Revelation - Introduction

How do we even begin interpreting the book of Revelation? Do we take it literally or spiritually, or both? Do we look at one chapter at a time? Do we look for patterns? Do we simply read some commentaries? Are there general truths for the entire book? Is it really a book of prophecy in the distant future like we all learned? First of all, let’s look at the four general interpretations for the book as a whole.

The Futurists - Scofield

The Futurist interpretation of the book of Revelation is the most popular interpretation today. It is used by groups including Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and the Armstrong Church of God. Futurists apply a literal approach to interpreting Revelation. It teaches that Revelation chapters 4-22 are literal events that will occur in the future. They interpret chapters 4-19 as a seven-year tribulation, where God pours out his judgment upon mankind in the form of seals, trumpets, and bowls. Chapter 20 then refers to a literal thousand-year rule of Christ on Earth.

Where did this view come from? It began in the 1800s primarily with Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921). Scofield became an ordained minister in 1882 and started his ministry in Dallas, Texas. By 1888, Schofield was the head of the Southwestern School of the Bible, a Seminary in Dallas. He taught Dispensationalism under the Protestant denomination. Dispensationalism includes the idea of the pretribulation rapture occurring before the 1,000 year ruling of Christ, and that Revelation is for the most part a book of prophecy. It wasn’t until 1902 when Scofield began writing the famous Scofield Reference Bible. After seven years with the help of seven editors, it was finally published in 1909. However, around 1912, many questioned Scofield’s credibility. Scofield lied about where he was born, his schooling, claimed he was decorated for valor in the army, and even gave false wedding dates. Then mysteriously in 1917, Oxford University Press published a revised edition of the Scofield Reference Bible that was virtually the same as the original. This was obviously to make up for Scofield’s credibility.

Let us now take a look at some basic teachings by Scofield. In the Introduction to the four gospels, Scofield says: “All (gospels) record Christ’s offer of Himself as King.” Scofield claims that Jesus offered Himself as a physical King on Earth. He then concludes that because He was rejected, the millennium ruling was delayed, thus giving validity to the argument of a rapture and tribulation. This is completely false. Jesus never makes an offer like this. In fact, look at John:

John 6:15 – Jesus, therefore, having known that they are about to come, and to take him by force that may make him king, retired again to the mountain himself alone. (YLT)

John states that Jesus fled to a mountain because people wanted to make him king by force, which is the complete opposite of what Scofield is clamming. This was right after Jesus’ miracle to feed five thousand people with five loafs of barley and two fish. Next, look at these verses:

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV)

Matthew 18:3 – And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)

John 3:3 – Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (NIV)

Scofield’s note on Matthew 6:33 is as follows: “The kingdom of God is to be distinguished from the kingdom of heaven […] The kingdom of god … is chiefly that which is inward and spiritual; while the kingdom of heaven is organic, and is to be manifested in glory on the earth.” However, in Matthew 18, Jesus explains salvation as becoming like a child so that one may enter the kingdom of heaven. In John 3, Jesus explains salvation as being born again so that one may enter the kingdom of God. Therefore, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are one in the same, and salvation is required to enter.

Scofield’s underlying theme is that all of God’s plan surrounds Christ’s Messianic reign. He believes this to be the kingdom of heaven. He then supports this theme by claming that you must also be saved by this time or you will suffer during the tribulation and will miss the rapture. Schofield says that “The kingdom of heaven … signifies the Messianic earth rule of Jesus Christ.” However, look at John again:

John 18:36 – Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my officers had struggled that I might not be delivered up to Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence.’ (YLT)

Jesus clearly states that His kingdom is not a physical Earthly kingdom, but one beyond this world. Although it is true that Christ will reign on Earth for a thousand years, it is a small part of the bigger picture. Keep in mind that Scofield was not the only one with these ideas. I mentioned in my article on the Rapture that Lacunza y Diaz came up with this tribulation theory in his book that was published in 1812. This interpretation is also shared by writers Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins (Left Behind books), John Nelson Darby, Harry A. Ironside, Hal Lindsey, and Henry M. Morris. In conclusion, we can see that Futurists do have a well thought out argument, but they have holes in their theory. Particularly, their theory is inconsistent with what Jesus teaches in the Gospel.

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