In order to properly interpret Revelation, we must be able to base our study on sound Biblical principles. Revelation can be understood by following the Old Testament patterns that were established by God in Old Testament times. Many of the literal, physical people, places and events found in the Old Testament were patterns of spiritual things to come in the Christian age. A portion of the Old Testament pattern can be illustrated by the above drawing, which compares the “physical” events in the Old Testament with “spiritual” events that take place during this present Christian dispensation. This parallel comparison of Israel and the church allows us to unlock many of the symbols used in Revelation. We will briefly discuss the parallels in the drawing in order to understand how this works and then use this pattern in following lessons to interpret Revelation. This pattern is based on the travels of the nation of Israel from the time of their bondage in the land of Egypt until they crossed over the Jordan River into their promised land of Canaan. This pattern was followed by Christ when he came into this world to deliver mankind from the bondage of sin. In the drawing above, the top line illustrates the “physical” pattern God established in the Old Testament by the travels of the 12 tribes of Israel. The bottom line then shows the “spiritual” parallel Christians follow in this present Christian dispensation. In this short lesson, we will give a brief discussion of each of the parallels illustrated in the drawing. A more thorough explanation of this pattern can be found in our book titled “Eden To Eden.”
Physical Bondage – Spiritual Bondage
The top line of the parallel pattern begins with the nation of Israel being in slavery, or bondage, in Egypt. God had promised Abraham that he would make him the father of a great nation. This promise began to be fulfilled when Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (Israel), was forced to take his family to Egypt because of a famine in the land. Jacob’s son, Joseph, had been sold into slavery, but because of his great power to interpret dreams, he had risen to become a ruler in Egypt. Joseph did many great deeds in Egypt, but as time passed, the Pharaohs forgot the deeds of Joseph. The Hebrew people began to increase greatly in number and the rulers in Egypt began to fear that they would soon outnumber their own people, so they forced the Hebrew people to become slaves in hopes of controlling their numbers. However, their population continued to increase, so the taskmasters made them work even harder as slaves. When this also failed, Pharaoh ordered that all male children of the Hebrew women were to be killed. The Israelite people found themselves in great physical tribulation. They were in physical bondage as slaves and needed someone to deliver them.
On the bottom line of the drawing, the corresponding parallel is that all mankind was in “spiritual” bondage, the bondage of sin, when Jesus came to this world the first time. In John 8:32-34, Jesus says to the disciples, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered him by saying, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” Jesus answered them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” Since everyone had sinned (Rom. 3:23), when Jesus came to this earth, everyone was in the bondage of sin.
Therefore, the parallel is: The Hebrew people were in the physical bondage of slavery in Egypt, and all mankind was in the spiritual bondage of sin when Christ came to this earth. This also helps us understand what a terrible situation it is to be in the bondage of sin. It is comparable to the physical bondage of slavery. The greatest spiritual tribulation that one can experience is being in the bondage of sin.
Red Sea – Blood of Christ
The next step in the physical pattern is the crossing of the Red Sea. The Hebrew people were in great physical bondage in Egypt and needed someone to deliver them. God spoke to Moses through the burning bush and told him that he would be the one to lead the people out of Egypt. He led the people to the banks of the Red Sea as God directed. God parted the waters of the Red Sea and the people crossed over into the wilderness on dry land leaving their bondage behind. The Red Sea was the dividing line between the tribulations of physical bondage of slavery in Egypt and freedom in the wilderness.
The great “spiritual” parallel comparison to Moses delivering Israel out of physical bondage is God sending his son, Jesus, into the world to provide a way for all mankind to be delivered from the “spiritual bondage of sin.” Jesus created a Red Sea for mankind to cross as he shed his blood on the cross. Even the name of the Red Sea has symbolic significance since the color red is symbolic of blood. Man can escape the bondage of sin today by crossing the red sea of the blood of Christ through baptism. We leave the great “spiritual tribulations” of bondage and slavery to sin behind and cross over to freedom from sin into the church.
Mount Sinai – Mount Zion
After the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, they headed for mount Sinai. It was at this place where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments which, along with many ordinances, became known as the law of Moses. This was the law the Israelites were to follow in order to be acceptable to God.
The “spiritual” parallel of this great event in the history of the Israelite nation was the giving of the gospel on mount Zion by our Lord. Micah 4:2 states, “And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” The gospel, or the law of Christ, was given on “spiritual” mount Zion. This is the law which Christians must follow today in order to be acceptable in the sight of God. (Please see the following lesson for a full discussion of mount Sinai as it symbolizes spiritual mount Zion.)
Physical Wilderness – Spiritual Wilderness
The next step in the “physical” pattern in the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness. After receiving the law on mount Sinai, the people of Israel headed to their promised land of Canaan. When they reached the promised land, they were forbidden to enter because of their lack of trust in the Lord to give them the land. Therefore, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years before they could enter Canaan. During this period of time, God cared for his people. He fed them manna and quail and provided water for them to drink.
The church is wandering in the “spiritual” wilderness of the world today as we await our promised land of Heaven. The gospel was given on mount Zion on the day of Pentecost and the church was established. The spiritual nation of God, the church, is dwelling in this world surrounded by sin. God is caring for the spiritual needs of his people today as Christians are being fed “spiritual” manna and water, which is his word. The period of time in Revelation which parallels the forty years of wandering in the wilderness is the 1000 years in chapter 20, which is the period of time God’s people live with Him in his church while on this earth.
Jordan River – Second Coming of Christ
In order to enter the promised land of Canaan, the Israelites had to cross the Jordan River. This was the dividing line between a land of sufferings and hardship to a land of plenty. Canaan was the promised land of the children of Israel.
In order for the church to enter the promised land of Heaven, it must pass from this world into the next at the second coming of Christ. The second coming of Christ is the dividing line between a land of trials and work and a land of rest and plenty. Heaven is the promised land for Christians.
Promised Land of Canaan – Promised Land of Heaven
The land of Canaan is described as a land flowing with milk and honey. It was the land that God promised to the descendants of Abraham. Only those who had been faithful to God in the wilderness were allowed to cross Jordan.
God has promised his people, Christians, a beautiful land of rest from our labors. Only those who are faithful to God during our lives in this world will be taken home to heaven when Christ comes again.
God’s Pattern for Individuals
It should also be pointed out at this time that every individual must also follow this pattern if they want to be acceptable to God.
1. Everyone who has not obeyed the gospel of Christ is in the bondage of sin.
2. In order to leave the bondage of sin, one must cross the Red Sea of the blood of Christ by passing through the waters of baptism.
3. When we come up out of these waters, we come to mount Zion which is the church. See Heb. 12:22.
4. We must remain faithful to God as we live our lives in the wilderness of this world surrounded by sin. We live and reign with Christ during this period of time.
5. The crossing of the Jordan River represents the death of our physical bodies and entrance into that spiritual realm.
6. We will enter our promised land of Heaven if we have been faithful on this earth.