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Meaning of Colors


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| Dream Colors |

The Scripture Speaks to Christians

Definitions of divine truth must come from the Word of God. Only scripture is the legitimate source for revelation of the meaning of Creation. If we want to understand the meaning of colors or anything else in creation, we must consult the infallible Word of God. The Canon of Scripture (the Bible) is the source of definition of colors. The meaning of each color is defined by the Word of God.

Purpose of Colors in Scripture

On the first day of the Re-Creation of the Earth to get it ready for man in the Appeal Trial of Satan, light was the first thing created. That light divided the darkness. The light was both real and symbolic. The real nature of light had physical properties. The academic discipline of physics has discovered many of the characteristics of that created light. The light has been found to have a visible and an invisible spectrum. Quantum mechanics even deals with the fundamental components of the particle structure of light energy; so that this light is perceived as a basic building block of atoms. So light is the basis for all physical creation.

It is the visible spectrum of light, however, that is the part of the everyday vocabulary of most people. The seven colors of the rainbow paint our world with beauty. The shades and combinations of the seven basic colors yield thousands of colors to thrill and characterize our world. The question we must ask is, "If God created seven colors, what do they mean?" To get that answer, the scripture must be examined.

Light Production

Our first clue of the meaning of colors is found in the first reference to light in the scripture.
    God decreed, "Light be coming into existence, and there was light." (Gen. 1:3)
The first thing God created was light. This light was physical light with both a visible and an invisible spectrum. This light was the basic building block of all physical creation. In the next verse, "God saw the light and proclaimed it as good." This means that light is divine good production - something that God did that had intrinsic value. God's production has intrinsic value, and we call it divine good. The light also divided the darkness; so here is a contrast between light and darkness. They are distinct, separate, not the same. Light stands out as divine good production.

So, from the beginning light was production which manifested the glory of the Creator. The light divided the darkness, but the light could not be divided. The light had a visible spectrum which consisted of seven colors. Each one of those colors was a part of the production of the light. The seven colors represent a complete category as deduced from the meaning of the number, seven, from the seven days of re-creation.

Types of Colors

Colors in scripture fall into various categories.  These include:

Visible Light Spectrum

Colors in Nature

Artificial Colors

Patterns

The Colors in Nature are the colors of the objects and scenes in nature.  The colors include the color of objects, such as wood, apples, oranges, and rocks, as well as scenes, such as the sky, the ocean, the corn field.  So when a scene is described in the Bible, colors may be obvious even though they are not specified.  Why are these colors mentioned as a separate category from the Visible Light Spectrum?  It isn't because light is not the way we see them, but rather that nature combines colors in various ways that are not the pure colors of the rainbow.  Pigments and compounds may be mixed together in various ways to produce colors that are difficult to classify as one of colors of the rainbow.

The Artificial Colors are man-made.  They are the paints and dyes of the ancient world.  The Egyptians and Phoenicians discovered all kinds of ingenious ways of making dyes to color fabrics.  Blue, purple, and crimson were among the famous dyes.  The Assyrians used paint (especially vermilion) in their art.

Color Patterns are yet another factor for consideration.  The Pattern of a color may change the meaning significantly.  For example a spotted (or blemished) garment is not pure.  A spot represents an impurity (Ephesians 5:27; 1 Timothy 6:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14).  A wrinkle may represent human good, but it is another example of an impurity.  Multiples of horizontal bands represent  multiplication.  Those who expose faults in others may multiply, or magnify, the perceived faults.  Shimei did this to David (2 Sam. 16:7) as David was receiving installment discipline from God during the Absalom rebellion.  Vertical stripes may represent slicing, e.g. slicing cheese or carving meat.  Some of the common patterns include:
 
