Question of the Day: Views on Revelation

May have spoken about this before, but have your views on Revelation changed? How would you identify? Is eschatology something important to you?

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23 Replies to “Question of the Day: Views on Revelation”

  1. Very interesting, Adam. I might be described as a partial preterist myself, believing that history is moving towards the return of Christ, where after the reign, the New Heavens and Earth descend, but that is changing. To me, it is very important to have an 'end in view' view.

  2. I view Revelation as I view other Scripture, all given for our good and edification by God, and the personal Revelation of Christ Himself (Rev. 1:1-2, 5), so it must be just as important as the rest of the Bible.

    A special blessing was even promised by God to those who read and effectively hear the message of Revelation:

    “Blessed [is] he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time [is] at hand” (Rev. 1:3)

    Around 1/3 of the Bible was prophetic at the time it was written, and the prophets searched the Scriptures diligently about the future, not only about the coming of Christ, but the glory that should follow:

    “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace [that should come] unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-11)

    Revelation is typically regarded as mysterious because of symbolism, but it is a very well organized and structured book, and because of this easier to understand than some others, if we just believe what it says straightforwardly, and allow for use of metaphors where the text demands it (IMHO).

    Personally, my study has led me to a 'pre-everything' view, but if the Antichrist appears on the scene and I'm still here, I'm willing to reconsider my position =)

  3. In my teens I had bought into the pre-millenial, pre-trib rapture dispensationalist type of approach that is so typical of American Evangelicalism.

    What changed my mind was reading Revelation carefully and noticing that it said the beast had seven heads that were seven kings of whom five have fallen and one now is. If that wasn't true at the time the author wrote, then when does it suddenly kick into effect? When Hal Lindsay cracks the code?

    There was a popular booklet back in 1988, Called “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988”. Anyone else remember that?

  4. Rory, I disagree that '1/3' of the bible was prophetic when it was written, especially given how people define 'prophecy' today and what the bible defines it as. Further, it is doubtful that the prophets searched anything because there was nothing to searching for a very long time. I believe that Peter is talking about was not searching the Scriptures, which again, would have been impossible, but about searching the will and word of God.

    I think that Revelation holds much more than the need to interpret it eschatologically, but it does make for continuously interesting discussion. People tend to forget the language and style which was used, only wanting to see a very literal understanding. This, like it does in other areas of scripture, creates problems. Then again, there have been so many different interpretations over the past 2000 years, that I try to take a 'wait and see approach.'

    Interesting theory on the 'reader' bit. Several commentators and scholars see that as a literal reader – since literacy rates were pretty low. A congregation might have a reader who read the letter, since that is what it is presented as.

  5. It was pounded into my head, growing up, that everything would happen in about 15 minutes at the end of the world, and this was taken as a life or death doctrine. What woke me up to that latter bit was the fact that nothing in Scripture mentioned the need for a solid view of Revelation – and then imagine discovering the numerous interpretations of it.

    Lindsey might have been mistaken, not sure yet, but others have predicted other dates http://www.andrewcorbett.net/articles/fortune-t

    Too many calculators at the end of the world, I reckon.

  6. My views on Revelation have definitely changed. There was a time in my life where I was a pre-everything. Now I'm amillennial.

    Concerning Revelation as prophecy, my views have shifted on that as well.

  7. Well whether the Bible records when written were ~1/3 prophetic of future events or not is not really the point I was trying to make. The idea is that a substantial amount were predictions about the future, in both the Old and New Testaments, including many predictions about Christ, and God even refers to this as proof of His unique deity. Do you disagree with this, and if so why?

    Regarding what the prophets searched, 1 Pet. 1:12 says:

    “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; …”

    We have discussed this before, in that all of the Bible obviously cannot be understood literally, e.g. when the context makes obvious there are metaphors and symbols, but while you say a literal understanding of the Scriptures creates problems, a non-literal understanding of the Bible creates a lot more division and problems. In the Bible, God says His Word is straightforward, for our edification, and if He didn't make it as understandable as reasonably possible for man, this would contradict His stated intent.

