Eighteen Interpretive Insights

Eighteen Interpretive Insights, Audio Version

Here are some of my key insights into the Book of Revelation:

1. Beginning with the Trinitarian Benediction in the first chapter, Revelation repeatedly, if subtlety, depicts the doctrine of the Trinity. In Revelation 1:4-5 grace and peace issue forth from the I Am, the Seven Spirits, and Jesus Christ. The Old Testament’s Yahweh or I Am equals the One who is, and who was, and who is to come. The Seven Spirits equal the Holy Spirit, in a nod back to the Menorah symbolism of Zechariah 4:1-6, where an angel deciphers the Menorah as a symbol for the Spirit of the Lord. And Jesus Christ is simply and unambiguously called by his name and title.

2. Jesus is presented as fully divine, insofar as he is worthy of all worship. Compare the worship of the Creator (the Lord God Almighty) in chapter 4 to the worship of the Redeemer (Jesus Christ, the Lion/Lamb) in chapter 5; and note 5:13 in particular. No one else is worthy of worship — regarding that Revelation is emphatic (see 19:10; 22:9). Jesus also shares the Throne in Heaven with God (Revelation 22:1-3).

3. Jesus is presented as royally sovereign over and present amidst the seven churches (see Revelation 1:5; 2:26-27; 17:14), as opposed to the self-aggrandizing, satanically-inspired Caesar. At the time Revelation was written, Emperor Domitian became the first Roman Emperor to encourage his subjects to hail him while alive as “Dominus et Deus,” which translates to Master and God. By Revelation’s reckoning, Domitian’s blasphemous claim to divinity made him an incarnation of the Beast from the Sea, that is, an Antichrist.

Domitian Coin, with Germanicus Triumphant Quadriga reverse.

4. The messages to the seven churches of Roman Asia are addressed only secondarily to the seven congregations, but primarily to actual, fallible human messengers/heralds — emphatically not to heavenly messengers (angels), nor to figurative proxy-personifications (see Revelation 1:20; 2:1; 2:8; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1; 3:7; 3:14). These are mere mortals. These are seven (hopefully correctable) human heralds who have pastoral responsibility over seven distinct late-first-century churches. Said a bit differently, the “angels” of the churches are just the duly established human messengers — simply the pastors or bishops.

5. While they were absolutely meant for the seven churches back then-and-there, Christ’s messages to the seven churches are also intended to be typological and trans-historical. Each message is meant (if the shoe fits) for additional messengers/pastors and their congregations throughout Church history. “Whoever has an ear ought listen to what the Spirit says to churches.”

6. Jesus Christ, the Lion/Lamb, has always been and remains sovereign, even in the darkest, most tragic events of history. This is shown through the breaking/opening of the seven seals to the scroll, and the cryptic or frightening personifications and representations that present themselves in turn. Manifestations of evil are only allowed for a short season; and they are never on equal footing with Christ, in spite of grandiose, blasphemous claims or circumstantial appearances.

Pale Horse

7. The Scroll which the Lamb opens is a completed covenant — a will, which the sacrificed Lamb himself has duly fulfilled (see Revelation 5:5). The resurrected living Lamb now serves as the executor of that same will.

8. Six of the seven seals to the Scroll are the unresolved mysteries/tragedies/horrors of history, especially of the prophetic sort. They are the curses/judgments upon disobedience threatened and foretold in the “fine print warnings” of pivotal passages like Deuteronomy 28.

Revelation 6-8

9. The 144,000 servant-soldiers sealed after the sixth seal are all the saints — all the Elect — throughout all of human history, right up until the Second Advent/Parousia of Jesus Christ. The number 144,000 derives from a military census in 1 Chronicles 27, where the number of total troops from Israel doubles 144,000. Not all of Israel is actually elect; but the number of God’s elect greatly exceeds the number of Israel (see Revelation 7:9, where the 144,000 servant-soldiers are paradoxically said to be an innumerable multitude).

10. All the tragedies/curses/horrors of Deuteronomy 28 are resolved or overturned through the final seventh seal, which silences all of Heaven as “another angel” makes an important offering (see Revelation 8:1-5). This Angel offers incense at heaven’s golden altar — incense mingled with the prayers of the saints. This “other Angel” may well be Christ himself and/or the Holy Spirit, since his offering is explicitly priestly and turns the entire course of redemptive history.

Christ Himself?

11. The opening of the seventh seal initiates another series of seven — the Seven Trumpets, which are symbolic depictions of the most significant Church-age historical events and efforts. The first six trumpets herald various Christophanies, or veiled appearances of the sovereign Christ throughout the Church age. The seventh trumpet heralds Christ’s unveiled final arrival/second advent.

The Battle of Jericho made military use of Seven Shofars.

12. The First Trumpet is a symbolic depiction of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, as told in Acts 2. The Pentecostal outpouring is symbolized (unsurprisingly) as falling fire — and (surprisingly) as hail mixed with blood, thrown down upon the Earth. This hail reference likely points back to the seventh plague of the Exodus from Egypt (see especially Exodus 9:20-21, for a further interpretive insight on the importance of belief). The Earth here is symbolic of the Jewish people — not just their land, but the people themselves. The Holy Spirit first fell as transformative fire on believing Jews in Jerusalem, but also fell as destructive (albeit invisible) hail on their unbelieving counterparts. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost seems to fulfill a prophecy in Isaiah 28, which significantly includes the phrase “thrown/cast down to earth” (compare Isaiah 28:2 with Revelation 8:7). The prophecy in Isaiah 28 also mentions both destructive hail and unintelligible foreign languages, within the threat of a terrifying impending judgment.

