1This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things which must happen soon, which he sent and made known by his angel to his servant, John, 2who testified to God’s word and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, about everything that he saw.

3Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is near.

4John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne; 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood— 6and he made us to be a Kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

7Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.

8“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

9I John, your brother and partner with you in the oppression, Kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God’s Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet 11saying, “What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

12I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands. 13And among the lamp stands was one like a son of man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest. 14His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters. 16He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest. 17When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man.

He laid his right hand on me, saying, “Don’t be afraid. I am the first and the last, 18and the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever and ever. Amen. I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

19Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter. 20The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven assemblies. The seven lamp stands are seven assemblies.

How Should We Interpret the Book of Revelation?

Topical study | Rev 1:3 | Hershel Wayne House

Interpretation of the Book

The book of the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah is different from any other book of the New Testament, though not different from portions of the New Testament such is found in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, or the teaching of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 2, the teaching of Peter in 2 Peter 3, or major prophetic portions of the Old Testament, particularly the book of Daniel. The book is not merely an apocalyptic work. It has apocalyptic elements (primarily much symbolic and figurative language) but it is also a prophecy, and also includes historical accounts of the churches in Asia. The normal method of interpretation works well with the Revelation, as well as a very good familiarly with the Old Testament and the Gospel accounts. His imagery largely comes from these portions of the Bible, and elucidates the meaning of the text. The rule of thumb with all biblical interpretation, as well as other literature, is “when the Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense, lest it be nonsense.”

One should not avoid the book because it is a difficult book. St. Dionysius of Alexandria said that 

The darkness of this book does not prevent one from being astonished at it. And even if I do not understand everything in it, that is only because of my incapability. I cannot be a judge of the truths which are contained in it or measure them with the poverty of my mind, being guided more by faith than by understanding. I find them only surpassing my understanding.

Interpretative Constructs of the Book

There are primarily four ways in which the events of the Revelation have been understood through the centuries, namely, the Preterist, Idealist, Historicist, and Futurist approaches.[1] I will present these views by means of a chart that I included in my Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament: [2]

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PreteristHistoric churchesSymbolic of contemporary conditionsSymbolic of heaven and victory
IdealistHistoric churchesSymbolic of conflict of good and evilVictory of good
HistoricistHistoric churchesSymbolic of events of history: fall of Rome, Mohammedanism, papacy, ReformationFinal judgment, millennium (?), eternal state
FuturistHistoric churches and/or seven stages of church historyFuture tribulation; concentrated judgments on world and on antichrist; coming of ChristMillennial kingdom; judgment of wicked dead; eternal state

From a study of the book there are also four primary theological perspectives that have been developed, namely, Postmillennial or Preterist, Amillennial or Idealist, Premillennial, and Apocalyptic. The following chart from my charts book [3] explains how the different theological methods understand the book:

Theological Perspectives on Revelation

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Postmillennial or PreteristHistoric churchesGenerally historicistVictory of Christianity over the world
Amillennial or IdealistHistoric churchesGenerally historicistComing of Christ; judgment; eternal state
PremillennialHistoric churches representative of historical stagesGenerally futuristLiteral millennial reign; judgment of great white throne; New Jerusalem
ApocalypticHistoric churchesGenerally preteristSymbolic of heaven and victory

[1] See my brief treatment of the interpretive methods of revelation in H. Wayne House, Last Things: Four Views of Revelation (Kindle).

[2] H. Wayne House, “Interpretations of Revelation,” Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 152.

[3] H. Wayne House, “Theological Perspectives on Revelation,” Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 152.