Answer to Question #1
Footnote on Biblical Symbols
STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES
THE PLAN OF THE AGES,
"The Day of Jehovah," pp. 320-324
THE BATTLE OF
THE PLAN OF THE AGES,
"The Day of Jehovah," pp. 320-324
We shall not attempt to follow the prophets in their details, from various standpoints,
of the trouble of that day, but shall follow briefly the thought last suggested by the
prophet above, namely, the devouring of the whole earth with the FIRE of God's
zeal. This prophet refers to the same fire, etc., again (Zephaniah 3:8,9), saying:
"Wait ye upon me, saith Jehovah, until
the day that I rise up to the prey; for my decision is to gather the nations
[peoples], to draw together the kingdoms, to
pour upon them [the kingdoms] my
indignation, even all my fierce anger. [The gathering of the peoples of all nations in common interest in
opposition to present governments is growing; and the result will be a uniting of the
kingdoms for common safety, so that the trouble will be upon all kingdoms, and all will
fall.] For all the earth shall be devoured with the fire
of my zeal.
[then, after this destruction of kingdoms, after this destruction
of the present social order in the fire of trouble], then
will I turn unto the people a pure language [the pure
uncontaminated by human tradition], that they may call
upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord."
This fire of God's zeal is a symbol, and a forcible one, representing the intensity of the
trouble and the destruction which will envelop the whole earth. That it is not a literal
fire, as some suppose, is evident from the fact that the people remain after it,
and are blessed. That the people who remain are not saints, as some would suggest, is
evident from the fact that they are then turned to serve the Lord, whereas the
saints are turned (converted) already.*
Throughout the Scriptures, earth, when used
symbolically, represents society; mountains represent kingdoms; heavens, the
powers of spiritual control; seas, the restless, turbulent, dissatisfied masses of
the world. Fire represents the destruction of whatever is burned—tares, dross,
earth (social organization), or whatever it may be. And when brimstone is added to fire
in the symbol, it intensifies the thought of destruction; for nothing is more deadly to
all forms of life than the fumes of sulfur.
[*We mention this as an offset to the argument of some who regard the fire as
literal, and who claim that the literal earth is to be melted, etc. These, to fit
their theory, claim that "the people" here mentioned, are the
saints, who, after the earth has melted and cooled off, will return to earth and build
houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them, and long enjoy the
work of their hands. They consider the present few years as a training or
preparation for inheriting, and forget that it would be completely lost in the aerial
experiences of the thousand or more years of waiting for the earth to cool off—according
to their theory. This is a serious mistake, and results from too literal an
interpretation of the figures, parables, symbols, and dark sayings of our Lord and the
apostles and prophets. Following up the same error, these claim that there will be
no mountains and seas after this fire, failing to see that all these, as well as the fire,
With this thought in mind, if we turn to Peter's symbolic prophecy of the Day of Wrath,
we find it in perfect accord with the above testimony of the prophets. He says:
"The world that was, being overflowed
with water, perished. [Not the literal earth and literal
heavens ceased there, but that dispensation or arrangement of things, existing before the
flood, passed away.] But the heavens and the earth which are
now [the present dispensation]
by the same word [of divine authority] are kept in store, reserved unto fire."
The fact that the water was literal leads some to believe that the
fire also must be literal, but this by no means follows. The temple of God once was of
literal stones, but that does not set aside the fact that the Church, which is the true
temple, is built up a spiritual building, a holy temple, not of earthly material. Noah's
ark was literal, too, but it typified Christ and the power in him which will replenish and
"The Day of the Lord will come as a
thief in the night [unobservedly], in the which the heavens [present powers of
the air, of which Satan is the chief or prince] shall pass
away with a great [hissing]
noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth [social organization] also, and the works
that are therein [pride, rank, aristocracy, royalty], shall be burned up.
heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.
