Metaphors Help the Applicability of the Book of Revelation

Why does the Bible use so many images and metaphors?

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The Bible uses a lot of metaphor and imagery, and this does make it harder to understand, but it also makes it applicable to people in different times and different places. If everything was spelled out in crystal detail about chronological fulfillments, then it might not apply to people who live later times or other cultures where these events might not take place. So there's a kind of fuzziness around the edges of these messages, and that makes them applicable to people in different times and places. And there's also a definiteness that makes them, everybody, have a sense of readiness that, "I'm not sure when this is being fulfilled; it could be fulfilled in our time." And most generations of Christians have thought these events could be fulfilled in our time. We need to be ready to meet the Lord. So God has accomplished giving us assurance and certainty that history is in his hands, and he has a definite plan for making things work his way and winning in the end. And yet, there is an indefiniteness, a fuzziness through the metaphor and imagery, that allows every generation of Christians all around the world to say, "We're not sure when this is. It might apply to us; it might not." And so, it remains applicable for us.

Answer by Dr. John McKinley

Dr. John Mckinley is the Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola Universtity in La Mirada, California and is affiliated with the Evangelical Theological Society.