An object, action, word, or figure of speech used to mean something quite beyond its manifest content. It is essential that the symbolic quality be intended by the person who introduces the symbol. The unique characteristic of a symbol lies in the fact that it connotes rather than simply denotes; it suggests but does not specify. Symbols often involve subtle associations of ideas that defy logical analysis, and that may even appear to be contradictory. For example, the cross, a symbol of shame, suffering, and death, is also a symbol of triumph and life ( Phil. 2:8 , 9 ). Usually, however, there is a germane relationship between the symbol and its object. The symbols of the sanctuary service set forth in Exodus and Leviticus are interpreted Christologically in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Fr...

From the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Published with permission from the Review and Herald Publishing Association.