Guide A Study of the Book of Revelation

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Luce, the owner of Life, Time, and Fortune magazines, addressed a group of missionaries who were the first to return to their fields after the war. Speaking in San Francisco, he made the statement that when he was a boy, the son of a Presbyterian missionary in China, he and his father often discussed the premillennial coming of Christ, and he thought that all missionaries who believed in that teaching were inclined to be fanatical. And then Mr. Raymond B. Time is short. The end of everything we call life is close at hand. To make the picture even more bleak, the modern church has no solutions for the problems of this hour in which we are living.

There was a phenomenal growth in church membership, especially after World War II, but that took place for only a few years.

The Author

The growth went from 20 percent of the population in to 35 percent of the population in That was the high point of Protestant church membership. And it would indicate the possibility of a church on fire for God. Then it had wealth and was building tremendous programs, but recently the church has begun to lose, and it certainly is not affecting the contemporary culture of the present hour. As we look out at the world in this present hour, we see that it is really in a mess.

For a long time now men in high positions have looked into the future and have said that there is a great crisis coming. I wonder what they would say if they lived in our day!

Where are we?

As a result of this foreboding, there has been a growing interest in the Book of Revelation. Although good expositors differ on the details of the Book of Revelation, when it comes to the broad interpretation, there are four major systems. Broadus lists seven theories of interpretation and Tregelles lists three. The preterist interpretation is that all of Revelation has been fulfilled in the past.

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This view was held by Renan and by most German scholars, also by Elliott. The purpose of the Book of Revelation was to bring comfort to the persecuted church and was written in symbols that the Christians of that period would understand.

The Book Of Revelation

This viewpoint has been answered and, I think, relegated to the limbo of lost things. Well, I believe that there is a certain amount of truth in this as far as the seven churches are concerned, as we shall see, but beyond that, it is obvious that the Book of Revelation is prophetic. The historical—spiritualist interpretation is a refinement of the historical theory and was advanced first by Sir William Ramsay.

This theory states that the two beasts are imperial and provincial Rome and that the point of the book is to encourage Christians. According to this theory, Revelation has been largely fulfilled and contains only spiritual lessons for the church today. The system we know today as amillennialism has, for the most part, adopted this view.

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  4. It dissipates and defeats the purpose of the book. In the seminary of my denomination, I studied Revelation in both Greek and English from the standpoint of the amillennialist. That was their problem. The fact of the matter is that some very unusual interpretations arise from this viewpoint. One interpreter sees Luther and the Reformation in a symbol that to another student pictures the invention of the printing press!

    In my opinion, interpretations of this type have hurt and defeated the purpose of the Book of Revelation. The futurist interpretation is the view which is held by all premillennialists and is the one which I accept and present to you. It sees the Book of Revelation as primarily prophetic. Most premillennialists follow a certain form of interpretation that conforms to the Book of Revelation. We will see this in the outline of the book.

    It begins with the revelation of the glorified Christ. Then the church is brought before us, and the whole history of the church is given. Then, at the end of chapter 3, the church goes to heaven and we see it, not as the church anymore, but as the bride which will come to the earth with Christ when He comes to establish His Kingdom—that thousand—year reign that John will tell us about. It will be a time of testing, for at the end of that period Satan will be released for a brief season.

    Then the final rebellion is put down and eternity begins. This is the viewpoint of Revelation which is generally accepted.

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    In our day there are many critics of this interpretation who not only attempt to discount it but say rather harsh things about it. One recent book of criticism, written by a layman, quotes me as being unable to answer his argument. Well, the fact of the matter is that he called me at home one morning as I was getting ready to go to my office. In his book he makes the statement that I was unable to answer his question.

    If he misquotes the other Bible expositors as he misquotes me, I would have no confidence in his book whatsoever. In his book he maintains that the premillennial futurist viewpoint is something that is brand new. When I was a young man and a new Christian, I was introduced to the theory known as postmillennialism. The postmillennialists believed that the world would get better and better, that the church would convert the whole world, and then Christ would come and reign.

    Well, that viewpoint is almost dead today. After two world wars, a worldwide depression, and the crises through which the world is passing, there are very few who still hold that viewpoint. It was to that view that most of the postmillennialists ran for cover. There was one professor in the seminary who was still a postmillennialist. He was very old and hard of hearing. In fact, when they told him that the war was over, he thought they meant the Civil War.

    He was really a back number, and he was still a postmillennialist. At the risk of being a little tedious, I am going to give you the viewpoints of many men in the past to demonstrate that they were looking for Christ to return. They were not looking for the Great Tribulation, they were not even looking for the Millennium, but they were looking for Him to come. This expectation is the very heart of the premillennial viewpoint as we hold it today. Clement A. Polycarp A. Papias A. Justin Martyr A.

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    Irenaeus A. Tertullian A. Canon A.

    Not until the professing Church lost her first love, and became the harlot resting on the world power, did she cease to be the Bride going forth to meet the Bridegroom, and seek to reign already on earth without waiting for His Advent. It is the same all through the third and fourth centuries with those Latin theologians who escaped the influence of Greek speculation. My friend, I have quoted these many men of the past as proof of the fact that from the days of the apostles and through the church of the first centuries the interpretation of the Scriptures was premillennial.

    It is interesting to note that premillennialism was the belief of these very outstanding men of the early church. It is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. There are seventeen prophetic books in the Old Testament and only this one in the New Testament. John, the writer, reaches farther back into eternity past than does any other writer in Scripture.

    Then, when John writes the Book of Revelation, he reaches farther on into eternity future and the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.