Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

The book of Revelation was never meant to be the personal property of scholars with their diagrams and charts. You, too, can read and understand it. And our verse today reminds us that we will be blessed by reading this last book of the Bible.

Why has there been so much confusion about the book of Revelation? Let me give you three reasons quickly. First, people can misunderstand or become overwhelmed by the heavy symbolism in Revelation. But symbols are to be understood the same way you understand anything else: literally. An example would be when Jesus said, "I am the door" (John 10:7). It's obvious He didn't mean, "I'm a nine-foot plank with a knob." You understand the figure of speech — the picture — literally. Jesus wasn't focusing on the literal physical makeup of the door, but on the literal purpose of the door — to provide access.

Secondly, people overlook the historic context. This book can't mean to us what it didn't mean to the people for whom it was originally written. The book of Revelation is Jesus' message to Christians who were suffering under the Roman persecution in about 90 AD. They were suffering for their faith —in prison and being tortured. They were persecuted because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Some of them were beheaded, burned at the stake, or fed to the beasts. The problem is that in Western-world, watered-down Christianity, some of us believe that we're not going to suffer, that everything's going to be perfect and great if we have God. A lot of the wrong theology about Revelation is rooted in a wrong understanding of what God really promises about the Christian life. Keeping the original audience and context in mind will help us to understand.

Thirdly, people often miss the fact that there are frequent Old Testament allusions and quotes in John's writing. We don't know the Old Testament well enough, so when we're reading Revelation we just say, "Oh, I think it means this." If we ignore the way the Old Testament explains Revelation, our understanding will be off the mark.

If we avoid these three errors in reading Revelation, we can expect to experience God's promised blessing on our lives.
—James MacDonald