Introduction to interpretation of Revelation

Yesterday was the last of our “introductions to Revelation” and we tackled the hard task of how to interpret this masterpiece of the Apostle John. Many different views go into our understanding of Revelation, from how we read the Bible to how we see God working in our lives and the world today.
Some people see Revelation as a complicated puzzle requiring charts and special insight to other Old Testament prophecies all leading to a mysterious timeline for the world. This is not a new thought, a Jewish Essene rebels thought the rebellion against Rome in 66 AD was the lead up to the Messiah’s appearance and the end of the world. Martin Luther predicted the end of the world no later than 1600; John Wesley wrote that Rev. 12:14 referred to the years 1058-1836, “when Christ should come” and many said that Y2K would trigger events leading to the end of the world. Over the years people have come up with many dates using the Jewish calendar, signs in the heavens, the disintegration of morals and the rise of geopolitical powers in opposition to Christ.
We can quickly dismiss these predictions by citing Mark 13:32, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. But we should also remember that Jesus taught his disciples about the signs of the end of the age in Matthew 24-25 and said, “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” Matt. 24:42.
We started with defining some terms people use in the study of Revelation, and then began the hard work of understanding the overlapping views about Revelation. Here’s some of what we discussed please look to the slides for a more complete list.
Millennium refers to the period of a thousand years that Satan is locked up and prevented from deceiving the nations from Revelation 20:1-3, 7-8. There are three main millennial views: pre-millennialism – Christ will come before the thousand year reign. A-millennialism – there is no literal thousand year reign, it is symbolic. Post-millennialism – Christ returns after the thousand year reign.
The Tribulation is an unprecedented time of global suffering and trial that immediately precedes the second coming of Christ and the Rapture is an event in the future when the believers who are alive at that time will be caught up to heaven without having to physically die. Again, there are three main views that follow, pre-tribulation rapture, post-tribulation rapture and mid-tribulation rapture.
There are four general interpretations for Revelation:
Preterists – believe that the events of Revelation have already happened, it is a recording of the conditions in the Roman Empire in the 1st Century and most of the events have already taken place. Therefore of no future importance, and denies the prophetic aspects of John’s letter to the seven churches and us.
Historicists – see Revelation as describing a long chain of events from Patmos to the end of history. This view was popular with the reformers who interpreted Revelation through the history of Western Europe, various popes, the protestant reformation and the French revolution.
Idealists – view Revelation as symbolic pictures of timeless truths as the victory of good over evil. The contents of Revelation do not relate to any historical events at all but only symbolize the struggles in the Christian experience.
Futurists – read Revelation as prophecy of events still to come and they place the events at the end of time just prior to the return of Christ. The currently popular dispensational teachings fall into the futurists’ category, with some identifying Revelation 1-3 as dealing with things in John’s lifetime and 6-22 as “things to come”, the future. And, that everything that occurs in those chapters falls in the last 3.5 years of seven year period of Daniel’s 70th week.
This extreme futurist view is centered on the question – What about Israel? Are the Covenants that God made with the people of Israel still valid today?
This involves a discussion comparing Dispensational theology to the Historic teaching of the church, which is also called Replacement theology, Covenant and/or Reformed theology. Between these two opposite views are many views that attempt to synthesize, God’s revealed plan for all mankind and fulfillment of His promises to Israel. Please check out the slides for more detailed descriptions.
Dispensational theology, which began in 1833 by John Nelson Darby, contends that there are two distinct programs of God – one for the Church which began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and the other for ethnic Israel which is revealed through the Old Testament covenants God made with Israel.
The historic teachings of the church are that the covenants with Abraham’s descendants are fulfilled by the church. That Christ rules now on David’s throne, His reign is a current reality and represented by the church universal. That God’s one plan to save all people is a theme that runs throughout scripture from Genesis to Revelation and that it was always God’s plan to save us through grace and the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus.

Introduction to Revelation

There are so many things in the news and on Facebook about the coming apocalypse, end times predictions and what people see as “signs” from God in the heavens. I began our lesson yesterday with few minutes explaining, as best I could, the hype about the blood moons, the Jubilee year and predicted disasters. The proponents of these views cite scripture as support for their predictions – Joel 2:30-32, Matthew 24:29-31 and Revelation 6:12-14. As we move through a careful study of Revelation we will discern carefully how the apostle John intended the scriptures to be understood to the churches in Asia Minor, then discuss how that is different or the same understanding for us today.

