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4 (or 5) Different Views of the Revelation’s message regarding history

Ok, so let’s jump right in with the different views of where the message of Revelation belongs.

What do I mean by that, first of all? Well, no one disputes, really, that the first three chapters comprise letters to genuine, historical churches. Where the disagreement begins is with how to treat chapters 4 through 21. Here I’m going to outline the major camps involved in how to interpret this:

  1. Preterist view: This view states that everything described (or almost everything), including the return of Christ is metaphorical language and describes events that happened near the time of its writing. This time frame is either prior to 70AD (the destruction of the temple), prior to 150AD (the height of Domitian’s persecution of the church) or prior to 250 (on a much later date for writing). This means everything can be traced to an historical occurrence. This is considered heretical in many circles, in large part because it claims that Christ has already returned in a “spiritual” sense. There are very few advocates of this today.
  2. Allegoricist view: This view states that the message is really “timeless” and one cannot identify anything in the book with specific events or people in history past, present or future.
  3. Historicist view: This view claims that Revelation recounts the whole of history in metaphorical language. For instance: they may try to identify certain types of locusts with certain military weapons throughout history (from long bows, to guns, to tanks, to helicopters, etc.)
  4. Futurist view: By far the most popular claims that all, or almost all of the events following chapter 4 refer to things that have not yet occurred (or have only recently occurred) and generally believe that the timeline for these events is fairly short.
  5. The option view is called Partial-preterist: This is a view that states that significant portions of the book of Revelation occurred near the time of writing, but advocates are very careful to say other parts, in particular the return of Christ, have not yet occurred.

It should be noted that, with the exception of option 1, these views are not mutually exclusive, and often combined together. The

St John on Patmos by Hieronymus Bosch (obtained via Wikicommons)

most frequent combination involves 2, 5, and a little of 4. I think I’ll stop there for now, but next week, I’ll further divide option 4 and talk about the different views within that option for the book of revelation. For the time being though, I’m trying to keep things fairly simple.

Do you gravitate toward one or more of these?

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2 thoughts on “4 (or 5) Different Views of the Revelation’s message regarding history

  1. Pingback: Defining the genre of Revelation (Difficult passages) « whytheology

  2. Pingback: Confusion, Nearness, and beginning to look at the text of Revelation | whytheology

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