Articles written by editor to challenge non-Christians and help those in the faith.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keys to understanding the book of Revelation

Before we can understand anything written in the bible we need to honest with ourselves and what is in our own heart. What is there will taint and skew our perception of everything around us including God and His love as shown in Christ, and anything written in the Bible. The fact that we are not perfect is why there are so many opinions regarding everything in this life. The following verses show how and why:

You prove to be loyal to one who is faithful;
you prove to be trustworthy to one who is innocent.
You prove to be reliable to one who is blameless,
but you prove to be deceptive to one who is perverse.
Psalm 18:25,26

The word of the LORD came to me: 12:2 “Son of man, you are living in the midst of a rebellious house. They have eyes to see, but do not see, and ears to hear, but do not hear, because they are a rebellious house.
Ezekiel 12:1

For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:21

I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
Luke 18:17

I show special favour to the humble and contrite, who respect what I have to say.
Isaiah 66:2

Mat 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Interpretation Guidelines

interpret(2) Make sense of; assign a meaning to 
noun  verb (interprets, interpreting, interpreted)
  1. explain the meaning of (words, actions, etc.). Translate orally the words of a person speaking a different language.
  2. perform (a creative work) in a way that conveys one's understanding of the creator's ideas. Understand as having a particular meaning or significance.

The following well known guidelines for interpretation are recommended. Those who apply them will find that they result in a remarkable degree of unity in understanding of the truth, independent of denominational background.

  • The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and He reveals the truth to us. We should therefore always pray for and trust Him for illumination and guidance.
  • Each passage should be considered in its context.The meaning of each passage is in harmony with that of all others. We should therefore compare scripture with scripture, and reject any interpretation which does not meet this criteria. Cross-referencing is very important.
  • Do not form a doctrine on the basis of one verse only.
  • Do not form a doctrine on an emotional basis only. First establish it carefully from the scripture.
  • It is most important to have truth in the heart as well as in the head.
When we read the Bible, our understanding of certain passage may be immediate, while others, such as ‘Revelations’, will take a great deal of effort in cross referencing to understand. It is important to draw understanding from the parallels within the book itself and related scriptures in other books of the Bible and not to read our own ideas into what is there. One of the most difficult problems occurs from our own preconceptions and what others have told us, or movies we seen. It is important to examine what others say in the light of what was actually written.

prophecy(1) noun (plural prophecies) a prediction. The faculty or practice of prophesying.
revelation(1) noun
  1. a surprising disclosure. The revealing of something previously unknown. A surprising or remarkable thing.
  2. a divine or supernatural disclosure to humans. (Revelation or informal Revelations) (in full the Revelation of St John the Divine) the last book of the New Testament, recounting a divine revelation of the future to St John.
"Apocalypse" is a Greek word meaning "revelation"; signifies literally, a revelation, or discovery of what was concealed or hidden.

Apocalyptic literature - comparison to prophecy

(see wikipedia for the complete article)


Some may distinguish between the messages of the prophets and the messages of proto-apocalyptic and apocalyptic literature by saying that the message of the prophets was primarily a preaching of repentance and righteousness if the nation would escape judgment; the message of the apocalyptic writers was of patience and trust for that deliverance and reward were sure to come. Neither the prophets nor the apocalyptic authors are without conflict between their messages, however, and there are significant similarities between prophecy and apocalyptic writings.

Apocalyptic literature shares with prophecy revelation through visions and dreams, and these often combine reality and fantasy. In both cases, a heavenly interpreter is often provided to the receiver so that he may understand the many complexities of what he has seen. Looking at the oracles in Amos, Hosea, First Isaiah, and Jeremiah gives a clear sense of how messages of imminent punishment develop into the later proto-apocalyptic literature, and eventually into the thoroughly apocalyptic literature of Daniel 7-12. The fully apocalyptic visions in Daniel 7-12, as well as those in the New Testament’s Revelation, can trace their roots to the pre-exilic latter biblical prophets; the sixth century BCE prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah 40-55 and 56-66, Haggai 2, and Zechariah 1-8 show a transition phase between prophecy and apocalyptic literature.(3) 
see also Revelation, Apocalyptic Writing and the Old Testament

Christ learned obedience through suffering (Heb 5:8)

The subject of obedience is an inescapable thread running through the Bible. We see it first in the garden of Eden where learn that man betrays his creator. Later in Exodus we see Pharaoh score perfect zero (0/10) for his efforts, and later as the children of Israel enter the promised land they get a 2/5,000,000 as only Joshua and Caleb are the only of their generation to enter. Only one has ever fully satisfied God’s perfectly in character and action. That is His son, and he was obedient all the way to the cross. Many others have since followed in His footsteps, not all so willing, yet, hopefully the reader of Revelation will discover that this book is indeed the “Revelation of Jesus Christ”; His mission, His purpose, His hope, His judgments (or wrath) and the Salvation of His people. What are you hoping to discover?

Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!
Rev 22:7 (Look! I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy expressed in this book.)

Let the book show you

There are many wonderful things to be learned from Revelations. Many pictures have been shown to us using words alone. I am sure Jesus could have chosen someone who could draw pictures, but that would clearly have detracted from the meaning of things, as do any attempts to make films of this book. To understand many of the pictures (eg. 'the tree of life'), it is necessary to look at all the references to them going right back to Genesis and slowly discover their significance. The word of God often opens up to us as a flower in season. With prophetic writing we can see specific events that have occurred in fulfilment, while we also see other events are yet to happen. Apocalyptic writing, you will see, is quite different.

I am certain some verses can be taken at face value (if you can accept them) while others need a careful and extended study of earlier scriptures. How much do you need to know? Well let the words inspire you where it catches your attention, whether to prayer for the trials and pain the world and the church must endure, or for the comfort and assurance that God is working out His plan for this world and the saints.

The hungry souls of this world need answers, they need what they do not know, a saviour, not just for the now, but for eternity. So keep it simple, and may God’s Holy Spirit shine His light upon your heart as you read this wonderful book.



  1. Oxford English Dictionary
  2. WordWeb Dictionary
  3. Coogan p354