Its Use and Abuse
By Dr. Ken Matto

One of the methods which is used to interpret the Bible is the use of allegory. The word “allegory” appears only once in the Scriptures. It is found in Galatians 4:24:

(Gal 4:24 KJV) Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

The word “allegory” in the Greek is the word “allegoreo” and it means to speak figuratively or what is spoken is representative of something. The definition from the Merriam Webster dictionary is:

1 : the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; also: an
     instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression
2 : a symbolic representation : EMBLEM

Basically, allegory is used to teach something in a figurative or emblematic sense. Allegory can be a great asset when interpreting the Bible but unfortunately it is one of the most abused methods of Bible interpretation. Let me give a quick example of how allegory has been abused. In the Roman Catholic church they teach that Mary is co-redemptrix with the Lord Jesus Christ and that she reigns as Queen of Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ. This teaching is based upon a verse which we find in 1 Kings 2:

(1 Ki 2:19 KJV) Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand.

They teach that Solomon was a figure of Christ and that Bathsheba was a figure of Mary and therefore based upon those figures, Mary is reigning in heaven with Christ.

This is an example of a heretical conclusion based upon the abuse of allegory. Now I want to focus in specifically on three types of allegory, two are biblically legitimate and one is biblically abusive. The three types are “Exegetical Allegory,” “Comparative Allegory,” and “Eisegetical Allegory.”

Firs we need a definition of the word “exegetical.” Exegesis is the proper extraction of truth from a verse, exposition of truth from a verse, and explanation of that truth from a verse. Exegetical allegory is the legitimate allegorical method because the figures used can be traced back to the Scriptures.

(John 1:36 KJV) And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

(Rev 5:8 KJV) And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

(Isa 53:7 KJV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

In Revelation 5:8, we read that the twenty four elders and the four beasts had fallen down before the Lamb. Now were they worshipping an animal? The answer is no because in John 1:36, we are told specifically that the Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ. When we look at Isaiah 53:7, we see the same symbol for the Lord Jesus and we now have proof from the Old Testament. So there is no question when we exegete that symbol for the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Heb 13:20 KJV) Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

(John 10:14 KJV) I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

(Ezek 37:24 KJV) And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.

The next figure we have is that of the shepherd. In Ezekiel 37:24, we read that the redeemed body of believers will have one shepherd. Now in Ezekiel 37:24, we read that David will be king over them, so are we looking at David as the shepherd? Now for the answer to that we look at the two verses above: Hebrews 13:20 and John 10:14. These two verses give us the answer as to who the shepherd of the redeemed body will be and it will be the Lord Jesus Christ. So when we speak of the shepherd of the sheep, we know that we are speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. So here we have another proper exegetical allegory.

(Heb 13:20 KJV) Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

(1 Pet 2:25 KJV) For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

(John 10:27-28 KJV) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

The next figure we have is that of a sheep. Now we know that tending sheep as a shepherd was very common in Israel. Here we have four verses above speaking about sheep. Now are we reading about the animal? The answer is given to us plainly in John 10:28. The Lord Jesus is speaking concerning giving His sheep eternal life. Now does He give animals eternal life or does He give His Elect eternal life? The answer is obvious that he gives eternal life to those He has saved, therefore, what we have represented by the sheep are the true believers. How do we know that? In Hebrews 13:20, Jesus is called the great shepherd of the sheep and in 1 Peter 2:25, we are told that before salvation we were going astray just like sheep that have no shepherd. Now let us look at one more verse concerning sheep.

(Acts 8:32 KJV) The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

If you notice in Acts 8:32, Jesus is also called a sheep because this quote comes from Isaiah 53:7 which we quoted under the word “Lamb.” So what we have learned is that one symbol may fit multiple persons, therefore, it is very critical to look at the context of the verse to determine who or what is in view. To take one allegorical symbol and attempt to apply it universally in the Bible, with only one application, will engender a false interpretation. Context!! Context!!! Context!!!!

(John 14:16 KJV) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

(John 15:26 KJV) But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

(John 16:7 KJV) Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

(John 14:26 KJV) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The next figure we have is that of Comforter. In John 14:16, 15:26, and 16:7 we are told that a Comforter will be given to the true believers. Now what or who is this comforter? Is it another person brought into our life to bring us comfort? Well, when we search the Scriptures and look at John 14:26, we are told specifically that the Comforter is the Holy Spirit. So here too we have another proper allegory.

