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How Does Revelation Fit With The Old Testament?

150 150 Paul Luna
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By The Village Church

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth in order to tell a story. Over the course of millenia, He would reveal pieces of this story to His people, until finally, He reached the end. The book of Revelation is the culmination of a grand narrative that begins in Genesis and continues throughout the Scriptures, so it’s no wonder that John’s account is filled with hundreds of Old Testament allusions.

An allusion is a literary device used by an author to call something to a reader’s mind without mentioning it directly. It’s a roundabout reference to something the reader should be familiar with, driving home a point by associating the original story or image with a new one.

Allusions to the Old Testament are so frequent in Revelation that an understanding of them is necessary to comprehend its message. First-century Christians reading John’s letter for the first time were so steeped in the Old Testament that his words would have held immediate meaning for them. For us, that familiarity is often missing. While John borrows language and images from across the Bible in his writing, six books hold particular importance in Revelation.

The first book in the Bible is alluded to frequently in Revelation. In his visions, John witnesses both the dissolution of the created order and its final realization in the new heavens and new earth.

The plagues in the book of Exodus inspire much of the imagery used in Revelation. Both books also present a strong theme of the liberation of God’s people from oppressive rule.

In Revelation 4–5, John sees a vision of God’s heavenly throne, and the language he uses is heavily influenced by the book of Isaiah. The “new heavens and new earth” is a phrase taken directly from Isaiah 65.

Like Isaiah, the words of the prophet Ezekiel also influence John’s view of the throne of God. In addition, John models his account of the final battle and judgment on several chapters of Ezekiel (37–48).

Crucial imagery in Revelation comes by way of the prophet Zechariah, such as the four horsemen and the lampstands. Although most of the Old Testament references in the book are allusions, John does use a direct line from Zechariah in his opening chapter (Rev. 1:7).

The book of Daniel is highly influential on John’s Revelation. Chapters 4–5 draw on it, and the theme of faithful witness in the midst of persecution parallels the story of Daniel. The beasts described in Daniel 7 and their subsequent defeat are revisited by John in his visions.


Paul Luna

Paul Luna is a pastor, husband & father of four in Oregon. He's passionate about faith, family, & community, he enjoys painting, hiking, & tech.

All stories by: Paul Luna