Metaphors; March 23, 2021


Revelation 14:16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

There are two sickles and two harvests mentioned in this passage. Here, Christ Himself is wielding the sickle, and then in verse 19 an angel is wielding a different sickle. To me, this verse speaks of the harvest of the righteous, and the grape harvest is of the wicked, because it says the grapes are flung into “the great winepress of God’s wrath,” and the result in verse 20 is gruesome indeed. However, Christ is gathering His people into His barn, and that is a result to be celebrated. The Bible uses many metaphors, sometimes to opposite intent. Here, the grapes are gathered for punishment, but in the Upper Room Discourse Jesus famously said that He is the vine and we are the branches. (John 15:1-8) We aren’t to be slaves to the metaphors! Most of the prophecy throughout the Bible is expressed in metaphorical terms, and we are told that “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable,” (Matthew 13:34) and parables are extended metaphors. There are many, many languages in the world, but my understanding is that metaphors are used in every one of them. The ability to illustrate one thing using another is actually a sign of higher brain function, and we do it all the time. Some metaphors are totally standard, like “a lead balloon.” (Actually, Mythbusters proved that it is possible to float a balloon made of lead foil, if the foil is thin enough.) Some truths are so big and so deep that it is impossible to express them other than through metaphors, which is why Revelation is so confusing to those who try to take it literally. I for one don’t expect heaven to be a giant cube! (Revelation 21) The thing is, God uses every method possible to express His truths to us, so we need to allow the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to receive and understand them as He intends, for our blessing and His glory.

I have long delighted in metaphors of all sorts, and the “pun disease” with which I am afflicted (or with which I afflict others) is a reflection of that. I wrote my first poem when I was in the 4th grade, and have written many since. Poetry would be empty indeed without metaphors! In my preaching and teaching I need to be careful that the metaphors I use communicate rather than confuse. Jesus certainly set me a good example with His parables. I need to use every tool God places at my disposal to communicate the Gospel to all who will receive it, so that as many as possible may repent and believe for their salvation.

Father, thank You for language, on so many different levels. Help me use language, metaphorically and otherwise, as You intend, to build people up and draw them to You, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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