Blessed: How the Old Testament Helps us Make Sense of Revelation with Andrew Sach (Episode 3)

This article is part of the Blessed: Conversations on the Book of Revelation with Nancy Guthrie series.

We Don't Understand Revelation Because We Don't Know the Old Testament

Join Nancy Guthrie as she talks with pastor and author Andrew Sach about how the more we keep our eyes and ears open for Old Testament imagery and allusions, the less strange the book of Revelation will seem.

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Blessed

Nancy Guthrie

Blessed, by bestselling author and speaker Nancy Guthrie, gives individuals and small groups a friendly, theologically reliable, and robust guide to understanding the book of Revelation.

Andrew Sachs
So much that—for us—is strange about Revelation is strange because we don’t know the Old Testament as much as we should, because lots—I mean, almost all—of imagery and the odd ideas are actually images picked up from the Old Testament prophets. The more we know, and we spot the Old Testament references, the less strange Revelation will be. And the more we let the whole biblical thoughtworld inform how we understand it.

Nancy Guthrie
Welcome to The Blessed Podcast. I’m Nancy Guthrie, author of the the newly released, Blessed: Experiencing the Promise of the Book of Revelation. The book of Revelation begins and ends with a promise that those who hear and keep what is written in it will be blessed. And, I want that blessing, don’t you? So, we need to hear what this book has to say to us. And then, figure out what it’s going to mean to live in light of it. On this podcast, I’m having conversations with people who can help us to hear it and understand its message to us, and help us reckon with what it will mean for us to live in light of that message. My guest today is Andrew Sach. Andrew, thank you for being willing to talk through the book of Rvelation with us.

Andrew Sachs
Hey, Nancy. Hello friend.

Nancy Guthrie
So, Andrew serves part-time at Grace Church Greenwich in London and part-time as a tutor on the Cornhill Training Course, which helps to train other preachers. He is the coauthor of several books, and I like Andrew, what you say, about your book titles. You call them decreasingly imaginative titles. One is called Dig Deeper. The next one, Dig Even Deeper and then we’ve got Dig Deeper Into the Gospels. And, I think you’re probably working on some other things, too, aren’t you, Andrew?

Andrew Sachs
Yes, we’ve just submitted a manuscript for a book targeted at agnostics called Are You a Hundred Percent Sure You Want to be Agnostic?

Nancy Guthrie
And when will that come out?

Andrew Sachs
I think next year.

Nancy Guthrie
Alright, terrific. Recently, Andrew and his preaching partner at Grace Church Greenwich, Andrew Latimer, preached through the book of Revelation. And they were doing that as I was working on the manuscript for my book, Blessed. And, I was so thrilled to discover it, especially that they were a few weeks ahead of me. So, as I was working through Revelation, I could occasionally pull up their most recent message and hear what they had to say, and learn from them. Now, it would seem to me, Andrew, that you were seeking to avoid any kind of drama or controversy or pandering to the fears of your audience in the way you titled your series. And obviously, I’m being very tongue-and-cheek because you called it “Armageddon, 666, and the End of the World.” [Laughter] The title might lead one to think that maybe you’re trying to get our attention. Is that it?

Andrew Sachs
It is that. And also, the book of Revelation is very famous, isn’t it, even amongst those who aren’t Christians because we’ve all seen horrror movies where it’s been hijacked, and everyone’s heard of the Antichrist. All my non-Christian friends have heard about 666, but they’ve no idea what the book of Revelation actually is about. So, yeah, it was an attention-grabber. But also just to say, People, this is a book that we kind of know about, but also know very little about.

Nancy Guthrie
Well, I remember when I interviewed you a couple of times for my “Help Me Teach the Bible” podcast, I remember you telling listeners you were in a sense, handing off a skill to us in terms of trying to understand the Bible. You said that whenever we study the Bible, we want to “Go bigger and go older.” What do you mean by that and it seems to me that that’s an important tool to use when we look at the book of Revelation.

Andrew Sachs
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, “Go bigger,” I mean, don’t read a verse, and don’t even a chapter, but read the whole book, because the key to understanding a single verse from Revelation is the context of that verse and the context of that chapter. I remember years ago, coming back to my house when I had a friend staying with me. He was quite a young Christian, and he pulled up on the computer this amazingly complicated chart sort of connecting individual verses from Revelation from individual verses from Ezekiel. And it was all over the place in terms of references. And, there were some realy wild and wacky ideas there. And I thought, Gosh, it’s making it a lot more complicated. Because, what you really need to do is read verse one in the context of verse two. You know, don’t be leaping to a cross-reference so quickly that you don’t see the whole picture. So, you know, in Revelation, you don’t really understand the seven seals unless you understand the seven trumpets and you can’t understand the seven trumpets unless you understand the seven bowls. They kind of work together. So, that’s “Go bigger.”

