FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT: So far the book of Revelation doesn't seem all that different from other New Testament epistles, but that all changes in chapter 4 where John's vision begins. It's important to remember this is a vision; many of the creatures we will hear about do not actually physically exist. For example, v6-8 describe 4 living creatures with different sorts of heads, with six wings each and eyes on every surface. From a physical perspective none of that makes sense, but John is not seeing things physically, he's seeing them Spiritually (v2).
Understanding this distinction is critical to properly interpreting the Apocalypse (Revelation). We believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible, that is, what is says is fully true. But we must interpret the Bible on its own terms, so you're not expected here to understand that all of these fantastic objects really exist, but rather you must know the Spiritual truths that they represent.
BUT THIS ISN'T AN INTERPRETIVE FREE FOR ALL: Be careful to not let your imagination run wild as you read through Revelation. Remember the key principle to interpreting any passage of scripture:
Scripture interprets scripture.
This means that we look to the clear passages of the Bible to help us understand the difficult passages of scripture. Late night TV preachers like to come up with all sorts of elaborate theories about how John's visions are being fulfilled by this or that current world event. We can look at the 24 elders in v4 as an example of a much better way to interpret Revelation. Two key themes in the Bible are the 12 patriarchs of Israel who the tribes are named after and the 12 apostles in the New Testament. Taken together, these 24 men represent God's church throughout all of the ages.
It's certainly possible that we will develop some incorrect interpretations along the way - remember our discussion about holding our conclusions more lightly in this book than what we do in books like Romans or Ephesians - but using scripture to interpret scripture will give us some solid guard rails that keep us from careening off the road.
THE POINT OF IT ALL: As a finite person, you have a limited perspective on the truth. Certainly you can do things to broaden your perspective and understand things a bit more clearly, but you'll still be limited. The opening of John's vision here pictures God's throne at the center of the universe, with all things radiating out from it. This is the one spot from which all perspectives are clearly seen. No matter what happens in this world, remember that God is on His throne at the center of it all and He will always be fully in control.
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (v8 / Isa. 6:3)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Remember that God sovereignly and omnipotently rules all things from the center of the universe
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: