Revelation is the most misunderstood book in the Bible. Some avoid studying it because it is seen as inexplicable or too difficult. Some simply hop into it recklessly without any consideration or preparation to soon become lost in wild, contradictory conclusions. The apocalyptic language found throughout the book and the fantastic imagery attracts sensationalists in every generation. These soon become bogged down in speculations at odds with the rest of the teaching of the Bible and with basic logic. When confronted with the obvious problems their conclusions have led some will take the last possible stand in the defense of a dishonest heart – claim inspiration. Declaring themselves inspired of God they become self-proclaimed prophets and all scripture is immediately outranked and invalidated. This is a game played through the centuries with such notables as Joseph Smith, David Koresh, and other cult leaders. It seems Revelation attracts false teachers since apocalyptic language is easier to use in the practice of doctrinal sleight of hand to seduce the gullible. A sentence of fantastic imagery can be twisted to mean whatever it is needed to mean for a deception. It is an effortless trick. Whereas a sentence that is clear, simple and direct can be more of a challenge to sustain a line of lies. The Bible provides both clear and opaque sections. The clear and simple cannot be ignored and cast aside for the sake of the apocalyptic. Nor are the direct statements diminished in importance. The clear, simple and obvious statements always help and guide in understanding the complex and formidable. (If you would like to see an example of this you can go to the article titled Example of Twisting Apocalyptic Literature.)
Not everyone who believes themselves inspired becomes a cult leader – or a leader of anything. Many people quietly live their life believing themselves to be right regardless of what God revealed to the rest of mankind through scripture from actual prophets, and that God must be the source of that deep cozy feeling of being right. Thus feelings trump scripture.
One can read collections of commentaries and come to realize that many of these writers do not even agree on basic principles and purposes of the book. Some have gone great lengths to offer nothing but dangerous fiction. This is done by pulling apart scriptures, ignoring previously revealed doctrine, following the results of a compromised faith and repeating what Peter said was happening in the first century.
2 Peter 3:15-16
And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
There are also well-meaning writers who have submitted notions concerning details in a passage without presenting any sort of proof as to how one could come to that conclusion. It may sound nice but the burden of proof is ignored – most of these writers would never do this in other books of the Bible (such as Acts or Isaiah), but seem content to do so with Revelation. Their conclusions could be right but how could one know without some sort of evidence presented or at least a logical path to follow. Everyone can have a guess but let us distinguish between guesses and what is a true expression of a passage. Brother X may have said it, Brother Y may have written it, and Brother Z may have believed it to the extent of teaching it for fifty years. All of these faithful men may be rather scholarly but none of this makes something true. Certain notions can begin with an authoritative flare and spread for decades through fraternal loyalty and strong political ties. Through those years there is little if any examination of the evidence. All too often no proof is offered and certainly none is demanded, the notion just sounds good. Brothers X, Y, and Z believed it (who would dare oppose them) therefore it must be right. It is as though the book of Revelation is a special case removed from all other scripture. It is as though the rules for engaging the rest of the Bible have no merit or place with Revelation. Somehow all that one could gained from Genesis to Jude supply nothing for understanding Revelation. The Bible stands as a unit. The rules that apply for Genesis also apply for any book written thereafter.
There are writers who venture in courageously into Revelation seemingly well prepped and knowledgeable. Many of these authors discover (sooner or later after publishing their work) that they have changed their minds on the meaning and implication of a passage or entire sections. That is to be expected. Unless someone claims to be inspired everyone will at some point change their minds on one aspect or another of Revelation. There are numerous commentaries from respected men and well-researched scholars. All of these writers may reconsider their conclusions through continued study and gathering even more knowledge. The Bible is extraordinary in this. You can never outgrow it. That is why this format may be best in that conclusions may be reconsidered, arguments improved and articles modified by additional information and time. No man is perfect. No commentary is perfect. Though this will never be perfect it may offer something that is improving. All these articles are works in progress and are subject to changes. The purpose is to slowly and methodically work through each verse and apply the principles taught in the whole of the Biblical text in order to arrive at proper conclusions in the Bible’s last book. Some would suggest that this is a bit of a sloppy approach. Nothing is fully polished and the text is published without the aid of proofreaders and editors. That is one of the disadvantages to this format. Thus I plead for patience and understanding. Grammatical errors, misspellings, unvarnished sentences and disorganized paragraphs are part of the process. If one were to stutter and stammer the truth it would be a best-effort attempt, but the truth does not diminish.
This site is intended to offer a place where ideas on the book can be presented, reviewed and sharpened. The Bible works as a complete unit with each book as a component to the whole. The study of Revelation is the study of the Bible. If one misunderstands, misuses or is simply ignorant of the Bible then any conclusion in the reading of Revelation will be affected. A stranger to the Bible or an enemy of it cannot come to proper conclusions in Revelation. It is impossible for someone to correctly interpret the passages of Revelation while being skeptical or ignorant to the rest of the Bible. Someone who does not believe that Genesis is from God and is the truth will have serious problems concerning Revelation – the two books are from the same source. The one who disbelieves what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36-39 concerning His return (that no one can know nor predict the day) will have problems with understanding Revelation.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Anyone denying the legitimacy of the books of Daniel, Isaiah or the writings of Paul will never be able to read Revelation to separate the figurative from the literal nor discern the message from a vision. There are whole groups (cults) who consistently turn scriptures upside down and inside out in attempts to prove a pet doctrine. When it comes to books like Revelation such groups increase the twists and turns. As we will see the Book of Revelation was design with that in mind. As a way of illustration: One cannot jump into a calculus text book and make any sense of it unless he has already made his way through basic math and into advanced mathematical operations and ideas. And if one doubts the legitimacy of the principles and absolute nature of mathematics (i.e. 2+2 is always 4) then any attempts at calculus will fail. The same holds true with the Bible including the book of Revelation. The One who created the absolute nature of mathematics is also the One who created the absolute nature of the Biblical text.
Revelation was written to Christians: people who love the entire text of the Bible and are well grounded in it. They would have known this book was written by John the apostle and was a message from God. From those facts they would have given it the respect such a book demanded. Christians in the first century would immediately comprehend important pieces of the book without any further clarification. But they could not possibly have understood everything on the first reading (a subject covered in Theories of Interpretation). This is nothing new. Neither the disciples nor the apostles understood everything Jesus said to them directly. Sometimes Christ explained what was meant (as in Matthew 13:18-23). Sometimes He did not, but He knew they would understand in time (as in Acts 1:6-8). The faithful Christian in the first century would ask, seek and knock for the answer. Faithful Christians throughout the centuries do the same thing. In John chapter 6 there were disciples who fell short of this. As Jesus spoke to a multitude of people who tried the day before to make Him King (though He would have no part of it – John 6:15) there were some who began to complain.
John 6:60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
In verses 66-68 there was a large group of disciples who followed Christ to this point but then left at a difficult saying and never returned. Peter’s answer is one that Christians should have. His answer is one out of faith that though I may not understand the whole message now I do know it is from God and that it must be important.
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Peter’s attitude is the approach we must have when we study the word of God. This is the approach of the faithful.
The basic messages of Revelation are clearly stated. Some sections are not so clear and can be quite difficult. If we use the clear parts as a central guide then the more difficult passages will fall into place. If we use what we have already learned from the rest of the Bible then Revelation falls into place. The book of Revelation does not outrank any other book in the Bible. But the rest of the books (Genesis through Jude) can help us understand the symbolic language found in Revelation.
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.