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The trouble with symbolism.

City of the Great King


“Then the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.”
(Ps 18:7-8)

One of the most troubling aspects of our Bible reading is to interpret such passages. Did smoke really come out of God’s nostrils and did He really breath fire out of His mouth to destroy David’s enemies?

I don’t think so…

I think most of us agree that something else is going on here, when we give such attributes as fire and smoke to God. It seems more in line with understanding God’s heart to say, with Bible expositor John Gill, that “the ‘smoke of His nostrils’ seems to intend the indignation of God against the enemies of David, of Christ, and of His people, and the punishment [that] will be inflicted upon them”. (Gill)

We can all agree that some type of symbolism is going on here: “fire and smoke” to represent God’s wrath, anger and indignation. This is just not guessing but is followed up by cross-checking our Bible!

Behold, the name of the LORD comes from a remote place; Burning is His anger and dense is His smoke; His lips are filled with indignation, and His tongue is like a consuming fire. (Isa 30:27)

Now when it comes to less obvious passages, here is where we find great difficulty. The misapplication of the Scriptures has been the undoing of the church for centuries. We have perverted the texts to write ourselves into an exalted position. We have erringly called literal “Babylon”- Rome; we have seen in “the Antichrist” (I John 2) the Pope, Nero, Napoleon, Hitler, you name it; and, most troubling, we have taken the future promises for Israel in the Millennium for ourselves.

For example, we, the Church, are “the desert that shall rejoice and blossom as the rose” (Isa 35) instead of Israel during the Millennium. Jesus’ Bride is the Church. God’s wife is Israel. His promises to her will never be forgotten and will be fulfilled! We should not place the church in matters spoken to Israel. Israel is God’s firstborn son and will always remain so! (Ex 4:22)

Here is the crux of the matter:

“As with all spiritualizing, the interpreter becomes the authority since the symbols mean whatever he wishes them to mean.” (Dr. Peter Steveson)

Let us not “spiritualize away” all the great truths and promises in the Old Testament of Israel and Jerusalem.

One day Jerusalem will rises from her ashes and be “the city of the great King”! (Ps. 48)
One day “all the nations will stream to her” for instruction. (Isa 2)
One day Jerusalem will be lifted up physically to be established as the chief of the mountains. (Isa 2, Zech 14:10)
One day a road will join Egypt and Assyria to make travel easier to Jerusalem for those who trust the Lord. (Isa 19:23)
One day the earth will be “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2)

There is no warrant for spiritualizing the place of Israel and Jerusalem with the church. Isaiah is full of future glimpses of their coming beauty and sovereignty. I pity the poor fool who tries to read this book without seeing the coming reign ON THIS EARTH of the great King, Jesus.

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King. (Ps 48:2)

Yours for the coming King,

Jeff Gilbertson

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