Revelation - Lesson 1

Interpretation Approaches

There is a wide range of interpretation of the book of Revelation because of the nature of visions. When John writes Revelation, he uses a pool of images that are familiar to him and his readers and we need to take into account what the images meant to people at the time.

Lesson 1
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Interpretation Approaches

I. Four basic approaches to John’s vision:

A. Preterist View

B. Historicist Approach

C. Futurist Approach

D. Idealist Approach

  • There is a wide range of interpretation of the book of Revelation because of the nature of visions. When John writes Revelation, he uses a pool of images that are familiar to him and his readers and we need to take into account what the images meant to people at the time.
  • Apocalyptic literature is based on the idea that the natural order is set within a larger content of a spiritual reality and that the dynamics of the spiritual realm play themselves out in the physical realm.  Apocalypse is a message from God regarding what God is about and what he is going to do.

  • The occasion for writing Revelation was the vision John had and the situation of the seven churches. John is trying to describe a scene in which various scenes are being played out simultaneously. John emphasizes the importance of living out your theology, as opposed to only being doctrinally correct.

  • John had a vision of the Son of Man. He had a message for the church at Ephesus.

  • Messages for the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum.

  • Messages to the churches in Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis and Philadelphia.

  • A message to the church at Laodicea and a vision of Jesus as a Lamb who shares the throne with God.

  • A vision of God the creator and the redeemer Lamb.

  • A vision of the seven seals.

  • A vision of the seven trumpets.

  • This lesson dives into the idea of encountering God in the world, warns about the destructiveness of sin, and presents a powerful angelic figure symbolizing God and Jesus as triumphant over fallen Babylon, with a mysterious aspect of the vision.
  • A vision of the seven trumpets. Chronology of the origin and development of the teaching of the rapture and dispensationalism.

  • A vision of how the death of Jesus on the cross has made it possible for us to be in relationship to God.

  • The description of the nature of Satan's war against God's children and in contrast to a description of God's redeemed.

  • A vision of the seven bowls.

  • A vision of fallen Babylon.

  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the concept of Fallen Babylon and the transformative power of the cross. It emphasizes that accepting the cross liberates you from the world's illusions, allowing you to accept your own falsity as healed and yielding to the Holy Spirit's action. The lesson challenges the idea of choosing between the world and Christ, proposing that you can choose both simultaneously, seeking unity, wholeness, and love at the deepest level of your being.
  • Dr. Mulholland answering questions from the students.

  • A vision of the victory of the Lamb and discussion of the wrath of God.

  • A vision of the New Jerusalem.

  • Dr. Mulholland's lesson delves into God's love as the core of self-discovery. False self obstructs the truth. True self blooms in faith, openness, trust, and yielding to God, shifting focus from ego to divine presence. Embrace this shift, become citizens of a new Jerusalem in a fallen world.
  • A vision of the people of the New Jerusalem.

  • John wrote the book of Revelation as a call to radical discipleship as faithful citizens of God’s new Jerusalem in the midst of a fallen Babylon world. There is no video for this lecture.

Revelation is a vision of Jesus the Messiah. John focuses on the profound depths of what God has done, is doing, and will ultimately consummate in and through Jesus. A second central theme in Revelation is the role of the cross in what God has done and will accomplish. The contrast and interaction of the "New Jerusalem" and "fallen Babylon" is also a significant theme in Revelation. Videos for lectures 7, 8 and 9 are not avialable yet. Lecture 23 was recorded in audio only. 

We think that the title of the devotional book that Dr. Mulholland reads from at the beginning of some of the lectures might be Merton's Palace of Nowhere by James Finley. Unfortunately, Dr. Mulholland is deceased so we can't confirm this. 



Dr. Robert Mulholland


Interpretation Approaches

Lesson Transcript


And as you probably know, it's a strange world out there. If you have browsed through a Christian bookstore recently and gone to the section on Revelation, your Left Behind series and everything else is there you and if you thumb through any of those books, you probably discover that there's almost as many different interpretations of revelation as there are interpreters, and there's always a new one coming down the pike. And not only that, there's a lot of really weird stuff out there as well. And I have a I have a folder in my office of my like that. I collect things over the years, you know, of these strange things. One of the interesting ones was when I was teaching this course back in the early nineties, I forget when the first Desert War was, it was 1991 and it was in January and I was teaching in J term and about the middle of January, this book came out proving you see that the Gulf War was the beginning of Armageddon, you know, and all this sort of stuff and had it all laid out. Well, the thing was, is that the day after the book came out, the war was over. I told the class this book probably had the shortest lived history of any publication ever. You know, it was good for one day and then proved absolutely wrong. But, you know, there's just there's all sorts of stuff out there like that. Why? Why is that so? Well, primarily because of the nature of visions. Now, there's one whole wing of biblical scholarship that does not buy into the idea of visionary experience. And so they understand revelation simply as, you know, the vision. John's vision is simply being used as a literary device to explain his theology.


