Georgetown Prophecy Conference, 2002
Studies in Prophecy
by Darrel Cline
The additional details given by the book of the Revelation
Question: Where Does the Book of the Revelation Fit Into the Prophetic Scenario and How Do We Know?
Thesis: The Book of the Revelation is a particularly detailed presentation of the characteristics and events of the seventieth week of Daniel.
Introductory Remarks: This mini-conference was billed as a consideration of Daniel, Revelation, and the timing of the Rapture of the Church. In order to live up to the billing, we must take some time to consider the Book of Revelation. It has to be recognized, however, that anything we do with the Book of Revelation will be cursory and exceedingly "big picture" since our entire conference time is only 8 hours long and the Book of Revelation by itself (not considering Daniel or the Rapture issue) has enough difficulties and details to eat up a whole lifetime and then some. Therefore, I want to address the issue of the Book of Revelation from a "bottom line" perspective. In this session I am going to address this question: Where Does the Book of the Revelation Fit Into the Prophetic Scenario and How Do We Know?
II. Now, Let's Take the First Part of Our Question: Where Does the Book Fit Into the Prophetic Picture?
- I. Let's Ask the "How do we know?" Question First.
- A. There are multiple views on the second question: Where does the Book of the Revelation Fit into the Prophetic Scenario?
- 1. A recent one which is both a revival of an ancient one and is growing in popularity is called the "preterist" view.
- a. This view's fundamental thesis is that all of the prophecies of the Revelation were fulfilled in the historical time frame surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
- b. This view's fundamental argument is that there is only one way to take the New Testament claims regarding Jesus' imminent return: He had to have come within the generation of those who heard/read the promises, or His promises were lies.
- c. This view's fundamental hermeneutical claim is that the language of Revelation is primarily "apocalyptic".
- 1) This term is not clearly defined except by the claim that one cannot take the language of Revelation at face value.
- 2) An examination of the view leaves me with the feeling that there is too much emphasis upon the rather ambiguous terms "at hand" and "soon" and too little emphasis upon the multitude of words found in the Revelation to describe its events.
- 2. An old one which is gradually losing its claim to fame is what is called the "historicist" view.
- a. This view's fundamental thesis is that the major events of the Church Age are the subject matter of the Revelation.
- b. This view's fundamental argument is that God prophesied the events of the last 2000 years in highly figurative and symbolic language that hid the truth from all but the initiated.
- c. This view's fundamental hermeneutical claim is that the language of the Revelation is highly figurative and not to be taken at face value.
- 3. The most widespread view held today within American, conservative, grace-based Christianity is what is called the "futurist" view.
- a. This view's fundamental thesis is that the Book of the Revelation has two major parts: the first part is chapters 1-3 in which Jesus addresses His Church as it is in the latter part of the first century; the last part is chapters 4-22 in which Jesus addresses His already revealed plan for the last seven years of Daniel's prophecy.
- b. This view's fundamental argument is that God did with the Revelation what He did with much of Daniel's prophecies -- He filled in a mass of details for an already-known period.
- c. This view's fundamental hermeneutical claim is that the vast majority of the language of Revelation is normal language interspersed with already known biblical imagery that is used to deepen the student's grasp of the issues involved.
- B. The issue is not "what does the Revelation say?", but "how shall we understand what the Revelation says?"...in other words, the question is one of hermeneutics.
- 1. The fact is that none of the views can stand up to scrutiny without making an appeal to a clear correlation between the words of the prophecies and the events of history.
- a. How does anyone make an argument for legitimate understanding without being able to point to the words of the text and to certain specific events of history and show how they correlate?
- b. Since no one can, the next issue on the table is which words of the text are we going to insist are the normal ones that make it possible to correlate with historical events?
- c. This leads to a third issue: why are those words the normal ones?
- 2. The only possible position that can be defended is the position that says, "OK, we are going to take every word in its normal sense until we run into a flat-out contradiction; and, when that happens, we are going to fall back on the claim that most of the words are normal and those that contradict them are going to be put into a non-normal category and be understood as figurative."
- 3. When you do this, the futurist position is the only possible position that is defensible.
- A. Daniel's prophecies took us up to the first century with specific prophecies and with a specific time-frame.
- B. Revelation's language addresses the seventieth week framework with specific references both to the events of Daniel and the time-frame Daniel gave us. [Chapters 11, 12, and 13 all use the specific timing-words of Daniel's seventieth week.] [The introduction of God in chapter 4 as having a Sardius/Jasper appearance surrounded by an emerald rainbow is fundamentally a statement of the Covenant-Keeping God of Jacob.]