The book of Revelation is an amazing message from Jesus to his followers. It is a book of sign and symbol showing events which would occur from the 1st Century right up until our day and beyond. To unlock the symbols in the book, other parts of God’s word need to be studied. The Bible interprets itself. A symbol in Revelation normally has an explanation elsewhere in scripture.
Most interestingly, the book focuses on the relationship between the true followers of Jesus and the apostasy (called “Babylon the Great”). It explains in great detail, the different phases of the apostasy – how it climbed into the political arena and how it is active even today. The great apostasy which grew from the early Christians became the Catholic church. Many details can be confirmed by history.
Specific time periods are outlined, making this book an amazing prophecy – but one which takes a great amount of time and effort to understand.
This article is only a basic introduction to the outline of Revelation but it is hoped that enough information is given to encourage the reader to study this book in depth after they have accepted the simple teaching of the gospel and been baptised.
3 Rules for understanding the book of Revelation
In the very opening verse of the Book of Revelation we are given three clear pieces of information:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Revelation 1:1
This tells us that:
- This book is written to Christ’s servants – So the things contained within this book will not be things for beginners. We will not have the gospel or first principles set out because these are basic things which enable someone to become a believer. Revelation is for those who already have a full understanding of the gospel. What we have outlined in Revelation is a useful message for those who already follow Christ. It’s not been written for Jews and it’s not been written to convert Gentiles – it’s been written for those who have been baptised.
- Revelation outlines events which will “shortly come to pass” – The book of Revelation reveals God’s purpose with his servants down through the ages, starting at John’s time. This tells us another important thing. The events in the book of Revelation were to take place after John’s time (AD90 approx). This helps us to correctly eradicate erroneous expositions – for example where, in chapter 12 some expositors suggest that this occured before the garden of Eden and is an account of Satan being expelled to the earth where he later tempted Eve. This idea breaks the principle outlined in this first verse. The events in Revelation happen after John’s time.
- This is a book of symbol – Strong’s concordance tells us that the word “signified” means = “to give a sign, to signify, indicate”. In other words this book has been encoded in symbols so that only those true, dedicated servants will understand its meaning. This means that when we read of ‘heaven’ in Revelation – it’s not literal. When we read of ‘candlesticks’, ‘stars’, ‘angels’, ‘trumpets’, ‘vials’ or ‘plagues’ these will not be literal but symbols. To unlock the meaning behind the symbols one must look elsewhere in scripture. For example the symbol of the “sea” is unlocked by looking at Isaiah 57:20 where we read that the “wicked” or Godless nations are like the “sea”.
The above three things which are outlined right at the beginning of this book show us that this is a deep area of the scriptures. It has really only been written for true believers. Therefore it’s not really a great place to start if you are new to the Bible. You will not find the gospel simply taught within the pages of the Revelation, although it will be backed up by the Revelation.
The layout of the book
The basic structure of the book of Revelation is found in Revelation 1:19:
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; Revelation 1:19
John was to record the things that he had seen (Chapter 1), the things “which are” – these are found in Chapters 2-3 and the letters to 7 churches. Then in Chapter 4 and verse 1 we learn that the rest of Revelation outlines the “things which shall be hereafter”.
More to follow…