But I think that we if you look at Christian history, 2000 years of Christian history, you have numerous visionaries and visionary experiences, and you don't have to get into Christian history very far. You can start with Steven and his trial in chapter seven, where he sees the heavens open and the son of man standing at the right hand of the majesty and high. Second would be Paul. Well, no. Second would be an annoyance, wouldn't it? Who here sees the Lord in the vision that sends him to Sol to lay hands on him so that He might receive his sight and receive the Holy Spirit. And then, of course, there's Paul, who talks about his visions and revelations. So you don't even have to get out of the New Testament to have the evidence of of Christians who have visionary experiences. And of course, all the way through history, you've got people who've had visionary experiences. The problem with the vision is. That. A vision takes the visionary into what I call vision consciousness or a supra normal consciousness. Now normal consciousness, I having that center circle bear. And normal consciousness? No. A static, two dimensional picture really doesn't do it. What I should have is some sort of a three dimensional thing where that inner circle, like an amoeba, is expanding and contracting. Because that's the way our consciousness works. There are times when we are so focused on on one thing, the rest of the world just sort of disappears. There are other times where we're just sort of laid back and going with the flow and everything's out there for us. So our normal consciousness is, is a fluctuating kind of thing, but our normal consciousness operates within what we would call a normal range of consciousness.


A visionary experience takes the visionary beyond that. No, don't think of a vision as something over here separate from normal consciousness. Rather, it is an expansion of consciousness and sort of blowing the walls out of normal consciousness. And it puts the visionary into a a deeper reality. In which they see deeper dimensions of what we would call normal reality. This may be a silly way to illustrate, but right now as we sit in this room. This room is filled with pictures and voices other than mine. And other than those. Now you're not hearing any of those voices. You're not seeing any of those pictures in. But if we brought a television set in here, turned it on, we would see the pictures and hear the voices that are present right here in this room. Or, you know, pull out your cell phone or your iPod or whatever you have. And you can have in to a reality, you see that is not visibly manifest or ordinarily manifest to us, but it's here. It's here. So you might think of a visionary experience in that sort of dimension. That there is outside the boundary of what we would call normal consciousness. However you define that outside that boundary is a much larger reality. It is not separate from that normal consciousness, but is the deeper reality within which it is set. And a visionary is is having an experience you see, of that deeper reality. Let's just look at Paul, for example. He says, I know a person in Christ. He uses third person here for himself. And it's interesting, a number of the Christian missionaries do that. I know a person in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Yeah.


Okay. What's that? Anybody here live regularly in the third heaven? You know. Well, maybe when you're on a date or something, but that's not where we normally live our lives. We have no idea what Paul means by the third heaven in some of the intensive mental writings there. Seventh Heaven, seven levels of heaven. Whether Paul's playing off of that or not, we don't know. Anyway, it's very clear he's talking about a reality that is not part of normal consciousness. And then he says, whether in the body or out of the body, I don't know. That's another indicator that Paul is has moved into a deeper level of consciousness than what is normal. I mean, everybody right now, you know, you're right here in the body right now. I mean, you can you can feel it on the chair, your feet on the ground. Then Paul says, God knows and I know that such a person, whether in the body or out of the body, I don't know, he says twice. You see the emphasize the nature of this experience. Was caught up in paradise. Who now the third heaven must have something to do with paradise. And then Paul says, and heard sacred things. Things not possible for a mortal to speak. And Paul does not try to convey to us the reality of his visionary experience. We don't know what his visions were, not, as he says, plural visions and revelations. That's a previous version. I don't have it up there. It's interesting that Julianna Norwich, who is another one of the Christian Visionaries, and she she talks in her brain about I saw three heavens. Now, whether she's influenced by Paul or not, we don't know. But again, an indicator, you see that she was taken outside of normal consciousness.


