Chapter 10

PROPHETIC SYMBOLS

The Bible in many places is written in code or symbols, especially the prophecies which foretell future events. The use of codes and symbols is one of the methods God has chosen to preserve the Bible, for if certain powers which have existed had been aware that the Bible was talking about them, they would have done their best to destroy every trace of the Word of God. They would have persecuted Christians with much more vigor than thy did, and many millions more of God’s true people would have died at the stake or suffered other agonizing torture and death. Only those who take the time and put forth the effort to learn these codes and symbols are blessed with a thorough understanding of the Bible.

That God would choose to give His Word to us in symbols is not really so strange; the secular world often uses symbols to convey information. For instance, suppose you picked up an evening paper in the United States and saw a political cartoon on the editorial page which depicted a donkey kicking an elephant. You would understand that the Democrats had defeated the Republicans in the recent election.

God tells us plainly and clearly in the Bible what each symbol means, and when we are familiar with His prophetic symbols, we will be able to understand prophecy just as clearly as if it had been written in plain text. God has not kept an understanding of the Bible from those who sincerely, with all their heart, want to know and understand.

The first item to consider in understanding God’s symbols is the meaning of the word “day” in Bible prophecy. Numbers 14:34 tells us, “After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years.” Ezekiel 4:6 also mentions that a day represents one year. “I have appointed thee each day for a year.”

Thus we see that when “day” is used in Bible prophecy, a year of actual time is meant. The prophetic year consists of twelve months of 30 days each, or 360 days, and represents 360 years of actual time. That the prophetic year contains 360 days can be shown quite clearly in the book of Revelation, since one particular period of time is mentioned in four different verses. Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14 both speak of the same period of time, as is obvious from the context. Verse 6: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” (A score is 20.) Clearly, this time period is 1260 days, or 3 ½ years of 360 days each. Now notice verse 14: “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” Since this time period is 3 ½ years, the word “time” in verse 14 is therefore one year, “times” is two years, and “half a time” is one-half year. Revelation 11:2,3 shows that the prophetic month contains 30 days. “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” Here again we have this same period of 1260 days which is mentioned in verse 2 as 42 months. Forty-two months of 30 days each is exactly 1260 days, or 3 ½ 360-day years.

The prophetic year will be discussed further in the study of prophecies which directly relate to this 1260-day time period. (For those who think it strange for prophecy to use a 360-day year, consider that in calculating interest many banks, before the proliferation of computers, used a 360-day year consisting of twelve months, each having thirty days.) When this 360-day prophetic year is used and when the prophetic day is taken as one year of actual time, we will see that the time prophecies of the Bible which have already been fulfilled have occurred precisely on schedule. You will remember from chapter one that before the event occurred Josiah Litch was able to pinpoint the day on which the Ottoman Empire would fall. He did so by applying this rule of prophetic prophecy that a day represents a year of actual time and that the prophetic year, consisting of twelve months of thirty days each, contains 360 years of actual time.

Many beasts are described in the prophecies of the Bible. What do these represent? Daniel 7:17 tells us that “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.” Verse 23 says, “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth.” A beast, therefore, represents a king or a kingdom or a nation — some political entity.

The secular world also uses beasts symbolically to represent various nations. A bear, for instance, represents Russia; a lion represents England; and an eagle represents the United States.

Horns also represent kingdoms, as Daniel 7:24 indicates. “And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise.” God also uses horns to symbolize nations; in so doing He can show that one nation follows another in chronological sequence. For instance, a beast which grows several horns signifies a power followed by several other powers.

The symbol of heads is also used in various places in the Bible to represent kings and kingdoms. One of the best illustrations of this symbol will be discussed in the following chapter.

Jeremiah 25:32,33 shows that winds represent war and strife. “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 coasts 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.”

While remembering the prophecy of Daniel 2, that the Medes and Persians would attack and subdue the city of Babylon, consider Jeremiah 51:1,11. “Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, and against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying wind. Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it.” Thus we see that “wind” in Bible prophecy represents war and strife.

Water is used to represent people, the “sea” of humanity. Revelation 17:15 shows this clearly. “And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”

Some of the prophecies of the Bible describe a beast with wings. Wings indicate speed and swiftness in battle. This is shown in Habakkuk 1:6-8. These verses describe the Chaldeans (Babylonians), who are represented in prophecy as a winged lion. “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.” The fact that wings are used in Bible prophecy to indicate speed and swiftness in battle will become more apparent when we discuss some of the prophecies that use the symbol of winged animals.

The final and very important symbol of prophecy which we will consider is a woman. God uses a woman to represent a church. A pure, virtuous woman represents Christ’s true church. A harlot represents one or more of the many counterfeit churches. Isaiah 51:16 says, “And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” Zion, therefore, is a term applied to God’s people, especially in Old Testament times. Notice in Jeremiah 6:2 that Zion had one daughter. “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.” This daughter of Zion is Christ’s true church today, which is represented by a beautiful and delicate woman to indicate a church of utmost purity. Christ’s true church is referred to in 2 Corinthians 11:2 as a virgin. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Revelation 12:17 describes this true church, which keeps all the commandments of God. In this instance the devil, Satan, is extremely angry at the true church. “And the dragon (Satan) was wroth (mad, angry) with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

On the other hand, Revelation 17:5 describes a harlot, who represents a false church and is the mother of numerous false churches. “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Thus we see that a woman in Bible prophecy represents a church.

The chart below summarizes the basic keys to understanding Bible prophecy.

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