Saturday, May 23, 2020

Revelation Day 5



How should Revelation be interpreted?

Day 5

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, May 22, 2020

It is written as prophecy, so it should be interpreted as prophecy. Proverbs 8:8-9, 2 Corinthians 4:2, and so on indicate that the Word of God should be taken plainly/straightforward. With this, metaphors are metaphors, songs are songs, literal history is literal history, prophecy is prophecy, and so on. 

So it would be unwise to interpret Revelation as anything other than prophecy and this makes it a unique book among the New Testament collection. In every case, one should keep in mind context and culture, and thus, take the grammatical, historical approach where Scripture interprets Scripture, so when in doubt, always go with clear passages to interpret passages that are unclear (Acts 17:11). This is surely one aspect of what is meant by rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Prophetic books in the Old Testament were essentially about judgment (or the threat thereof). It would be wise to consult the prophetic books in the Old Testament for allusions and quotations and how they were used.

Well-known research by Merrill Tenney [professor of theological studies and dean of the Graduate School of Theology at Wheaton College] found that there are 348 clear references and allusions (so there could be more) to the Old Testament in Revelation. The breakdown was:

57 Pentateuch (5 books of Moses)
235 Prophets
56 Historical and Poetic Books

This does not include New Testament quotes and allusions, but so much depends on the Old Testament. So a good grasp on the Old Testament, especially the prophetic books, would be wise for proper understanding of the book of Revelation. It is maintained by this author that without a proper understanding of Old Testament prophecy, it would be difficult to understand New Testament prophecy.

Table 2: Old Testament Prophetic Books[1]:


Book
About whom (primarily)?
Major theme or threat:
1
Isaiah
Judah
Judgment
2
Jeremiah
Judah
Judgment
3
Daniel
Four beasts/kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome
Judgment and demise
4
Ezekiel
Jerusalem and others
Judgment
5
Joel
Judah and other nations
Judgment
6
Jonah
Nineveh
Judgment
7
Obadiah
Edom (Esau)
Judgment
8
Hosea
Israel
Judgment
9
Amos
Israel, Judah and other nations
Judgment
10
Micah
Judah, Israel, and Samaria
Judgment
11
Nahum
Nineveh
Judgment
12
Habakkuk
Judah
Judgment
13
Zephaniah
Judah and other nations
Judgment
14
Haggai
Jews who returned from captivity
Judgment of gentile nations and restoration from Judgment
15
Zechariah
Jews who returned from captivity
Restoration from Judgment, but future judgment
16
Malachi
Jews
Judgment

Do not forget that Revelation is a prophetic book of judgment. 12 of the 16 Old Testament books of prophecy were directed toward Israelite nations (e.g., Jews, Israel, Judah, Samaria, and Jerusalem) who were or had been in rebellion against God. The follow up question is simple. To whom is the major judgment about in Revelation?

[1.]  At the onset of the book of Revelation, we see judgmental words to six of the seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). But this is more of an encouragement to stand strong and endure until the coming judgment discussed further in the book (Revelation 1:11-4:1). 

[2.]  The majority of the book of Revelation discusses the judgment of the Harlot/Prostitute also figuratively called the “Great City”, Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, which is described as the place where the Lord was crucified (e.g., Revelation 11:8, 17:15-16, 19:2; see also Deuteronomy 28:27, 28:60, 29:23; Isaiah 1:9-10; 3:8-9; Jeremiah 23:14; Ezekiel 16:1-2, 16:44-58; Amos 4:10-11; Lamentations 4:6). In the judgment, the Harlot is destroyed by the very Beast she rides (Revelation 17:1-16).

[3.]  At the end of Revelation, we also see the final judgment of the great Dragon, Serpent of old, Devil, or Satan who is bound (restrained), then released, and then eternally cast into Hell (Revelation 20:2, 20:10). We also see the demise of the beast and the false prophet in Hell (Revelation 20:10), and the unbelievers for eternity (Revelation 20:12-15). This portion of the book is about the eternality of judgment and the eternality of life for those in Jesus Christ. 

More on these identifications in due time—for example on Day 20 is a discussion of the Harlot. 




[1] There were many prophets, including Moses; and there were other prophets, who wrote no books like Abel or Nathan.

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