Revelation: Prophecy Past, or Prophecy Future?

Is the Bible true? Are Bible translations bad? What language is the Bible?

Was the book of Revelation written for 1st century Christians, or for Christians today?

Anonymous GodWords Reader

That’s a great question. A lot of books have been written in the past few decades that pretend to have all of the answers, but people are still confused. I think there’s a good reason for this confusion, and believe that we should read the Bible for ourselves instead of simply following one specific person or one particular viewpoint.

When you read Revelation, you will see that it was written first to specific people:

Chapter 1
“…to His bond-servants”
“…to the seven churches that are in Asia”

Clearly, Revelation was written FIRST to them. Those people really existed, and these seven churches were in seven cities that can be seen on this Wikipedia map. John didn’t write Revelation to some future generation of strangers, he wrote it to people he knew in places he’d been. However: not all of the events foretold in Revelation have happened yet. We’ve not yet arrived at Judgment Day, so Christians today can – and should – read Revelation to see what will happen.

There’s some debate over which events have already occurred which is, I’m guessing, the reason for your question. Some believe that it’s all been done. Those people are known as Preterists. Others believe that some of it has happened already, but not all. Those people are known as Partial Preterists, and you can read some general info on Wikipedia. I’m a Partial Preterist. I believe that some of the events of Revelation have already occurred, and that some are still in the future. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, of course…and you should run away from anyone who pretends they do. Here are a few reasons that I’m a Partial Preterist:

  • John wrote to people who were alive at that time, warning them of the persecution THEY would endure. I think it’s safe to assume that John was right and that that persecution actually happened to them.
  • Revelation tells of a great persecution lasting seven years. Interestingly, there was a seven-year war around that time, when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews were scattered around the world. You can read a little about the Roman-Jewish Wars on Wikipedia. When Jesus was asked about ‘the end’, He talked about the temple being destroyed…and told those listening that it would happen to them. The Jewish temple was destroyed in 70AD, as Jesus predicted. Seems like more than a coincidence to me.
  • I don’t remember reading about a time in history when there was suddenly no pain, or tears, or death. That part must be future.

As I said, I don’t have all of the answers. I do know, however, that many of the people who are confused about Revelation have never really read it for themselves. I’d like to encourage you to go for it…you might learn a ton, as I did. Remember, though: it’s just ONE book, and not at all the most important one. Christians are to be disciples of Jesus, so our FIRST responsibility is to know what Jesus did and what He taught.