PUBLISHED 18TH FEBRUARY 2017
First of all, let none of us be hasty in weighing up any matter. Let us also note that just because we’ve only ever heard one side of a thing, or heard that one view propounded a hundred times, we still need to hear the other side of the argument before we can come to a sound and honest judgement. Proverbs teaches us this exact principle…
The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17 NKJV)
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him. (Proverbs 18:13 NKJV)
Speaking frankly, the vast majority of Christians are entirely ignorant of the differing views of eschatology. On the one hand, there are some who have been indoctrinated into a particular scheme of things and they are full to overflowing with what their teachers have taught them – one view only – stated as ‘fact’. On the other hand, there are those who take a line that says, we need not concern ourselves with any of that stuff (for various reasons) – we just concentrate on what’s important. To the former group I say, it’s great to be enthused about Biblical things but take another look at the proverbs quoted above – and if this is the first time you have ever encountered the ‘Four Views’ don’t make any hasty judgements until you’ve pondered these things quietly before The Lord. To the latter group I say, “All Scripture is given of God and is profitable etc.” – a vast chunk of our Bible, Old Testament and New, is dedicated to what The Lord wants to say to His people concerning the ‘latter days’. The Gospel (Good News) is not solely about looking back to what Jesus did for us it is every bit as much about looking forward to what He is going to do!
The above said, I now wish to present to you the simplest of simple summaries of the four very different eschatological views held by various folk down the ages. Although there are many shades and complexities and numerous variations within each of these views the following will none-the-less provide a very sturdy framework for all further investigation. We’ll start with two views concerning Daniel’s 70 weeks and then we’ll see how these two views affect (or not) the four interpretations of The Book of Revelation.
Daniel’s 70 Weeks – Two Views (Daniel 9:24-27)
(IMPORTANT NOTE: This section of Daniel, especially v. 27, contains some very difficult wording. Bible translations that take an essentially ‘literal’ approach, e.g. KJV, NKJV, ESV, etc. simply translate the wording and leave it to the reader to decide/investigate the meaning. Some more modern translations, those which take a ‘free paraphrase’ approach, particularly the NLT I have noticed, do not directly translate this passage – they simply adopt the modern view of it and write in their ‘interpretation’ as opposed to a ‘translation’ of the actual wording. If in any doubt please check the Hebrew Interlinear version for a straight rendering.)
There are two main views of the meaning and timing of the 70 weeks prophecy in the Book of Daniel. (Please read the relevant portion if you are not wholly familiar with it). I am only going to summarise these views not examine them. But first we must note that both of the following views agree that the 70 ‘weeks’ is actually a reference to 70 periods of 7 ‘years’ – i.e. a total of 490 years is in view (agreement is pretty much universal about this part). This total time is broken down into three distinct periods but for the purposes of this ultra-simple summary I am going to add the first two periods of time together, which makes 483 years (69 x 7 years). This leaves the period of the final 7 years, which is where the marked difference between the two following views occurs.
1. THE TRADITIONAL VIEW
The traditional view is that “from the time of the commandment” to the baptism of Jesus is equal to 483 years.
The reference to “causing sacrifice and oblation to cease” is seen as being a reference to CHRIST and His work on the cross. I.E. God no longer required sacrifice/oblation after Jesus died on the cross. The seven year period works like this: Jesus is baptised – the seven year period is under way. Three and a half years later Jesus is crucified (“in the midst of the week”). For the next three and a half years The Messiah, through the Holy Spirit living and working in His apostles, continues to “confirm the covenant” with the Jewish nation. That three and a half years culminates in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7) and after that event the Gospel is no longer exclusively confirmed to the Jews – it starts to be offered to the Gentiles.
2. THE MODERN / CURRENTLY MORE POPULAR VIEW
The more modern/popular view is that “from the time of the commandment” to the death of Jesus is equal to 483 years.
In this view, the ‘prophetic time clock’ is said to have stopped when Jesus was crucified. This means there is still seven more years of this prophecy to be fulfilled – and, as yet, those seven years have not restarted. The ‘prophetic time clock’ will start again soon and chapters 4-19 of the Book of Revelation is said to be all about these final seven years. The reference to “causing sacrifice and oblation to cease” is seen as being a reference to ANTICHRIST and his deeds in breaking a covenant with the Jewish people (“in the midst of the week”) and this will mark the commencement of a period of three and a half years of tribulation for the Jewish people (and possibly Christians too, depending on ‘Pre-Tribulation’ or ‘Post-Tribulation’ rapture views).
