It has begun. We've embarked on our journey through the book of Revelation. I'm excited. Revelation means a disclosing or unveiling; the book of Revelation is all about Jesus revealing himself to us (his church). Our prayer this series is that the Spirit of God would expand our vision of Jesus so that we could know him more closely and others might come to know him.
This Sunday, we set out a few guiding principles for engaging with this book in our first message:
- Seek to interpret the Bible by the Bible. A lot of the imagery and characters in Revelation appear in other places in the Bible and help us understand their meaning in this book better.
- Be aware of the use of repetition and symbolism within the book.
- When in doubt, keep things simple. The book was written to ordinary Christians.
Two resources that I have found helpful in engaging with the book on a deeper level are the ESV Study Bible and Vern S. Poythress' book, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. If you want to study the book of Revelation on your own and understand the type of literature the Book of Revelation is, I would recommend these books.
Poythress helpfully outlines the structure and cycles found within the book that are very useful in understanding the broader message of the book and help prevent getting caught up in a "too literal" interpretation of what is often clearly symbolic language.
The ESV Study Bible outlines the different views typically taken in interpreting the prophecies found in the book of Revelation. I will outline them briefly here for those who are interested but consider adding this study Bible to your book collection.
Schools of Interpretation
Historicism sees Revelation as unfolding a chronological sequence of historic events starting with the 1st century church and continuing to unfold throughout the different stages of church history.
Futurism holds a similar view as Historicism but views most of the events as having yet to take place.
Preterism sees most of the events described in Revelation as having already occurred in either the Fall of the Roman Empire or the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Idealism believes that use of recapitulation (repetition) in Revelation signals that the prophecies need not always be interpreted as specific historic events but rather they speak to the ongoing struggle of the church in the world until Christ returns while noting the escalation of events as Christ's return nears.
I lean strongly toward the idealist view while acknowledging that it is likely a mix of the above. For those of you who wanted a bit more context on Revelation, I hope these resources and notes are helpful.
Grace and peace.