And then she says, all this blessed teaching of our Lord was shown to me in three parts, that is, by bodily vision, by words formed in my understanding and by spiritual vision. What I may not and cannot show the spiritual visions to you as plainly and fully as I should wish. And there her lament is a common lament of Christian visionaries throughout history. That as they try to convey to an outside group. The reality of what they experienced. They come up against the fact that it's impossible to fully convey that reality. A good example of this is Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard was a visionary, but she was also a prolific theological writer and she was an artist. So Hildegard drew pictures of her visions and then gives detailed descriptions of what it was she was experiencing. But often during her description, she will indicate that even with the picture and the description, she cannot fully convey the reality of what she experienced. Another example, she says, and about the spirit. This is Hill. This is Julian Hill, she says about the spiritual vision. I am told a part we can never tell it in full. Another indication of how difficult it is. I saw all I saw all that I can say isn't that I saw all that I can say that she realizes all that she can say is inadequate to describe the vision for it cannot be described. Now, you got to remember that after Julian had this experience, she wrote it down. Then she meditated upon this. For 20 years, she was a nun. After 20 years, she wrote down a second description of her vision. And even after 20 years, these are the things she says. That she cannot fully explain what it was she experienced.


For more. The joy which I saw when they were revealed surpasses all that the heart can think or the soul may desire. And therefore these words are not explained here. Price clothing is now of a fair and seemly mixture, which is so marvelous that I cannot describe it. Now, those those are just a few examples from her. What are called are showings. Jon's problem is that he's told to write it down and to send it to seven churches. Okay. I can hear John saying, How do I do that? Well, what John does is that he uses a pool of images. That are very familiar to him and to his readers. Those images are not familiar at all to us. So if we are to understand something of the reality of John's vision, we have to understand how his imagery would have been understood by his first readers. The imagery that John is using is a Jewish pool of images. He selects a few from the Roman Hellenistic culture, but generally. John's imagery is from his Jewish world. His imagery is drawn out of Old Testament imagery and out of inter ties to mental imagery. This is imagery that his readers understand because it is their inner visual world, you might say. These are the images that shape who they are as the covenant community of God's people. So there are images that are very, very plain to them, but not to us. So. If we come to John's vision. And do not make the effort to try to understand the nature of that imagery. And what it meant to John and his readers. We can make that imagery say anything we want it to make to say. And that is exactly what has happened. That's why you have these multiple interpretations of revelation.


Because once you have divorced John's imagery from its original context or meaning, then you can make it say anything you want it to say. And exactly what has happened. So what I want to do with you this semester as we work through John's vision. Is to try to help you understand how this imagery worked. For John and his readers. Only when we have understood that can we understood how his readers would have perceived John's vision. And then we can begin to say, Now, what does this mean for us today? But unless we do that, you see, then you might as well just take Revelation and write your own commentary, making it say whatever you wanted to say and visionary imagery you see is very susceptible to that. A good illustration of this back in them, I think was the early eighties. There was an article in Reader's Digest called The Motel of the Mystery Scene. And I don't think let me just check I sometimes I've had this my. We'll have it here or not. No, I don't. It was it was written as though it were an archeological report. Of a discovery. And what it was. It was a discovery of late 20th century America that it starts off by how late 20th century America was buried under a surfeit of third class mail. And I forget what else it was, but and this archeologist was hiking across what had once been America, and the ground gave way below him. And he falls down into this hole and discovers this fantastic. 20th century site. And so the archeologists come flocking, they excavate the site. And what it was was a motel. And the article gives a description of the motel room. Now, their conclusion is, is that this was a late 20th century burial site, a burial cult.


And so they go through all of the things in a motel room. The, you know, the little sanitized band that sometimes around the toilet. You know, this was the sacred band that you wore around your head, the toilet seat where you were around your neck. They found that there was a skeleton in the bathtub. There was a skeleton on the on the bed. And that the bathtub was was a sacred altar of some sort. And then there was this that the shower was some sort of a musical instrument, you know, that that played funeral dirges or what have you. And they go through the clicker on the television and the television itself. They go through and describe all the accouterments of a 20th century motel room. And as you read it, it is wonderfully humorous. But the thing is, is that if you didn't know better, it makes absolute perfect sense. The thing is, we know that it's totally off base. Well, you see, this is what happens with the interpretation of revelation. If you don't understand the original context. You can come up with the motel of the mysteries. So this is this is the issue we've got to deal with. Now, just some examples of imagery here. This was Time magazine, I think, back in 1992 or something, when the Republicans took over control of Congress. Now, they should have come up with one after the last election that showed the market doing the same thing. But you see, no one no one who was raised in the American culture needed an interpretation of that cover of Time magazine. Notice the donkey under the elephant's foot. His eyes were bugging out, his tongues rolling out, squashed flat under the Republican elephant. No little balloons coming out of either the donkey or the elephant's mouth.


