It’s always in the first few pages.

Every author does it, though I’m sure some are ‘asked’ to do it by their publishers, though they would rather keep it out of their books.

Some people may not be annoyed by it, but for me, it’s one of the most frustrating things about commentaries on the book of Revelation.

”INTERPRETATIONS OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION”

That may be one of the biggest misnomer and backhanded comments from the author to other Christians I’ve ever read in a biblical commentary.

Let’s discuss this.

Whenever you talk about the book of Revelation, you are talking about the contents of your interpretation. You are talking about how you think and understand the highly symbolic and image based book found at the end of the Bible.

How do you understand the mark of the beast?

What do you think of the Seven Letters to the Churches?

When will Jesus’ thousand year reign begin?

Depending on what you think, on how you interpret Revelation, you will give different answers.

Theologians have agreed on some terms to classify these different interpretations. Because some Christians really don’t see eye to eye on this apocryphal book.

Let me lay them out so we are all on the same page, and then I’ll get to my frustration with this.

THE TYPES OF INTERPRETATION OF REVELATION

There are 4 generally agreed upon interpretations of Revelation, and here they are in no particular order.

1. Preterist

Preterist comes from the Latin word “past”. Christians that interpret all the events of Revelation as having happening in the past hold this view.

Usually the events of Revelation are seen as having been fulfilled in the first few centuries of the Church, meaning that the book is less about warnings of what is to come.  It is more about what happened, or was going to happen and then did, through a vision received by the author.

2. Historical

This views sees the events of Revelation as a panorama of Church history. From Chapter 1 to the end, every symbol can be seen as a part of our past, up to the “end of the age”. The rise of the papacy (or Popes), the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformation, and the wars that the Church has been involved in are all seen within the apocalyptic letter.

While most that hold this viewpoint may differ on which symbol means which church history event, they all hold that these are past, but the Church past events, not exclusive to the first few hundred years as the preterists do.

3. Idealist

The idealist approach to Revelation is very straight forward. This book portrays the unfolding of great principles or powers in constant conflict.

The book doesn’t record actual events or actual individual persons (Idealist may argue there is no one person that is the Antichrist), but shows the age-old struggle between good and evil.

Some have characterized this view as “spiritualizing” or making “allegories” out of everything.

4. Futurist

This view is called the ‘futurist’ because everything in the book of Revelation, except for chapters 1-4, has yet to happen. The letters to the Seven Churches were for those churches in the past, but beginning at Revelation 5, it is all about things yet to come.

The visible return of Jesus, the resurrections and judgements, nothing has happened yet in the history of mankind that can accurately depict what revelation says, so it must still be yet to come.

WHAT ANNOYS ME ABOUT REVELATION COMMENTARIES

Now, these are the 4 most popular views when it comes to interpreting and understanding the book of Revelation.

You might have just now figured out which camp you fall into. Great.

That isn’t what I have a problem with.

My problem is that author include this information at the beginning of their books, then belittle the people who may hold a different view.

They will say things like “here are the most popular ways to understand Revelation….BUT this view/my view is wholly correct and right, ordained and anointed by God…”

I’m sure they put it into nicer words, more flowery and less “I’m right, your wrong” language. But that’s what’s said.

Why?

That’s that first thing that bothers me. There is no reason for any of that.

If there exists 4 perfectly valid ways to interpret this book, why do some authors feel the need to prop themselves us in their own work and tell everyone how right they are, and how wrong everyone else is?

That’s childish and immature. Not to mention, it’s less than Christlike in action and attitude.

You would hope that Christianity’s best and brightest would be able to show some decorum, or at least have an editor that knows enough to say “Hey, tone this introduction down a bit. You are getting a little high on your horse.”

Apparently, that is too much to ask.

And that brings me to the second thing that annoys me about Revelation commentaries.

There exist 4 perfectly valid ways to interpret the book. Why not simply tell me how you interpret the book and move on?

If you are a futurist, Great! Now give me a solid argument, some valid points as to why the book of Revelation should be understood that way.

Don’t stand on some academic high ground and say, “There are all these ways to read Revelations, but I’m so right and have it all figured out I’m just going to assume you know the right category”.

Don’t hide what you believe from your audience. Don’t pretend to think another way is best if you are holding to one opinion already.

I don’t want to have to read through 4 chapters of commentary before I figure out if you are a Preterist or an Idealist (It probably won’t take me four chapters, but a point is trying to be made).

Tell me what you believe, why you believe it, and then let me and other readers make our own decisions from there.

There should be different Revelation commentaries, spanning the four different views and some mish-mash of the four as well. Why try to lie or confuse or distract people with the idea of four different ways to understand the book of Revelation, if you have no interest in doing that?

Stop it.

It’s annoying me to no end.

It makes it all very hard to read a commentary on Revelation, whether for personal devotion or sermon prep.


This article first appeared on Christian Thought Sandbox.

Responses

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  1. David Kitz

    I could not agree more with your position on interpreting Revelations. There are a wide variety of opinions and theories. There is nothing wrong in having an opinion or a theory on eschatology, but let’s have the integrity to admit that we could be wrong, and other interpretations may be correct or closer to the truth.