As I prepare a sermon on Revelation 1 for this weekend it strikes me that three lessons from this chapter should be followed by any would-be interpreter.
1. The Bible interprets the Bible
Not the newspapers. Not modern resonances. There's a reason Revelation comes at the end of the Scriptures. It picks up and weaves together themes and allusions from every other biblical book. We don't need to go outside the Scriptures to interpret them. Very often we don't need to go outside the chapter. Stick to the Bible. The Bible will interpret the Bible.
2. The context is suffering
In particular it's the suffering of John, the seven churches of Asia and the other witnesses to Christ known to John. The context is not comfortable 21st century theorists, but suffering believers. And in the first instance, they are believers of the 1st century who need comfort there and then. If they somehow thought that the kings of Revelation 17 were the EU, how exactly would that be a comfort? And how would that be a comfort to the millions of non-western believers today suffering for their faith?
3. The point is Christ
It's the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the Revelation of eschatological timetables. Jesus is the centre. Focus on Him and His comfort in suffering and you won't go too far wrong.