Humans have become quite imaginative when it comes to describing things that would otherwise be indescribable.
Take describing a person’s mental qualities for instance. If we identify a person as being smart and who shares his or her knowledge with us, we say that this person goes to great lengths and that the information received has great depth and breadth.
Furthermore, an individual who selflessly shares this information with others is called a big person, while someone who doesn’t share is called a small or shallow person.
This dynamic is quite interesting. In the examples above we are using the concept of physical measurement to describe a non-physical quality.
The human mind and its knowledge are non-physical. Proof of this is that if you share half of your knowledge with someone else you still get to keep all your knowledge. But if you were to share half of an apple pie with someone you are left with just half of a pie.
The ability of the human mind to use physical terms to describe psychical qualities is called metaphor. What is amazing about metaphor is that it is instinctively generated and universally understood.
When we say, “something doesn’t hold any water,” we are saying that something doesn’t hold up to the truth. When we say, “we thirst for truth” we are again using the analogy of water to represent “truth.” We instinctively accept the idea that truth is refreshing to the human spirit as water is to the human body.
Metaphor works so wonderfully, the question naturally arises as to how the physical universe has arranged itself to be used so symbolically. Is this a chance oddity or is there some real principle behind this parallelism between distinct realities?
If there is a real correspondence between the mental plane and the physical plane would God also make use of such symbolic communication to convey deeper ideas? After all, we learn from the Gospels that Jesus spoke “only in parables.” In other parts of Scripture, where fantastic scenarios are portrayed, it seems quite plausible that symbolism is being used.
Would God use the measurements of the walls of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem to communicate some higher, spiritual qualities? Since the walls of this heavenly city were equally as long as they were wide, could this have represented a spiritual habitation where truth and love were of equal measure and importance?
If we humans use terms like length and breadth to describe the measure of non-physical qualities, would God use a similar technique of abstraction to portray heavenly qualities?
I believe the answer is “yes.” Actually, to have doubts about this is to deny God of the same abstract abilities of thought that we possess with our finite minds.
Why is this important? The reason is, that if the stories of Scripture describe more than literal accounts and physical events, then the Lord has much more to reveal to us.
In fact, that is the secret behind the Lord’s return!