Symbols, Apologues, Parables and Confusion!

“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings…” Daniel 7:1-4


“I can’t understand Bible prophecy,” some people say, “besides, most of it is just symbolic.” Yes, prophetic passages in the Bible are often filled with symbols, but they are not “just symbolic”. These Bible pictures are all symbolic of something, something that God wants us to understand. As I studied, I discovered several prophetic Bible symbols in the images of both early political satire cartoons and current magazines. These images can help us understand the times we live in.

Biblical Symbolism

As in any well written novel, the Bible tells creative, dynamic and intriguing stories about experiences such as Noah’s Ark, Moses and the Ten Commandments, the battle between David and Goliath, and Jonah in the belly of the whale. These stories are straightforward and easily understood.


A novel can also have subplots. The more creative the author, the more in-depth the subplots and other hidden meanings will be. Some are so hidden that it takes a lot of study on the subject, or a vivid explanation in order to recognize them. Many biblical prophecies are written in the same way. God simply used symbols, apologues and parables to describe events, nations and individuals, that would take place or exist at some point in the future. Each one can then be understood if someone is willing to spend the time in study and prayer.


The Bible is comprised of sixty-six books, written by different authors over a fifteen hundred year span. Each book has a common message, from different perspectives, times, and dimensions, preparing us for future events using diverse mental images. For instance, the Second Coming is depicted by many symbolic views and phrases throughout the Bible, such as:

  • “The day of the Lord”
  • “The great day of his wrath”
  • “That great day of God almighty”
  • “In that day”
  • “The 6th Seal”
  • “The 7th Trumpet”
  • “The 7th Vial”


Each of these statements is the same event, yet all provide the reader with a different mental image. Therefore, one can easily see that with a little in-depth study, symbolism is a very unique way of revealing something to those who are willing to search.

My Symbolic Adventure

It all began with me trying to convince a friend that we are approaching the soon return of Jesus Christ and the Battle of Armageddon, foretold in the Book of Revelation. My friend is a believer in God. However, when it comes to the fulfillment of prophecy and the end time, he has always posed the question, “Why does it matter?” Of course, I could not provide a sufficient answer, with my limited biblical knowledge. That set me on a course of study over the next eighteen months. During that time, I have provided him with tidbits of information, while explaining how prophecy is given to us, many times, in symbols, in an effort to help him understand the importance of knowing where we are on God’s prophetic time clock. To date, he has not accepted this idea. Nonetheless, I believe, given enough time, he will come to understand these biblical symbols and what they represent.

The Lion and the Eagle

“The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” Daniel 7:4


I first heard the Politics & Religion radio program in 1998. Irvin Baxter was teaching a lesson on Daniel 7, in which he sees a vision of four beasts that rise out of the sea. The four beasts are a lion with eagle’s wings, a bear, a four-headed leopard and a ten-horned beast with iron teeth. As a kid, I remember reading this passage and thinking to myself that if, at some time in my life, I saw beasts rising out of the sea looking like this, I am getting ready for the end of the world! This was because I believed what I was reading was literal, not symbolic. However, as we all know, with age, experience, study and knowledge, things begin to look a little differently. Thanks to Politics & Religion, I gained clarity in two areas of Daniel 7 that unlocked my viewpoint of the entire chapter. The first is Daniel 7:17 which states, “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.” So, the animal symbols represent kings or kingdoms (nations). Secondly, Daniel 7:22 declares that these nations will exist on the earth at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when it says, “Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”


If the animals in Daniel 7 depict nations that will be on the earth at the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, then all one has to do is prove that these nations currently exist, using the symbolism of the Bible, to see if we are the generation that will experience His physical return to the earth.


In other words, which modern nation is depicted as a lion and whose national symbol is the eagle?


Political satire cartoons from the 19th and 20th century, found in a magazine called “Punch”, or “The London Charivari”, were most intriguing. I was able to find the British Lion, the Russian Bear, the American Eagle and a few other symbols that I was not familiar with, used by artists of those times. For instance, Americans have another symbol called Uncle Sam, and the British have another symbol represented by John Bull who is portrayed as a stout, middle-aged, jolly and matter-of-fact man, while Uncle Sam is an elderly man with a goatee, top hat and white hair. One of the cartoons from the Punch magazine, dated November 27, 1901, by Bernard Partridge, is a depiction of John Bull merged with Uncle Sam, and the British Lion merged with the American eagle, and a caption that read, “Colonel Jonathan J. Bull; or what John B. may come to,” depicting the relationship of the United States and Britain in 1901, from a British artist’s point of view. The two countries were so close with each other that you couldn’t tell them apart. Another Bernard Partridge image from 1915 reads:


“As Between Friends”


British Lion – “Please don’t look at me like that, Sam, you’re not the eagle I am up against.”


The British lion and the American eagle were used to represent countries during WWI when American cargo ships were being seized by Britain, or at least prevented from providing supplies to Germany during the conflict. Hence, the firm looks from the eagle. America intended to be neutral in the conflict, and provided supplies to both sides.