And “Go older” is just a way of saying so much that for us, that is strange about Revelation is strange because we don’t know the Old Testament as much as we should, because lots—I mean, almost all—of imagery and the odd ideas are actually images picked up from the Old Testament prophets. The more we know, and we spot the Old Testament references, the less strange Revelation will be. And the more we let the whole biblical thoughtworld inform how we understand it.

Nancy Guthrie
Yeah, as I was writing Blessed: Experiencing the Promise of the Book of Revelation, I found that nearly every chapter required me to read the chapter at hand through the lens of the Old Testament if I was going to get what John was seeking to communiate. But, it’s also interesting that most New Testament writers, when they quote from the Old Testament, they start out by saying, you know, *The prophet so-and-so says. . . * so that you know for sure that they’re quoting the Old Testament. But, Revelation isn’t like that. The Old Testament is there in allusions. John doesn’t set out the Old Testament bits by putting quotes around them. In some cases, you just realize that what is happening in the vision John recounts sounds familiar. Or, that the creatures or images sound very familiar, and that an Old Testament passage is clearly significant in John’s thinking as he writes and that helps us in interpreting what he writes.

Andrew Sachs
Absolutely. And I think the other thing is that, on the one hand, there’s just a huge writing of the Old Testament books that John picks up on, but he really has also favorite books or favorite texts. So, you know, once you realize that say Daniel 7 is important in Revelation—and you get that right in chapter 1 where he has this vision of the one, the voice that’s speaking to him, and he has white wool hair as white as snow and eyes like a flame of fire. And you think, that sounds familiar. That’s Daniel 7, that’s the vision of the Son of Man coming before the Ancient of Days. Once you turn to Daniel 7 and you refresh your memory, you find that’s there’s a lot more of Daniel 7 all the way through Revelation. It’s a chapter he keeps coming back to again. And similarly, Psalm 2, the one who will dash the nations to pieces like pottery with an iron rod. That comes up several times in Revelation. So I think it’s hard to start with, and you don’t know where to look, but once you find the key Old Testament texts, you use them again and again.

Nancy Guthrie
I like something Peter Leithart said in his commentary on Revelation. He said that John did have an ecstatic visionary experience, but what he saw reflected the events and institutions of the Bible, and when he recorded them, he naturally recorded them in the vernacular he knew—the vernacular of the Scriptures. That he writes with Scripture, rather than about it. It helps me think that there’s a reason that these visions sound so familiar to what is in the Old Testament. First of all, it’s because John is seeing the same thing that the Old Testament prophets saw, so it’s no wonder it’s going to sound familiar. He’s seeing into the same realities, but also, John was a person who was saturated with the Old Testament, and as you said, he’s got a few favorites that seem to be shaping how he’s writing down what he saw.

Andrew Sachs
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, I love that quote from Leithart because, I mean, sometimes people tell you that to understand The New Testament you need to know a lot about New Testament times, so you know, you can find in the commentaries, lots of details about the seven churches. What was Ephesus like? And what was Laodecia like, and so on? And, historical background, undoubtedly, is of some use, but the biggest background that we need to understand the New Testament is the Old Testament. It’s like within our Bibles, we already have the background that we need. It’s not like we haven’t got any space for the archaeologists or the historians. They can tell us some things. But, I think it’s very empowering to know that a Christian with a Bible essentially has what they need by way of background already.

Nancy Guthrie
Yes, definitely. Wy don’t we work our way through some Old Testament texts that John clearly has on his mind that are a big part of the fabric of what he writes in Revelation? And I think we have to start with Genesis 1-3 because in Geneses 1-3, we have this garden, and we’ve got Adam and Eve, and there’s a tree of life there. Well, those things are going to reappear for us in Revelation. We’ve got the creation of heaven and earth, and in Revelation 21, there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth. There in Genesis in chapter 3, we’re presented with the crisis of the story of the Bible. That crisis comes to its resolution in the book of Revelation—especially in regard to that ancient serpent, the curse that he brought into the world, and this conflict that has been going on ever since we read in Genesis 3 that God says to the serpent, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. It seems to me like we can’t get Revelation unless we get what happened right there.

