Gary briefly discusses the four major interpretive approaches to the book of Revelation.

Revelation uses many Old Testament symbols: eating scrolls, beasts, marks on the forehead, gold, thrones, sun, moon, stars, candlesticks, Balaam, Jezebel, dragon, Gog and Magog, Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon. It’s unlikely that Old Testament references to people and places appeared either in John’s day, or will appear in their original form in our day or a time future to us. God uses them as a form of prophetic shorthand that those who were familiar with the Scriptures would have recognized but not always understood. Simon J. Kistemaker states the following in his commentary on Revelation:

The conclusion we must draw is that the numbers, images, and expressions of greatness must be interpreted as symbols that present the idea of totality, fullness, and perfection. Much of John’s symbolism derives from the Old Testament Scriptures and from the ecclesiastical context in which he spent his time. Let us note that the Jewish mind of the first century received and presented information by means of pictures, illustrations, and symbols. [1]

Interpreting any piece of literature takes skill and broad knowledge. Like with any piece of literature — and the Bible is literature — it’s necessary to know a great deal about the type of literature you are studying. In fact, the word “literal” is derived “from the word Latin litera meaning letter. To interpret something literally is to pay attention to the litera or to the letters and words which are being used. To interpret the Bible literally is to interpret is as literature. That is, the natural meaning of a passage is to be interpreted according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax and context.”[2] The Bible should not be read outside the way it uses language to tell its story.

The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation

The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation

Since the national reestablishment of Israel in 1948, countless books and pamphlets have been written defending the doctrine assuring readers that it could happen at any moment. Some prophecy writers claimed the ‘rapture’ would take place before 1988. We are far removed from that date. Where are we in God’s prophetic timetable?

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Gary briefly discusses the four major interpretive approaches to the book of Revelation. Futurism, Historicism, Idealism, and Preterism have all been promoted—to greater and lesser degrees—throughout church history. What others have believed in the past should not determine how the Bible should be understood, but what the Bible itself actually says.

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[1] Simon J. Kistemaker, Revelation: Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2001), 16.

[2] R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977), 48–49.