These images bring to mind some of the difficulties faced in explaining the symbols of Daniel to my friend and others, since, not only do you have to understand the symbol and its meaning, but also the artist’s point of view and the time frame it refers to. As we know, times change and what may apply in 1901 or 1915 may not apply today, so a different image would need to be created to represent the modern relationship of the United States and Great Britain.


With that said, individuals still recognized the lion as the symbol for Great Britain, and the eagle as symbolizing the United States for over one hundred years.

The Bear

“And behold another beast, a second like unto a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.” Daniel 7:5


My friend is an intelligent businessman, who subscribes to the Economist magazine in an attempt to stay informed of current global events. I learned this when I saw it in a stack of papers on his desk. In every issue there is one page devoted to the unification of Europe or the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Having told him about this page, and its prophetic significance, he became intrigued with my knowledge of the magazine and now reads the Charlemagne page almost every time it is published. “On a wing and a prayer” was the title of the page in the May 3, 2014 edition. In light of our past discussion on prophetic symbolism, he knew that I would be especially interested in a political cartoon featuring a bear that accompanied the subject matter of the article.


Over the past several months, I had intimated to him that the bear, in Daniel 7, was symbolic of Russia. Since this piece was devoted to the recent maneuvers in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as other countries affected by Russian influence, the graphic of the bear only helped to confirm our discussion. The illustration shows a bear looking at three swords of varying construction, with what looks to be a star on top of one of the swords. Like many people, I used to look at pictures depicting articles briefly and move on to the written text, not necessarily knowing the meanings presented by the artist. Over time, I have come to understand the depth of symbolism in political cartoons and that there are, many times, multiple messages in the image.


Creative artists tend to present their messages in subtle ways that are both attractive and require knowledge and thought about the subject. Notice in Daniel, the bear raised itself on one side and had three ribs in the mouth of it. Is it possible that the three swords of the image which represent Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania (the Baltics) could be these ribs? Only time will tell. However, this image is just one more proof that the bear is a clear depiction of Russia.


I tend to believe the prophetic teachings that the bear, lion and eagle depict modern nations and continue to do my own research for validation, which generated the findings in this article.

The Lion and the Bear

Another image from Punch magazine in February of 1877, by Tenniel & Swain, shows a lion, dressed in business attire, and a bear, in military garb, discussing the conflict between the Russian and Ottoman Empires. In this image, Great Britain is portrayed as an intellectual lion, and Russia as a militaristic bear in a soldier’s outfit. The caption reads,


“What Next?”


Russian Bear: “You’ve read my circular! You know my intentions are strictly honorable! What are you going to do?”


British Lion: “Blest if I know! Ask the government, and if they can’t tell you, try the opposition!!”


Again, the lion and the bear are symbols used to represent Britain and Russia.


The next image by Bernard Partridge in 1937 shows Joseph Stalin feeding a Russian bear a dose of executions with the caption:


“The Moscow Purge”


Russian Bear: “Must I really take this, after dancing for you so faithfully?”


The bear used as a symbol of Russia also has a collar around its neck with a medallion of a hammer and sickle which is a more familiar symbol of the country. This image was created at a time when Stalin was moving from Russian Orthodox Christianity to atheism in the 1920s and 30s. It’s estimated that 95,000 priests were put to death during this time.

Lion, Eagle and Bear as Modern Nations

The gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of goods and services that a country produces in one year. In 2012, as published by the United Nations, the United States (U.S.), represented by the eagle, had the world’s largest GDP by almost twice that of any other country. The United Kingdom (U.K.)/Britain, or the lion, was sixth and the Russian bear was ranked number eight.


Conventional Global Fire Power (GFP), not including nuclear weapons, in 2014, lists the United States as the number one world military power, followed by Russia at number two, with the UK/Britain coming in at number five. Many sources also rank the U.S., U.K./Britain and Russia in the top ten most influential and powerful countries of the world.


When the Lord provided Daniel with animal symbols, depicting nations that would be on the earth and in power at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, He left nothing to the imagination. These are undeniable proofs representing, not underdeveloped countries, but the most powerful nations in the world!


Therefore, if we truly are living in the end time, then the likelihood that the eagle, the lion and the bear are the United States, Great Britain and Russia seems very possible. For more information on this subject, purchase your copy of Irvin Baxter’s “The United States Discovered in the Bible” DVD or by calling 1-800-ENDTIME (363-8463). In this DVD, he makes a compelling case that these three countries are indeed part of Daniel’s vision, and offers a further explanation of the kingdom represented by the leopard, as Germany, along with the reborn Holy Roman Empire portrayed as a ten-horned beast in Daniel 7.


Given all this, it seems clear that the lion, the eagle and the bear really do represent modern nations on earth today, as specified in the Book of Daniel. It seems obvious to me, however, that my friend is still a skeptic and I continue to search for more proof to convince him otherwise.

By Chuck Smith

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