the Book of Revelation
Revelation has a wide variety of interpretations, ranging from the simple literal interpretation, to the message that we should have faith that God will prevail (symbolic interpretation), to complex end time scenarios (futurist interpretation), to the views of critics who deny any spiritual value to Revelation at all and should not have been in the Bible at all.
In the early Christian era, Christians generally understood the book to predict future events, especially an upcoming millennium of paradise on earth. In the late classical and medieval eras, the Church disavowed the millennium as a literal thousand-year kingdom. With the Protestant Reformation, opponents of Roman Catholicism adopted a historicist interpretation, in which the predicted apocalypse is believed to be playing out in church history. A Jesuit scholar countered with preterism, the belief that Revelation predicted events that actually occurred as predicted in the 1st century. In the 19th century, futurism (belief that the predictions refer to future events) largely replaced historicism among conservative Protestants.
Historicist sees Revelation as spread out history of the world.
The vision of the seals, trumpets, and bowls as well as the interludes, are explained as prophetic of salvation history, that is, unfolding and which will continue till the fulfillment of the Kingdom. Therefore this view has also been called the continuist view.
The beginning of historicism has been attributed to Joachim of Fiore (1132-1202) and Nicolas of Lyra (1270–1349) a Frasciscan Monk. Fiore's diagram were very imaginatively drawn. Here are a few.
three circles of History
"Joachim's great insight about history is what is often called his view of the three statuses, or three eras of history. And it's fundamentally rooted in the Trinity. If Christians believe that God is three-fold (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), Joachim then said that the Bible reveals that if the Old Testament was the time of the Father, the New Testament the time of the Son, there must be a coming third status or era of history that is ascribed to and special to the Holy Spirit, who gives the deep understanding of the meaning of both Old and New Testaments.
"In this chart,
Joachim illustrates his theory of the three overlapping eras of history.
That's the heart of Joachim's great vision and
contribution to western apocalypticism."
According to this view the
whole history is presented in symbolic form from Apostolic age through the
end of the age. The symbols in the apocalypse correspond to events in the
· Chapters 2-3: as seven periods in church age as well as seven types of churches at every age. I have used this interpretation in my book "Seven Churches of Revelation" which was done over forty years ago.
Chapters 4-7: the breaking of the seals
symbolizes the fall of the
8-10: the Trumpet judgments represent the invasions of the
· Chapters 11-13 represent the true church in its struggle against Roman Catholicism.
· Revelation 14-19: the bowl judgments represent God’s judgment on the Catholic Church culminating in the overthrow of Catholicism.
C. Parry. http://www.antipas.org/books/revelation_pearce/revp_appendix2.html
There is no consistent interpretation using this method as each generation interpreted Revelation contexually. As such no consensus exists. All such interpretations were based in the West and took only the Western Churches and did not involve the Eastern History.
The charts that explain the historic interpretation is taken from http://www.ltradio.org
In my book on "The Seven Churches" the historic interpretation of the seven churches represented by the Churches as they develop in time as well as varying characteristics of churches in the world space at any given time.
Prominent scholars who held this view include John Wycliffe, John Knox, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, C. H. Spurgeon, and Matthew Henry. This view became prominent during the reformation and within the reformation churches and hence only in the western churches.
Preter means “past,” is derived from the Latin. "Preterists" believe that all Bible prophecy is past history. At the heart of the doctrine is that prophecy was declared and destined to be fulfilled within the generation of Messiah Yeshua's earthly ministry.
Full Preterists, (consistent preterism, true preterism, hyper-preterism and pantelism (pan ="everything", and tel, completion) believe that all the prophecies found in Revelation were fulfilled in AD 70 and that we are now living in the eternal state, or the new heavens and the new earth.
It will evidently require that Revelation was not written in 95 AD but before 70 AD
(Lk. 3:14). [When John the Baptist appeared,] "the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or no"
1:15). Jesus began his ministry proclaiming the kingdom and reign of
Christ, saying: "The time is fulfilled, and the
(Matthew 10:23) When you
are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you
will not finish going through the cities of
(Matthew 16:27-28) For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.  I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
( Matthew 24:34) I
tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all
these things have happened.
Time Texts which lead to
believe that the fulfillment of the Apocalypse had to occur during the
first century. (
1) The events "must shortly (táchos) take place."
