By Nathan Jones
How does one interpret for understanding the book of Revelation?
To answer that question, Dr. David Reagan and I on our television program Christ in Prophecy put together a panel of Bible prophecy experts. We invited Gary Fisher of the Bible prophecy ministry Lion of Judah Ministries from Franklin, Tennessee and Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries which focuses on evangelizing the continent of Africa.
Keys to Understanding
Dr. Reagan: What do you consider to be some of the keys to interpreting and understanding the book of Revelation?
Gary Fisher: I just simply say, believe it as it is written. Just believe it as it is written. You don't have to understand it to believe it, just believe it as it is written.
Dr. Reagan: A good example of that kind of literal interpretation is in Revelation 7 where it talks about 144,000 Jews being sealed in the end times to do a certain work for God. One time I went through every commentary I could find, and 85% of them said that was talking about the Church. And yet, they are named by tribe. What would God have to do to convince people that He's talking about 144,000 Jews? Would He have to put it up in the sky with neon lights flashing on and off?
Nathan Jones: Okay, Dr. Reagan, you've got to say your favorite statement about biblical interpretation. It's the guiding light by which Lamb & Lion Ministries interprets the Bible.
Dr. Reagan: True, and for all of the Bible, not just Bible prophecy. If the plain sense makes sense, don't look for any other sense, or you'll end up with nonsense.
Dennis Pollock: A couple other keys are, one, respect the book. You've got to respect it. There are a lot of Christians that don't. The Bible is like a second class book to them when it comes to interpreting it. "Give me some Romans. There's some real meat. Let me read the Gospels. You can really get a lot out of them. But, Revelation, that's for those flakes and nuts who don't have much else to do.
But, the reality is it is the same Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write about justification by faith and the same Holy Spirit who inspired John to sit down and write, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." He also gave John these revelations, these insights, these visions, that make up the book of Revelation.
Revelation is valuable. It's good for us. It's healthy. You have to respect it.
I know one pastor who told me that he went through a series on Daniel through the first six chapters and then stopped because he didn't want to deal with prophecy. A lot of people are that way about Revelation. They'll read Matthew thru Jude, but when they get done with Jude, Bam!, right back to Matthew. They forget about Revelation because they don't see it as being very valuable.
Dr. Reagan: Any other keys to interpreting and understanding Revelation?
Nathan Jones: Sure. People will get to Revelation and claim that since it's apocalyptical literature therefore it must be just filled with symbols that don't make any sense. But, I find throughout Revelation wherever there is a symbol the Bible then goes ahead and explains what it means. Or, sometimes you have to go into the Old Testament to get a definition. Like, for instance, when Jesus is talking about the seven stars and the seven lampstands, just a few verses later in chapter one He says that the lampstands are the seven churches and the stars are the angels that protect those churches.
We've got to let the Bible speak for itself. We have to let the Bible interpret for itself and then make allowances for when the Bible is say poetic, then accept it is poetic literature. When some text is apocalyptic, then accept it as apocalyptic literature. We can't just say that the Bible is say all narrative or all history. We've got to understand the literary devices that God uses.
In the third segment of our forum on the book of Revelation, we'll ask our Bible prophecy experts to show us where the Rapture can be found in the book and how the chapters are ordered.