Andrew Sachs
Absolutely. Yeah, both of those big turning points in Bible history—the creation of the world and then the fall of the world—both come in Revelation. I think it’s very interesting you mention the tree of life that comes back and then the new heavens and the new earth that come back. In both those cases, actually, Revelation is reading Genesis through the lens of the prophets. So, it’s not even just a simple quote from Genesis chapter 1, but when he talks about a new heaven and a new earth, that is Isaiah 65. Isaiah is alluding to Genesis 1. Or, when he talks about the tree of life on both sides of the river, that is how Ezekiel talks about Genesis 2. So, one of the things I love about the Bible, and I’m sort of discovering this more and more, it’s not just that the New Testament alludes to the Old Testament, but the prophets allude back to the law, and then the New Testament alludes back to the prophets that allude back to the law. So, you’ve actually got a whole series of cross-references built into Scripture, whereby the prophets themselves (people like Isaiah and Ezekiel) were already harnessing the image of Revelation as they looked ahead to God’s salvation plan and they were saying It’s not just that God’s going to sort out the problems of Israel. God is going to renew the whole of creation. There’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth, says Isaiah. It’s not just that there’ll be some sort of return to Eden, but we’re going to get to an even better Eden. Eden only had one tree of life in the middle of the garden, but in Ezekiel’s vision, there’s going to be trees of life all the way down both sides of this river that flows in the temple. So, Revelation is picking up the Old Testament through the lens that the prophets already gave us looking forward. I think, the great future where we’re looking forward to when God puts the world right, it actually isn’t a return to Genesis 1 at all. It’s a completion. It’s getting to a new creation that’s even better than the original one. It’s the fulfillment of the original one. The heavenly city is a bit like the garden of Eden, but just a lot better, and I think the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel help us to see that.

Nancy Guthrie
As you point these things out, it just makes me realize, you know, Andrew, that most things in the world, the closer you look at them, the more they fall apart. But the Bible, the closer you look at it, the more it hangs together, because what you’re talking about, these Old Testament prophets that they’re working from the law, and now we see John is going to work from these Old Testament prophets, we see its connectedness, its cohesiveness, and why is that? It’s because it has one divine author. And all of that helps me to esteem the Bible more. So, rather than look at the Bible closely and it falls apart. . . No. You look closer at the Bible, and the more you realize what a magnficent book the Bible is, and that it actually must be written by one divine author.

Andrew Sachs
We had a baptism at our church recently, and the student at the university here in Greenwich here was baptized. As she gave her testimony, she said one of things she’s discovering is exactly this about the Bible—how amazingly cohesive it is. And she said, it’s really strengthened her faith because you think, Well, how could this possibly have been done by a bunch of human beings across 1000 years? The Bible itself is a miracle, and John’s mastery of the Scriptures. . . no doubt he read his Old Testament alot, but it takes the mind of the Holy Spirit to put it together so astonishingly as he does in Revelation.

Nancy Guthrie
Well, let’s jump to Exodus. When we get to the book of Exodus, there’s a number of things there that John seems to draw upon. There’s a whole picture of a people in captivity who are being persecuted. There is the lamb. This is a central place in the Old Testament where we see how a lamb sacrificed is going to provide salvation when judgement comes. And we’re going to see that again in Revelation. But, some of the most significant imagery in Exodus is the plagues. So, how does recalling what happened in the plagues back in Exodus help us when we get to the book of Revelation?

Andrew Sachs
So, the plagues come up a little bit when the trumpets are sounded—the seven trumpets. And so, for example, chapter 8, verse 7, the first angel blew his trumpet, there followed hail and fire mixed with blood. And, these are thrown upon the earth, and then we have the waters becoming bitter. Then, we have the darkness like the plague of darkness. So, the trumpets have got lots of plague-like allusions to them. Then, when we get to the seven bowls, the allusions, I think, get even stronger. So we get, not only some of the plagues that God sends. . . Do you remember in Exodus, the Egyptian magicians can add extra plagues? They can make their own frogs, which is. . . I always think they’re not a lot of help, so God is sending plagues on Pharoah, and the contribution of Pharoah’s magicians is to create extra frogs. [Laughter.]

Nancy Guthrie
[Laughter.] Well, we’re impressed, but that’s not helpful.

