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This is a general overview of the different eschatological interpretations of the Book of Revelation held by Christians. The differences are by no means monolithic as representing one group or another. Many differences exist within each group.

Interpretations of the Book of Revelation

Judgments Chapters 1 - 19: Four views

  • Preterism: Past, first-century fulfillment of literary text; real events
*Partial preterism: Most of prophecies of Revelation fulfilled in first century, with exception of second coming and last judgment
*Full preterism: All prophecies of Revelation fulfilled in first century, including second coming and last judgment
  • Futurism: Future, and in some cases imminent fulfillment of literal text; real events
  • Historicism: Text is fulfilled during the span of Christian History. Text is taken as symbolic of real events, rather than literally true.
  • Idealism: Present continual fulfillment of symbolical or literary text; spiritual events


Millennium Chapter 20: Three views

Comparison of Christian millennial interpretations
  • Premillennialism: Christ's Second coming before a literal one thousand year period, known by some as a thousand-year sabbath, is preceded by a gradual deterioration of human society and behavior, and the expansion of evil through an endtime government or kingdom. This school of thought can be divided into three main interpretations: Dispensational, Mid-tribulation/Prewrath and Historic Premillennialism or Post-Tribulation viewpoint.
    • Dispensational Premillennialism: The rapture of the church occurs just prior to the seven-year tribulation, where Christ returns for his saints to meet them in the air. This is followed by the tribulation, the rise of the Antichrist to world-rule, the return of Christ to the Mount of Olives and Armageddon, resulting in a millennial reign of Messiah over the Jews, centered in restored Jerusalem.
    • Prewrath/Mid-tribulation View: The rapture of the church occurs in the midst of the seven-year period. Mid-tribulation view holds that the rapture occurs halfway through; Prewrath holds that the rapture occurs some time in the midst of the tribulation in the latter 3.5 years, but before God's wrath is poured out upon the nations.
    • Historic Premillennialism or Post-Tribulation View: The rapture of the church (the body of true believers) happens after a period of great tribulation, with the church being caught up to meet Christ in the air and will accompany him to earth to share in his (literal or figurative) thousand year rule.
  • Postmillennialism: Christ's Second coming is seen as occurring after the one-thousand years, which many in this school of thought believe is ushered in by the church. This view is also divided into two sub-schools of interpretation:
    • Revivalist Postmillennialism: the millennium represents an unknown period of time marked by a gradual Christian revival, followed by widespread successful evangelism. After these efforts is the return of Christ foreseen.
    • Reconstructionist Postmillennialism: the Church increases its influence through successful evangelism and expansion, finally establishing a theocratic kingdom of 1,000 years duration (literal or figurative) followed by the return of Christ.
  • Amillennialism: Non-literal "thousand years" or long age between Christ's first and second comings; the millennial reign of Christ as pictured in the book of Revelation is viewed now as Christ reigning at the right hand of the Father. It can be hard to draw a fine line between Amillenialism and Revivalist Postmillenialism. Amillenialism tends to believe society will, through growing rebellion, continue to deteriorate, while Postmillenialism believes the Church will influence the world producing greater righteousness.


Interpretive and hermeneutical overviews of the Bible

The hermeneutic method held by an individual or church will greatly affect their interpretation of the book of Revelation, and consequently their eschatological scheme.

Supersessionist

Supersessionism is the belief that the New Covenant in Christ supersedes, or replaces, the Old Covenant with Israel. It comes in at least two forms: covenant theology and kingdom theology. It was the predominant teaching of the church until the rise of dispensationalism in the 19th century.

Covenant theology

Hermeneutics: Usually Grammatical-Historical typologised and contextualised. There are three covenants - the Covenant of Works or Law, the Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace. This shares much in common with Kingdom theology (see below) but emphasizes the covenants more than the Kingdom of God itself.

Overview: Under the Covenant of Works mankind, represented ultimately in a covenantal sense under Adam beginning from the Garden of Eden, failed to live as God intended and stood condemned. But beyond time the Covenant of Redemption was made between the Father and Son, to agree that Christ would live an acceptable substitutionary life on behalf of, and as a covenantal representative for, those who would sin but would trust in Christ as their covenantal substitutionary representative, which bought them into the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Grace applies to all who trust Christ for their salvation, regardless of ethnicity, and thus the Covenant covers Jews and Gentiles alike with regard to salvation, sanctification, and resurrection. The Covenant of Grace forms the basis of the later covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant in Christ.

