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Answer to Question #1
Footnote on Biblical Symbols



"The Day of Jehovah," pp. 320-324

pp. 527-529

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"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.

"Yea [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 Word 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.*

[*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 offaccording 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, are symbols.]

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 burnedtares, 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.

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 reorganize society.

"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.

"The 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 powerChrist's kingdom] and a new earth" [earthly society organized on a new basison 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 wellnotably 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 factMatthew 24:45,46.)

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 mouthpieces.

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 agethe 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 righteousness."

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 characterputting 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."

Concerning 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 worlderrors 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 fire, 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 him."


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 about.

"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.

"The [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....

"The Lord at thy right hand shall crush kings in the day of his wrath.

"He will judge among the nationsthere shall be a fulness of corpses. He crusheth the heads [rulers] over many countries."


Again (Psalm 46:1-5), "God is our protection;

"...therefore 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 [the 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.

"Jehovah 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 Lordwhat 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." Revelation 19:15,19


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.

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"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 earth.

"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 the Lord.

"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 4:1.

"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 Destroying 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." Zephaniah 3:9.


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