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When the Bible is literal and or figurative

Some people read the Bible and it seems to them that everything is an allegory, figurative or metaphor and most things to them in the Bible are NOT “real” or literal. Others read the same verses and they take most scripture literally and almost nothing is a figure of speech or a picture of something deeper.

This short sharing is just to say – be so careful about forming beliefs and teachings based on everything being all literal or everything being mostly figures of speech or metaphors. A metaphor is a figure of speech where a word stands for something else. If I said to you—“You’re a peach,” I’m not saying you literally are a peach, but you are sweet and delightful. Metaphor.

Whole doctrines based on one or the other way of looking at each scripture can cause whole church groups to split up. I do sometimes wish that our God would have said, “OK children, this next series of verses are not to be taken literally” (or vice versa). But we don’t see that much in the Bible. We’re told about parables, but they’re not quite the same. Or are they?

Let’s look at some of the Bible language and see where YOU fit – do you take the words I’ll bring up more literally, or as more allegorical?

I know people who don’t believe there were literal people called Adam and Eve. I do believe they were there, in a literal garden of Eden. Yes, I believe there was a worldwide flood – and many don’t. Or they call it just a regional flood. I believe God blasted out of existence the cities of the Plain, including Sodom, Gomorrah and other surrounding cities of Admah and Ziboam. Zoar was spared as a potential destination for Lot and his two daughters. And yes, I believe Lot’s wife was turned to a real pillar of salt. Many people think all these things are figurative. Not me.

Many scriptures seem literal to me, but other ministers feel they’re symbolic or figurative. Many don’t believe in a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ and his firstfruits as Revelation 20 tells us. I do take that literally, but you’d be surprised how many don’t. We’ll have to see. But the thousand years are mentioned several times in that one chapter. I’d love to see some of you comment on this on our website. Register first, then leave your comment.

But then others take figurative language and make them all literal.

Here are some more examples of what must be, surely, figurative language:

** In our relationship with God, are we literally Sheep or goats? Or do they represent various kinds of people? Was Christ literally God’s “LAMB”? A literal lamb?

** Does a literal sharp two-edged sword come out of the mouth of Jesus? Some believe so. I do not believe a literal big two-edged sword sticks out of Messiah’s mouth, but I’ve heard preachers who declare it must be true.

** Is Jesus literally a LION – as in lion of Judah, or is God making a point? And is our Messiah a literal Door, or Bread of life? Of course not. Nor is he a literal Vine (nor are we literal stick branches on a literal vine – John 15:1-5). He was using word pictures that people could relate to and help them understand.

** Exodus 19:4 quotes God as saying He brought Israel out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings.” Clearly, they walked out. But many people take this hyper-literally. Others have even tried to find airlines with eagle logos to perhaps find a way that we might also flee to a wilderness in future – “on eagles’ wings.” This is just saying God brought them out supernaturally and with great energy. The first day of walking out could have been a 48-hour period, but no one was sick or infirm. To me, “eagles’ wings” is clearly a metaphor.

One thing we can learn from the words of Yeshua/Jesus is that he was constantly thinking on a higher plane than his disciples. So he used “spiritual” language or alliterative words.

For example Jesus said to “beware of the leaven of Pharisees”  (read Matthew 16:6-11). His disciples started concluding that it was because they had forgotten to buy or have bread on hand. It’s almost funny but we might have reacted and concluded the same as they did. Jesus/Yeshua said  -“no, no, I’m referring to their wrong teachings or doctrine, which can spread throughout the community like leaven.” So doctrine is important too. In another place, he compared the Pharisees’ “leaven” to hypocrisy – just like leavened bread is puffy, airy, and not as big or satiating as one might assume. He wants us to be exactly what people see – and not hypocritical.

So as we read the Bible, we have to ask ourselves if this passage is literal or figurative.

Also consider the source. I’m extremely cautious when reading the Book of Job, because God Himself told Job and his friends that his 3 main friends had NOT spoken correctly of God and his ways. In fact, one of them, Eliphaz – was hearing from a DEMON! Read it for yourself in the last half of Job 4.

So who is speaking? You need to know that when quoting the Bible. The one who said “You shall not surely die” – was Satan himself! So what’s the one thing people still believe today? It is that your soul cannot die. Straight from Satan! So now we have people believing the “immortal soul,” though Ezekiel 18:4, 20 both say, “the soul that sins shall DIE”! And Jesus himself said to fear him who is able to kill both body AND soul in his hell fire. Matthew 10:28 --  “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  So now people believe the wages of sin is NOT death, but is endless life being tormented by a God who claims to be the very essence of what LOVE is. But what happened to ‘death”? So “they” redefined it as “death is being separated from God as you are being tormented in hell fire forever and ever.”

I obviously cannot agree with that. Death is death. AFTER the thousand years reign by Christ is finished, “the rest of the dead” will be resurrected, and some to suffer the 2nd death as their punishment. Read Revelation 20:3-6, 12-14. They will be as ashes under the feet of the righteous (Malachi 4:3). Now THAT is “death.” Be sure to watch my upcoming sermons on death, God’s plan for us and more.

Here are more example of “is it literal – or figurative”?

**  BABYLON the Great of Rev. 17 and 18. Scripture calls it “that great city” on 7 hills, who rides The Beast – until the Beast casts her off and destroys her. OK, so who/what is Babylon in Rev. 18? Some say it has to be the literal city in Iraq that is slowly being rebuilt but has no consequence so far. Others are certain it’s not that – but perhaps Rome, or perhaps New York City. Many are certain it is Rome or Vatican City or the Roman Catholic Church. Others say it is Jerusalem when the Beast and False Prophet take it over for a few years and perhaps even make Jerusalem their world headquarters. What do you think?

