How To Study – Rule 8

Rule 8: Figures always have a figurative meaning, and are used much in prophecy to represent future things, times and events.

MILLER’S PROOFS (texts which demonstrate the Bible principles in support of this rule)

Daniel 2:35 mountains meaning governments

Daniel 2:44 beasts meaning kingdoms

Daniel 7:8,17 waters meaning people

Revelation 17:1,15 lamp meaning Word of God

Ezekiel 4:6 day meaning year

My Comments

A word search in a concordance or on your computer Bible can quickly bring up all the options. Look through the search results, discarding anything that doesn’t seem to make an obvious comparison or definition. Study the proof texts to see how the meaning is given for a figure.

See Rules 10-13 to test the possible meanings that you find in the Bible.

Spirit of Prophecy Support

-Literal and Spiritual

My Note: In many cases figures in a text can have both a literal and figurative meaning. There probably was an actual historical fulfillment in the time of the prophet, and it also may have a “typical” meaning for the future. For example, the destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied in Mark 13, and was fulfilled literally in 70 AD. But that same prophecy stands as a type of the destruction of the world in the end of time.

“As Christ’s attention was attracted to the magnificence of the temple, what must have been the unuttered thoughts of that Rejected One! The view before Him was indeed beautiful, but He said with sadness, I see it all. The buildings are indeed wonderful. You point to these walls as apparently indestructible; but listen to My words: The day will come when “there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Christ’s words had been spoken in the hearing of a large number of people; but when He was alone, Peter, John, James, and Andrew came to Him as He sat upon the Mount of Olives. “Tell us,” they said, “when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus did not answer His disciples by taking up separately the destruction of Jerusalem and the great day of His coming. He mingled the description of these two events. Had He opened to His disciples future events as He beheld them, they would have been unable to endure the sight. In mercy to them He blended the description of the two great crises, leaving the disciples to study out the meaning for themselves. When He referred to the destruction of Jerusalem, His prophetic words reached beyond that event to the final conflagration in that day when the Lord shall rise out of His place to punish the world for their iniquity, when the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain. This entire discourse was given, not for the disciples only, but for those who should live in the last scenes of this earth’s history.”

– The Desire of Ages, p. 627 par. 2 through 628 par. 1  {DA 627.2-628.1}

“‘The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!’ (Matthew 6:22).

These words have a first and second sense, a literal and a figurative meaning. They are full of truth in regard to the bodily eye, with which we see external objects. And they are true also in regard to the spiritual eye, the conscience, with which we estimate good and evil. If the eye of the soul, the conscience, is perfectly healthy, the soul will be taught aright.”

– Mind, Character, and Personality Volume 1, p. 322 par. 5 and p. 323 par. 1{1MCP 323.1}

“Just previous to his crucifixion, the Saviour said, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me,” Though it was the hour of the power of darkness, yet in anticipation of his triumph, Christ could say, “The prince of this world is judged.” “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” Viewing the work of redemption as completed, he could, even in death, speak of the great final deliverance, and represent things that were future as if present. The only begotten Son of the infinite God could successfully carry through the great plan which made man’s salvation sure.”

– The Review and Herald {RH, October 29, 1895 par. 8}

-Figures and Symbols

“In the revelation given to him there was unfolded scene after scene of thrilling interest in the experience of the people of God, and the history of the church foretold to the very close of time. In figures and symbols, subjects of vast importance were presented to John, which he was to record, that the people of God living in his age and in future ages might have an intelligent understanding of the perils and conflicts before them. …  {AA 582.3}

In the Revelation are portrayed the deep things of God. The very name given to its inspired pages, “the Revelation,” contradicts the statement that this is a sealed book. A revelation is something revealed. The Lord Himself revealed to His servant the mysteries contained in this book, and He designs that they shall be open to the study of all. Its truths are addressed to those living in the last days of this earth’s history, as well as to those living in the days of John. Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new.”

– Acts of the Apostles, p. 582 par. 3 and p. 584 par. 1 {AA 582.3 and 584.1}

“As Daniel clung to God with unwavering trust, the spirit of prophetic power came upon him. While receiving instruction from man in the duties of court life, he was being taught by God to read the mysteries of the future and to record for coming generations, through figures and symbols, events covering the history of this world till the close of time.

– Prophets and Kings, p. 484 par. 3 {PK 484.3}

“Many ministers make no effort to explain Revelation. They call it an unprofitable book to study. They regard it as a sealed book, because it contains the record of figures and symbols. But the very name that has been given it, “Revelation,” is a denial of this supposition. Revelation is a sealed book, but it is also an opened book. It records marvelous events that are to take place in the last days of this earth’s history. The teachings of this book are definite, not mystical and unintelligible. In it the same line of prophecy is taken up as in Daniel. Some prophecies God has repeated, thus showing that importance must be given to them. The Lord does not repeat things that are of no great consequence.–Ms 107, 1897, pp. 1, 2. (Search the Scriptures,” undated.)”

– Manuscript Releases Volume 8, p. 413 par. 2 {8MR 413.2}

“The Old Testament is the gospel in figures and symbols. The New Testament is the substance. One is as essential as the other. The Old Testament presents lessons from the lips of Christ, and these lessons have not lost their force in any particular.”

– Selected Messages Book 2, p. 104 par. 2 {2SM 104.2}


Bible, King James Version

Quotes taken from the Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008 CD


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