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B. W. Johnson
Vision of the Ages (1881)


      Revelation is a book of symbols. The proper interpretation depends on the right use of these symbols. The meanings usually attached to them will be found in any symbol dictionary. I have condensed for this table from the dictionaries the definitions of the principal symbols used in Revelation.

      ADULTERY.--Idolatry or apostasy. As Christ is represented as a Bridegroom, and the Church as his Bride, apostasy, or unfaithfulness to him, would be spiritual adultery and a false church properly represented as a harlot.

      ANGEL.--Any agent or messenger of the divine will. It may be a Celestial spirit, or a movement of earthly nations, etc.

      ASCENSION TO HEAVEN.--Exaltation in power and glory. Prosperity.

      BABYLON.--The city that carried God's people into captivity. Rome.

      BALANCES.--A symbol of justice, but when used in connection with food they are a symbol of scarcity.

      BEAST.--A wild, savage beast indicates a usurping, cruel, tyrannical, persecuting power.

      BINDING.--This symbol implies to deprive of power, to weaken, or render helpless.

      BLACK.--The color of mourning or affliction.

      BLACK HORSE.--The horse is a symbol of war. A. black horse would mean calamitous war.

      BLOOD.--A symbol of carnage and therefore of war.

      BOOK.--To seal a book is to conceal its meaning; to open a book is to reveal its meaning. The book with seven seals is the book of destiny. The opening of the seals is the revelation of future history.

      BOW.--A bow held in the hand is a symbol of war. [353]

      BRIDE.--The spouse of Christ, the Church, the New Jerusalem.

      BRIDEGROOM.--Jesus Christ.

      CANDLESTICK.--A symbol of a church, which is the light of the world. The seven golden candlesticks are the Seven Churches.

      CHAIN.--A symbol of bondage or affliction. To chain is to render powerless. To bind Satan with a chain is to destroy his power.

      CLOUD.--An emblem of power and majesty. To ride upon the clouds is to appear in glory and exaltation.

      CROWN.--The symbol of royal majesty. To enjoy exaltation and honor. To receive the crown of life is to receive the honors of eternal life.

      DARKNESS.--The well known symbol of calamity and affliction.

      DAY.--"I have given you a day for a year." One revolution of the earth on its axis is a symbol of its annual revolution in its orbit. "Twelve hundred and sixty days" means as many years.

      DEATH.--A symbol of destruction.

      DRAGON.--The old pagan Roman Empire. The dragon was originally a symbol of a monarch. In Revelation it means the persecuting monarchy of Rome.

      EARTH.--The ancient civilized world, which corresponded in John's time with the Roman Empire.

      EARTHQUAKE.--Political and moral revolutions and convulsions of society. The shaking of the established order of things. The subversion of states and fortunes.

      ECLIPSE.--Or the darkening of heavenly bodies, means the obscuration of the glory of kings and potentates of which sun, moon and stars are symbols.

      EGYPT.--The place of spiritual bondage. A condition of sinfulness. Opposition to Christ.

      ELDERS.--Probably heavenly princes.

      EUPHRATES.--The symbol of the Turkish power. To be "bound by the Euphrates" is to be restrained at that river. [354] The "drying up of the Euphrates" is the gradual decay of the Turkish power.

      FIRE.--Fierce destruction. Never the symbol of a blessing, but of a curse.

      FIRE FROM HEAVEN.--Divine destruction, but fire brought down from heaven by the two-horned dragon, means excommunications and anathemas of Rome.

      FLOOD.--Symbol of overpowering. Distress from persecution or any cause.

      FOREHEAD.--A mark in the forehead means a public profession.

      FORNICATION.--Idolatry. See Adultery.

      GRAVE.--To put into the grave, signifies to consign to oblivion. "Not to suffer dead bodies to be put into the grave," means that they shall be remembered.

      HAIL.--Ravages and destruction.

      HAND.--A mark in the hand means the manner of life.

      HARLOT.--An idolatrous community. The great Harlot is the apostate church. See Adultery.

      HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.--The world. The political and religious universe. A new heavens and new earth implies a passing away of the old order of things and the establishment of a new order.

      HORNS.--"The great horn is the first king;" Daniel. A symbol of kings, kingdoms, or power.

      HORSE.--Used only for warlike purposes by the ancients and hence a symbol of war. The color of the horse indicates the condition of his rider and the state of the war.

      INCENSE.--The prayers of the saints.

      ISLANDS.--European States. In the prophets the "isles of the sea" meant the countries in and beyond the Mediterranean; hence, Europe.

      JERUSALEM.--The capital of Judea and the seat of the temple becomes a symbol of the church of Christ. The "holy [355] city" is contrasted with the "great city," Jerusalem with Babylon, or the true with the false Church.

      KING.--Supreme power of any kind.

      LAMB.--The Lamb of God is the Messiah, slain as a lamb from the foundation of the world.

      LOCUSTS.--Devouring armies, who pillage and ravage a country. The Arabians under Mahomet.

      MANNA.--The bread of life. The truth of Christ.

      MERCHANTS.--Those who traffic in religious privileges. Those who make merchandise of religion.

      MOON.--A symbol of rulers or great men, but not supreme.

      MOUNTAIN.--A mountain denotes one highly elevated and conspicuous among men. A great and powerful prince or government. A burning mountain is a destructive conqueror.

      PALE HORSE.--A symbol of war and of the reign of death.

      PALM.--A symbol of joy or victory.

      RED HORSE.--A symbol of cruel, bloody war, distinguished by awful carnage.

      RIVER OF LIFE.--Christ is the fountain of life. The abundant, everflowing life that the Savior. bestows is symbolized by the river of life. The tree of life means virtually the same.

      ROD.--The symbol of rule. A rod of iron is a strong rule.

      SCARLET.--Bloody cruelty. The color worn by the cardinals of Rome.

      SEVEN.--The perfect number.

      STARS.--Conspicuous men. Shining lights in the world.

      SUN.--A supreme ruler. The moon and stars indicate great lights of society, but inferior to the sun. The moon is also a symbol of the Jewish state, and the sun of the Christian.

      SWORD.--A symbol of slaughter, or of conquest. A sword proceeding out of the mouth indicates the spiritual conquests of the word of God.

      TEMPLE OF GOD.--The Church. The Temple of God open in heaven, is the abode of God, or heaven itself.

      THRONE.--A symbol of authority.

      TIME.--Time, times and half a time is an annual revolution of the earth, a year, two years, a half year, or three and a half years. "Seven Times" passed over Nebuchadnezzar, or seven years.

      TRUMPET.--The blast of the trumpet means the forward [356] march of armies, or the proclamation of war or peace.

      WHITE.--To be clothed in white is to be innocent, pure, and to be triumphant.

      WHITE HORSE.--Triumphant and glorious war. See Horse.

      WHORE.--Apostate church. See Adultery.

      WINDS.--Symbol of commotion; of mighty movements. The "Four Winds" are four invasions of the Roman empire.

      WINE PRESS.--A symbol of an effusion of blood and of distress.

      WITNESSES.--The two witnesses are the two Testaments, for such is the meaning of the latter word.

      WOMAN.--A body politic, civil or religious. The "woman clothed with the sun" is the pure and faithful church. The Great Harlot is the false, faithless, apostate church.

[VOTA 353-357]

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B. W. Johnson
Vision of the Ages (1881)