Many Christians read the Book of Revelation without having a firm grasp of Old Testament theology, History, and structure. This is to their own detriment. Without such a foundation, students of the Bible come away from reading Revelation with all kinds of wild interpretations.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the “End Times” section at your local bookstore sometime. That should speak for itself.
Interpreting the Book of Revelation should not be approached as if you’re trying to solve a puzzle. It is not a book full of riddles, but it is a highly symbolic book. It has a certain “code” to it. The key to cracking that code is not found in the local newspaper or by following world events. It’s found all throughout the Old Testament.
Illustrations, allusions, and references to Old Testament people, places, things, images, and events are scattered in nearly every verse of Revelation. Once you become more thoroughly acquainted with those reference points, interpretation becomes much smoother and less dramatic.
My advice to those who are itching to understand the Book of Revelation: Don’t go out searching for the latest book or commentary on it. Don’t spend your time trying to compare what you’re seeing on the news with what you think you are seeing in the Bible. The power of persuasion is unusually strong when it comes to reading current events into the Bible. There are plenty of End Times prophecy peddlers out there making seemingly persuasive arguments about why what you’re seeing in the world can be seen in the Scriptures. Stay away from folks like this.
Read through your Old Testament over-and-over until you become deeply familiar with its contents. Then, take that understanding and familiarity with you when you approach the text of Revelation. Your efforts will be greate rewarded with deeper insight and understanding.