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The Meaning of Symbols in the Book of Revelation

[ WordBytes on Bible Study ]

Symbols of the Apocalypse and the End of the World

To read the Word of God in this apocalyptic book without letting our imagination give us misguided interpretations, we need to understand the symbolism the same way the first readers did. These symbols were easily recognized by the first readers, because the meanings had been familiar to the people throughout Jewish history, as can be seen frequently in the Old Testament.

| # | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J |

| K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | V | W |

St. MIchael the Archangel defeating Satan in the book of Revelation666 = tripled (the most) imperfection; anyone who viciously persecutes Christians

SEVEN = fullness, complete amount

SEVEN CHURCHES = all the churches of all the world of all times

10 DAYS = a short time

THREE-AND-A-HALF = a very short time

1260 days or 3&1/2 years or 42 months = period of persecutions of God’s people

1000 = a large amount

7000 PEOPLE = a large number of people from all social classes

1500 miles or 12,000 stades = 12 apostles times 1000 (leaders representing all Christians)

144,000 (the square of the 12 tribes of Israel multiplied by a thousand or a large amount) = the new Israel, embracing all Christians from every nation and tongue; NOTE: in the list of tribes (7:5-8), Dan is omitted because of a belief that the antichrist would arise from it

ABADDON = Aramaic name for destruction or ruin

ABYSS = the netherworld, where all the demons are kept for many, many years before being cast into the pool of fire

ACCUSER = Satan

ALPHA & OMEGA = Jesus, “The First & the Last” and “the Beginning & the End”

AMEN, THE = Jesus, is the “Yes, this is true” to God’s promises

AMULET (“white stone” in some translations) = admission to the royal feast of eternal joy

ANGEL = leader of the Christian community

APOLLYON = Greek name for the Destroyer

APPOINTED TIME = when Jesus comes in glory

ARMAGEDDON = location where many decisive battles took place during Israel’s history

BABYLON = Rome (where persecution was coming from)

BALAAM & BALAK = the infidelity of contemporary people who eat food sacrificed to idols

BEAST = the forces of evil; the antichrist

BEASTS OF THE WAR IN HEAVEN (12:7-9) = 1. Roman empire, worshiped by all the world; 2. the antichrist, who leads people to worship first beast

BEAST (WILD) = Roman empire

BLACK = death

BOOK OF LIFE = where the names of the redeemed are kept

BRIDE = the Church in covenant relationship with Christ

BURNING SULFUR = eternal punishment

CALF (young bull) = strongest of God’s creations

CHILDREN = those who follow someone’s teachings; spiritual descendants

COUNTLESS IN NUMBER = infinite amount

CROWN = royal authority

DIADEMS = sovereignty over the kingdoms of the world

DRAGON = power of evil; Satan

EAGLE = swiftest of God’s creations; swiftness of God’s help

EAST = source of light, the place of paradise

EGYPT = oppression of God’s people

ELDERS (TWENTY-FOUR) = all who belong to the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles

END = Jesus (therefore: “The end is near” = “Jesus is near” and “Living in the end times” = “Living in Jesus”)

EYES (CREATURES COVERED WITH) = the all-seeing, all-knowing power of God

EYES LIKE FIERY FLAME = able to see all and know all

FACE THAT SHINES LIKE THE SUN = the divine majesty of Christ

FAITHFUL WITNESS = Jesus

FEET OF POLISHED BRASS = Jesus is unchanging

FIRE MINGLED WITH SEA OF GLASS = sanctity in facing God

FIRST-BORN = Jesus

GARMENTS (WHITE) = an upright life; victory; resurrection

GEMS (see “gold”)

GOG AND MAGOG = all pagan nations

GOLD REFINED BY FIRE = God’s grace

GOLD AND PRECIOUS GEMS USED TO BUILD NEW JERUSALEM= the beauty and excellence of the Church

