Four Ways to Read the Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation can be difficult to understand, and Christians disagree on how to interpret the visions presented in its pages. In this brief clip, R.C. Sproul summarizes four of the leading approaches to interpreting the last book of the Bible.

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Transcript:

The four basic approaches to the book of Revelation—and these are not the only approaches—but the four basic ones that compete with each other for acceptance are what we would call the “preterist” view, the second is the “futurist” view, the third is the “historicist” view and the fourth is the “idealist” view. Now these represent four clearly distinctive approaches to interpreting the last book of the New Testament. And briefly, the differences are these. The preterist view interprets the book of Revelation as basically already having been already fulfilled in the past. It interprets the book of Revelation as dealing substantively with events that were near at hand and took place within the confines of the first century, most chiefly the destruction of Jerusalem in seventy AD with the dispersion of the Jews into all of the world. The futurist view sees the book of Revelation as a blueprint for a series of events that will precede the future return of Jesus. And so, for the most part, the futurists believe that the things that are recorded for us in the book of Revelation have not yet taken place, at least from chapter six thorough the rest of the book. The historicist view, or the “historical chronology” view teaches that the book of Revelation starts with that its immediate concern in the first century with the local churches that had been established. But beginning at chapter six and going through the rest of the book, what we see is a pattern of a description of events that take place at various periods through world history, so that you have a schematic approach to the whole of church history. And the fourth approach is the idealist view, which sees that the book is basically symbolic, and it talks about periods of conflict and resolution that take place all the time in the history of the church, and the book is not designed to give us a chronology of specific events that will take place at specific times, but rather to communicate the fundamental message of the triumph of the gospel and of Christ’s kingdom in times of conflict and persecution. So, you can imagine how one approaches the book of Revelation in one of these systems that will give a significantly different understanding of the message of the book.

 



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