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Revelation: Prophecy Past, or Prophecy Future?

HomeChristianity and the BibleRevelation: Prophecy Past, or Prophecy Future?

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:

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.


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13 responses to “Revelation: Prophecy Past, or Prophecy Future?”

  1. Joshua Adams says:

    I believe that I might be a full-preterist I like your site i did go back and forth for a while with my up-bringing and such and partial preterist and full-preterist i think it might be all finished just like it said at the end of that chapter most of it i look as being spiritual and i do not try and take that book too literal cause Jesus said we we will be spirit and not given or taken in marrige in that place he prepared like your site though

    • Tony says:

      Joshua:

      It’s nice to hear from you. There are a number of reasons why I can’t go all the way and be a full preterist. Here are two reasons, for your consideration:

      1. The Bible isn’t meant to be taken allegorically.
      2. Some things associated with the ‘end times’ have clearly not happened yet.

      There’s more to the end of days than just Revelation, of course. Revelation is considered apocalyptic literature, which puts future events into symbolic language. Not all of the passages that talk about the end times are apocalyptic, of course. It’s nearly impossible to take these other passages as having already happened in a symbolic, non-literal sense. Certainly much in Revelation isn’t symbolic, and my mention of there being no more pain or tears or death is one good reason to doubt the full Preterist view.

      Also, Jesus did not say we will be spirit. I’m not sure where you got that, but it certainly wasn’t the Bible. Jesus has a body right now, and we will have bodies in Heaven as well. I’d love to hear from you on what convinced you of these things. Where did you hear them?

    • Hayley Harvey says:

      They are wrong and it is a fact and you can see it for yourselves in your Bible that all the Prophecies had already been fullfilled. I believe any website that keeps telling ppl that there is still future Prophecies are being deceptive and trying to steer ppl from believing that it’s All Done n over with. It ended around 70 AD and anyone can Research that time era n match it up to Revelations. Plus they can read Flavius Josephus and Maccabees as well as many books written by other authors in the past. Hal Linsey & the Left behind series purposely started the spark of the Rapture which has been followed by Fake Prophecies brought on by Rome and their Jesuit Puppets… And Do Get out of Sunday Sun worship church bc it goes against Abba for you Worshipping Idols and We need to start Praying more for Abba to help save us from these Evil does who are slaughtering Christians just like they did Centuries ago. They want to make our World like their Movies like Divergent, Mocking Bird, Minority Ect. We need to get out of bring their slaves and stop the Satanist Presidents to rule over us!!!

      • Tony says:

        Hayley:

        Wow…that’s a lot to take in all at once. Let’s go one step at a time.

        >> you can see it for yourselves in your Bible that all the Prophecies had already been fullfilled

        With respect, this is certainly not the case. There are plenty of prophecies yet unfulfilled. For example, Matthew 25 tells of the final judgment of humanity. Seeing that humanity is in pretty much the same situation as when the prophecy was made – with the exception of things like M&M’s and books and the interwebs – one would be hard-pressed to say that this has happened already. Same goes for what we read in Revelation 21, where the righteous will be in the New Jerusalem. There are others. If you’d like to see some of them, you can search those new interwebs for things like ‘Bible prophecies not yet fulfilled.’

        >> any website that keeps telling ppl that there is still future Prophecies are being deceptive

        That’s a pretty strong accusation, Hayley. Have you given any thought to the possibility that one can be wrong without being deceptive? Why would you assume that other people are always purposefully causing trouble?

        >> Hal Linsey & the Left behind series purposely started the spark of the Rapture

        No, they didn’t. I disagree with both of them, but they were hardly the start of the idea. You seem to have strong opinions (which I like very much) but you seem a little weak on the doing-your-homework end of things. It’s usually a bad idea to simply repeat things you hear without checking them out first. For example: you can read about some of the people who taught about a rapture 400 years ago, on Wikipedia. You can see lots of prophecies in the Bible that haven’t yet been fulfilled…unless you think they’re all “spiritual” or metaphorical in nature and not descriptions of actual future events.

