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Interpreting Scripture with Scripture

Something I am really beginning to understand and appreciate, is the simple concept that we interpret scripture “with scripture.” We don’t need to look outside the Bible to find the answer to something, to allegorize or “spiritualize” some unintended meaning from a text. Instead, look to the Bible itself, and so often one passage can be explained, or understood more clearly, by looking at similar passages elsewhere in scripture.

Jim McClarty said something similar, specifically in connection with Revelation, in his eschatology series message #108 — that all of the symbolic imagery and figures used in Revelation can be found elsewhere in the Bible, either directly or alluded to elsewhere in scripture, and explained. How true this is, and so amazing! For just a sampling of things I’ve learned through further study on this subject:

  • Revelation 9 — the locust army of Revelation 9, the fifth trumpet, has a parallel in Joel 2.
  • Revelation 12 — The woman crowned with the sun, moon and 12 stars relates back to Genesis 37, Joseph’s dream in which the sun, moon and 11 stars bowed down to him; his father Jacob interpreted it, as “your father and mother and brothers” and so we understand that the woman represents Israel
  • Revelation 20 — The description here, of what happens at the end of the thousand years, including the reference to Gog and Magog, fits perfectly with Ezekiel 38 and 39.
  • Revelation 6 and 9 — The golden altar in heaven is the parallel (the real thing) to the golden incense altar in the Mosaic tabernacle and temple. This was the altar of incense, representing prayers and our access to God — always in connection with the brazen altar of burnt sacrifices. In Revelation 6, the fifth seal has the souls under the altar, and their prayers for vengeance going up to God. Then in Revelation 9 the golden altar represents God’s vengeance, in the sixth trumpet judgement.
  • The plagues described in Revelation remind us of similar plagues done to Egypt
  • Rev. 14:19-20 — the great wine press of the wrath of God, has its parallel in Joel 3:9-15. Zechariah 14:1-9 also describes similar events of Armageddon, the Day of the Lord

Interpreting scripture with scripture is not limited to prophecy, though in this area it is especially helpful. I see how very true it is that Revelation is a Jewish book, literally filled with many Old Testament references to help explain it, references which those who know their Old Testament can understand.

It is exciting to see it all unfold, how Bible verses in one place relate to other parts of scripture and reveal new details in God’s word. The Bible is such a great treasure, God’s word to us, with so much in it that we can always keep learning and studying it, always growing in our understanding.

Here, too, I appreciate the great cross-referencing Bible reading plan from Professor Horner. Daily reading from different sections of the Bible, and always in different combinations of readings, is a great way to let scripture interpret scripture, bringing things to mind that we might not have thought about. I mentioned some of these “connections” in my last blog–similarities between Joshua and Peter, for instance, or the connection between Acts 5 (an actual event of people suffering for the name of Christ) and Romans 5 (the doctrinal background, suffering produces perseverance).

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