reading scripture: Revelation

I’m wondering as I’m going through Revelation again, whether the only portion you can take literally, and even that has some figurative language is the letters from our Lord to the seven churches. The rest of it is filled with symbolism, speaking of reality and truth to be sure, but not to be interpreted as having necessarily literal fulfillment.

Indeed, the Revelation is mostly, it seems, a vision given to John on the isle of Patmos when he was exiled because of his faith in Christ. It is a written account of something of what he saw and heard.

Revelation takes on something of the same characteristic of writing we find elsewhere in scripture, like in Zechariah and Daniel. To read it as if it has to have literal fulfillment probably means misreading, since we have to understand the genre or type of writing we’re encountering, and understand that it’s meant to convey truth to us, but not at all in exact literal terms.

If we interpreted Revelation to be fulfilled exactly as written, that would pose problems of its own in a number of ways, most of all impacting how we read other like writings in scripture.

Again, this is not at all relegating Revelation to something less than truth. It is only suggesting that to understand Revelation and other scripture like it, we need to grapple with what kind of writing it is, and from that, just how we’ll interpret it.