by Don Koenig
Different views in the Church on the interpretation of the book of Revelation:
1. Preterist The judgments in the book of Revelation already happen at or before 70 AD. The book was written prior to 70 AD to comfort Christians persecuted by Jews and by others. This view claims the Church has been reigning on earth in the kingdom since Pentecost. The world according to the preterist will become progressively more and more Christian and will get better and better. The Church is true Israel.
2. Idealist - Revelation contains mostly figurative symbolism and metaphors about the spiritual battle between good and evil. There is no future physical fulfillment of the judgments in Revelation on earth. The Church is true Israel or replaces or supersedes Israel and inherits all promises to divorced natural Israel.
3. Historicist - The events in Revelation unfold through history - the papal system fulfills the role of the Antichrist. The Church fulfills all promises given to natural Israel.
4. Futurist Most of the prophecies in Revelation have a literal future fulfillment. Christ will come again and set up His kingdom on earth from Jerusalem for one thousand years and the establishment of this kingdom will fulfill all promises given to natural Israel.
Within the Futurist camp, there are three main sub-divisions:
A. Historic premillennialism - Is distinctively non-dispensational. This means that it sees no radical theological distinction between Israel and the Church. It is often post tribulation meaning that the rapture of the church will occur after a period of tribulation. Historic premillennialism maintains chiliasm because of its view that the church will be caught up to meet Christ in the air and then escort him to the earth in order to share in his literal thousand year rule.
B. Post-tribulation removal of the Church - The Judgments in Revelation are literal events on earth but the Church will go through most or all of this time of trouble.
C. Pre-tribulation removal of the Church - The true Church will be removed at the rapture prior to the judgments described in Revelation but many will find salvation afterward during the time known as the tribulation on the earth.
Within the pre-millennial view that sees a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, there are two main schools of thought:
a. Classical Dispensationalism - There will be a literal normal fulfillment of the things written in the book. The Church does not replace Israel and is distinct from Israel. Most see prophetic fulfillment in the return of Jews to the land of Israel.
b. Progressive Dispensationalism - There is a past and future literal fulfillment of prophetic scripture to the natural descendants of Israel. Most also claim spiritual fulfillment of some prophetic scripture to the Church "the Israel of God". Some claim the seal events had partial fulfillment in 70 A.D. However, many that do, claim there will be a more complete or "progressive" fulfillment of these prophecies in the future. Some progressive dispensationalists see no prophetic significance to the new nation of Israel and the return of the Jews to the land. They believe God is not fulfilling and will not fulfill any unfulfilled prophecy to the descendants of Israel until they repent in the tribulation and accept their Messiah. The Progressive Dispensationalist viewpoint varies quite a bit. It attempts to bridge theologies on eschatology and is becoming the prevalent view taught in most dispensational evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges.
My perspective of these different views:
The Historical view - is pretty much dead because history cannot produce the events in the book of Revelation. The papal system did not and could not possibly literally fulfill the prophecies of the Beast/Antichrist.
The Preterist view - requires that the book of Revelation be written prior to 70 AD. However, almost all historical scholars agree that the book was written in 95 to 96 AD. If this is true, preterist theology cannot stand. This view also requires us to believe that the prophecies were fulfilled in a manner different from the clear descriptions in the prophecies. Obscure historical events are used by the preterist to try to fulfill the prophecies but few if any credible historians think that past events happened as described in Revelation and the Olivet discourse.
This view also requires that many unfulfilled prophetic passages in the Bible be explained away by allegorizing them and spiritualizing them to the Church. The preterist says Christ is already ruling in His kingdom on earth and thus the earth will become progressively better. Yet, scripture indicates the world will get more evil until the judgment. What we see happening in the world confirms that the world is not becoming more Christian and less evil; it is becoming less Christian and more evil. Most in this theology have also embraced replacement or supercession theology (the Church is Israel or replaces Israel). They see no fulfillment of prophecy for natural Israel. However, any common sense reading of prophecy and the book of Romans makes it abundantly clear that God will restore the natural descendants of Israel in the end times.
