Introduction to Revelation

• Offer a definition of the term “apocalypse.” What the traits of an “ apocalypse”? In what ways does Revelation fit these traits? List the four primary approaches to the study of Revelation. Which one do you think offers the best promise for understanding this book? Why?

A working definition for the word or term apocalypse would be that given by a study group in 1986 “that an apocalypse is ‘intended to interpret present, earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to influence the understanding and behavior of the audience by means of divine authority’” (Kostenberger 2009, 832). This is a long complex definition, and for purposes of simplicity and ease of understanding, it may make sense to define it as writing which not only encompasses current events but also future events and uses earthly events (both current and future) to show the spiritual truths.

The traits of an apocalypse are generally composed of viosionary or revelatory means of communication, usually involving a medium such as an angel, and exhorting or encouraging desired behaviors. These also often include pseudonymity and historical reviews. There is also a high emphasis on symbolic, figurative, and metaphors. Lastly there is a necessity for eathly and heavenly realities which overlap. (Kostenberger 2009, 832-833)

The book of Revelation fits into the realm of Apocalyptic literature because it presents realities of heaven and earth with heavy use of symbolic language and current and future events to help encourage the audience to do numerous things (such as endure persecution).

As we approaches the study of Revelation, there are four main methods of interpretation. They are: Peterist, Historicist, Idealist, and Futurist. The Peterist approach to the study of Revelation boils down to the events having already occurred during the first century. The Historicist approach intends to apply the events of Revelation to current events, specifically in the Middle Ages during the height of its popularity. The Idealist position interprets Revelation only in light of the timeless battle between good and evil, and not with any historical connections. With the Futurist position, chapters 4-22 refer to future events.

The best method of interpretation for Revelation is likely the futurist approach. This makes sense within the classic or revised dispensational views. The main argument for this would be with the same principle as with the rest of hermeneutical interpretation. Kostenberger defines it as the “ hermeneutical hallmark of classic and revised dispensationalism is a consistent and insistent commitment to the literal interpretation of prophetic Scripture, a principle often expressed with the dictum, ‘When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense’” (Kostenberger 2009, 849).


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