3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Rev 1:3 NKJ)
So if the letter is not prophetic but apocalyptic (revealing a spiritual mystery), then why does John use the word ‘prophecy?’ Good question!
The letter was written to seven churches in the region of modern day Turkey. The Christian was under constant persecution from the Roman government and the Jewish leaders. Naturally, they were concerned about the future. The old dispensation of the prophetic, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others ended with the coming of Jesus and a new covenant and so in the New Testament, including the Apostle John, the prophet and the prophetic take on a new role. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 lay out the guidelines. Paul tells us, “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” (1Co 14:3 NKJ) Those operating in the prophetic ministry are to be judged by the other prophets and line up with the Word of God. John does this in Revelation, encouraging, lifting up and comforting the people in the midst of their trials.
So why does John use all the symbolism? Two reasons:
1. Jewish apocryphal writings were always written in that fashion, Ezekiel being another example, and the people would have been aware of that.
2. John knew that by ‘coding’ his message in this way, for instance, using Babylon instead of Rome, he couldn’t be charged with sedition and have the Romans stop his message from getting out.
Read it; there’s a blessing if you do, knowing that in the midst of the hardest trials Jesus will never forsake you.