Summarising Daniel’s 70 Weeks
I believe I have given a very simple but fair summary of the two very different takes on the 70 weeks. I have not sought to deal with any of the arguments for and against these views and I shall not add my own comments at this stage. For now, I just want the reader to note that, the first view does not, in essence, directly link Daniel’s 70 weeks with the Book of Revelation – those who hold the first view of Daniel’s 70 weeks may hold any of three distinct views (coming below) concerning how they interpret Revelation. The second view is absolutley intrinsically tied with the Book of Revelation – and all mentions in Revelation amounting to ‘three and a half years’ are said to be tied directly to the final ‘week’ in Daniel. Are you with me? If not, please review this section again before moving on to the ‘Four Views’ of The Book of Revelation.
The Book of Revelation – Four Views
The following summary relates to the four ways that interpreters view Revelation – specifically chapters 4-19 are what is in view here:
- Preterist – It’s mainly about past events – the destruction of Jerusalem and possibly also the destruction of Rome.
- Historicist – It’s an unfolding of all the major world/church events in history – from the time the book starts until now (and still some to come).
Well-known adherents to this view include: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Foxe, Sir Isaac Newton, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, H. Grattan Guinness, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, The Translation Committee of the King James Bible (read the epistle dedicatory), and many others.
- Futurist (AKA Dispensationalism) – It’s all concerned with a seven year period and a tribulation yet to come (probably soon). I.E. this is Daniel’s 70th week.
Well-known adherents to this view include: John Nelson Derby, Cyrus Schofield, Thomas Newberry, David Pawson, David Wilkerson, Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye (Left Behind series), John Hagee, Francisco Ribera, John F. MacArthur, J. Vernon McGee, Charles Caldwell Ryrie, John Walvoord, most modern Televangelists and popular Christian speakers.
- Idealist (AKA the ‘Spiritual’ interpretation) – It’s mostly not about specific events as such but general repeated cycles of world and church troubles/battles/spiritual principles.
- Each of the four views above have multiple variations within that view.
- I’ve not included a list of proponents of Preterism and Idealism because I am not aware of well-known (to non-academic Christians) names who have espoused these views (please feel free to furnish me with any such list).
- I’ve included a list of names under Historicism and Futurism to highlight the fact that well-educated, sincere, respected teachers hold very differing views.
- For most readers you will find the list under Historicism a little more ‘famous’ than those under Futurism. You will also notice that the former list includes people from a few hundred years back but the latter list only goes back around 150 years (with the exception of Francisco Ribera) and comes right up to today. That is because there was a shift away from the Traditional Historic view in favour of Dispensational Futurism after JN Darby published his views around the mid eighteen hundreds.
Concerning note 1 above… When you hear someone say that they believe in ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ and another person says that they hold to ‘post-tribulation rapture’ – these are not two different views of the interpretation of Revelation. Both of the aforementioned people share the same basic view of Revelation but they differ as to some of the detail. These are variations WITHIN the same view.
Making A Judgement
Firstly, I realise that for some readers the above information is about all you can handle for now. That’s fine. Just take it as a broad framework to hang things on as you go along. At the very least it will hopefully help make sense of what you are hearing other people say. Although you may not be ‘expert’ in the detail of the popular view, which is what you are most likely to hear, you will at least now understand that it is one of four frameworks – and in that knowledge you will probably be ahead of most enthusiasts who are zealously expounding all the details to you!
There is no way that you can come to any kind of firm judgement based on the super-simple summaries that I have given of all these deeply complex matters but I trust it has been of some help if you are keen to study further. Remembering our two proverbs quoted above, if you are going to dogmatically hold to a particular view then please make sure that you first hear all of the arguments for the other sides BEFORE you come to a position of unbending entrenchment.
In the next article we’ll move forward to chapter 20 of Revelation and consider the ‘Millennium’. Once again, there are options! And once again, how we view something in the Book of Daniel will affect our opinions when interpreting Revelation.