© Kimberly Reinick – Fotolia.com
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
Many of the questions surrounding the contested interpretation of the book of Revelation concern how we should read the imagery that John uses. Is it literal? Symbolic? If they are symbolic, what do they mean? I think that the imagery and the numbers used in the book are symbolic, and not intended to be understood literally. G. K. Beale explains why. He interprets the book of Revelation symbolically, because he interprets Revelation 1:1 literally.
Beale shows that the Greek word for the phrase “made it known” (or “communicated it” in the NASB) is σημαίνω or sēmainō. This can be translated a few ways, but Beale says it should be “communicated by symbols.” So it could read “He communicated it by symbols by sending his angel to his servant John.” On top of that, there is a vital allusion to Daniel 2:28-29 in the opening verse of Revelation. Key phrases in verse 1 of Revelation 1, are also used in Daniel 2:28-29. In Daniel, the context is someone interpreting a dream where there is a symbolic vision. Here, Beale uses the scripture to interpret scripture. Beale sums it up like this:
“Scripture is of a piece, it is unified. I think that throughout the book of Revelation John is referring all over the place to Daniel. And when you go back to the Old Testament context and go back to the New, it always illuminates the New Testament text. So I think John is using this in light of the context of Daniel, and he is saying “These visions in Revelation are communicated symbolically in the same way that Nebuchadnezzar had that vision [in Daniel 2].” . . . Verse 1 is a programmatic verse for whole book; that’s why we call it the book of Revelation!”
This verse literally says that the book is mainly going to be symbols. So we should interpret the rest of the book symbolically. Listen to Beale’s talk here.