A Critical Evaluation of Dispensational Interpretations of the Book of Revelation
The purpose of this dissertation is to identify the distinctive features of the interpretation of the book of Revelation found in contemporary dispensationalism and to evaluate their exegetical integrity.
Since dispensationalism has a pervasive influence in theologically conservative Protestantism, it is imperative that its tenets be critically evaluated. The two primary distinctive features of dispensational theology are its dichotomy between Israel and the church and its doctrine of the pretribulation rapture. Because both of these distinctives relate to eschatology, the Revelation of John is a suitable book for testing the exegetical validity of the dispensational system. Since Revelation is viewed by dispensationalists as being a systematic presentation of Biblical eschatology, an exegetical study of the book also determines whether the dispensational view of the end times is indeed the Biblical view.
Dispensationalists’ views of the structure of the book and their distinctive interpretations are found to be invalid. The structure of the book is found to be as follows:
- Vision I 1:9–3:22
- Vision II 4:1–16:22
- The Seven Seals 4:1–8:5
- The Seven Trumpets 8:6–11:19
- The Seven Bowls 12:1–16:21
- The Three Signs in Heaven 12:1–14:5, 15:1–16:21
- The Seven Heavenly Announcements 14:6–16:21
- Vision III 17:1–21:8
- Vision IV 21:9–22:17
Revelation 15:1–16:21 functions both as the third sign in heaven and as the seventh heavenly announcement. When he individual structural units are studied, they are found to be parallel accounts of the end times, picturing the end times from particular points of view.
This study disproves both primary distinctive doctrines of dispensationalism: the distinction between Israel and the church and the pretribulation rapture. Both are found exegetically untenable. The parallel structural units of the book also provide an internally consistent account of the events of the end times. This study therefore provides the alternative eschatological system which dispensationalists have challenged their critics to provide.