The book of Revelation can only be understood within the context that God intended it to be understood. Any other context will produce a false interpretation – an uncertain sound. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (I Cor 14:8 ) If you receive an uncertain sound, you will not understand where the real battle against your soul is, and the enemy will defeat you.
Context is defined as “The circumstances in which an event occurs.” Revelation is not just a study of a book – but much more. We need the appropriate spiritual conditions surrounding the “event” of us receiving the revelation – if we are to receive it with the true clarity that was intended. It is the revelation of Jesus himself and of his faithful love to the true church (the “body of Christ”, the true representation also of Jesus.) It also reveals to us how the devil has worked through false religion, to deceive and confuse the truth of the Gospel.
Finally, it is the revelation of exactly where we are spiritually before God. When we really see Jesus as he is, we also will have revealed to us a sobering vision of how we look to him!
The proper context for understanding is fully identified by Jesus in the first chapter. In fact, everything we need to know about how to study this book, is told us in chapter one. The Apostle John had to have the right spiritual condition to be able to receive it from Jesus. Let us carefully consider these following contexts, and be sure we ourselves are studying within these same spiritual conditions!
Jesus’ Revelation – First of all, verse 1 states that it is Jesus’ revelation, that God gave to him. It does not belong to anyone else. And no one else has a right to make a lot of money by writing a book on it, and then selling it. If you have one of those type of books, be assured it is worse than worthless, because it contains deception! When Jesus sent out his disciples to preach the kingdom of God, he instructed them “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” All the kingdom and benefits are freely given by God, to those who will sincerely receive them. He does not allow anyone to charge for it, or take personal credit for it. Because everything spiritually good, actually originated from God.
Sent by Servants – Verse 1 also tells us that the only messengers/preachers that Jesus gives the Revelation message to, are true “servants.” A servant does not serve anyone else’s interests, but his master’s. No, not even his own interests. A true servant is obedient to Jesus, for he is delivered completely from sin, and the power of the devil. By his Master’s grace and power, he keeps himself humble, pure, and holy in all his living. Jesus only puts his hands on these truly humble servants, to deliver his message. And this is true of John whom Jesus gave the Revelation message to, so we could also have it. John rehearses to us in verse 17, that when he saw Jesus, he humbly “fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me”. John was a humble servant of the Lord.
Sent to Servants – Verse 1 also tells us that the Revelation message is addressed to only one class of people on earth: “servants.” Those who are “owned” by the master, Jesus Christ. They are bound to him by love, and they have submitted all goals and plans for their own lives, to the purpose and plan of the Lord and master. As his servants, they also are persecuted for serving Jesus. Yet this only causes them to have an even greater revelation of Jesus in their soul, and to worship and adore him in a greater way. This is why the Apostle John was on the island of Patmos when he received the Revelation. He had been persecuted and was banished there for being a true Christian. But he was still worshiping while there, for in verse 9 and 10 he tells us:
“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”
Time Covered – Revelation was written in approximately 90 AD, and Verse 1 states that Revelation covers things that will “shortly come to pass.” Verse 3 states “the time is at hand.” Verse 19 further clarifies the time covered by Revelation this way: “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” Today we are in the 21st Century. Much of what is in Revelation, has already come to pass, and has been recorded in history. There is still some yet to come – in particular, the final judgement.
The Bible is the only book that deals with the history of God’s people from the beginning of the world, until the end of the world. The Revelation being given approximately 90 AD, covers the history of God’s people from after the Apostles passed away, until the end of the world.
Need the Whole Word of God to Understand – Verse 2 states “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ”. Verse 10 thru 12 states that when Jesus spoke to John, that Jesus was behind him. And John had to turn around to see him. And when he turned to see him, he saw Jesus “in the midst of the seven candlesticks” – a spiritual object of past Biblical history. The voice we hear behind us, is the Word of God recorded in the Bible.
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” ~ Isaiah 30:21
To understand Revelation, we must use the Word of God that has already been recorded in the past, or “behind us”, to understand the meaning of the many symbols, including that of the candlestick: “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Cor 2:13). Symbolic meaning within Revelation is explained by studying the rest of the Bible. Revelation is a spiritual book, and you cannot translate the symbols literally. The beasts and creatures mentioned in Revelation, represent spiritual conditions in the hearts of people: not literal, physical things. There will never be a literal monstrous beast, who will come on the earth to destroy millions of people.
These symbols of Revelation have a spiritual meaning, and that spiritual meaning especially needs the context of the Word that “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Therefore verse 2 also tells us “and of the testimony of Jesus Christ” who is “The Word of God” (Rev 19:13). The Revelation message reveals Jesus himself to us! The real Jesus! Many know about Jesus, but never have had Jesus’ own presence revealed to them personally. When the true Jesus reveals himself to you by his own presence, you are never the same! You either humble yourself in full repentance to turn from sin to serve him with your whole heart, or you run back to your sin all the harder. Or even worse, you seek to find a so called “Christian” religion to join yourself to, where you can feel good even though sin is still working in your heart and life.