There's no Jesus over here in the corner or anything. You don't need it because the image tells it all. The anybody that picked up or received in the mail, that magazine. Looked at the cover, they knew instantly exactly what was being conveyed. This is the way, Ami. This is the way this imagery is for John's audience. They know exactly what's being conveyed. What does that mean to anybody here? I mean anything to anybody. I don't even know what country it represents. It's basic. Is meaningless to us, isn't it, that that's the flag of some country? I don't know what one it is. Anybody know what it is? It's North Korea. North Korea. Okay, good. Thank you. But how about this one? There's a lot more meaning, doesn't it? At least for those of us that are American, has a lot more meaning. Because this is part of our symbol system. This is part of our our imagery, our cultural imagery. So this is what John's doing. He's using a Jewish pool of images from the Old Testament. Rather broad sweep, but especially the Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zachariah. Those are the primary sources of John's Old Testament imagery. Then his new times, his enter test of mental imagery is drawn from First Enoch, Psalms of Solomon, Syriac, Third Maccabees, Tobit and Baruch. And these are the ones that we can definitely define that These are where the imagery is, images are coming from. One of the interesting things about Revelation is that you have you don't have a single verbatim quotation. He stressed that John is steeped in this imagery, as his readers would have been. I don't know if you've you've read much of Wesley's writings or read much of Wesley sermons, but when you read Wesley.


Wesley Bleeds Bible. I mean, there's hardly a sentence that Wesley wrote that doesn't have, if not a biblical quotation, at least an echo or an allusion. And the same with Charles Wesley's hymns. You know, you sing through Wesley's hymns, you're just being inundated with biblical imagery. Because they were so steeped in the scripture, you see that it just sort of flows out of them into their sermons, into their writing, into their hymns. This is the way it is with John. John is so steeped in his Jewish context. Then it just sort of flows out of him. And we'll see how he how he works with this. Here's a quotation. Let me get the reference up there. This is from Bill and Carson's book. It's a commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Excellent resource, by the way. They say the Old Testament in general plays such a major role. This is in Revelation. Then a proper understanding of its use is necessary for an adequate view of revelation as a whole, a very, very true and vital statement. Indeed, the reader unfamiliar with the Old Testament is hard pressed to make any sense of revelation. Why would it that were true? But all too many readers you say unfamiliar with the Old Testament make all sorts of sense or nonsense. How could a revelation when you see what Bill and Carson are saying? By the way, this is the same Beale that wrote textbook. What they're saying is that you cannot understand revelation without understanding John's imagery. It is crucial. It is essential. Okay, Now let's let's turn to the basic approaches to to John's vision. There are there are four basic approaches. The first. These are in a particular sequence. The first is called the prejudiced.


The prejudiced view is sort of a past fulfillment. Or a contemporary fulfillment that is contemporary for John and his readers. The Predators view basically sees Revelation as being relevant to its original setting. Sort of extreme predators might move that as far as the fall of the Roman Empire. But that's about as far as I've ever found a predator is using this method for revelation. And there's all sorts of variations within that theme. You're sort of hardcore predators. Revelation meant something for John and his readers after the end of the first century meant nothing. The fulfillment is is entirely in the past. And as I said, usually confined to the period prior to Constantine. Some. Predators see it fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in 78. That's sort of the narrowest approach or as I said, the fall of Rome in 476. And so that's sort of your limits of of the predators understanding. The history of this is as far as I've been able to research. It goes it goes back into the. Well into the middle of the millennium. And the the you have him penniless in 1547. And you have Luis de Alcazar in 1614. So within a century here you've got these two persons who are the primary developers of the of the prejudiced approach. Some of your modern writers are Ernest Renan, the French scholar in the 1800s. William Ramsay The latter part of the 18 early 1900s. It. Beckwith Early 1900s. Sweet. Same period of time. And Barkley's work. William Barkley on Revelation basically comes from the the Predators viewpoint. In a sense, of course, this would have been the earliest understanding of revelation in the period immediately following its publication or dissemination by John, because they would have understood this as relating to their own particular circumstance, their own particular situation.


