The most popular method of interpreting the book of Revelation today is the Futurist method. Popular books are written about it, movies have been made about it, and it has pervaded the modern mindset more than we even realize. Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s a sign of the apocalypse”? Or perhaps, talking about something being part of the Battle of Armageddon? These have been popularized by those who employ the futurist interpret the book of Revelation. But what is this method? Is it possible that it is the correct method of interpreting this last book in the New Testament? Is this the way God would have us understand the book?
The futurist method of interpreting Revelation says that everything in it is still in the future, and that none of it (or very little of it) has been fulfilled. Does the Bible have anything to say about this?
One of the biggest keys to understanding the book of Revelation can be found in the first verse of the book. It is such an important key that it actually is made clear twice in the first chapter, and twice in the final chapter. Revelation 1:1 states very plainly that the book of Revelation was written to “show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Two verses later, God’s inspired word says that “the time is at hand.” Now, perhaps that might grab your attention. If John the apostle came to you today, and before getting to his message said, “I’m going to tell you things which must shortly come to pass,” and then said, “the time is at hand,” would you imagine that he was really saying “I’m going to tell you things that won’t happen for at least 2,000 years”? At the conclusion of the visions and incredible imagery of the book, we have John reminding us of how the book began. He says that the things in the book were “to show his servants things which must shortly be done” (Revelation 22:6). He’s also told, “don’t seal the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand” (Revelation 22:10). Now, John has told us ahead of time that the things in the book were about to happen, and then at the end of the book reminds us that the things in the book were about to happen. What do you think he means by this?
The futurist method must ignore or disregard the fact that God said the things “must shortly come to pass.” Oh, some will say, “but to the Lord, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day!” Explain that to Paul, who was told by Jesus “Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem” (Acts 22:18). The word “quickly” in this verse is the same word that is translated “shortly” in Revelation 1:1. Was Jesus really telling Paul, “hurry up and get yourself out of Jerusalem sometime in the next 2,000 years”? Of course not.
My friends, do you think God knows how to tell time? God told Daniel to “seal up” the prophecy because the time was still “many days” away (Daniel 8:26). That prophecy was fulfilled less than 400 years later. But God told John “don’t seal up” the prophecy of Revelation, because “the time is at hand.” God knows the difference between near and far when it comes to time.
-Bradley S. Cobb