Adherents: Held by many evangelical Reformed Protestant Churches who take a Historical-grammatical and Typological interpretation of the Bible. Adherents would include the Reformed church, most of the Presbyterian church, some low church Anglicans, some Baptist churches, some Wesleyan/Methodist churches and certain Lutheran churches.

Approaches to Revelation:

Judgements: Revelation Ch 1 - 19
  • Idealism: the book of Revelation was not designed as a historical document or future prophecy, but instead teaches timeless truths about good and evil, Satan and God, etc., by way of metaphor, allegory, and/or story.
  • Futurism: Historic or covenantal futurism, as opposed to Dispensational Futurism or Dispensational premillennialism: the book of Revelation is limited to a specific future period--the tribulation.
  • Historicism (See the eschatology of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Joseph Mede, Isaac Newton, John Gill, Matthew Henry, E. B. Elliott, Henry Grattan Guinness, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon; also see http://www.historicism.com for a contemporary overview of this eschatological system, and for contemporary cases see especially Ian Paisley and Seventh-day Adventist eschatology): the book of Revelation portrays the span of church history, from the first century to the return of Christ: events in Revelation are symbolically interpreted to portray literal events in the life of the Church.
  • Preterism: the book of Revelation was prophecy at the time, but all or most of it has already been fulfilled in the very early days of the Church; esp. centering around the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish nation in 70 A.D. Differences:
    • Full Preterism: All of Christian prophecy was fulfilled in the first century, including the return of Christ and the resurrection of believers. The resurrection is interpreted to mean receiving a spiritual body after death, with no promise of a physical resurrection for any besides Christ.
    • Partial Preterism: Most of prophecy was fulfilled in the first century, except Christ's return then was as a judge of Israel, but not his final literal coming. He is still to return and literally raise the believing dead.


Millennium: Revelation Ch 20

Kingdom-Dominion theology

Hermeneutics: Similar to the covenantal system, but emphasizes the Kingdom of God rather than the three covenants. Exemplified in works such as Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel and Kingdom. The Old Testament is interpreted using typology and the grammatico-historical method. Revelation is read according to the conventions of the apocalyptic genre.

Overview: God's purpose for all time was to redeem for himself a people through the death and resurrection of Christ. The incarnation of Christ is the centrepoint of the Bible and all history. The Old Testament is understood to contain a number of covenants and 'types' which are fulfilled in the past and future work of Jesus.

Goldsworthy schematizes the Kingdom of God as the expression of God's rule over God's people in God's place. In the beginning, God himself ruled over Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. After the fall, the rule of God was expressed through the Law, the Judges, the King of Israel and finally the promise that God would write his law on his people's hearts (Jer 31:33). "God's place" came to be the Tabernacle in the wilderness, later the Temple in Jerusalemmarker, and finally the promise of the indwelling Spirit of God (Joel 2, Ezek 37). His "people" were Abraham, the people of Israel, then the faithful remnant of Israel, and finally the promised Messiah (Ps 2).

In the New Testament, God's rule is exercised through Jesus Christ the King, who is also the "temple" of God (John 2:19-21), over his people the Church (of which Israel was a type). Salvation for all people in all times is found by trusting (explicitly or implicitly) in Jesus. Thus, Abraham, Moses, David, and all Christians today are saved by the same faith. The Jews are regarded as special in God's plan (as in Romans and Ephesians) and yet the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel find their fulfillment in Jesus and the Church rather than in a literal restoration of Israel.

Adherents: Held by reformed, evangelical Protestants (especially Sydney Anglicans), similar to the covenantal theological view.

Approaches to Revelation: Usually idealist and amillennial. Revelation describes what is happening throughout the Christian era, from Pentecost to the second coming. This view acknowledges that there may be valid preteristic connections (eg. the seven hills = Rome) but the full understanding comes through an idealistic-historicism (but without necessarily seeing the Roman Catholic Church as the antichrist). The events of the book while not to be tied to particular historical events, still describe the sorts of things that will happen until Christ returns. The book of Revelation is interpreted according to apocalyptic conventions regarding numbers and colours (7 = perfection/completion, white = victory) and the enormous number of allusions to the rest of Scripture.

Dispensational

Hermeneutics: Interpretation as the literal, 'plain meaning' implies (i.e. rejection of typological and allegorical methods). Biblical references to Israelmarker mean ancient and modern Israel.

