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  • Writer's pictureJo de Blois

The Biblical Meaning of Colors

The Colors of Jo

For me, feelings are colors. Happiness is yellow. Calm mindfulness is green. Focus or drive is blue. Passionate emotions are red. Chipper childlikeness is pink. I have designed my house in a way that reflects what I want to feel, resulting in what my friends call: "the most random reflection of colors that they have ever seen in a home." My living space is random yet intentional. The dominant color in my house is yellow, for yellow makes me feel happy. I added many green plants, which makes me feel calm. I have some pink, for the liveliness of it all. Surprisingly, I do not have blue. Blue is for working. My house is for living.

That colors have meaning is biblical. Colors in the Bible are intentional too. They function like metaphors. They are like pictures or symbols with meaning.

The Colors of God

In the Bible, the colors blue, red, and purple are most frequently mentioned in the Old Testament while red and white are most frequently mentioned in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, blue is described as sapphire. Sapphire is a deep tranquil shade of blue and it is associated with God's holiness. Red is described as crimson or scarlet. It is a bright, deep color red like blood, and it is the color of man, but also the color of sin, and the color of blood (sacrifice). Then there is purple. Purple is the color of the priesthood. Purple is the color of mediation. It is the color that you get when you mix red and blue. It is through the mediation of the priest that God and man meet.

God - Mediator - Man.

sapphire - purple - scarlet

The color of God's pure holiness: Blue

The color of God's holiness is the color of a pure blue sky or a deep blue sea. It carries something of infinity, endlessness, and majesty in it. For example, early in the Scriptures this color was associated with the heaven of God. Exodus 24:10 reads, "And they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness." The same in Ezekiel 1:26: "And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire." (cf. Ezek. 10:1). Sapphire is a color of beauty, of purity, wisdom, and of might. A color fitting to an infinitely majestic God.

The Color of Mankind: Red (crimson and scarlet)

The color mankind in the Bible is red. Red is also used to describe the color of sin. For example, in Isaiah 1:18 is written that "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Also the well-known verse of Revelation 17:3 speaks of the color red as denotation of sin and impurity. "I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns." Red is the color of blood and of flesh, and it symbolizes finite creatures, made of clay, falling into sin, subjected not to infinite wisdom but to blood, clay and finite flesh.

The Color of God' Meeting Men: Blue, Purple, and Red

The colors that God associates with the meeting tent are a combination of the blue of God's holiness, the red of mankind, and the combination of red and blue, namely purple, the color of the priest. In Exodus 26:1 is written, "You shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns." (Cf. 25:4). Purple is the color that is mentioned in the middle. Likewise does 2 Chron. 3:14 say, "And he made the veil of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and he worked cherubim on it. Again, the purple color of mediation stands in the middle of the command. Perhaps this is very intentional to show that blue and crimson cannot stand next to each other. God and man are incompatible without a sacrifice in their midsts. God is too holy. Man is too impure. Mediation is required (1 Tim 2:5-6).

The Color of Lamb Jesus: White

In the New Testament, the color scheme changes to red and white. The white is associated with the innocence of the Lamb of God, namely Jesus. Although Jesus became fully men, there were a few instances in which Jesus was shown as a purely white One. Where the purity and godliness of Jesus was shown to his followers. Think for example of the transfiguration. Mark says that "his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them" (9:3). Matthew says the same in Matt 17:2: "He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light." Jesus' transfiguration was a picture of how he would be as ascended Son of Man. This Son of Man comes back in Revelation. For example, in Rev 1:14 is written, "The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow." (cf. Dan 7:9). The color white is the color of innocent, pure, blameless Jesus. Except in one point of his life, when he became red for his people.

Jesus' Color Exchange

The white lamb was given a red robe by the people who were crucifying him (Matt 27:28). Our red sins were literally being put on his shoulders. John says that Jesus' robe was purple (John 19:2), which is the color of mediation. Whichever the color was, both red and purple portray the same thing: a pure Jesus wearing a color that marked his mission, namely mediating between a holy God and a sinful man by placing the sins of people upon himself.

The red of Jesus was a mission. The Bible makes clear that the red that Jesus wore was a color that was not fitting to him. It was a color of a task that Jesus had to undertake. In Isaiah 63:1-3 (cf. Re 14:19, 19:13), the prophet asks about the Messiah's red robe.

He asked:

"Why is Your apparel red,

And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?"

God answers...

“'I have trodden the wine trough alone,

And from the peoples there was no man with Me.'"

Isaiah transfers the same message as the Gospel authors do but comes to it from a different angle. The context of this verse is the winepress of God's wrath over his enemies while the Gospel authors speak of God's salvation for his people. The point is exactly the same: The Deliverer becomes red like a man by taking upon himself the task that people cannot fulfill. The salvation of God's people comes through red, and the trampling of God's enemies comes through red. The Gospels and Isaiah speak of the same kind of redemption namely that the history of redemption only comes through God, without the help of people, exchanging his pure, holy, and undefiled colors for the colors of mankind

Believers' Color Exchange

Jesus' sacrifice became our purity. No longer will believers be associated with the color red or crimson. The Bible makes clear that, those who are covered with the blood of the Lamb will one day we will see "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes." (Revelation 7:9). Jesus' people have exchanged their red color for the color of the Lamb.

Thankfully the story of God's colors is so much more meaningful than mine.

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