Meant to be Read, Understood, and Kept – Verse 3 states: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” It takes time to fully read and study Revelation. And it takes a spiritual, obedient ear, to hear and understand what Jesus is revealing. And the truly spiritual will obey the instructions found in Revelation.
Sent from Jesus to His church – Verse 4 states “John to the seven churches.” And in verse 11 Jesus instructs John “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches.” And in verse 20, Jesus reveals to John that “the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches”. So we also begin to see that Jesus’ Church is only made up of true servants! The Revelation message is to reveal Jesus and his faithful love to the church and to warn the church from becoming: false servants and false churches, following a false Jesus!
Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords – Verse 4 shows he has always been: for he is, he was, and he is to come. Verse 5 shows he is the “prince of kings” which agrees with the Apostle Paul, who stated in I Timothy 6:15, that Jesus would reveal himself as King: “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” This is boldly and plainly stated near the end, as the ultimate fact for everyone to understand: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16). All other kings are subordinate to him. So it behooves them to humble themselves to be his servants before it is too late! God sets up, and he puts down: no mater what men and women think of themselves. The only way to worship Jesus, is to honor and adore him as King and Lord over all things to yourself, and to the church.
Jesus Dearly Loves Us, is Faithful to Us, and Died for Us – This is why he deserves to be honored as King. In verse 5 of the first chapter it states Jesus “is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood”. Although he may strongly warn and correct us with his Revelation message – he does this because he loves us enough, to shake us up if we need to repent and get right. He does not want us to be lost!
Must Also Have the Spirit of God to Understand and Worship – Verse 4 states “and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne” showing it takes having the Spirit of God working within each of the seven churches, to be able to hear and understand the message. In agreement with this, at the end of Jesus’ words to each church congregation, Jesus exhorts with these exact same words each time. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. It takes the Spirit of God to be able to compare spiritual things with spiritual.
“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Cor 3:10-14)
When in the proper Spirit of worship, then we will be able to spiritually see, hear, and understand, and take warning. This is how the Apostle John was able to receive the Revelation, because in verse 10 John states that “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” when I heard and saw what was revealed. Those who humbly obey, adore, and worship Jesus, will be in the Spirit of worship – and will understand when Jesus reveals.
How Jesus Comes and Reveals Himself – Verse 7 makes it clear how he does this: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” The clouds he comes in are not ordinary clouds:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)
The “clouds” represent the gathering together of the servants, to worship Jesus on the throne of their hearts. True servants are: one body, one church, worshiping God. And those who are false servants “wail because of him” that is in the midst of the true servants.
Jesus said “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20) This is not just at the end of time, for before Jesus was to be crucified, he told the Chief Priest at that time that: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matt 26:64) How did the Chief Priest see it? After the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost came, the Chief Priest saw: true Christians as one body, worshiping together, and Jesus powerfully in their midst, reigning on the throne of their hearts! They themselves were the “clouds of heaven” where Jesus was sitting on the right hand of God. And when the Chief Priest and other Jews saw this, and they were tormented in their hearts because of it.
Finally, “they also which pierced him” (Revelation 1:7) is everyone whose sin caused him to have to die on the cross, and yet they have not repented to serve Jesus. Not just those few soldiers at Golgotha that physically pierced him when he was crucified. Many “wail” at the sight of him in the clouds, because they are guilty of his blood having been shed. You either accept his blood as the merciful sacrifice for your sins, to deliver you from sin; or you are guilty of that same blood. This is not just a New Testament teaching, but it was also true in the Old Testament:
“And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:5-7)
In the cloud of witnesses, there is the witness of the Lord’s great mercy to those who will receive Jesus. But to those who have rejected it, they are guilty already because of their sins. And God still “will by no means clear the guilty”. God has provided his Son as the only sacrifice for our sins, that he will accept. If you reject his Son and fail to be his faithful servant, you know in yourself that sin is still working in your heart and life, and that you’re still guilty before God!
The proper context for understanding is critical! With the help of Satan, religious man has thoroughly confused the truth concerning: God and his Son Jesus, his Word, his plan for salvation, his church, and his Revelation message. But even most people in confused religion would agree on this point: the air is perfectly clear of confusion in heaven. In heaven there is only: one God, one Son of God, one Holy Ghost, one King, one truth, one doctrine, one plan for salvation, and one church. Why you might ask? Because God is NOT CONFUSED! If you make it to heaven, you will not find any person being allowed to confuse anything, because in heaven God is King and everyone else is worshiping and adoring him.
And the truth is that on earth, there are places where there is no confusion of religious man. Jesus is King in the true church of God. And his true servants are worshiping, obeying, and adoring him from the throne of their hearts. The Bible calls this the “heavenly place” on Earth where those who have been saved from sin, sit and agree together in the truth, as one church worshiping God: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:17-23)
The church of God is the “fullness” of Jesus. And Jesus is NOT divided, multi-doctrinal, nor confused. The question is: are you?
Do you have the proper context to understand Revelation? If not, your attempts to understand will be futile, until you fully humble yourself to be his owned servant. And worship and obey him alone, with his body of servants, his church, the true church of God.