Andrew Sachs
But, interesting as you look at the bowls of God’s wrath being poured out, not only do you have the plagues that God sends, but you also have the demonic spirits performing signs, which is exactly the same as happened in Exodus. So, I think there’s nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes observed, and you really see that. This idea of God sending trouble and counterfeit demons making trouble come together. I think you need those two lenses on suffering in the world—that this is sent by God in his judgement of the world. He’s in charge. There’s no moment in Revelation where God is not absolutely in charge of what is happening. And that is really important for John’s readers. You know, they’re experiencing tribulation and suffering and some Christians have been killed already, martyred. Other Christians are marginalized. For them to know God is really, really in charge of what is going on, and even the trouble in the world is sent by God in his anger on the world. That’s important. But, also, there is a devil, and some of the trouble in the world is sent by the devil. And Revelation—like lots of the Bible—it manages to combine these two things. It’s not that God and the devil are kind of equally powerful. God is the only creator; the only ruler. But, trouble is a mixture of things that the Lord is sending in his judgement and things that Satan is allowed to do insofar as God gives him permission to bring trouble. I think both of those lenses are needed. Why has this persecution come upon me? Well, I’ve got an enemy: a dragon. He’s after me. The devil is against me. But, why is this trouble coming on the world? God is still on his throne. He’s not stopped being in charge. And I think those two lenses of satanic trouble and a world under God’s judgement, I think we need both of them. I think you get both of them in the Exodus—the trouble, the oppression brought by Pharoah, the opposition to God’s people, and also the trouble brought by God in judgement on Pharoah. And maybe, we get caught up, because we read about plagues and monsters and we think, Well, these must be satanic. But, some of the things that we thought satanic actually come from God. In other words, God is charge of this trouble, this suffering, because he’s angry at sin. He’s also angry at the way that his people are being oppressed and he’s going to vindicate them. There is going to be judgement. So, I think the Exodus thing kind of helps you with that. And then, you get the Passover, the lamb who was slain. You get the plagues, and then you get the great victory song—an amazing song by the sea that he sings in Exodus 15. It comes up also in Revelation.

Nancy Guthrie
Yes, that was very significant to me as I looked at it. It is comparing it to what happened in Egypt that helps us to understand what is happening in this Revelation picture. You’ve got these people. They have been enslaved. They’ve been harmed by the satan figure in their experience—the Pharoah, and he’s putting their infants sons to death, which is a picture of the persecution John was writing to are experiencing. As Revelation goes along, we see that the people are going to be brought out from that place of harm and danger. And they’re going to be brough through, as it were, a Red Sea. They’re going to be brought to the other side of a place of suffering. Pharoah’s army being destroyed by a wall of water presents a picture to us of the day when we enter into the new creation. That we’ll be able to look back and see that God has destroyed all who sought our harm. All of his enemies who have been taking out their fury on God’s people are going to be destroeyd. And I think that helps us to understand that John writes that we are going to sing the song of Moses and the song of the lamb. So, this song that we’re going to sing, it’s very much like the song of Moses that the people sang after they were delivered from Pharoah’s army through the Red Sea. But, this is the song of the lamb, a song that celebrates a greater deliverance—a deliverance not just of one nation, but a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. We’re going to be able to see how God has defeated our enemies in such a way that it has made our salvation possible.

Andrew Sachs
Yeah, and I think that theme of vindication and vengeance is such a strong one in Revelation. And I think it doesn’t have the place it should have in our Christian thinking. So, we emphasize how beautiful it is when we can turn the other cheek and when we can forgive those who have wronged us—all these things that Jesus taught. But, actually there is also a place for vengeance in the Bible, and it’s okay to want that, to want those who’ve wronged God’s people to pay for it. Now, the best thing is for our enemies to come to trust in Jesus and have him atone for their sins. That is the best outcome. But, those who continue to defy Jesus and hurt his people will face God’s vengeance, and I think that is such a big thing in Revelation. And so, chapter 6, the big cry of the saints. They cried out with a loud voice, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who draw on the earth? And as you say there, the destruction on the earth, of Babylon, the destruction of the beasts, the destruction of the false prophet. . . there’s a lot of rejoicing over harm coming to the baddies, the enemies, because only as the enemies are destroyed can God’s people truly be free.

Nancy Guthrie
I seem to remember from your sermon series, that when you got to the trumpets, you focused alot on the plagues of Egypt and how they help us to understand what is happening in that passage in Revelation. And as you mentioned, the plagues seemed to be an even stronger basis for what we see when we get to the bowls. But, when I think about the trumpets, I think back to Joshua 6. The people are getting ready to make their first foray into the Promised Land and God has told them that he’s going to give Jericho to them. They’re told to march around the city for seven days blowing trumpets. And then, on the seventh day, they blow the seventh trumpet, and the enemy is defeated. And the people go in and take possession of the city that God has given to them. Do you think that it’s a stretch to connect this passage to Revelation to Joshua 6?

