The bible has used lots of illustrations and symbolism to help Christians grasp important concepts and principles. From birds to insects, the bible stops at nothing to get the message out. Butterflies are an interesting lot of insects. Their lifecycle is one to be admired but also has lots of lessons and symbolism that we can draw from.
The bible hasn’t mentioned butterflies explicitly as it does other insects but nevertheless, it has drawn a lot of inferences from the unique butterfly lifecycle. The teachings of Jesus were aimed at transforming the lives of not just the twelve disciples but also the multitudes who heard him speak.
The transforming work of Jesus is much like the transformation that takes place in a butterfly from a larva to a fully grown butterfly. Read on to learn more on what does a butterfly symbolize in the bible.
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Butterflies And Christian Transformation
When the butterfly is at the caterpillar stage, it is basically a creeping and crawling creature. However, as it turns into an adult butterfly, there is a total change not just in appearance but also in how it moves. Instead of crawling, it flies.
The process often mirrors what happens in the lives of believers before and after they encounter the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the bible says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Before salvation, believers’ life is patterned after the behavior and customs of the world. However, after they meet Christ, they get transformed and they put on the newness of life which enables them to see things, not from the worldly perspective but God’s unique angle.
Just like the caterpillars whose food is the dead and decaying matter, human souls that are yet to yield to the saving power of Jesus Christ also feed of the toxicity of this world. However, upon salvation, Jesus becomes the center and source of life.
Like the nectar and flowing plants that butterflies feed on, born again Christians are given a special invitation to taste and see how good and pleasant the Lord is (Psalm 34:8). They feed on milk and solid food, a symbolism that 1 Peter 2:1–3 uses for the word of God.
Butterflies As A Symbol Of Transfiguration
The terms transformation and metamorphosis share the same root in Greek. They describe the dynamic lifecycle of a butterfly. The same word used for the lifecycle is also used in describing the transfiguration of Christ. This is not a mere coincidence; it is symbolism because both processes involve radical change.
In the transfiguration, we see a change from the human form that Jesus had to a divine being clouded in glory. In the book of Mathew 7:12, the bible reads:
“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Though temporal, the transfiguration involved a change of form.
Butterflies As A Symbol Of Resurrection
There is something peculiar that happens when a butterfly enters the pupal stage. It stops eating and is similar to a dead organism.
The only thing it does inside there is to change its form gradually to that of a butterfly. Once it emerges from the cocoon, and lo and behold it flies, it symbolizes much like a resurrection.
The lifeless body of Jesus hanging on the wooden cross and which would later be buried is similar to the pupal stage of the butterfly. In the tomb, Jesus took three days seemingly lifeless but ‘alive in spirit’. On the third day, he resurrected from the dead leaving behind an empty tomb.
The resurrection as explained in 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 is about the perishable becoming imperishable, the dishonor becoming glory.
This means the initial state is not as beautiful and valuable as the final state. Just like the dazzling beauty of the butterfly, also the resurrected Christ shone in glory and perfection.
The resurrection is not just to Christ but also to believers. We too shall be resurrected. Romans 6:4 says:
”We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Christians are expected to die to sin and enter the cocoon stage. This unites them with Christ in death and allows them to resurrect with him.
The Moth Symbolism In The Bible
The closest that the bible comes to mentioning butterflies is when it gives the illustration of the moth. Just like the butterfly the moth goes through the same lifecycle.
However, in terms of symbolism, the moth represents destruction or the frailty of humans. It points more to the transiency of human possessions and the fact that we shouldn’t bank so much on this life compared to that which is to come.
Therefore, whereas butterflies are not mentioned or quoted in bible verses. Their symbolism is all over scripture. From salvation to transfiguration to the resurrection, the bible shares similarities in description to that of butterflies from larvae, to pupa to a fully developed butterfly.
In both cases, the after-transformation life is always beautiful and much more accomplished in perfection than the former life.
If you are looking for more articles about bible symbolism, read this one about dragonflies in the bible.