Clement of Alexandria (A.D.150-215) "But our Master did not prophesy after this fashion; but, as I have already said, being a prophet by an inborn and every-flowing Spirit, and knowing all things at all times, He confidently set forth, plainly as I said before, sufferings, places, appointed times, manners, limits. Accordingly, therefore, prophesying concerning the temple, He said: "See ye these buildings? Verily I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another which shall not be taken away [Matt. 24:3]; and this generation shall not pass until the destruction begin [Matt. 24:34]. . . ." And in like manner He spoke in plain words the things that were straightway to happen, which we can now see with our eyes, in order that the accomplishment might be among those to whom the word was spoken.63 (Clementine Homilia, 3:15. See Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 8:241.)
commentators play around with the word 'generation' (genea),
and thinking to avoid embarrassment, project its application to the
generation which will be alive during the last days immediately preceding
the Second Coming of the Messiah. Others, expand its meaning to include
the whole nation of
Commentary, 21st (1994) "Christ's
use of the words 'immediately after' does not leave room for a long delay
(2,000 years or more before his literal second coming occurs, neither)
does the explicit time-scale given in Matthew 24:34. The word 'parousia'
does not occur in this section but is prominently reintroduced in the new
paragraph which begins at Matthew 24:36, where its unknown time is
contrasted with the clear statement that the events of this paragraph will
take place within 'this generation" (Matthew 24:36). This section is
therefore in direct continuity with what has gone before, the account of
the siege of
David Turner (1989)
"'This generation' applies to
Jesus' contemporaries who lived to see the destruction of
Preterism as an organized system of logic initially was the response of the Catholic interpreters to the Protestant historicist pointing the Pope as Anti-Christ. It was proposed by the Jesuit priest Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613). His book Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi "Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse" (1614) published after his death, putting forward the preterist view of Biblical prophecy which considers everything in the Apocalypse, apart from the three final chapters, to events that have already come to pass. He rejected any connection of prophecy identifying the Catholic Church as the great whore as the Historicist attempted. The papacy was totally exonerated as the rule of Christ through the holy Vicar of Christ -Pope - until the end of the world.
The Revelation history is restated in the following way:
Revelation 1-11: the rejection of the Jews and
the destruction of
Among Protestants it was first accepted by Hugo Grotius, a Dutch Protestant who wrote ‘Commentary on Certain Texts Which Deal with Antichrist’ (1640), and ‘Commentaries On The New Testament' (1641-1650), in which he attempted to argue that the texts relating to Antichrist had their fulfillment in the 1st century AD.
Hugo Grotius (1583 - 1645)
Full preterists argue that
a literal reading of Matthew 16:28 (where Jesus tells the disciples that
some of them would not taste death until they saw him coming in his
kingdom) places the second coming in the first century. This precludes a
physical second coming of Christ. Instead, the second coming is symbolic
of a "judgment" against
The kingdom is the dominion of Christ over
earth, which he obtained at his ascension.
At death the saints now receive their immortal body and are translated to heaven and "literal rapture" view cannot be squared with history.
What was the marriage of the Lamb? The marriage was the point at which the Lord returned from heaven to dwell with his bride, and the church was clothed with the new Jerusalem, the capital city and earthly seat of Christ's throne.
Partial preterists (orthodox preterism, classical preterism or moderate preterism.) believe that most of the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem but that chapters 20-22 point to future events regarding the return of Jesus to the earth resurrection of those who are dead and the"Judgment Seat of Christ They do not believe in rapture, a literal Millennium, Battle of Armageddon, literal antichrist, or a role for national Israel.
The book of Revelation was
written to encourage the saints to persevere under the persecution of the
Partial preterism, holds to two second comings of Christ, one that occurred in A.D. 70 as a parousia and as a day of the Lord for the purpose of judging the Jewish nation, and one that will occur universally at the climax of human history as the final and ultimate day of the Lord.
Partial preterism holds that most eschatological
prophecies, such as
Some partial preterists identify "
Most interpretations identify Nero as the Beast, while
his mark is often interpreted as the stamped image of the emperor's head
on every coin of the
The Catholic Encyclopedia has noted that Revelation was "written during the latter part of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, probably in A.D. 95 or 96". Additional Protestant scholars are in agreement. The Second coming and the resurrection of the dead, however, have not yet occurred in the partial preterist system.
"What is Preterism? Preterism upholds the authority and integrity of the word of God against theories of purported postponement and double fulfillment. Preterism is the affirmation that prophecy culminated and came to an end in Christ, and that Christ's prophetic utterances were fulfilled when and as he said they would.