Andrew Sachs
No, I don’t think it’s a stretch at all. I love how it can be both/and often. It is the exodus and it’s also Joshua. I think Peter Leithart also argues maybe it’s also creation. The number seven in the Bible is a big thing, isn’t it? Seven days of creation, seven days of marching around Jericho. Seven trumpets, seven seals, seven bowls. I mean, there’s lots of sevens. And I think there can be multiple connotations, multiple allusions. I think the trumpets. . . the one thing that’s clear from the chapter itself is that the trumpets are blown by the angels who serve God. So, again, this isn’t the future in the hands of some demonic power. This is Jesus calling the shots saying Sound the trumpet please. It’s just another way of emphasizing he’s in charge of all that happens. It’s part of his victory. That is really amazing when you get to trumpet five and six where as the trumpet sounds, it really does look like the release of demons. He’s given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit, and he opens it, all these locusts looking like scorpions come out. I think again, those two things that Jesus is in charge, and yet, satan is real and demonic powers are real. They go together. So, Jesus sends the angel to blow the trumpet. That gives permission to these demons to come and bring harm on the earth. But, they can only do what he allows them to do, because they’re not permitted to harm God’s people. The trumpets tell you that God’s in charge, but God’s in charge even if allowing evil horrors within the limits that he’s set, on the way to the final victory. But, I think you’re right with Jericho. It’s as the seventh trumpet is sounded. Well, then, there’s great celebration, loud voices of heaven. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of heaven of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever. And, if you know Handel’s Messiah, you want to start singing the “Halleluah Chorus” at that point.

Nancy Guthrie
Exactly. Shall we sing?

Andrew Sachs
[Laughter.]

Nancy Guthrie
Let’s move on to Ezekiel and Daniel. As you mention, these are two books that seem to give John words and imagery to describe what he saw. So, let’s think first about Ezekiel. What do we find in Ezekiel that seems to be heavy on John’s mind?

Andrew Sachs
Well, the first thing I want to say about Ezekiel is so, the vision of the throne in heaven in chapter 4 and around the throne of four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. . . The first living creature, a lion. The second, an ox. The third, the face of a man. The fourth living creature like an eagle. This is straight out of Ezekiel 1 and 2. It’s the vision that that Ezekiel has by the Kebar Canal. And the imagery of God’s throne room is Ezekiel imagery, but it’s also Isaiah imagery because he then goes on to say that the four living creatures, each of them had six wings full of eyes around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord almighty who was, and is, and is to come.” And that is from Isaiah’s vision of the Lord in the year that King Uzziah died in Isaiah 6. Now, what is interesting to me is that John isn’t being exact in taking. . . this is exactly the way that it looked to Ezekiel or exactly the way it looked to Isaiah, but he’ s combining elements of both. So, Ezekiel’s living creatures with Ezekiel’s faces—lion, ox, eagle man—have six wings, which is the Isaiah’s seraphim’s number of wings. And they sing the Isaiah seraphim song, “Holy, holy, holy.” I think this is really important because some people come to Revelation and they want it to all be kind of exactly true with exactly the same numbers and this just tells me that isn’t how John is working. He’s not dealing in. . . If you said, Exacty how many wings did they have? Did they have the Ezekiel number of wings or the Isaiah kind of wings? It’s the wrong question. He’s saying, Let me draw together the imagery of the Old Testament of God’s throne room that shows you his glory and his power as Creator. But, he doesn’t mind combining both. So, that is the first thing that I want to say. It’s kind of Ezekiel, but it’s not exact. It’s Ezekiel combined with Isaiah 4.

Nancy Guthrie
I think that’s important to say. As I was writing on the personal Bible study questions that will go along with my Revelation study, the person helping me was saying, It’s not a fact. How can you say its referring to that, because it doesn’t say exactly that. So, I think you’ve hit on something important. We can’t force the exactness. Rather, we have to understand that this is imagery that is being presented to us, and while there is correspondence, there’s not always exactness.

