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Interpreting Revelation

Interpreting Revelation by Cornelis P. Venema

Reblogged from Ligonier Ministries

The interpretation of the book of Revelation has often proven difficult throughout the history of the Christian church. Though it is little more than a piece of scholarly gossip, some have even suggested that the Reformer John Calvin, one of the best interpreters of the Scriptures the church has known, shied away from writing a commentary on the book of Revelation for this very reason. There is no evidence to support this claim, and we do have Calvin’s commentary on the book of Daniel, which gives a fairly clear picture as to how Calvin would have interpreted the book of Revelation had he written a commentary on it. But the tenacious hold this Calvin legend has on the popular imagination bears witness to a broad consensus that the book of Revelation remains an impenetrable mystery even to the ablest of interpreters.

There is only one approach to Revelation that has strengths, but no weaknesses and this is the “Idealist” approach. It is the only view that sees the book as relevant to the whole church from Pentecost till Christ coming.

  1. Johnny Ward
    March 1, 2012 at 1:18 am

    [Reformed, here’s something I ran into not long ago while surfing away on the net.]

    Futurism Was, Is, and Is To Come

    Preterists claim that the “Antichrist” and the “great tribulation” were fulfilled during the 70 AD period.
    If so, why do we find that the arrival of the Antichrist was regarded as a future event by writers who lived during and after 70 AD?
    Polycarp (70-167) wrote that “He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead.”
    Justin Martyr (100-168) said that “[Antichrist] shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians….”
    Irenaeus (140-202) wrote that the ten kings (Rev. 17)”shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the church to flight.”
    It’s not true that Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) “revived” futurism because it was never lost during the Middle Ages or prior to that period of time.
    Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) stated: “There remains only one thing – that the demon of noonday [Antichrist] should appear.”
    Roger Bacon (1214-1274) spoke of “future perils [for the Church] in the times of Antichrist….”
    John Wycliffe (1320-1384) referred to “the hour of temptation, which is coming upon all the world, Rev. iii.”
    Martin Luther (1483-1546): “[The book of Revelation] is intended as a revelation of things that are to happen in the future….”
    (Google or Yahoo “Famous Rapture Watchers” to see quotes from many Christian leaders throughout the Church Age which prove that they expected a future Antichrist and a future great tribulation.)
    Preterists use Matt. 24:34 (“This generation will not pass….”) to try to prove a 70 AD fulfillment of “Antichrist.” Since many of them see “these” (Matt. 25:46) fulfilled in the future in Rev. 20, why can’t they apply futurism as easily to Matt. 24:34? After all, the word “this” is the singular form of “these”!
    To see something that preterists, historicists, and futurists can all agree on, Google “Pretrib Rapture Secrets.”

    • March 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Thank you for your comment Johnny Ward. I appreciate your input on these things. I would like to clarify to you that I myself was once a dispensationalist and wrote an entire commentary on the book of Revelation. After having studied hermenutics and realizing that my method of Bible interpretation was faulty, I revised my stance on the book of Revelation.

      You have quoted many fathers of church history to support your views. I want to say that I do appreciate reading these men, however I must remind you that though some of these men believed the book of Revelation was futuristic, nevertheless they also seen it as applicable for their time also. For instance, Luther and many of the Reformers viewed the Pope as “The Anitchrist.”

      Also my position is that scripture must interpret scripture. This is called “the analogy of faith” and was also Luther’s position to. The science of interpretation teaches us that we are to exegete scripture. To exegete scripture we draw out of the scripture what it says. Most who do Bible prophecy do the opposite and commit the error of eisegesis. They usually take and read into scripture what isn’t there. They interpret the scripture with newspaper ads and not with scripture.

      I have challenged many a person, after having come away from the dispensational, premillennial, pretribulational view of prophecy, by asking them to show me in scripture whereby there will be a pretribulational rapture or a seven year tribulation. My challenge goes unfulfilled. But I can show you that Christ is only coming once more and not twice. The resurrection of the just and unjust will take place at the end of the world, at Christ second coming. These are not my words, but Christ’s words, Paul’s words, John’s words, etc……

      The book of Revelation is relevant to the entire church, not just one portion of it. The early church knew exactly what it meant, because they knew their Old Testament. The reason we cannot interpret this book properly, at times, is because we do not know our Old Testament well enough. The book of Revelation is filled with Old Testament images. There is nothing new in this book. This book wraps up the plan of redemption which God started from the beginning. Therefore if a period of 1000 years is never mentioned throughout the rest of scripture and this book is repeating what has already been said, but in symbolical terms, then the 1000 years cannot be literal. It is not wrong to interpret literally, but is an error to interpret literalistically. This literalism was also the error of the Jews. They thought that Christ would come and set up an earthly reign when he came. Though they missed him, he did bring in his kingdom.

      Anyway God bless you.

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