Revelation's Symbolic Colors
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1. Revelation's Symbolic Colors

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 for 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. The eBook titled "Revelation Now" seeks to bring this exciting Biblical text alive. It endeavors to encourage and support Christians and non-Christians alike. It sets out to help us to understand the meaning of this ancient text.

Exciting Biblical Text

Christ of the AbyssMany Christians are scared off by the Book of Revelation. Some people try and fail 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 Scriptural 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 try to see what he sees and feel what he feels. As you do, you will be captivated as I am by this exciting story!✞

Unusual Language

Colored BalloonsThe Book of Revelation is saturated with unusual language and is purposefully dotted with references to colors. Colors are symbols of various emotions in the Bible as well as in other cultures and those of today. 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, purposely conceals from the ancient Roman authorities the actual intent and meaning of some of his message. Christians and Jews certainly understand what he is inferring!

White and Black

White ColorRevelation's colors are of as 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 symbolizes "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 is not a single color at all but when sunlight is broken out in a glass prism a rainbow blend of colors is produced. It is noted concerning the "color white" in the minutes of the Royal Society in London, England in 1672, "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 in contrast often indicates "darkness, death or distress" in the Bible. Like white, black is also not considered a color "per se" but a "shade." Black clothing is worn in society in times of mourning. Black, however, seems to be the color of choice for any ceremonial occasion even for bridesmaids at a wedding! We also associate black with violence and evil. In Early Christian times between 165 and 180 AD, there was a devastating plague called the "Antonine Plague." The "Black Death" which occurred between 1347 and 1351 AD in Europe and Asia and also known as the "Great Plague" resulted in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people. It killed an estimated 30% to 60% of Europe's population. The "Black Horse" of Revelation 6.5 is an example of black's symbolic use for referencing death and destruction.

Purple and Red

Red ClothThe color "Purple" in fabrics is described as the "deep rich shades between crimson and violet." In Biblical times, it is very expensive to produce because of the rarity of the natural dyes needed. Expensive purple and red silk clothing is rare and therefore limited to royalty, magistrates, bishops and the extremely wealthy elite. Over time, purple becomes a symbol of authority because of its association with the ruling classes. Purple and red are worn by Roman Emperors, kings and princes and in modern times by royalty, judges, and bishops (in purple) and Cardinals (in red). In the Bible, red is also the indicator of blood and warns of "danger, murder, rage, and anger." The "Fiery Red Horse" of Revelation 6.3-4 is an example of this. Red is also used for the "stop signs" on the highway to alert us to possible danger and to catch our attention. In ancient times, the word for "red" in the English language describes colors between "purple" and "orange." The word "orange" is 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!"

Shakespearean Scarlet

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

Blue and Yellow

Art BlueThe color blue is most commonly associated with "holiness, faithfulness, harmony, and confidence." It is originally produced from the crushed semi-precious stone "lapis lazuli" and is therefore very expensive and even more valuable than gold. The stones come from far away mines in Afghanistan to make the ground-up pigment "ultramarine." Artists favor 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 in nature describes the color 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. The "Pale Horse" of Revelation 6.7-8 is an example of this. Revelation's colors may be fascinating to us but we should not be halted by them in our studies. Instead, try to look beyond them to their intended subtle meanings in their Biblical context. Allow them to color your experience of the scriptural text!

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

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