BOOK OF REVELATION
THE BOOK OF REVELATION SERIES...
Dr Andrew Corbett
The Book of Revelation is placed
last in the Bible for good reason! It should be the last book
of the Bible that anyone seeks to become an expert on. The
reason for this is simple. Without a thorough understanding
of the rest of Scripture most of Revelation will neither make
sense nor be appropriately appreciated. Most of the Book of
Revelation is saturated in Old Testament imagery. It's language
is highly symbolic and to be regarded as apocalyptic (revealing
the future). It has clear echoes from the Books of Daniel and
Zechariah where we also find similar apocalyptic passages.
DIFFERENT SCHOOLS OF INTERPRETATION
Throughout the history of the
church there have been several main schools of interpretation
in regard to the Book of Revelation.
The Historical School regards
most of Revelation describing events beginning chronologically
close to its date of origin but extending through history to
the end of time.
The Futurist School regards most
of the Book of Revelation, from chapter 4 on, as applying to
events far removed from the original readers. Futurists view
the prophetic contents of Revelation as taking place near the
end of time over a relatively short and compact period.
The third predominant school
of interpretation regarding Revelation, which is once again
enjoying a resurgence in popularity, is the Preterist School. "Preterist" simply
means to look back into the past. This view regards Revelation
in the same way as we would view Ephesians or First Corinthians,
or any other Book of the Bible. Rather than assuming that a
Biblical prophecy is yet to be fulfilled, the Preterist investigates
whether it has already been fulfilled. Preterists argue that
the contents of Revelation need to be viewed from the context
of the original recipients with consideration then given to
how it can be applied to readers of any era.
I may be regarded as a Partial
Preterist since I see the Preterist School as clearly the most
Biblically responsible of Eschatological (End Times) Schools.
Unlike Full-Preterists, I regard Scripture as describing the
consummation of this age when Christ will hand over His kingdom
to His Father (1Corinthians 15:26; noting Ephesians 1:10) whereupon
there will a general physical resurrection (the Second Resurrection)
and the final Judgment. I believe all this is described in
Revelation, and does not conflict with any of the Church's
In this School of interpretation
there are several important principles of interpretation that
I believe must be adhered to for sound interpretation of any
No Scripture should be
interpreted outside of its textual, cultural, or historical
context. This encompasses the principle of original audience.
No single verse of Scripture
should be interpreted as contradicting the overall message
No verse should be interpreted
as having multiple meanings or fulfilments, unless the
passage itself clearly states that this is the case.
Therefore to adequately interpret
the Book of Revelation the first of these Hermeneutical principles
needs to be honoured. Understanding the textual context of
the Book of Revelation will help us to realise that when it
uses the number seven, unless it defines itself as a literal
quantity of seven, it is also to be understood as having symbolic
meaning. Taking into consideration John's other writings, especially
his Gospel, the textual context reveals that "seven" represents
complete, finished, all. Thus when we read that the Lamb has
seven horns, the text is actually telling us something other
than what on the surface of it appears to be quite grotesque.
Understanding that the literary use of the word "horn" frequently
symbolised 'strength' in the Old Testament, we see that a Lamb
with seven horns speaks of the Vicarious (substitutionary)
Christ who has all strength (He is therefore "Almighty").
Understanding the cultural context
we would consider that most of the original readers were either
from a Jewish background or thoroughly familiar with it. So
when it speaks of seals being opened the original readers would
have harkened back to the Lord's words to Daniel to "seal up" these
words until the end and realised that the Lord was now saying
the end judgment was near. The use of trumpets was highly significant
in the Old Testament. They announced to the camp of Israel
that a significant and often triumphant time for the community
had commenced and that they should gather together in response
to the trumpet sound.
THE DATE OF REVELATION'S AUTHORSHIP
It would be remiss of any serious
student of Revelation not to at least do a cursory examination
of the historical context to which Revelation is back-dropped.
The first point reference would have to be to determine when
Revelation was written. Most scholars regard there being only
two possible dates. Dr. Leon Morris explores this adequately
in his Tyndale Commentary series volume on Revelation, and
I recommend that this widely available commentary be read.