13. The Second Trumpet is a symbolic depiction of the Conversion of the Roman Centurion Cornelius at Caesarea Maritime (for the account read Acts 10). The Conversion of Cornelius and his whole household was effectively a second Pentecost/Outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but this time specifically upon the Gentiles. This event is depicted symbolically as a Great Mountain thrown into the Sea. The Great Mountain symbolizes the Kingdom of God/the Church (see Daniel 2:35; 7:18). The Sea symbolizes the Gentile nations (see Psalm 89:25), especially the ethnic groups that comprised the Roman Empire. Note that the Romans proudly claimed the Mediterranean as “Our Sea,” and used shipping to project their power Empire-wide. Caesarea Maritime was an artificial harbor city constructed by Herod the Great on the Mediterranean shore. It was only possible to construct the harbor because of innovative Roman engineering, or more specifically, hydro-hardening concrete. Understanding that the Sea symbolizes Rome and diverse Gentile nations unlocks other symbolism in the Book of Revelation, such as the Beast from the Sea.

14. The Third Trumpet is a symbolic depiction of the Destruction of Jerusalem and its (now God-Forsaken) Temple in 70AD on Tisha B’Av (the same calendar day that Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 587/586 BC). This cataclysmic event is depicted symbolically as a great shooting star, resembling a “flaming torch,” named Wormwood. Shooting Star Wormwood crashes and contaminates or poisons “the Rivers and Springs.” There are several important key explanatory Old Testament references here. That Wormwood resembles a “flaming torch” refers to God’s solemn covenant-establishing appearance to Abraham in Genesis 15, in which Abraham receives a promise of both descendants and delineated property. The name Wormwood itself refers to a solemn warning in Deuteronomy 29:18, and, more importantly, to a prophecy of judgment upon Zion/Jerusalem in Jeremiah 9:13-22. The Rivers and the Springs are a reference to the well-watered land promised to Abraham (see Genesis 15:18, and, significantly, Deuteronomy 8:7, which describes the Promised Land as “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs.”

Trophy spoils from the demolished Jerusalem Temple.

15. The Fourth Trumpet symbolically depicts the historically momentous Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which was God’s judgment upon seemingly-Triumphant Emperor Titus (Domitian’s older brother and predecessor), as well as God’s assault upon the celestial Roman Pantheon. Before becoming emperor, Titus commanded the Roman legions that destroyed Jerusalem and demolished God’s earthly temple. In Revelation 8:12, the sun, moon, and stars (or planets) are “struck,” and dimmed by a third. When Italy’s Mount Vesuvius explosively erupted in 79AD, it poured so much volcanic ash into the atmosphere that both the day and night were darkened over the Mediterranean world for a period of time. Interestingly, Isaiah 24:17-23 can be read as a prophetic depiction of both the eruption of Vesuvius and the fearsome concomitant destruction of Sodom-like Pompeii.

16. The Fifth Trumpet symbolically depicts historic (demonically inspired) efforts to stop and counter the spread of the Gospel. Vast swarms of locust-like hybrid creatures (somewhat similar to mythological Manticores) go around afflicting (deceiving) those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. The threatening locust swarm motif harkens to the Old Testament Book of Joel. The fantastical description of the hybrid locusts borrows in part from locally-known Græco-Roman mythology.

Manticore

17. The Sixth Trumpet symbolically depicts the inexorable worldwide advance of the Gospel of Christ. Christian martyrs/witnesses are likened to another mythological creature — the chimæra, which breathes fire and kills a third of mankind. Two things signal that these creatures are Godly and good, not bad. First, they wear a breast plate that is tricolored, like the breast plate of the High Priest. Second, they breathe out (holy) fire. In the Book of Revelation, exhaling fire is symbolic of preaching the Spirit-inspired Word. To be slain by such fire is actually beneficial. We die to ourselves (to our egos) when we receive the Gospel message.

Chimæra

18. The Seventh Trumpet in Revelation 11:15 announces the Second Advent/Eschatological Arrival of Christ and the Rapture of the Church. The Ark of the Covenant in Revelation 11:19 symbolizes Christ reunited with the Church, which has been temporarily raptured/taken from Earth to Heaven.

No, not this ark; it’s just a symbolic shadow of something or someone.

19. To be continued…

2 thoughts on “Eighteen Interpretive Insights

    1. You’re right, Marsha: I do need to further explain many of these points. My goal here with this particular blog-cast was not so much depth but distance. I wanted to cover a whole lot of material, simply because people sometimes ask me to give them the quick and sloppy version. And thank you for the compliment, but I worry about being told that I’m smart. If possible, I want to present the teaching of the Bible reliably and accurately, no matter how I come across. Sometimes sounding overly intellectual turns people away. I want to demonstrate that I know what I’m talking about, without coming across as too heady.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s