Introduction to Revelation CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In this introduction, there are some terms that you will want to learn if you do not already understand them. As you study what other teachers and preachers have to say about the Revelation, you will find them referring to these terms. So, it will be helpful for you to know what they mean. These terms include the:
Church Age, Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming [or Second Advent], Millennium and White Throne Judgment
- The Church Age is generally that time period between the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Rapture
- The Rapture [1 Corinthians 15:50-55; I Thessalonians 4:13-18] is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to receive the bodies of the Church Age saints
- The Tribulation is a 7-yearperiod of destruction and desolation between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The 42-month period in the last half of the tribulation is the subject of much of the prophecy in the Revelation
- The Second Advent is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to rule literally, physically and visibly on the earth
- The Millennium is the 1000-year earthly rule of the Lord Jesus Christ [Revelation 20]
- The White Throne Judgment is the judgment, following the millennial reign of Jesus, of all saved and lost people, with the exception of the saved Church Age saints [Revelation 20:11-15; John 5:27-29]
The following table represents four views of the events described above. What people believe concerning these events greatly affects their interpretation of scripture.
- The first row in the table is the pre-tribulation, pre-millennial view – that is, those who hold to this view believe that the Rapture of the Church Age saints will occur before the Tribulation begins [thus, pre-tribulation] and that the Lord Jesus Christ must return to this earth before his Millennial reign will begin [thus, pre-millennial].
- The second row in the table is the post-tribulation, pre-millennial view – that is, those who hold to this view believe that the Rapture of the Church Age saints will occur near the end of the tribulation [thus, post-tribulation] and that the Lord Jesus Christ must return to this earth before his Millennial reign will begin [thus, pre-millennial]. There are variations on the post-tribulation view; some believe in a mid-tribulation rapture and some believe in a pre-wrath rapture [between the mid-trib and the post-trib views].
- The third row in the table is the post-millennial view – that is, those who hold to this view believe that the Church Age saints will actually usher in the Millennium and that once we have established Christ’s kingdom on this earth, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to rule from then on [thus, port-millennial]
- The fourth row in the table is the a-millennial view – that is, those who hold to this view believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is and has been ruling spiritually from heaven and that he will not have a literal, physical, visible return to this earth [thus, a-millennial]. There are some variations in this view suggesting that Jesus may or may not have a 2nd Advent at the end with the White Throne Judgment
There are also some views concerning the prophecies that are in the Revealtion that you will want to know. They are:
The Preterist view [that the prophecies were all fulfilled before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD], the Futurist view [that the prophecies concerning the tribulation, the millennium, and eternity will be fulfilled sometime in the future], and the Historic view [that the prophecies have been being fulfilled throughout the Church Age].
The Preterists hold that the book was written before the death of Nero in 68AD and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and that the events in the book reveal the destruction that took place during the destruction of Jerusalem – Westcott and Hort held this view
The Futurists are primarily pre-millennial and they hold that the book was written around 95-96AD, much later than the destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore, the events in the book are still in the future even beyond the writing of this lesson since nothing like the descriptions in the book have happened since it was written. Hence, the persecution and exile to the Isle of Patmos that John, the apostle, suffered would have happened under Domitian who reigned between 81 and 96AD. Of him it was said, “We will not however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, toward the end of Domitian’s reign.” These words were penned by Irenaeus.
The Historicists see the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Revelation throughout the Church Age. Historicists generally separate into Post-millennial and A-millennial views. The Post-millennial historicists see the Millennium as a period following the defeat of the “beast” and “false prophet,” after which Christ comes, the dead are raised and the White Throne Judgment then takes place. The A-millennial historicists believe the Millennium simply represents all the time from the beginning of the Church Age to the Second Advent of Christ and the White Throne Judgment.
In these studies on the Revelation, you will see that we are pre-tribulation, pre-millennial futurists. We believe that the Revelation was written around 95-96 AD.
Now, there is one other bit of introductory information that we should cover. This has to do with the interpretation of the Revelation. Generally, there are two basic ways scripture is interpreted in this Book, either metaphorically [spiritually] or literally. If you interpret the prophecies literally, you believe that what is written is written exactly the way things will turn out. If you interpret the scriptures metaphorically or spiritually, you believe that was is written is not written exactly the way things will turn out but rather as a picture or a parable portraying the events.
However, once you determine that the book is written in highly figurative language then you can make it say anything you want it to say. For instance, a spiritual interpretation of the mark of the beast [Rev 13] by a historicist could be that the mark in the forehead is the control of the thoughts and the mark in the right hand is the control of the actions of people by the Roman Empire. The literalist, on the other hand, would say that the mark of the beats is a literal mark on the forehead or right hand of people in the tribulation in order that they might buy and sell. Obviously, since we haven’t seen that type of mark in the Church Age, the literalist would also say that the mark of the beast is still in the future.
With interpretation it is important to remember not to interpret the scripture solely in light of circumstances seen in your particular part of the world and in your particular day and from your particular point of view. Hitler would have made a great antichrist for those who believed that WWII was one of the wars of the Revelation. It is also important not to interpret scripture solely based upon what you think you already know. For instance, a person who believes that the eagle in Daniel is the USA, that a generation is 40 years, and that the generation who witnessed the statehood of Israel in 1948, is the generation who sees the events of Matthew 24, would be forced to believe that Jesus should have been here by 1988. Yet those who believed that were wrong. Furthermore, be careful about interpreting a passage of scripture without considering the rest of the Bible and all of the doctrines that are affected by your interpretation. Belief in a post-tribulation rapture, for instance, affects myriad other doctrines in the Bible besides just the timing of the Lord’s return.
We interpret the Revelation literally unless there is no possible way that a literal interpretation could be true.