Revealing Revelation – What’s Old is New

20Mar11

In this post we continue our discussion of themes and characteristics of the book of Revelation. Here we will discuss the use of the Old Testament in the book of Revelation. Despite not containing a single direct quote from the Old Testament one commentator has noted nearly 150 direct allusions to the Old Testament.

What that means is that the author borrowed images and symbols familiar to his readers and also relates Old Testament prophesies to the New testament events. This also means the book is very Jewish at it’s core. It is not a “Greek” book. This can also explain some of the difficulty in language and translation at times. The author is writing in Greek, but his thinking and the vision is quite Hebraic.

There are also prophesies from the Old Testament finding their fulfillment in the events described in the Revelation as well. We will look at different portions of the Old Testament here and see how they used in the book of Revelation.

DANIEL

We will look at three portions of the book of Daniel to discover how we find the fulfillment and the uses here in the book of Revelation, beginning with Daniel 2.

Dan 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all-you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.

This is the first of the two “Four Kingdom” prophesies given in the book of Daniel. This prophesy includes Babylon, Syria, Medo-Persia and Rome. The fourth kingdom is the last of the world wide kingdom and is later destroyed by the rock formed by the hand of God (Christ’s Kingdom). The fourth is divided and unstable despite being the largest of all of the kingdoms. Ultimately it is destroyed by it’s instability and the Kingdom of God.

Revelation pictures this kingdom’s destruction at the hand of the Messiah in Revelation 19 when the “kings” gather for battle and are destroyed, not by weaponry, but by the sword that comes from the mouth of Jesus – His word.

We also find a similar description of four kingdoms in Daniel 7, this time a more direct allusion is seen in Revelation as we will note.

Dan 7:2 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.

Here again we are given a picture of four beasts representing four nation. The last having ten horns. Compare this, then, with what we see in Revelation 13 Regarding what we discover later (Ch. 17) to be Rome.

Rev 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth.

The comparison is not only striking, but painfully obvious. This fourth beast pictures in Daniel becomes Rome pictured in the book of Revelation. We also note that the horn from the fourth beast makes war with the saints, using the exact phrase in Revelation 13 regarding war against the saints.

Also in Daniel we see the Son of Man coming on the clouds…

Dan 7:13 and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days

and in Revelation

7Behold,he is coming with the clouds,

This of course as discussed before also relates to two similar passages in Matthew (16 and 26), but that will be discussed later. Again, what is important here is noting the use of Old Testament language and imagery.

THE EXODUS

I am going to assume some familiarity on the readers part with the Exodus and Passover and will note the language and image uses in Revelation in a bullet point fashion.

  • The evil persecuting power is called Egypt (Rev 11:8) this time relating to the Jews persecution of the Church
  • Plagues include: darkness, hail, locust, boils, water turning to blood
  • The persecuted are “freed by the blood” of a Lamb that was slain (Rev 1:5 & 5:9)
  • The dragon recalls the image of Egypt (Eze 29 and Ps 74)
  • The woman is nourished in the wilderness (Rev 12) as were the children of Israel
  • The redeemed sing the “Song of Moses and the Lamb” (Rev 15)

Probably no other portion of the Old Testament is used as completely and often as the book of Exodus, for along with the above it should be noted the similarity between the images seen in Heaven and the Tabernacle of the Exodus.

  • lampstands
  • manna
  • altar
  • incense
  • holy of holies
  • the ark

This does coincide with the book of Hewbrews description of the heavenlies in relation to the Tabernacle as well, but the images are directly from the Old Testament

HOSEA

In the book of Hosea we are told the story of Hosea and Gomer, the prostitute. God commands Hosea to marry the prostitute and even after she leaves and continues her harlotry, Hosea is commanded to go buy her again and bring her home to be his wife. The picture of Israel’s Harlotry is not original to Hosea, though it is best and most obviously symbolized there. We find Israel depicted as a Harlot quite often in Old Testament literature.

Isaiah 1:21 How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.

Jeremiah 2:20 For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.

Jeremiah 3:1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 3:6 The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

Jeremiah 3:8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

Ezekiel 16:15 But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.

Ezekiel 16:28 Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied.

And so on and so on and so on…

So, it should not be surprising when we are given a similar picture in Revelation.

Rev 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

BABYLON

The imagery and direct allusions to Babylon is quite obvious in the Revelation. Not only is the name directly used, but the way Babylon was overtaken is referenced.

Rev 16:12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east

This was, historically, how Babylon was defeated by the Syrians. The river was damned and the armies of Syria walked under the walls of the city where the river went through. This picture is a direct allusion to the historic events surrounding Babylon.

Though there is much more than could be discussed we will finish with the use of Old Testament enemy names to describe Jerusalem, including it’s most hated enemy, Babylon. First though one other enemy and the historically most wicked city is symbolically brought up to describe Jerusalem.

Revelation 11:8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.

This is obviously Jerusalem since the reference to the Lord’s crucifixion is included to describe the city. But as mentioned before, Babylon is also used.

Rev 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Some argue that this reference to Babylon must be considered Rome since she is seated on the seven hills. But in actuality she is seated on the beast that is seated on the city of seven hills. This shows the harlotry relationship between the Jews and Rome in their persecution of the saints. But more importantly we are told that this “Babylon” is a harlot. Only one who has been covenanted to the Lord and then whored herself with others could be called a harlot. If one was never covenanted with God, their actions could be deemed evil , but not the actions of a harlot. This expression demands that at one time the woman was married or covenanted to someone and then became a harlot against Him. This can only be Jerusalem.

So, suffice it to say, the book of Revelation is ripe with images from the Old Testament. And it would be wise for the student to understand those images or risk the pitfalls many of the modern prophecy experts have fallen into by making the images say something they were never intended to say.

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