Overview: History is divided into (typically seven) "dispensations" where God tests man's obedience differently. The present Church dispensation concerns Christians (mainly Gentiles) and is a parenthesis to God's main plan of dealing with and blessing his chosen people the Jews.Because of the Jews' rejection of Jesus, Jewish sovereignty over the promised earthly kingdom of Jerusalem and Palestine was postponed from the time of Christ's first coming until prior to or just after his Second Coming when most or all Jews will embrace him. There will be a rapture of the Gentile church followed by a great tribulation of seven (or three-and-a-half) years' duration during which Antichrist will arise and Armageddon will occur. Then Jesus will return visibly to earth and re-establish the nation of Israel; the Jewish temple will be rebuilt at Jerusalemmarker and the Temple mountmarker, possibly in place of the Muslim Dome of the Rockmarker (see Christian Zionism). Christ and the people of Israel will reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years, followed by last judgment and a new heavens and new earth.

Adherents: Held by groups who believe the scriptures to be inerrant and often more Arminian leaning. Held by many Protestant groups who take what they believe is a more literal interpretation of the Bible, including many, but not most, Pentecostal Charismatic and Baptist churches and Independent and 'Non-denominational' churches as well as a few of the Presbyterian Church and Wesleyan/Methodist churches. Also held by most groups that are labelled Fundamentalists. The more politically active sections within this eschatological view often strongly support the Christian Zionism movement and the associated political, military and economic support for Israelmarker which comes from certain groups within American politics and parts of the Christian right. This view is also held in a modified form by groups such as the Latter Day Saints, Christadelphians and Adventist splinter groups such as the Branch Davidians. One of the main tenets of Dispensationalism is the strict dichotomy that dispensationalists claim exists between Israel and the New Testament Church. This is expressly denied by Covenant Theologians who claim the existence of a relationship via “Spiritual Israel.” A dispensationalist would claim that none of the prophecies pertaining to Israel are or will be fulfilled in or by the New Testament Church. Covenant Theologians would claim that some of the prophecies pertaining to Israel are, will, or may be fulfilled in or by the New Testament Church. see supersessionism.

Approaches to Revelation:

Judgements: Revelation Ch 1 - 19
  • Dispensational Futurism as opposed to Historic or Covenantal Futurism.
Millennium: Revelation Ch 20

Allegorical or Mythical

Hermeneutics: The Bible may or may not be factually accurate but is designed to teach spiritual lessons through allegory and myth. The Bible is more literary than historical. Typically, this stance is taken by churches and individuals who do not place significant emphasis upon eschatology at all.

Adherents: Held by the majority of Christians, including groups ranging from those who are Biblically inerrant to those who do not believe in Biblical inerrancy, including liberal scholars who mostly belong to mainline Protestant denominations. Supporters of this position also include high church Anglo-Catholic, Catholic-leaning Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox churches, and traditional Roman Catholic groups. Belief in the allegorical nature of the Bible does not exclude belief in praxeological or literal hermeneutics: for example, Roman Catholic hermeneutics holds that there are many senses in which the Bible is true in addition to literal truth.

The Catholic Apostolic Church believed that the Bible should be interpreted allegorical. Some descendants of the Catholic Apostolic Church also known as Irvingism, such as Apostelamt Jesu Christi, Apostelamt Juda, Herstelde Apostolische Zendingkerk in Nederland and the Old Apostolic Church also believes in the allegorical interpretation of the Bible.

Approaches to Revelation:

Judgements: Revelation Ch 1 - 19

Millennium: Revelation Ch 20

Notes

  1. Goldsworthy, G. "The Gospel in Revelation - Gospel and Apocalypse", Paternoster Press, 1994, ISBN 0-85364-630-9.
  2. Tattersall, L. "Letters from heaven - Bible talks from the book of Revelation", Perspective Vol. 10 No. 3&4, 2003.
  3. Flegg.C.G, Gathered under Apostles. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 1992 :p 207 : ISBN 978-0198263357
  4. Berkhof, A. De steen scheeuwt uit de muur. Uitgeverij de Kandelaar. 1994. :ISBN 9080725919
  5. Cathechism of the Old Apostolic Church
  6. Pienaar, K. Die openbaring van die dwaalleer van die Ou Apostelkerk. Volhard Verspreiders BK. 2002. :ISBN 0 620 27993 1


