The KEY is by the Door (Spiritual Symbols over Literal Substance) Revelation 1:1 This post, which I updated somewhat, was written a couple of years ago. I would now entitle this "The KEYS are by the Door", the other key being the two time-indicators at the very beginning of this book. The KEY is by the Door: Spiritual Symbols over Literal Substance Revelation 1:1 I am indebted to William Hendriksen ("More than Conquerors", Commentary on Revelation) for this little gem. I have read Rev. 1:1 many times, speeding quickly through this preamble to get to the "good stuff". I never noticed, even after having read it through in Greek, an unusual word in the very first verse. That word is actually a key that helps us unlock much of the book. It is like the key we hide under the mat (hence the title). Many modern translations, and paraphrases especially, either hide the key under the floorboard (as the NIV does) or throw it away altogether (The Message, NLT)! Many readers are being cheated of a very valuable clue as to how to approach the book of Revelation. Here is the key: The book is filled with SIGNS. The Greek word ESEMASEN can be translated "signified" (NIV), but to do so misses the main thrust of the word, namely that John was writing about actual signs, symbols. Hendriksen wrote this in "More than Conquerors" (p.38): "The entire book [of Revelation] consists of changing scenes like these, of moving pictures and active symbols."... "N.B. the first verse of the book 'and he made it known by means of signs (or symbols)'." If I would have only known this earlier! I would have saved myself much, much time-wasting fascination of trying to flesh out Revelation details that ... were never meant to be fleshed out at all! By the time I read this commentary of Hendriksen's I was already sold on the basic idea, but he stated very succinctly those suspicion already forming in my mind that we are indeed over-literalizing this book. What makes it worse for all Bible students of Revelation is the less-than-helpful mantra drilled into us (it least it was into us ministerial students at BJU, back in the 70s): "If the plain sense of Scripture makes sense seek no other sense ... ". Well, truth be known, the plain sense has steered us wrong. And - more to the point - the plain sense goes against Revelation 1:1. Come to think of it, "plain sense" has often gotten in the way of spiritual understanding. The Jews understood "plainly" that Jesus said He would rebuild the temple in three days. The disciples misunderstood just as "plainly" about the "leaven of the Pharisees". Very often, "plain sense" is another way of saying "spiritual obtuseness". That leaven wasn't food in their bowls, it was wax in their (spiritual) ears! What are some other examples worth looking into? "Satan is bound". Common sense tells me the plain sense is plain wrong. Answer: Satan is not literally bound, but he can no longer delude the nations as he could before. The dog on a long chain is only dangerous to trespassers. "The four horsemen". Even Premillennialists, and especially Pretribbers/Prewrathers, don't read these as literal horsemen. Yet they want to stay close to their rule lest they fall into the pit of [supposed] liberalism, so they are forced to think of these horsemen as portending a literal sequence of "chartable" events. Answer: Even grouping them together is to miss the point, since the first "horseman" is worlds apart from the ones following Him. The first horseman on a white horse is Christ. See the exact same descriptive phrase at Rev. 19:11. The second horseman follows after the first because whenever God moves in this world the enemy counter-moves. Reading the book of Acts shows this time and again: Blessings Opposition counter-blessings Acts shows this pattern by sequences of events; Revelation shows it by symbols, in this case four horsemen. Also, Revelation uses colors as symbols: The color white is always good - not Antichrist! "The two witnesses". Surely this is Elijah and .. and ... a biblical player to be named later? Answer:To be quite frank, I don't believe that they are actually two people. Rev. 1:1 gives me that option to explore whether these two are not in fact two classes of people - or even one class of people, with the "two" itself being a symbol ("two" = "testimony" or "witness"?). Anyhow, I am tending to see these as the redeemed of both the Jews and Christians. I am still studying this. I would love to hear from someone on this. But what amuses me is that Dispensationalists are shocked that these two witnesses should be treated symbolically ("Why, your allegorizing away sacred Scripture!") yet they see nothing hermeneutically-wrenching about "allegorizing away" the four horsemen into something more general than their Golden Mantra ("Literality ueber Alles!") insists on! <----Compare these: Rev. 1:1 in six versions----> The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, (NIV) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, (NASB) A revealing of Jesus, the Messiah. God gave it to make plain to his servants what is about to happen. He published and delivered it by Angel to his servant John. (The - garbled - Message) This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him concerning the events that will happen soon. An angel was sent to God's servant John so that John could share the revelation with God's other servants. (NLT) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, (NKJV) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (KJV) This shows, by the way, the dangers of relying on paraphrases for serious Bible study. The whole concept of "signs" is absent from the two paraphrases ("delivered" - Message, "share" - NLT) and diluted by others ("made it known by sending his angel" NIV). Do you want your understanding of God's Word limited by the "smoothness" of a "translation" that is far from the actual meaning? Bottom line: It is not unspiritual, or denying God's Word, to recognize that there are many, many spiritual interpretations to the Bible. In some books, like Revelation, we find this type of interpretation to be the very key of understanding the whole book.