We have taken four examples of a proper allegory based upon the Scriptures revealing the real person behind the allegory. There is no need to wonder if we have done it correctly because the Scriptures have backed up the symbolic names. These are only four examples but there are many in the Scriptures and each one must be evaluated properly to see if how we are interpreting them is according to the Scripture. This is the essence of 1 Corinthians 2:13:

(1 Cor 2:13 KJV) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Comparing spiritual with spiritual is comparing Scripture with Scripture as we have done in these four examples. We did not compare Scripture with magazines, newspapers, prophecy books, or other writings of man. The writings of man are not considered spiritual writings on the same level as the Bible, therefore they cannot qualify as being part of the spiritual which the spiritual is being compared with.

The second type of biblically legitimate allegory is called “Comparative Allegory.” Now this second classification is for allegory which specifically points to a personality or event but has no clear defining Scripture as exegetical allegory does. Now this type of allegory is based upon Scripture according to principle or synchronized events. What do I mean by “synchronized events?” It is an event which parallels another event in the Scriptures thus giving it a clear identification with what is in view. Let us look at a few examples:

Joseph - A Type of Christ
Joseph was hated by his brethren and sold for twenty pieces of silver into slavery into Egypt. He arose to become the Governor of Egypt and as a result, God had used him to keep many people alive during the seven great years of famine. The Lord Jesus was also hated by his brethren and was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. He also kept many people alive but His death caused the many to be made spiritually alive. (Heb 9:28 KJV) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Now there are no specific verses linking the two stories together but when we compare them, we will see that Joseph was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Babylon - A Type of the World and the Kingdom of Satan
(Jer 51:7 KJV) Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.

Jeremiah 51:7 is a representative verse concerning Babylon. It states that it made all the earth drunken and the nations are mad because they drank her wine. This is language to indicate that Babylon, even though it existed as a kingdom in the time of Jeremiah, is also a type of the world. This definition fits in perfectly with Revelation 14:8 which also states that Babylon had made all the nations of the earth to drink of the wine of her fornication.

(Rev 14:8 KJV) And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

There is no way that Babylon could make every nation drink of its fornication if the verse was pointing only to a physical kingdom. By the time the Roman Empire was flourishing, Babylon was reduced only to a remote city. So then how in the book of Revelation, written during the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD) could Babylon affect the entire world? It could not unless both Jeremiah 51:7 and Revelation 14:8 (and other verses in Revelation also) are picturing the world system otherwise referred to as Babylon in many places in the Bible, especially Revelation 17 & 18. The Kingdom of Satan is tied to the world as it causes evil practices in every nation. When Adam and Eve sinned, that gave a portal to the kingdom of Satan to begin the fight against the body of believers. The two kingdoms are eternal enemies.

The Desert
Whenever we look at the desert, we instantly think of a dry, barren area where nothing could grow. Probably three of the most famous deserts in the world are the Sahara Desert in Egypt, the Gobi Desert on the border of Mongolia and China, and Death Valley in Southern California. In the Bible God speaks of the desert in a similar way that it is barren and cannot sustain life. In Jeremiah 50:10-12, we read that God is going to make Chaldea (Babylon) a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. Where life once flourished in Babylon, the judgment of God will now make it a wasteland.

(Jer 50:10-12 KJV) And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the LORD. {11} Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls; {12} Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.

(Isa 43:19 KJV) Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

(Isa 40:3 KJV) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

(Isa 35:1 KJV) The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

In the three Isaiah verses, God is speaking of doing something new to the deserts. He states that He is going to make rivers and a straight highway in the desert, and as a result the desert is going to rejoice and blossom like a rose. Now, is God speaking about a physical desert? The answers is no because deserts which were deserts after the Noahic flood, are still deserts today and what desert would He be referring to? He does not name a specific desert. However, from Jeremiah 50:10-12, we can easily see that the desert is the world. After sin entered the world, the world went from being a pristine place to a spiritual wilderness where no truth about God was being preached but then in the Isaiah verses we are told that something good is going to happen in the deserts.

(Luke 9:12-13 KJV) And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. {13} But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.

In Luke 9:12-13, we are reading that the people followed the Lord Jesus into a desert place and the time came that they should be fed but there was not enough food to feed them. The Disciples then asked the Lord to send them away but the Lord’s response was that they should feed them. What then is in view here? This little scenario is a type of the true believer bringing the Gospel to the world and the Lord is the one who supplies the seed to the sower as He supplied the food for the crowd.
(Luke 8:11 KJV) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. As the Disciples doled out the physical food, the true Christians throughout the ages will sow the infinite word of God to the world. 2 Corinthians 9:10 just about sums it up and shows we are on the right track.

