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February 27, 2005
An Exegesis of the Book of Revelation: The Views
Filed in: Biblical Studies, Current Affairs, The Revelation of Jesus Christ


I'm running behind already on this series so expect a couple of posts in fairly quick succession.

I've realized from reviewing past notes and recently acquired resources that just characterizing views from the millennial standpoint only is unreasonable - mainly because only a portion of the Book of Revelation concerns itself with the Millennium. It is a fact that the particular view one takes on Revelation likely disposes one to a certain millennial view - but it is also clear that this is not always the case.

It's also the case that the views recognized generally by scholars today do not have unanimity across the Book themselves. It may be that there are four predominate viewpoints - but there are literally as many viewpoints as there are scholars, authors, and historians that contemplate this work. It isn't my purpose to explore every flavor - I'm looking for unanimity to the extent that it can be achieved.

My intention in this exegesis is to examine each verse of Revelation in context - and I will make more than the occasional foray into the Old Testament (which I think diverges from many scholars) in doing so. In that context, I intend to portray the major historical viewpoints - well three of the four of them. I'll also give my take on it given that I'm not a teacher or a scholar nor do I have any denominational baggage that I must support so it's just fine with me if what I think either does or does not affect your own viewpoint.

Let's also say that this exercise is not one in Christian apologetics. My viewpoint assumes a basic faith in the major tenets of the Christian faith. We're focusing here on understanding and looking for unity in the Book of Revelation.

The four major historical viewpoints have been well named in Steve Gregg's fine Revelation Four Views A Parallel Commentary. They are Historicist, Preterist, Futurist and Spiritual.

The Historicist point of view interprets the Book from mostly as events that have been to some extent already realized in history. It has long been in development and for the most part represents the views espoused by the Reformers beginning in the 16th century. There have been very few scholars espousing this view since the 1800s - though a remarkable number of people hold it by a default embrace of Amillennialism.

The Preterist point of view interprets the Book as having been more or less completely fulfilled in ancient times. In the most extreme view this would be prior to AD 70 during the destruction of the Jewish temple by Rome. I'm going to dispense with this view pretty much at the outset mainly because I'm interested in examining Revelation as a book of substantial prophecy - meaning more than a few years of time - and I think much of what the Preterists do borders on heresy (some deny that there will be a Second Coming for example). This view has enjoyed a fairly recent resurgence in recent times - both in the reformed camp generally and in the liberal camp. If you have an interest in exploring Preterism in detail write to me and I'll give you some resources to explore.

The Futurist point of view takes the position that most of the prophecies in Revelation more or less will take place in the future - our future. There is a very wide variety of points of view within this camp and most of it has been developed since the 1800s - though there is some evidence for aspects of this view from the first century. Tim Lahaye of the Left Behind series is an author that holds the Futurist view.

The Spiritual point of view takes the position that most of the prophecies in Revelation relate to the church age in general and that nothing really points to specific events in history - rather to series or cycles of events that churches and Christians and the world experience in general. There is some sense of 'end times' prophecy for some Spiritists, but there is no unanimity in the view. This view is popular with teachers that seek current application efficacy from the Book - i.e. how to apply the messages of Revelation to our daily lives - and is also popular among liberal interpreters of the scripture who want to address much of the symbolism in the Book as spiritually intended - or desire to interpret the Book as a Greek drama.

I'll summarize some ideas on these views in my next post. Then we'll do a little more set up.

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