The interpretation of the book of Revelation hinges more than any other book upon the date of
composition that is assumed. Those who accept the early date of composition, 64-68 ad,
generally believe that the Neroian persecution and the destruction of the city of Jersualem are
the main objects of the visions. Those who accept the later date of composition, 91-110 ad,
generally believe that the Domitian persecution and latter events are being discussed.
The book is written in signs and symbols. It is not literal. It speaks of a dragon so large that it
fills a third of the earth, and knocks a third of the stars out of the heavens. Is that literal?
The main interpretations are:
1. Preterist – This particular school of interpretation has two distinct divisions: 1) the Full
Preterists, and 2) the Modified Preterists. The Full Preterists believe the book was completely
fulfilled in the lifetime of those who first received it, whether they accept the early or the latter
date. The Modified Preterists believe that most of the book deals with events that are fulfilled in
the lifetime of the original recipients, but that the end of the book reveals the events of the time
it was written, and the last part of the book reveals what will happen at the Last Day – the
2. Historical – This school sees the entirety of history unfolded withn the visions of the
3. Historical Cyclical – This school sees a cycle of history unfolded in the book. The book
would reveal events which were revealed in the lifetime of the original recipients, which would
again be fulfilled in similar events again and again in history.
4. Futuristic – This school sees the events of the book of Revelation as all being in the
The more difficult should be interpreted in terms of the less difficult. In other words, allow what
you do understand to guide you in what you have difficulty in understanding. In application, that
means that Revelation should be interpreted in terms of what the Gospels, Acts, and the
Epistles teach. Too often, theories of Revelation have caused people to rearrange what they
believe and teach about the rest of the New Testament, even in the face of simple, plain
Step back, and look at the whole picture, especially in apocalyptic literature (like Revelation).
Do not major in the details, take in the big picture. Pictures drawn with words are not so much
about the fulfillment of individual details as they are about presenting an image which makes
an impression upon the mind and emotions. It is true that sometimes “you can’t see the forest
for the trees,” or “you can’t see the trees for the leaves.”
Especially when you look at the letters to the seven churches, look at what makes each of
these churches either acceptable, or rejected by Jesus. What needs to be corrected? What is
commended? And, how does your church measure up? Which church most resembles the
congregation that you are a part of? What does that say about what you need to do?
Numbers, in apocalyptic literature, sometimes are used as qualifiers rather than quantifiers.
Or, they are used as descriptions of character, rather than speaking of quantity.
Letters to the Seven Churches
The Seven Seals
The Seven Angels
The Seven Vials
The Throne of God
Worthy is the Lamb
The Woman and Her Man-child
The Red Dragon
The Two-Headed Beast
The Fall of Babylon
The Judgment of Babylon
Destruction of the Beast & False Prophet
Binding of Satan
Satan Loosed For A Season
The Final Judgment
The Great White Throne
New Heavens, New Earth, New Jerusalem
The Seven Seals (4:1-8:1)
The Seven Trumpets (8:2-11:19)
The Seven Personnages (12:1-14:20)
The Seven Vials (15-16:11)
The Seven Dooms (17-20:15)
The Seven New Things (21-22:24)
|Revelation, the 1,000 Years and
the Great White Throne
Revelation Chapter 20
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things
which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant
John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all
things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy,
and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. (Revelation 1:1-3
It is not possible to understand what John speaks of without understanding the introduction to
the book. A revelation is an unveiling, or a revealing. It is not a book that is meant to be concealed
in a cloud of mystery, but it is a book whose message is to be found, not in literal language, but
in signs and symbols – in figurative language. This is not an undecipherable message, but one
that is revealed in the language of prophecy. Most of what is said talks about things which would
happen shortly, or quickly. What goes beyond that, is written to comfort the saints.
The messenger of God came with the key of the bottomless pit – a reference back to Revelation
1:18 and 9:1. He lays hold on the Enemy of mankind, Satan, the Serpent in the beginning. He is
cast into the bottomless pit – a representation of the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. 1,000 years is a
representation of the Gospel Age – the Church Era.
The length of Jesus' reign with his saints is called a thousand years. This symbol is used often in
the Bible to refer to large, but complete set. For example, in Deuteronomy 7:9, "Therefore know
that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a
thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments," Moses is not
limiting God's mercy to exactly one-thousand generations, but to indicate that He is always
merciful. "For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10).
God is not saying there is exactly one thousand hills with His cattle, but to say that all the cattle in
the world belong to Him. The thousand year reign is not a literal thousand years, but a symbol of
a long and complete reign that encompasses the rest of the world's years. It does not make
sense to take one symbol and assign it a literal meaning while assigning figurative meanings to
all the other symbols in the same passage. Yet, many have done so when they declare that
Jesus will reign for a thousand years.
Those who will reign during the 1,00 years are those who are the faithful in Christ. The Martyrs,
who are beheaded by Rome because of their unwillingness to recant on their faith in Christ and
their unwillingness to declare the Emperor, lord and god, reign with Jesus. These who have
been resurrected to serve righteousness in baptism, have taken part in the first resurrection.
They are priest and kings before God.[1 Peter 2:1-9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10]
It is at the end of the 1,000 years – at the end of the Christian Era – that Satan will be loosed, all
the dead shall arise, and the eternal destiny of all will be assigned. The judgment will occur then.
At the resurrection of the just and the unjust is given the picture of a great white throne judgment.
All those who have lived are brought before Him, both small and great. Whether they have died at
sea, or on the land, it makes no difference – all come before Him. The books are opened,
including the book of life, and all men are judged according to their works. This is the end of
death, and it is the end of those who are not found written in the book of life – they are cast into
the lake of fire, that place which we generally call HELL. The word “hell” in this passage refers
not to the lake of fire, but to the hadean world – the abode of the dead.
A-Millennialism – The belief that the 1,000 years in Revelation is figurative, and not literal.
Post-Millennialism – The belief that the 1,000 years in Revelation comes before the
physical return of Jesus. Thus Jesus’ return is after or Post, the 1,000 years or millennium.
Pre-Millennialism – The belief that the 1,000 years in Revelation comes after the physical
return of Jesus. Thus Jesus’ return is before or Pre, the 1,000 years in Revelation or millennium.
Postmillennialism is mistaken but does not make damnable changes to the Scheme of
Premillennialism changes the Scheme of Redemption. It denies that Jesus reigns now. It
divides into numerous physical resurrections (at least one for the righteous and another for the
unrighteous). Depending upon the source, it gives a second chance to men. Those who live on
the earth during the Millennium are a category unto themselves.
It is difficult, if not impossible, the give a simple definition of the terms of Premillennialism. The
Tribulation is either entirely before the return of Jesus, half is before the return and half is after, or
the Tribulation is entirely after the return of Jesus. There are up to twelve judgments and eight
resurrections. (The chart below is just a sample.)