The book of Revelation is one of the most misunderstood and forgotten books of the Bible. In a nutshell – it is hard to read.
Yeah, there are certain themes and ideas that are easy to understand. Namely the fact that those who follow Christ Jesus win and those who don’t, lose.
As several of you know, I have been attending a Bible study on the book of Revelation through my local church. Well, actually it is a men’s group that decided to study the book rather then a specific class about Revelation.
The group is really interesting – you see, we approach the Bible study differently then most groups. Instead of having a study book or one specific leader, we just read a chapter of the Bible and then talk about it. Each person in the group is encouraged to study the chapter at home the week before so that they are ready to discuss it at the group.
As a result of this group setup, we get all kinds of ideas and thoughts – which are great! [@more@]
Yet sometimes it can be hard as each person has a different way of reading Revelations. This bent or worldview can slant the way you read the text – as such it is important to have a general knowledge of the different ways you can read the book of Revelations.
The first way is to read the book as a first century document. This is usually called the Preterist view. People to hold to this view state that John was writing to a first century church about things happening in their life time. Some people even go on to say that all the “prophecies” in the book where fulfilled during the 1st century.
The second view is the historical view. This view claims that Revelations details the full scope of human history (or, as some say, history from the time of Christ to the Second Coming of Christ). Folks who hold this view will read a passage and then look at world history to see if there is a corresponding historical time period.
The third way to read the book is called the Spiritualist view. This view says that the entire book of Revelations is taking about the spiritual fight between good and evil. Nothing in the book is literal – instead, it is all to be taken symbolical.
The fourth and most common way of reading Revelation is the Futurist view
. Just as the name says, the view looks at the writings of John as events that will happen in the future. People who read the book this way often reference Daniel in their attempt to outline the events of the “end times”. However, it should be noted that not all futurist hold to time lines – instead, they just read the book as one long prophecy.
There are other ways of reading Revelations – but these are the four main views. Most of the others are combinations or variations of these four views.
On a personal level, I hold to reading Revelations through the eyes of both the Preterist and Futurist view points. This means that I up hold the view that the entire book (not just the first few chapters) had meaning to the 1st century church. As we read the book, we MUST ask ourselves what did the 1st century church think about the text? How did it affect them?
At the same time, I recognize that John was writing about the second coming of Christ – which has not happened yet. As such, when we read Revelations, we must read it with an eye to the future.
Some might say that this can get confusing as how does one know if the scriptures are talking about the future or the past? Yet, I don’t think it has to be that confusing as we start by asking ourselves what would the 1st century church think about the scripture in question?
If they would of taken it to be a future text about the second coming (similar to the way we read Paul’s writing), then it deals with the future. Those passages that would have been “fulfilled” in the past – well, some of them may have a double meaning… at that time, we need to get on our knees and ask God what He is saying.
However, overall we need to keep our eyes on the context – historical, cultural, and textual context – in which the book is written. We must resist the urge to create doctrines based upon one or two scriptures in Revelations – especially when those scriptures don’t seem to have support from the greater context of the entire Bible. (And yes, there are a few verses in Revelation that fall into this category).
*smile* I can’t help be chuckle as it is my determination to read Revelations in the context of the 1st century that keeps getting me into trouble at my Bible study. Most of the folks there are pure Futurist and as such, don’t like to – or don’t understand the need to look at the historically and cultural ideas the 1st century church would have held.
Oh well – at least it gives the group plenty of “life” as we debate things.