    Since God wants us to have the same mind and say the same things, it would follow He wants us to understand His Word consistently, which therefore must be as clear and precise as possible, and would be impossible if the meaning is vague or inconsistent, and open to many interpretations:

    “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

    Disagreement among genuine Christians is not just an intellectual thing, far from it. Divisions and sects among genuine Christians are caused by the pride of man, and by not understanding or holding to the original Word of God as the universal standard of truth. If we truly humble ourselves before each God-breathed word of the Scriptures in the original languages, many differences of doctrinal opinion will vanish. There would still be differences of opinion on certain topics, of course, but these would now be manageable, and God’s unity of His children would be a reality. Because of this, corruption of the church would be arrested, and vastly more unbelievers would believe Jesus Christ is God the Creator who came in human flesh to rescue them, and escape the eternal exile and suffering from God we all rightly deserve.

    Typically, people have been confused about future prophetic events, and they only become crystal clear when they happen. What's that saying, “hindsight is 20-20”. This was certainly true about the many prophecies about the incarnation and 'first coming' of Christ, where scholars confused many statements and role about His first coming with those of His 'second coming', and this confusion even continues today. So for some things we will indeed have to 'wait and see', but since Revelation is also for our edification and instruction, we should endeavor to have a reasonable, consistent understanding of it as much as for any other part of God's Word.

    The special blessing mentioned for Revelation is for both those who read and hear, and I agree it was common for such letters to be distributed and read among local assemblies of believers so as many as possible could understand and be blessed by it.

  8. My views on what counts as prophecy has dramatically shifted as well, Craig.

    I do tend to think that the 1000 year number is more symbolic than real, using language already used in the NT writings (2nd Peter 3.8) and the OT (Psalm 50.10).

  9. http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2009/09/incarn

    The Prophetic Mantle, as it were, was not about a long distance future, but the (then) here and now. Christ came and completed the words, or fulfilled them, not because they were prophecies, but because Christ Himself was the incarnation of the Word of God. If we look at what Matthew actually said, he was not talking about prophecies, but about the complete incarnation of the Word. Just as John did.

    Rory, but if the Scriptures were completely understandable by a reasoned reading, then the Jews would have known Christ for Who He was. This is why Christ gave the Spirit, not that we may lean to this or that understanding, but that the Spirit would guide us into all truth. If everything written was mean to be understood easily, then why did the disciples and the Jewish leaders get too many things wrong? Yet, Christ had to even after His resurrection, continuously open their eyes (Luke 24). Plus, in Hebrews, we read about the Spirit testifying through Scripture. Even today, understanding is being brought out – if people will listen.

    They weren't disagreeing over interpretations at Corinth – mainly because things weren't being written yet – but they were disagreeing over leadership. That's why Paul would later metaphorically state that some where of Paul or some of Apollos – not some where of this or that interpretation. Considering the minute differences in perceptions of Christ presented throughout the NT, there were differences present in the early Church. And they survived with them.

  10. Joel, it is not that the Scriptures are generally so mystifying and complex we can't understand them if we are humbly receptive to the Spirit's teaching (although some things are more difficult than others), but the primary reason we can't understand them is because we are ignorant and unstable. A deep understanding of the word of God along with experience is vital to spiritual maturity, and without this we cannot discern good from evil:

    “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).

    “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which [be] the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk [is] unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, [even] those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).

    Christ's statement in John 17:21 states the vital importance of Christian unity, and how people are dissuaded from believing Christ is from God as a result:

    “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

    Moreover, divisions and sects among genuine children of God are clearly listed as works of the flesh, not the Spirit:

    “But work of the flesh is manifest, which is adultery, fornication, decadence, unbridled lust, idolatry, drug use, hatred, strife, rivalry, wrath, self-promoting, division, sects, envy, murder, drunkenness, reveling, and such like: which I foretell you, as I also said before, that those doing such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21).

    Most people just believe their leaders, at least for doctrinal details, and when leaders divide based on different interpretations, their followers divide with them. It would be disingenuous to spiritualize away or trivialize Christ's statement by rationalizing our obvious failure to be united as Christ commanded, including our divisive interpretations based on Christian leadership who led such divisions, and the vastly destructive effect on others.

    The Bible clearly states that division among God's children is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Christians of Ancient Corinth divided to follow different leaders such as the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter and Apollos (though Paul may have merely used these as examples of other Christian leaders in Corinth). Likewise, today’s Christians have divided themselves to follow fallible men of different persuasions and opinions instead of Christ, who alone has a definitive and eternal perspective. We have done so despite Christ Himself declaring that unity among Christians is the way unbelievers will believe that He is from God. What a miserable failure we have been in this area!

    Paul also solemnly charges Christians before the Lord to not argue about theological trifles, which turns hearers away from the simplicity of the faith. This issue is to be considered in the presence of the Lord, so it is an especially important matter (I Cor. 1:10-13, 3:1-7, John 17:21, II Tim. 2:14).

