Revelation Symbolic Colors
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Revelation Symbolic Colors
(Introduction 2)
Page 2

Unusual Language

Colored BalloonsThe Book of Revelation was saturated with unusual language. It was purposefully dotted with references to colors which are symbolic of various emotions in different cultures as well as in the Bible. Such symbolism was a subtle means of communication between an author and his readers. In this way, the Apostle John, the writer of Reveation, concealed from the ancient Roman authorities the actual intent and meaning of his message.✞

White for Purity

White color with codeRevelation's colors were of great importance to John's readers as well as they are to us in understanding the text. The color white though technically a "color without hue" or "achromatic color" often symbolized "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 that white was in fact not a single color but a blend of colors produced by sunlight in a glass prism. It was noted at the time in the minutes of the Royal Society in London, England and I quote in the original 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." Like white, Black was also not considered a color "per se." In the Bible and in society it often indicated "darkness, death or distress" and was used in times of mourning. We also associated black with violence and evil. See the "Black Horse" of Revelation 6.5 as an example of this.✞

Purple and Scarlet

Red ClothThe color Purple in fabrics were described 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, judges and bishops (in purple) and cardinals (in red). Red was also the indicator of blood and warned of "danger, murder, rage, and anger." See the "Fiery Red Horse" of Revelation 6.3-4 as an example of this. Red was also used for this very reason 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 also described any of the 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 1stQueen Elizabeth the First of England (1558-1603) was so impressed with the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) that she allowed him the privilege of wearing a certain number of yards of royal scarlet silk as an honor. Shakespeare was later mentioned 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 was most commonly associated with "holiness, faithfulness, harmony and confidence." It was originally produced from the crushed semi-precious stone "lapis lazuli" and was very expensive. The stones came from far away mines in Afghanistan to make the pigment "ultramarine." It was often chosen as the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary in medieval art. Blue was also used for the carpeting in many church sanctuaries signifying that this was a holy place. The color Yellow in nature described "gold, butter and ripe lemons." Pale yellow in the Book of Revelation indicated "the end of one's life" as it was the color of the skin as life left it. 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 Symbolic Colors"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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