Andrew Sachs
I actually got my godson, he was ten at the time. He’s got a blackboard in his kitchen. I used to use it get into my Revelation sermons and he really enjoyed it and I think it’s just shows that Revelation isn’t too complicated for a ten year old to understand. But, one week, I said to him, Jack, you need to look at Ezekiel chapter 1 and 2 and look at Revelation 4 and 5, and I want you to tell me what is the same about the living creatures and what has changed. He really enjoyed it. We tried to draw them with the eagle and the lion and everything. He could see there’s so much that’s the same and there’s some that is different, and I think that’s the point, as you say, is that there’s correspondence but it’s not there to tell us exactly what it’s going to look like with our physical eyes because he’s seeing with his spiritual eyes. This is a vision, it’s not exact reality. So, Ezekiel in that way. And then it just comes up again and again and again. We’ve already spoken about the tree of life on both sides of the river. I love that chapter of Ezekiel. And that tells us that the river of life that brings the tree of life with the leaves of the earth, the healing of the nations, the river comes from the middle of the temple—the place of sacrifice. And that is where all these blessings flow. And, of course, Revelation picks up on that. The lamb at the center of the city is the source of the blessing of life for the city.

Nancy Guthrie
And you’re speaking of the last chapters of Ezekiel, right? Beginning in Ezekiel 40.

Andrew Sachs
Is it in Ezekiel 47? I always get confused between Ezekiel 43 and 47, but it’s one of those two.

Nancy Guthrie
Near the end, you have this vision of the new temple, or as Greg Beale describes it, “the Garden City Temple,” because Ezekiel uses three kinds of imagery. And we see in Revelation that John does the same thing. He describes the new creation as a garden and as a city—the new Jerusalem—and as a new temple with a “holy of holies” that covers the earth. It’s clear that John that from Ezekiel to describe what the new creation will be like in those terms.

Andrew Sachs
I’ve got the chapter. Ezekiel 47 and it’s an amazing picture because the river goes in the temple and flows into Dead Sea. As the water hits the Dead Sea, the salt water becomes fresh and it teems of many fish. And then he says in verse 12: “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

And then when the tree of life turns up in Revelation 22, it’s on both sides of the river, and it’s leaves are for healing, and it bears its fruit every month. I don’t know much about gardening, Nancy, so I never understood the importance of this until someone explained to me that with fruit trees, you get a crop once a year. So, twelve crops a year. That’s quite a lot of apples. It’s just a beautiful picture. If you didn’t know that it was from Ezekiel, I think you’d still think it was a beautiful picture. It’s not like it’s a special code you have to unlock, but you just see it more beautifully, and it evokes the whole image that Ezekiel had shed, and you get that all over again. I don’t think we want to have the worry that unless I spotted the cross-reference, I wouldn’t have understood it. I don’t think it functions like that. But, with the cross-reference, I just see it more deeply and more beautifully and in more dimensions.

Nancy Guthrie
Maybe, what it helps us with, and not just this passage but so many of them, is that it has been so deeply ingrained in so many of us. . . I don’t know if it’s the same in the UK as it is for those of us in the United States. But, there is such an impulse because of the kind of teaching we’ve had on Revelation, that our first instinct is to look at modern history to help us understand the imagery that we see in Revelation. We’re looking in the newspaper or in the news to try and figure out what it represents. So, I think the most significant thing here is, No, we are not looking around at the newspaper or in the news for some sort of correspondence. We’re looking where John was looking, or where he was getting these things from which was Old Testament imagery. And that helps us locate it in the right place, therefore to think rightly about it.

Andrew Sachs
Yeah, I mean, Revelation is a vision that John receives but it’s also a letter that John sends on Jesus’s behalf to the seven churches. Write what you see and send it to the seven churches. I think in some ways, we should read it like we read any other letter in the New Testament. Ephesians was written to the church in Ephesus in the first Century. Revelation was writtten to the church in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea in the first Century. So, it’s be very odd if it had a meaning that only made sense in the 21st Century that would’ve been inaccessible to people living in Ephesus when they received the letter. It was a letter to them. It’s a letter to us as well, because He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The Spirit continues to speak these things to every church, but it must make sense to that church.

Nancy Guthrie
So, we haven’t gotten yet to the book that sometimes seems to be the most vivid in John’s imagination, and that is the book of Daniel—especially Daniel 7, 10, and 12. So, tell us what you think about John’s dependence on the book of Daniel. Why that book?

