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Interpreting the Book of Revelation

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Question:  To Whom This May Concern, Do you have any written archives/essays on the book of Revelation that is on the Internet? I am doing an essay, and I need to find out about:

1) The Historical Approach of Revelation
2) The Presentist Approach of Revelation
3) The Futurist Approach of Revelation
4) The Spiritual Approach of Revelation

I trust you can help me out on these points, I am writing an essay myself for College and would be very grateful if you could help me on this matter. God bless.

Response:  Yes indeed.  In addition the preliminary series, the Satanic Rebellion: Background to the Tribulation, you will find at Ichthys an entire series dealing specifically with the end times and employing a detailed exegesis of the Book of Revelation as its organization template: The Coming Tribulation series.  There is much on the Book of Revelation per se, its purpose, structure, interpretation, etc., at the link: section IV.3 "The Book of Revelation".

In regard to your other particular questions, I have the following comments:

1) The Historical Approach of Revelation - this is the name generally given to interpretations of the book which see it as a road map for Church history in toto, rather than a detailed description of the end times (that is, the seven year Tribulation and what follows). According to this view then, the 144,000 might have been on the scene in the middle ages, the beast might show up in a century or two, Armageddon might be several thousand years away (depending upon where/how the interpreter wants to slice things up). This is a theory which does not give the Bible much credit for meaning what it says, since there is absolutely no way to peg these events then, especially if spread out over an indeterminate time.

However, it is certainly true that the seven messages to the seven churches in chapters two and three are indeed historical, outlining the course of Church history to come and breaking down the Church Age into seven distinct eras (this whole area is covered in part 2A of the Coming Tribulation series).

2) The Presenist Approach of Revelation: I think you mean by this "Preterist", i.e., the view that wants to apply the entire book to past [or praeter, Latin = prior] Church history (so that "Armageddon" might refer to Constantine's wars, or whatever the interpreter thinks most appropriate, depending upon who he thinks wrote Revelation and when). This is an approach not generally taken by those who have high (conservative) view of inspiration and consider the Bible to be God's Word.

3) The Futurist Approach of Revelation: The correct view, at least in my opinion (in company with most conservative scholars). According to this view, the book is a plan of the events in the end times to come.

4) The Spiritual Approach of Revelation: Revelation as an allegory (like Pilgrim's Progress, for example). This is a difficult theory to even put into practice, given that the Revelation identifies its symbols: e.g., the beast is symbolic for the antichrist and Babylon for the economic-political-religious center of the world during the Tribulation. Since these symbols are identified as concrete future manifestations, it is hard to see how one constructs an allegory out of that without completely ignoring these identifications made by the book itself. Anyway, this view was popular during the first century.

In terms of bibliography you might find helpful, I would especially recommend the following book which does a very good job of describing these things in more detail:

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, by John W. Walvoord (Moody 1966)

And any good Bible encyclopedia (e.g., Interpreter's Dictionary), or Bible dictionary (e.g., Unger's Bible Dictionary), or introduction to the New Testament (e.g., Donald Guthrie's New Testament Introduction) will tell you pretty much the same thing about these views.

You may also find helpful a couple of other files posted at ICHTHYS:

The Coming Tribulation: Part 1: Introduction

The Coming Tribulation: Part 2A: The Seven Churches of Revelation

The structure of Revelation

The "ten days" of Revelation

The symbolism of the Lamb of God in Revelation

The 200 million army of demons in Revelation

The 144,000 in Revelation

Hope these are helpful to you,

Yours in Christ,

Bob Luginbill


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