In the case of most books of the Bible, determining the date
of its authorship, while certainly important, is not necessarily
crucial to its interpretation. But this is absolutely not the
case with the Book of Revelation. Tradition has up until recent
times regarded the date Revelation's authorship to be around
95AD. This has been based almost entirely on one vague statement
by the second century Church Father, Irenaeus. But the recent
doctoral work by Kenneth L. Gentry on dating Revelation has
concluded that it must have been written in the "mid to late
60s" rather than in 95AD -
are suggestive evidences within the book to date it in
the mid- to late-60s of the first century. In fact, the
evidence is persuasive enough that it convinced such notable
scholars Moses Stuart, F. J. A. Hort, B. F. Westcott, and
F. W. Farrar in the last century, and J. A. T. Robinson,
R. A. Torrey, Albert A. Bell, and C. F. D. Moule in our
indicators of the early date are: (1) The "temple" in the "holy
city" is still standing as John writes, though it is being
threatened with devastation (Rev. 11: 1-2). We know as
a matter of historical fact that the Jewish temple was
destroyed in A.D. 70, and has never been rebuilt. (2) The
sixth "king" is presently ruling from the "seven mountains" and
will do so until a king comes who will reign a "short time" (Rev.
17:9-10). The preterist takes this to be a clear enough
allusion to Nero Caesar. According to the enumeration found
in Josephus' Antiquities (18:2:2,6, 10) and Suetonius'
Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero is Rome's sixth emperor,
following Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and
Claudius. The next reigning emperor, Galba, reigned but
six months, the shortest reigning emperor until that time.
Sourced from- http://www.kennethgentry.com/Merchant2/apocalypse.htm
by Dr. Kenneth Gentry Jr.
It was a dark time for the Church.
Since the death of Stephen in Acts 7, the Jewish Temple authorities
had been waging a violent war against the Church. This continued
up until the time of Jerusalem's destruction in 70AD. Empire
sanctioned persecution against the Church was being intensified
since 64AD when Nero had ordered Christians to be put to death
(usually by beheading). He declared that everyone in the Empire
must acknowledge that he was Lord and King. Christians were
publicly humiliated, ostracized and martyred throughout the
Empire by both Jews and the Romans as they refused to declare
that Caesar was either their Lord or their King (titles they
exclusively reserved for Christ) or that the Old Covenant had
any hold on them. Added to this was the rise in false doctrine,
an increase in spiritual routine and therefore a decline in
authentic passionate love for Jesus.
The Lord reveals through John
that the wave of persecution against the Church was driven
by the Dragon, no longer would his initial readers be lulled
into thinking that they were engaged in some mere politico-ideological
war- but a life-and-death spiritual war.
Some fanciful interpretations
of the Book of Revelation have seen computer chips predicted
within its pages and other things equally amazing. But when
we refuse to take one verse out of context or let one verse
contradict the overall message of Scripture, it is very difficult
to give such interpretations any credibility.
Still others have invented a
system of interpretation that says a prophecy can have multiple
fulfilments. This makes prophetic Bible passages totally arbitrary
(subject to change according to a person's whims). The problems
with this kind of interpretation are obvious. How does a serious
student of the Bible determine when a prophetic passage should
be interpreted as having multiple fulfilment options? What
about prophecies that we all assumed only had one possible
fulfilment (such as the virgin birth of Christ), but someone
else claims it will be fulfilled again? Unless the particular
prophetic Scripture states that it will have multiple or staggered
fulfilment it is hermeneutically perilous to devise multiple
fulfilments otherwise. One writer even bases his concept of
the "Law of Double Reference" on what he calls an 'ancient
rabbinic principle of interpretation'. Supposedly these
are the same rabbis who deny that Jesus was the Messiah or
that He fulfilled any Old Testament prophecy(?).
Too often the symbolised in Revelation
is interpreted as meaning something contrary to what Revelation
itself says about its own interpretation. One such example
of this is to interpret the Dragon as referring to Communist
China. The passage goes on to clearly define the Dragon as
Satan (Rev. 20:2). The Preterist view of Revelation sees great
value in this awesome culmination to the Bible. There is much
to be learned, applied, and drawn on in this Book for your
life today. It is my hope that I can prove this to you.
2003, Dr. Andrew Corbett
to Part 2 of Understanding Revelation