Revelation's Symbolic Colors
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Revelation's Symbolic Colors
(Introduction 1)
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A Treasure Trove

Elephant in PoolRevelation is a treasure trove of riches beyond imagination for those who explore it. It is equally exciting for the novice just starting as well as the expert of many years. It is a pool in which a baby can paddle or an elephant can swim. There is enough here for everyone, whether you want a little or a lot. This eBook "Revelation Now" seeks to bring this exciting Biblical text alive and to encourage and support Christians and non-Christians alike and to help them to understand the meaning of the text.

Exciting Biblical Text

Christ of the AbyssIn the past, the Book of Revelation has scared off many Christians. Many people have tried and failed to get past the scholarly theories or the problems of authorship without success. Arguments between scholars, as important as they may be, do not affect the message of Revelation or the historical times in which this book is set. My advice to you is to read this book as you would do the rest of the Bible. Climb into the mind of the original writer as best you can and see what he saw, and feel what he felt. As you do, you will be captivated as I was by this exciting Biblical story!✞

White for Purity

Colored BalloonsThe Book of Revelation is saturated with unusual language and is purposefully dotted with references to colors which are symbolic of various emotions in the Bible as well as in other cultures. Such symbolism is a subtle means of communication between an author and his or her readers. In this way, John of Patmos, the writer of Revelation, conceals from the ancient Roman authorities the actual intent and meaning of some of his message but Christians and Jews certainly understand what he is inferring!

Unusual Language

White ColorRevelation's colors are of great importance to us as they were to John's ancient readers. They assist us in understanding the meaning and subtleties of the text. The color white, for example, though technically a "color without hue" or an "achromatic color" often symbolized "purity, perfection, and innocence." For this reason, the Pope since 1566 AD has worn white robes as a symbol of his perceived purity and innocence. Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) the English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author discovered that white was not a single color but when sunlight is broken out in a glass prism a rainbow blend of colors is produced.

The Royal Society

It was noted concerning the "color white" in the minutes of the Royal Society in London, England in 1672 and I quote Sir Isaac Newton in his original and often quaint 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 colors, mixed in due proportion. I have often with admiration beheld, that all the colors of the prisme being made to converge, and thereby to be again mixed, reproduced light, intirely and perfectly white."

Black Death

Black on the other hand often indicates "darkness, death or distress" in the Bible. Like white, black is also not considered a color "per se" and black clothing is worn in society in times of mourning, although black seems to have also become the dress color for any ceremonial occasion even for bridesmaids at a wedding! We also associate black with violence and evil. In Early Christian times, there was a devastating plague called the "Antonine Plague" in 165 to 180 AD. It was the "Black Death" between 1347 and 1351 AD also known as the "Great Plague" or "Plague" which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Europe and Asia. The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population. See the "Black Horse" of Revelation 6.5 as an example of the symbolic use of the color "black."

Purple and Red

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

Shakespeare's Scarlet

Queen Elizabeth 1stTo wear red was a great privilege and honor in medieval England. Queen Elizabeth the First of England (1558-1603) was so impressed with the plays of the playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) that she allowed him the honor of wearing a certain number of yards of royal scarlet silk. Shakespeare was later recorded 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." James 1st (1603-1625) followed Elizabeth 1st (1558-1603) on the English throne.

Blue for Holiness

Art BlueThe color blue is most commonly associated with "holiness, faithfulness, harmony, and confidence." It was originally produced from the crushed semi-precious stone "lapis lazuli" and was therefore very expensive and more valuable than gold. The stones came from far away mines in Afghanistan to make the pigment "ultramarine." Artists favored this color for its intensity and brightness. Blue, because of its association with holiness, is often chosen as the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary in medieval art. Blue is also used for the carpeting of many church sanctuaries to signify that this is a special and holy place. The color Yellow is in nature described as that of "gold, butter, and ripe lemons." Pale yellow in the Book of Revelation indicates "the end of one's life" as it is often the color of the skin as life ebbs away. See the "Pale Horse" of Revelation 6.7-8 as an example of this. Revelation's colors may be fascinating to us but we should not be halted by them in our studies but instead try to look beyond them to their intended subtle meaning in the Biblical context. Allow them to color your experience of the biblical text!

"Revelation's Symbolic Colors"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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