        If you need a hand with that homework, let me know. I’d be happy to point you in the right direction. I would never ask you to simply take my word for anything, of course…but I can help you see that there are plenty of wise, well-educated, mature followers of Jesus who have the information you lack.

  2. eric says:

    Look at seat 7 The Great EarthQuake of Antioch in 526, The great comet in 519. Seal 1 Daruis who has tons of figures with him riding on a chariot with his bow. The plagues of 120’s ad. All these accounts were during the Counsils, of Verailles, of Constantintople, of Charlesdon, Eepesis, ect ect. The fight over one nature, 2 nature, and the Trinity. Look at pauls vs. Yeshua (Jesus) the teachings, the Rise in islam in 600 the greek, Chi Xi Stima, Muhammad or Paul I just haven’t figures that out yet, Islam teaches a anti Christ that also has a deadly would and healed, Paul was bitten by a viper and did nothing to him. Paul teaches basically there is no Law, Jesus teaches that not a pin stroke will be abolished until heaven and earth has passed which one is it. I m on this mission here! I m still trying to find answers. I eat and sleep this, trying to find out. Its been causeing myself some trouble, am I going crazy. I have nightmares about this lastely, I have always been one close to God, I was raised Baptist. I hasd a near death experience years ago with Liver failure cause by Hemochromatosis and it still destroys my body. at 37 they don’t give me to much time left, but I feel so at peace, I started Fasting, I quit Sunday worship, and started my own thing with Jewish Culture sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. I only worship YHWh feast and festivals, and having the strangest dreams. I m no pastor by far, I just having a really terrible time trying to figue this out, is he trying to tell me something, why me, who am I. I used to be an alcoholic, I have been sober for over 2 years, can someone please help me, figure this out, is he calling me to do something with this, every time I have a dream, I wake up, and write it down. I don’t sleep anymore

    • Tony says:

      Eric:

      I’m sorry to hear about your health problems. I’m equally sorry to hear that you’re having a terrible time “figuring this out.” Jesus taught that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and it doesn’t sound like this matches your experience. I’ve found that when something isn’t working, I may not be following the instructions properly. Could it be that you’re not experiencing God’s abundant life because you’ve missed something important in His instructions?

      I’m just one man, and I don’t know everything…but I will share my thoughts with you in the hope that they help you:

      First, you might spend less time (or even no time at all) solving mysteries, unraveling conspiracies, and looking for secrets. These things may be fascinating, but they pale in comparison to intimacy with God. Spend time reading His word – especially the New Testament – and praying and meditating on what He has done for you. Find ways to serve God by serving others in His name.

      Second, study. Don’t spend time on the fringes of Christianity, or on the weird things that attach themselves to God. Spend time studying the basics: God’s attributes, the deity of Christ, the historic reality of the resurrection. If you haven’t already, write down your testimony. Make three versions: one that takes five minutes to share, one that takes one minute to share, and one that takes 10 seconds to share. This isn’t your whole story, of course…only the part where you decided to trust God with your whole life.

      Third, be a disciple. This means that you learn, and obey, everything that Jesus commanded. Avoid spending time on things that create conflict in you, and seek things that give you peace. With respect, it sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time on nonsense and not enough with Jesus. If Jesus were walking around your town, I suspect that you would want to walk with Him, rather than argue about prophecies and conspiracies. Don’t quit Sunday worship…instead, adopt every-day worship.

      Fourth, attach yourself to a Christian that you respect. We all need people around us who will spur us on to good works, show us the better side of ourselves, and point us in the right direction when we get off track. I don’t mean to offend, but it sounds like you’re off track. Were I in your shoes, I would find someone whose relationship with Jesus is admirable and ask them to meet with me weekly. Face-to-face is best, of course. Just spend time talking about God, and your relationship with God, and what God might be wanting you to do. Spend no time at all on things that don’t directly affect you.

      I hope that you will consider these things. If you’ve been born again, you are my brother. My goal is not to disagree with you, but to encourage you to focus on the things that will benefit you most. Let me know if you have any questions. Have a great day!

