Can we take the book of Revelation literally?

Can we take the book of Revelation literally? Revelation has a literal implication, but there are symbols and we find the meaning of those symbols are found in other places in Scripture. The powers at battle are very real.
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Caller:  I have a question about Revelations.  Sometimes when I talk about Revelations to other people they tell me that I shouldn’t take Revelation literally, that it’s more just a story, and the main principle is that God overcomes in the end, but it’s dangerous to read into it too much.  I don’t know how to respond to that.

Pastor Doug:  Well, first of all, I want to say for you and anyone else listening, Revelation does have very literal implications for the last days.  Now, in Revelation where it talks about a woman sitting on a dragon with seven heads and ten horns, that’s a symbol, but you have to apply—it tells other places in the Bible what are those symbols.  And we find out when we let the Bible explain itself. 

It tells us that the serpent is a symbol of the devil, a woman is a symbol for a church, and it gives you all the pieces to the puzzle.  But once you understand the symbols, what we see these powers doing is very real.  They’re not just spiritual stories.  A number of things that are prophesied in Revelation actually came true for instance, Revelation begins with seven messages to the seven churches.  That represents seven ages the churches would go through until Jesus came.  When you evaluate the ages of the church, it fits perfectly. 

Matter of fact, it tells you about the church of Smyrna, and the word Smyrna means sacrifice or incense—it’s where we get the word myrrh.  Jesus said for ten days it would be plunged in great persecution.  Well, a day is a year in prophecy—that’s one of the Bible symbols.  For ten years, from 303 to 313, the church was in terrible persecution during that era of that Roman emperor.  And so, many of these things happened quite literally, once you understood the symbols. 

Caller:  So we can see the symbols by studying the Bible?

Pastor Doug:  Yes, once you understand—for instance, let me give you an example:  Revelation 4 talks about a Lamb that was slain.  You might ask, ‘Well, what’s a lamb?’  John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said ‘Behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.’  So this Lamb is Christ.  And so once you start applying these basic symbols, the keys are all through the Bible, Revelation just unfolds like a flower and becomes very vivid.

Caller:  How about things like the 144,000?

Pastor Doug:  Okay.  Now, did Jesus literally have 12 apostles that He chose to preach the gospel to Israel?

Caller:  No.

Pastor Doug:  Well, no, there were 12 real apostles.

Caller:  Well, there were 12 disciples, right, but did He have many apostles?

Pastor Doug:  You’ve got it backwards.  He had 12 apostles and many disciples. 

Caller:  Oh, okay.

Pastor Doug:  But in any event, the 144,000 are modern day apostles that He’s going to use to prepare the world for his second coming.  Just as he had 12 preparing Israel for His first coming, He’ll have 12 times 12,000 to prepare the world for His second coming.  They’re very real people.  So these things that you’re reading in Revelation have real relevance.  They’re not just ethereal allegories.  You just need to know what the symbols are.

Let me give you one little amazing fact.  There are 404 verses in the book of Revelation.  Out of those 404 verses, 278 can be found almost word for word somewhere else in the Bible.  So the key to understanding Revelation is going to the other places in the Bible.  Okay?

Caller:  Yeah, okay, great.  Thank you.

Pastor Doug:  Incidentally, I’d like to remind both Brenda and our other listeners that we have an advanced set of lessons that deal in more depth with Revelation.  You can call and sign up for that Bible school.  Call our resource number—800-835-6747 if you’d like to inquire about that.  Tell them you’re listening to Bible Answers Live.

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