The book of Revelation is a tough book to read. It is full of strange and often scary imagery, confusing numbers, time references, and much more. However, with just a few tips for understanding certain confusing elements, the book opens up as an important and helpful book for Christians. When God started leading me to write on Daniel and Revelation, I really didn’t want to do either one of them, they are such tough books; but I praise God for His leading. I have finished Daniel and God opened up so many truths in Daniel and I know that this is going to happen as we study Revelation. We need to look at a few things before we get deep into Revelation.
One of the first things that help us understand the book is understanding what kind of book it is. John tells us in the opening chapter that what he has written is a prophecy from Jesus. John tells us that if we read the book, we will be blessed. The fact that John was in the Spirit and that God says to him to write what you see, both points to the fact that what John is writing is direct revelation from God communicated through visions, making the book visionary prophecy (Rev. 22:16). As with the other visions, like Joseph’s dreams for instance (Gen. 37:1-11), much of what John sees is strange and needs interpretation. Because Revelation is a vision, it is full of symbolism. Revelation often has references to symbolism from other prophecies and visions, like the visions of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. Some things in the visions are symbolic and interpreted within the vision, such as the lampstands representing the churches (Rev. 1:20). Other things in the vision are simply accessories, like in a dream. To understand what is symbolic and what isn’t, a good rule of thumb is looking for what the thing does within the vision: if the thing accomplishes something, it usually symbolizes something that relates to real life. Sometimes the text interprets the symbolism for you, and sometimes the symbolism relates to something from the Old Testament, but most of the characters described in Revelation are doing something. That way you know they are important. Continued in next Bible Study.