"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for
new heavens [the new spiritual power—Christ's kingdom] and a new earth" [earthly society
organized on a new basis—on the basis of love and justice, rather than of might and
oppression]. 2 Peter 3:6,7,10-13
It should be remembered that some of the apostles were prophets as well—notably Peter,
John and Paul. And while as apostles they were God's mouthpieces to expound the utterances
of preceding prophets for the benefit of the Church, they were also used of God as
prophets to predict things to come, which, as they become due to be fulfilled, become meat
in due season for the household of faith, to dispense which, God in his own time raises up
suitable servants or expounders. (See our Lord's statement of this fact—Matthew
The apostles as prophets were moved upon to write things which, not being due in
their day, they could but imperfectly appreciate, even as it was with the Old Testament
prophets (1 Peter 1:12,13), though, like them, their words were specially guided and
directed so that they have a depth of meaning of which they were not aware when using
them. Thus emphatically the Church is ever guided and fed by God himself, whoever may be
his mouthpieces or channels of communication. A realization of this must lead to greater
confidence and trust in God's Word, notwithstanding the imperfections of some of his
The Prophet Malachi (4:1) tells of this Day of the Lord under the same symbol. He says:
"The day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all
that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up...that it
shall leave them neither root nor branch." Pride, and every other cause from which
haughtiness and oppression could again spring forth, will be entirely consumed by the
great trouble of the Day of the Lord and by the after disciplines of the Millennial
age—the last of which is described in Revelation 20:9.
But, while pride (in all its forms sinful and detestable) is to be utterly rooted out,
and all the proud and wicked are to be utterly destroyed, it does not follow that there is
no hope for a reformation in this class. No, thank God: while this fire of God's just
indignation will be burning, the Judge will grant opportunity for pulling some out of
the consuming fire (Jude 23); and those only who refuse the aid will perish with their
pride; because they have made it part of their character, and refuse to reform.
The same prophet gives another description of this day (Malachi 3:1-3), in which again,
under the figure of fire, he shows how the Lord's children will be purified and
blessed and brought nigh to him by having the dross of error destroyed:
"The Messenger of the
Covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand [the test] when
he appeareth? for he is as a refiner's fire:...
"And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of
silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi [typical of
believers, of whom the chief are the Royal Priesthood] and
purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in
Paul refers to this same fire, and this refining process affecting believers in the Day
of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:12-15), and in such a manner as to leave it beyond all
question that the symbolic fire will destroy every error, and thus effect
purification of faith. After declaring that he refers only to those building their faith
upon the only recognized foundation, Christ Jesus' finished work of redemption, he says:
"Now if any man build
[character] upon this foundation,
gold, silver, precious stones [divine truths and
corresponding character, or] wood, hay, stubble [traditional errors and corresponding unstable characters],
"Every man's work shall be made manifest; for THE DAY shall
declare it, because it shall be revealed by FIRE; and so every one's work, whatever it is,
the same fire will prove." 2 Peter 1:5-11
Surely even the most prejudiced will concede that the fire which tries a spiritual work
is not literal fire; fire is an appropriate symbol to represent the utter destruction of
conditions represented here by wood, hay and stubble. This fire will be powerless to
destroy the faith-and-character structure built with the gold, silver and precious stones
of divine truth, and founded upon the rock of Christ's ransom-sacrifice.
The Apostle shows this, saying:
"If any man's work abide which he hath
built thereupon [upon Christ] he
shall receive a reward. [His
reward will be in proportion to his faithfulness in building, making use of the truth in
the development of true character—putting on the whole armor of God.]
"If any man's work shall be consumed, he shall suffer loss
[loss of the reward, because of unfaithfulness], but he himself shall be preserved so as through a fire"—singed, scorched and alarmed.
