By Karen Thompson
Second in a Four-Part Series
The Wing Symbol
This is the second installment in a four-part series about end time symbols in the Bible. So far, we’ve looked at the horn symbol and how in end time prophecies it represents kings. In this post, we’re going to look at the wing symbol. Like the horn symbol, the wing symbol also originated with Nimrod, an infamous character in the Bible who was a descendant of Ham, one of Noah’s sons. Like the horn symbol, the wing symbol has lasted for millennia. But before we look at the wing symbol, let’s talk about symbols in general.
Every culture has a plethora of its own symbols. Take, for instance, the United States has national symbols such as the flag, the eagle, and its nation anthem. The subject of symbolism is so vast, it would be impossible to cover it fully. There are symbols for everything; some have worldwide recognition and some are known only by a handful of people. Like everything else, Christianity has its own unique symbols. Some of these symbols are still used after 2,000 years, but some have fallen away.
A symbolic ritual that has not fallen away is water baptism, which symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of our Redeemer. Another symbolic ritual is the Lord’s Supper where the sacraments of bread and wine symbolize the Lord’s broken flesh and His shed blood. Both these symbolic rituals help keep us in remembrance of all that He has done for us.
The Ichthys or “Jesus Fish”
The symbolism in the water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are both God initiated, but there are other Christian symbols that are man initiated. Some are still in use, while others are not. Let’s look at one of the Christian symbols that has gone by the wayside. Sort of. Are you familiar with the “Jesus Fish”? It actually has a name: ichthys. It’s the Greek word for fish. Early Christians turned it into an acronym that means “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.”
The first letter “I” stands for Iesous (Jesus)
The second letter “ch” stands for Khristos (Christ)
The third letter “th” stands for Theou (God or God’s)
The fourth letter “u” (y) stands for Huios (Son).
The fifth letter “s” stands for (Soter) Savior.
Together they stand for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.”
That in itself is interesting. But what’s more interesting is how they used the Jesus Fish. In the early church when Christians were persecuted by the Romans, Christians used the ichthys as a way to identify themselves to other Christians. If they met someone for the first time and wanted to know if he was a Christian, they would draw one arch of the ichthys in the dirt. If the other person was also a Christian, he would know to draw the other arch of the fish. It was a secret (and safe) way for Christians to identify themselves.
This secret way of identifying oneself went by the wayside when the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. Roman persecution of Christians came to an end. However, in the past several decades, the ichthys fish began to show up in different places like bumper stickers, ornamental pins, tattoos, and the like. It’s a fun way (not secret) for Christians to identify themselves to others.
Evolutionists countered with their own bumper
sticker switching out the Jesus Fish with the
“Darwin fish”: the ichthys with legs on it!
The Wing Symbol
Now let’s talk about the wing symbol. A couple of the beasts in Daniel’s visions have wings. The symbolism of the wings also began with Nimrod. As noted in our study on horns, archeologists have unearthed statues of Nimrod that portray him as part man and part bull. The upper torso and head is Nimrod the man, and the lower part of the body is that of a bull with wings.
In his book entitled, The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop explained that the wings symbolized that Nimrod was mighty who had mighty men under his authority who would go forth at his command and put down his opponents. The great expansion of his wings symbolized the vast extent of his might. The greater the wing, the more powerful his army. His mighty men were under the cover of his wings, meaning under his authority.
Hence, in end time Bible symbolism, wings symbolize a leader who has command of an army. When a king invades another nation, his army spreads across the land and covers it like an eagle spreading out its wings. A good example of wing symbolism can be seen in the eighth chapter of Isaiah where he is prophesying that Assyria will invade the disobedient kingdom of Judah. God often uses the symbolism of both wings and floods to describe invading armies. In the following verses, we see both types of symbolism are used together:
“Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel” (Isa. 8:7–8).
Isaiah described the Assyrian king commanding his army with the symbolism of “the stretching out of his wings” and how the army as a flood that would go up to their necks and as wings stretching out over the entire breadth of the land.
