Symbolism in Revelation

Some symbols found in Revelation are interpreted for us:

Colors can have symbolic associations:

Numbers can have symbolic associations:

Animals can have symbolic associations:

Imagery often recalls the Old Testament:

Some imagery is simply poetic and doesn’t appear to stand for anything specific:

What Is the Purpose of the Symbolism?

The symbols probably are not a secret language intended to conceal the message from potential enemies. Symbolism is simply the most appropriate language for conveying the fantastic and mysterious nature of what is being revealed. The symbols offer more vague association than direct correspondence, and even when we “get” the symbols, we may feel like there is much that we don’t understand. That is partly the point.


Barker, Margaret. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation I.I). Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000.

Bauckham, Richard J. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation, 104–237. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993.

Court, John M. Myth and History in the Book of Revelation. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979.

Malina, Bruce J. On the Genre and Message of Revelation: Star Visions and Sky Journeys. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995.

Minear, Paul. I Saw a New Earth: An Introduction to the Visions of the Apocalypse. Washington, DC: Corpus Publishers, 1968.

On Feminine Imagery

Pippin, Tina. Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in the Apocalypse of John. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992.

On Imagery Involving Wealth

Royalty, Robert M. The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998.