The Idealist view - says the book is about a spiritual battle between good and evil and it contains allegorical metaphors describing this battle. Therefore, the Idealist denies that the prophecies in Revelation are predictive of any future events on earth. This is the prevalent view in most mainline denominations. It includes those who are amillennial and some who are postmillennial. This theology requires spiritualizing and allegorizing Revelation so the passages become an exercise of interpretation through denominational theology. Thus, only theologians who hold views close to their denominational belief can properly discern the symbols and give the correct allegorical and spiritual meanings of the book.
The idealist believes all the unfulfilled prophetic scriptures in the Bible have spiritual fulfillment in the Church. Most of the clergy in these denominations think the book of Revelation cannot be understood by the average lay person, so the book is hardly ever taught or read in their churches. On rare occasions when Revelation is taught, it is always taught through an approved book that reflects the view of that particular denomination. The idealist believe none of the prophecies of a physical restoration for natural Israel can be literal events on earth, because natural Israel has been cursed and divorced and the spiritual Church inherits her promises.
This view makes all the earthly promises in the Bible to the physical nation of Israel about a restored kingdom totally meaningless. Most in this theology think the Church receives all the promises to Israel and none of the curses.
Both the Preterist and the Idealist interpretation require that most prophetic scripture be taken as allegory. However, there is proof that the very early Church believed that Jesus would come and set up his physical kingdom on earth and that they expected his return to be imminent.
This allegorical method of interpretation of scripture began with the Alexandrian school of theology in the second century. The Church later rejected most of this allegorical theology as heresy. Augustine refuted much of this allegory but retained allegory for the prophetic scriptures. He claimed Jesus would rule on earth through His Church spiritually for a thousand years and then He would return. Some think his theology may have been influenced by pressure from the Roman government. They would not allow a theology where there was any suggestion that Jesus would come back and rule in the time of their own reign. When Jesus did not come back after the thousand years were completed the Catholic Church allegorized the six passages in Revelation that said the reign would be a thousand years to mean it would be an undisclosed period of time.
The Protestants in the reformation retained this theology. Later, when the bible was printed and common people got educated in the bible, teachers emerged that claimed that the prophetic passages should be taken in a normal literal sense. Today the normal literal approach to prophetic scriptures is what is taught in many evangelical churches. The old mainline denominations still retain the idealist amillennial view, although there are some members within her that have become educated about the futurist view through popular books and teachers and some now accept the futurist view in private.
The futurist view includes mostly pre-tribulation and post-tribulation classical and progressive dispensationalists that hold to the theology that unfulfilled prophecy and the book of the Revelation are about literal prophetic events. They believe many other scriptures can support the position that Revelation is about future events that will happen on earth in the last days. In their opinion, this view is explicitly supported by Daniel and by Jesus in His Olivet discourse. All fulfilled prophecy in the Bible was fulfilled literally and they expect future prophecy will also be fulfilled literally. They believe this normal literal interpretation of prophecy is really the only view that makes any common sense and it provides logical answers for the things written in Revelation rather than mystical interpretation by theology.
I believe the futurist view is correct.
Only the futurist view teaches the truth that Revelation is a book of prophecy that is meant to be understood by all without resorting to allegorical gymnastics. Only the futurist view makes common sense and is honest in following the common communication rules of language. Only the futurist view allows unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible, that often define in great detail, happenings on the earth, to literally take place on the earth as written. Taking scripture in a normal common sense means not taking liberties with the literal intent of the author when there is no indication from the author to do so. The only exception might be be when the figure of speech is totally obvious to the audience because the idiom or allegory should be commonly understood.
I guess I would label myself a modified dispensationalist. I would think that the progressive dispensationalist might say my views are more like the classical dispensational views and the Classical might say I am have progressive views since I do not have all the events in the tribulation in a 7 year package. I find the theology of the classical dispensationalists to be the sounder of the two on most points, but I also think they have missed some important points the progressive dispensationalists have picked up on. The progressive, on the other hand, in my opinion, fell off the scaffolding in their attempt to bridges theologies that cannot be bridged. I say I am a modified dispensationalist because I do not agree with a few of the usual dispensational views.
I believe the Bible and Revelation was given to be understood.
I do not think God would promise a blessing to those who read and obey what is written in this book if it required theology degrees to understand the message.
Many say that the book of Revelation cannot be understood by a common reading of the book because it is full of symbols and allegory. They make it a mystical book that can only be interpreted by theologians. Because of this belief, many in the Church avoid this book and do not teach it at all. Others allegorize and spiritualize the prophecies to make this book cryptic non-sense.
