Intro to Revelation
We resume our normal blog structure with some minor tweaks for the month of October. For the most part, the schedule will be as follows:
- Mondays: New Testament
- Wednesdays: Protestant Reformation
- Fridays: Old Testament
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
If you have been following along in the Bible in a year journey, you may have been growing anxious for when we reach the book of Revelation. Perhaps it is because that means that we are nearing the end of our Bible in a year journey. However, it may also be that this book is often a book that is very confusing and you know that the goal/aim of this book is to aid you in your reading and to augment your understanding. Starting off, I want to say that this little blog will not be able to cover everything that we read in the book of Revelation, not Revelations, but I will try to cover as much as I can in this article and the next two articles.
Let’s start with the author. While the apostle John is considered to have been the author for the Gospel of John, the three epistles of John, and the book of Revelation by church history, his authorship of Revelation is the most hotly debated. Interestingly enough, the book of Revelation is the only one of the five books that explicitly gives its authorship to a person named John. And while there are some differences in styles and language between this book and the fourth Gospel, there are also a remarkable number of similarities of thought, doctrine, and terminology.
Which leads to the next question, why did John write this book? Simply put, God told him to (Rev 1:19) which John seemed to obey (Rev 10:4). And for what purpose is this book written? Of course, being apocalyptic literature, this book is very much concerned with the end times. We also are able to further develop our understanding of who Christ is and the atonement he made. But I want to make one other point related to the purpose of this book with relation to end times ethics. That is to say, I believe that the book of Revelation, while eschatological, also provides the believer with instructions on how they are to live in expectation of Christ’s Second Coming. I see that as being one of the main reasons why John wrote this book when we read in verse three of chapter 1, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” While many read Revelation with an emphasis of “discerning” the times, I think a proper approach would be to see how we may be the blessed one who keeps what is written and, at the same time, seeing what will occur in the end times. As you read through, and have been reading through the book of Revelation, keep those questions in your mind. What is it that I ought to hear from God’s Word? What is it that I should keep and apply in my daily living as I cry out Maranatha (Come, Lord Jesus)?
Which really extends this blog article further than my normal 500ish word count; how I will be interpreting the book of Revelation. I want to present you with a high-level overview of the various perspectives and then conclude with my approach because each interpretation will radically change how you understand much of the book of Revelation. The first approach: Preterist interpret the book of Revelation with respect to the past. What is commendable in this approach is that it forces us as readers to understand what relevance and bearing it had on the audience in John’s day. However, I should mention that full preterism is heretical while partial preterism, depending on the flavor, is not necessarily heretical. The second approach: Historicists interpret this book as unfolding over the course of history. The danger to be aware of in this approach is that many will read Revelation with a newspaper in hand and try to associate/predict events and generally focus mainly on the past. A positive contribution of this view is that it does bring us to see how the prophetic events are fulfilled in this world. The third approach: Idealists in their fullest sense interprets all of Revelation as either a symbol, metaphor, or principle. They stress mainly that this book is not necessarily looking to future events, but teaching us how it is that we should live now. This can be very dissatisfying to those looking to understand the end times, because they do not look to interpret in light of future events. However, this view is very satisfying for those who are trying to draw out the book’s relevance on their lives in the here and now. The last approach is the futurist approach, which probably needs a bit more discussion.
In the futurist perspective, you find four major views: 1) Some think that Amillenialists do not believe in a millennium reign, but this is actually not true. They do believe in a millennium reign, but do not believe it will be a literal 1,000-year reign. To be succinct, they believe that Christ is sitting on the throne of David and ruling over all creation right now and that there will be a future Second Coming. The remaining three views likewise view the events described as taking place in the future and also do not necessarily believe in a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ. I should also mention that all eschatological views consider Christ as ruling now on His throne, wtih amillenialists identifying this throne to be explicitly David's throne. 2) Postmillenialist, view Christ’s millennial reign (however long it may be) and see his coming being after the world becomes Godlier. This view is very problematic because this is contrary to what we see in Scriptures on that the world will not get better and better, but worse and worse. 3) Dispensational Premillenialists have four main distinctions. First, they emphasize a pretribulational rapture of the church. Second, they make clear distinctions between Israel and the church. Third, they believe that Christ will return and reign for 1,000 years (again, not necessarily a literal 1,000 years). And 4), that prophecies are to be read literally and not ever symbolically or figuratively. This leads to the final perspective, and my own personal opinion and interpretation (for now) which you will find in these articles, Historic Premillenialism. This view was held by many of the early church fathers, such as Ireneaus and Tertullian, and by many Reformed theologians, such as J. Barton Payne. Unlike dispensationalists, it does not distinguish between Israel and the church and it differs in the placement of the rapture. It holds to a post-tribulational rapture of the church, which is in line with how the Scriptures emphasize a single return of Christ beginning the millennial reign (again, not necessarily a literal 1,000-year reign). In terms of interpretation of events, my view has much in common with amillenialist, with the main difference only being the interpretation of the millennial reign of Christ.
Phew, thanks for sticking around with me for this loooonnng article and I pray that this is helpful. As always, you can send me your questions at OverflowBlog@outlook.com.
Grace and Peace,
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