β€And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he sawβ€ (Revelation 1:1,2). John did not β€dream upβ€ Revelation as a means of teaching systematic theologyβ€”he shared what he had seen and heard. There are a number of keys to understanding the meanings of the prophecies God revealed to him.
First of all, John bears witness β€of the word of God,β€ which in John's time were the Old Testament Scriptures. There are hundreds of scriptural references in Revelation, and in fact the majority of the verses have some Old Testament link. Those who consider the Old Testament to be a part of the β€old covenant,β€ irrelevant to Christians, will not be able to understand the book of Revelation.
John also bore witness to β€the testimony of Jesus Christ.β€ The testimony of Jesus is defined in Revelation chapter 19 by the angel who presented the visions to John: β€I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesusβ€¦For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecyβ€ (Revelation 19:10). Jesus has a testimony (a message) which He wants to share with each one of us, but He illuminates the meaning of the biblical messages through the same "spirit of prophecy" (the Holy Spirit) that inspired the prophets who wrote them. Only those who have His Holy Spirit will be able to understand His testimony. The apostle Paul put it this way: β€No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by Godβ€ (1 Corinthians 2:11,12).
Many people who read the book of Revelation find only a confusing jumble of seemingly unrelated and incomprehensible symbols. The basic prerequisite to understanding Revelation is not a course in theology or Biblical languages, but being filled with the Holy Spirit. John was β€in the Spiritβ€ (Revelation 1:10) when he wrote the book of Revelation. We also must be in the Spirit in order to understand it.
This is not to say that the Holy Spirit will interpret the prophecies with no effort on our part. The β€word of Godβ€ and the β€testimony of Jesusβ€ go together. As we make an effort to compare the verses in Revelation with their links in other parts of the Bible, using modern resources to check the ancient language and always praying for insight from the Spirit, we will be amazed to find that the previously incomprehensible prophecies are beginning to make sense.
This book will analyze the meaning of the Book of Revelation verse by verse, but before we do that we will see how Revelation uses symbols, how it is structured and organized, and how the various phases of the vision fit into a chronolgical timeline.
Continue to next section: USE OF SYMBOLS