Wing Symbol in Prayer
One day I was meditating on the wing symbol and how it represents a king’s army under his command. All of a sudden, the Lord reminded me of something my pastor’s wife has taught with regard to corporate prayer. When she teaches about prayer, she asks the Lord to give her the right words, examples, and illustrations that best describe the prayer principle she is trying to communicate. One illustration she uses is how the body of Christ is the army of God. Armies fight wars and God’s army is no different. But God’s battles are not fought in the natural. His battles are fought in the realm of the spirit through faith and prayer.
When Christians come together for corporate prayer, they function much like an army. In every military unit, there is a head that leads the unit and the unit follows his lead. This same order is demonstrated when Christians pray together. In corporate prayer, the prayer leader will receive an unction from the Spirit of God. As the leader leads in prayer, the others in the prayer group follow and assist the leader. Do you know what she calls those who follow and assist the leader?
I don’t think it’s a coincidence she chose to use that particular terminology. I believe the Lord inspired her.
Modern-Day Wing Symbolism
Like the horn symbol, the wing symbol has endured to our present time as well. One day, I was reading the news on an Internet site and was fascinated by a certain article about a very well-known American singer/actress. She was in Germany doing an interview for a TV spot. The interview wasn’t controversial, but the coat she was wearing got a lot of attention. The design on her leather jacket had symbols representing the German military and bikers. There was an iron cross, a lightning bolt, and two skulls with a pair of wings that emerged from behind the skulls. A tattoo researcher said the wings on the patch was an ancient symbol for the military.
The fact that the wing is still being used as a symbol for the military is a testament to the lasting endurance of the power of symbolism. Imagery is powerful and can last for millennia! The wing symbol in Daniel’s prophetic visions is symbolic of military command. When you read about wings, it symbolizes that a ruler has command of an army. Sometimes the wings will be eagle’s wings, and other times, it’s simply the wings of a fowl, denoting a less powerful army.
Like the horn, wings in the Bible can mean more than one thing. For instance, horns can simply means horns on an animal and nothing more. But it’s also used in end time prophecies to symbolize kings. In the same way, wings in the Bible can simply means wings. When it comes to the Lord, wings means protection. Take for instance Psalms 17:8–9: “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.” Or Psalms 57:1, “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”
But when it comes to end time prophecy, wings mean armies. Let’s look at a couple of examples. In Jeremiah 48:40, Jeremiah prophesied the coming Babylonian invasion using the wing symbol: “For thus says the Lord: Behold, he [Babylon] shall fly swiftly like an eagle and shall spread out his wings against Moab” (Amp.). Spreading out his wings is symbolism to mean the king will command his army to go against Moab.
Wings in End Time Prophecy
Now let’s look at how wings are used in end time prophecy. Let’s look at Daniel’s vision of the four beasts in which he described two different kinds of wings:
“The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it” (Dan. 7:4–6).
Daniel described the first beast as a lion with eagle’s wings. The lion symbolizes the ancient Babylonian kingdom; as a matter of record, Babylon used the lion as its national symbol. In fact, it was all over the place, especially on its Ishtar Gates. In this instance, the wings on the lion symbolize Babylon had a mighty army.
The next beast Daniel described was the leopard with four heads and four wings of a fowl. This beast symbolizes the Grecian Empire. After Alexander the Great conquered the Medo/Persian Empire, he died shortly thereafter. After which, four of his generals agreed to divide up his empire into four sections with each ruling over one of the four sections. The four heads and four wings symbolize the four generals and their four armies.
There’s an important detail about the wings. Notice how the lion’s wings were described as eagle’s wings, but the wings of the leopard were described as fowl wings. A fowl is not the same as an eagle. The word “fowl” is used primarily to describe domesticated birds, such as chickens or turkeys or ducks. Chicken wings and eagle wings are quite different. The difference in the size of the wings symbolize the size of the armies, meaning the armies of the four generals were smaller and less powerful than Babylon’s army.
There you have it. The symbolism for wings is interesting, to say the least. When you find yourself involved in the topic of end times, the subject of wings can be an interesting focus.
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