The book of Revelation represents several literature types. When reading and interpreting the cryptic details of Revelation, it is essential to distinguish what type of text you are reading. Our understanding of the different literature types reflects how the sections should receive interpretation.
Revelation as Epistle
An epistle is the letter style of all the New Testament books except the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. An epistle followed the Greek model of letter-writing, which follows several consistent steps: an introduction, the body of the letter, and a conclusion.
In some ways, Revelation follows this epistle model. The apocalyptic content that makes up the body of the letter isn’t something you find elsewhere in the New Testament. John had a specific target audience for the book, so it is essential to read the text according to how his original audience would have read it.
Revelation as Apocalyptic Literature
Apocalyptic literature is characteristic of what Jews wrote between 300 BCE and 200 CE. It was written during times of difficulty, persecution, and longing. Biblical apocalyptic writing tells readers to prepare for suffering and have hope and confidence that God has ordained the events that will transpire. It uses vivid almost hallucinatory imagery and symbolism to represent real-world counterparts. This graphic symbolism adds drama and representations of archetypes in the human consciousness.
In apocalyptic literature, numbers (such as seven) usually carry significance beyond their arithmetic purposes. Do not assume literal 24-hour, 7-days-a-week periods when you come across a time measurement. Units of time are subjective to the topic they reveal, like the creation accounts of Genesis. It’s also worth noting that a prophetic year is 360 days, as we see in the book of Daniel since the book uses the Jewish lunar calendar. Scholars differ on the interpretation of time in Daniel, with some alleging a conventional year.
Unlike dispensationalists, traditionalists do not look for a week to represent an exact period (such as a year). Instead, they see Daniel’s 70 weeks as symbolizing an unspecified period. In other words, the events that occur within each “week” are more critical than lengths of time — one week maybe 200 years; the next maybe one year; the next, three days; and so on.
Unlike the non-canonical writings, in Revelation, John identifies himself as the writer, declares the book as inspiration from Jesus. Revelation also often features angels as guides. Angels are often the guides for the author during the visions. For example, as recorded in Daniel 7–12, Daniel has visions in the night, which an angel then explains.
Revelation as Prophecy
In the Bible, a prophecy is a unique message from God. It may concern future events God tells that will fall on his people or in heaven. Repentance and a commitment to obey God results from the proper application of Old Testament Prophecy.
In most cases, prophets who wrote down the message focused on the event’s details but avoided specifics concerning exactly when that event would occur. The point of the prophecy was to warn people to be faithful and expectant.
Revelation as prophetic divine literature, Christians believe that all biblical Scripture is from God but is received and recorded by human authors. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit inspired and directed the writers without overriding their personality or personal expression. Not all Bible books are written precisely in the same manner, even though they’re all from from God. How John received inspiration for the book of Revelation seems to be extraordinary. John gets his visions in dreams, lucent visions, and directly hearing from the divine. God gave Revelation to Jesus, instructing an angel to relay the account to John.
See also: The Nativity of Jesus