Sunday, October 7, 2012

Revelation Four Views A Parallel Commentary ed. by Steve Gregg

Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins by William Blake (1822)

    This is the latest book I’ve finished about the book of Revelation and the end times.  I’ve heard so much about different view points I was glad to come across a book that categorizes and defines each view point.  This book takes the entire book of Revelation and outlines each verse and step by step gives each view’s interpretation of that piece of scripture.

     Before delving into the actual book of Revelation, the editor gives a historical background, the years  people believe  the book was written,  and why John the Apostle is the author.  He also analyzes its structure as to how the different prophecies were grouped and the order in which they were revealed.

   The next section describes each end time interpretation.

       The four viewpoints included  are:  Historicist, Preterist, Futurist, and Spiritual Approach

Historicist View:  Revelation surveys the whole of church history.   It aligns specific historic events with certain details in Revelation.

     Those who teach this approach today are rare but Gregg includes it in this volume because it survives today in most of the classic commentaries of the past centuries.  Historicists of the past include:  John Wycliffe, John Knox, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Foxe, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and C.H. Spurgeon.

      Historicists believe that God revealed the entire church age in advance through the symbolic visions of the apocalypse.  For example, the breaking of the seven seals (chap 6-7) is often said to be the barbarian invasions that sacked the Western Roman Empire.  The Scorpion/locusts that come out of the bottomless pit (ch 9) are the Arab hordes attacking the eastern Roman Empire.  “The beast” (ch. 13) represents the Roman papacy.  (From the Introduction.)

Preterist Approach:  fulfillment is in the past, shortly after the time of writing.  There are two types of Preterism.

   The first type of Preterists are also called Contemporary-Historical.  They are also called hyper or full Preterists- and are not Preterists in the evangelical sense.  They believe that contemporary elements of John’s own day can be identified in the symbolic language he uses.  They do not believe in any actual fulfillment in ensuing events of the things prophesied in the Apocalypse.  They believe the date of writing to be during the Roman Emperor Domitian’s reign (A.D. 95-96).

 In contrast, Classical Preterism believes in the infallibility of Scripture and dates the Book of Revelation prior to A.D. 70.  Classical Preterists-also known as partial Preterists- point out many details in Revelation that they believe were fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem, and see in later chapters the prediction of the fall of Rome and beyond to the second coming of Christ. 

   Another point favorable to the early-date Preterist approach is that the prophecies of Revelation exhibit many points of correspondence with the fall of Jerusalem as recorded by the eyewitness historian Flavius Josephus.  Since Josephus was not a Christian and probably never  read the book of Revelation, these correspondences seem to bolster the credibility of this interpretation. 

The Futurist approach:  Everything after chapter three awaits fulfillment in the future.
   The futurist approach is primarily a literal interpretation of Scripture.  Most futurists believe in a dispensationalist point of view.  They believe a world leader will arise, seeming to bring peace but will eventually turn out to be a world oppressor.  He will seem to help the Jews rebuild the temple but will then set himself up as the object of worship (the Abomination of Desolation who sits on the throne).

    He will demand that everyone comply and worship him and carry his mark on his arm or forehead.  Those that don’t won’t be able to keep jobs or buy or sell anything, including food.  There will be a seven years’ tribulation followed by the return of Christ where He will destroy this antichrist Beast and will Himself reign from Jerusalem for one thousand years with all the believers.

    At the end there will be one final battle with the enemies of God before they (the enemies) are completely destroyed and thrown into the lake of fire, along with Hell and death. (Revelation 20:14)

Spiritualist:  No single fulfillment: only transcendent principles and recurrent themes. 

     Spritiual appraoch includes all approaches that do not look for individual fullfillments of the prophecies of Revelation but which believe only that spiritual lessons and principles are depicted sympbolically in the visions.   There are many spiritualists who hold Scripture to be inspired and that John had visions revealed to him exactly as he claims, but who believe that their meaning is to be spiritually understood in a way that would be edifying to believers of any age.

To give one example of the four different approaches I’ll write out one excerpt of Revelation followed by the different viewpoints.  The following are all direct quotes from pg.202-207:

Revelation 10:1-4 

       I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud.  And a rainbow was on his head; his face was like this sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.  He had a little book open in his hand.  And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.  When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.  Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up he things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.

Historicist:  After Rome fell to the barbarians in 476, as signified in the first four seals, the power of the papacy arose in its place in Western Europe.  The peoples and the system that sustained their authority became incredibly corrupt.  In fact, they became antichrist, the principal opponent of the pure faith of Christ in Europe.

   The rise of the papacy has not been mentioned in Revelation until this point.  The fall of the eastern empire in the sixth trumpet now turns our attention back to developments in the west.  The prophecies of chapters 10 and 11:1-5 are about the Reformation period in the early 16th century. This follows naturally the identification of the second woe with the fall of the Byzantine (Greek) Empire in 1453. 

Preterist:   This mighty angel is, no doubt, Jesus Himself.  His face shining like the sun is a feature mentioned in the vision of the first chapter.  The rainbow, which is now on his head, was seen around the throne of God in revelation.  The second prophecy, contained in chapters 13-19 concerns the fall of Rome, as the first was concerned with the fall of Jerusalem. The things uttered by the seven thunders could have been too horrible to record or it could have been for John’s ears only.

Futurist: The descending angel is thought to be by some Christ Himself, The little book in the angels hand is interpreted as representing the authority given to the angel to fulfill his mission.   The sealing up of the prophecy illustrates a divine principle that while God has revealed much, there are secrets which God has not seen fit to reveal to man at this time. 

Spiritual:  The mighty angel who appears here is either Christ Himself or a special envoy of Christ bearing a striking resemblance to him.  This angel has a message for the whole world, indicated by his having a foot on the land and a foot on the sea...the seven thunders represents the voice of the Lord.  The sealing of the seven thunders, leaving them unwritten, suggest that the whole counsel of God has not been revealed or that never shall we be able to know and to describe all the factors and agencies that determine the future.


I’m someone who likes to be clear on different positions and I found this book fascinating, not the least of which of how I could see the different viewpoints not necessarily contradicting each other but rather complementing different aspects.  I could see how scripture could apply to the people of John’s time period but also how they apply to us today.  I saw how certain things could be taken as meaning certain epochs in history as well as historical figures but also how it could mean actual times in the future as well as spiritual principals that could be applied everyday.

   I don’t know why God wrote Revelation the way He did but one thing I do know:  how we should live our lives and be prepared to watch the signs and times is very clear.  Like the wise virgins, we better have enough oil in our lamps to keep them burning.  (Matthew 25:1-13)

Further links:

The Second Coming by John MacArthur

The False Prophet by Ellis Skofield

The Harbinger by Johnathon Cahn

The Apocalypse Code by Hank Hanegraaff

What is the abomination of desolation

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