January 21, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy V: Interpretive Views

There is considerable disagreement on how the books of the Daniel & Revelation should be interpreted. In this series of posts, understanding the book of Daniel is crucial to an accurate interpretation of the prophecies in the book of the Revelation and vice versa. The challenges of interpreting passages about potential future tribulations and kingdom promises abound. There are most likely a minimum of (100) one hundred prophecies (literally interpreted) in Daniel 11 alone that are fulfilled. I will purposely avoid the Liberal Theology misinterpretations so to avoid further confusing a difficult area of Scripture.

To those who take a literal approach to the interpretation of Daniel we should note that there will be a literal future seven year judgment period (Daniel 7:21-22) and a literal 1,000 year kingdom (Revelation 20) after Christ’s second coming when He will reign over both Israelites and Gentiles (Daniel 7:27). This will be an era before and distinct from the final, absolutely perfect, ultimate state. In this view, the new heaven and the new earth with its capital, the New Jerusalem will be final realized (Rev 21-22). This leads to an adherence to Pre-Millennialism.

If we continue along the lines of Daniel’s cryptic nature we will also confront challenges in Daniel are formidable such as: The interpretation of numbers, identifying the one who is “like a Son of Man” and figuring out whether or not we see Antiochus or Antichrist in Daniel 8:19-23. We also need to figure out the “seventy sevens” in Daniel 9 which is particularly troublesome.

Daniel is brimming with prophecy. Some of which have been and some of which are yet to be fulfilled supposing a literal interpretation. The tactic one takes in interpreting future prophecies in the book of the Revelation is greatly impacted by the method of interpretation of the future prophecies of Daniel. This post will recapitulate the four "modes" of interpretation regarding both the prophecies of Daniel and of Revelation.

Some of these views and their explanations are as follows. All of them revolve around the context of time  and unfold in time from a human perspective but are based on a timeline established by God since before the existence of time.

Preterist View

A Preterist maintains that the events described in the Book of Daniel were fulfilled at or before the time of Jesus. This view sees the Book of Daniel (and Revelation) as somewhat historical related to Daniel and the Jews in captivity in Babylon. There is also a prophetic message detailing visions and prophecies which foretold important events related to four great empires of the world. The prophecies of Daniel addresses among other things the restoration of the Jews, the coming and death of מָשִׁ֣יחַ or Mashiah - The Messiah, and the conversion of the Gentiles. Preterist believe that their view creates the least amount of problems from an interpretive standpoint. They posit that the prophecy of Daniel has been literally fulfilled in history. They believe their view best explains the “Abomination of Desolation in the Olivet Discourse (the little apocolypse) in Matthew 24, Luke 20 and Mark 13. It is their belief that Daniel’s prophecy was given so that the restored Jews would know the times and events surrounding the coming of מָשִׁ֣יחַ / Messiah. Ironically, J. Calvin seems to have adhered to a Preterist view for the Book of Daniel…most likely historicist (see below) in his view on Revelation. A Preterist clings tenaciously to the concept of the use of symbols and allegory. As for a Preterist view of Revelation it is believed that the events told of in Revelation are concerning John's time and that it was written primarily to provide hope and comfort to the nascent 1st century church persecuted by Rome (a la: Jeremiah’s Lamentations, Ch. 3). I will note though that a Preterist view is held by many Liberal Theologians today or those that will deny that the Revelation predicts future events. This thereby helps them avoid the need to appeal to the supernatural element of forth-telling/foretelling the future

Historicist View

A Historicist sees the Book of Daniel similar to a Preterist. According to them prophecy outlines the breadth of world history as it relates to God's people all the way down to the end (of time). God is portrayed as the One who comforts and protects His people at all times. He is sovereign and omnipotent. And it agrees with how God dealt with prophecy in Daniel and Revelation. It can be state that the scope of the first prophecy in Daniel 2 clearly shows that God charted prophecy from the time of Daniel to the Second Coming. A Historicist will also note that this view more closely resembles Christ’s and claim that many if not most Protestants and reformers held to the same approach. They see Revelation as a symbolic or allegorical prophetic survey of church history from the time of Christ until to the Second Coming of Christ. Those that try to detract from this view will discount it because it feebly addresses the prophecy of Revelation and they would be correct in this assessment.

Note: I must draw the attention of my readers that are die hard Calvinist or heavily reformed and also cling to a futurist view (see below) that many notable and prominent men in the Protestant movement held to this view including: Luther, Calvin, Wesley, J. Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, etc. If you do not understand this view the writings of these aforementioned people will confuse you. AS such these men believed that many of the promises made to Israel now found their application to the Church.

Idealist View

The last view is Idealist which says that Daniel and Revelation are not predictive prophecy, but purely symbolic portrait of the cosmic conflict between the forces of good and evil. They view Daniel and Revelation simply a collection of stories designed to teach spiritual truth.

Futurist View

A Futurist would interpret Daniel’s prophecies has having been partial fulfilled but a number remain unfulfilled awaiting future fulfillment. Futurists interpret the bulk of Revelation as foretelling of future end time historical events before, during and after the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His millennial kingdom on earth. This of course would then be followed by the creation of a New Heaven and the New Earth. Surprisingly, this view was sort of espoused by the likes of Justin Martyr (103–165AD), and Irenaeus (2 Cent AD), not just John Nelson Darby (Nov 18, 1800-April 26, 1882) and Dr. C.I. Scofield (August 19, 1843-July 24, 1921). Because of the latter two men, the Futurist view has been booming since the 19th century and is widely held among many evangelicals today-portions of this view are aligned or understood in conjunction with Dispensationalism.

Because my job and calling as a disciple of Christ is to be a pastor/teacher I will not allow myself to become tangled up in confusing arguments and speculation over other’s views on this. As I stated in previous posts, we all bring bias and presuppositions to the Scripture that are not always beneficial to understanding them correctly and we must always ask God to guide us in our interpretations. I highly recommend we all continually try to refine and further improve our understanding of God’s word…not assume we have it all figured out. If we do this we are fooling ourselves and the Devil has gained a foothold in our minds like and illegal squatter.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...