Andrew Sachs
So, Greg Beale in his commentary, helps with the clue to Daniel in chapter 1, verse 1 when John talks about the things that must soon take place. And that could be an allusion to Daniel 2:28-29. Even from the frist verse of Revelation, if you know Daniel, you’ve got ears to hear the echo. You think, Maybe this could be important. And then, as I say, in the end of Revelation 1, he turns to see the voice that is speaking to him, and he gets this Daniel 7 vision. Again, it makes our point from Ezekiel that this is not exact. So, if you go through the description in Daniel 7, the Son of Man, the Divine Messiah comes before the Ancient of Days and is given glory, dominion, and the kingdom—that all people and nations should serve him. And there’s a description in Daniel 7 of the Ancient of Days. And there’s a description of the Son of Man. And in John’s revelation, he slightly mixes them together. He sees the vision of the Son of Man, but then in Revelation 1:14, the hairs of his head were white like wool. That’s what the Ancient of Days looks like. So, he’s got two different characters in Daniel, and then kind of combines them, or at least mixes the characteristics. He’s not being exact. I think it’s deliberate because he’s saying the Son of Man who becomes the Ancient of Days is so God-like as to share the very attributes of God. It’s the Doctrine of the Trinity. There’s two characters here: the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man, and yet, they are kind of one. So, I think it’s a little glimpse into the Trinity there. But, Daniel 7. Once you realize it’s important for the whole of the New Testament: the Son of Man coming with the clouds.

Nancy Guthrie
Yeah, that little phrase. It makes me think of when Jesus used that phrase as a signal of saying Remember what you’ve been anticipating and what Daniel wrote about. I’m the one! It’s happening here! And John picks it up as well.

Andrew Sachs
There’s a lot of debate about whether this refers to Jesus’s ascension or to Jesus’s return. So, the passage where Jesus talks about coming with the clouds, does it mean. . . It’s made more tricky for us because in Greek, the word for coming and the word for going is the same word. So, is he coming with clouds or is he going with the clouds? I think it’s both, actually, because Jesus ascends at the Ascenion and the clouds hide him from sight. He ascends from earth to the Ancient of Days to sit on the throne of his father. It’s an Ascension to his throne of judgement. But, also, he’s going to return, and I love that bit in Acts where they look up into the sky and they get the question, Brothers, why are you looking up into the sky? This Lord Jesus, he was taken up from you into heaven, and will return in the same way that you saw him go. So, I think that Jesus ascends with the clouds and will return with the clouds, but he goes to his place of enthronement and then will return at the end of the ages. So, you realize this is from Daniel 7. You start reading Daniel 7. And this is what I’d encourage everyone to do with these allusions. Don’t just pick out the cross-reference verse, but read the whole cross-reference chapter. So, you read the whole of Daniel 7. And I was amazed when I did this. I thought, Wow. This is almost the whole plot of the book of Revelation. It’s not just that Jesus ascends to the Ancient of Days and is given authority to judge over the nations. That takes you up until Daniel 7:14. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away. His kingdom, one that shall not be destroyed.” You get that part, and then, you suddenly discover that there’s a beast that is still rampaging, even through Jesus is already enthroned, this fourth beast with teeth of iron and claws of bronze that devours and breaks in pieces and stamped on what’s left. It makes war against God’s people. We tend to divide the world into the time before Jesus conquers and the time after Jesus conquers. So, it’s chaos now and then Jesus wins victory. But, in Revelation, as in Daniel 7, it goes Jesus wins victory. And then it’s chaos. And then victory is finally realized. And I think that is the key to understanding the timeline according to Revelation. It’s the same as the timeline according to Daniel. Jesus is ascended and enthroned, but evil is still allowed to rampage over the world. Daniel 7:21: The horn made war with the world and prevailed over them. That’s just the strange paradox of the church, isn’t it? You’re thinking, I thought we were supposed to be on the winning side? Why is the church being defeated all the time in the world today? I thought we were meant to be winning. And then you realize in Daniel that this was the plan. Jesus has already won, but he allows this time of the beast to rampage and to trample the church until the end when final vindication comes. And I think that’s exactly where the church in Revelation is. I think it’s exactly where the church today is. Jesus reigning, but we’re being trampled.

Nancy Guthrie
That actually seems to be at the very heart of the message of the book of Revelation.We think of who it is written to. It’s written to people in the first Century who are experiencing persecution and are being put to death. And of course, we know that throughout history, and as you said, even in our day, in fact very much in our day—though we in the West may be far removed from it—those who declare and live out an allegiance to Christ in various parts of the world are being put to death for it.