It's not until you get the rise of the Alexandrian school, particularly through origin and the allegorical method that you begin to get variant kinds of interpretation of revelation. But in more modern scholarship, the ones I've listed here are some of the examples now. The strengths and the weaknesses of this, the strengths of the Predators approach is that it calls us to a careful study of the historical setting and the background to John's description of his vision. That is John's imagery. We need to interpret the symbols in light of their meaning at the time of the writing. This is a strength of the predators position. Also, we have to take into account the literary genre that John is using, which is out of apocalyptic. And we'll come back and discuss that more fully later. That, again, is part of the strength of the protest. Also. Another strange of the predators, although it's very limited. One is that it sees revelation. As involved in the matrix of history. It's not a an historical kind of thing. It's dealing with specific historical context. Now, of course, they limit that context to that earlier period of time. So those are some of the strengths of the predators approach. Mm hmm. One of the weaknesses. Well, one of the primary weaknesses of the predator's approach is that revelation loses all significance beyond that early period, other than as a window into the worldview and theology of the early church. But it really has no direct relevance for people after that point in time. It also tends to overlook the broad sweep of the apocalyptic perspective, which which sees the whole world and all of history set within a larger context of God's purposes and activities. And as such, it also neglects the biblical perspective of history.


Our God who works in history. And then, of course, the final victory of God is not of concern. I mean, revelation just dealing with the past. And here we are, and almost 2000 years later than anything, that revelation saying about a final victory obviously is irrelevant for us because it has something to do back there. So that those are some of the weaknesses of the of the of the prejudiced approach. Yeah. I have a question for you, Tom. And keeping with the whole predators, you were mentioning this weakness on how it only focuses on for the sake of argument, the here and now. Yeah. The contextual or the there and then here we go. Better yet there and then I mean don't we do that I mean and you said but it doesn't really apply to future generations. I'm paraphrasing what you're saying, but don't worry, do that with Scripture. With other scripture, too. We emphasize, okay, this is what Peter was talking about in his first epistle. So we've got to take that first. Then we can understand that now exactly into our context. But it's not really this the same way that Peter understood it or and I'm just using Peter one name out of the hat of the 60 other 65 books that we have. And that to me, I mean, what I'm trying to I'm trying to understand what you're saying because to me it doesn't sound like it discredits Revelation because so I heard from a a Predators person saying what it's really about is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. And it teaches us that he is the supreme power of the heavens and the earth, and it applies to them in this way. But we can learn from it from this perspective.


You understand what I'm saying? Yeah. Yeah. Is that a strength? Well, for me. What I'm talking about is those who would limit. It's meaning to that early period that it really the only thing it does today for us today is to give us a window into the early church's thinking. And whatever period you put the limits on, what you're saying you see is exactly what we have to do. Once we understand what any biblical writer was saying to their primary audience, to the original readers about the reality of God and of God's plan and purpose and presence and all those dynamics, then that's what gives us an insight into what they're saying to us today, because we still live within the same context of the same God and the same reality. All right. And hell yeah, hold the person. Is that their consistent view of scripture? Like if they read about one of the prophecies, if we're told about Jesus, is that what they view it in the same way? Well, that's just a one time thing for that industry point in time, or most likely we'd have to look at it. They treat Revelation just like that. Yeah. I mean, they see they see Revelation as speaking to the age to which it was written. And that age could extend, you know, to certain distance. Okay. Okay, The next is. Well, I've just. I've done that. The next is the historicist approach. And the historians approach sort of sees the whole of human history as significant. But you have to decode revelation or, you know, develop the blueprint of history from it. That is, they see they see revelation as a revelation of all of human history. And so, you know, you have to.


Figure out how human history is unveiled for us there. The perspective of the Historicist approach? Well, there are a couple of aspects here. One is you have what's called sort of a straight line historicist. That is, you begin with the seven churches in John's day, and then as you move from chapter four through Chapter 22, that takes you through the whole sweep of human history so that when you get down to the end, you see you've come to the end of the world. And somewhere along that line between the early church and today, this is where you are. For example, one of the examples of this, if you look at Protestant interpretations of Revelation during the Protestant Reformation. You find some of those Historicist writers indicating that we're at Chapter 13 The Beast? And of course, the Pope is the beast, you see. So here is where we are today. And of course, from 13 on, that's that's future. And from 13 back, that's past. And that that's sort of a, you know, a caricature view of things. But that gives you an idea of how the straight line historicism operates. Then you have a recapitulation. And that is the idea that John is is repeating. You've got these groups of savants in these cycles and these cycles as are seen as just different variant views into the same cycle of history, so that you see the seven SEALs and that's giving you the cycle of history and you see the seven trumpets, and that's the cycle of history. You see the seven bowls and that's the cycle of history and so forth. So you're getting a recapitulation. The basic view is still the same revelation. It is a vision of human history from Jesus until the end.


