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We need to recognize that there is a difference between biblical symbols and literary language. Jesus made use of metaphors, idioms, and similes as well as intentionally offering symbols. Parables contained symbols, only some of which applied directly to the subject at hand. In parables, He compared God the Father to a King, Master over a household. He compared sinners to people in debt and monetary debt to forgiveness and unforgiveness. When Jesus said he was a shepherd and we were sheep, He made use of metaphor and applied symbolic language. The language was metaphorical, but the use of symbols is obvious to us now. Occasionally, His use of symbols were obscure, such as when Jesus said He would raise up the Temple. He was obscure in that He meant that He would be raised from the dead, but the Jerusalem Temple was being used as a symbol for His body. In John 7, water was being used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit, but He used it as a metaphor in the same way John the Baptist did in Matthew chapter 3.
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