All who build on the rock foundation of Christ's ransom are sure: none that trust in
his righteousness as their covering will ever be utterly confounded. But those who willfully
reject him and his work, after coming to a clear, full knowledge thereof, will be subject
to the second death. Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-31
In yet another way is this trouble of the Day of the Lord symbolically described. The
Apostle shows (Hebrews 12:26-29) that the inauguration of the Law Covenant at Sinai was
typical of the introduction of the New Covenant to the world at the opening of the
Millennial age, or reign of Christ's kingdom. He says that in the type God's voice shook
the literal earth, but now he hath promised, saying,
"Yet once for all [finally], I will shake not only the earth,
but the heaven also."
this the Apostle explains, saying, "Now this
[statement], Yet once for all, denotes the removal of the things shaken, because they
are fabricated [false, made up, not the true], so that the unshaken things [true, righteous
things, only] may remain.
"Wherefore, seeing that we are to receive a kingdom
which cannot be shaken, let us hold fast the favor through which we may serve God
acceptably with reverence and piety;
"For [as it is
written], Our God is a consuming fire."
Thus we see this apostle uses a storm to symbolize the trouble of this Day of the Lord,
which he and others elsewhere refer to under the symbol of fire. The same events are here
noted that are described under the fire symbol, namely, the sweeping away of all
falsities, both from believers and from the world—errors regarding God's plan and
character and Word, and also errors as to social and civil affairs in the world.
It will be good indeed for all to be rid of these fabrications, which came to man
largely through his own depraved desires, as well as by the cunning craftiness of Satan,
the wily foe of righteousness; but it will be at great cost to all concerned that they
will be swept away. It will be a terribly hot fire, a fearful storm, a dark night of
trouble, which will precede the glorious brightness of that Kingdom of Righteousness which
can never be shaken, that Millennial day in which the Sun of Righteousness will shine
forth in splendor and power, blessing and healing the sick and dying but redeemed world.
Compare Malachi 4:2 and Matthew 13:43.
David, the prophet through whose Psalms God was pleased to foretell so much concerning
our Lord at his first advent, gives some vivid descriptions of this Day of Trouble by
which his glorious reign will be introduced; and he uses these various symbols
storm and darkness —
alternately and interchangeably, in his descriptions. Thus, for
instance, he says (Psalm 50:3):
|"Our God shall come, and shall not keep
silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about
In Psalm 97:2-6: "Clouds and darkness
are round about him: righteousness and justice are the support of his throne.
"A fire goeth before him and burneth up his enemies round
"His lightnings give light to the world; the earth
seeth it and trembleth.
"The mountains melt away like wax at the presence of
the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
[new] heavens [then]
tell of his righteousness, and all the people see his glory."
Psalm 46:6: "The peoples raged, the
kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted."
|Again (Psalm 110:2-6),
"Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies....
Lord at thy right hand shall crush kings in the day of his wrath.
"He will judge among the nations—there shall be a fulness of corpses. He crusheth the heads
[rulers] over many countries."
|Again (Psalm 46:1-5),
"God is our protection;
we will not fear when the earth
[society] is transformed, and when the mountains [kingdoms] are swept into the midst of the sea [swallowed up by the turbulent masses],
"When the waters thereof roar and are troubled
[infuriated], when the mountains shake with
the swelling thereof....
"God will help her
Bride, the faithful "little flock"] at the dawning
of the morning."
And in the same Psalm, verses 6-10, the same
story is restated in other symbols: "The peoples rage, kingdoms are displaced: he
letteth his voice be heard, the earth [society] melteth.
of hosts is with us, a Tower for us is the God of Jacob."
Then, viewing the results of that time of
trouble from beyond it, he adds: "Come ye, behold the deeds of the Lord—what
desolations he hath made in the earth....
"Desist [from your former ways, O people] and know [come to the knowledge] that I am God. I will
be exalted among the peoples, I will be exalted in the earth."
The "new earth" or new order and arrangement of society will exalt God and
his law, as over and controlling all.
Another testimony in proof of the fact that the Day of the Lord will be a great day of
trouble and of destruction to every form of evil (yet not a time of literal burning
of the earth) is furnished in the last symbolic prophecy of the Bible. Referring to this
time when the Lord will take his great power to reign, the storm and fire
are thus described—
|"And the nations were enraged and thy
wrath came." (Revelation 11:17,18)
And again, "And out of his mouth
proceeded a two-edged broadsword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall
rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath
of Almighty God....
