Troublesome Topic: The Spiritual Admonition Comes from the Symbolism Not from a Literal Interpretation

We have missed much of the spiritual impact of the book of Revelation by looking for literal fulfillments of details in the John’s vision. We have missed the spiritual impact because the symbolism is where the meat is. By focusing on the possible literal interpretations, and there is no end to the possibilities, we have chosen to ignore the meat and gorge ourselves on cake. In fact we are like little children; we don’t even eat the whole cake, only the frosting. What I mean by this is that we often study Revelation solely for the purpose of satisfying our curiosity. That is nothing more than frosting.

  My position is that God’s vision to John was intended to encourage the saints who were facing persecution. Thus it had to do with life, with spiritual strength, with a strong relationship with God. In order to maintain a strong relationship with God one must follow God’s principles and apply them to the situations of life he finds himself in. That is where spiritual admonitions come in. That is why we read in Revelation words like, “herein is wisdom.” The book of Revelation has many spiritual admonitions, but most of them are presented in symbolism.

The symbolism of Revelation is also where the confusion has come. If we fail to understand the imagery as the people of John’s day did, we open ourselves up to an innumerable array of interpretations, and the confusion that comes with so many choices. Understanding the symbolism of Revelation as the original audience did will clear up much of the confusion and bring out much more depth of meaning.

We think of prophecy as a foretelling of the future. My quick calculation indicates that 87% of the prophecy in Scripture is not foretelling, but “forth-telling”—a telling forth of a basic spiritual truth (and he assumed that most of Revelation is predictive in nature). Most prophecy was based directly on the spiritual condition of the people at that time and was a warning for them to get their act together. It usually sounded like this: “Here is how you are living; therefore, these will be the consequences.” Only rarely was there something that gave details about an event to take place in the future, such as the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar. We need to change our idea of what prophecy is and look for the spiritual admonitions and encouragement in books like Revelation.

I encourage you to look for those spiritual admonitions in Revelation and apply them to your life. As you seek these exhortations you will find many powerful sermons presented in beautiful little packages called symbolism.

The next lesson is: Revelation is Not an Allegory