For example, a basketball star is not literally a star burning in the night sky, but is the main player on a basketball team. Likewise, in Revelation chapter 17, verse three it says, “…a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.” There is no such literal beast; therefore, it is a figure representing something else. So we must apply a figurative meaning for this beast. But when Daniel was put in the den of lions, they were real literal lions!
If we were able to say that even though a verse makes common sense, but that what it appears to say isn’t what it means, then we would be able to twist any scripture to say whatever we want it to say. A person could take the commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and say, “this is to be taken only in a spiritual sense, not literally.” And thus excuse adultery!
When determining the meaning to be applied to a word, one should consider:
1. The context within the verse, then the chapter, then the context of the book, followed by the context of other books by the same author, then the New or Old Testament in which it is found.
2. Who is speaking,
3. To whom is it being spoken. Is it Israel, Old Testament Jew, unbelieving Jew, New Testament born again Jew, Gentile, born again Gentile, local church, or the church universal.