Over the next few weeks we will continue to share with you the opinions of 13 Bible prophecy experts concerning various questions related to the book of Revelation. The remaining members of our panel of Bible prophecy experts continue to answer:
#2. What are the keys to understanding the book of Revelation?
Daymond Duck, Prophecy Plus Ministries
I would suggest that people begin by believing that God gave us Revelation. God wants to help them understand and God can help them. God will help them so that they can understand Revelation.
The next thing I would say people need is to first pray before getting started studying Revelation. So many never do that. They just blindly dismiss prayer. They claim that nobody can understand Revelation and that's the end of it. The rest of their lives they never go back and look at it again. I think that's a terrible shame, because God has given Revelation to them. He wants us to study it, and yet they don't do it. So, I think people need to first pray for understanding.
Thirdly, I think people then need to open the book and they need to start reading. A lot of people don't ever do that. I would suggest to people today that they get a verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation. Probably more than one would be a good idea. They ought to get a commentary that was written by someone that believes in the Pre-Trib Rapture and the Premillennial Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Those resources will help, especially with all the symbols in the book of Revelation. I think people need to track down those symbols, because they are usually explained someplace else in the book of Revelation or in another portion of the Scriptures. So, use the marginal notes, use the footnotes, and use the commentaries. Search the Scripture. Let Scripture interpret Scripture.
The main thing is to get started and quit making excuses.
Nathan Jones, Lamb & Lion Ministries
Revelation is not a Chinese puzzle if you do five things. One, you have to be saved, or at least be led by the Holy Spirit. You'll need the Holy Spirit to help translate the Bible for you. Two, you need to take the text for it's literal plain sense meaning. Don't spiritualize it, which is number three. Don't make the Bible say what you want it to say, but let the Bible speak for itself. Four is context. You have to take everything in context. You don't pull verses from chapters and books all over the Bible. Read the context that is already there.
Revelation is filled with symbols, so the fifth key is to let the symbols explain themselves. I'll give you an example from Revelation 1:20, "The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." Like that passage, let the symbols explain themselves.
If you do those five things, you will understand the book of Revelation.
Tom McCall, Tom McCall Ministries
The main key I think is to understand that much of Revelation lies in the future. For so long, for so many centuries, the book of Revelation was translated and understood to be happening at that time in history. Well, if you try to compare the destruction of a third of the earth with this plague, and a third of the earth with that plague, and the rise of the Antichrist and so forth and so on into what's happening today, why it would boggle the mind and becomes so confusing. Once people understand that this book is a futurist thing, this is something that will happen after the Church is gone in the Rapture for instance and would happen in the future, then they can see how these things could develop and how they could happen not in our time and not in our circumstance, but in a future circumstance. That of course means the Tribulation and then the Millennium and then the eternal state.
Don McGee, Crown and Sickle Ministries
That the book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible is not an accident. The position of the book is just as much inspired as what's in it. Because it is the last book of the Bible, it's implied that we need a basic working knowledge of everything that came before it.
I believe that one of the keys is to have an understanding of the book of Genesis. I believe that Genesis is paramount in importance to understanding Revelation.
I also believe that there are particular passages in the Old Testament that need attention. For example, Deuteronomy 28 speaks of the wandering Jew. Second Samuel 7 speaks of the Davidic Covenant. Both of those topics play heavily into the events that happen as recorded by John in Revelation.
Then of course there are the Minor Prophets and the Major Prophets. Those books are key. They are important. You have to have an understanding, or at least a working knowledge, of those books in order to understand what John is recording in the book of Revelation.
Also, in the New Testament there are some foundational principles that need to be understood. A person needs to understand the book of Matthew because it was written by a Jew to the Jews. In the book of Matthew, particularly Matthew 24, there is information that is very relevant to the information that you'll find in Revelation. Then there are the epistles that Paul wrote. Paul talked about some things having to do with the last days and end time events.
Once the books before Revelation are read, then a person needs to take the book of Revelation and simply read it as you read anything, like a novel or newspaper or whatever. Read it several times over a period of a couple of weeks. Once that's done, then the student needs to sit down and study it. See, there's a big difference between reading it and studying it. And, study it taking notes, comparing what that person sees in Revelation with what has already been said in the previous 65 books.
When you take all of those steps, you come to the idea that there is some preparation that's needed to understand what Revelation is all about. It's absolutely impossible to understand Revelation in my opinion without a basic understanding of those preceding books.
Gary Fisher, Lion of Judah Ministries
I was all over this when I first really started studying the Bible. I'd run into an individual — Dr. Henry Morris — who wrote a book about Revelation. He claimed about Revelation, and this is almost a quote but not word-for-word, he said, "Some people believe that Revelation is hard to understand. They are wrong. Revelation is not hard to understand, it's just hard to believe. Those who will believe it will understand it." So, my admonition to anybody that asks this question is to read Revelation and just believe it. Don't allegorize it. Don't spiritualize it. Just take it at face value and it will make sense.
In the next part of this series on reading and understanding Revelation, the members of our panel of Bible prophecy experts will answer the third question, "What is the theme of the book of Revelation?"