The Book of Revelation—What Does It Mean?
The Bible’s answer
The Greek name of the Bible book of Revelation, A·po·kaʹly·psis (apocalypse), means “Uncovering” or “Disclosure.” This name indicates the meaning of Revelation—it uncovers matters that had been hidden and discloses events that would happen long after it was written. Many of its prophecies are yet to be fulfilled.
Overview of the book of Revelation
Messages from Jesus to the seven congregations.—Revelation 1:10–3:22.
A vision of God on his throne in heaven.—Revelation 4:1-11.
A series of visions, each one leading into the next:
Seven seals.—Revelation 5:1–8:6.
Seven trumpets, the last three of which introduce three woes.—Revelation 8:7–14:20.
Seven bowls, each containing a plague representing a divine judgment to be poured out on the earth.—Revelation 15:1–16:21.
Visions of the destruction of God’s enemies.—Revelation 17:1–20:10.
Visions of blessings from God for heaven and earth.—Revelation 20:11–22:5.
Keys to understanding the book of Revelation
Its meaning is positive, not fearful or terrifying to those who serve God. While many associate the word “apocalypse” with great disaster, the book of Revelation begins and ends by saying that those who read, understand, and apply its message would be happy for doing so.—Revelation 1:3; 22:7.
Revelation uses many “signs,” or symbols, that are not to be understood literally.—Revelation 1:1.
Many major entities and symbols in the book of Revelation are introduced earlier in the Bible:
Jehovah—“the true God in the heavens” and Creator of all things.—Deuteronomy 4:39; Psalm 103:19; Revelation 4:11; 15:3.
Jesus Christ—“the Lamb of God.”—John 1:29; Revelation 5:6; 14:1.
Satan the Devil—God’s adversary.—Genesis 3:14, 15; John 8:44; Revelation 12:9.
Babylon the Great—like ancient Babylon (Babel), an enemy of Jehovah God and his people and a source of religious lies.—Genesis 11:2-9; Isaiah 13:1, 11; Revelation 17:4-6; 18:4, 20.
“The sea”—wicked mankind opposed to God.—Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 13:1; 21:1.
Features corresponding to the ancient tabernacle used for God’s worship—including the ark of the covenant, the glassy sea (basin for washing), lamps, offerings of incense, and an altar of sacrifice.—Exodus 25:10, 17, 18; 40:24-32; Revelation 4:5, 6; 5:8; 8:3; 11:19.
Wild beasts—symbolizing human governments.—Daniel 7:1-8, 17-26; Revelation 13:2, 11; 17:3.
Numbers used symbolically.—Revelation 1:20; 8:13; 13:18; 21:16.
The visions apply to “the Lord’s day,” which began when God’s Kingdom was set up in 1914 and Jesus began ruling as King. (Revelation 1:10) We can therefore expect the main fulfillment of Revelation to be in our time.
To understand the book of Revelation, we need the same things that help us to understand the rest of the Bible, including wisdom from God and assistance from those who already understand it.—Acts 8:26-39; James 1:5.