Know Your Bible—Part 2

Illustrations Used By God

“It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”
—Isaiah 2:2

DURING THE TIME WHEN the nation of Israel was a kingdom under God, its kings sitting upon the “throne of the Lord” (I Chron. 29:23), the governmental headquarters of the nation were located in a mountain—Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Zion was Israel’s Capitol Hill. From this mountain, the Lord ruled over the nation. How appropriate, then, that the Bible should refer to the kingdom of Christ as “the mountain of the house of the Lord.”—Mic. 4:1

Mountains always occupy a dominant position with relation to the surrounding terrain, and, from this standpoint, fittingly picture kingdoms, or governments, in their dominating position over the people. Thus the prophecy which speaks of ‘the mountain of the house of the Lord’ as being established ‘in the top of the mountains,’ very beautifully portrays the fact that Christ’s kingdom will take control over all the nations of the earth, that the “kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.”—Rev. 11:15


In answer to his disciples’ questions concerning the signs of his return and of the end of the age, Jesus said that there would then be “upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity,” that “men’s hearts” would fail them “for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:25,26) He further illustrated this by likening these distressing conditions to the roaring of the sea and the waves.

Long before Jesus uttered this prophecy, David wrote prophetically of the same time, saying to, and of, the Lord’s people, who would be acquainted with the meaning of events, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.”—Ps. 46:2,3

One who has ever heard the roaring noise of voices emanating from an angry mob of people will at once recognize the similarity of the sound to that of the roaring waves of the sea. And what a powerful symbol this is of world occurrences today. The masses of mankind, in an ever-increasing crescendo of demands, are clamoring for their real and fancied rights, with the result that during the past century many of the most powerful mountain-kingdoms of the earth have been ‘carried into the midst of the sea’—that is, brought down into the hands of the masses. Never before in the experience of man has there been, in so short a time, such a toppling of kingdoms, leaving the world in a condition of increasing chaos.

The Bible uses the earth itself to picture a more or less stable society, in contrast to the restless, roaring sea. Thus, as the prophet foretold, because the ‘mountains’ are carried into the midst of the sea, the symbolic earth is itself removed.


In many instances the pictorial language of the Bible is similar to the manner of speech customarily employed by man. Throughout the centuries, beasts of one kind or another have been used to symbolize kingdoms, or governments. A couched lion was the symbol of the pharaoh’s right to rule over ancient Egypt. Today we have the British lion, the Russian bear, the Chinese dragon, and the American eagle.

Similarly, the Lord uses beasts to represent kingdoms, or governments. In the seventh chapter of Daniel’s prophecy, four beasts are depicted, to represent four kingdoms, which students of prophecy identify as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Of the Roman beast, the prophet said that he saw it stand upon and “devour the whole earth.” (vs. 23) What a lucid picture this is of a selfish and cruel government exploiting the people under its control and appropriating their resources for the furtherance of its own selfish ends!

It is important to observe, in connection with the symbology of the Bible, that any given symbol is not always used to convey the same idea. We have already noticed that water in one association may be used to represent a cleansing power, and in another to convey the thought of life-giving energy.

Thus, while in Daniel 7:4 a lion is used to picture the ancient Babylonian empire, the Apostle Peter wrote, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”—I Pet. 5:8

Again, in Isaiah 35:8,9, in describing favorable conditions which will exist during the age to come when “The way of holiness” is opened for the people, the prophet wrote, “No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there.” Here beasts are used to picture all the devouring, or destroying, influences from which mankind will be protected during the Kingdom Age, as they are returning to perfection of life.


In the last chapter of the Book of Revelation the blessings of the people, through the agency of Christ’s kingdom, are pictured by a “river” which flows out of “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” On either side of this river are said to be trees of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, and yielding their fruit every month. The leaves of these trees are said to be “for the healing of the nations.” (vss. 1,2) How beautifully this represents the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless “all families [or nations] of the earth”!—Gen. 12:3

In Psalm 1:1-3 we read, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Here a tree is used to symbolize a godly person who delights in the law of the Lord.

We are not attempting to explain all the symbols used in the Bible. To do so might well require a book larger than the Bible itself. We are merely endeavoring to present some of the underlying principles involved in the understanding of Bible symbology, the application of which will help us in our study of the Word. And one of the important things to remember in this connection is that we should not place arbitrary interpretations upon any of the picture language used in the Bible.

If the Bible itself does not explain the meaning of a particular symbol, then we need to take into careful consideration its principal characteristics, and, in harmony with the known elements of Truth with which it may be associated, seek humbly to understand the Lord’s mind in the matter. It is well, also, to remember that the symbolism of the Bible is used to give us a clearer understanding of God’s thoughts, not to hide his thoughts from us.

In saying this, we are not overlooking Jesus’ statement to his disciples that his reason for speaking in parables to the world was to prevent the ungodly from understanding his teachings. (Matt. 13:10,11) These very parables, when explained to his disciples, enabled them—and are helping us—to understand many of the details of the Divine plan of the ages much more clearly than otherwise would have been possible.


This brief examination of the style of language and illustrations the Lord uses, has, we trust, helped to portray to our minds the reassuring fact that he has a plan which has been progressing throughout the ages, which will reach a glorious consummation in the future blessing of all mankind with health and life. Perhaps a fitting closing would be that marvelous picture of the kingdom of Christ presented to us in Revelation 21:1-5. We quote the description: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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