The very first verse of the Revelation said the contents were signified... or betokened... symbolized.
Revelation 1:1 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:
Did Jesus have seven eyes and seven horns? Furthermore, was Jesus an actual lamb? Of course not. We all know these are symbols of Jesus as our sacrifice, as in the Passover night in Egypt when the slain lamb's blood redeemed Israel.
Many people claim, for example, that God spoke the words about the mark of the beast as if to say that it must be a computer chip, simply because it refers to a mark in the right hand or the forehead of individuals. And they contend that if you disagree it's a chip, then you deny God has spoken this prophecy.
Certainly God has spoken it! That is not the issue.
The issue is what did God mean by what He said? When we read elsewhere in the Bible that there are things God had put on the forehead and hand, and then see this same idea in the Mark of the beast, is that a coincidence? Were phylacteries computer chips? They were parchments put on the left hand and forehead of the individual. There is a definite link to the thought of the phylacteries when we read about the mark of the beast. God gave John symbols found elsewhere in the Bible. The Bible interprets itself.
Interpreting Revelation as I do has nothing to do with denying physical realities. I read a preacher's words from the 1800's who felt that Rev. 9:17 was Pistols and gunpowder of the armies riding on horses in the 1800's. He felt that was literal and physical. He looked at the technology of his day and interpreted the bible, rather than look in the rest of the Bible for interpretation. And we can laugh at his conclusions today. People might respond that he was wrong but these are the last days, and they are right! However, time will tell. Trust me.
Furthermore, John saw what he wrote in VISIONS. There is not one single vision in the Bible that did not use symbols that were meant to be signs of what God was really trying to say. Find one.
Of course scripture is true. Why do people say someone who disagrees with their literalist interpretation does not believe scripture is true? That is called circular arguing. They are in effect saying, "You are wrong and do not believe scripture because you disagree with me, and I am right. You are wrong because I am right."
One man I heard about actually believes that there is a giant red dragon in space somewhere, because he did with Revelation 12 what literalists do with Revelation 13 and computer chip interpretation.
Revelation 12:3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
He took that actual and to be physically true. Do futurists really believe there is a giant red dragon with seven heads in space throwing actual stars down somewhere? If not, then futurists must believe that is symbolic of the devil. And think of it. Perhaps there are other symbols in the Bible futurists have thought were actual and physical, when all the while God intended them to be symbols based upon other parts of the Bible where they were revealed and explained.
The problem I personally see is that we can clearly know the dragon is the devil because we read it is. However, many people are so unfamiliar with the rest of the Old Testament that they do not recognize many other items in Revelation are just as symbolic as the dragon. Had we known as much of the Bible as John did, we would not hesitate to realize the mark of the beast is the devil's phylacteries.
When I was in Grade 9, I was being led by God to salvation, but was not yet saved. I was fascinated after seeing the Merv Griffin show where prophecy teachers were being interviewed. I never knew Revelation was about that issue. I never hardly read the Bible before. So I then began reading it. And I took everything in the book of Revelation to be physically and literally actual.
We had speeches to do in my first year of High School English class. So I chose to speak about the book of Revelation! I was just beginning to start back to church and had a great interest in Bible prophecy.
I was telling the students there is an actual sea monster in the ocean with seven heads and ten horns (Rev 13), and its going to come out of the sea one day and make everyone wear a mark on the right hand or forehead, or command their heads to be lopped off if they refuse!
(Students were saying, "Cool!" "Neat!").
Feeling that the teacher was doubtful, as well as some other students, I said, "This is really going to happen because the Bible said so!" (Sound familiar?)
Little did I realize that the issues I spoke about were speaking in symbolism.
However, I contend that futurists are doing what I did in my speech!
Today, futurists say the seven-headed beast is symbolic. Why? The very same chapter of Rev. 13 mentions the mark on the right hand and forehead, and they contend that is not symbolic? Where do we draw the line between what is symbolic and what is not? I could point at futurists, back in the days of my grade 9 mentality, and say they are deceived because they do not agree with what the Bible literally said is going to happen physically -- there is a seven-headed dragon that will come out of the sea! But all the while, the Bible did not say these are going to physically and literally happen. It said in Rev. 1:1 that what is contained in that book is signified.
Simply look in the rest of the Bible, rather than even the book of Revelation itself, and see where symbols used in Revelation were also used. You will be surprised.
This is not haphazard "spiritualizing" of Revelation I am doing on some basis that I do not agree with what scripture is saying. Did I try to destroy what scripture was saying by later realizing the seven-headed beast is symbolic? No. And futurists would agree.
What we suggest is that we should believe what verse 1 of the entire book said. The Message is signified ! Symbolized . And it is not coming up with any old interpretation at all, but it is looking only in the Bible itself, elsewhere, for the interpretation in imagery already established as imagery elsewhere in the holy writ.
I think its more dangerous and off-the-wall to look at modern day science books and interpret what the mark of the beast might be, rather than look in the same Bible that the Book of Revelation appears in!