In the book of Hosea, God says:
That’s the NKJV. The KJV says He used similitudes in place of symbols, but most of the common translations say He used parables. It would seem that this would apply to all of the prophets, including John’s vision in Revelation.
Here is a sampling from Ezekiel 17, where Ezekiel uses a parable as a prophetic message:
We know what parables are (comparisons, illustrations, analogy), and Jesus used them frequently to convey specific ideas. For example, the parable of the sower beginning at Matthew 13:3 isn’t about someone planting and reaping crops, which is what is obviously stated, but actually conveys a message regarding people who hears the word and how individuals proceed with it (Matthew 13:19). So in prophecy that which seems obviously discussed isn’t what is actually being conveyed… it actually represents something very different if it truly is a symbol, similitude or parable.
A prophetic example of this is in Revelation 1:12-13, John sees seven golden lampstands. But later in the chapter at Revelation 1:20, Jesus tells John that the seven lampstands are actually the seven churches.
In a couple of other interesting examples in Revelation, John gives us information then provides the fuller story. In Revelation 5, John hears about the Lion of the tribe of Judah being the only one able to open the scroll. Then he sees not a lion, but the slain Lamb (Revelation 5:5-6).
Similarly, in Revelation 7, John hears about the 144,000 from the 12 tribes being sealed, but then he sees a multitude from every tribe and nation standing before the Lamb and throne (Revelation 7:4,9).
A close look at the preposition beginning Revelation 7:9 is needed to fully vet this out:
Verse 9 starts out saying, “After this…” or “After these things…” in many of the common translations. Here the word after in the Greek is the word meta. Meta is most commonly translated throughout the Bible as with, and occasionally as after. Meta commonly means information about something, then obtaining, providing or giving more specific information about that same thing. I deal with meta data in my line of work, and we have general information about a system or network, but the meta data of that system or network provides specific information over and above the general data. Meta here in Revelation 7:9 is the same thing… it joins the general, first line of information with the specific, deeper layer of related information.
Now imagine reading Revelation 7:9 using what may be the more accurate preposition with instead of after, and this parable really comes alive with a different and likely more accurate meaning. Using the word after cuts off the sealing of the 144,000 from the multitude, but the word with joins them nicely. Here are the same verses, with the word with in place of after:
Remember what Hosea said when reading the prophet’s writings, and be on the look-out for parables in the works of Isaiah, Ezekiel, John and the rest. And, in some instances in prophetic parables, God doesn’t provide the fuller meaning but expects us to work it out ourselves through knowledge of the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit.