Time Framework for Interpretation?
Time lines, tigers, and bears. It seems that the focus of end times and Revelation is often the basis for a timeline industry of interpreting prophecy. If you miss the timeline, then you miss the whole thing. But what if the common/popular view of time is not correct? What if there is another way to look at time and the framework based on time?
The assumption is that everything happens chronologically (over time). Hence John wrote Revelation in the same way. The story begins in the present and ends with the Parousia (Jesus’ final appearing).
Within this framework it is necessary to identify specific points on the line with specific historical events. Over the past 50 years as this view has gained popularity, we find a wide variety of events given significance on the end times timeline. But it keeps changing with each new event or interpreter.
This approach also places more stress on getting the timeline right rather than focusing on what Christ has encouraged: live in faith and trust in Jesus Christ, keep watch, and “lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.” The focus on linear interpretation makes faithfulness dependent on your timeline, not on your heart that trusts God in all circumstances.
For the lack of a better term, this framework looks at Revelation as a series of recapitulations, retelling the events from different perspectives, each starting with the present and going to the end (Parousia). This diagram gives a simple view of the approach. In revelation, the scene repeats, but switches between earth and heaven.
So, Revelation 2-3 focuses on the people of God on earth. Revelation 4-5 shift the cycle to heaven, 6 is back on earth, while 7 once again shows a heavenly perspective.
That focal point is always on Christ in working out the perfect plan of salvation. So, we could present each cycle as this:
Thus, even as Christ is the center of history, he is the center of the book of Revelation—in each cycle, whether in heaven or on earth.
This little post on time and the framework for studying Revelation is not meant as the be-all-end-all of the discussion. Rather, I offer it as an alternative to the popular, strict linear interpretation of Revelation. In the process, perhaps we can learn even more from this writing in Scripture.