But instead of a straight line, it moves all the way through revelation from chapter to chapter chapter. You've got these recapitulation of history going, going, going around. And you had a question. You answer my question. Okay. They thought I was from the beginning of history. From Jesus on. Yeah, right. The the earliest of the historicist approach that I found is your of Flora back in the 1100s. And let me just say a word here. At this point, you get an interesting phenomena right around 1100 in the interpretation of revelation. And it basically spins around what we call the millennium, that thousand year period that's mentioned in chapter 20. For for the earliest church or for the first millennium of the church. In a sense, everybody was historicist and they believed that they were in the millennium. It began with Jesus. And in a thousand years Jesus was going to come back and everything would be consummated. When 1100 rolled around. And Jesus hadn't returned. And history just continued flowing on as it had been. It was back to the drawing boards because obviously the the thousand years that we've now finished really didn't work. It didn't turn out the way we thought it would. So it's right around 1100 that you begin to get a series of of reinterpretations of John's vision. Because. They've been interpreting the millennium as literal thousand years, beginning with Jesus. It was over now, and we're still going on. So it must be it must be something else. So your scheme is one of the earliest. Nicholas of lire about a century after him saw in revelation a prediction of events from the apostolic age to the end of the world. And by the way, your came developed a seven sort of seven periods of history.


And Nicholas followed that that scheme of seven, seven periods of history. Now, I'm not sure whether they were working off the seven churches you see one at one of the contemporary interpretations is that the seven churches are the seven periods of church history. And of course, usually those who hold that were always living in the lay of the sea and age. You know, you're always living in the last age of church history. And, you know, the end is right around the corner. I don't think either. Your Kimura Nicholas operated from from that perspective. There have there been many, many scholars since then that have have done that. And really the historians approach has a large following today. Most of your dispensations on interpretation and revelation are in the large umbrella of the Historicist camp. Although a lot of the focus is on, you know, the history from now on. The recapitulation approach. You have a very early church father, Victor RINUS Apatow, who died in 304. Who use something of this recapitulation approach that in each each of these cycles in John's vision, you see, ah, I just re recycling the same reality in different kinds of imagery in the 1900s. One can sort of revise or, you know, revived this recapitulation or approach. Now, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this should be through here? The history, the strengths. First of all, it gives weight to the both the apocalyptic and biblical understanding of history. That is that that history is under God's sovereignty, that God is at work in human history, and that human history has a goal towards which is moving that is the fulfillment of God's purposes. So this view is its strength. Not only is that, but it sees that revelation is relevant to history.


Not to just a narrow period of history in that first. Sexual predators, but to all of human history. Some of the weaknesses of the historians approach. There is a tendency, underlying tendency, there's a tendency to overlook the historical setting and the background of John's day. That is to to not deal with John's imagery and what it would have meant for John and his original readers. And so what they do you see is that they're removing the symbolism, the imagery of revelation from its original context. And that's part of what makes it easier, you see, to apply John's vision to all of history. If you remove the imagery from its original context, then you can begin to use the imagery to plot out your your plan or your blueprint of history that follows. It also has a tendency of weakening the message for John and his readers. I mean, if what we're dealing with, you see, is, you know, all these years of history in the future, what would this have meant for John and his readers? You know, they could have said, well, that's interesting. Gee, I wish we'll live that long. See all that take place, because it really doesn't have a lot of relevance to John. Of course, if you if you presume that the seven letters deal with the seven churches, the historical church that John was writing to, okay, you know that that'll work. But what do you do with chapter four on if all that is future history, at least from the perspective of John's readers? In a sense, it's irrelevant for them. Does it have any meaning to them? Another weakness of the other Historicist approach is the tendency to move into a forecast mentality. To to forecast what's going to happen next.


Perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of the Historicist approach is that there is little, if any, agreement among historicist as to what the history is where revelation applies. Because each has its own particular way of spinning out history. Now. In these latter years, those last couple of centuries. The historical approach. Tends to. Think in terms of being pretty much at the end of the sequence. Yeah, there may be, you know, another 5000 years out there, but there's not a whole lot of time left that, you know, we're we're coming into this final crisis. Of course, you also can see that his towards his approach tends to to use allegorical method. That is, they interpret the symbolism allegorically. Having removed it from John's original meaning and the meaning for John's original readers, then it becomes interpreted allegorically. And usually in very illegitimate kinds of use of allegory. Now, the third basic approach is the futurist. Now I need to sort of qualify here because in a sense, the Historicist approach. Always has a future dimension to it. The difference between the Historicist and the futurist approach is sort of a caricature. Is that for the for the historicist particularly more contemporary historicist. Most of revelation has already been accomplished and there's a little bit too common future for the Futurists. Most of still lies in the future. For instance, I mentioned that one theory is that the seven churches are seven periods of church history. And often those that spin that out see that we're living in the land, the sea and age. That means the chapter for 222 is still all in the future. So you see the Romans say that the futurist sees most of revelation still out there ahead of us. This is an example of what I'm talking about.


