Notes from Revelation - Four Views


I got a copy of Steve Gregg's revised Revelation - Four Views.  

I grew up (1st grade through high school) in a church that taught the futurist view, as a "given".  I did not know that there was any other way to view the end times.  Hal Lindsey was a frequent guest speaker at our church, and my close non-believer friend's dad was a business partner of Hal's, who got me autographed copies of his books.

Later, (just like Steve Gregg) I learned that there were various views of the end times; held by Christians throughout history.  Something that should give any protestant Christian pause about believing that their view has to be the right one, and that other views are heretical or incorrect; is that most of the reformers held a view, the historical view, that almost no one holds today!

Remember the AID acronym: absolutes, interpretations, and deductions.

In the center are "absolutes".

  • The deity of Christ is an absolute.
    • To be a Christian, you must believe in the deity of Christ, which cults do not believe.

Next, there are "interpretations".

  • Baptism is an example.
    • Different Christians believe in different ways of baptism, including not at all.

Next and finally, there are "deductions".

  • That speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is a deduction.
    • The Bible does not clearly say this, but it is a deduction some have made.
Eschatology is mostly an assortment of interpretations and deductions.  Not absolutes!

Notes from Four Views:

The four views are (p. 13):

  1. The historicist approach: This is the classical Protestant interpretation of the book, that sees the book as a prewritten record of the course of history from John's lifetime to the end of the world.
  2. The preterist approach: Revelation's prophecies have already occurred, not long after they were written. Partial preterists hold the view that the final chapters of Revelation look forward to the second coming of Christ while the rest of the book has already taken place.
  3. The futurist approach: Most all of Revelation is yet to be fulfilled and everything after chapter 4 happens during a short period before the second coming.
  4. The idealist approach: Their are no individual fulfillments to Revelation's prophecies, but they are entirely spiritual and recurring.  Some idealist teacher/authors interpret Revelation dramatically, like a Greek drama, divided into seven scenes or acts.
On page 46, Steve writes, that the most controversial issue in Revelation, has been the meaning of the "thousand years", in chapter 20.  There has been an unsettled theological debate, between three views of the thousand year Millennium:
  1. Premillennialism is a mostly literal approach, stating that Christ's second coming precedes a thousand year time in which Christ and his saints will rule on the earth. At the end of this time, Satan will be given one last chance the test or tempt people to sin, before the final judgement.  The are two subtypes of premillennialism: historical and dispensational.  Dispensational premillennialism differs from historical, in it's emphasis of the nation of Israel, as "God's time-clock", and in the anticipation of a Rapture of Christians to heaven before the beginning of the Tribulation.
  2. Postmillennialism teaches that Christ's second coming is at the end of the millennial period.  They believe that the millennial kingdom will be established through evangelism, which will be so successful, that all or most all of the people on the earth will become Christians.  A modern postmillennial movement is called "Christian Reconstructionist".  Most, but not all postmillennialists are preterists, having a more optimistic view of the future, believing that the disasters described in Revelation are in the past.
  3. Amillennialism understands the thousand years mentioned in Rev. 20 to be symbolic, representing a long period of time; which corresponds to the period of Christ's first coming to his second coming.  Amillennialists take most of chapter 20 and most of the book of Revelation, to be symbolic.  Most theologians from Augustine, through the Reformation and many today, are amillennial; most of them in the historical or preterist camps.

Some Christian luminaries, and groups, who embrace each approach:

  • Wycliffe
  • Tyndale
  • Calvin
  • Luther
  • Knox
  • Newton
  • Fox
  • Wesley
  • Edwards
  • Whitefield
  • Finney
  • Spurgeon
  • Henry

(Steve does not have a list that I could find, at least not at this point in the book, of preterist or partial-preterist teachers)

Here is a possible beginning list: 

  • RC Sproul
  • Hank Hanegraaff
  • Greg Boyd
  • Jay Adams
  • J. Marcellus Kirk
  • Churches of Christ
  • Orthodox Presbyterian Church
  • NT Wright
  • Moses Stuart
  • Isbon T. Beckwith
  • Kenneth Gentry
  • David Chilton

  • Darby
  • Scofield
  • Hal Lindsey
  • Jack Van Impe
  • J Vernon McGee
  • Chuck Swindoll
  • David Jeremiah
  • most Baptists
  • most Pentecostals
  • Calvary Chapel
  • Plymouth Brethren
  • Evangelical Free Churches
  • most nondenominational evangelical churches

Idealist or eclectic approach (a very broad category, not self-identified as such, and usually a blend of one of the first three, with a nonlinear, poetic, overtly symbolic, allegorical, or spiritualizing interpretation of Revelation):
  • William Milligan
  • Harvey JS Blaney (The Wesleyan Bible Commentary)
  • Leon Morris
  • Michael Wilcock
  • Herschel Hobbs
  • Earl Morey
  • Willian Hendriksen
  • Robert Mounce
  • George Ladd (futurist/preterist blend)
  • Gregory Beale (eclectic while emphasizing idealist)
  • Grant Osborn (eclectic emphasizing futurism)
  • Vern Poythress

These words of Steve, starting on page 67, are why I wrote this post, and this is what I grew up with:
    ...every generation of futuristic interpreters for the last 150 years or longer has been able to gain confidence, by comparing their own times with the prophecies of Revelation, that they themselves were living in the time of fulfillment...(1)

I found Ladd to be an excellent first step, in questioning the futurist viewpoint:

    ...Not all futurists are dispensationalists and not all approve of engaging in what some refer to as "newspaper exegesis."  There are notable futurist scholars who reject the dispensational distinctives... (Some examples are: Zhan, Mounce, and Ladd)

    ...They take Revelation less literally, and refer to dispensationalism and "extreme."  They remain futurists, however, in that they anticipate a future Antichrist arising to persecute the saints in a future tribulation period, and they do anticipate a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth.

Here is the key thought from Steve, on why the futurist approach does not work (for me!!): 

    It is not surprising that the futurist approach, more than any of the others, has appealed to popular sentiments.  However, some biblical scholars have complained that futurism, like historicism, renders the book of Revelation about 90 percent irrelevant to the original readers, since, on this view, they lived nearly two thousand years prior to its fulfillment (despite the book's repeated affirmations of the near fulfillment of the prophecies (Rev. 1:1 &3; 22:10)).  If we go along with dispensational interpreters in finding the Rapture of the church in Revelation 4:1, then the book becomes largely irrelevant, not only to the original readers, but to Christians of any age.  This is because the church will be in heaven before the majority of the prophecies begin to unfold, neither experiencing nor witnessing their fulfillment.  This leaves it far from obvious why Christians should take an interest in such events- or why God should wish to reveal them to us.

1. Hal Lindsey, There's a New World Coming, 1973