** Will the final Two Witnesses really destroy their enemies with literal fire from their mouths? (Revelation 11). Elijah called down fire from heaven, not from his mouth, to burn the groups of 50 who came to arrest him (2 Kings chapter 1). I won’t test the 2 Witnesses on this – but it will be interesting to see if this is literal or figurative. (I think it’s figurative).

** We’re also called the temple of God’s spirit. But we’re not made up of literal big stones and precious stones of a temple – but allegorically yes, we’re the residence of God’s spirit and God does see his children as very precious in his eyes. But we are not literal stones but actually something far more precious.

** However, I personally do take literally that we are a Royal Priesthood. We’re children of God, and that makes me and you royalty of the highest order possible.

** Now this will challenge some of you: we are also called Children of God. Yes, I take that literally. MOST Christians do not. They think it’s allegorical. But God is my Abba – my wonderful Father. And I am literally called his child, and if you are led by His Holy Spirit, then so are you! You’re not just some sort of “angel” or something. No, you’re his daughter or son. Literally. Now ponder what all that could mean! I have teachings on “Your Breathtaking Destiny.”  When you grasp it, it will “blow your mind” as we used to say.

** The entire Flat Earth movement is based literally on taking scriptures about our planet  super-literally. So because the Bible speaks of the setting of the sun or rising of the sun, they say therefore the sun goes around the earth – and not the other way around. Because the KJV (and only the KJV it seems) mocks “science, so called” (1 Timothy 6:20), some of them say we should not believe science. The Greek word is “gnosis” – meaning knowledge!

So the Flat earthers – and there are millions of them now (for real) – believe the earth does not move at all, does not rotate, does not spin on its axis, does not revolve around sun. They believe the entire “universe” of sun, moon, stars, planets all fit inside a hard dome, the “firmament” that is above the flat earth. The sun is a small light – not a huge star—that is just 3000 miles above our flat earth.  Yep, people believe this. Then the religious Flat Earthers say God’s kingdom of heaven is just outside this dome, not that far from all of us.

The earth is not moving and cannot move at all? That’s one of their main beliefs in the Flat Earth movement. It comes from hyper-realism when reading scriptures, which say the earth cannot be moved. Check the original language too. “Moved” in Hebrew can also mean cannot be made to slip, or change, or fall. God was saying he made the earth correctly – and it’s not going to fall apart of skip – unless HE himself causes it to move! Isaiah 13:13 says “…the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord…”

Also please read Isaiah 24:18-20, where the earth is described as … reeling like a drunkard when God gets involved.

Though many Flat Earthers claim their movement is based on the Bible, it is not. Their most-used model of the flat earth has the North Pole in the middle. But G0d CLEARLY says that HE set JERUSALEM at the center of the nations (Ezekiel 5:5). They believe the South pole – Antarctica – forms around the edge of their round, flat earth, keeping all the salt water in. They say that “edge” is a 150-foot wall of ice, though there’s no proof for any of this. Where are the photographs?

So that’s another point:  use ALL The Bible when setting doctrine so we’re not confused by figurative words. And when we check the original Hebrew or Greek, it often becomes clear. You can also see how other translations translate particular verses.

Get www.BibleHub.com  – it’s free and lets you do all kinds of cross-referencing. So does www.BibleGateway.com . Check them out. EVERY word of God is good, and we are to live by every word of God. There are other free Bible helps as well.

They also don’t believe any man has ever gone into space or the moon – or as they say it, outside our firmament dome. Flat Earthers also say all the photos of our beautiful round earth, as taken from the moon or far out in space, are all really just computer-generated imagery (CGI) and Photo Shop work.

Our world is a sphere, like a globe, folks. It’s not a Flat earth with a hard dome over it. All the provable evidence is there. Flat earthers have a tough time being able to convincingly demonstrate day/night, seasons, lunar eclipses, etc. Don’t fall for the hyper-literalism of Flat Earthers.

I’ll leave it at that and just remind you all to:

  • Check out who’s speaking. Is it God, or Satan? Is it a prophet or false teacher?
  • Check all the verses on a particular subject. Don’t force a doctrine from one verse. Have at least 2-3-4 scriptures which say the same thing.
  • Figure out by context if it’s a literal verse or figurative verse

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Ondigo Ochieng on Sunday, 08 May 2022 18:00
When the Bible is Literal and or figurative

I love this blog.I have met a Christian organization who believes that all that were said in the Bible were figurative.I also met some groups of people whose leader is known as "the mighty prophet of the Lord" trying to argue that the first two horsemen of Revelation 6 have been released.That they were literal horses.Some think that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are literal people e.t.c.
We need to believe that some words are literal while some are figurative.Many thanks for sharing this.God bless you abundantly.

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I love this blog.I have met a Christian organization who believes that all that were said in the Bible were figurative.I also met some groups of people whose leader is known as "the mighty prophet of the Lord" trying to argue that the first two horsemen of Revelation 6 have been released.That they were literal horses.Some think that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are literal people e.t.c. We need to believe that some words are literal while some are figurative.Many thanks for sharing this.God bless you abundantly.
Randy Freeze on Saturday, 14 May 2022 17:56
Thank you

Keep up the great work on these blogs so helpful. Now is the time more so than ever before that we need to dive deep into the Bible.

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Keep up the great work on these blogs so helpful. Now is the time more so than ever before that we need to dive deep into the Bible.

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