Three Simple Rules For Studying Revelation

Regarding the book of Revelation, a member of the church once asked me, “Do any of you have, or know of, any information that will help me to grasp this book and it’s many symbols. I understand that a lot of the symbols used are from the Old Testament, is that the case?”

The book of Revelation, with all of its symbolism and highly figurative language, is indeed a difficult book to interpret, but not an impossible task. This writer spent one year (2001-2002), teaching the Revelation letter in an adult Bible class. Before the class began, I spent six months gathering secular historical data (i.e., the condition of first century Christians in dealing with the Roman government’s persecution of them; the moral and religious conditions in the Roman Empire, etc.). Access every Revelation commentary written by faithful brethren, i.e, Wallace, Hailey, Conner, HindsJackson. However, remember that the Bible is its own best commentary!

With the above thoughts in mind, the following are three simple rules for studying and correctly interpreting the book of Revelation:

1) What did the book mean to the people of that day to whom it was written? – Any interpretation that omits or overlooks this point is invalid. This approach involves (1) some understanding of the conditions under which the saints lived during the first century, and (2) the spiritual needs of the hour, which were: revelation and instruction of Christ’s present rule (Revelation 1:1-2,8; Revelation 22:6,13; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16, and (3) encouragement and assurance of victory in the midst of trials (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 15:2-3).

2) Acquire an understanding of the Old Testament – Including the prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and their use of symbols and signs. It is estimated that the book of Revelation contains from two hundred sixty to more than four hundred allusions to the Old Testament, but there is not a single direct quotation from it. As God showed to John vision after vision and allowed him to hear voice after voice, the Holy Spirit directed him in recording these (Revelation 1:10). The visions and message of the voices were so patterned after the revelations God had made known through the centuries, that these writings become our guide and basis of correct interpretation. The Holy Spirit used symbols and revelations of the past so as to serve God’s purpose in providing this New Testament apocalypse.

3) All interpretations must be consistent and harmonious with the total teaching of the Bible [rule #9] (Psalm 119:160; Psalm 139:17; Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16) – Remember, there is no conflict or contradiction between the Old and New Testament writers. Both Old and New Testaments form one harmonious whole (Psalm 139:17).

When these three simple rules are kept in mind and carefully followed, the Bible student will find a rich spiritual reward and blessing from a study of this grand book of victory (Revelation 12:11; Revelation 15:2), and will not be led astray and become lost in the quicksands of error.

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets


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