Further reading

  • Darrell L. Bock, Jr. (ed), Three views on the Millennium and Beyond. (1999, Grand Rapids: Zondervan) ISBN 0-310-20143-8
  • Stanley J. Grenz, The Millennial Maze: Sorting Out Evangelical Options. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992 ISBN 0-8308-1757-3
  • C. Marvin Pate (ed), Four views on the Book of Revelation. (1998, Grand Rapids: Zondervan) ISBN 0-310-21080-1
  • Steve Gregg (ed), Revelation, Four views: A parallel commentary. (1997, Nashville: Thomas Nelson) ISBN 0-8407-2128-5


Amillennial

  • Beale, G.K.. 1998. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. ISBN 978-0802821744 Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing


  • Goldsworthy, Graeme. 2001. "The Gospel in Revelation", In The Goldsworthy Trilogy, Paternoster, ISBN 1-8422-7036-2.


  • Hendriksen, William. 1998. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. ISBN 0-8010-5792-2 Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Publishing.


  • Hill, Craig C. 2002 In God's Time: The Bible and the Future ISBN 0-8028-6090-7 Eerdmans.


  • Riddlebarger, Kim. 2003. A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times. (ISBN 0-8010-6435-X Paperback: 1903-02-20) Baker Book House.






  • Travis, Stephen. 2004. Christ Will Come Again: Hope for the Second Coming of Jesus. ISBN 1-8946-6733-6 Toronto: Clements Publishing.


Dispensational

  • "The Invisible War" by Donald Grey Barnhouse ©1965; Zondervan Publishing House (Ministry Resources Library).


  • "Number in Scripture" by Ethelbert W. Bullinger, D.D.; ©1967; Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501 Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 67-26498; ISBN 0-8254-2204-3


  • "Hidden Prophecies in the Psalms" by J.R. Church; ©1986; Prophecy Publications, Oklahoma City, OK 73153; ISBN 0-941241-00-9


  • "Daniel and Revelation" subtitled "A Study of Two Extraordinary Visions" by James M. Efird ©1978; Judson Press, Valley Forge, PA 19481 ISBN 0-8170-0797-0


  • "Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weeks" by Alva J. McClain 1940, ©1969; Academie Books/Zondervan House


  • "The Man The False Prophet and The Harlot", subtitled "The Name of the Antichrist Finally Revealed" by Dr. Anthony M. Giliberti ©1991; Published by "This Is The Generation" Library of Congress Catalog Number 90-93451 ISBN 0-9628419-0-0


  • "Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist" by Dave Hunt ©1990; Harvest House Publishers Library of Congress Cataloging in Publishing Data; ISBN 0-89081-831-2


  • "Peace, Prosperity, and the Coming Holocaust" by Dave Hunt ©1983; Harvest House Publishers. Dated, but a very interesting read for those who are interested in Biblical Prophecy.


  • "How Close Are We?" by Dave Hunt ©1993 Harvest House Publishers.


  • "A Cup of Trembling" by Dave Hunt ©1995; Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402; ISBN 1-56507-334-7


  • "Not Wrath but Rapture!" by H.A. Ironside NO DATE; published by Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.


  • "The Late Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey with C.C. Carlson ©1970; Zondervan House.


  • "Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey with C.C. Carlson ©1972; Zondervan House.


  • "There's a New World Coming" by Hal Lindsey ©1973; Vision House.


  • "The Liberation of Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey ©1974; The Zondervan Corporation.


  • "The Terminal Generation" by Hal Lindsey with C.C. Carlson ©1976; Fleming Revell.


  • "The Rapture" by Hal Lindsey ©1983; The Aorist Corporation Bantam Books.


  • "The Revelation Record" by Henry M. Morris ©1985; Tyndale House Inc. and Creation Life Publishers.


  • "Things to Come" by J. Dwight Pentecost ©1958; Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506; ISBN 0310308909 and ISBN 9780310308904.


  • "Dispensationalism Today" by Charles C. Ryrie ©1965; The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.


  • "Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis" Revised, by John F. Walvoord ©1974, 1976, 1990; Zondervan Publishing House, 1415 Lake Drive, S.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506; ISBN 0-310-53921-8


  • "The Return of the Lord" by John F. Walvoord ©1955; Zondervan Publishing House Library of Congress Cat. #77-106423.


