Revelation 4: 1
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
Before we walk through that door, let’s take a breath. We’ve come to the part of Revelation that seems to confuse and confound everybody (though not everyone will admit that) even biblical scholars so… before we go any further, here’s a few things to remember.
1. Read Revelation with humility.
Read Revelation with an open mind: be willing to admit that your interpretation could be wrong and be prepared to change your view if biblical evidence points in a different direction.
2. Beware of interpreters who claim to have all the answers. They don’t!
3. Try to discover the message to the original readers.
Discovering the message to the original audience is the top priority with any book of the Bible, but especially with this one. When it comes to reading Revelation, the tendency is to ignore the first Christians and jump directly to God’s message for us.
If our interpretation doesn’t make sense for the original readers, we’ve probably missed the meaning of the passage. The primary meaning of the Revelation is what John intended it to mean, which in turn must also have been something his readers could have understood it to mean.”
4. Take Revelation seriously but not necessarily literally.
Our method of interpretation should always match the literary genre the author used. For Revelation, this means we should avoid taking picture language literally. When we try to force literal interpretations on picture language, we run the risk of perverting the author’s intended meaning.
Revelation uses language in different ways:
- Text level: words written on the page
- Vision level: the picture that the words paint
- Referent level: what the vision refers to in real life
One of the hardest parts of reading Revelation is knowing what the images and symbols refer to. Even when we understand what’s happening at the text and vision levels, we may not know what’s going on at the referent level. we usually know what Revelation is saying, but we’re often not sure what it’s talking about.
5. Focus on the main idea and don’t get lost in the details.
With most literary genres in the Bible, we begin with the details and work toward an understanding of the whole text. With Revelation, however, we should start with the big picture and work toward an understanding of the details. As we try to identify theological principles in Revelation, we should focus on the main ideas.
6. Don’t interpret the book as if we are living in the end times. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes most people make when reading Revelation. We can get mired in the details by trying to fit everything that happens in our current times in Revelation as if we were the last generation. We have no idea if we’re to be the last generation or not.
OK, next time we’ll start delving into John’s visions!