    We are commanded numerous times in Scripture that the one body of Christ should not divide, and that believers should speak the same doctrine. The one God we worship certainly does not approve of dividing genuine believers over doctrines not essential to salvation. Division and strife among believers has become so commonplace today that few even consider it, but God has not changed, and He never asks us to do the impossible. Those who lightly espouse denominationalism among true Christians should carefully consider that many people are kept from salvation and headed to eternal hell as a result, and once aware of this we stand accountable to God for this devastating approach. Instead of being comfortably proud in our sectarian ivory towers, we should humble ourselves to be content and united as merely Christians of the one true body of our Lord, assuming our disagreements are limited to doctrines not essential to salvation.

    There is one God, one Spirit, and one body of believers that make up His church in this age, and this is independent of any religious organizations or sects. It is also independent of ethnic background, gender, age, position, etc. since God made of one blood all men who dwell on the face of the earth. The true God will only receive those who worship and have a direct living relationship with Him by faith, not by membership in any religious sect (see Romans 3-4). Our unity is based on having the same spiritual Father, for those who have been adopted into his redeemed family. True children of God should not unite with the myriad of counterfeit christians and christian churches that abound in this world, of course, but at the same time should not divide into different sects and denominations themselves.

    In the Trinity there are three individuals so intimately united in thought and purpose that they may be considered as one, and Jesus prayed that his disciples be just as united in God’s thought and purpose, so that the world would believe the Son was sent by the Father. According to Jesus Christ, then, division fatally cripples His testimony to unbelievers that He is God in human flesh, who came forth from the Father.

    Rather than rationalize and justify little man's opinions and petty divisions over non-essential issues based on our pride and spiritual immaturity, we should humble ourselves and repent. Our love of true brethren in Christ should supersede non-essential doctrinal differences or misunderstandings, and when we refuse to do as Christ commanded it is sin.

  11. No doubt that love should supersede, Rory, but that doesn't dismiss the need to study, a command by Paul who was himself a very learned man. Nor does it supersede the command to separate from those who do not follow the correct doctrine, another commandment from Paul who gave us examples.

    If we take the bible as today, instead of searching out what it meant to those who first wrote it, then divisions are bound to arise because without a solid foundation of understanding, we are free, based on culture, context and a host of other subjective reasonings, to create different interpretations. This is the root problem in only seeing Scripture as flat. We must get under that to examine the objective meaning, and refuse to allow – those of us who respect Scripture and understand it as inerrant – it to be supplanted by our own thoughts and understandings. This is where Tradition develops. If we were to dig deeper and find that the original intent was different than what we do now, how many would be willing to change or would then hide behind the need to read the bible easily. The Scriptures were not written to us, although for us, and it is wrong to not seek to place ourselves into the audience of those to whom these words were first uttered.

    The primary reason that we don't understand Scripture is that we refuse to scrape away Tradition and peer beneath. We simply take Scripture, given to cultures and peoples far removed, and seek only to understand it by our theologians and theological traditions. If we continue this path, it only gives allowance to further warping. No, we must endeavor to worry less about the hearts of people and more about Scripture. If they loose faith because biblical studies shows that something may not be correct, then where is their faith? In God or man?

    But, in the end Rory, Scripture is not merely understood through love or Tradition, but by the truth in which it was first conceived. If this cuts some off because the heart of the matter is different than Tradition states, then again, where is their faith?

    Yes, love is needed, but for what? Not to prevent disputes or discussions, but to prevent the separation which inevitably comes from those things. Love will bind us to one another but to the truth that much more.

  12. The term “thousand years” is used six times in Rev. 20:2-7. I wonder how many times God has to say it for us to believe He means a thousand years.

    The only other times this phrase is used in Scripture is in Psa. 90:4 and Ecc. 6:6, where the meaning is clearly literal, and 2 Pet. 3:8, where a literal day is compared to a literal thousand years and vice-versa from God's perspective, not man's.

    There are no occurrences in the Bible where a thousand years doesn't mean a thousand years, so we should believe it means a thousand years, as the straightforward and obvious meaning.

  13. Allow me also to say that I don't believe the Scripture is so esoteric that it simply must be forgotten, but after 2000 years, there is bound to be some patina which must be scraped away.

  14. Rory, repeating something numerous times doesn't make a literal truth. Actually, the reference in 2nd Peter is clearly a metaphor representing that time is nothing God.

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