How to Read Revelation

Revelation 4:10–11

Revelation can be difficult to interpret. In this lab, Pastor John illustrates how to begin to understand the symbols, and apply them to life today.

Principle for Bible Reading

Wrestling with a Difficult Text

The apostle Peter said that Paul’s letters were “hard to understand” at times. Many of us give our hearty Amen. But instead of running from hard passages, God blesses us with understanding as we, like Jacob, wrestle with God in his word.

So when difficult texts have you in a headlock, what can you do? Here are a few options:

  • Identify what is clear from the passage. Start with what you can figure out from the passage as a whole and then return to the unclear parts.
  • Find the main point. Often the confusing parts do not contain the main point of the passage. Identifying the main point can give us clues for discovering the meaning of the difficult passage.
  • Look for clues within the book and surrounding context. Search the book for key words and phrases found in the tough passage.
  • Cross-reference. Utilizing cross-references, especially when a New Testament verse cites from the Old, helps us to have a fuller understanding of what the authors were trying to communicate.
  • Ask specific questions of the text. Addressing a challenging text as a whole can seem insurmountable. But breaking a passage down by asking specific questions about it can unravel the meaning, question by question and answer by answer.
  • Use a trusted commentary. Be careful with commentaries. This caution includes trusting bad commentaries and relying too much on good ones. But commentaries can be used well and great biblical scholars give helpful insights.

Study Questions

  1. The book of Revelation can be intimidating to read because of its imagery. Have you read all the way through it? What is your experience with reading Revelation?
  2. Who do you think the twenty-four elders are in Revelation 4:10? How do you go about answering this question?
  3. Watch the lab. How does Pastor John answer the question? Is there anything that you can learn from his counsel at the end of the lab?