How to Approach the Book of Revelation

Book of Revelation Chapter 1-2 (Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media)Image: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing

I recently went on Sermon Audio to check a sermon by Pastor WJ Mencarow and discovered that his account was temporarily deactivated. Since his sermon series on Revelation is the best sermon series I have ever heard on the topic, I thought it would be good to put some notes up on each sermon in case they become inaccessible again [note: this will take me a long time as I am extremely busy at the moment]. What follows is not a full transcript but a summary/paraphrase of the salient points made regarding the interpretation of Revelation. Please listen to the entire sermon to get the full message as it was presented.

Introduction to Revelation Part 1

(How to Approach the Book of Revelation)

WJ Mencarow

Revelation 1

October 22, 2006

  • A major confusion about Revelation is how much to take literally
  • John likely did not understood everything he saw – much was revealed centuries later
  • Chapter 22:10 – command not to seal up the book. Ignoring the book is sealing it. The book should be read, studied, preached on.
  • Revelation records what the risen Jesus says to the church. It’s his final words to us.
  • “Revelation is the only book of the Bible that begins and ends with a promise of blessing to those who study it.” — see 1:3. The blessing includes reading and hearing Revelation read aloud.
  • Acts 17:11 – Don’t just rely on experts to tell you what Revelation (or any scripture) means.

Historical Context:

  • Revelation is an Old Testament book – full of Old Testament imagery
  • Scripture interprets Scripture
  • 1:1 – the final time Jesus speaks to us through his word
  • 1:19 – what the book is about. “It’s about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in human history.” (as the risen Saviour). Jesus comes through events and through His Church.
  • Revelation tells about how Jesus “triumphs over every force of evil arrayed against His bride, the Church.”
  • Message: Jesus reigns.
  • Why written?: Per Junius – so the Church would not lose faith and be encouraged through all the tribulations it was to face.
  • Author: God (v.1) – given to Jesus and recorded by John (same author as the Gospel of John and the 3 epistles)
  • Where written: Island of Patmos
  • When written: Arguments on both sides for late and early dates. He takes the view it was written about AD 65, before the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome

Outline:

  • Things which are: Introduction and letters to the 7 churches (a presbytery – churches aligned in faith, doctrine, and worship)
  • Things which shall be hereafter: Chapter 4 to the end. This is a panorama of history.

Step-by-Step Analysis:

Four Approaches

Spiritist/Spiritualist/Idealist:

  • Revelation is about eternal truths, not about specific historical events
  • Has a spiritual meaning only
  • Applies to all times
  • About how God generally governs the world

Futurist

  • Chapter 3 on are unfulfilled, to come in the future just before the second coming
  • 7-year tribulation of worldwide persecution
  • Rapture of the living at some point
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Final coming of Christ
  • Taught in most Fundamentalist churches today
  • Taught by: J.N. Darby, Scofield, Moody, Falwell, Pat Robertson, Chuck Swindoll, John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, J. Vernon McGee, Hal Lindsay, John Hagee, Jack Van Impe, Tim LaHaye, Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, the Left Behind series, most popular books on Revelation

Preterist

  • Opposite of Futurism
  • Prophecies have already been fulfilled
  • Some believe even the resurrection of the dead and the judgment have occurred [He seems to be describing full and not partial preterism here]
  • Revelation is about the first century, with Jerusalem as the Church’s persecutor
  • Babylon = Old Testament Jerusalem
  • Armageddon = 70 AD
  • Beast = Roman army
  • Revelation is either about the fall of Jerusalem or about the fall of both Jerusalem and Rome
  • Some preterists are Christian Reconstructionists
  • Taught by: David Chilton, Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Hank Hanegraaff, Walt Hibbard

Historicist/Historicalist

  • Agrees with parts of Futurism and Preterism
  • Chapters 1-5 are about the 1st century, Chapters 6-22 discuss history from at least AD 70 to the end of time
  • About the collapse of the Roman Empire, the rise of a divided Europe, the collapse of the Eastern Empire, the rise of Islamic civilization, etc.
  • Revelation teaches that the Church will expand under persecution until it conquers the world
  • A panorama of world history
  • Few Protestants hold this view today – “all but forgotten”
  • Taught by: Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Knox, Tyndale, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Cotton, John Owen, Increase and Cotton Mather, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, the Puritans, Bobick, J. Marcellus Kik, Herman Hoeksema, Francis Nigel Lee
  • This is the view of the early church fathers, the medieval theologians, all of the reformers, and many theologians since then

Origins of Futurism and Preterism:

  • Originated about the same time, around 1600 by Jesuit priests
  • Franciso Ribera (Jesuit theologian) – 1590 – futurist commentary on Revelation. First few chapters about ancient pagan Rome. The rest about a 3.5 literal tribulation immediately prior to the second coming.
  • Robert Bellarmine (Cardinal) – similar view to Ribera
  • Luis De Alcazar (Jesuit theologian) – preterist. All about pagan Rome and the first 6 centuries of the church.
  • All of these books endorsed by Rome – interpretations different and incompatible but both considered true by Rome.
  • Both views originally invented to counter Protestant historicism – many Protestants today promoting counter-reformation theology

On Revelation in General:

  • Shows that:
    • God is just
    • Sin will be punished
    • A “horrible neverending ghastly punishment” awaits those who oppose God
  • The grandest epic ever written
  • Contains practical instruction and Christian values
  • Applies to all Christians in all times
  • Jesus will return and He is with us now
  • A book of consolation and cheer – Jesus’s victory is certain
  • Everything is being orchestrated by the unseen hand of God for our good
  • Everlasting happiness lies ahead
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