"And I saw the
beast [symbolic], and the kings
of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the
horse, and against his army.
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false
prophet....These were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."
We cannot here digress to examine these symbols—"beast," "false
prophet," "image," "lake of fire," "horse," etc., etc.
For this the reader is referred to a succeeding volume. Now we would have you notice that
the great symbolic BATTLE, and the harvesting of the vine of the earth here described as
closing the present age and opening up the Millennial age (Revelation 20:1-3), are but
other symbols covering the same great and troublous events elsewhere symbolically called
fire, storm, shaking, etc. In connection with the battle and winepress figures of
Revelation, note the striking harmony of Joel 2:9-16 and Isaiah 13:1-11, in describing the
same events by similar figures. The variety of symbolic figures used helps us to
appreciate more fully all the features of that great and notable Day of the Lord.
THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON, pp. 527-529
"For lo, I begin to bring evil on the
city which is called by my name
["Christendom"—"Babylon"]; ...I will call for a sword upon all the
inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of hosts... The Lord will call aloud from on
high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall cry out very loudly over his [nominal]
habitation [Christendom]; he
shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the
"A tumultuous noise shall come
even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, he
holdeth judgment over all flesh: he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go
forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest
ends of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the
earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered
nor buried: they shall be dung upon the ground." Jeremiah 25:29-38
So complex and peculiar will be the conflict of this Day of Vengeance that no one
symbol could describe it. In the Scriptures, accordingly, many forceful symbols are used,
such as battle, earthquake, fire, storm, tempest and flood.
It is the "Battle of that Great Day of God Almighty," when
he shall gather the nations and assemble the kingdoms to pour upon them his indignation,
even all his fierce anger; for the Lord of hosts himself mustereth the hosts of the
battle. Revelation 16:14; Zephaniah 3:8; Isaiah 13:4.
It is "a Great Earthquake such as was not since men were upon the
earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great," which shall "shake, not the earth
only, but also heaven." Revelation 16:18; Hebrews 12:26.
It is "The Fire of Jehovah's Jealousy, which shall devour all the
earth." Both the present heavens (the ecclesiastical powers of Christendom) and the
earth (the social organization under both church and state influence) are reserved unto
fire against this day of judgment.
"The heavens shall pass away with a
great noise, and the elements [of present ecclesiasticism] shall melt with fervent heat; the earth [society] also and the works that are therein
shall be burned up... The heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved."
All the proud and all that do wickedly shall be stubble, and this fire shall burn them
up. It shall leave them neither root nor branch. Zephaniah 3:8; 2 Peter 3:10,12; Malachi
|"His way is in the Whirlwind and in the
Storm." "Who can stand before his indignation? and who can
abide in the fierceness of his anger?" Nahum 1:3,6,7.
"Behold, it cometh mighty and strong
from the Lord, as a
Tempest of Hail and a
Storm, as a Flood
of Mighty Waters overflowing, and shall cast
down to the earth with power the crown of pride." "He rebuketh the sea and
maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers...The mountains quake at him, and the hills
melt, and the earth
[symbols of the entire
present order of things] is burned at his presence; yea, the
world and all that dwell therein...With an overrunning flood will he make an utter end of
the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies."
Isaiah 28:2; Nahum 1:4,5,8.
That these are not to be literal floods and fires, destructive of our planet Earth, and
its population, is evident from the statement (symbolic) that the present order of things,
when destroyed, will be followed by a new order—"a new heavens [ecclesiasticism,
God's glorified Church] and a new earth [human society reorganized under God's Kingdom on
a basis of love instead of selfishness]." Referring to that new order of things after
the fire of God's retributive vengeance shall have burned up present evils, God, through
the Prophet, says:
"Then will I turn to the people a pure
language [the truth], that they
may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent."
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