THE BOOK OF REVELATION – 3
Here are some more things to think about before we start!!
- Revelation should be interpreted in the light of the rest of the Bible. Reading the Book of Revelation in isolation can teach us a lot, but if we want to really understand its message we need to place it in context as part of God’s total revelation through the Bible. This is true for most of the Bible but even more true for this Book. I have already drawn attention to how Revelation shows us the end result of the processes started in Genesis, but there’s much more!
- As you begin to read the Book you will find that your attention is drawn almost immediately to Old Testament symbolism. The first three Chapters are built on an analogy with the seven branched candlestick that stood in the Tabernacle of Israel as described in the Book of Exodus. Jesus stands in their midst as the Priest ready to tend to those lamps – as He does in the next two chapters. (Please note that John has not yet been taken up to heaven – this is happening on earth. The lamps are seen in Patmos.) The thought is continued and developed in Revelation 11 where there are two witnesses described as “olive trees” and “candlesticks”. This would be the relevant portion of the Church plus its supply of oil (The Holy Spirit and the Word of God).
- Moving on from the three chapters dealing specifically with the church we are taken up to heaven – there (in chapter 4) we find a scene reminding us of Israel in the wilderness. Chapter 5 introduces the scroll of future history reminding us of Zech.5. Later in Revelation 6 John sees in vision the stars falling and the sky being “rolled up like a scroll”. This reminds of prophecies concerning the downfall of ancient Babylon in Isaiah 13:6, 10; 34:4 and helps us to understand that these descriptions are symbolic of the collapse of nations and empires not the literal disintegration of our physical universe (Note that in Isaiah 13:17 it is the Medes that do the job!) This goes on throughout the Book.
- A very important link to the Old Testament is the connection with the Book of Daniel. The “Beasts” of the second half of Revelation cannot be understood without reference to the Beasts of Daniel. If we only paid attention to the fact that these are not individuals but national entities, what a difference that could make to our understanding of what God is telling us!
To conclude this brief introduction may I point out that we need to be careful not to stand “outside” of the Book of Revelation as though we could just examine it as “scholars” or “historians”? We need to let the Holy Spirit make it personal for us.
I remember that during my fifth high school year I shared a study with a born-again Christian. I was of the opinion that he, being a “fundamentalist” Bible believer, was definitely intellectually inferior to us “free thinkers”. One day he found a gap through my armour of ignorance and arrogance. “Bill”, he said, “there’s something here that perhaps you can help me understand.” This acknowledgement of my intellectual superiority was music to me in my blindness. He handed me the Bible open at Revelation 20:11-15. “Could you read this out and tell me what you think it means.” Well, he led me on to the obvious … this was the final judgement day … if your name is not in the Book of Life you land in the lake of fire … do you think your name is in the Book of Life? What if this is true? I didn’t accept Christ as Saviour that day, but I think it brought me a little closer to that vital step.
In my next instalment I will be moving on to the message directed specifically to the Church’s own problems.