Approaches to Interpreting the book of Revelation
The book of Revelation is often very hard to understand because of its "visions and elaborate symbolism" (Mounce, 1992, p. 39). Because of the many visions and symbols that come from the book of Revelation there are several different approaches to interpreting it including the idealist view, the preterist view, the historicist view, and the futurist view. This paper will discuss the four main approaches to interpreting the book of Revelation and the approach that is most consistent with my personal beliefs of the book of Revelation.
Idealism, also known as the nonliteral or allegorical approach (Walvoord, 1989, p. 16), interprets the book of Revelation by stripping away "the symbolic language of any predictive value and reduces the prophecy to a picture of the continuous struggle between good and evil, the church and the world, and of the eventual triumph of Christianity" (Gundry, 2003, p. 508). An idealist views the book of Revelation as a "theological poem setting forth the ageless struggle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness" (Mounce, p. 43). The idealist approach ultimately interprets the book of Revelation in a "spiritual" way, meaning that the book of Revelation "reflects the conflict between Satan and God, of evil and of good, that has been going on in this world ever since Eden" (Tenney, 1991, p. 145). The idealist also believes that the conflict between good and evil that is portrayed in the book of Revelation should be applied to the church of the period in which Revelation was written and that the symbols that are in the book of Revelation have no historic connection with any social or political events for that time unlike the beliefs of the other interpretive approaches (p. 143). The idealist approach further emphasizes that "the triumph of righteousness has already begun," therefore denying any chronology in the book of Revelation (Walvoord, p. 17). In Robert H. Mounce's, The Book of Revelation, the idealist's view regarding the events that take place in Revelation are understood as follows, "we are not to look in the Apocalypse for special events, but for an exhibition of the principles which govern the history both of the world and the Church" (p. 43).
Preterism interprets the book of Revelation by "describing the persecution of Christianity by ancient Rome and to what was expected to happen by way of the destruction of the Roman Empire and the vindication of Christians at the supposedly near return of Christ" (Gundry, p. 508). The preterist view "emphasizes the historical background and the ethical teachings of the book" (Hanke, 1981, p. 469). The preterist approach relates the book of Revelation to its first-century historical setting. The preterist position believes that Revelation is "simply a sketch of the conditions of the empire in the first century" (Tenney, p. 136). The founder of the preterist...