Traditionally, there are four approaches to interpreting Revelation: 1) preterist, 2) historicist, 3) symbolic, and 4) futuristic.
As the term implies, the preterist approach places the events and visions in the past, particularly to the Roman Empire of the first century A.D. The proponents of this view believe that the primary purpose of the Book is to encourage the faithful that God will intervene in their immediate struggles. The preterist view explains the symbolic nature of the text as a conscious attempt by the disciple John to hide the real meaning of the text from the authorities and the general public, keeping its message available only to the faithful. The faithful would know that the great whore of Babylon seated upon the seven hills was none other than Rome. The lamb that was slain was Jesus Christ. The bride adorned for her husband was Jerusalem, which God would soon rescue from the beast’s (Rome’s) control.
The historicist interpretation approaches the Revelation as a panoramic view of history from the first century A.D. to the Second Coming of Christ. This is the view of most of the Protestant Reformers. They believe that various symbols can be associated with various nations and events throughout time to the present and the near future, when Christ will return in glory and power.
The symbolic view maintains that the Revelation portrays the conflict between good and evil throughout the entire span of human history. The Book attempts to encourage the faithful to keep up the fight because, despite the magnitude of the challenge and depth of suffering involved in this fight, good overcomes evil in the end and reigns forever. This view does not attempt to associate the symbols with nations or events in history, but simply with the various forces that make up the good influence and the evil influence in humanity’s journey.
The futuristic view holds that from Chapter 4 on, Revelation deals with events at the "End Times," as spoken of in the Book of Daniel by the angel Gabriel. According to this view, Chapter 1 deals with the past, chapters 2 and 3 tell of things that were present and shortly followed at the time of its writing, and chapters 4 through 22 tell of things that will follow the Age of the Church during the Second Coming of Christ.
Edgar Cayce approaches the Revelation most closely to the symbolic view, but even here he takes it far beyond the normal symbolic interpretation. In fact, Cayce teaches that the whole Bible is a story that is both historic and symbolic on two levels: one very personal to each soul and the other for all souls as a group. According to Cayce, the Bible tells of our souls’ journey (individually and as a group) from our creation in the image of God for the purpose of being eternal companions to God, through the fall from grace and the loss of the Garden, up through the struggles to regain that glory that was ours "before the world was." The Revelation, according to Cayce, is a very special part of the great biblical story and should be studied as a kind of roadmap for the final spiritualization of our bodies and minds. The symbols and scenes in this mysterious book represent experiences and stages through which we pass in our struggle to awaken again spiritually and regain our close connection with God and the Garden we once shared. Cayce says that some symbols and places in the Revelation actually represent glands within our bodies and thought patterns within our minds. He explains that "the visions, the experiences, the names, the churches, the places, the dragons, the cities, all are but emblems of those forces that may war within the individual in its journey through the material, or from the entering into the material manifestation [i.e., physical body and world] to the entering into the glory, or the awakening in the spirit...."