Although most of the material on this blog is original with me; from time-to-time I find something from another blog or website that you may have missed that I want to share. This post by Cindi McMenamin is one such post. – Steve
by Cindi McMenamin
The book of Revelation is either the most exciting or the most frustrating book of the Bible to read. It can be exciting when you’re looking at prophecy fulfilled or frustrating when you’re confused about what is literal, what is symbolic, what is future and what is past. It can also be the most divisive book of the Bible because of differing views on interpretation.
Yet John, the writer of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, said “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, ESV).
How can you be blessed or happy when reading Revelation? When you avoid the common mistakes most people make when reading it – mistakes that can lead to confusion, fear, inaccurate predictions, disillusionment, paranoia, or end-of-the-world hype. Here are 10 common mistakes people make when reading Revelation.
1. Failing to Start at the Beginning
When you read a story, would you start with the last chapter first? Yet this is what many people do when they read Revelation. They start at the back of the book, instead of starting at the beginning. The Bible is one book of 66 smaller books and the first part of the book (the Old Testament) sets the stage, introduces the characters, lays down the Law and provides the reasoning behind God’s judgment – and His deliverance – at the very end of the book. It’s common for readers of Revelation to ignore the cross references and not look at the context of the Old Testament passages that are quoted throughout Revelation. But there is a reason Revelation is filled with footnotes directing you to the beginning of the book – passages in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, just to name a few.
As you read Revelation, ask yourself “Why is John quoting Deuteronomy 32:43 in Revelation 6:10 and 19:2 when he talks about avenging the blood of His servants? Why is Jeremiah 3:1 quoted when John talks of the Prostitute or Great Harlot of Revelation 17:5-6? By going back to the beginning of the book and looking up passages quoted from the Old Testament you can arrive at Scriptural answers, rather than conjecture, when it comes to questions like “Who is the Harlot?” and other hotly-debated points.
2. Forgetting the Original Audience
We tend to read the book of Revelation as if it’s written to Christians of 21st Century America so we can know what our future holds. Yet, the Revelation of Jesus Christ was a letter written “to the seven churches that are in Asia” (Revelation 1:4) to provide for them comfort in the midst of the persecution they were enduring and to strengthen them, as well as give them hope for what was soon to come.
So, every time you see the word “you” in a narrative, you must realize that “you” is not literally you. This letter written from prison to persecuted Christians in the First Century and delivered through the Roman Postal System used veiled language, at times (Revelation 13:18), that its direct recipients would fully understand. So, be a history buff. Brush up on what was happening in the First Century and why these words would be a comfort to them and why certain codes would be significant to them and quit trying to put yourself into the picture. There is room for application of God’s Word after you have first looked at what the text says by its original author to its original audience. The basic model of hermeneutics is to first ask What does the text say? Secondly, ask What does it mean, in light of who it was written to and the time at which it was written? The third and final question to ask is What does this mean to me and how I should live?
Application is important, but keep first things first. Remember to whom it was written and read it through the eyes of a First Century persecuted Christian.