The first part of the book contains seven letters to seven Churches in existence at the time of John. Just the fact that Jesus told John to give this book of prophecy to the seven churches and promised a blessing to those who read and obeyed what was written within, should make it quite obvious that this book was given to the Church to be read, understood and obeyed.
Those that say most of the things John saw were only symbolic and are subject to allegorical interpretation have never adequately explained how symbolic allegory can also be applied to the things that John heard and then wrote about. The words John was told to record were so important that Jesus proclaims at the end of the book that if anyone takes away from what was written he will lose his salvation. Jesus also says, if anyone adds to the prophecies of this book, to him will be added the plagues that are within this book. This warning should be clear enough that no one should try to put mystical meaning on these prophecies that the author has not defined. That does not mean we cannot try to explain the events written but it does mean that the events written will actually take place as written.
If I live until Jesus comes for His Church, I hope to be taken in the rapture before the tribulation on earth, so that puts me in the pre-tribulation rapture camp. The post-tribulation rapture believers in the futurist camp may be right or wrong depending on their point of view of who the Church is. If the Church is all spirit filled Christians doing the work of the Lord, they are wrong. This Church will not go through the tribulation. However, if their view of the Church is everyone who claims to believe in Jesus but are doing the work of the devil they are correct; a large portion of these will be found unworthy to escape this time of trial on earth.
A Brief introduction to Revelation:
The entire book of the Revelation is the unveiling of Jesus Christ in time. Catholics call the book "the Apocalypse" which in English used to have the same meaning, "the unveiling". Since the book called the Apocalypse has the end time judgments, the word apocalypse has now taken the meaning of a time of world judgment. In reality, the Apocalypse or Revelation of Jesus contains much more information than just these judgments.
John writes the book in 95 or 96 AD while imprisoned on the island of Patmos. The events that John writes about are actual events, even though symbols are sometimes used to give the message.
After a description of God and Jesus in the past and present, the book contains the message Jesus has to His Church. This is given in seven letters to seven churches that existed in the time of John.
Jesus picked just seven of many churches of that era so that He could give His message and foretell what was to take place in the Church and the Church age until He comes. The works of the Church did not end at the last page of the book of Acts. The work of God's Spirit in the Church will be ongoing forever and the works on earth before His coming is foretold in these letters. The seven letters foretell the successes and failures and the instructions that Jesus gives to all those identified with each assembly type or Church era.
After the Church era, Jesus will take a sealed book from Father God that shows the events that must happen before the kingdom is restored to Israel. As the seals are opened it speaks of a time of great war, famine and death on earth and a time of persecution for believers. The persecution will bring the wrath of the Lamb on the earth in the form of seven trumpet judgments. Before any judgment from Jesus begins, He remembers His covenant with Israel and the last week of years spoken of by Daniel the prophet begins. He sends two prophets and 144,000 Israelite witnesses who will receive the commission to spread the truth of Jesus and His coming kingdom to the whole world.
Next, the book tells us what will happen to those who will not allow Jesus to rule over them on earth. The book indicates that God will deal with these by giving them Satan incarnated into a counterfeit Messiah called the Beast who will establish a counterfeit kingdom of god that will bring the earth to near destruction. God deals with this counterfeit kingdom with the seven last vial judgments, and Jesus defeats the Beast and his armies at His coming.
The book also contains a chapter on Mystery Babylon and another on Babylon the Great. It tells about the judgments they receive from God, who they are and why they receive it.
After the judgments, the book tells of the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the tribulation saints and the binding of Satan for one thousand years. Jesus and the saints will rule with a rod of iron to restore all things on earth to the way they were before the fall of man. All enemies of God are defeated during this thousand-year reign with the last enemy being death.
The book then speaks of a final deception and rebellion led by Satan and tells of God's reaction to it. Satan is then taken and cast into the Lake of Fire and the earth is renewed by fire. Next, the book tells of a final resurrection where all who did not take part in the first resurrection appear before God and are judged according to God's eternal law for whatever they did in their body. After these are judged according to their deeds, all not written in the book of life are also cast into the Lake of Fire.
The last part of the book describes the fate of all that belong to Jesus and describes the Holy City where the bride of Christ will dwell for eternity.
The Prophetic Years | Bible prophecy & end time worldviews