Meaning of the Book of Revelation

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What is the meaning of the book of Revelation? Can it be interpreted differently?

The meaning of the book of Revelation can seem confusing to the average reader. Is the author speaking of past events or future events? Are we to take prophecies literally or allegorically? Revelation is the finale of the entire Bible - bringing God's Word to a dramatic conclusion.

This book was written by John, the last surviving apostle (Revelation 1:1, 4:9, 22:8), in the last decade of the first century. Scholars estimate AD 94-96 as the time of writing. He wrote from the small island of Patmos after being banished there for preaching the Gospel. The visions he received from God were recorded and became the book of Revelation.

Scholars say that no other book of the New Testament can be interpreted in more ways than Revelation. There are four basic approaches to interpreting Revelation:
  • Preterist - Those who subscribe to this view believe that the events in Revelation took place in the first-century Roman empire.

  • Idealist - This view holds that Revelation is full of a cosmic struggle between good and evil. It is a book that contains stories of spiritual truth, but no literal events or prophecy. There is no connection to historical events.

  • Historicist - Events are seen generally from history rather than as specific events. There are no time limitations placed on the book.

  • Futuristic - This view insists that Revelation chapter 6 to 22 refer to future events. Regarding this view, John MacArthur says, "Only this view does justice to Revelation's claim to be prophecy and interprets the entire book by the consistent grammatical-historical method used for the rest of Scripture."1


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