So the futurist perspective. What is that? Most, if not all, the events treated in Revelation, particularly chapters 4 to 22, are in the future. That the they're looking forward to the final victory of God over the forces of evil. Now, there are sort of two basic variations here. There's there's a view that sees seven churches in seven periods of church history. Then there is the future. As you can see, chapters two and three, the seven churches as the first century. And chapter 4 to 22 is the rest of history, sort of the historians approach. But with most of that still lying in the future. So you get an intermingling and an overlapping of the historicism, a futurist perspective. In a sense, they're sort of both operating on on the same basis. That is, that revelation is a blueprint of history in some way. The basic question is how much of it is future? How much of it is passed now for the history of the history of this approach? This really goes back almost to the earliest period. Because. In their understanding that they were living in the millennium. You see, then for them, particularly in the early you go, you start with John and his readers and then the next generation of Christians and the next most of it is still in the future. You've got 2000 years. I've got to go out here yet. Okay. So. So basically you've got this futurist approach. You see it in Justin and Justin, Martyr in Irenaeus in Hippolytus. All of these are what we call chilliest. That is their they see the thousand years as a literal historical period that began with Jesus, and it's going to go for a thousand calendar years. You get this switch.


I mentioned your key before. You see in the 1100s. You get the switch so that the millennium now is pushed off into the future. So one of the primary frames of reference for the interpretation of revelation for the first 2000 years of See. When it didn't pan out, then the whole thing is picked up and moved into a future reference. There's the whole series of futurist type scholars that come from, you know, your keen on futurist in the sense now not as the early church was, you might say they were sort of historical futurists. They were living in the thousand year reign after that, you know, in the last millennium, you see you get a whole host of futurist approaches that push revelation into either the far distant future or a more imminent future. But it's all out there. Most of it is all out there in the future. Most. Most of your. Most of your dispensation approaches. Tend to be futurist approaches. Looking to the to the future fulfillment that is, you know, usually going to come pretty soon. Now, what are some of the strengths of the of the Historicist or the future, its approach? One is, is that revelation does deal with the future. John does see the final consummation of God's victory. That's for sure. So in one sense, you see. The end is still out there ahead of us. If John sees this final victory of God. So, but that's basically the primary strength of the futurist approach. Some of the weaknesses of view of the futurist approach are probably probably been already determined by your. You can infer these. In all, it overlooks the nature of apocalyptic literature to begin with. By putting most of it out there in the future.


You say you don't understand that dynamic of apocalyptic that sees God working all the way through history. And of course, it's neglecting the biblical perspective of history. That history is the realm of God's engagement with God's human creation. The futurist approach, of course, generally just does not even think about understanding John's imagery in its original context. Therefore, you get a highly subjective methodology. You see that reads that imagery from within. There know they put it on their futurist perspective spectacles, and then they read it through their futurist spectacles and interpret all that imagery according to their preconceived understanding of what that history is going to be. The symbolism, of course, is or the imagery is radically divorced from its original meaning, which means anything can be read into it. And you can't you tend to get sort of what I call a crypto chronological methodology. That is you if you can figure out the code, you know what that what the secret cipher is that John was using. Then you see, you can plan exactly what the future is going to be. And you've all seen these maps of the future that have been built on Revelation. You know, here we are here, you know, and this was there and this is going to happen. This is going to happen. This is going to happen. This is going to happen. And how do they know that? Well, because they figured out the, you know, the secret cipher that John is using to to tell us all about this, this future history. Which of course raises all kinds of questions. Then why? Why did John send it in seven churches? You know, why don't you put on it? Do not open until. No. 2009, something like that.


