How to study the Book of Revelation?

I’ve just begun a study of the Book of Revelation. I am excited to study this most interesting book. Before studying a new book of the Bible I like to remind myself of some helpful tidbits when studying the Bible.

Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Prayer is most important. When studying the Bible–including Revelation–you should humbly depend on God to give you wisdom and understanding. It is wise to pray before, during, and after your study, asking God to direct you. It’s a responsibility the Holy Spirit enjoys and takes seriously, “He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). How wonderful it is to have the interpreter dwelling within you as you read.

Understand the big idea of the book of Revelation.

Determining the meaning of Scripture is a very most important task. God says you must read and study the Bible with care (2 Timothy 2:15). When it comes studying the Book of Revelation it is critical to study verses in their context. Let the text speak for itself. Often, weird interpretations of Revelation are birthed by someone taking one verse out of its context. This is dangerous and a sign of very bad interpretation skills.

When determining the meaning of an entire book of the Bible it is good to have read through the entire book. It is too simple to say that the book of Revelation is about the future, that’s not the main purpose of the book. The main purpose of the book of Revelation is to reveal Jesus Christ. The book begins by stating “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” To properly study the book of Revelation you must see Jesus as the main character.

Understand the flow of the book of Revelation.

Revelation is divided up into three main veins. Revelation 1:19 describes the divisions as:

(1) Past: “the things which you have seen.”
(2) Present: “the things which are.”
(3) Future: “the things which shall be hereafter.”

Understanding these veins will help you follow the flow of the book of Revelation.

Understand the difference between figurative and literal language.

The Book of Revelation is graphic, but it is not a graphic novel. You do not have to be a literary scholar to know the difference between figurative and literal language. The apostle John describes future things that did not exist when he was writing the book of Revelation. As a result, he described what he saw in terms that were used in his day. When John uses terms such as “like” or “as” he is using symbolic language to to describe what he witnessed. This is common with any prophetic literature. Be careful not to over interpret figurative language, but embrace it’s ambiguity and mystery.

Take scrupulous notes.

You are bound to stubble upon passages in Revelation that will make you scratch your head in wonder or awe. Anything you read that is confusing or meaningful jot it down in a journal. I love to use type notes on my computer and organize them by Scripture reference or theme. It is fascinating to look over previous notes I took and compare them to newer passages I study.

Expect to be blessed.

Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed are they that read, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein.” As you study the book of Revelation, and marvel at Jesus Christ and obey what you learn from it, you can expect to be blessed. Revelation is one of the most fascinating books of the Bible. It will certainly stir you to worship Jesus Christ in a powerful and moving way.

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study the Bible like a scribe

This week I have been trying out a new way of spending time with God in His word. It is a study process that I have often done while studying a passage to teach or preach, but it is also quite devotional. I would encourage all followers of Christ and lovers of the Scripture to try the CRA method with your family, small group, one-on-one discipleship, or within personal quiet time.

The CRA method of Bible Study [note: CRA is an acrostic for copy, rewrite, and apply] is quite simple and reproducible. It is a method similar to the scribes of the Old Testament who would copy, recopy, and hide the Word of God in their hearts. Here is the CRA method in 3-simple steps:

1) Copy the Scripture word-for-word.
2) Rewrite the Scripture in your own words [catching the main themes in context].
3) Apply the truth of Scripture to your life [using “I will…” statements].

Let me show you how I have put this to practice using Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which includes the Hebrew shema. The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes depending on the length of the passages and the quality time you take to meditate upon it. If you read more than 2-3 chapters a day take the key passage of 5-10 verses and write them out using the CRA method.

1) Copy Deuteronomy 6:4-9 word-for-word.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [ESV]

2) Re-write Deuteronomy 6:4-9 in your own words.

Listen up! Children of God. You know YHWH, you God. He is God, the One God. He alone must be the fire that stokes your passions. He alone must be the control center of your being. No question about it, He must be chiseled onto the walls of your heart and mind.

Pass along your God-passion to everyone you know. Start with your kids, those next to you on the bus, those you rub shoulders with everyday, dream about it, tattoo it on your brain, and raise a banner over your home that says, “I love my YHWH, and Him alone!”

3) Apply the truth of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to your life [using “I will…” statements].

•    I will cultivate a passion for God’s love through reading the Bible, applying the Bible, and letting others know what I love about my God.
•    I will place reminders around me that point me to my First Love [i.e. verses in my house, wallet, office, computer, etc.].
•    I will share with at least one person today my love for God.
•    I will read the Word to my wife and kids.
•    I will memorize at least one verse of Scripture this week and quote it with my wife.
•    I will not read the Bible as a textbook, but as truth from God Himself.
•    I will chew on the Word each day I read it.