Where shall we find the material we shall need in order to carryon this study?
Perhaps the best way to answer this question would be to refer you to just one basic Commentary for each school of interpretation of the Apocalypse. You probably already have one or two of these books, and can always find the others in a good library or borrow them from a friend. (Be sure to return what you borrow!)
1. I shall begin with a Commentary which J have seen in many a home, namely, that by A. Barnes. I refer now to his Notes on Revelation. Barnes is an exponent of the Continuously Historical school of interpretation. This school regards the Apocalypse as a kind of “history written beforehand.” The following two features characterize this method of explaining Revelation:
a. Each chapter of the book of Revelation brings us a little farther along in history, from the coming of Christ to his glorious return. Thus, if chapter 9 refers to the Mohammedans (sixth and seventh century A.D. for Mohammed himself ), chapter 10 could refer to Luther and the Reformation (sixteenth century A.D.).
b. Each symbol (the lampstands, seals, trumpets, thunders, bowls, etc.) refers to one, and only one, specific person, date, or event in history. Thus, according to Barnes (Notes on Revelation, p. 220, Baker Book House, 1949), the long hair of the locusts (Rev. 9;8) refers to “the long flowing hair on the shoulder” of Mohammed; while the seven thunders which John was not allowed to write down (Rev. 10:4) refers to the anathemas which the pope hurled at Luther. According to Barnes (same book, p. 256) these thunders were not to be written down because “in them there was nothing worthy of recording.”
2. Next, let me refer to another book which many of you already have in your possession or can easily lay your hands on, namely, the Scofield Bible. This is a fair representative of the so-called Futuristic School, thus called because it refers virtually the entire book of Revelation to the distant future. The words “Come up hither” indicate the Rapture, that is, the first phase of the second coming of Christ. It is the fulfillment, says Scofield, of I Thessalonians 4:14–17. And he adds, “The word church does not again occur in the Revelation until all is fulfilled.”
2. Sharply contrasted with this is the position of the late Prof. Albertus Pieters, as expressed in his book, The Lamb, The Woman, And The Dragon.. He was to a large extent a Preterist, that is, a man who had arrived at the conclusion that “almost everything in the Revelation had its fulfillment in the two or three centuries after it was written”; see his book, p. 40, p. 66.
3. There is next the view of William Milligan, which you can find in volume 6 of The Expositor’s Bible. It may be called the Idealistic view. He and those who agree with him find in the book of Revelation very little that refers to actual history. Even the Child who was born of the woman (see Rev.12:1, 2) does not, as they see it, refer to the birth of Jesus but rather to “the ideal pattern of that event.”
S. L. Morris excellently represents the Parallelistic School, in his little book, The Drama of Christianity. According to him—and many others with him, such as Herman Bavinck, J.C.De Moor, K. Dyk, S. Greijdanus, R.C.H. Lenski, B.B. Warfield, etc.—the book of Revelation is a series of panoramas in the form of visions, successive in presentation but not in consecutive, historical order. Each panorama or large division of the book covers the entire period of the Christian dispensation, but each time from a different angle.
6. Akin to this interpretation, yet distinct from it, is the theory of interpretation called Progressive Parallelism. This type of explanation accepts Parallelism but, in addition, shows how each great panorama is, as it were, the outgrowth of that which precedes, so that the entire book presents a beautiful unity. Perhaps you yourself can name an author who came forth with this view, and also the title of his work.
Just what is, accordingly, our, plan for the lessons of this season, now that the book of Revelation has been introduced? Well, I shall assume that the book consists of seven great parts, as follows:
1. The Son of Man Amid the Seven Lampstands, chapters 1–3.
2. The Seven Seals, chapters 4–7.
3. The Seven Trumpets, chapters 8–11.
4. The Christ versus the Dragon (Satan) and his Allies, chapters 12–14.
5. The Seven Bowls, chapters 15, 16.
6. The Fall of the Dragon’s Allies, chapters 17–19.
7. The Fall of the Dragon himself; Victory through Christ, chapters 20–22.
The plan, then, is to begin next time with our discussion of the first of these great visions, namely, that which concerns The Son of Man Amid the Seven Lampstands, chapters 1–3. And thus we hope to continue until the end of the book and of the final Vision has been reached.
1. After reading the book of Revelation from beginning to end, would you say that its symbols, in consecutive order, predict the course of history? If so, in which chapter would you look for the orbiting of a man around the world?
2. What is your main objection to the view that Revelation refers, almost exclusively, only to the future or only to the past?
3. Through Christ we are “more than conquerors.” That truth is emphasized in one way or another throughout Revelation. But what does it mean to be “more than conquerors”?
4. How do you account for the for that of late, even in our own circles, there is an increased interest in the book of Revelation?
5. For whom was Revelation intended? How do you outline it?
6. Can you see any similarity between the general plan of the Gospel of John and that of the book of Revelation? If so, what accounts for this similarity?
7. How often does the number seven occur in the book of Revelation? Is there any comfort in this?