The New Great Commission School in Monroe, WA. Steve takes a fair look at all the major views of Revelation.
Steve will discuss the 4 main interpretive approaches. You may be surprised to the pre-trib, mid-trib and post-trib views all fall under one main interpretation of call the futurist view. There are 3 other interpretive approaches to Revelation that have been followed by large segments of the Christian population throughout history. If you are unaware of these other views, you will be surprised to see how much scriptural support there is for some of them.
Listen to this lecture at http://theos.org/media/category/141/ as an MP3.
You may download Steve's notes for the 3 introductory lectures here. I've pasted the a portion below.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION
by Steve Gregg
VI. Interpretive Approaches
A. Historicist: A running account of the whole of church history written in advance
1. According to this view, the breaking of the seven seals is the breaking-up of the Roman Empire, locust plague is Mohammeddan invasion, the Beast is the papacy, etc. Follows the day-for-a-year interpretation of the prophecies.
2. Advantages to this view: It was the view of all the Reformers and some leading evangelicals. Can point to striking historical parallels to the prophecies in Revelation.
3. Disadvantages to this view: Those who hold it do not agree on the interpretation of many details.
B. Preterist: Fulfillment in the past : fall of Jerusalem and, possibly, of Rome
1. One school sees the entire prophecy as being fulfilled in 70 AD with the fall of Jerusalem [the view of J.S. Russell and David Chilton, et al.]. Another sees the second half (chapters13 through 19) as being fulfilled in the fall of the Roman Empire [Jay Adams' view]. The message of the book is the vindication of Christ and the martyrs upon their persecutors.
2. Advantages of this view:
a. Makes the most sense if passages like 1:1, 3, 19 (Gr.) and 22:10 are taken literally
b. Makes the book relevant to the original readers (like most epistles)
c. Agrees with the Olivet discourse [Luke 21], and the biblical stress on the importance of 70 AD
d. Agrees impressively with the history of the Jewish War recorded by Josephus
e. Renders the emperor passages like 13:18 and 17:10 intelligible.
3. Disadvantages of the position:
a. Requires a date of writing prior to AD 70, which is defensible but debated (see discussion of date and historical setting, below).
b. Claimed (by critics) to have originated with the Jesuit, Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613) to refute the reformers. However, the preterist approach to both Revelation and the Olivet Discourse were held by some much earlier than this time. Eusebius, early in the fourth century, after reviewing Josephus' description of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, writes:
It is fitting to add to these accounts the true prediction of our Saviour in which he foretold these very events. His words are as follows: 'Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. For there shall be great tribulation, such was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.' [Matthew 24:19-21] Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter VII.
In a commentary on Revelation written in the sixth century by Arethas says of Revelation 6:12: "Some refer this to the seige of Jerusalem by Vespasian." On Revelation 7:1, Arethas writes: "Here then, were manifestly shown to the Evangelist what things were to befall the Jews in their war against the Romans, in the way of avenging the sufferings inflicted upon Christ." At 7:4: "When the Evangelist received these oracles, the destruction in which the Jews were involved was not yet inflicted by the Romans."
C. Futurist : Everything after chapter three awaits fulfillment in the future
1. Revelation divides into three sections, defined in 1:19. Rapture of the church is seen at 4:1, followed by seven-year tribulation. It is assumed that events are recorded in proper chronological order, though some would see two parallel sections (chapters 4-11 and 12-19). Of the alternative approaches, the futurist takes the most literal interpretation to the visions, since it alone can do so.
2. Advantages to this view:
a. Widely held and taught. The most "popular" view among Christians;
b. Appeals to our tendency to take things literally (minimizes duty of interpretation);
c. Harmonization with current events (some have been doing this for the past 150 years).
