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Understanding the
Book of Revelation

"Revelation is the most difficult book of the Bible to understand."

 

This is certainly true if one measures difficulty in terms of disagreement over what the book means. Disagreements over the meaning of Revelation have divided Christians into a number of different “eschatological camps”.  

 

So much disagreement, even among well-respected theologians, can have a discouraging effect. How can the average reader of Revelation hope to understand things that are difficult for theologians?

On the other hand, the book of Revelation was given to us by God, through John, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The opening paragraph declares:

 

“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants

what must soon take place“....

 

"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy,

and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.“

Since this book conveys an important message from God to His Servants, a proper understanding of Revelation must be reasonably within our grasp... and accessible to us... provided that we go about it properly and prayerfully.

A Proposal for Proper Interpretation of Revelation:

Below are some principles of interpretation that I believe we should adopt in order to understand Revelation. These principles outline the approach used to develop the content of the website, Revelationlogic.com.

Have a good working knowledge of the Old Testament – God requires His Servants to be familiar with what He wrote in earlier books.  In mathematics, you cannot expect to pick up a book on calculus and understand it if you have not first read the prerequisite books -- such as algebra and trigonometry.  In the same manner, the other books of the Bible are prerequisite material for understanding its final book.

Pay attention to the structure of Revelation – The Book of Revelation is easily the most structured book in the Bible, and this structure provides important context for the passages within.  It is very important to discern the structure in order to understand the correct timeline of the events described.

Revelation is meant to be understood – This is perhaps the most overlooked principle... and yet one of the most important. This means that we must seek an interpretation which would be reasonably within the grasp of any of God’s Servants (Rev 1:1). The proper understanding should be based simply on scripture and reason -- not on invention or imagination. If there is a choice between a simple explanation that works, or a complex explanation that works, favor the simple one.  

Know the significance of the number Seven  – The number Seven occurs 55 times in Revelation, which is more often than any other book of the Bible.  We see the number Seven applied in a various places throughout the book. This is not just a strange coincidence. The number Seven carries the meaning of wholeness. The implied meaning of wholeness must not be overlooked, because it is an important guide for understanding the meaning and scope of things associated with Seven.

Apply standard, solid, proven methods of interpretation – Sometimes it seems that well-meaning Christians take more liberties when interpreting Revelation, than with other books in the Bible.

 

Simply put:

  • We should pay close attention to context -- which involves local (within the passage), intermediate (within the specific book), and global (within the entire Bible) aspects.

  • We should give priority to the most sensible, face-value, meaning of the passage -- starting with the literal meaning, and moving away from it only if there is justification for doing so.

  • We should seek consistency with other scripture -- which means that we should seek an understanding that “fits” all applicable scripture on a given subject.

  • We should interpret with an understanding of the Jewish culture and history, and with a knowledge of the signs and symbols found throughout the Old Testament.

These methods will hopefully produce an interpretation that emerges as the best and most reasonable.

 

In some cases, there is room for disagreement.  Translations and commentaries by qualified Biblical scholars provide useful information regarding how to interpret the more challenging passages.

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