Andrew Sachs
We’re in this interval between. Almost everthing is complete and yet we’re waiting for something. And the way that’s captured in Revelation. . . It’s the question of how the seals were opened of How long, O Lord, before you will avenge us? There’s this wait in the seals. But, also, then the delay before the last one. So, you get six seals are opened, and then you get a massive delay of the whole of chapter seven, and then the seventh seal is opened. And then you get the same with the trumpets. You get six trumpets are blown and then a massive delay at the whole of chapters 10 and 11, and then the seventh trumpet. It’s almost as if you go [makes trumpet blowing noise six times] and then you’re waiting for two chapters before the final [trumpet noise]. We’re in this waiting-for-it-all-to-be wrapped up, all-to-be-completed time. And the question is Why is God delaying? What are we supposed to do while we’re waiting? And I love this, because in chapter 11, in the middle of this interval before the last trumpet, he talks about the way in which God’s two witnesses are killed and people would rejoice over their death. And it’s a terrible picture of how people hate the gospel. And they’re trampled and there’s a party. The people of the earth will make merry and exchange gifts once these two evangelists have died, but then, amazingly in 11:13, the rest of the people were terrified and gave glory to th God of heaven. And I think the point is God’s waiting, and there’s this period where the church is trampled, but the church continues to bear witness to the gospel. In martyrdom and in witness, people will turn to the Lord. And, that’s where we’re left here. It’s actually specifically when people continue to witness to Jesus despite the persecution—that’s the key that brings others in. I think that’s why God is waiting. He hasn’t finished doing that yet. He hasn’t finished the gathering in of his people, and then when he has, the final trumpet, the rejoicing, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Nancy Guthrie
I love the way the gospel is interwoven in that passage. It’s speaks to those who, in John’s day as well as our day, are, in a sense, being trampled. It presents it in a way that shows us there was one who—before us—was trampled, and that is Christ himself. And it presents those being trampled in the same sense as Jesus: dead for three days and them they arise. It’s such a beautiful picture of hope. Yes! Just as Christ suffered, you can expect to suffer. But, there’s also this gospel hope that just as he was raised, so you will be raised. And so, give out the gospel. Take hold of this solid hope because this day of resurrection is coming.

Andrew Sachs
After three and half days of breath of life, and God entered them, and they stood upon their feet. Yeah. The resurrection of believers like the resurrection of the Son. Interesting, even that is from Ezekiel. So the breath of life entering them and them standing to their feet is almost a direct quote from Ezekiel and yet today, it’s seen as it’s fulfilled in the Lord Jesus: and the breath of life entered him and he stood on his feet. The resurrection.

Nancy Guthrie
Well, Andrew, thank you so uch for walking us through these Old Testament passages that help us to understand Revelation. Perhaps we could close this way. Having taught through Revelation, lots of people have lots of ideas about what the book of Revelation is all about and what it’s message is for us today. So, I wonder, have you come up with a way to summarize it? Let’s just say you’re on an elevator, and you have just a few floors, and they ask What is Revelation all about? What’s your answer?

Andrew Sachs
I would say Jesus has conquered evil and he rules over the universe and yet, evil—though defeated—has not yet been destroyed. And, all of the forces of evil are targeted against God’s church, but one day, as Jesus returns, it will be destroyed.

Nancy Guthrie
Such a great hope to hold onto today, isn’t it?

Andrew Sachs
It is. And the more so, the more we suffer I think. It’s amazing that the passages of the Bible that say the most about God being in charge, and most about the severity of his judgement are the books of the Bible written to people who are having a hard time. Now, God is ruling. God will vindicate you. God will bring justice, so just hold on. Those words to the church in Philadelphia who were just really struggling. Just hold on to what you have. Keep going.

Nancy Guthrie
Thank you so much, Andrew. I appreciate you giving us your time and insight.

Andrew Sachs
Thanks very much, Nancy.

Nancy Guthrie
This has been The Blessed Podcast, a Crossway Podcast, hosted by Nancy Guthrie, the author of Blessed: Experiencing the Promise of the Book of Revelation. I hope you’ll join me for the next episode of The Blessed Podcast as we seek to hear and keep what is written in the book of Revelation, and thereby experience it’s promised blessedness.



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Introducing the Blessed Podcast with Nancy Guthrie

In this new podcast, Nancy Guthrie—author, Bible teacher, and podcast host—leads listeners to a deeper understanding of the book of Revelation through conversations with respected Bible scholars, pastors, and other Bible teachers.


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