As Hills continues to make our way through the often perplexing book of Revelation, it may be helpful to consider some examples of the interpretive principle which Pastor Martin is often referring to and using: scripture interpreting scripture. In short, this means using one part (or more) of the Bible to assist your understanding of another passage. Let me give two examples. The first will be pretty straightforward. The second is a little more abstract.
Look at Revelation 1:12.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands . . .
There are a couple of key questions to ask of this verse.
- What are the seven golden lampstands? Answer? This one is easy. Look at Revelation 1:20. The seven lampstands are the seven churches. The answer is given to the reader later in the same passage.
- Where else in scripture do we find golden lampstands? An interesting place to start might be Numbers 8. From there you can ask questions like; What did the lampstand do in the tabernacle? What purpose did it serve? How does understanding this help illuminate the imagery in Revelation 1? And so on. Let other passages of scripture help you interpret and understand scripture.
A second, but different, example could be Hebrews 5:5-10.
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
What is this story with the “order of Melchizedek” business? That’s what I still ask. I always just ask the question, though, and never dig any further. So where do you start? Well one place would be to find what passages the writer of Hebrews is quoting; Psalm 110, and Psalm 2. Then check who on earth Melchizedek is; look at Genesis 14. There, Abram is met by a gentleman called Melchizedek, who is the king of Salem (later known as Jerusalem) and was “priest of God Most High.” He “brought out bread and wine” to meet with Abram. Who else do you know of who is king of Jerusalem, priest of God, and deals in bread and wine? Jesus. And off you go!
All of those little details which previously befuddled you are actually clues by which you can dig further into God’s amazing scriptures. All of those symbols which we usually assume mean very little to us 21st century types turn out to be invested with meaning, and the meaning can be found in other parts of scripture. I’m not suggesting that I, or anyone else, can fully understand the depths of each detail in the Bible. I reckon we should have make an effort to, though, because he’s given us more to go on than we usually realise.
Thanks Simon. Couldn’t agree more of course! I want to point out however that a great resource – a MUST really – is to have a cross-reference Bible. The cross-reference system in the middle column of the page allows you to look up those references as we let Scripture interpret Scripture.
An important point, Martin. Thankfully, people have done some of the hard work for us.