GREEN = plague

HAIR (WHITE) = the “Ancient of Days”; God

HARLOT = Roman empire, which led people astray into idolatry

HARVEST = gathering true Christians during the final judgment

HEADS = Roman emperors

HIDDEN MANNA = heavenly bread; the Eucharist

HILLS (SEVEN) = all the territory covered by Roman empire

HORNS = power; kings

HORNS LIKE A LAMB’S BUT VOICE LIKE A DRAGON = false prophets

HORSES AND THEIR RIDERS

1. WHITE = a conquering power (BOW = oppression)

2. RED = a bloody war (HUGE SWORD = violence)

3. BLACK = famine (SCALE = shortage of food with corresponding increase in prices)

4. PALE GREEN = death and decay (HADES = netherworld)

HUMAN BEING = wisest of God’s creations

INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH = pagans

JEZEBEL = someone who brings pagan customs into Christianity

KEY OF DAVID = Jesus has the final determination of who enters the heavenly kingdom and who doesn’t

LAMPSTANDS = the Church

LIGHTNING, RUMBLINGS & THUNDER = God’s activity

LION = noblest of God’s creations

LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH = the victorious Jesus

LIVING CREATURES (FOUR) = cherubim

LORD’S DAY = Sunday

MEASURING THE TEMPLE = God preserves those who remain faithful to Christ

MORNING STAR = resurrection victory over death

MOUNT ZION = the gathering of Israelite believers during Christ’s reign

NETHERWORLD = the abode of the dead

NEW JERUSALEM = heaven, where Christ has supreme authority

NEW NAME = being reborn in Christ

NEW NAME (CHRIST’S) = “Lord”

OLIVE TREES (TWO) AND LAMPSTANDS (TWO) = martyrs

OPEN DOOR = evangelization efforts; Christ Himself, who is the door into the house of God

PALM BRANCHES = joy and victory

PILLAR = help in rebuilding the temple of God in new Jerusalem

RED = war

RIGHT HAND = power and authority

ROBE (ANKLE-LENGTH) = Jesus is the high priest

RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH = Jesus

SACKCLOTH = lamentation and repentance

SASH (GOLD) = Jesus is king

SATAN’S THRONE = emperor worship and other pagan practices

SEA OF GLASS LIKE CRYSTAL = God’s throne

SEA MONSTER = Satan

SEA THAT, AT THE END, IS NO MORE = Satan’s home

SEALED WITH SEVEN SEALS = totally hidden to all but God

SEAL OF THE LIVING GOD = under God’s protection & ownership

SECOND DEATH = eternal punishment

SERPENT = Satan

SODOM = immorality

SOILED CLOTHES = the act of dishonoring God

SON OF MAN = Jesus

SOUND OF RUSHING WATERS = Jesus is speaking with divine authority

SPIRITS = angels (7 spirits = all the angels)

STARS = angels

SWORD COMING FROM HIS MOUTH = the Word of God, the only weapon needed to defeat the enemy

TASTE OF SCROLL

1. SOUR IN THE STOMACH = sufferings of God’s people

2. SWEET AS HONEY = final victory of God’s people

THUNDER = God’s voice

TREE OF LIFE IN THE GARDEN OF GOD = the decree excluding humanity from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden has been revoked by Christ

TRUMPET BLAST = calling together the believers

TRUMPET-LIKE VOICE = the voice of Jesus

VIRGINS = people who never indulged in any idolatrous practices

VISIONS = presentations of mysteries of God’s plans

VOICE = proclaiming God’s revelation

WATER (LIFE-GIVING) = God’s grace flowing from Christ

WEDDING DAY OF THE LAMB = God’s reign is about to begin

WHITE = victory and purity; resurrection

WINGS = freedom of movement that angels have

WORMWOOD = punishment God inflicts on the ungodly

See also: The Book of Revelation: Understanding Its Message of Encouragement

Next: See more WordBytes on Scripture and Bible Study >>

Find more faith-builders by visiting the Good News Ministries home page>>

© 1998 by Terry A. Modica

The Meaning of Symbols in the Book of Revelation

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