 7:7 ‘After that, in my vision, at night I looked, and there before me was fourth beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful…v.23 He gave me this explanation: “The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on the earth.”
To use symbolism to explain away this end-time beast as purely being the ‘inner self-life’ is criminal. The ‘beast’ is a bitter reality that is emerging in our times.
Scripture provides clear warnings about an approaching tribulation. We can use all our ingenuity to dilute or prevent these warnings but nevertheless the tribulation will come. It has been ordained.
We can ‘turn off the fire-alarm’ as did the warehouse owner in my first post. But when our warehouse burns down we will be sorry.
Be wary of getting drunk on symbolism. Scripture is very down-to-earth.
The hour is late, dear friends, and it is time to prepare our hearts to face the golden storm that is approaching.
This is the fourth in a series of posts. To go to the first post in the series, please click HERE.
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- Simmons, Brian. The Passion Translation New Testament (2nd Edition): With Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs (p. 1251). BroadStreet Publishing Group LLC. Kindle Edition location 29230 & 29342