(2 Cor 9:10 KJV) Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)

We have successfully compared three different types as allegory and did not do any injustice to the word of God because the great work which God is going to accomplish in the desert of this world is that of sending forth the true Gospel. The Gospel will cause the desert to bloom with spiritual flowers which means those who become saved will also bloom and bring forth fruit.
(Isa 27:6 KJV) He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. The Israel in view is the body of believers which is the true world wide Israel of God.

Eisegetical Allegory
Allegory based upon eisegesis is the most dangerous type of allegory there is and is used to introduce a person’s personal ideas into the Scriptures. This method is combined with the Inductive method of bible study. The Inductive method is a method whereby someone approaches the Bible with their own ideas and tends to take all the Scripture verses and mold them into their personal belief system. Basically, eisegesis is telling the Bible what it means in contrast to exegesis where the Bible tells us what it means. The cults have been very successful in doing this. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Hell so they have geared their teachings toward annihilation even though their own translation speaks of a fiery hell about 23 times. Their teachings and their Bible differ. The danger arises when someone teaches and states not what the Bible is teaching but what they say the Bible is teaching which is a vast difference. We have already seen that Roman Catholics believe Mary is reigning with Christ in Heaven based upon an improper allegory. Since they believe that Mary is co-redemptrix with Christ because of all the teachings geared in that direction, 1 Kings 2:19 when misapplied fits perfectly into their system.

(1 Ki 2:19 KJV) Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand.

In 2001 Harold Camping of Family Stations Inc. has been teaching that the churches are all dead and they are under the authority of Satan. He has since that time plundered Family Radio of all good Bible teachers and teaching and has commandeered it for his personal pulpit to spew this heresy. His disciples are also heavily involved in propagating this heresy. He uses the allegorical method of interpretation but he uses the eisegetical method of allegory. He also engages totally in the Inductive method of teaching which we previously saw as approaching the Bible and telling it what it says instead of the Bible telling us what it says. For Camping to get away with this system, he had to create a false interpretation base which sounds feasible to his followers. Below are some of the words he has misused in this false system. Within his system, he just says things without any true back up.

Babylon - He says that it represents the corporate church. Supporting Scripture - NONE

He uses Revelation 18:4 as his main verse for telling his people to leave the churches. (Rev 18:4 KJV) And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. On Page 222 of his book “The End of the Church Age and After” states that if Christians do not leave the churches, then they are subject to the plagues, which he goes on to claim that it is eternal damnation. He basically teaches that if you do not come out of your local church, then you will lose your salvation.

Jerusalem is the corporate church. Supporting Scripture - NONE

Page 222 of the same book.

2300 Days of Daniel 8 = First half of tribulation period - Supporting Scripture - NONE

(Dan 8:14 KJV) And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. If this verse represents the first half of great tribulation, then how has the sanctuary been cleansed at the end of this time period because then according to him we go into the second half of the tribulation.

No one saved between 1988-1994 - Supporting Scripture - NONE

(Rev 8:1 KJV) And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. He makes the claim that the 2300 days represents the time period of 1988-1994 and that no one had become saved in the entire world during that time. Revelation 8:1 speaks of silence in Heaven for half an hour and Camping claims that this half hour of silence is the 2300 days where no one became saved. He couples this with:

(Luke 15:7 KJV) I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

(Luke 15:10 KJV) Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

He claims that because there is silence in heaven that no one became saved. This too has no Scriptural support, just eisegetical support. He teaches this on page 341 of his newest book “Time Has An End.”

The Old Testament Temple is the corporate church - Supporting Scripture - NONE

The Destruction of Judah in 587 B.C. represents the death of the church - Supporting Scripture - NONE

He also does not deal with the fact that there are 5 Old Testament books which were written after the return of Judah from the 70 year captivity. If Judah returned to the land, then how can this represent the death of the church? Once again it is just an eisegetical belief without any scriptural backing.

These six examples show us what damage that can be done to proper interpretation when someone uses allegory without any scriptural foundation. Whenever we read anyone’s interpretation, we must always be careful to check them out carefully against the Scriptures. We live in a day when anybody and everybody can send any kind of teachings into the entire world by the Internet. There are many Christians in less developed countries who hear countless broadcasts and do not have the ability to thoroughly check out every teaching. Woe unto anyone who causes confusion to them by sending them a gospel based upon pure imagination instead of pure Scripture. Will everybody be one hundred per cent correct, the answer is no since we do not have perfect understanding but we do have the ability to teach proper doctrine because the Lord promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. (John 16:13 KJV) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.  Let us be vigilant and truthful in our study and teaching of the Holy Scriptures.