The book of Revelation is the perfect example of why I titled this blog “Fresh Read”. It is a book of strange images, it has a long history of highly disputed interpretations. So we have a choice.
We can come to the book having decided what we think about “the end times” and try to fit the bits and pieces of Revelation into our dogmatic framework. To be fair, it is a fair principle of scripture, to compare scripture to scripture. So we place the saying of Jesus about “hating” our mothers and fathers next to the 5th Commandment to Honor our Fathers and Mothers. This keeps us from falling overboard into some cult like interpretation.
However, when we attempt to fit the scriptures into our dogmatic framework, we are trying to fit the text into our pre-determined filing system. This places our dogma, or filing system, above the scriptures.
At the start of books on Revelation, one can get lost in a sea of history and controversy. The whole thing makes me feel like one of the survivors in the painting by Géricault.
Another approach is to focus more on a reading of the text, comparing English translations, or to the Greek if you can, and noticing the internal structure and flow of the work. Keep observing, and them observe some more before you start to try to formulate a structure or a framework. Become familiar with the text before you consult other observers (these are the commentaries and expositors). Only then will you be anywhere near able to learn from and dispute with these literary friends.
For example, in reading Revelation 4, the scene of the adoration of the Almighty in Heaven, i found that the verse :
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! (4:8)
introduces three concepts of God that are each repeated three times – Holiness (this one is obvious), Might (“almighty” and in following verses “seated on the throne”, and Eternity (was, is, is to come; lives forever and ever (2 times)). There are other “3s”: God is worthy of “glory, honor and power” because he “created…they existed…were created..” (all from Revelation 4:8-11
I don’t know what that means, but it had me singing they hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in my back yard patio where I was reading under the bright and warm sun.
Reading through dogma can lead to confusion, reading, just reading, leads, occasionally, to worship.