Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Revelation

Last night I finished the Book of Revelation (c. AD 68-70). In my teens and early twenties, I was literally obsessed with eschatology, reading tons of material promoting and critiquing the dozens of different viewpoints Christians have on the “end times.” Sometime around age twenty-five, I lost interest, and Revelation became a really tiresome book. However, this time I did get a fresh look at it.

The one thing that really stood out to me was an apparent parallel between the apocalyptic plagues seen in John’s vision and the ten plagues of Egypt discussed in the Book of Exodus. In the past, while my attention had been directed towards arguments about the proper interpretation of the seven angels, seven trumpets, and seven bowls, I had overlooked one key phrase found amongst it all:

“…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.” - Revelation 11:8 (ESV)

There’s a clear association made between Egypt and Jerusalem. I had to kick myself for not realizing the relationship before, but then I wondered why, out of the many preachers, authors, or speakers I’ve come across, I can’t recall one ever pointing out a connection with the Egyptian plagues. Did they not notice it either? Or was it just dismissed it as unimportant? Taking a fresh look at the text now, I wonder why that story from the Old Testament Law hasn’t played a stronger role in the development of “last days” theories.

Does everyone else see what I’m seeing? (Or am I forcing too much into the text?) Is there a way to account for the missing matches? Has someone written about this?

Egyptian Plagues
  1. Water Turned to Blood (Exodus 7:14-25)
  2. Frogs (Exodus 8:1-15)
  3. Gnats (Exodus 8:16-19)
  4. Flies (Exodus 8:20-32)
  5. Egyptian Livestock Die (Exodus 9:1-7)
  6. Boils (Exodus 9:8-12)
  7. Hail [Thunder, Lighting] (Exodus 9:13-35)
  8. Locusts (Exodus 10:1-20)
  9. Darkness (Exodus 10:21-29)
  10. Death of the Firstborn [by the “Angel of Death”] (Exodus 11; 12:1-32)

Apocalyptic Plagues


  1. Hi Jennifer!!
    I love your blog :) I blog hopped from True femininity and liked your response about the feminist post! I agree with you there :) Your blog looks interesting and I'm gonna read it! Like you, I like bible history and like to learn more. Sometimes it gives me a headache :) I saw your other blog which was cool. Well, I better start reading. Hope you have a great day!!


  2. Just read this post! Interesting. I see what you're seeing and have to check it out. The Old Testament clearly plays into that. The thing is there are some Christians that put less emphasis on the OT. Why? Not sure but I know the Bible has answers if we search you have. Good work. I'm going to do my own fishing!

  3. Hi, Sophie A.! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I believe that on explanation could be that when scholars study the prophetic chapers like Daniel and revelations they are more focused on specific signs of things to come, proving that these are indeed prophetic literature, and looking for supportive texts throughout the bible vs side by side comparative events. I think scholars usually asks the questions what does it all mean for us spiritually instead of see God is repeating himself.

  5. singlechristianwomen: I'd tend to disagree. We don't see it as God "repeating" himself when NT prophecy makes parallels with Noah's Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And we don't see it as God "repeating" himself when NT prophecy makes parallels with the OT prophecy concerning the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests. I'd suggest that there might be plenty of spiritual meaning behind a connection with Egypt.

  6. Our pastor wrote his dissertation on Rev. 19. It's amazing, when one pulls back from the "Left Behind" viewpoint, to see the depth and complexity that is found in Rev. to be so closely tied to both the OT and the time in which it was written. It appears that John expected his audience to be familiar with their culture and recent history, as well as OT history. Over at Reasons to Believe, Hugh Ross has talked about a Sunday School class he gave on Revelation that took 7 years to complete, mainly because he also taught on every OT reference in the book.

    While we tend look at the book as a set of clues to what's going to happen at the end of the age, it's primarily a book of exhortation for persecuted believers. Did any of the books you read on Revelation mention that the book is written as a chiasm? Our pastor went so far as to transfer the text into a word processor, and then arrange the book into two columns per page, starting on page 1 with the beginning of the book on the left column, and the ending of the book on the right column. As you move from page to page you progress forwards per the left column, and backwards per the right column. At this point he highlighted various chiastic links between the two columns. The focal point of the book - or the center of the chiasm - is the text found at Rev. 12:11, which reinforces the exhortative (word?) influence of the book.

    Also interesting is the point made in the book that it should be read aloud (as was the practice in that day). Try that some time... read the entire book out loud (it takes a little over an hour). As with our snippet minded culture, when we tend to focus on a verse or set of verses only, we tend to miss the big picture idea of the text (which usually drives the meaning of the snippets). Reading the entire book out loud has an amazing impact on how one understands the book.

    So, I think it seems entirely congruent with the idea of recurring themes, historical identity, etc., that there would be a connection with the idea of the 10 plagues in Egypt.

  7. Rusty: Yes, I do recall reading something about it's chiastic structure, it's purpose to be read aloud, it's structural parallels with Ezekiel, it's Hebraic-ness (if that's a word), and other characteristics that aren't coming to mind just now. It's a rather complicated book, even when just looked at from a literary standpoint, ignoring the prophetic element.

  8. Very interesting observation here between the 2 accounts.

  9. Thanks. Wish I knew whether or not it meant anything important.

  10. Howdy, Jenny. I would encourage you to read the Revelation Commentary by Louis Brighton in the Concordia Commentary series.
    He was one of my professors in seminary (almost 30 years ago). Very good scholar and you might find much more to chew on. It is not for light reading, though.

    Blessings in your blogging.


  11. Thanks, exegete77. I took a peek at the instant preview on Any particular reason why you're recommending it?

  12. Wow! The Lord just showed me this as well a couple of weeks ago. Also, look at the similarities between the 7 trumpets in Revelation and the battle of Jericho. At the last trump ... Thank you and the Lord Jesus bless you for sharing!

  13. Victoria: Thanks, I didn't think about the trumpet connection.


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