One of the “great take-away”s I will have from this Revelation course is the notion of letting visions be visions and not requiring of them a literal understanding which they do not present. I have done this many, many times in my prior readings of the book. In light of this, this Bauckham quote is especially poignant.
…Revelation has suffered from interpretation which takes its images too literally. Even the most sophisticated interpreters all too easily slip into treating the images as codes which need only to be decoded to yield literal predictions. But this fails to take the images seriously as images. John depicts the future in images in order to be able to do both more and less than a literal prediction could. Less, because Revelation does not offer a literal outline of the course of future events – as though prophecy were merely history written in advance. But more, because what it does provide is insight into the nature of God’s purpose for the future, and does so in a way that shapes the readers’ attitudes to the future and invites their active participation in the divine purpose.
Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p 93