When interpreting the book of Revelation there are two important elements to remember.
- First, Revelation is a fulfillment of the sixty-five books that came before it. There are hundreds of quotes, references, and allusions to both the Old and New Testaments in the book of Revelation. This means the reader needs to discern if Revelation is purposefully referencing a previous idea, quote, allusion, or does there just happen to be a commonality between what John writes and the previous writings in the Bible?
- Second, an interpreting angel is sent from Jesus to help John understand what he is seeing. Examples of this interpreting angel or angels are seen in Rev 5:2, 4-6; 10:7-11; 14:13; 17:1-3, 15-18; 19:9-10; 21:9-10, 15; 22:6, 8-11. Because of this, when reading Revelation students need to constantly seek to understand what is said based on previous revelation in the Bible as well as the interpretations from the angel with John.
“About twenty-five years ago upwards of five hundred works attempting to interpret the book of Revelation were on file in the British Museum. One man examined them all and testified that no two of them exactly agreed. These books, however, did fall into two general classes: (1) Those treating chapters 4–20 as history, and (2) those treating this portion as prophecy. Since then very many notable works on Revelation have been written and with a noticeable increase of certainty as to interpretation (note Dan. 12:9). The later expositions, almost exclusively, treat chapters 4–20 as prophecy” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Must We Dismiss the Millennium? [Florida: Biblical Testimony League, 1921], 1).
I. HISTORICIST – A ROADMAP OF HISTORY