God does not use symbols randomly, just pulling them out of the sky as if they have no meaning whatsoever. Symbols are used for a specific purpose. They stand for something and they have a deeper meaning behind them. They were not selected to take up space in scripture.
When a symbol is used, in the Revelation, always look for the meaning behind it in other places of the Bible. Another key to understanding the book of Revelation, is a very important key, let scripture interpret scripture and accept the "plain sense interpretation." My "Golden Rule of Interpretation" that I use throughout the Bible from beginning to end, whether it's prophecy or not, is this. Let scripture interpreted scripture and accept the plain sense that makes sense. Don't look for or try to make the verses fit into our future, then you will end up with what has become traditional nonsense."
God doesn't write in riddles to confuse us. He knows how to communicate. If you don't understand it, don't worry about it. Put aside, what is confusing and hang on to what you do understand. Don't give into the temptation, I will never ever understand Revelation. The more time you spend reading Revelation, along with studying the Old Testament the more you will understand Revelation.. "The book of Revelation is not a hard book to understand at all.
In the mid-60s A.D. there were two big crises. The first was the Jewish leaders who persecuted Christians. The second crisis was the Roman empire who persecuted Christians. John, the author of Revelation, did not want Christians to lose their hope. The central message of Revelation is that God is fulling the hope of Israel and God is in control.
The symbols in the book of Revelation were not written to confuse Christians. They were written so the Romans couldn't understand it not Christians. John used images and descriptions familiar to his Hebrew audience. “Using Old Testament prophecies in a book like Daniel for example, as a “guide” we see a basic "template" of the “First prophecies.”
This is an extremely important point because the way in which the first prophecy is given is the best clue to understand the “time frame” when John’s “Second prophecy about the same event was being fulfilled” in Revelation. We will compare the language of Daniel with John’s Revelation in this short study. The beast in Revelation 13 is depicted in the following terms: "It was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion" (Revelation. 13:2). Notice the animals mentioned-a leopard, a bear and a lion.
To understand prophecy, it is important to understand the symbols used. All we need to do is carefully study the Old Testament we can expect an answer. God does not use a symbol in one place and then change its meaning in another. So we will use Scripture to interpret Scripture. The symbols God used in prophecy are consistent.
Daniel saw a vision of four beasts rising from the sea. "I was looking in my vision by night, and then, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. "And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. • Lion. "The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. • Bear. "And then, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, "Arise, eat much meat!' • Leopard. "After this I kept looking, and then, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. • Terrible Beast. "After this I kept looking in the night visions, and then, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It engulfed and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7: 2-7)
Daniel tells us these four successive powers would govern from his time down to the coming of the ruling Messiah (Daniel 2:37-44). As we survey the four kingdoms of Daniel 7. The 4 beasts vision of Daniel chapter 7 are commonly explained as follows: Lion = Babylonian Empire. Bear = Media-Persia, Empire. Leopard = Greek Empire. 4 th Beast = The Roman Empire. It is generally accepted, with good reason, that the four beasts in both Daniel 2 and 7 represent the kingdoms of Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome, in that order, reflecting the order of their appearance. John writes during the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire, the fourth kingdom, would continue to exist in some form until its fatal encounter with the Kingdom of Christ, the fifth and final kingdom. Daniel 2:37-44 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
I'm saying take the time to study the Old Testament "templates" and take the plain sense approach. The symbols stand for something that is often found in the Old Testament all we have to do is accept them how the disciples used them in “their first century historical setting” that makes plain sense. You will find that God wants to communicate, that God knows how to communicate, and that God, what us to understand what He communicates in the book of Revelation.