"For the Son of man
shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall
reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you,
There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see
the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (Matt. 16:27,28)
Luke states that the kingdom and reign of Christ would come in the events
marking the destruction of
"The nearness of Christ's Second Coming is affirmed over and over. Paul said, "But this I say, Brethren, the time is short." (I Cor. 7:29) James said, "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh...the judge standeth before the door." (Jm. 5:8,9) Peter stated, "the end of all things is at hand." (I Pet. 4:,7) The Hebrew writer makes several unmistakable statements to this effect when he says, "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." (Heb. 10:37) The nearness of the day is seen in the fact that his readers would "see the day approaching." (Heb. 10:25)
"The apostle John indicated the nearness of the end when he stated they were in the "last time" (Grk. hora, "hour"): "Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." (I Jno. 2:18) The nearness of Christ's return is repeated over and over throughout Revelation in unmistakable terms, saying, the "time is at hand" (Rev. 1:4; 22:10), "Behold, I come quickly" (Rev. 2:5,16; 3:11; 22:12,20), "Behold, I come as a thief" (Rev. 3:3; 16:15), and the things of the prophecy "must shortly be done." (Rev. 1:1; 22:6)
"There is nothing difficult in any of this language; all who will may plainly see that Jesus and his apostles taught the first century church to be in earnest expectation of the Lord's return. The difficulty arises not so much from the announced time of Christ's return, but understanding its manner. Because men have been taught that Christ's return would mark the end of the universe, its continued existence beyond the specified time frame has forced them to explain away the express statements of time by resort to theories of delayed fulfillment or double fulfillment, and assertions that Christ and the apostles were simply wrong. Preterism rejects all such theories, maintaining that the time elements cannot be disregarded or explained away consistent with the doctrine of verbal inspiration. The very authority of the scriptures is at stake!
Charts from http://www.preteristarchive.com/ChurchHistory/
is a Christian eschatological view that interprets the Book of Revelation,
the Book of Daniel, the Olivet discourse and the parable of the Sheep and
the Goats as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global
counter the Protestant interpretation of historicism,
Roman Catholic Jesuit Francisco
Ribera (1537-1591) wrote a 500 page commentary on the Book of
Revelation entitled Sacrum
Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij. This commentary established the futurist
interpretation of Bible prophecy.
The futurist view assigns
all or most of the prophecy to the future, shortly before the second
coming; especially when interpreted in conjunction with Daniel, Isaiah
2:11-22, 1 Thessalonians 4:15–5:11, and other eschatological sections of
the Bible. Ribera
proposed that the first few chapters of the Apocalypse applied to ancient
pagan Rome, and the rest he limited to a yet future period of 3½ literal
years, immediately prior to the second coming.
Robert Bellarmine S.J.(1542-1621),
a Jesuit apologists, published a work between 1581 and 1593 entitled Polemic
Lectures Concerning the Disputed Points of the Christian Belief Against
the Heretics of This Time, in which he also denied the day = year
principle in prophecy and pushed the reign of antichrist into a future
period of 3½ literal years.
De Lacunza (1731–1801), a Jesuit from
it was taken over by the Protestant Theologians like
John Nelson Darby (1800–1882)
of Plymoth Brothren, Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921)
of the Scofield Bible, Charles C. Ryrie
(1800-1880) of The Ryrie Study Bible,
and many later ministries.
Scofield and Ryrie
Futurist interpretations generally predict a resurrection of the dead and a rapture of the living, wherein all true believers are gathered to Christ at the time God's kingdom comes on earth. They also believe a tribulation will occur - a seven year period of time when believers will experience worldwide persecution and martyrdom. But there are difference in when will the rapture occur.
They follow a literal interpretation of the Revelation.
1:19: “what you have seen, what is now and what will take place
Chapter 1 describes the past (“what you have
Chapters 4-19 refer to a period known as the
seven-year tribulation (Dan. 9:27). During this time, God’s judgments
are actually poured out upon mankind as they are revealed in the seals,
trumpets, and bowls.
The three primary views are:
All four views hold that Christians will return with Christ at the end of the Tribulation.
that Christ will return to the earth, bind Satan, and reign for a thousand
years on earth with
Amillennialism, the traditional view for Roman Catholicism, believes that the thousand years mentioned are not a literal thousand years, but is figurative for today which is called the church age which comes between the ascension and the second coming of Jesus. This view is often associated with Augustine of Hippo.
Postmillennialism believes that Christ will return after a literal or figurative thousand years, in which the world will have essentially become a Christendom. This view was held by Jonathan Edwards (1703 -1758)
Proponents of all three
views also generally portray
Lindsey suggests that this revived Roman Empire will be centered in
western Europe, with
Tim LaHaye promotes the
belief that a new world wide Empire
will arise with
Hal Lindsy, Tim La Haye and Jerry Jenkins popularised the concept rapture through books and movies.
Among futurists there are differing views about what will happen to Christians during the Tribulation:
• Pretribulationists believe that all Christians (dead and alive) will be taken bodily up to Heaven (called the Rapture) before the Tribulation begins. According to this theory, every true Christian that has ever existed throughout the course of the entire Christian era will be instantaneously transformed into a perfect resurrected body, and will thus escape the trials of the Tribulation. Those who become Christians after the rapture will live through (or perish during) the Tribulation. After the Tribulation, Christ will return to establish His Millennial Kingdom.
• Prewrath Tribulationists believe the Rapture will occur during the tribulation, halfway through or after, but before the seven bowls of the wrath of God.
