Science fiction is a separate category of literature. Knowing you are reading science fiction helps you understand. Political cartoons are a different category of literature. A political cartoon may include a caricature of the President – not exactly literal, but recognizable as the literal person. In the same picture are an elephant and a donkey. They are figurative, but to anyone familiar with current American government, they are easily recognized as representing literal groups of people. If someone were not familiar with American government, he would not understand regardless of his intellect or study.
It helps to know that the Book of Revelation represents a separate category of literature called apocalyptic literature. The category was popular at the time Revelation was written. The category is characterized by portrayal of end-time events using a mixture of literal and figurative elements (like the political cartoon). Since we are reading about people, places, and events that may not exist yet; it may be impossible to know which parts are literal and which parts are figurative. Accepting that limitation may prevent faulty conclusions.
Why did God give us literature that we cannot fully understand? Perhaps so saints can recognize the fulfillments as they occur, and thus be assured that events are occurring according to plan.
Even with limited understanding we can recognize some prominent themes.
- The future will be full of praise for God.
- The future will include judgment upon evil and victory over evil.
- The future will include scenes of victory and exaltation of Jesus.