Confessions of an Apostolic Premillinialist
Why I disagree with the book of Revelation being “prophetic symbolism”
My rant begins in Revelation 1:1,2. What does it really mean? God the Father gives a Revelation to Jesus so Jesus could show it to His people. God sends an angel to St. John as a sign to the validity of the Revelation (signify, to sign[think autograph]). John receives the Revelation as a witness to the Word of God and of Jesus’ earthly ministry. There are precious few “symbols” proper to be found in Revelation 1. There are several comparisons made by way of simile, however, but only two symbols to be found in the chapter… and even their meaning is explained in said chapter Which two symbols am I talking about? Stars and Lampstands. In verse 20 Jesus explains them as Angels (stars) and churches (lampstands). Revelation 1 is quite literal, explains limited use of symbology, and as such becomes the paradigm for the rest of the book. The seven churches and the seven cities were both quite literal… so the letters to be found in Revelation 2-3 are primarily to address issues in their particular church. I will tell you right now that the seven letters can be applied to various churches on a local and national scale (maybe worldwide, but I think our POV is biased on that), but the letters were written to literal churches in literal cities in actual space and time.
In Revelation 4, we again see the use of simile… this is not symbolic. Remember, God is totally other than all of creation, and as such it is 100% impossible to accurately describe Him using simile (He is not truly “like” anything else), hyperbole (there is nothing beyond Him), or metaphor. Let’s face it, the OT prophets saw God on His throne, and they had no idea of how to accurately describe what they saw either (the “appearance of the likeness”, come on now).
I’m sure some will point to the “Lamb of God” in chapter 5 to say that I am off my nut, but I’m really unsure how symbolic that actually is or is not. John the Baptist and St. Paul both called Jesus the Lamb of God. So even if you do think that is purely symbolic in nature, it is a negligible point because it is a symbol that needs little-to-no interpretation. At this point, I feel I must explain that I see a world of difference between a symbol and spiritual reality. A spiritual reality is that our prayers quite literally ARE incense before the throne of God, whereas a prophetic symbol would be along the lines of seeing your mother in a dream and knowing that God is telling you about your local church.
I also feel it worth mentioning that I am not saying that there is NO symbolism in Revelation (Revelation chapter 12 is pretty solid in refuting that). What I AM saying is that the symbolism is very basic and does not merit the “in-depth” (convoluted) interpretations that we devise for them. When we take the literal word of God (the overall feel of the book itself), and remove it to the highly subjective world of symbolism, we are in a much bigger danger of falling off the wagon into error. Remember that St. Paul said that he saw things that he could not write about because it would cause disbelief… which causes the vision of John to fall right in step with his fellow Apostle. This is not “check-your-brain-at-the-door” Christianity, rather, it is being transformed in the renewing of your mind.
Recently, I was in a Christian Chatroom (Yahoo public, for the curious) and I read the description of Jesus return found in Revelation 19. Being in a Christian chatroom, I thought the Bible, read with no qualifiers or explanations, would be appreciated by all… I was sadly proven incorrect. When I had finished, I was asked if I understood what I had read. Well, it seemed pretty straight forward to me, and I said as much (oops), only to be rebuffed by a fellow Christian attempting to explain the figurative nature of Revelation 19, and the whole book for that matter. After the shock of seeing a fellow “Christian” (for the record, I don’t know if he was or was not) try to pass off Jesus’ 2nd Coming as not real wore off, I have to say that my position on this one topic refuses to change with age. The numbers are too specific, the descriptions too accurate, the message too life-altering for it to be just a bunch of spacey symbols that we must “discover” the meaning of.
If the preterists are correct that the book of Revelation was fulfilled in 70 AD, then it has no real bearing on real life and should be mostly disregarded. If the Amillenialists are correct that Revelation has been taking place since Pentecost, then we are all worked up over nothing… lets face it, life isn’t that bad for us in the US. If the Futurists are right, on the other hand, that the events listed are still coming down the pipe… tremble under the fear of the Lord.