The question I keep pondering is this: Is God communicating to us through mysterious signs in the heavens or other significant events with regard to Israel and the U.S.? I don’t think so; in fact Israel is repeatedly warned against practicing divination, interpreting omens and looking to the heavens for answers. God has revealed to us His character and His plan for all mankind in the Bible. Instead of looking for mysterious secret signs we will dig deep to understand all that God has revealed to us in the scriptures.

The final book of the New Testament is also the last book written. It was written at a time of political turmoil, impending threats of annihilation of the Jewish people, persecution of Christians and violent civil war in the Roman Empire. Our first clue to the date first comes from John, who states in Rev.1:9 that he was imprisoned on “the Island called Patmos because of the testimony about Jesus”. We know from Irenaeus, an early church father, that John was banished to the mines on Patmos during the reign of Domitian. Domitian reigned first for one year in 69AD while his father Vespasian was fighting the civil war and then later in 81-96 AD after Vespasian and Titus died.

66AD onward were increasing perilous times for Christians, especially Jewish Christians. Israel began their uprising against Rome in 66AD, this lasted until Jerusalem was recaptured and destroyed and the temple burned to the ground in 70AD. The last desperate hold out of Jewish resistance was on Masada, the mountain top winter palace of Herod the Great overlooking the Dead Sea. The zealots, priests and Essenes that held out committed mass suicide right before the Romans broke through the wall in late spring of 73AD. You can still see today the remains of the great siege ramp built by countless Jewish slaves that died in the seige.

All of Palestine was in ruins, 1,100,000 died by either famine or the sword and 90,000 were sold as slaves or sent to the theater for entertainment – killed by sword or beast. Vespasian, Titus and Domitian imposed heavy taxes on all remaining Jews in the empire, then proclaim themselves as gods demanding worship and harshly crush any resistance to their rule or worship of any other god.

Revelation was written to Christians during a period of intense persecution, some believers in the church were advocating a policy of compromise, John writes to counter this influence and encourage the church to stand fast even in the perilous days that are coming.

The word revelation is the English translation of the Greek word for apocalypse, when John writes, “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him to show his servants what must happen very soon” he is identifying the style of writing as apocalyptic. Apocalyptic literature was a popular style from 200 BC-100AD, they were written during periods of persecution using highly symbolic language.

John’s apocalypse is different in that he is known to the readers and identifies himself to them as “your brother”. John states that Revelation is a prophecy and a revelation, a vision that is grounded in their current history. Revelation is also a pastoral letter written to the church at large and to specific churches with real living people. Revelation is a blend of three types of writings: apocalypse, prophecy and letter; it is the word of God given through John to the church and to us.

We Begin

It was a great start yesterday to our year together studying Revelation. It was so enjoyable to hear of your special events during our summer break – lots of anniversaries this summer and the celebrations to go with them.

We also had wonderful reports of the summer study on Experiencing God led by Ann Dokken. Many experienced changed hearts and attitudes allowing them to rest in God’s work in their lives and for those who they come in contact. They began and practiced looking for what God is doing in their lives and finding ways to join with God in that good work. What a blessing!

This next Tuesday we will have an introduction to the book of Revelation and a history review for context to this masterful book.

See you Tuesday have a wonderful week,

Peggy

Joy of Living Revelation Class

Ladies:

It is just 10 days until we start meeting again for our JOY of Living Bible Study. This summer has gone by fast and I am excited to hear of all your adventures. We meet Tuesday, September 15th at 9:30am in the West Room at FPC. This year we are studying Revelation, which will bring us many interesting discussions. I will have our study books available for purchase, no need to buy the books ahead of time as our first couple of weeks will be introductory. I would like us to have a useful understanding of apocalyptic literature and the various eschatological “world views” before we begin studying together.

Our first meeting together (9/15) will be a time of introduction to how we study and updates about our lives, also, we are going to try a few changes to see if we can a have a bit more intimate fellowship with each other.

This first meeting would be a wonderful time to invite a friend, I don’t think of us as intimidating but a room full of 50 noisy women is frightening to some 🙂

I am sorry to say that at this time we do not have a babysitter available to us, I am hoping that will change soon. I will keep you posted when that becomes available.

I am excited to hear from each of you and get started on our journey together through “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place”.

Blessings to all of you, Peggy