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Futuristic Interpretations of the Book of Revelation

Now that my book The Triumph of Christianity has come out, I’m thinking about my future books.  The one I’m working on now is The Invention of the Afterlife, where I explore the origins of the idea that when you die, your soul goes to heaven or hell (it’s not in the Old Testament and it’s not what Jesus taught — so where did it come from??).  But I always like to think two or three books in the future, and so I’m contemplating what I might do after this.

One idea is to deal with the belief that the world is soon to come to an end, a book that would, among other things, take on the book of Revelation.   I’ve dealt with the issue before, of course, but not broadly.  One of the things I’m interested in is how people interpret Revelation as referring to things about to happen in our own future.  Here’s something I say about the topic in my textbook on the Bible.

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One of the most popular ways to interpret the book of Revelation today is to read its symbolic visions as literal descriptions of what is going to transpire in our own day and age. But there are problems with this kind of approach. On one hand, we should be suspicious of interpretations that are blatantly narcissistic; this way of understanding the book maintains that the entire course of human history has now culminated with us! An even larger problem, however, is that this approach inevitably has to ignore certain features of the text in order to make its interpretations fit.

Consider, as just one example, an interpretation sometimes given of the “locusts” that emerge from the smoke of the bottomless pit in order to wreak havoc on earth in chapter 9.  The seer describes the appearance of these dread creatures as follows:

Does the Bible talk about what is soon to happen?  To find out, you need to read the rest of this post, and to read the rest of his post you have to belong to the blog.  Hey, isn’t it worth it?  It won’t cost much, you’ll discover the secrets of the universe, and every dime you pay goes to charity!

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    tjjohnson61@yahoo.com  July 10, 2018

    If you’ve addressed these questions in other blog entries or books, please point my nose in the right direction. It would seem that parts of Revelation are maybe predictive of future events: What about the 1000 years of peace? Was there a big Armageddon battle at Megiddo? What about the jeweled/gold New City? Did any of these things sort of happen allegorically before or around the time that Revelation was written? Or do they represent wacky symbolism of a hoped-for future which has not yet happened?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 10, 2018

      They were things that the author was anticipating would happen. Since they never did, many readers started assuming that he didn’t mean it all literally.

  2. Avatar
    HJeffWallace  August 22, 2018

    I had a class by James Blevins at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His book, Revelation as Drama said each of the 7 churches were in cities possessing Greek amphitheaters. The Greek plays form would have suited the script of the Revelation well, with the chorus, masks, and architecture. As I recall, he described how architecture shaped the vision, with 7 entrances, and 7 stages. What Dr. Blevins stressed was how his crazy encoded message would have passed from his guards to the audiences. I have come to see the futuristic interpretation as irrelevant to the obvious messages to the churches. Check out the video:
    http://digital.library.sbts.edu/handle/10392/4834

    • Bart
      Bart  August 22, 2018

      Interesting!

    • Avatar
      dagrote  August 22, 2018

      It seems prima facie to be highly speculative. There are dozens, if not scores of unanswered questions about the performance of drama even in the most well documented setting in all of antiquity : the theater of Dionysus in Athens. The setting and performance of theater outside of Athens, even during the classical/Hellenistic period, is nearly a complete blank.

  3. Avatar
    donaldswenson1943  September 12, 2018

    Bart: A book that would interest many Christians would be a book about ‘why Yeshua was not a Christian’. Yeshua appears to have been an Aramaic Jew, circumcised, baptised, follower of John the Baptist, and finally a promoter of the Government/Kingdom of Yahweh (his God). Yeshua desired that his spiritual Father (Yahweh) rule (not the elites of the Temple or the Romans). A book on this issue could be significant as it reveals the problems with Trinitarian Christian dogma’s. Thomas Jefferson (if alive) would want to read this type of book. He viewed Yeshua as human, not divine, and the Trinity as gobblygok. D

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