This past Sunday night we started a new sermon series on the Book of Revelation at First Baptist Hilliard. There seems to be a love-hate relationship with apocalyptic writings within the Bible. We desire to know the future because we think knowing the future, or the unknown, will give us peace or security. However, Deuteronomy 29:29 states that “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” There are certain things about God, the World, and the Future that we do not know about. In fact, practicing divination was forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:10.
In the Book of Daniel, when Daniel is shown visions and dreams and in 7:15, 7:28, 8:18, 8:27, and 10:15-18. In each of these passages he tells us that receiving visions or messages about the future scared him to death, or that it causes him to pass out, needing to be ‘touched’ or given strength in order to receive words about the future. Seeing the future nearly kills Daniel.
I reference Daniel and Deuteronomy to emphasize that we do not really understand what we are asking or desiring when we think we want to know the details about the future of the world. Even when God does audibly speak in the Bible, or reveal dreams to someone like Daniel it nearly kills them. To try to pinpoint future dates with biblical truths is practicing divination–the secret things of the Lord–which is forbidden in Scripture. But there is hope. God has made known to us the Bible, in which His plan for the world is revealed and we can know (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Revelation 1 emphasizes that this is apocalyptic (1:1), prophecy (1:3), and a letter to be read out loud to the churches (1:3-8). Therefore, it is not simply to be treated like other books that are either one of the other. Traditionally there are four different ways of interpreting the Book of Revelation.
- Preterist: This view holds that Revelation was a prophecy concerning the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and that everything in it has been fulfilled. In this view the beast of Revelation 13 was Rome.
- Historical: This view interprets the seals, trumpets, and bowls as successive ages of the church down until the return of Christ and the end of the age. Interestingly those who hold this view only ever interpret events as pertaining to the Western church. In this view the Roman papacy has been viewed as the beast and the Roman Church as the false prophet.
- Futurist: This view interprets Revelation 4-21 as entirely being in the future surrounding the return of Christ and the end of history. This view has two different strands:
- Dispensationalism: the view that Israel is restored to its own land immediately prior to 4:1, then the church is raptured into heaven, there is a 7 year tribulation, the reign of antichrist begins, nations war against Jerusalem, Christ returns and defeats them and sets up new temple and Jews reign during millennium, Satan leads another rebellion until he is finally defeated and New Heavens and New Earth is ushered in.
- Progressive Dispensationalism: in this view there is not such a distinction between Israel and the Church, the “latter days” began in the Church age, symbolism is used to interpret some prophecies. There are many variances however concerning the rapture: some holding to pre-tribulation (before the 7 years), others mid-tribulation (in the middle of the 7 years), and post-tribulation rapture (after the 7 year tribulation).
- Idealist: this view sees the entire book of Revelation as mostly a symbolic presentation of the battle between good and evil. Even within this view there is variations of interpretation. Some modify the view in light of the fact that Revelation does refer to certain events in the future, such as Christ’s return, that will happen. Instead of the events speaking to one particular time in church history, the events mentioned in Revelation speak to the church throughout its history.
One thing is certain; interpreting Revelation is not as straight-forward as we would like which means there should be much charity in expressing differences in views and opinions. There does seems to be a trend though in moving away from the more extreme views of the futurist (dispensationalism) and idealist (covenant theology). Dispensationalism is moving more and more progressive and covenant theology is moving more and more new to new covenant theology…so much so that progressive covenantalism literature is being produced. This is a good thing.
<New Covenant Theology
While more can be said, by way of introduction, I will end this post by quoting the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 which provides a great umbrella for which Baptist can have different views on interpretation of Revelation but who all agree with this statement…
X. Last Things
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.
Here is a list of resources I plan to wade through during this series…