Our youth group started studying the book of Revelation 3 weeks ago. We’re going through the book verse by verse and comparing and contrasting four different viewpoints: Futurist, Preterist, Historic Pre-mill & dispensational (it’s wrong, but it’s also what so many Christians believe today).
Initially, everyone was decidedly in the Futurist camp, with those who had viewed the Left Behind series leaning towards a dispensational understanding. But as we’ve finished up a general overview of the four systems and began looking at the first chapter there seems to be a predominant mix of the Historicist & Preterist view.
The Historicist view looks at the book of Revelation as a commentary on the church age. So in this view each day that passes by in Revelation is equal to a year of time on earth. So various events are reflective of actual church history — the swam of locusts from Revelation 9 was fulfilled with the rising of Islam. The 1260 day (which is really 1260 years) reign of the beast is equated to the Papacy’s control over Europe. This is pretty well out of favor now but it was the view that most Reformers held including John Calvin, John Knox, & Martin Luther as well as later theologians such as Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon.
The Preterist view looks at the book of Revelation and finds that the majority of the prophecy was fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jesus’ prophecy in Mathew 24 that “this generation” would not all die until his coming in judgment is interpreted literally and locally. This view requires accepting an earlier dating of the book of Revelation than many scholars allow for, but not so early that it becomes outlandish.
It’s interesting to see what will come out of this study. We’re doing a point / counterpoint style as we read through the book. The group is doing an admirable job arguing for all the positions as we think it through. They’ve asked a number of times what position I hold with regard to eschatology. My mind is fairly well made up on the issue, but I won’t spill. I want them to think on the issue critically rather than going along with what I say. But… I ask you the same question they’ve asked me. Revelation. What do you think? How come?