They aren’t named in the Bible. I wonder why. They’re so beautiful and graceful. It seems like Jesus would have pointed during one of His outdoor teaching sessions and said, “Behold, the butterfly . . .“ and used it to illustrate some profound truth. But butterflies aren’t in the Bible.
But wait! Think with me for a minute. Consider the Monarch butterfly. A tiny, cream-colored egg the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen is attached to the underside of a milkweed leaf. After a few days, an unbelievably small yellow, black, and white striped caterpillar emerges from the egg. It eats the milkweed leaves and grows to about two inches long. Then it hangs from a stem or branch by its hindmost feet, head downward, and firmly attaches itself with thread. The skin splits and falls off, and the pale green naked blob soon hardens into a porcelain-like case with black and gold jewels circling the edge. A couple of weeks later, the case (“chrysalis”) cracks open and a wet droopy form pushes its way out, an unsightly mass of black and orange crumpled wings and groping, gangly legs. Soon the wings become velvety smooth, looking freshly painted in dusky orange and deep black with little white accents, its body perfectly designed for a new way of life.
The unsightly caterpillar, its range of movement restricted to a few square feet, becomes a Monarch butterfly that will spend the rest of its life as a living miracle, flying above the earth, venturing as far as Mexico on its migratory path.
The name for this radical change is metamorphosis. This creature’s life cycle is a picture of the biblical concept of transformation. In fact, the Greek word metamorphoo (-phoo is pronounced fa-o) is used twice in the Bible. In these two verses, it is translated with the word, “transformed.”
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Both these verses are talking about the change that takes place in us when we believe in Jesus Christ and grow to be like Him.
An immediate transformation happens when we are saved. This is the new birth (John 3:1-17) when we become new creatures in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). A full and final transformation will occur when believers are raised from the dead and God gives us the capacity to experience and enjoy His presence forever (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 3:20-21).
But Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18, the ones that use the word metamorphoo, are talking about ongoing transformation, the growth and change we experience in this life after we are saved and before we go to heaven. If you are a Christian, you have the capacity to be an entirely new person at every level, including your deepest motivations and passions, your thoughts, your attitudes, and your behavior. The caterpillar, or “pupa” as it is called at that stage, spends about two weeks in the chrysalis. During that time the cells from the homely, earthbound caterpillar are being reformulated to produce the body, legs, wings, antennae, and other components of the butterfly. In the same way, you spend the years of your life after you are saved being “transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). God is at work in you, changing you into a reflection of His own image, something glorious. It happens over time, through circumstances, as you respond to His Word and His work in you. Paul says in Romans 12:2 to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This means you have a part in this process, by allowing your thoughts and motives and attitudes to be shaped by an outside force, that force being God’s Spirit speaking through His Word rather than the world around you.
And one day the process will be finished, the waiting will be over, and you will leave the dark, confining, yet in some ways beautiful, chrysalis of this life, and you will be fully and finally transformed. You will have “a body like His glorious body”(Philippians 3:21) and you will “know just as (you are) known” (1 Corinthians 15:12) and “there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying . . . no more pain, for the former things have passed away” because the One who sits on the throne “makes all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5) and you “will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
I’ve searched, and I can’t find any butterflies in the Bible. But I’ve found transformation in the Bible! You can too.