• Seventh Trumpet Tribulationists believe the rapture will occur during the tribulation, halfway through or after, but before the seven bowls of the wrath of God. Specifically, at the sound of the Seventh Trumpet (Rev. 11:15, 1 Cori. 15:52).
• Midtribulationists believe that the Rapture will occur halfway through the Tribulation, but before the worst part of it occurs. The seven year period is divided into halves - the "beginning of sorrows" and the "great tribulation".
believe that Christians will not be taken up into Heaven, but will be
received or gathered by Christ into the
In pretribulationism and midtribulationism, the Rapture and the Second Coming (or Greek, par[a]ousia) of Christ are separate events, while in post-tribulationism the two events are identical or simultaneous. Another feature of the pre- and mid-tribulation beliefs is the idea that after the Rapture, Christ will return for a third time (when also counting the first coming) to set up his kingdom on the earth.
Charles Ryrie states,
"Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method, and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation. After all, the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the reality of the literal meaning of the terms involved. Figures often make the meaning plainer, but it is the literal, normal, or plain meaning that they convey to the reader.
Futurists acknowledge the use of figures and symbols. When figurative language is used, one must look at the context to find the meaning. However, figurative language does not justify allegorical interpretation.
"Futurists contend that the literal interpretation of Revelation finds its roots in the ancient church fathers. Elements of this teaching, such as a future millennial kingdom, are found in the writings of Clement of Rome (AD 96), Justin Martyr (AD 100-165), Irenaeus (AD 115-202), Tertullian (AD 150-225) and others. Futurists hold that the church fathers taught a literal interpretation of Revelation until Origen (AD 185-254) introduced allegorical interpretation. This then became the popular form of interpretation when taught by Augustine (AD 354-430). Literal interpretation of Revelation remained throughout the history of the church and rose again to prominence in the modern era.
"The futurist view is widely popular among evangelical Christians today. One of the most popular versions on futurist teaching is dispensational theology, promoted by schools such as Dallas Theological Seminary and Moody Bible Institute. Theologians such as Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, and Dwight Pentecost are noted scholars of this position. Tim LaHaye made this theology popular in the culture with his end times series of novels.
"Unfortunately, there have been and continue to be popular preachers who mistakenly apply the futurist approach to connect current events to the symbols in Revelation. Some have even been involved in setting dates of Christ’s return. Although their writings have been popular, they do not represent a Biblical futurist view.
"Critics of this view argue that the futurist view renders the book irrelevant to the original readers of the first century. Another criticism is that Revelation is apocalyptic literature and thus meant to be interpreted allegorically or symbolically rather than literally. Hank Hanegraaff states, “Thus, when a Biblical writer uses a symbol or an allegory, we do violence to his intentions if we interpret it in a strictly literal manner.”
The Spiritual view (Idealist view) does not see the all of Revelation as predicting specific events in history. Rather it sees the visions as expressing eternal spiritual truths that find expression throughout history. This is expressed in the allegorical and symbolic way and hence any method to interpret the Book of Revelation should simply be trying to find the meaning in those symbols. If words are sound symbols whose meanings are determined by the hearer and the written words are symbols in form, so also are symbols of images depicted in the book of Visions and Revelations. These symbols in themselves have no meaning. Meanings are imposed within the culture in which it is developed.
It is the spirit in which the history moves is what is prophecy. If at all only in the last few chapters are specifically predictive eschatological history. There is an ongoing struggle between God's eternal purposes and the freedom of choice given to Man by God in the creation as Sons of God in all realm. God deals with the issues of Freedom to ultimately direct it to redemption of all creation. This is the story of Revelation. It is this eternal struggle that is portrayed in the book of Revelation
The allegorical approach to Revelation was introduced by ancient church father Origen (AD 185-254) and made prominent by Augustine (AD 354-420). However if we insist of a one to one correspondence of allegorical elements we can run against the wall and mis-interpretation.
According to this view, the events of Revelation are not tied to specific historical events. The imagery of the book symbolically presents the ongoing struggle throughout the ages of God against Satan (as the ultimate expression of sentient freedom of created beings) which is seen and commonly referred to as the struggle between good and evil. In this struggle, the saints are persecuted and martyred by the forces of evil but will one day receive their vindication. In the end, God is victorious, and His sovereignty is displayed throughout ages. Zorastrian connection has developed the idea of duality of forces within the Jewish culture though it is theologically non-Judaic. This is certainly reflected in the Revelation Visions.
The beast from the sea may be identified as the satanically-inspired political opposition to the church in any age.
The beast from the land represents pagan, or corrupt, religion to Christianity.
The harlot represents the compromised church, or the seduction of the world in general.Each seal, trumpet, or bowl represents natural disasters, wars, famines, and the like which occur as God works out His plan in history. God ultimately triumphs