Monday, June 25, 2018

Surveying Various Interpretations Of The Book Of Revelation

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Revelation 1:19 "Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things."

Review: Directing our thoughts toward interpreting the Book of Revelation

Like the last post, we are concerned with better understanding how to approach our interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Readers may review that last post by clicking here: 

In that last post, we proposed that four standpoints must be addressed when approaching the Book of Revelation:

A. First, looking at Revelation from a literary point of view. That is, what sort of literature is Revelation (we discovered at least three: epistle, apocalyptic and prophetic).

B. Second, looking at Revelation from a historical perspective. That is, the setting, the background and dating of the book. We also attempted to discern how much of Revelation is speaking of events current in the first century versus events that are yet-to-come.

C. Thirdly, we noted the doctrinal perspective. How have Christians of the past 2,000 years interpreted the Book of Revelation? What sort of theological perspectives exist in understanding how all of the various details of John's Apocalypse fit together? 

D. Then finally, we mentioned the importance of outlining the Book of Revelation. 

We considered the first two of these standpoints in the last post. In that post we, noted the following literary features of Revelation:  

A. Revelation is composed of Epistles (Revelation 1-3)

B. Revelation is also composed of symbols and sweeping visions the portray how God will defeat the evil powers of this world (called "apocalyptic literature, Revelation 4:22). 

C. Revelation contains prophetic elements that serve to predict what is to come as well as to encourage believers in the present moment (Revelation 4-22).  

Furthermore, we also covered the second standpoint that must be addressed when interpreting Revelation - namely the historical standpoint.  How much of Revelation is about the future, the past and the present?  Four responses were examined, which I will list only by name: 

A. Preterist = the view that Revelation is primarily about the events of the 1st century.

B. Idealist = the view that Revelation depicts, in general, the ongoing battle and eventual defeat of evil by God.

C. Historicist = the view that Revelation (particularly chapters 2 & 3), lays out various historical epochs of the last two thousand years of church history.

D. Futurist = Most of Revelation is predicting the future and serves as a warning to sinners and a comfort to believers.

In today's posting, we will explore some standard theological approaches to the Book of Revelation. Hopefully, in the next post, we will consider a proposed outline of the Book of Revelation.   

The Book of Revelation from a doctrinal standpoint

The doctrinal standpoint is mainly focused on one chapter in Revelation: Revelation 20. The phrase "1,000 years" is mentioned six times in Revelation 20. This particular chapter has led to much discussion and debate among students of scripture over the history of the church. Thankfully, in the history of the church, there have emerged only four main responses given to these big questions. These four positions are respectively called: 

A. Historical Premillennialism.
B. Dispensational Premillennialism C. Amillennialism.
D. Post-millennialism. 

To avoid making today's post into a book-length document, I have included information and diagrams in the end notes for those who may want to know more information.1

The above four main positions will vary in how much they view prophecy as either literal (Dispensational Pre-millennial and somewhat Classical premillennial) or more symbolic (Amillennial and Post-millennial). Again, the reader is invited to consider the end notes section of today's blog to get more detail on these four major viewpoints of Revelation 20. 

Five things that Revelation 20 is focused upon and its connection to the whole book

For one thing, Revelation 20 focuses upon five key events: 

1. The coming of Christ.
2. The reign of Jesus Christ.
3. The resurrection/reign of the saints.
4. The judgment of the wicked.
5. The judgment of Satan.  

Almost all interpreters affirm that Revelation 20 represents the final chapter of history before the Eternal State of Revelation 21-22.  

Eight Questions That Explain How The Differing Views Over Revelation 20 Occur

Where the differences among believers begins to arise entail the following:

1. Is the reign of Christ occurring now, in the future, or both now and the future?

2. Are the resurrections in Revelation 20 literal and thus future; more so spiritual and now; or somewhat spiritual and future?

3. Is Christ and His saints to reign mainly in Heaven now; to reign on the earth in the future; or a little bit of both?

4. Is the 1,000 year period (Millennium) in Revelation 20 a symbolic number or literal number referring to Christ's future establishment of His kingdom upon earth for 1,000 years?

5. Is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ depicted in Revelation 20 a Heavenly Reign now, a future earthly reign or a little bit of both?

6. Is Satan's judgment occurring now, future or a little bit now and ultimately in the future?

7. Will Christ come back to set up a kingdom on earth for a 1,000 years; or is He reigning in Heaven now and waiting to come back to usher in Eternity; or is Eternity to be ushered in by the church's preaching of the Gospel, with Christ coming back to usher in eternity?

8. Are Bible Prophecies to be interpreted as being literally fulfilled, symbolically fulfilled or a little bit of both?

How one answers those eight questions does impact how one interprets Bible prophecy.  It must be remembered that the answers given do not carry the weight of importance as one's view on the Trinity, Christ's Deity, Salvation or view of the Bible as God's Word.  However, prophecy and one's view of it, can affect how one views God's final goal for our world and the carrying forth of the Great Commission. 

In the next post, we will look at some ways one can outline the book of Revelation. 


1. Four key viewpoints on Revelation 20.

A. Historic Pre-millennialism. (Christ returns before 1,000 year literal kingdom) This first view is the oldest view of all four viewpoints. Historic Premillennialists believe that the 1,000 year reign of Christ will be literal, will be on earth, will be future and will last for 1,000 years. Below we can see a summary pictorial illustration:

Present Age------------Christ's-----1,000 year reign---Final-Eternity---->

                                   Return                               Judgment

                                Righteous raised               Wicked raised

                                  Satan Bound                    Satan Judged

B. Dispensational Pre-millennialism. (Christ returns before 1,000 year literal kingdom) This second view tends to divide God's dealing with history into periods called "dispensations". Though similar to Historic Pre-millennialism in how it views the term "1,000 years", Dispensational pre-mills tend to distinguish Israel from the church and place more emphasis on Christ's gathering of the church (the rapture) as being separated by a seven year tribulation period before His Return. Again we lillustrate:

Present Age----Rapture 7yr Trib Christ's-1,000 year reign-Final-Et-->

                                                  Return Judgment

                                                  Saints Jewish saints Wicked raised

                                                  raised raised

                                                  Satan Bound             Satan judged

C. Amillennialism. (There is no 1,000 year millennium, thus the term "a-millennialism". Right now is the millennial age and the Kingdom is all spiritual) This third view views the millennium as a symbolic number that describes Christ's reign from His ascension in the Book of Acts until when He comes back to usher in Eternity. The first resurrection speaks of people being saved or converted now, with the final resurrection referring to the raising of both the righteous and the wicked. Below we see a summary:

Christ Began reign--Present age/"millennium"--Christ returns-eternity

when he ascended unknown length of time       Resurrection

                                                                           of saints &


D. Post-Millennialism. (Similar to A-millennialism in how it views the number 1,000, except it believes there is a golden age yet to come of indeterminate length that will conclude with Christ's return, hence "post" or "at the end") This fourth view believes that Christ went into heaven to begin His reign and will not return until the Gospel has been fully preached and most of the world (not all) has been Christianized and converted by the power of the Gospel.  Post-millennialism is a very optimistic viewpoint and takes seriously the Great Commission. Its summary is as follows:

Christ began-----Church right now----------------Christ returns-eternity

Ascended           preaching Gospel, turns into   raises righteous

                           Millennium as world becomes  & wicked

                           Christianized, Christ then will   Satan

                           turn at the end of this                Condemned

                           "Millennium" hence


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