Q&A: Revelation and Interpretation

Revelation and Interpretation

Question

What are the different interpretations of Revelation?

Answer

Revelation is interpreted in different ways by different people. Some people read its style as purely allegorical, others understand it in a woodenly literal fashion, and others believe that some portions are more allegorical while others are more literal. Some people believe that it refers to events which occurred in and around the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, some believe that it refers to events which are yet to occur at a future time, others believe that it refers to the broad scope of human and/or ecclesiastical history between the first and second comings of Christ. Some believe that the book is organized topically, some believe that it is organized as an unbroken chronology, and others believe that it is written in recapitulated cycles of history (i.e. each vision cycle retells the same story or recovers the same ground of history). Different people understand different purposes for the book based on their conclusions regarding the foregoing issues, as well as on their presuppositions about prophecy in general. I'm afraid that time will not permit me to list specific details of interpretations produced by the different approaches to Revelation.

My own approach is to understand the book as highly metaphoric, while recognizing that there are varying degrees of metaphor within the prophecy as well as some portions which are to be taken literally (such as the self-interpreted passages). It seems to me that the book is laid out in recapitualtive cycles, and that each cycle pertains to the broad period of history between the first and second comings of Christ. I also believe that the book's purpose is not to tell us what the future must be, but to tell its original audience (in the first century) what the future might be, depending on how they reacted to the information in the prophecy itself and in the letters which they received with it (Rev. 2-3). I believe it applies to us as we understand the original meaning, and find and apply the principles behind that original meaning. I do not believe that it was intended to foretell an unalterable future.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.