  • "Israel In Prophecy" by John F. Walvoord ©1962; Zondervan Publishing House.


  • "The Church in Prophecy" by John F. Walvoord ©1964; Zondervan Publishing House.


  • "The Nations in Prophecy" by John F. Walvoord ©1967; Zondervan Publishing House. NOTE: Books 73 through 75 may have been combined into one new volume).


  • "The Millennial Kingdom" by John F. Walvoord ©1959; by Dunham Publishing Co. Academie Books published by Zondervan Publishing House, 1415 Lake Drive. S.E., Grand Rapids Michigan 49506.


  • "The Rapture Question" by John F. Walvoord (Revised & Enlarged) ©1974; The Zondervan Corporation.


General

  • "The Truth About Armageddon" by William Sanford Lasor ©1982; Harper & Row Publishers.


  • "A Survey of Bible Prophecy" by R. Ludwigson ©1951; (1973, 1975; The Zondervan Corporation).


  • "City of Revelation" subtitled "A Book of Forgotten Wisdom" by John Michell ©1972; Ballantine Books (first printing: 11/73 Library of Congress Cat. No. 72-88116 SBN 345-23607-6-150. (NOTE: Possibly only one copy of this book available. Contains information on Gematria, a mathematical science.)


  • "The Secret Book of Revelation" (subtitled: "The Last Book of the Bible") ©1979; by Gilles Quispel Collins St. James Place, Comdon, 1979.


  • "Computers and The Beast of Revelation" by David Webber & Noah Hutchings ©1986; Huntington House Publishers.


  • "Spiritual Survival in the Last Days" by Greg Laurie ©1982; Harvest House Publishers.


Idealist

Under construction

Preterist

  • Adams, Jay. The Time is at Hand (1966, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing)


  • Chilton, David. The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (1987, Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press)




Postmillennial

  • Bahnsen, Greg. 1999. Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of Postmillennialism (ISBN 0-9678317-1-7) Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Press.


  • Bock, Darrell. 1999. Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing.


  • Boettner, Loraine. 1984. The Millennium. Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. (ISBN 0-87552-113-4)


  • Davis, John Jefferson. 1996. The Victory of Christ's Kingdom: An Introduction to Postmillennialism. Moscow, ID: Canon Press.


  • Gentry, Kenneth. 1992. He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology. Tyler, Tx: Institute For Christian Economics.


  • Gentry, Kenneth. 2003. Thine is the Kingdom: A Study of the Postmillennial Hope. Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation.


  • Mathison, Keith A. 1999. Postmillenialism. An Eschatology of Hope. Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. (ISBN 0-87552-389-7) - Good one volume over-view of Postmillennialism. Written by a proponent.


  • Murray, Iain. 1971. The Puritan Hope: A Study in Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy. London, UK: Banner of Truth Trust.


  • North, Gary. 1990. Millennialism and Social Theory. Tyler, Tx: Institute For Christian Economics.


Historic Premillennialism, Post-Tribulation and Partial Rapture Viewpoints

  • The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent by George Eldon Ladd. Eerdmans, 1956. Reprint, 1980. ISBN 0-8028-1111-6


  • The Church and the Tribulation: A Biblical Examination of Post-tribulationism. by Robert H. Gundry. Zondervan, 1973.


  • "The Tribulation People" by Arthur Katterjohn with Mark Faculer ©1975; Creation House NOTE: Dated; Post-Tribulation school of thought.


  • "Lord, When?" by Arthur Katterjohn with Mark Faculer ©1976; Creation House (Can be used independently or in conjunction with "The Tribulation People" by the same authors. NOTE: Post-Tribulation school of thought.


  • "Send This Message to My Church: Christ's Words to the Seven Churches of Revelation" by Terence Kelshaw ©1984; Thomas Nelson Publishers.


  • "The Incredible Cover-Up" by Dave MacPherson ©1975; Logos Internation (NOTE: Dated; Post-Tribulation doctrine).


  • "Christians Will Go Through the Tribulation" by Jim McKeever ©1978; Alpha Omega Publishing Company (NOTE: Dated; Post-Tribulation doctrine).


  • "Now You Can Understand the Book of Revelation" by Jim McKeever ©1980; Omega Publications


  • "The Pre-Wrath Rapture of The Church" by Marvin Rosenthal ©1990; Thomas Nelson, Inc. ISBN 0-8407-3160-4 (This is a partial-rapture theory book).


See also




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