3. Disadvantages to this view:
a. All of the above (see points a, b and c above)
b. Renders the book 90% irrelevant to Christians (since we leave at 4:1)
c. Fails to recognize the symbolic character of apocalyptic literature
d. Struggles to explain the book's own expectation of near fulfillment (1:1, 3; 22:10)
e. Lack of chronological sequence is frequently evident:
1) End of the world (11:18) precedes other events [e.g. the birth of Christ (12:1-5)]
2) Beast persecutes witnesses (11:7) before he rises to power (13:1)
3) Babylon is fallen (14:8), but later not fallen (17:1-5; 18:21)
f. Origin of futurist view: First created by Spanish Jesuit priest, Francisco Ribera, in 1585, for the purpose of refuting the historicist view and the Reformers' insistence that the "beast" was the papacy.
D. Spiritual/Idealist: No single historical fulfillment is intended-only grand spiritual principles
1. According to this view, the great themes of the triumph of good over evil, of Christ over Satan, of the vindication of the martyrs and the sovereignty of God are played out throughout Revelation without specific reference to historical events.
2. The advantage of this view is that it avoids the difficulty of harmonizing specific passages with specific fulfillments which has plagued the historicist, futurist and preterist views.
3. The disadvantage of the idealist position is that the book of Revelation itself claims to be predicting events that must shortly come to pass (1:1).
E. Eclecticism: Various methods of combining the presuppositions of two or more of the above approaches.
Alternative #1: If the basic premise of the Idealist approach were to be accepted, it would be possible still to identify the fall of Jerusalem and Rome, the rise and fall of the papacy, and certain future political developments as all being notable examples of the pertinent themes, thus accommodating the evidence for the preterist, the historicist and the futurist approaches.
Alternative #2: Accepting the preterist interpretation of chapters 4-9 (the seven seals and the first six trumpets) and, possibly, chapters 14-19 (the seven bowls and the fall of Babylon) would satisfy the explicit predictions of a near fulfillment (1:1, 3, 19 [Gr.]; 22:10). The Idealist approach, however, may justly be applied to chapters 10-13 (as well as chapters 20-22). Reasons for applying chapters 10-13 in this way would include:
a. A new prophecy in the form of a "little book" is introduced in chapter 10.
b. This second prophecy is international in scope (implied in 10:2; stated in 10:11). This would imply, by contrast, that the previous prophecy had concerned a limited area (i.e. Israel).
c. In contrast to the book of Revelation in general, some aspects of this second prophecy are to be sealed up (contr.10:4/22:10), suggesting that their contents will not reach complete fulfillment in the near future (cf.Daniel 12:4, 9).
d. Since the book of the second prophecy is "little" one might expect it to occupy only a few chapters.
e. Chapters 11-13 comprise a discreet section, concerning a period referred to as 31/2 years. Perhaps this section is identified with the "little book."
f. There are reasons to believe that the "3 1/2 years" may be a symbolic designation for the "times of the Gentiles" (i.e. the age of the Church since the fall of Jerusalem til the end of the world-compare 11:2 with Luke 21:24).
g. Further evidence that the second prophecy applies to the whole age of the Church is found in the reference to the "mystery of God" in Rev.10:7 (cf.Eph.3:4-6/Col.1:27/Rom.11:25).
h. If this thesis is true, then the careers of the two witnesses (11:3), the woman in the wilderness(12:6), and the Beast (13:5) must continue throughout the age of the Church, a conclusion that fits other evidence in the related passages.
If interested in the study Biblical prophecy/the end
times/last things (Eschatology), you may also be interested in Steve's other
- When Shall These Things Be? (I highly recommend you go
through this series first)
- Book of Daniel - verse by verse
- The Olivet Discourse - in Matthew (just go to the lectures on Matthew 24)
- The Olivet Discourse - in Mark Part A | Part B
- A Topical Look at Isaiah
- Book of Isaiah - verse by verse
- Book of Jeremiah - verse by verse
- Book of Ezekiel - verse by verse
- Book of Zechariah - verse by verse
Also very important to understanding the Bible and the issues of dispensationalism vs non-dispensationalism is:
What are We to Make of Israel? (Does God have two peoples or one?)
Steve Gregg's book on Revelation
Revelation - Four Views: A Parallel Commentary by Steve Gregg