Summary: Learn how to understand and interpret the book, the themes, purpose, main character, culture and other tools in unveiling this book of unveilings.
Put the words "Book of Revelation" into Google and you get 12,000,000 web pages. Yes, that’s 12 MILLION. Without a doubt, this final book of the Bible generates an intense amount of interest, excitement, confusion, and controversy. Much ink has been spilled in attempts to understand and explain Revelation - not "Revelations" by the way - its one big revelation. Approaches in how to interpret the book have split Christians into several camps - and sometimes into bitter rivalries that seem to find no middle ground.
Is it literal? Is it purely symbolic? Is it only historical? Are there clues hidden there to figuring out today the identity of end-times figures like the Anti-Christ? How do we make sense of the bowls and trumpets and seals and beasts and harlots and dragons and horns and all the other weird things John sees?
If you simply read the book from cover to cover you find many more questions than answers - and this leads many people to simply give up and never even crack its pages - the gold leaf still sticks on the edges of the pages as they venture to the far reaches of God’s Word. For others, the pages of the Book of the Revelation are dog-eared with use. They treat it more like a calendar - eager to read present day events into the pages of the book - then take out an eraser when dates pass and events don’t pan out like they thought - and so they too get frustrated.
So is our study of this book even worth it? Absolutely. The Book of the Revelation is not as mysterious as some think, nor is it designed to accomplish things that some want it to. During these next many weeks we will take the book verse by verse - sometimes going more slowly to explain difficult sections, and sometimes more quickly as events unfold.
It’s a book of hope - that justice and salvation prevail. It’s also a book of warning - that justice (God’s justice) and salvation (God’s salvation through Jesus) prevail.
So what are some things that we need to understand?
1. The type of literature genre of the Book of the Revelation
2. Methods of interpreting Revelation
3. The underlying focus of the book
4. The themes
5. The structure of the book
6. The culture into which it was written
7. Interpretive tools for each part of the book (vision, epistle, apocalyptic, prophecy, exhortation)
8. A Quick Flyover
1. What is Revelation?
The Book of the Revelation falls under a particular type of literature. If you don’t understand this then the entire thing will just confuse you. Revelation is a genre of literature known as Apocalyptic. Apocalyptic mans "unveiling" - like taking a shroud off of a statue.
There are several books in the Bible that are apocalyptic - including Daniel, Zechariah, and Ezekiel. Apocalyptic literature has at least two characteristics:
1. It tells the future. Some say Revelation is a fairy tale - couldn’t be future. But Daniels’ prophecies came true in the highest detail - so much so that later some doubted that Daniel was real because it is so accurate.
2. It uses dramatic, powerful, symbolic language. Storms, insects, earth opening, moon turning to blood. It was not all that confusing to those that read it - they were used to the images of apocalyptic literature. But it’s important to remember that the symbols represent something real. Often these symbols are given so that the person seeing them has some frame of reference in which to write. These symbols are also consistent among the apocalyptic books. In other words: beasts in Daniel and beasts in Revelation mean the same thing symbolically.