June 24, 2015

bible study imageSubject: Symbols, signs, & metaphors

Golden text: Revelation 21: 1*

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Revelation 21: 15-19 (The Message)

The Angel speaking with me had a gold measuring stick to measure the City, its gates, and its wall. The City was laid out in a perfect square. He measured the City with the measuring stick: twelve thousand stadia, its length, width, and height all equal. Using the standard measure, the Angel measured the thickness of its wall: 144 cubits. The wall was jasper, the color of Glory, and the City was pure gold, translucent as glass. The foundations of the City walls were garnished with every precious gem imaginable:

From 21st Century Science and Health*

Metaphors are plentiful in the Bible. It is reasonably agreed upon that Scriptures have both a spiritual and literal meaning. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary says: “Interpreting the Bible correctly demands that we listen to what the text itself is saying, and then draw the meaning out of the passage.”[1]

Note this, that the very message, or swift-winged thought which poured forth hatred and torment, brought also the experience which at last lifted the seer to behold the great city, the four equal sides of which were heaven-given and heaven-giving.

The “architect and builder” of this New Jerusalem is God, and it is “the city with foundations.”[3] Yes, the description is metaphoric. Spiritual teaching must always be by symbols. Didn’t Jesus illustrate the truths he taught by the mustard seed[4] and the Lost Son?[5]

Luke 15:1-16

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

From 21st Century Science and Health

Thought must stay open to metaphysical ideas in science, theology, and medicine. Thought cannot obsess or fixate on lifestyles, symbols, or a favorite rule; otherwise people will lose touch with reason and develop a narrow and blurred view of reality—they will make mistakes, errors. Consider a successful math student. The student can’t focus on only the rule of addition when working out a problem that also involves subtraction or division. Fixations cause confusion, the penchant to guess, and a lack of mental improvement. We must be receptive to all of the principles in Science and they need to be learned and applied in life’s situations, otherwise error will be an unbroken head-wind.

Some critics think that Christian Scientists are deluded, or in some vacuum, because error is revealed as unreal. For instance, a Christian apologist, attempting to interpret the teachings of divine Science, says of Christian Scientists, “Their religious worldview teaches that sickness and pain are an illusion; they do not exist. But this belief is valid only by rejecting the fact that truth corresponds to reality.”[6] The fact that truth corresponds to reality is not rejected in Christian Science. Instead, Christian Science reveals that much of the reality before the human perceptions is not actually true, for example the earth isn’t a motionless solid mass, but consists of forces in constant motion. Truth, reality, has no error; therefore disbelief in error destroys error and leads to discernment of Truth.

Symbols embody a person’s conception of an unseen quality or condition, but they have no physical antecedent reality except in the artist’s own observation and “[secret] chambers of [idol] pictures.”[7]

Luke 15: 17- 32

17 “When [the younger son] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

From 21st Century Science and Health

That which symbolizes an opposite to Spirit or an absence of Spirit is neither Mind nor us. We can overturn error and discover Truth. The light of Truth dispels the error. As human beings begin to understand Spirit, they give up the belief that there is any true existence apart from God.

When scientific divine views of the universe appear, the crude forms of human thought take on higher symbols and significations, and time is illuminated with the glory of eternity.

Proverbs 2: 1-8

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

From 21st Century Science and Health

Immortal and divine Mind presents the idea of God: first, in light (enlightenment), second, in reflection, third, in spiritual and immortal forms of beauty and goodness. This Mind creates no element or symbol of disorder and decay. God did not create a thought that can go wrong. Spirit did not order a life of mortality. Truth did not design a truth that can mutate into something untrue, and did not reveal a love that can be uncertain.

The only proper symbol of God as person is Mind’s infinite ideal. What is this ideal? Who will behold it? This ideal is God’s own image, spiritual and infinite. Eternity cannot even reveal the whole of God, since there is no limit to its infinite reflections.

Divine Spirit blesses its own ideas, and causes them to multiply—to manifest Love’s power. We are not made subordinate to matter/energy. We also are not made to dominate. Our dominion is to respect and care for all the symbols of God, the Maker; this is the Science of being.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica®. Text from 21st Century Science and Health, copyrighted by Cheryl Petersen.

[1] Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Ronald F. Youngblood, General Editor, Copyright 1995, 1986. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.

[2] Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. Translated from the French by Charles E. Wilbour. New York:The Modern Library.

[3] Heb. 11:10

[4] Matt. 13:31, 17:20; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19, 17:6

[5] Luke 15:11–24

[6] Taken from Christianity on the Offense:Responding to the Beliefs and Assumptions of Spiritual Seeker © 1998 by Dan Story. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved..

[7] Ezk. 8:12 (Amplified)

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