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How Can I Understand the Book of Revelation

Introduction
As we get into the final events at the end of time, we will be reading the book of Revelation.  It is said that you must be crazy to read it or you will be crazy after you read it.  The very name of the book “Revelation” means a revealing.  Revelation 1:1 identifies the book as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:”  It can’t get much clearer than that.  This book  is a revealing of Jesus Christ of all the things that are soon going to happen and He gave it to John to tell us.  Look at all the details God has given us in what we have studied so far.  He really wants us to know who He is and what are His plans. Jer 29:11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  12  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14  And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
 

Before We Start

Dear Jesus.  Thank you for teaching us your word.  We also thank you for your Holy Spirit which gives us understanding.  Teach us as we study your word. Amen.
 

Problems in Interpreting the Book of Revelation

The first time student picking up the book of Revelation will try to read it and then give up because it doesn’t seem to make sense.  If you try to read it as you would any other book, it doesn’t make sense. First of all, the book of Revelation is not written in sequence.  It covers a topic, then jumps into something else and eventually you’re back to the first topic.. Another problem is that Revelation is written in something called a ‘chiastic’ structure.  What that means is that the climax of the topic is usually found in the middle of the passage.  It’s a little like a mountain.   You start at the bottom, you go up a ways until you hit a little peak, then you come back down a little, then you go back up until you get to the top.  Coming down from the top is the same except reverse.  It’s crazy but that’s how the Greeks liked to write (remember, most of John’s audience read Greek in his day), Another writing technique that John used  was the use of parenthetical statements.  He  puts a small passage into the middle of a thought.  A good example of this is Revelation 20:5.  It sounds like the second resurrection is really the first resurrection. John also uses repetition in his writing.  He uses it all throughout Revelation but a good example is when he writes about the thousand years. He writes about it in different ways to provide different viewpoints based on who he is talking about. He also uses the technique to provide further details about the event.  So sometimes it seems like he is talking about different events when in reality it is the same event from a different viewpoint. Another thing that confuses people is that some things that are written refer to literal events or issues and other items refer to symbolic events or thoughts.  A good example of this is the seven plagues.  The first five plagues are literal and the sixth plague appears to use symbolism.  How can you know which is which?   A good rule of thumb to use is that it appears to be literal, use the literal interpretation.  If the literal interpretation doesn’t  make sense, use the symbolic interpretation. Now that we’ve looked at some of the problems in reading Revelation, let’s look at what will help us understand Revelation.

 

Helps in Interpreting the Book of Revelation

First of all, you need to recognize two very important things: 1. God WANTS us to understand 2. The Bible is a unified book.  It DOES NOT disagree with itself.  There are some areas where it seems to contradict itself but  those are minor issues and do not affect your salvation UNLESS YOU MAKE IT AN ISSUE.  You’ll find some of these in the gospels where two writers describe the same event, differently.. The first item that helps us understand Revelation is the book of Daniel.  These two books go hand in hand.  One complements the other.  The book of Daniel gives us the history of the world from his time to the end.  It is more of an overview of history with details up to the end of the 2,300 day prophecy.  Revelation, starts from the time of John and gives us a lot of detail about the Middle Ages, the kingdom after Pagan Rome and the events at the very end of time. Because the sanctuary services are such an integral part of the plan of salvation, an understanding of the earthly sanctuary services provides a good insight into the workings of the heavenly sanctuary.  It also helps to see how the various types of symbolism found in the sanctuary can also be found in Revelation. Another good source of information is the book of Hebrews.  The first five chapters  get into who Jesus was and chapters 7-10 deal with the heavenly sanctuary. “As it was in the days of Noah”.  The Bible is full of other examples that fit in to the events in Revelation.  For example, the story of the flood is very similar to the end time events.  There was a time of warning, those who believed acted on their beliefs, there was a shut door (the sealing process) and there was destruction.  The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus gives us insight into the sixth plague.  The mount Carmel experience with Elijah also has its counterpart in Revelation.

 

The Arrangement of the Book of Revelation

Revelation is basically divided into two sections with a “hinge” in the middle.  Chapters 1-11 outline the conditions on earth between the 1st century and the Second Coming of Jesus.  Chapter 12 is the “hinge”.  It summarizes the war between God and Satan.  Chapters 13– 22 cover the final events up to the very end.

 

We Skip Parts of Revelation

As we read Revelation about the last time events, you will notice that we don’t review the Seven Churches, the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets.  For the most part, all of these cover the history of the church from John’s day, through the Middle Ages, to the present.  They give the history of the church from spiritual, economical and political viewpoints.  We are living in the time of the seventh church, Laodicea. We will touch on the seventh trumpet and the sixth and seventh seals because they are involved in the final day events. We also skip over events like the French Revolution because we are trying to focus an overall picture of the war between God and Satan and the important events, not every little battle.
 
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