I’m currently in the “last days” of teaching a bible study on the book of Revelation. I started the study somewhat hesitantly, knowing there are many wild interpretations of difficult passages. However, throughout the study, I’ve been constantly encouraged and blessed by the truths of God’s Word.
Many believers avoid Revelation because they find it difficult to understand. I certainly understand, but I want to encourage God’s people to take the time to mine the depths of this God-inspired book. I thought I’d share some guiding principles that have helped me in my study. Hopefully, these will take away some of the intimidation and encourage you to read Revelation. Here are three things to remember when studying Revelation:
Let Scripture Interpret Scripture
As with any book of the Bible, we must use Scripture to interpret Scripture. This book is filled with symbolic imagery, and we can understand the meaning of this imagery by looking at the rest of the Scripture. Almost ALL of the imagery used in Revelation is used elsewhere in Scripture.
We all know there are some far-fetched interpretations of Revelation out there, but let us remember to use Scripture to help us understand the symbolism rather than the latest news headlines. The goal isn’t to come up with the most creative and sensational interpretation but to understand the passage as the Lord meant it to be understood. Oftentimes, looking back to the Old Testament, where a similar image was used, can help us interpret what God intends to communicate.
Remember, it’s a Book Written for All God’s People Across the Church Age
Revelation provides an overview of what God’s people will face in the last days. We must understand that it’s not just the last few years of history but the last days as defined by Scripture: the time between the first and second coming of Christ. Sometimes people assume the passage only has meaning for the final seven years of history and therefore miss all that God has for his people right now.
Some of John’s original audience faced difficulty and persecution. This book was written to point them to Christ and give them hope. Others had become indifferent; this book is meant to awaken them to the spiritual realities around them through symbolism and vivid language.
Revelation meant something to its original audience, and it means something to all believers across the church age. Let’s not interpret it in a way that would ONLY make sense or have any meaning in our time. If you come up with an interpretation that wouldn’t make sense to John’s audience, perhaps you’ve misunderstood it.
It’s Meant to be an Encouragement to Persevere in the Faith
The point of the book is to provide hope and encouragement to persevere. It discusses dark, scary realities, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. However, the main idea is that God’s people win despite overwhelming odds because victory is secure in Christ. If you read or hear a message in the book of Revelation, you should leave encouraged. If you leave feeling hopeless or afraid, you’ve missed the book’s point.
Let these three principles guide you to read and study God’s Word in the book of Revelation. Rather than treating Revelation like a secret codebook, read it as a Spirit-inspired letter to believers and let God encourage your heart through our tumultuous times.