Introduction to Revelation

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Lesson 12


The book of Revelation may be likened to a fuse box in your house.  As all wires meet and end in the fuse box, so all books of the Bible meet and end in Revelation.  Revelation can only be understood with the help of other scripture.  One authority states that Revelation makes more than 500 allusions to the Old Testament!

Because Revelation’s story is connected to all the books in the Bible and because we have to understand certain things before we can interpret Revelation, we have had to spend time exploring these five essential doctrines:

1.      The second coming of Jesus

2.      Salvation by faith

3.      The work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary

4.      The state of the dead

5.      The truth about worship.

Revelation predicts that the entire world will worship the Antichrist that shall appear on earth, “except those whose names are written in the book of life! “  Why the world will worship the Antichrist will be explored in this study.

For now, we need to begin looking into Revelation’s story and learning the meaning of the things written there.  Notice that Revelation offers a reward to all that study the book:

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”  Revelation 1:3 Remember from lesson 2, when a prophecy becomes applicable, its language becomes applicable.  A special blessing now belongs to those who study Revelation because the appointed time is near!

A very logical sequence


Revelation follows a very decided progression in its story.  Notice the outline:


Story                                                 Chapter


Introduction                                              1

7 Churches                                         2-3

Jesus given the book with 7 seals            4-5

Jesus opens 7 seals                                 6-8

Great multitude is redeemed                     7

7 Trumpets                                           8-11

2 Witnesses                                              11

Satan’s origin and work                           12

Rise of Babylon                                       13

Personal appearance of Satan                  13

3 Warning messages                                14

7 Last plagues                                     15-16

Last moments of Babylon                        17

Collapse of Babylon                                18

Second Coming                                       19

End of 1,000 years                                   20

New Jerusalem                                         21

Eternal life                                               22


As you already know, the gospel story is not hard to understand (After all, 6+ billion people must hear it and understand it!)  The basic issues within Revelation are not hard to comprehend either.  The hardest part of understanding Revelation is getting a handle on the cryptic language.  These are:

1.      Symbolic or spiritual language

2.      Analogue or analogous language

3.      Literal language and terms

These three language types are mixed throughout the book and discerning whether language is literal, symbolic or analogous can be difficult.  Let’s observe samples of each language type:

  1. “…There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns… This title was written on her forehead:  Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and the Abominations of the Earth.”  Revelation 17:3,5

Who is the woman wearing the title Babylon?  The Bible says, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”  Revelation 17:18

Very important point:  If the student suspects the language to be symbolic, a relevant text must clearly define the symbol.  The key word here is “relevant.”  A symbol can have different meanings at different times!  (Compare Revelation 12:9 with Numbers 21:9 & John 3:14)

Another example of symbolic language: “There bodies (2 witnesses) will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”  Revelation 11:8

It is a historical fact that Jesus was not crucified in Sodom or in Egypt.  He was crucified outside Jerusalem.  Revelation predicts the two witnesses will lie in the street of “the great city.”  From Revelation 17:18 we teach who the great city is.  It is the harlot, Babylon.

Babylon will be just like Sodom and Egypt.  Sodom represents unrestrained evil passions and Egypt represents hardness of heart (as manifested by Pharaoh).  Both Sodom and Egypt passed the point of no return, they committed the unpardonable sin.  Babylon will do the same.  Babylon will war against the saints, kill the two witnesses and think they have done God a favor.  The Jews and Romans crucified Jesus in this same state of mind!

  1. Analogous language

“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle.  On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces.”  Revelation 9:7 The important point to notice here, is the comparison or analogy.

The locusts looked like horses, but they aren’t horses!  They don’t symbolize horses either, for if they did, the scripture would clearly define the meaning of the symbol with relevant scripture.


  1. Literal language

“And I saw a beast coming out of the sea.  He had ten horns and seven heads… and on each head a blasphemous name.”  Revelation 13:1

The number 10 and the number 7 are literal.  The horns and heads are symbolic for they are discussed and explained in Revelation 17.  Numbers in Bible prophecy are always literal and real.  What they refer to may be symbolic.  In this case the heads and horns are symbolic because the symbols are later explained.

Sometimes mixed up

One thing that makes interpretation difficult is that language types are sometimes mixed in the same sentence!  Notice this one:

“The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed…” Revelation 16:19 Remember the verse used earlier?  “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”  Revelation 17:3-6

From 17:18 we learned that “great city” is the woman called Babylon.  In 16:19, we learned that the great city (symbolically Babylon) is split into three parts at the second coming of Jesus while the (literal) cities of the nations collapsed.

How can we tell which type of language is being used?  How can we know if a term is literal, symbolic or analogous?  Since mixing or using terms can result in bizarre interpretations, we must be very careful.  We need a set of rules to govern our methods of interpretation.

Rules of interpretation

The rules we use for interpretation of Revelation naturally affect our conclusions.  Anytime we change the rules, we change the conclusions.  Since the Bible does not specifically state the rules of interpretation, we must scan the Bible to discover certain principles of prophetic interpretation that are trustworthy.  The first step in this process is to identify the various types of prophecy:

Five types of prophecy

The Bible presents a minimum of five types of prophecy.  These include:

1.  Messianic prophecies

These prophecies specifically relate to the person of Jesus in either His first or Second coming.  Two examples of Messianic prophecy are found in Isaiah 53 Psalm 22.


2. Judaic prophecies

These prophecies predicted the prosperity or destruction of Israel.  Promises and threatening is alike included.  These prophecies have conditional elements in them most of the time.  A good example of this type of prophecy is found in Deuteronomy 28.  These prophecies contain object lessons for all generations of people, for God’s beneficent relationship with man is clearly revealed.

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