Psychological Projection in the Bible
Psychological Projection in the Bible actually happens quite often. This page is posted as a supporting page for the page on the Lion of the Tribe of Judah which is often misunderstood because of this process of psychological projection.
Here are some definitions of psychological projection:
“Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection—attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another.”
“… it is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against disowned and highly negative parts of the self by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others, breeding misunderstanding and causing untold interpersonal damage.”
We want to especially consider if this verse might be an example of psychological projection in the Bible:
“And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:” (Rev 6:16)
But first we will look at instances in the Bible which may include a degree of psychological projection influencing the words and thinking of people. God had the character of a lion in the thinking or sight of (that is, they projected such a character onto God) various individuals or groups:
Psychological Projection in the Bible Examples
Adam and Eve
After their sin in the garden, as Adam and Eve realized God was coming to see them, this was their reaction:
“And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.” (Gen 3:8)
It seems that they were expecting a lion rather than a lamb.
Job was struggling to understand God:
“For it increaseth. Thou huntest me as a fierce lion: and again thou shewest thyself marvellous upon me.” (Job 10:16)
It seemed to Him that God was his adversary. The verse before helps to explain why Job would say that:
“If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction;” (Job 10:15)
Job was confused as to why he was under attack. He did not have the advantage we do of understanding that it was really Satan who was trying to destroy him. The book of Job was actually written, in part, to provide that understanding.
Israelites at Mt. Sinai
God’s actions are always consistent with His character; but our perception of what He is doing is affected by our understanding of His character:
“And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” (Exo 24:17)
Note that it does not say the glory of the LORD was devouring fire but that in the eyes (understanding or perception) of Israel it appeared so.
Having heard so much about the popular idea of the Second Coming, having guilty consciences, having rejected the concept of an ever-merciful God, having the idea that God is coming with destructive vengeance to torment them and, in the thinking of some, even to damn them to the fires of hell forever, their only reaction can be something like:
“…rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:” (Rev 6:16)
That is one way to understand it, they are experiencing abject fear. That reaction of fear is due to the lost having had and still having, at the time of the Second Coming, a misunderstanding of the character of God. But that they would say “wrath of the Lamb” rather than “wrath of the lion” suggests another way to understand it.
What if He Comes as a Lamb?
But here is an interesting question to think about. What if Christ actually does come with a lamb-like character? And somehow, in His approach, He reveals that, in fact, He still loves and forgives the lost. He portrays His true character to them but they have so hardened their hearts and convinced themselves that He won’t forgive them that they have chosen to separate themselves from God. There is the wrath – the separation; but it is themselves that cause it. “In their eyes;” in their perception, He is coming as a lion.
Their belief at the end of the world that God cannot/will not forgive them reflects Cain’s attitude early in Earth’s history. Surely an ever-merciful God would have offered Cain forgiveness for the murder of Abel. Yet Cain’s response (KJV margin) was:
“mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven”
Here is another thought: Does it make sense that the lost at the Second Coming might be so afraid of Jesus harming them that their wish is to have rocks and mountains fall on them? Wouldn’t that hurt?
“I am so afraid of Him killing me that I want boulders to fall on me and kill me.”
That doesn’t make sense. In their thinking, they are going to die either way but man always tries to escape the immediate threat. Could it be that it is not the possibility of physical harm or death that they are so concerned about, but the overwhelming pain of a guilty conscience?
They are not saying “hide us from the thunderbolts of the lamb.” They are wanting to be hidden from His face and “face” implies character. It is like they are being given evidence of His true character and they are being tormented by guilt.
The Bible speaks often about God hiding His face from people but that is in the sense that He allows their chosen misconceptions. They chose to see God differently. See this study on the meaning of God hiding His face.
It seems that, at the Second Coming, Jesus will not be hiding His face; He will be revealing His true self and that is what “hurts.”
The lost are projecting onto Christ, at the Second Coming, how they believe He would treat His enemies. It reflects how they would treat their own if they were given absolute power to do so.
This, of course, results from their concept of the character of God which, although false, they are projecting onto Him. They are “looking” through the lens of their understanding that God operates in a certain way including that He must impose a punishment for sin.
Below is a modification of a diagram used elsewhere on this site to compare two views of the Second Coming.
For a further look at what the Second Coming might actually be like in light of the true character of the Lamb go to What will the Second Coming be Like?
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