A basic principle in the interpretation of the Bible is that one must first ask what a given Scripture was intended to mean to the people for whom it was originally written; only then is the interpreter free to ask what meaning it has for Christians today. Failure to ask this primary question and to investigate the historical setting of Scripture have prevented many Christians from coming to a correct understanding of some parts of the Bible. Nowhere is this more true than in respect to the last book in the Bible. Here, there has been a singular lack of appreciation for the historical background of the book; the book has been interpreted as if it were primarily written for the day in which the expositor lives (which is usually thought to be the end time), rather than in terms of what it meant to the first-century Christians of the Roman province of Asia for whom it was originally written. This has resulted in all sorts of grotesque and fantastic conclusions of which the author of the Revelation and its early recipients never would have dreamed. -- W. Ward Gasque –
The importance of understanding what the above is saying cannot be over-emphasized, in our current day-and-age of whacky eschatological ideas.