How to Read Revelation

Part 1: Revelation 1–11


Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

Revelation tells the end of the biblical story. These videos from The Bible Project provide and overview of the books. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Revelation, discover what it teaches us, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use these questions as a guide as you watch this first video about Revelation 1–11.  



Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the book at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: In the throne room scene, all creatures worship Jesus.

Observe: As you watched the video, what observations did you make about Revelation 1–11? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters.)
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Where an observation determines what the book says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the book means. We’ve asked what the book says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) In the throne room scene, all creatures worship Jesus. (Interpretation) Jesus is worthy of all praise.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Revelation 1–11? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes.)
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Contextualization looks at how the book fits into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: We see that God is worthy of praise throughout Scripture. The Israelites' entire societal structure centered on worshipping God. David praised God throughout his life and expressed his worship through song. One of the accusations the prophets made against Israel was their improper worship. Jesus came and defeated death. He is worthy of worship and He will return to establish His rule.

Contextualize: What themes does Revelation 1–11 seem to establish? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Old Testament?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this book applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: Because Jesus is worthy of praise, I should take worship seriously. Worship isn't limited to Sunday mornings. Rather, worship involves daily sacrifice to Jesus, which includes prayer, reading Scripture, loving my neighbor. True and proper worship translates to sincere obedience and faithfulness to Jesus. I can worship Him this week by spending time in His Word, praying for a coworker, or making a meal for a struggling family in my church.

Apply: How does the truth from Revelation 1–11 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week?
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As you finish this first section on Revelation 1–11, thank God for how He’s speaking to you so far. Ask Him to continue to teach you as you dive into the next part of the story in Revelation 12–22. 

 
Part 2: Revelation 12–22


The previous section of this post focused on Revelation 1–11. This final session covers Revelation 12–22. As with the last section, the goal of this post is to help you navigate the story of Revelation, see what it teaches us and how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and, finally, to apply it to our lives. Use these questions as a guide as you watch the content. 



Now that you have an overview of  Revelation in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Romans. Read Revelation 5:1–14. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Revelation 5:1–14.   

Revelation 5:1-14 (ESV)

The Scroll and the Lamb

1Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,4and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.5And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.9And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

11Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,12saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Remember that observation asks the basic who, what, where, and when questions. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre.  

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Revelation 5:1–14? (Consider the major characters, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find what the passage means. We've asked what these verses say about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What do they mean? What is the main message of Revelation 5:1–14? How does it connect with the main message of Revelation? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative.  

Contextualize: What themes does Revelation 5:1–14 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of Revelation? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Old Testament?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day. 

Apply: How does the truth from this passage affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some practical ways you can live out the truths found in these verses this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.  

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Revelation, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Revelation this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice. 


To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.