Going Deeper –
Multiple Levels of Biblical Understanding
by Robert and Louise Binnion
The Bible is like no other book because it was inspired by God Himself (proof here). But the intriguing thing about it is… you can read it on many different levels! As you become aware of this, its words will begin to make more sense. If you intend to study this, before you start, tell God how you feel and how you really want to understand His will. Ask Him to guide you and to give you grace to apply these principles – and you will be off to a good start.
Realise that God really wants you to understand Him, His love and His ways of dealing with Human beings. He desires that by daily connection with Him, you can enjoy living according to the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven – service, freedom, and truth. He wants us to be real, but abide in His peace, joy and contentment on a moment by moment basis, –regardless of the external circumstances. God has given us the Bible as a personal lesson book to guide us toward this experience.
Jesus said, “Of my own self, I can do nothing!” (John 5:30 & John 5:19) It is therefore God’s responsibility to work in you (John 15:5), both, “To will (or choose ) and to do (or perform) of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) All you can do is be willing (John 10:27,28) and persevering. You will discover, although it was written so long ago, the Bible does apply to you now, –in the 21st century.
There are MANY levels of Biblical understanding we’ve found. You may wish to consider some of the following when you study the Bible:
Level 1. The LITERAL Level
The Bible’s words portray a story about people’s lives – their customs, habits, beliefs and their dealings with God and each other. It can make for very interesting reading as a true historical account of our forefathers. –But there’s a lot more in it than this surface message…
Level 2. The PRINCIPLE Level
Imagine that you are on a journey of discovery, much like the early explorers, only you are searching for eternal things – not temporary ones. So, get yourself a notebook. Open your Bible, and as you read each passage, search out the principles that are hidden beneath the surface. Write down your important questions, –the things you really want to understand. You need to have a purpose for reading. At the top of the each page write some headings. Here are three example subjects for study:
Who is God? – What is He really like? As you search, you will find things like – His eternal love for broken human beings, – His patience with our rebellion, – His willingness to do whatever it takes to help us live a more satisfying life, and His desire to actually live within us to help us in everyday life.
Principles of the Kingdom of Heaven – Since the rebellion of the devil (Isaiah 14:12-20 explains a little of this), there are two opposing kingdoms, and it is Satan’s plan to confuse and deceive you so that you miss out on the destiny that God has for you. As you read a chapter of the Bible, you may find it helpful to draw two columns in your notepad, and put Satan at the top of one column and God at the top of the other. As you read you can compare the principles of the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light. This helped me clarify the contrast more clearly and helped me see which set of principles I wanted in my own life. In fact, I began to realise that one was based on the principle of ‘grasping’ and the other on the principle of ‘giving’. Which do you think will best bring harmony in your relationships?
What is the Plan of Salvation? – Do you really understand why Jesus had to die on the cross? What role does Jesus and God the Father play in the overall plan for mankind? What is the Holy Spirit? What is the nature of man? Why does man need saving? What are the steps that lead to conversion? When do people actually get eternal life? Will this make a difference in your everyday life from now on? If so, how?
Level 3. The PERSONAL Level
How do Bible principles apply to you? Is it realistic to have God’s Spirit living in you? Do you really want it? How can you live by the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven and experience the peace and joy promised in the Bible? How can you submit to God? What about these bad habits that impact negatively on your relationships? Have you tried to do the right thing many times before and often failed? Is something missing – why? How do you know if you are really saved?
For me, I found that I could ask God any question about living a better life and He would always answer me. Maybe not right now or even tomorrow. But sometime, somehow, I would find the answer. I was shocked! I knew that I was still struggling with SIN! I had been told by someone that my sin separated me from God and He would not hear me. Anyway, – how could God really hear my foolish questions while He has such a big responsibility keeping the whole universe and all its inhabitants running smoothly? But He did…
Although I often asked God for a flashing, neon light to guide me, it never happened! But if I kept alert, the answer would be made known to me – maybe in a book, another person’s experience, a sermon, a Bible text popping into my head while thinking about the issue or just a ‘light bulb moment’ when a piece of information suddenly became a reality to me. I found this experience very exciting and the Bible started to come alive for me. I began to look forward with eager anticipation to the next opportunity I would have to read my Bible and commune with God. I started to realise how important I was to God and this gave me a ‘buzz’. As I learned and applied it to my daily living, my fears subsided and I began to grow.
The secret is to know that God wants to help you, and to keep asking Him questions.
No question on how to cope with life is too hard or inappropriate for Him. If you don’t give up on your search for answers then perhaps you will be able to claim promises and rewards from God that you can’t even imagine yet —
“Though ye do lie between two boundaries (YLT), yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. (KJV)” Psalms 68:13
It’s His job to get the message through to you no matter how dense you feel! “The Eternal opens the eyes of the blind” Psalms 146:8
Don’t give up! “Seek me, and ye shall live” Amos 5:4
Level 4. The SYMBOLIC Level
Symbolism enables one to discover a deeper, hidden meaning that may be bypassed by the casual reader.
The symbols or illustrations Jesus gave in story form often used the earthly to explain the invisible.
Using symbolic language enabled Him to bypass the defences of the hard-hearted leaders of the day, so that they got the message He intended.
