Someone asked a wise older pastor his view of the “end times.”
He smiled and said, “The Lord put me on the preparation committee, not the planning committee.”
He spoke for us all.
We cannot control how the Lord chooses to end history. Our theories about the future are just that. The word of God is too practical to focus extensively on an issue that possesses no pragmatic value for our lives.
If I could prove a particular theory of the end times to you, would such knowledge change your life today?
Nonetheless, sincere Christians passionately debate those issues which relate to “eschatology” (the doctrine of “last things” or the “end times”).
In this essay, we’ll briefly survey the various options held by biblical interpreters. And we’ll seek practical applications for our lives today.
Theories about the future
Regarding the book of Revelation and other eschatological biblical texts, seven approaches find support among evangelical scholars.
The preterist approach
Listed in no particular order, we begin with the preterist approach. This position asserts that Revelation and other eschatological literature was written primarily for the encouragement of their immediate audiences, not to predict or speak to the future.
Scholars in this tradition emphasize the “apocalyptic” nature of eschatological literature. “Apocalyptic” (from the Greek word for “unveiling”) was a popular literary approach from 200 BC to AD 200. It used symbolic, visionary, and dramatic elements to convey encouragement and hope to persecuted people.
Preterists argue that Revelation matches every description of “apocalyptic” literature, except that it names its author (“apocalyptic” writings are typically pseudonymous). And so they interpret Revelation as we understand Philippians—a first-century book with perennial spiritual application. They would not see the book or other eschatological literature as predictive in nature, but as intended first for their original, persecuted audiences.
The continuous-historical approach
A second approach is known as the continuous-historical school. It sees Revelation and other eschatological texts as forecasting the development of history. It located specific texts with specific events through history. While this approach was popular with Luther, Calvin, and other reformers, it is the least popular of the seven today.
The spiritual principles approach
A third interpretive method views eschatological texts with regard to spiritual principles. It sees Revelation and other literature as teaching spiritual facts (good will triumph, God’s people must persevere, etc.), but does not relate these passages to specific historical events or issues.
The next four approaches focus in various ways on the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth described in Revelation 20:1-6.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jim Denison