Symbolism in the Bible

Have you ever read some of the passages in the Bible where it talks about Heaven and you knew that the words used were not sufficient for the full description? Where it seems like the writer is just using the best words that he can find to make what heaven is like somewhat understandable?

Two weeks ago at church I preached about Heaven. I taught through the descriptions in Revelation 21 as to the beauty and splendor of that wonderful place. I know the author, John, used wording that was understandable. But we have often heard people say that words cannot fully explain what Heaven will be like. The symbolism that John used in those verses surely pale in comparison to the actual beauty of Heaven.

This last Sunday I preached about Hell. In preparation for my message I skimmed through an excellent resource that I have kept since my college days. It is a doctrines book written by William Evans, Great Doctrines of the Bible. In this passage he is talking about the literalness of the use of the word “fire” to describe Hell (page 262).

It is an accepted law of language that a figure of speech is less intense than the reality. If “fire” is merely a figurative expression, it must stand for some great reality, and if the reality is more intense than the figure, what an awful thing the punishment symbolized by fire must be.

I thought that was an appropriate paragraph to describe the awfulness of Hell. Conversely, everything John writes about Heaven can be seen in the same light. That all the wonderful thoughts and imagery that the words used to describe Heaven conjure up in our minds, it is but a small descriptor of the reality of God’s home.

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