There’s an intersection near my house that’s known for peddling. Sometimes there are puppies for sale, other times it’s rugs. But sometimes it’s prophecy. Signs warning me about “the mark of the beast” and the end of the world accompany a man in an old truck selling a book that promises to keep me safe in these tumultuous end times. The book of Revelation can prompt very strange behavior.
Of all the books in the Bible, none produces such a plethora of interpretations and conclusions as Revelation. Maybe this is part of the reason we tend to avoid studying it. I mean, what are we to do with a book that speaks of locusts with scorpion tails (9:10) and a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns (12:3)? Yet no other book begins with such a direct encouragement to the reader:
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 (1:3).
Maybe we avoid studying Revelation because it makes us feel obligated to figure out which camp we land in: Are we post-mill, pre-mill, or a-mill? Because we don’t feel ready to come to such weighty conclusions, we stay away. Many assume that by studying Revelation they will need to come to some final conclusion about where they stand on this big, confusing thing called eschatology (the study of end times). And since many of us are just trying to make it to the end of the day with a somewhat clean house and half our to-do list checked, we figure we just don’t have time for that.
But Revelation is part of the God-breathed Scriptures, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, equipping us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16)! Therefore we need to study it. The question is, how do we tackle such an intimidating book?
7 Suggestions for Your Study
Here are seven simple suggestions for studying Revelation for the average woman:
1. Read it to get to know God.
Just like the rest of our Bibles, reading Revelation should be motivated by a desire to know and love God. Though it can be tempting to read this book of prophecy with end times in mind, we should read it with God in mind.
What does God love? What does He hate? How does He respond to mankind? How does He describe Himself? These are all great questions to ask as you read. We want to love the one true living God, not one we have made up and suited to fit our own preferences. Reading the Bible is one way we slowly compile an accurate character of the God who has saved us.
2. Notice the descriptions of Jesus.
Jesus is the central figure of this book, from the first chapter to the last. If you love Jesus, then you should be excited to read Revelation!
In the rest of our New Testament, we see Jesus stripped of His god-like qualities and humbly embracing the form of man to save us from our sins. But in Revelation we get the opportunity to see Him in glory, restored to His proper place as King! As you read, keep a list of every description of Jesus and ask yourself, “How does this characteristic of Jesus affect me today?”
3. Notice the nature of mankind.
Though we might not know when all of these things will happen (or have happened), there is much we can learn about the nature of mankind. Pay attention to those who refuse to repent, how they treat God and His people, and what happens to them. Notice all the descriptions of the saints, those who have responded to God’s offer of salvation with faith and repentance. What is their fate, and how does God speak of them? There is much we can learn about the fallen nature of mankind and the promises for the redeemed from this book.
4. Notice God’s patience.
One of the most surprising things I concluded from reading Revelation was how patient God is. As I read about the rebellion of mankind, of their refusal to repent from murders and demon worship (9:20–21), I was ready to see God bring about their end. Yet in the next chapters God sends two witnesses (11:3) and three angels to proclaim the gospel and warn of coming judgment to all who live on the earth (14:6–11).
Even when the earth is full of the vilest offenders, God shows patience in holding back His wrath and His mercy in extending the gospel. It’s truly shocking to see God’s goodness on the backdrop of such wickedness. And immediately I am stirred to worship Him for how He has shown Himself to be just as patient and merciful in my own life.
5. Notice the end of Satan.
Though Revelation can seem like it highlights Satan’s power due to its graphic descriptions of him (i.e. a dragon with seven heads), it’s actually a statement about his weakness and doom. In more than one place we see the sure end of our foe. This is meant to be a comfort to us! A reminder that, as Martin Luther put it in the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure.
Because we are reassured that “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down” (12:10) and will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” (20:10), we can walk confidently in this life because we are friends with the Christ who will defeat him.
6. Allow unanswered questions.
It goes without saying that we won’t fully understand all the meaning in Revelation in this lifetime. And that is okay. The Bible is worth reading no matter how many unanswered questions we have about it because the Bible reveals the character of our God!
Let go of the pressure to come to a conclusion about everything you read. There are plenty of clear, straightforward truths in this book that explain the character of God, the person of Jesus, the role of the Spirit, and the final end of those who trust Him for salvation. Don’t let the pressure to figure it out keep you from enjoying the richness this book has to offer.
7. Read prayerfully.
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to guide us “into all the truth” (John 16:13). If you have trusted in Jesus as your only hope for salvation from your sins, then God has given you His Spirit!
When you read, ask for help from the Spirit to understand what you read. When you see something confusing or something that makes you feel uncomfortable about God’s character, talk to Him about it and ask Him for eyes to see from His perspective. Let your reading of Revelation be relational, interacting with God as you read, not just intellectual.
If you’ve avoided this book of your Bible, it may be time to give it a chance. All of the Bible is God-breathed and profitable for us. Remove the pressure to figure it all out, and jump in seeking to know and love God more. Ask Him to open your eyes, that you may behold wonderful things in His Word (Ps. 119:18). It is a prayer He is sure to answer!