The Christian Scriptures
Topics covered. Jesus in Revelation.
An Evangelical Christian theologian, P.N. Benware, describes three approaches
that theologians have used to understand Revelation:
|Allegorical approach: The events in Revelation will not happen
literally. They are to be interpreted figuratively and symbolically. This approach leads
to a great variety of conflicting scenarios.|
|Historical approach: Most of the events in Revelation have already
happened, perhaps during the persecution of Christians during the reign of Emperors Nero
or Domitian before Christianity was tolerated early in the 4th
|Futuristic approach: This is the approach taken by almost all
fundamentalists and other evangelical Christians. The events in Revelation have yet to
occur, but are anticipated in our very near future. The end times will unfold exactly as
specified when the world as we know it comes to an
To this list, a other options present themselves:
|Morale booster: The book was written at a time of
intermittent persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire. Its purpose
may have been simply to encourage Christians at that difficult time. It
is typical of apocalyptic writings common among Jewish writers during
the first century BCE and both Jewish and Christian
writers during the first century CE. According to
James Kelhoffer, an assistant professor of theological studies at Saint
Louis University: |
"Many people who have interpreted the rich symbolism and
mythology of [Revelation] have read into it to reflect on a world
cataclysm within their lifetime. It greatly misunderstands ancient
Jewish and Christian prophets who always talk about apocalypses
within their own time, not several centuries hence.
|Meaningless: The book is made up of visions
experienced by the author. They might have been based on one or more nightmares that
the author experienced. They might have been induced by eating hallucinogenic
material (mushrooms, cacti, certain types of moulds. etc.) They might
have been induced during an ecstatic spiritual state. In other
words, the writing may be devoid of any valid prophecy. It may be as
fictional and meaningless as the images of the anti-semitic nun, St.
Anne Catherine Emmerich
(1774-1824), whose visions
formed such a major part of the movie "The Passion of
the Christ." |
Topics in Revelation:
The book describes a number of "end-time events that will occur during the Day
of the Lord."
P.N. Benware, in his "Survey of the New Testament," includes:
|the rise of the Antichrist as a world dictator.|
|a 40 month period of relative peace.|
|a 40 month period of horrendous tribulation.|
|terrible judgments by God on the supporters of the Antichrist.|
|the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) and his bride (the Christian church). Presumably the
rapture will have happened by this time: faithful Christians who have died will be resurrected,
rise from their graves and ascend to heaven.|
|the second coming of Jesus.|
|the battle of Armageddon.|
|the millennium kingdom is established on earth.|
|final punishment of Satan.|
|destruction of the old heavens and earth.|
|unbelievers will be cast into everlasting fire.|
|God creates a new heaven and earth. 1|
Not included in this survey, and missing from every
sermon that we have heard about this topic, is a reference to Revelation 14:10.
It describes how the inhabitants in Hell will be tortured in the presence of
Jesus. The passage is ambiguous; it does not say whether Jesus is merely
passively observing the torture, or is supervising it.
Jesus in Revelation:
|Conservative Christians viewpoint: Since
Revelation and the remaining books in the Bible are
inspired by God and free
of error, then Christ is accurately described in the book, just as he
is elsewhere in the Bible. However, the book is filled with
symbolism. It requires careful attention to separate the prophecies of
future events from Revelation's symbolic passages.|
|Liberal Christians viewpoint: The author of Revelation does not claim to have known Jesus during
his earthly ministry. He is very vague about the apostles. |
He appears to be unaware of the place where Jesus was executed. In
Revelation 11:8-9 the author wrote:
"And the dead bodies will lie in the street of
the great city that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was
Some translations use "figuratively" in place of "spiritually."
Theologian and author Tom Harpur speculates that: "... the
crucifixion was in reality a spiritual transaction not rooted in any
historical place whatever. The entire story is symbolic."
"...that the Christ of the Apocalypse is not the 'personal Jesus' of the
Gospels but a cosmic intelligence and principle. He is the spiritual Christ
of Pauline mysticism."
Harpur notes that:
"Revelation 1:13 describes the Christ as an
androgynous figure with 'paps' or female breasts. Plainly, this has nothing
to do with a historic Jesus or any coming events on this planet."
is apparently quoting the King James Version of Revelation. Other
translations render the Greek differently. The New International Version,
for example, refers simply to Jesus having "a golden sash around his
References used and comments:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- P.N. Benware, "Survey of the New Testament," Moody Press, Chicago IL (1990)
- Jen Gerson, "Today, your number is up," The Toronto Star,
2006-JUN-06, Page C1.
- Tom Harpur, "America obsessed with future apocalypse," The Toronto
Star, 2003-OCT-5, Page F7.
Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-MAY-05
Author: B.A. Robinson