Okay. The final approach, I think we'll finish this up today is what's called the idealist approach. In some writings. It's called the spiritualist approach. I avoid that because of the dynamics of spiritualism that have arisen in the last the use of that term in the last century or so. So most call it now, the idealist approach. And the idealist approach is one that really sees revelation, you might say, operating at two levels. It is dealing with general spiritual principles, as I say here, that are operative in all ages. The perspective is that there is there is an immediate meaning. There was a meaning for John and his readers. But what is being conveyed to John and his readers is a profound spiritual reality that is applicable to human existence in all ages. So So John's vision, you might say, is a window into the reality of the way God is relating to humanity and to human history according. That that John's vision is through John's vision, we can see the basic principles of God by which history is governed. And of course, the idea that there is this clash between good and evil, between, you might say, between God and Satan. That plays itself out in human history. But that John is seeing sort of behind the scenes of what's going on there. Now the history of this method, it really begins with the Alexandrian school and their allegorical method. The allegorical method was the primary hermeneutical method of the Alexandrian school and of the early church for several centuries. And so they use the allegorical method to to unpack this deep spiritual reality that John's experience origin is probably the major figure here in the development of the allegorical method. He was the late, late second, early third century, died in 254 in the middle of the he died during the big persecution in the middle of the third century.


Then Augustine picks up the allegorical method and really sort of shapes the interpretation of revelation for the moment for the rest of the millennium, until it doesn't pan out after a thousand years, then you get all the variations coming in. But. But Augustine is his, you know, city of God. His idea of the two cities. So where does he get that? In Jerusalem. Fall in Babylon. So any since I had to deal with the world in which he finds himself. The idealist approach. Is often a the approach of more liberal scholars as a contrast to the prejudiced. You know, you find liberal scholarship basically coming down and the predators or the idealist camp. You know, either just we understand it from back there and what it meant to John as readers, the early church at that time, or we're dealing with these spiritual realities. One of the problems, of course, is that what are those spiritual realities? Unless you understand the imagery that John's using and what that would have meant and John and his readers. Idealists can make that imagery say anything they wanted to say. So it's interesting if you read feminist interpretations of Revelation, the great reality that John sees is a feminist view of reality. If you read African American interpretations of Revelation, you find that John's perspective, what John saw was an African-American view of reality and so on. So that what happened, you see, is that the imagery is being used by various theological frames of reference to read into John's vision, their particular theological frame of reference. And seeing this, you see as well. This is the this is the spiritual reality that John is dealing with here. Now some of the strengths. It does recognize the nature of apocalyptic, because Apocalyptic understands that human history is set within a larger context of God's action and activity and purpose.


It stresses the historical alma element and the biblical perspective. That history exists within. You see this context of reality. It also another strength is that it seeks to make revelation relevant to every age. That is, you see, if what John is seeing are the great spiritual realities that shape human existence. Then revelation is relevant for every single age. All a revelation you see is relevant. Not just parts of it, like the historicism futurist view or an early part of it like the Predator, but is relevant for all of human history because it portrays these great spiritual realities that are operative in human history. Also the idealist approach, perhaps more than any of the others. Seeks to make revelation relevant to the individual Christian living their life in the world today. Now, What are some of the weaknesses? Well. It tends to deny any specific historical fulfillment. The idea of a final consummation is not part of this. The symbolism, of course, is removed from its contemporary original context. The meaning for John and his readers. Which means, by the way this is also true of of the the. Futurist, and I didn't mention that that revelation would have been meaningless for them. And so in a sense, we we don't take into consideration what this would have meant to John. You see. That way you can spin out this great reality and whatever you want. If you don't understand what it was for John and his readers, again, the importance of understanding the. So there's the loss of the original historical context. Understand what this reality is. Well, that's a sort of a very quick caricature of these four basic approaches the predators historicist, futurist and idealist. Now, how do you approach revelation? Well, I think there are two dynamics.


Number one is that we must understand what this imagery meant for John and his original readers. That's the starting point. And then seek to build upon the strengths of each of these and avoid the weaknesses. John, you had a question. That's our own idealist approach. There's some tracks of Christianity Today that don't believe in a final fulfillment, that it's kind of like the Earth. This earth will just keep going and they just see the kind of two dimensions that, you know, the judgment is more of a spiritual judgment and things like that. I mean, is that kind of popular I mean, is that pretty popular today in Protestant thinking or. Well, it certainly would be a popular perspective for those who operate out of this idealist understanding where there's no concern for a future consummation. Maybe a better question or, you know, any theologians today that are popular that, oh, that's the answer is that, gee, I try not to read theologians in my mind. No, I don't. I'm sure there are some out there. If any of you know them, let me know and we'll we'll pass it on. Okay, we'll stop there. Perfect timing. Pick up again on on Thursday. Have a good day.