How to read then book of Revelation and “get it”!
Most of us have read in the book of Revelation for years but have a hard time getting past the first 5 or 6 chapters. (please notice that the book is NOT called Revelations but Revelation because there is only one revelation in the book and that is JESUS!) I know that has been my story. I now realize that you can make it through the whole book BUT you must have some help. Some guidelines on which to place your hat!
This is what I want to offer you here.
1. Why the book was written.
The best answer to this question is found in reading the very first verse of the book!
”The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him (Jesus) to show His servants — things which must shortly take place.” Rev 1:1
Revelation was written as the “unveiling” of Jesus’ character and leadership that will bring the planet through the final stages of the end of the world as we know it.
In Revelation we see Him in a different light than we do through the Gospels. In the Gospels, we see Him as the One who came born in a manger, riding on a donkey, hidden away in Bethlehem. In Revelation, “Every eye will see Him…”as He comes riding on the clouds and riding on a white horse, His eyes are flames of fire, His robe dipped in blood.
“With justice He judges and makes war” Rev 19:11
Revelation is a gift for us to all know Him as He really is and to prepare to meet Him as His Bride. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’” Rev 22:17
”End-time prophecy is about both the unveiling of events and the beauty of the personhood of Christ Jesus. Somehow Jesus’ divine administrations are powerfully and intricately woven together with revelation of His beauty. “ — Stuart Greaves
The structure is really easy. There are four clear sections. If you can see that you can make your way forward.
1) Rev. 1 John’s CALLING to prophesy about the End-Times
“Write in a book what you have seen…” Rev 1:11
“Write what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later.” Rev 1:19
2) Rev. 2-3 Seven LETTERS to seven churches
“But this I have against you…To him who overcomes I will give…” Rev 2:4, 7
Here is “timeless advice” to the church to keep our hearts burning for Jesus. The main points cover: passivity, idolatry and immorality.
3) Rev. 4-5 The Throne in Heaven, The SCROLL and the Lamb
”Around the throne were 24 thrones; and upon the thrones I saw 24 elders…Rev 4:4
”And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the scroll, or to look into it… And He (the Lamb) came and took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the Throne.” Rev 5:3,7
4) Rev. 6-22 Jesus’ BATTLE PLAN: includes 21 consecutive judgments against the Antichrist and his allies, the 2nd Coming of Christ and the New Heaven and New Earth.
3. The 7 Main Symbols (from ihop.org — permission granted)
All events and numbers in Revelation are to be taken in their plain meaning (literal) unless specifically indicated not to (Rev. 1:20; 5:6; 11:8; 12:1, 3, 9; 17:7, 9, 15-18, etc.)
1) The Dragon: is symbolic of Satan (Rev. 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 16, 17; 13:2, 4; 16:13; 20:2)
2) The First Beast: is symbolic of the Antichrist (Rev. 13; 14:9-11; 17:3-17; 19:19-21; 20:4,10)
3) Another Beast: is symbolic of the False Prophet called “another Beast” just once (Rev. 13:11)
4) Seven Heads: are 7 empires from history that persecuted Israel (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, revived Roman Empire of Dan. 2:41-42; 7:7; Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3-16)
5) Ten Horns: represents a 10-nation confederation that serves the Antichrist (Rev. 17:12-13)
6) Harlot Babylon: will be a worldwide, demonically inspired, religious and economic system based in the re-built city of Babylon, near Baghdad in Iraq (Rev. 17-18; Jer. 50-51)
7) Woman with a Male-child (Jesus): is the faithful remnant of Israel through history (Rev. 12)
4. And now for the hard part…”The Interludes”
The hardest part to get through when reading the book of Revelation is the juxtaposition of the “chronological story line” through the many “pauses” that interrupt the unfolding of the story.
Here is where you must have a physical roadmap to follow your way through to the end or you will be hopelessly lost!
In Rev. 6, we read of the famous “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, who are the first judgments to be released BY JESUS to bring destruction of evil on the earth as He breaks open the first four seals on the scroll, the title-deed-of-earth.
By the time the 6th seal is opened and the judgment is released, the scene in heaven comes to a grinding halt and the Spirit gives an “interlude” to the action. In the NASB version, Rev 7 is titled “An Interlude” which could suggest “A Rest” or “A Pause”. Here the action and the scene shift to an event that will happen but not in the direct flow of the story line!
I can understand why the Holy Spirit is bringing these interludes because to depict the 21 world-wide judgments in the space of 3 ½ years (i.e. the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls, all of which intensify in severity as they unfold) demands “breathing space” not only to the writer – John – but also to the reader.
They (interludes) answer questions arising from the chronological sections: Why is God’s wrath so severe? What will happen to us? Angels explain to John what happens to God’s people including what Jesus will do to help us and what the Antichrist will do to persecute us. — Mike Bickle
Revelation’s 5 Interludes (taken from ihop.org)
Interlude # I.
Rev. 7 We receive PROTECTION from judgments and falling away.
Interlude # II.
Rev. 10-11:1-14 We receive DIRECTION by great increase of prophetic ministry.
Interlude # III.
Rev. 12-14 The CONFRONTATION against the saints by the Antichrist’s system and persecutions requires that all his governments be taken over. Satan is on earth.
Interlude # IV.
Rev. 17-19:11 The SEDUCTION of Babylon’s evil religion will permeate and infiltrate all the structures of society, requiring that Babylon be totally destroyed.
Interlude # V.
Rev. 21:9-22:5 The RESTORATION of all things (Acts 3:21) The New Jerusalem on earth
5. One more look at the Rapture…
One final key to reading the book and what is probably the most debated point and the area of the most confusion is the Rapture. Most camps agree that there is one, the issue is one of timing!
I strongly believe that if you would read the previous 26 books on the NT BEFORE reading Revelation – which might be the idea – you must come to the conclusion that the Rapture of the church will happen “at the Last Trumpet”.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Cor. 15:51-52
Rev 11:15-19 depicts the 7th (last) trumpet. There is no getting around this point.
This is the Second Coming of Jesus. It doesn’t not stand out in block letter as you read it in Revelation but this is the climax of all human history.
Right after this 7th Trumpet and the saints being “caught away” to be with Jesus in the air comes “The Interlude” of Rev. 12-14, which deals with the most symbolism of the entire book and throws a wrench in the sequential reading of the book.
+ A woman clothed with the sun and a crown of 12 stars
+ A great red dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns
+ The Male Child
+ The woman fled into the wilderness for 1260 days (42 months, 3 ½ years)
+ Satan thrown down to earth by Michael and his angels
+ The beast from the sea with 10 horns and 7 heads
+ The beast from the earth with 2 horns like a lamb and speaking as a dragon
+ The mark of the Beast – 666
+ The Lamb standing on Mount Zion with 144,000
+ The Three Angels
+ The Reapers
By the time one gets to the final “7 Bowls of the Wrath of God” (Rev 15-16) you find yourself utterly and completely lost… Yet this exact time was prophesied by Daniel as the 1290 days from the time the Abomination of Desolation to the End Times. (Please read Daniel 12: 9-13)
After the Last Trumpet (Rev 11) there has to be a period of time that can finish the wrath of God and here we have it: 1290 – 1260 = 30 days. 30 days for the wrath of God to be finished and for Jesus to wipe off all evil from the planet and to usher in the 1000 year reign.
I know that last bit was a lot but if you are still reading, you might find this more than intriguing!!
Yours for the least in the Kingdom,
Jeff and Maria
P.S. I really recommend the free teaching from IHOP.org