Ellis Skolfield's Teaching Outline 02 Figurative Language
When an author wishes toportray characters or eventsin a hidden or symbolic wayhe uses figurative language.
1. Literal or figurative language is determined by the Author, not the reader. 2. Interpreting literal language figuratively results in false doctrine. 3. Interpreting figurative language literally also results in false doctrine. 4. Figurative signposts are key to recognizing a passage as literal or figurative.
Examples of Figurative Signposts “LIKE UNTO” Mat 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field.” Mat 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder Mat 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres. “AS”Mat 13:43 “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun.”Luke 10:3 “Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” Luke 17:6 “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed.”
“In The Spirit” A figurative signpost showing the prophet is having a vision. Rev 1:10 “I was in the spirit on the Lords day.” Rev 4:2 “And immediately I was in the spirit.” Rev 17:3 “So he carried me away in the spirit.”Rev 21:10 “And he carried me away in the spirit.”All show that the prophet is having vision and all prophetic visions are figurative!
Example: Joseph’s Second VisionGenesis 37:910 “And he (Joseph) dreamed yet another dream(i.e., he was in the spirit), and told it his brethren, and said,‘Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sunand the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.’And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and hisfather (who understood the vision as figurative) rebukedhim, and said unto him, ‘What is this dream that thou hastdreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeedcome to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?’” Joseph’s dream is obviously about Jacob and the children of Israel. So are there any prophetic visions in the Bible that are not figurative?
The Same Figurative Language in Revelation.Rev 12:1 “And there appeared a great wonder inheaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and themoon under her feet, and upon her head acrown of twelve stars.” The Bible has only one Author! Since the figurative language in Revelation is identical to the figurative language in Genesis, who do you suppose Revelation 12:1 is actually identifying?
Figurative language appears all over Revelation!Rev 4:6 “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal.”Rev 9:10 “And they had tails like unto scorpions.”Rev 11:1 “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod.”Rev 13:11 “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”Rev 16:13 “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon.”Rev 16:3 “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea (of people, Rev 17:15); and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died (spiritually) in the sea.”
Much of Revelation’s figurative language is defined for us in the book itself . . .Rev 1:20 “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my righthand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels(Greek, —γγελοs, ang’elose, a messenger) of the seven churches: and theseven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”Rev 11:34 “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shallprophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed insackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standingbefore the God of the earth.”Rev 17:18 “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, whichreigneth over the kings of the earth.” Revelation has over 70 figurative signposts so Revelation is basically figurative!
Other Biblical Principles of Interpretation Understand the Cultural Setting of the Prophet Hosea 7:8 “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.” Idioms Must Be Recognized As Nonliteral.1Kings 21:21 “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thyposterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall.” Scriptural AdjacencyRevelation 11:4 “These (two witnesses) are the two olive trees, and thetwo candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” IMPORTANT RULE: For the definition of a scriptural figure, first try within thepassage, then the chapter, then the book, then the testament, then the whole Bible.It’s faulty exegesis to use an Old Testament definition for a New Testament figure,when there’s a New Testament definition that fits perfectly.
Having the Right Heart Attitude 1. Recognize the Bible as the true Living Word of God.Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick (Greek: ζάω, dzah’o, living), andpowerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividingasunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of thethoughts and intents of the heart.” 2. The Lord will not open His Word to us if we’re willing to compromise it. 3. The Lord will teach us nothing if we hold our doctrines above His Word. 4. We learn the doctrines of men from books by men, we learn to know God from His Word.