Symbolic language requires one to think more about the story and find the principles, thus making it a part of our experience and not just data.
Symbols can be used to hide meanings, or to open meanings up, giving vividly described events more impact
Symbols were not just used in Jesus’ parables but are present throughout the whole of the Bible and especially in prophetic passages. When understood, they enable God’s people to have insightful understanding of the past, their present lives, and the future.
Examples of words that are sometimes used symbolically are water (-usually a symbol for the holy spirit, but waters can also mean nations), woman (meaning church), and rock (meaning Christ), but there are many, many other words used as symbols. You may have fun searching more out for yourself. If you really want to dig for hidden treasure, word studies on symbolic meanings are a great idea.
Level 5. The TYPE AND ANTITYPE Level
The first man, Adam, who was earthly, was a type of Christ, who was the second Adam, spiritually (1 Cor. 15:45). Christ is typed by others in the Bible also. In Deuteronomy 5:5 it says Moses stood between the LORD and Israel, to show them the word of the Eternal. Here, Moses was also a type of Christ, who is the antitype. Several places in the New Testament (such as 1 Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 12:24) name Jesus as the mediator who stands between us and God the Father right now. These are just two brief examples of dozens more types and antitypes you can find on many subjects.
Level 6. The REPEATING THEMES Level
Throughout the whole of Scripture there are repeating contrasting themes. Wise and foolish is to do with choices we can make (eg. Matt. 7.24-27). Vanity, (an old English word meaning -of no lasting value) indicates the focus of “the old man” (Romans 6:6) on the things of the world (which pass away 1 John 2:15-17), as opposed to the things of eternal value (Col. 3:2). Then there is light and darkness, good and evil, and life and death, amongst others.
Level 7. The PROPHETIC Level
Reading Ruth is a good example of the Bible on several levels, as you might not realise Ruth also applies on the prophetic level -but it does! Ruth is mentioned not only on the symbolic level, but also as a type, and clearly it’s on the prophetic level as well, concerning God’s church in the near future.
Jesus is pictured in the book of Ruth, in Chapter 3, verse 8, where Boaz is symbolic of Jesus. Here is the Good News Bible account of this passage: During the night he woke up suddenly, turned over, and was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet. “Who are you?” he asked. “It’s Ruth, sir,” she answered. “Because you are a close relative, you are responsible for taking care of me. So please marry me.”
Ruth, of course, is symbolic of the Church — the bride of Christ (Rev.19:7-8), who must, as in Ruth 3:3 anoint herself, put on her best clothes and go down to the “threshing-floor” where Jesus is.
Read about this threshing floor in Daniel 2:35, Ruth 3:3 & Luke 3:17.
If understood correctly, the prophetic level of the Bible adds urgency for preparing to meet God. If we die unexpectedly before prophesied events happen, the urgency the prophetic level gives to prepare on the personal level may be even greater than we think!
Plus… Many MORE Levels
The seven levels we’ve listed so far are not meant to be exclusive or complete. Other levels of Biblical understanding might be labelled as Allegorical, Multiple Application, Contextual, Sanctuary symbolism, Metaphorical, Mathematical, Poetic patterns, and even more.
Finding Gems of Truth
The Bible will interpret itself for you if you follow some simple principles.
Begin by adopting an open mind and an unbiased attitude. Don’t limit God by putting Him in box – expect new revelations and perspectives to emerge in various ways. The Bible was written by and for ordinary people just like you and me, so don’t worry if you don’t have a PhD. As you continue your journey, pray for grace to live what you learn, and use it in your daily life, then God will be able to build one truth upon another, to amplify your understanding and experience.
You will need a King James Bible and Concordance (or simply do a Google search for online Bible resources), plus pen and paper will help, in addition to electronic note taking.
Sometimes I begin with a word I want to better understand, or maybe I find a word that attracts my attention when reading. Once I have decided which word to examine, I begin by reading the context in which it’s found – the whole chapter or maybe the whole book! Take time if you can, to try to understand the historical setting and the cultural aspects – this may take a little bit of research but it is often worth it. You can use a Bible dictionary or concordance at this stage to find a meaning if you want, but I find it more accurate and a lot more fun, to let the Bible interpret itself.
There are two methods that can be used at this stage – I often use both.
Strong’s concordance It’s a great investment. Electronic versions can be obtained for free. You will find every Bible word in there with every reference where a particular word is used. Looking up these verses and sensing the context, you can amplify your understanding of the word. By using the relevant number, because we can’t speak Hebrew or Greek, you can locate it with Mr. Strong’s meaning – which is mostly accurate, but not always!
Englishman’s Concordance By using the same Strong’s number as above, you can look it up in this concordance and find all the different ways that particular Hebrew or Greek word was translated. This is always a very interesting study technique. If you have appropriate computer software, all this can be done electronically using a touch screen, or at the click of a mouse!
Don’t get confused if one passage appears to conflict with another and don’t allow one text to negate all others on the topic. Apparent contradictions can usually be solved with a bit more effort. If not, jut put it on the ‘back burner’ and send God the message, “Please explain”. His answer may surprise you!
Heb 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
2 Tim. 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
Isaiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.
2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
2 Peter 1:20-21 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.