Can We Understand the Book of Revelation?
By Arthur M. Ogden

In previous articles, we emphasized our need to study the book of Revelation. If Jesus Christ revealed the Apocalypse amid promises of blessedness to those who "keep those things which are written therein" (Revelation 1:3; 22:7), He intended for us to understand it. Yet, there are those who think it is impossible to understand this marvelous book.

Can we understand the book of Revelation? I think we can, but let us learn early that we must start with what we already understand and build upon it. This will prove to us that we can understand much of the book of Revelation.

Do You Understand God?

We do not know all there is to learn about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, but, if we have studied the Bible, we have a pretty good picture of both. We understand, do we not, that God rules in heaven on His throne and that Jesus Christ is at His right hand ruling with all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23; 1 Peter 3:22)? If we understand the teaching of these passages, we can understand John's picture describing God's throne. He sees all of heaven and earth bow before God and Jesus Christ, the Lamb, who is at God's right hand (Revelation 4 & 5). The beasts and the twenty-four elders are more difficult to comprehend but we should not let them detract from our perception of this beautiful scene. You see, we can understand the book of Revelation!

Do You Understand The Fall of Man?

God provided for man's spiritual needs from the beginning. He placed the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). Eating of it would make man immortal (Genesis 3:22). Instead, Satan beguiled Eve. She and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit bringing sin and death into the world (Romans 5:12). Yet, in the midst of this, God promised man deliverance from Satan's grasp through the seed of woman (Genesis 3:15). Do you understand what happened here and how that has affected the human race? If so, you will thrill to discern this beautiful picture visualized by John in Revelation 12. Satan is defeated and cast down while salvation becomes a reality to man (Revelation 12:10). Man's right to the tree of life is restored (Revelation 2:7; 22:2,14). We may not comprehend every detail pictured in these passages but we do understand some of it. You see, we can understand the book of Revelation!

Do You Understand the Plan of Salvation?

The plan of salvation is not specifically outlined in the book of Revelation, yet we see it at work. Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9). Nothing changes in Revelation. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). Those who obey God's commandments are those who belong to Jesus (Revelation 12:17) and have hope (Revelation 14:12-13). You see, we can understand the book of Revelation!

Do You Understand The Church?

Jesus promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18) and He built it (Hebrews 8:2). Men who responded in obedience to the gospel receiving salvation are added to it (Acts 2:38-47). Jesus Christ is its head (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). All who are added are members of the same church (Ephesians 3:6). Naturally, we are talking about the universal church because there are many local churches identified in the scriptures all believing, teaching, and practicing the same things (2 John 9-11). You understand this!

The book of Revelation also pictures the church. We see the universal church pictured in chapters 21-22 and, regardless of how we view this scene, we have a picture of the church in its universal essence. Chapters 2-3 portray the church in its congregational essence. We do not have problems comprehending these chapters. You see, we can understand the book of Revelation!

Many Things Are Pictorially Presented

One of our chief problems understanding the Apocalypse is our failure to see the picture visualized. Many things, we comprehend otherwise, become obscure when pictorially presented. Here are a few things, of which you probably have a correct biblical understanding, viewed in Revelation pictorially:

  1. The fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Revelation 10:7; cf.Daniel 9:24-27; Luke 21:22).
  2. The atonement offered for our sins (Revelation 1:5; 5:6,9; 12:10-11; cf.John 1:29; Hebrews 9:11-14).
  3. The cleansing of the righteous Old Testament saints (Revelation 6:9; 7:1-4; 14:1-5; cf.Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:15).
  4. The beginning and spread of Christianity from Pentecost (Revelation 14:6; cf.Acts 2).
  5. The King and His kingdom (Revelation 1:6,9; 5:9-10; 12:10; 19:11-16; cf.Colossians 1:12-14; Hebrews 12:28-29).
  6. The Christian's relationship to God (Revelation 7:9-17; 21-22; II Corinthians 6:16-18; Hebrews 12:22-24).
  7. The Christian's relationship to civil government (Revelation 13:8,12,15; 14:9-11; 20:4; cf.Acts 4:19; 5:29; Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-15).
  8. The judgment and justice of God as He rules in the affairs of men (Revelation 4-20:3; cf.Daniel 4:17,25,32; 5:21).
  9. The resurrection and judgment (Revelation 20:11-15; cf.John 5:28-30; Romans 2:6-11).
  10. Reward for the righteous and punishment for the wicked (Revelation 14:9-13; 20:4-6,14-15; 21:8; cf.Matthew 25:34,41,46; II Thessalonians 1:7-9).

No doubt you have a good perception of many of these topics. If you do, you can claim that you already understand some of the book of Revelation because all of these subjects to one degree or another appear in the Apocalypse. There is nothing new here. Things learned elsewhere in the Bible concerning these themes often emerge in Revelation in the scenes which unfold. We simply must apply what we learn elsewhere in the scriptures to the setting in the Apocalypse. You see, we can understand the book of Revelation!

Eliminating The Negative

You may be thinking, "I understand, but the book of Revelation is about 'things which must shortly come to pass' and these subjects do not identify those forthcoming events." This is true. Nothing we have discussed in this article identifies those events. We have rather sought to establish the fact that we can understand the book of Revelation. We comprehend that part of the book which identifies with the rest of the scriptures. So, we can understand it! Do not permit your inability to fathom the mystery of those hidden events to cloud your study of this marvelous book. You are cheating yourself of knowledge, and robbing God of your faith. Eliminate the negative attitude and learn the identity of the hidden mystery.

Uncovering the key to understanding the Apocalypse lies (1) in paying attention to John's (not yours or some other man's) explanations of certain details and (2) in learning the teaching of the rest of the scriptures. Any interpretation that ignores John's explanation will be in error, and any interpretation ignoring the rest of the scriptures will likewise be in error. Since the teaching of the Apocalypse relative to the other topics suggested appear elsewhere in the Bible, perhaps our search for the hidden things should include the rest of the scriptures also.


This article is designed to create within our hearts and minds a desire to know more about the book of Revelation. It is the last book of the Bible and, if it were not important, it would not be a part of the Bible. Since it is important, we have an obligation to treat it like the rest of the scriptures.

This writer believes the book can be clearly understood and should be treated like all other books. We permit scripture to interpret scripture when studying the other books, and we should let the scriptures interpret the Apocalypse. When we permit this to happen, we will learn to make the proper application of the book and find answers to many other biblical questions puzzling us.

This page is Copyright 1997-98 by Alex Ogden, All Rights Reserved.
This page was last updated on Thursday, May 28, 1998.

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