“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:1–3).
Throughout the book of Revelation, the earth has many plagues that rain down upon it. Over the last two thousand years, the book of Revelation has itself been treated to nearly the same number of interpretations, some of them like hailstones the size of baseballs. In the course of this study, we will endeavor not to do any of that ourselves, at least not on purpose.
The first thing to note is that the book of Revelation is a revelation, an unveiling. It is intended to make things manifest, and so any scheme of interpretation that serves to obscure is an interpretation that should be suspect. This is a revelation. Secondly, it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, of and by Him, meaning that any interpretation that leaves Him out of it should also be suspect.
God gave this revelation to Jesus Christ, who in turn signified by his angel sent as a messenger to John, who in his turn showed what was given to the Lord’s servants. John gives his account of the word of God, he testifies to Jesus Christ, and he also narrates for us what he saw. The things that he saw are described as things that must shortly come to pass (taxos—speedily, quickly, swiftly). This means that the book of Revelation is largely concerned with events of the first century. These events were upon them, which John tells us twice. These things must shortly take place, and the time is at hand. Believing this to be a revelation, and not an obscuring, we should expect the fulfillment of the vast majority of this book to occur within a few years of the time it was given. The operative word is soon. With this assumption, many details within the book swim into focus.
John ends his preamble with a blessing. The blessing promised is for those who read, those who hear, and those who keep.