Wednesday, March 13, 2013

4 Approaches to God's Revelation to John

...and other eschatology.

If you're like me, you may tend to tend to view eschatology -- the final or end-time events of the history of the world -- as falling into the categories of amillennialism, postmillennialism and premillennialism. And then there is and pessimillennialism and panmillennialism. :-)

Another way of approaching eschatology and the book of Revelation are the interpretations of historicism, preterism, futurism, and idealism. The 3 millennial views may be sorted out variously among these and are not coterminous with any of them.

The historicist approach interprets the Book of Revelation as a record that spans history from the time of the apostles to the end of the world, or from Christ's first advent to His second coming. Some fulfillment is past, some is in progress and some is yet to come. The events have been unfolding for about two thousand years and will continue to do so until the end of time. Well known historicists include Martin Luther, Isaac Newton, Matthew Henry, and Albert Barnes. This approach seems to be a minority view today, but one can see a combination of historicism and futurism in the Bible commentary of C. I. Scofield -- especially his conflation of the seven churches of Asia representing the seven periods of entirety of church history. 

The preterist approach interprets the prophecies of the Book of Revelation as having occurred in the past -- either all (preterism) or most (partial preterism) of them. The events happened not long after John’s own time and are often associated with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. Examples of preterist views can be found in books such as Is Jesus Coming Soon by Gary DeMar and The Days of Vengeance: an Exposition of the Book of Revelation by David Chilton.

The futurist approach interprets the prophecies of the Book of Revelation as await future fulfillment -- either all or almost all of them. Almost everything after the first verse of the fourth chapter is expected to occur in a few years before the return of Christ.  The futurist approach has existed since the earliest centuries of the church, and finds wide contemporary representation among premillennial proponents such as Arno Gaebelein, Norman Geisler, H. A. Ironside, John MacArthur, Henry M. Morris, Charles Ryrie, and John Walvoord.

The idealist approach is a spiritual or symbolic approach to interpreting the book of Revelation. It does not look for single or individual historical or future fulfillment of the visions. Rather it takes Revelation to as a drama of recurring spiritual conflicts played out in human history until the return of Christ, in which Christ and His saints emerge victorious. Its symbols express abiding principles regarding the conflict between good and evil. More Than Conquerors: an Interpretation of the Book of Revelation by William Hendriksen (Baker Books, 1998) provides a scholarly representation of the idealist approach.

These approaches tend to be mutually exclusive, but some students of Revelation blend them into what might be called an eclectic approach. Proponent of eclecticism include George Eldon Ladd (A Commentary on the Revelation of John, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972)), Gregory Beale (The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) and Grant Osborne ( Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Baker Academic, 2002). Despite their eclecticism, one approach is usually emphasized heavily above the others.

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