The world will end. No one knows exactly when, but the book of Revelation helps us to be prepared and to live with a sense of confident expectation for the return of Jesus.
Contents of this Article
- Revelation is a book of answers.
- Common views of interpretation.
- The Preterist View
- The Historicist View
- The Poetic (or Idealist) View
- The Futurist View
- Why should you study the book of Revelation?
Time and time again, someone predicts that the world will end or the Lord will come back or the rapture will happen on a certain date. Whether it’s “Biblical numerology”, Blood moons, or some kind of date setting, it is important for us to be cautious.
The end of the ancient Mayan Calendar occurred right around December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar ran for 5,126 years beginning apparently in the year 3114 B.C.. Do the math and you arrive at the year 2012. At that time, some were saying that the world was going to end, or there would be some new cosmic shift or new age of enlightenment.
In response to this, NASA scientists declared, “Nothing bad will happen to the earth in 2012,” claiming that there is no science or evidence for such claims that they are all “fictional assertions”.
The end of 2012 came and went without incident.
In Matthew 24:35–36, Jesus declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away…But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
So the world will end. Although many have guessed, no one knows when.
So we don’t know when, but do we know how? It’s been a question that many of us have considered. How will the world end?
Could there ever be a cataclysmic event of the face of the planet that would wipe out life and civilization as we know it? What if we get hit by an astroid? What about a nuclear or biological war?
How will the world end?
Notice the rest of the quote of Jesus, “…Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”
The book of Revelation is about the end of the world.
Well, not really. It is about the end of life as we know it, but it also tells us that there is a new world coming.
It is a book of answers.
In my high school pre-algebra class, the answers to the odd numbered math problems were in the back of the book. You could check your understanding and your progress by looking at the answers. You struggle through some algebra problem and then you look at the back of the book to make sure you got it right. The same is true of the Bible. The book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible. And it gives us the answers. It is the Answer to history.
Revelation is a history book. It is a book of real history, pre-history. It tells us how world history will culminate. It tells us how evil will end.
Have you ever wondered why, if God is all good, and the Devil is responsible for evil, why God doesn’t just wipe out evil? The answer is in the back of the book.
In the gospels we see that Jesus, the Son of God, comes in humility. In Revelation, we see Him come in Glory.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was in a synagogue and, in telling people why he came, he read from the book of Isaiah, chapter 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And he stopped there – he stopped in mid-sentence. But the passage in Isaiah goes on to say: “And the day of vengeance of our God”.
The first time Jesus came, he came as a man and lived among us. The second time he comes, it’s going to be much different. He is coming as the Ruler and Judge of the earth in order “to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.”
That’s what the book of Revelation is about.
It is one of the most fascinating books in the bible. Yet it’s also one of the most neglected books and one of the most misunderstood books.
It is a book with many signs and symbols: horses, trumpets, beasts, seals, scrolls, famine, stars falling to the earth, angels, bowls of wrath, etc.
It is not like any other book in the New Testament. But it is like some books in the Old Testament.
In fact, almost every symbol in the book of Revelation is spoken of or alluded to in other parts of the Bible. The book of Revelation has about 550 references to the Old Testament (Fruchtenbaum).
It’s value is found in that it takes all of these end times prophecies from the Old Testament and puts them in chronological order.
But not everybody gets this correct.
Common Views of Interpretation.
The Preterist View
This approach believes that Revelation deals only with the church in John’s day. In the Preterist approach, the Book of Revelation doesn’t predict anything. John simply describes events of his current day, but he puts them in symbolic “code” so those outside the Christian family couldn’t understand his criticism of the Roman government.
In the Preterist view, the Book of Revelation was for then. Preterism says, “All Bible prophecy is fulfilled.”
The Historicist View
This approach believes that Revelation is a sweeping, disordered panorama of all church history. In the Historicist approach, Revelation predicts the future, but the future of the “church age” – not the future of end-time events. In the Historicist view, Revelation is full of symbols that apply to the rise of Islam, Napolean, the Catholic church, etc
For example, many have wanted to identify the beast of Revelation chapter 13, as a historical figure. The Reformers equated the Pope with the Beast. But they didn’t necessarily want to believe that the end was very near. So they believed that Revelation spoke of their time, without necessarily speaking to the end times.
The Poetic View
This approach believes that Revelation is a book full of pictures and symbols intended to encourage and comfort persecuted Christians in John’s day. In the Poetic (or allegorical) view, Revelation isn’t literal or historic. Revelation is a book of personal meaning.
The Futurist View
This approach believes that beginning with chapter four, Revelation deals with the end times, the period directly preceding Jesus’ return. In the Futurist view, Revelation is a book that mainly describes the end times. This is the most literal of the views
There is some truth in each of the views. It certainly did say something to those living in John’s day. It does say something about church history, and it does it have personal meaning.
But primarily, it says something about the future. There are literal events that it predicts will happen that have not yet happened.
Revelation is a meaningful book for us today. It speaks of the future – as do many other portions of scripture.
The Old Testament book of Daniel is highly prophetic, as is Ezekiel. Many of the Psalms are filled with end times prophecies. Zechariah is a very prophetic book.
Where you get into trouble in interpretation, is when you say that it’s not literal and you spiritualize the clear meaning of the text.
That is why I will be considering Revelation from a literal perspective.
When it says that an angel appeared to John, we will believe that an angel appeared to John. Just like when Luke’s gospel says an angel appeared to Mary, we believe that an angel appeared to Mary.
To have a literal interpretation of Scripture is not to say that there are not signs, or symbols, or figures of speech. There certainly are.
For example, Revelation 1:14 says that Jesus’ eyes were “like a flame of fire”. Does that mean that a literal flame of fire was coming out of his eye? Of course not. It means that however His eyes looked, it reminded John of a flame of fire.
What you can’t do, is take the signs and symbols and just guess what they mean. You can’t say that the beast that comes up out of the sea is the king of Spain, or the country of Iran. You can’t do that.
You don’t have to guess, you simply have to look elsewhere in the bible and see where that symbol occurs.
Properly interpreted, Revelation is not difficult to understand.
Why Should You Study Revelation?
Finally, as we consider the study of revelation. keep in mind the “Why”.
Don’t study this book just to gain academic information, or become a prophecy buff.
Learn the book of Revelation so that you will be prepared to be with him forever. What a blessing!
Because when you take to heart the message of this book, you will have confidence in the future – because you know who is writing the future.
All of your hope in this earth will melt away, and you will start to think about life from an eternal perspective. Nothing will take you by surprise.
You will be eagerly looking forward to the coming of the Lord.
Ultimately, knowing the truths from the book of Revelation will help to keep you close to Him.