Summary: Some say that prophecy is too difficult or too controversial, However, prophecy leads us to greater worship and understanding of Jesus!
What is Prophecy all about? If your study of prophecy does not lead you to a better understanding and worship for Jesus, then it is all wrong!
The most prophetic book of the Bible tells us that Jesus is the focus point of prophecy.
“Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10, ESV)
JESUS is glorified when we study prophecy and the book of Revelation! So, while some say that prophecy is too difficult or too controversial, a correct study of prophecy will lead us to greater worship and understanding of our Savior!
Some of us shy away from prophecy because there are many things that are HARD to INTERPRET and UNDERSTAND
Robert Thomas, author of an outstanding 2 volume commentary on Revelation wrote, “Revelation is the most Question-provoking book in the NT.”
Revelation is hard to interpret because of the many Symbols. Here are some examples:
1. The candlesticks (1:12)
2. The stars (1:16)
3. The precious stones (4:3; 21:19 20)
4. The horsemen (6:1 8)
5. The locusts (9:3)
6. The measuring rod (11:1)
7. Babylon (17:5)
Revelation is also difficult because of the terrible Judgments that will take place during the Tribulation
1. 8:7. 1/3 of the earth burned
2. 8:8. 1/3 of the sea turned to blood
3. 8:8. 1/3 of the sea creatures killed
4. 8:8. 1/3 of the ships destroyed
5. 8:10. 1/3 of the waters turned bitter
6. 8:12. 1/3 of daylight goes dark
7. 8:15. 1/3 of mankind killed
8. 16:3. Everything in the sea dies
9. 17-18. Destruction of “Babylon”
10. 19-20. Second Coming of Christ/ Armageddon.
There are also Mysteries in the book such as
1. 144,000 (Ch. 7)
2. Battle of Gog/ Magog
3. 2 Witnesses
If we are to correctly interpret Revelation and other prophetic literature, we must have a proper understanding of how to deal with symbols in the Bible. Symbols have meaning. We should not dismiss them or allegorize them into some mystical meaning known only to the interpreter. Augustine and those who follow his interpretive rules create allegory out of symbols in the Bible, and they come up with all kinds of unique and unusual interpretations. But God’s Word should not be left to be interpreted by our hyper imaginations.
To illustrate that symbols have meaning, consider the parables. Jesus talked about wheat and tares, pearls, mustard seeds and lamps. Each of those stories has a clear meaning. If we get caught up in mystical meanings for the mustard seed, the tares or the lamp, we will miss the clear teaching of the parable.
There are generally Four Approaches to Symbols in Revelation
Past (Preterist). Judgment fulfilled in 70
Idealist. Symbols of life and struggle with evil
Historic. Symbolic of Church Age (A-Mill, RC, Reformed)
Futurist (Literal Interpretation)
Only the futurist interpretation takes the Bible literally when it comes to prophecy and the book of Revelation.
Revelation was written in the early 90's during the reign of Domatian.
Irenaeus and early church fathers dated Revelation in the 90's.
John was in exile on Patmos when he wrote it. He makes this clear in Revelation 1:8–9
“I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 1:8–9, ESV)
He was on Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” This means that he was a prisoner because he preached the gospel.
Prior to his exile, John lived in Ephesus . He led the church there. This is one of the seven churches mentioned in this book.
Revelation was written to 7 Churches in Asia minor (modern day Turkey). These were Real churches in 90 AD. Prophetically, these 7 churches accurately 7 consecutive epochs of church history.
The Outline of REVELATION is simple to see, and is clearly stated in chapter 1. “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19, ESV)
This Theme of PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE is consistent in the book for more than just the outline.
God the Father is mentioned in past, present and future terminology.
“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,” (1:4)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”” (Revelation 1:8, ESV)