Every type and shadow in the OT has it connection to Christ, we need to let the Law and the Prophets be our guide in the book of Revelation. For without them, we are slaves to our own imaginations and the imaginations of other uninspired commentators. That said, if we commit ourselves to reading of Revelation in light of the whole Bible, then we can read it with anticipation that we will find overlapping images from the Old Testament that bring us face-to-face with the exalted Christ.
Any time you read Revelation, it is like stepping out of reality and into a carnival of mirrors. Only those mirrors do not, or should not, reflect our own faces, so much as they reflect the prophets of the Old Testament, whose faces were reflected the glory of God’s Son.
While Revelation is a book that is filled with signs, those signs have a registered trademark—a trademark found in the Old Testament. And anytime we read Revelation we should labor to understand the book in its canonical context. To that end, let me offer three words of how to interpret and apply this chapter.
These three exhortations come from my last sermon on Revelation 12. But they would apply to any passage in this glorious and mystifying book.
First, Revelation is a book signs and symbols.
In Revelation 1:1, John uses the word for signs to describe what God has “indicated” (better: signified) to him. And in Revelation 12, we find two signs mentioned. In verse 1, John sees a great sign in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Then, in verse 3, another sign in heaven appears, a Red Dragon ready to devour the woman’s son
In these two signs, we see a symbol of the woman and her seed and the serpent and his seed. Accordingly, Revelation 12 can be seen as a chapter that comments on Genesis 3:15 and the history of seed warfare between God’s people and God’s enemies. Therefore, to understand this chapter (and this book), we need to see how the signs relate to the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (as well as a host of other Old Testament prophecies).
Second, the interpretation of these symbols comes from the Old Testament.
If you are like me, you’ve seen enough end-times movies to know that not everyone who reads Revelation does so with the Old Testament in mind. But such immediate appeals to modern weapons and contemporary geo-political actors is a failure to read Revelation in its biblical context.
In the nineteenth century, George Tyrell, a Jesuit priest who was defrocked for his liberal theology, mocked other liberal theologians for making Jesus look like themselves. He said famously, “The Christ that Harnack sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of ‘Catholic darkness,’ is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.”
To put it plainly, this is how one scholar dunks on another. In today’s post, I don’t want to dunk on anyone, but I do want us to avoid reading our face or our place into the Bible. And this is what I do see with many who read Revelation a secret decoder ring for the future.