 
PATTERN
SYMBOL
EXAMPLES
Chaff Deterioration and dead works  Exodus 15:7; Psalm 1:4; Malachi 4:1; Matthew 3:12; 1 Cor. 3:12
Chain Bondage and slavery 2 Chronicles 33:11; Psalm 107:10; Ecclesiastes 7:26
Cross, or X Crucifixion, or capital punishment Luke 9:23; Acts 5:30; Ephesians 5:25; Philippians 2:8; 1 Peter 2:24
Diagonal Plow, Wedge Pushing aside
Fork Separation in the path, or division Genesis 32:7; 49:27; 1 Kings 16:21; Isaiah 34:17; 1 Cor. 7:33-34
Horizontal Bands Multiplication Exposure of flaws, faults; witness (Shimei, 2 Sam. 16:7)
Island Isolation or separation Isaiah 49:1; Acts 28:1; Revelation 1:9
Pentagram, 5-pointed star Giant, e.g. Baal 2 Sa. 21:20-22; Isa. 14:12-13; Rev. 12:4
Pit Intensified discipline, the grave, sin unto death Job 9:31; 33:18, 22-24, 28-30; Gen. 37:23-24; Psa. 7:15; 40:2; Prov. 23:27; Isa. 36:6; Jer. 18:22; 2 Pet. 2:4
Plaid, Mesh, Net Judgment; a trap Net (Psalm 9:15; 10:9; 25:15; 31:4; 57:6; Ex 12:4; Job 19:5), Sieve (Isa. 30:28; Am. 9:9), Sifting (Luke 22:31)
Ring, Circle A covenant Gen. 41:42; Esther 8:8; Dan. 6:17; Luke 15:22
Spot, blemish Impurity, defilement, guilt, suffering Lev. 13:2, 4, 19, 23-28, 38-39; 14:56-57; Job 31:7; Eph. 5:27; 1 Tim. 6:14; Ja. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:19; 2 Pet. 3:14
Square Solid foundation, Tabernacle furniture was square or rectangular Exodus 27:1; 28:15-16; 30:1-2; 37:25; 38:1; 39:8-9; Rev. 21:16
Star Great and sudden brilliance Rev. 2:28; 22:16, 2 Pet. 1:19; Nu. 24:17; Matt. 2:2
Triangle Fire triangle; fire testing metabolization; corporate; production; sexual love/fire. Brazen Altar, Ex. 27:1-5; John the Baptist, John 5:35; gold, silver, precious stones, 1 Cor. 3:12-13; sexual heat 7:9
Trident Fruit bearing (good or bad) Good Psa. 1:3; Prov. 11:30; Jn 15:1-8; Bad Prov. 1:30-31; Jer. 6:19; 12:1-2; 32:19; Matt. 7:17-19
Vertical Stripes Slice off, cleave Carving meat (Isaiah 9:20)
Wrinkle Human Good Eph. 5:27

LIGHT AND DARKNESS

White Light

Visible light is clear, transparent. It is the medium for sight. Even though it contains seven colors, a light beam appears white. The color white is produced by an object that reflects all the light that hits it. The reflected light is the same as the incoming light - i.e. none of the seven colors of light are absorbed. We consider white a color. It is the composite of all the colors of light.

In the Tabernacle of the Exodus generation, white was the color of the surrounding wall of linen. The eight-foot high wall of linen kept the people out, separated the Tabernacle from the world, and controlled the perimeter to afford only one port of access, the Gate. The curtain of the Gate was made of "blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen (white)" (Exodus 27:16). Isaiah defines the meaning of this white:

    Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
Thus, white means pure. White is contrasted with red, the color of sins. White is the result of purification of sins which happens for the believer at the moment of salvation based upon the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who paid for the sins. The purity of salvation is represented as white clothing (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:3; Luke 9:29; Rev. 7:14, 19:14). The white clothing of salvation is symbolized by a robe of righteousness in Isaiah 61:10. The righteousness of God is pure.

White is used to describe to the color of ripened grain in contrast to green before the ripening.

    “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. (John 4:35, NAS)
The grain that has reached maturity, ripe, and ready to be harvested.  Here the Lord Jesus Christ is using an agricultural analogy to unbelievers who are currently positive but have yet to hear the gospel.  When they hear the gospel, they will be evangelized and sanctified.  So, the Lord who knows their heart sees them as if they were already saved; and they will be shortly.  White in this verse represents positional sanctification, although it is yet future.  Although positional sanctification is the issue here, the grain had reached maturity and the ripening process is analogous to experiential sanctification.  This is also an example of how the words for the color, white, in the scripture have a broad range of meanings just as they do today (e.g. white wine).

Something else that is pure and can never be adulterated is God's love. I Corinthians 13 is a description of love which clearly reveals this. The command for a husband to love his wife in Ephesians 5:25-26 also demonstrates that love must be pure.

    Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her and purify her by the washing of water by the word,
White in the body may symbolize purity, such as the whites of the eyes and the teeth.  However, white in the body is generally not good.  It represents infection, welt, bloodless, and therefore lifeless (Exodus 4:6; Leviticus 13:18-20; Job 7:5).

WHITE means Pure (Isa. 1:18); God's righteousness (Isa. 61:10); sanctification (John 4:35); love (Eph. 5:25-26; 1 Cor. 13).

Darkness - Black

Since darkness is contrasted with light in Genesis 1:4, there is obviously symbolic meaning attached to darkness. Black darkness is used to described the second death, the final judgment of the cosmic evangelist (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). Black darkness is associated with death of a baby (Job 3:3-11).  And it is the darkness of skin that is burned (SOS 1:5-6) or diseased (Job 30:30).  Thus, black refers to death.

Darkness (which obviously has the characteristic color, black) refers to Satan's Cosmic System, cosmos diabolicus, the world. The world is separated from the light (John 1:5). Rejection of the light, thinking like a Gentile unbeliever, is described as darkness in the understanding (Eph. 4:18). The world system is characterized by the love of money (monetary reversionism), which will be judged symbolically by one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (the rider on the black horse) (Rev. 6:5).

BLACK means Death (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13; Job 3:3-11); the world (John 1:5; Rev. 6:5).

| Meaning of Bible Colors Summary |

References

1.  C. F. Keil and F. Delitzch (James Martin, Translator), Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. I, ISBN 0-8028-8035-5 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co.), 1978.
2.  Merrill Unger, R. K. Harrison ed.  The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, (Chicago:  Moody Press, Chicago, IL 60610), 1988.


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