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The Christian Counter

     
INTRODUCTION TO REVELATION
Lesson 12
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The book of Revelation may be likened to a fuse box in your house.  As all wires meet and end in the fuse box, so all books of the Bible meet and end in Revelation.  Revelation can only be understood with the help of other scripture.  One authority states that Revelation makes more than 500 allusions to the Old Testament!

Because Revelation’s story is connected to all the books in the Bible and because we have to understand certain things before we can interpret Revelation, we have had to spend time exploring these five essential doctrines:

1.      The second coming of Jesus

2.      Salvation by faith

3.      The work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary

4.      The state of the dead

5.      The truth about worship.

Revelation predicts that the entire world will worship the Antichrist that shall appear on earth, “except those whose names are written in the book of life! “  Why the world will worship the Antichrist will be explored in this study.

For now, we need to begin looking into Revelation’s story and learning the meaning of the things written there.  Notice that Revelation offers a reward to all that study the book:

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”Revelation 1:3 Remember from lesson 2, when a prophecy becomes applicable, its language becomes applicable.  A special blessing now belongs to those who study Revelation because the appointed time is near!

A very logical sequence

Revelation follows a very decided progression in its story.Notice the outline:

         
Story        Chapter
         
Introduction       1
         
7 Churches       2-3
         
Jesus given the book with 7 seals       4-5
         
Jesus opens 7 seals       6-8
         
Great multitude is redeemed       7
         
7 Trumpets       8-11
         
2 Witnesses       11
         
Satan’s origin and work       12
         
Rise of Babylon       13
         
Personal appearance of Satan       13
         
3 Warning messages       14
         
7 Last plagues       15-16
         
Last moments of Babylon       17
         
Collapse of Babylon       18
         
Second Coming       19
         
End of 1,000 years       20
         
New Jerusalem       21
         
Eternal life       22

As you already know, the gospel story is not hard to understand (After all, 6+ billion people must hear it and understand it!)  The basic issues within Revelation are not hard to comprehend either.  The hardest part of understanding Revelation is getting a handle on the cryptic language.  These are:

1.      Symbolic or spiritual language

2.      Analogue or analogous language

3.      Literal language and terms

These three language types are mixed throughout the book and discerning whether language is literal, symbolic or analogous can be difficult.  Let’s observe samples of each language type:

  1. “…There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns… This title was written on her forehead:  Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and the Abominations of the Earth.”  Revelation 17:3,5

Who is the woman wearing the title Babylon?  The Bible says, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”  Revelation 17:18

Very important point:  If the student suspects the language to be symbolic, a relevant text must clearly define the symbol.  The key word here is “relevant.”  A symbol can have different meanings at different times!  (Compare Revelation 12:9 with Numbers 21:9 & John 3:14)

Another example of symbolic language: “There bodies (2 witnesses) will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”  Revelation 11:8

It is a historical fact that Jesus was not crucified in Sodom or in Egypt.  He was crucified outside Jerusalem.  Revelation predicts the two witnesses will lie in the street of “the great city.”  From Revelation 17:18 we teach who the great city is.  It is the harlot, Babylon.

Babylon will be just like Sodom and Egypt.  Sodom represents unrestrained evil passions and Egypt represents hardness of heart (as manifested by Pharaoh).  Both Sodom and Egypt passed the point of no return, they committed the unpardonable sin.  Babylon will do the same.  Babylon will war against the saints, kill the two witnesses and think they have done God a favor.  The Jews and Romans crucified Jesus in this same state of mind!

  1. Analogous language

“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle.  On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces.”  Revelation 9:7 The important point to notice here, is the comparison or analogy.

The locusts looked like horses, but they aren’t horses!  They don’t symbolize horses either, for if they did, the scripture would clearly define the meaning of the symbol with relevant scripture.

  1. Literal language

“And I saw a beast coming out of the sea.  He had ten horns and seven heads… and on each head a blasphemous name.”  Revelation 13:1

The number 10 and the number 7 are literal.  The horns and heads are symbolic for they are discussed and explained in Revelation 17.  Numbers in Bible prophecy are always literal and real.  What they refer to may be symbolic.  In this case the heads and horns are symbolic because the symbols are later explained.

Sometimes mixed up

One thing that makes interpretation difficult is that language types are sometimes mixed in the same sentence!  Notice this one:

“The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed…” Revelation 16:19 Remember the verse used earlier?  “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”  Revelation 17:3-6

From 17:18 we learned that “great city” is the woman called Babylon.  In 16:19, we learned that the great city (symbolically Babylon) is split into three parts at the second coming of Jesus while the (literal) cities of the nations collapsed.

How can we tell which type of language is being used?  How can we know if a term is literal, symbolic or analogous?  Since mixing or using terms can result in bizarre interpretations, we must be very careful.  We need a set of rules to govern our methods of interpretation.

Rules of interpretation

The rules we use for interpretation of Revelation naturally affect our conclusions.  Anytime we change the rules, we change the conclusions.  Since the Bible does not specifically state the rules of interpretation, we must scan the Bible to discover certain principles of prophetic interpretation that are trustworthy.  The first step in this process is to identify the various types of prophecy:

Five types of prophecy

The Bible presents a minimum of five types of prophecy.  These include:

1.      Messianic prophecies
These prophecies specifically relate to the person of Jesus in either His first or Second coming.  Two examples of Messianic prophecy are found in Isaiah 53 Psalm 22.

2.      Judaic prophecies
These prophecies predicted the prosperity or destruction of Israel.  Promises and threatening is alike included.  These prophecies have conditional elements in them most of the time. A good example of this type of prophecy is found in Deuteronomy 28.  These prophecies contain object lessons for all generations of people, for God’s beneficent relationship with man is clearly revealed.

3.      Day of the Lord prophecies
These prophecies are scattered throughout scripture and relate to the vindication of God and/or His people.  These prophecies have parallel applications for they demonstrate of God and /or the vindication of His people in a contemporary setting as well as a future time.  For example, Isaiah 24 and Ezekiel 7 can be seen as parallels of final days of Israel’s history and the earth’s history.  Sometimes, “Day of the Lord” prophecies have conditional elements embedded in them. Matthew 24 is also considered to be a “Day of the Lord” prophecy.  The Prophecy concerning the end of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the end of the world  mingled together because there are ominous parallels.

4.      Local prophecies
Local prophecies apply to specific people, places and times. For example, the prophecy concerning Nineveh is a local prophecy.  Local prophesies usually require a “local prophet” or messenger to explain or proclaim the prophecy.  In the case of Nineveh, Jonah was the local prophet.

5.      Apocalyptic prophecies
Apocalyptic prophecy is defined as structural prophecy; that is, prophecy that that outlines a specific sequence of events that relates to or culminates with the end of the world.  Both the fulfillment and sequence of apocalyptic prophecy are unconditional.  A clear example of this type prophecy can be found in Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream outlined a sequence of kingdoms.  In Revelation, sequence and structure are defined by numeric order; i.e., trumpets 2 occurs after after trumpet 1. Apocalyptic prophecies sometimes have conditional elements within there structure relating to fulfillment.  For example, the winds of destruction are held back in revelation 7:3 until the servants of God are sealed.  That the winds will blow in unconditional; when they blow is conditional.

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