In Matthew 24, when Jesus tells us about the last days, He is as clear as can be! So, what is the problem? Why do so many people get Revelation wrong or have crazy ideas or contradictory theories? Basically, it is because (to say this bluntly), they have not read it! It amazes me how some pastors and Bible teachers can go to a text and not “read it,” but can be really good at “reading into it.” That is, instead of reading what is there, in its context, what the words say in the original languages and culture, we read in our theological ideas, frameworks, and presumptions, and thus totality miss what God is actually saying to us! The other problem is the type of literature in which Revelation is written; many of us just do not understand its type because it is alien to our language, training, and culture; thus, we ignore it or misuse it or look at it as something else.
Apocalyptic genre (literature) has a clear meaning most of the time, when we realize what it is and how it operates.
We need to read the Bible so it is more impacting to us and so we can draw out more information for personal edification and teaching. We need to use the proper rules of interpretation so we stay focused and not read into it what we want. Such rules include context, syntax, word meanings, and grammar; this applies to any type of literature from a textbook, from Shakespeare, to poetry, to a novel. Words are used as communication and expression tools to convey the thoughts and principles of the author; and, in the case of the Bible, what God is saying to us. Thus, we need to know the “terms” (its various meanings as applied to its context) and “audience” (how is it used in the culture and how its readers would see it) of the word to get the most out of it. This includes the form of the word, such as how it is put together in sentence structure and context, and what the “function” of the word is, such as its grammar of voice, mood, person, number, noun, adjective, and so forth. Each of the genres operates a little differently in the form and function of the words. (See our article on the Genres at http://www.intothyword.org)