  3. Vaughn Delany says:

    I love the efforts you have put in this, thanks for all the great articles.

  4. Daph says:

    was JESUS a Christian or Jew?

    • Tony says:

      Daph:

      Jesus is a Jew.

      That’s not the whole story, though…is it? Jesus is also a Christian, sort of. Think about it: a Brit is someone who’s from Britain. A Ghanaian is someone who’s from Ghana. A Christian is one who follows Jesus. We could say that Jesus doesn’t follow Himself, but that’s kind of silly. Did Jesus live what He taught? Of course…so those who follow Him (disciples) are to obey everything that He commanded (Matthew 28:20), which mirrors what He did and said.

      So Jesus is a Jew because He’s a descendant of Judah. He’s the “Christ” in “Christian,” so it’s silly to say that He isn’t one.

      P.S. – I say that Jesus IS a Jew because 1) He’s alive, and 2) He has a body. He didn’t stop being human when He went back to Heaven, so it seems appropriate to say “is” rather than “was.”

      • toddott says:

        Where is there a seven year war in Revelation?

        • Tony says:

          Todd:

          Perhaps you read to quickly. I didn’t say that Revelation speaks of a seven-year war. Here’s what I said: “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.”

          I’m wondering whether the seven-year persecution mentioned in Revelation was a foretelling of the seven-year war that we know happened around 70AD. When Jesus talked about the coming persecution and judgment, He seemed to indicate that it would happen to the people alive at the time. The Roman destruction of Jerusalem seems to fit His description. I’m not fully convinced, but I do wonder.

  5. Tim says:

    Hello, where do you think we are thus far? Chapter 12 is the birth of Jesus yes? So we should be past that right? Who then would be the 2 witnesses of 11, that whose deaths were praised and were called up after 3.5 days? Don’t worry I am not pulling my hair out over this, but in these times of craziness it is important to read this book.

    • Tony says:

      Tim:

      Thanks for writing! It IS important to read Revelation… not just in these times, but in all times. Of course, reading Revelation is no more or less important than reading the rest of the New Testament. I’m sure you would agree.

      Revelation can be a perplexing book. It’s a type of literature known as ‘apocalyptic,’ which means that it tells the future using symbols. To make things even more difficult, the symbols in Revelation are allusions to all kinds of Old Testament passages. As a result, it’s impossible to understand Revelation without also understanding the Old Testament as a whole.

      It’s also problematic to look at most of Revelation as a sequential timeline. For example: in Chapter 11, John is told to go and measure the temple. There are four choices about this temple:

      1. It’s a historical temple…either Solomon’s temple or Herod’s,
      2. It’s a future, third temple,
      3. It’s a symbol of something in Heaven, or
      4. It’s something else entirely.

      Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70AD. Most believe Revelation was written around 95AD. Did John go back in time to measure an earthly temple? Did he go into the future to measure a temple that still, today, hasn’t been built? Was he in Heaven? You begin to see the trouble here: we have the Beast, considered by most to be a person in the future, appearing before Jesus was born. Was the Beast in Heaven? Then, in chapter 12, we see a child being born. If that’s Jesus, and if this is a sequential system, He must have been born before Satan and his followers were cast out of Heaven… right? I find it interesting that at the end of Chapter 12, John speaks of Jesus’ followers in the present tense:

      Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

      These don’t appear to be future followers, but those alive when John wrote Revelation. I would suggest that most of Revelation is not a reliable timeline of future events. If it’s not, we should be careful about drawing conclusions about where today fits into the Revelation timeline… right?

      You may have noticed that I haven’t answered your questions. That’s by design. Of the 404 verses in Revelation, scholars suggest that +/- 360 or so of them are directly related to Old Testament passages. John’s initial audience would have understood the symbols. We struggle… not because they can’t be understood, but because they can’t be understood without an in-depth study of the Old Testament. I hope that you will, in a mature and prudent way, continue to study without being unduly wrapped up in the details. Here’s what I do know for sure about the message of Revelation, and what I hope everybody will take away from reading it:

      God is in control.

      Jesus is coming back.

      Be ready.

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