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A method of Interpreting the Book of Revelation



CHURCH-HISTORIC is an approach to interpreting the Book of Revelation. There are several schools of thought in interpreting the Book of Revelation. The IDEALIST see the Book of Revelation as purely allegorical showing that in the end, good will triumph over evil. The PRETERIST see the Book of Revelation as imagery that describes events that took place in the times of the Early Church. FUTURISTS use differing degrees of literal interpretation and have differing viewpoints of what the Revelation actually teaches. For the most part, they believe that most of the events pictured in the Revelation have yet to be fulfilled. Premillennialists are definitely futurists.

HISTORICISTS see the Book of Revelation as imagery that depicts a panorama of history from the first advent of Christ until His return. The CHURCH-HISTORIC viewpoint sees the panorama set forth as the depiction of the history of the Christian Church from its birth on the Day of Pentecost until the end of time.

REVELATION 1:1 says that the Book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It also says that the things depicted in the visions of the revelation are events that will "shortly come to pass." This expression can be interpreted to mean several different things but the Church-Historic method of interpretation understanding of this expression is that the events will start soon, that is near the time the book was written, and they will continue until they are finished. Who is to say when those events would be finished? If we say that the events are finished at the Second Coming, then clearly the time period covered by the visions of the revelation is the Church Age and we can interpret the visions as events in the history of the Christian church.

The statement that the Book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ suggests that it is the portrayal of Christ's work through His church. There is a reason why Church-Historicists see it this way. The Gospels reveal Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and the Son of Man who, through His life, death, and resurrection, God Almighty worked the redemption of the human race. The Gospels end with the resurrection of Christ and His work through the church begins as shown in the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts, and consequently the biblical history of the early church ends with the ending of the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Church-Historicists see the Book of Revelation as the continuance of the history of the church in the mysterious form of the visions. Church-Historicists generally agree that the visions can be understood only in retrospect and that it is virtually impossible to predict future events with the visions.

The Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ and as such it is to continue the work of reconciling people to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). We believe that the Book of Revelation is a prophetic description of this work from the Day of Pentecost to the Second Coming. The visions seen by the Apostle John are symbolic depictions of key events in the history of the Christian church. The thematic visions of the Revelation are consistently divided into series of sevens and from this we deduce that the history of the church is divided into seven epochs, or church ages. The time references mentioned in the visions do produce a time-line that plainly demarks the seven epochs and coincide with significant periods in history.



Time-line of the Church Age*


Dates Significance

33 - 270

Growth of the Early Church


270 - 530

Time of Apostasy


530 - 1530

Rule of Papalism


1530 - 1730

Restoration of Doctrine of Justification


1730 - 1880

Restoration of Doctrine of Holiness


1880 - 1930

Restoration of Doctrine of Biblical Church


1930 - END

Final Conflict: Gospel vs. False Religions




There are several different approaches to the Church-Historic interpretation. Most of these interpretations champion the denomination or sect by which they are promulgated. This has been true of groups related to the Church of God Reformation Movement. While the majority have tried to live out the truth of the biblical church revealed in the revelation, others have claimed to BE the church revealed in the revelation.

We at the Lawton Church of God believe that the Church-Historic interpretation of the Book of Revelation is the correct and best manner in which to explain the visions recorded therein. While people are always involved in the workings of God, it is our belief that it is not the people involved in the historical events that are the objects of the prophecies, it is the events and the truths to be learned that are the objects. The power of the Book of Revelation is not the "who" but the "what."


*This time-line is essentially the same as used by all Church of God teachers since D. S. Warner. The earlier teachers recognized the time-line up to 1880, the sixth epoch, but no further. The time-line as shown was developed by W. S. Goodnight under his Seventh Trumpet Message theory. There are different opinions among modern Church of God teachers as to the 1930 date for the beginning of the 7th Epoch.