Studying the apocalyptic prophets can be challenging, but rewarding at the same time. While it is difficult to be dogmatic about what the various symbols mean, there is much to be gained from the study. There are some definite lessons as well that we can glean from the cryptic writings of these prophets. During my studies, I've learned the following things.
First, one can always learn more from studying the scripture in greater depth. Looking at the apocalyptic writings teaches us that there are many things that we do not know about what God has said and encourages us to dig deeper. In so doing we learn more about other parts of the Bible. One can scarcely look at many of these apocalyptic writings and not take into account the various symbols used throughout scripture. The Bible is its own best commentary. Much of the language in the book of Revelation comes from other parts of the Bible; one understands Revelation only as much as one understands the rest of the Bible. So it is important to learn the Bible as a whole before seeking to understand the book of Revelation.
Second, God will punish the wicked. Regardless of how one views the apocalyptic writers, this truth can be universally acknowledged. Daniel speaks about "desolations" coming upon Jerusalem (Daniel 9:16-17). Joel speaks about the "great and very terrible" day of the Lord (Joel 2:11). Zechariah 11:6 writes, "For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour’s hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them." Revelation 19:15 speaks about the winepress of God's wrath being tread out upon the nations. We know from plain Bible passages that the wicked will not go unpunished. Paul wrote that those who either did not know God or did not obey the gospel would "be punished with everlasting destruction…" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Third, God will care for the righteous. Again, all of the apocalyptic writers acknowledge this fact. Gabriel says to Daniel, "I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved…" (Daniel 9:23). Daniel 12:3 states, "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." Zechariah 14:9 says, "And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one." Revelation 22:3 states, "And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him." Isaiah 60:21 "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified."
Finally, the wicked must repent. Revelation 3:19 states, "As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Isaiah 36:1 says "Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted." Ezekiel 18:21 "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die." Daniel 9:13 "As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth." Revelation 22:17 "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Regardless of how one views the specifics of these writings, these general truths can be clearly understood. Let us study these writings to grow, be warned, and stay faithful to the Lord.