Interpreting Revelation

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Author's Bias | Interpretation: conservative

Interpreting Revelation has cause much debate, and at least four standard methods for interpreting the book has developed.

Preterists view the book as almost exclusively to first century events.

Historicists view the book as referring to the unfolding church history until Christ's second coming.

Idealists see the book as symbolizing the eternal conflict between good and evil.

Futurists see the book as mainly about the end times. Sometimes interpreters blend two or more of these approaches.

Furthermore, the "thousand years" of Revelation 20:2-6 has been the basis of three different views of the millennium (the Latin word for "thousand years").

The Amillennial (no millennium) interpretation sees Christ as ruling spiritually in the church now; Satan has been bound or at least hindered during the present church era. According to this view, there will be no literal thousand year reign; instead, Christ reigns through the church for an unknown number of years before He returns.

The Postmillennial (after the millennium) interpretation understands that by the spread of the gospel the world will become progressively more Christian. When the world becomes completely Christian there will be a millennium, then Jesus returns in glory.

The Premillennial (before the millennium) view holds that Jesus Christ will return to earth to set up His visible kingdom. At that time Satan will be bound for a thousand years.

Those who accept the premillennial position take specific views on when Christ will remove believers from the earth before He returns (Rev 19:11-21). A comparison of the common symbolism of Daniel and Revelation, as well as time references in Daniel 7:25; 9:27; 12:7 along with those in Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5, seem to indicate that a seven year period (Dan 9:24-27), often called the Tribulation, will precede Christ's return. Several different views have tried to explain the timing between the Rapture of the church and the Tribulation. (The word rapture comes from the Latin translation of "caught up" in 1 Thess 4:17.)

Pretribulationists expect the Rapture to take place before seven years of tribulation.

Midtribulationists say the Raputure will occur midway through the seven year period.

The Posttribulation view states that the church will go through the Tribulation, but will be removed at the time of Christ's second coming.

The Prewrath view places the Rapture between the mid- and posttribulational points, before the climatic wrath of God.

Each of these positions depends on a different view of how the text of Revelation should be interpreted. It is a good idea to keep this in mind whenever you try to understand a position or talk about it with others. The central idea on which all these views agree is that Christ will return sometime in the future, and that His return will be a welcome sight to His people. Our hope and prayer is the same as the apostle John's: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20).

"I believe that the intention of Holy Writ was to persuade men of truths necessary to salvation; such as neither science nor other means could render credible, but only the voice of the Holy Spirit."

Galileo (1613)

Taken from "The Nelson Study Bible New King James Version" edited by Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, and H. Wayne House. ©1997 by Thomas Nelson Publisher. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Publisher, 501 Nelson Place, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000 (

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Topical Index: Eschatology: The End Times and End of Human History>Judgment

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