If I mention to anyone the numbers “9-11,” they will understand me. I don’t need to retell the story of airplanes crashing into New York’s Twin Towers. With just two numbers, the entire context of that day leaps to mind. Stories from our childhood function the same way. For example, in the United States of America I can say, “The wolf huffed and he puffed,” and everyone will instantly recognize the children’s story of the three little pigs. This phenomenon is allusion, in which a word or phrase calls to mind an entire context.
In the same way, the book of Revelation uses allusions hundreds—even thousands—of times. With just a word or phrase, Revelation assumes that readers will understand a larger context. But the stories that Revelation alludes to are not children’s fairytales. Revelation uses the Old Testament as the background for its allusions. Therefore, the better you know your Bible, the more you will recognize what Revelation is trying to communicate.
The fact is that you cannot study Revelation deeply without recognizing how often Revelation alludes to Old Testament stories. Indeed, Revelation cannot be interpreted accurately at all unless the Old Testament does the interpreting. Therefore, anyone who wants to understand Revelation for himself or herself—not to mention teach it to others—must possess a strong knowledge of the Bible, and especially of the Old Testament.
This is why I have been studying Old Testament books with Revelation specifically in view. One such book is Isaiah, which Revelation often alludes to. I set myself the task of working carefully through every phrase of Isaiah in order to identify instances where Revelation alludes to the Old Testament prophet’s writing. The result is chronicled in my book, A Simple Guide to the Book of Isaiah: How Isaiah Informs Our Understanding of End Times.
Here are some examples of what I discovered: The first chapter of Isaiah describes Jerusalem becoming a prostitute, which parallels Revelation 11:2–8 and also informs our understanding of Revelation 12 and 17. If a person is interested in understanding the symbols found in those chapters of Revelation, the first chapter of Isaiah is a great place to start interpreting these symbols.
Another example, among hundreds, is found in Isaiah 2. If you want to understand more of Revelation’s imagery about the second coming, some of the language of Isaiah 2 will help.
Nearly every chapter of Isaiah can help inform us about some detail of Revelation. To help organize the information, a lengthy index at the end of A Simple Guide to Isaiah lists in detail all the connections I was able to find for how Isaiah interfaces with other Bible prophecies, and Revelation in particular.
A Simple Guide to the Book of Isaiah is best used alongside two Bibles—one open to Isaiah and the other open to Revelation. At the end of each of the sixty-six chapters of Isaiah that are explored in this book, study questions will guide your search of the text to identify key points of the chapter and direct your attention to connections to Revelation. Not every part of Isaiah provides specific insight into Revelation, so as a bonus, those chapters without allusions in Revelation are discussed to shed more light on the world and times of the prophet and the thinking of the Jewish people.
This book builds heavily on its companion book, A Simple Guide to the Book of Revelation, and I recommend studying that book first before this book on Isaiah. You will find that background helpful.
A Simple Guide to the Book of Isaiah is available at the lowest price from Skapto.org or by calling (240) 381-4513 to order, but the book is also available at many Adventist Book Centers around the United States and online from Amazon.com. Internationally, the book is available in English in digital format from Skapto.org or through Amazon.com and Apple Books.
Jeff Scoggins is Global Mission Planning Director at the General Conference World Headquarters in Silver Spring, MD, USA.