I sometimes say that Revelation is full of “earthly symbols” and “heavenly realities,” and that one cannot always decide between the two, because the visions defy explanation, insofar as human experience on earth is concerned. It’s a book revealed in pictures, and what John actually saw is the ultimate “interactive” journey — better than any high-tech, sci-fi thrills that man can dream up. 
But the images are intended to convey truth about the unfolding of God’s providential plan, the victory of the kingdom, and, I believe, the superiority of God’s forces over the persecuting monster (a role played then by the Roman empire). Sometimes in the O.T. prophets, as in Revelation, God reveals the future through apocalyptic visions — especially in difficult times when “earth shattering” events were about to occur. Such an appeal to the imagination has a way of capturing the attention and providing comfort in a way that straightforward narrative could never match. 
I believe we are approaching a time when these images mean even more to us….
– Mike Wilson