Revelation Symbolic Colors
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White for Purity (Introduction 2)

Unusual Language

Colored BalloonsThe Biblical Book of Revelation is saturated with unusual language and dotted with references to colors which are symbolic of various things in different cultures. Revelation is full of such symbolism perhaps as a subtle means of communication between the author and his readers while concealing from the ancient Roman authorities the actual intent of its messages.✞

White for Purity

White color with codeRevelation's colors are of great importance to us in understanding the text. White though technically an "achromatic color" or "a color without hue" stands for "purity, perfection and innocence." For that reason, the Pope since the year 1566 AD has worn white robes as a symbol of his perceived purity and innocence. White is referred to in the computer color table by the hexadecimal value #FFFFFF or #ffffff. Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) discovered in 1672 AD that white is in fact not a single color but a blend of the colors produced by sunlight in a glass prism. It was noted in the minutes of the Royal Society in London, England at the time (actual words), "the most surprising and wonderful composition was that of whiteness. There is no one sort of ray which alone can exhibit this. 'Tis ever compounded, and to its composition are requisite all the aforesaid primary colours, mixed in due proportion. I have often with admiration beheld, that all the colours of the prisme being made to converge, and thereby to be again mixed, reproduced light, intirely and perfectly white." Black which like white is also not considered a color, in the Bible and in society indicates "darkness, death or distress" and is often used in times of mourning. We also associate black with violence and evil. See the "Black Horse" of Revelation 6.5 as an example of this.✞

Purple and Scarlet

Red ClothPurple fabrics are defined as "deep rich shades between crimson and violet" and were in Biblical times very expensive to produce because of the rarity of the natural dyes needed. Purple and red silk clothing were therefore limited to royalty, magistrates, bishops and extremely wealthy people. Over time purple became a symbol of authority because of this association with the ruling elites. Purple and red were worn by Roman Emperors, kings and princes and in modern times by royalty, bishops (in purple) and cardinals (in red). Red is used to attract attention and is the indicator of blood and warns of "danger, murder, rage, and anger." See the "Fiery Red Horse" of Revelation 6.3-4. Red is used for this very reason for the "stop" signs we see on the highway to catch our attention at intersections. In ancient times, the word used for "red" also described the colors "purple" and "orange" in the English language. The word "Orange," was first recorded in a text from around 1380 AD, and is described as "any color between red and yellow like the color of fire and carrots."

Shakespeare's Scarlet

Queen Elizabeth 1stQueen Elizabeth the First of England (1558-1603) was so pleased with the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) that she gave him the privilege of wearing a certain amount of the royal scarlet silk as an honor. Shakespeare is also listed in the grand accounts book as "one of James 1's King's Servants for which he received four and a half yards of red cloth, a color befitting his status as a member of the Royal Court."

Blue for Holiness

Blue in Medieval ArtThe color blue is most commonly associated with "holiness, faithfulness, harmony and confidence." It was originally produced from the crushed semi-precious stone "lapis lazuli." The rock came from mines in Afghanistan to make the pigment "ultramarine." It is often the preferred color of the robes of the Virgin Mary in medieval art. Blue is also used for the carpeting in many church sanctuaries as a symbol of a holy place. The color Yellow in nature describes "gold, butter and ripe lemons." On the other hand, the pale yellow in the Book of Revelation indicates "the end of one's life, cowardice and envy." It is the color of the skin as life leaves it. See the "Pale Horse" of Revelation 6.7-8 as an example of this. There is also great symbolism in the two other variations of color, that is "shades and tints". Shades are colors with black added and tints are colors with white added. Interestingly, in our society today there is an important science around marketing products in the right colors as tints or shades. See Basic Visual Colors. Pinks and pale blues are used for creams and powder bottles for women. On the other hand, men prefer the shades of dark green, dark blues and black. Toys for small children like "Lego", are preferred by kids in the primary colors of scarlet red, bright blue, leaf green and sunshine yellow. What a strange and very bright world we live in! Revelation's colors may be fascinating to us but we would be well advised not to be halted by them in our studies. Look beyond these if you can to their intended subtle meanings in their Biblical context. Allow them to color your experience of the biblical text.

"Revelation Symbolic Colors"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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