An Interpretation Of The Apocalypse -- By: William S. Bishop

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 083:330 (Apr 1926)
Article: An Interpretation Of The Apocalypse
Author: William S. Bishop


An Interpretation Of The Apocalypse

William S. Bishop

There is no doubt that interest in apocalyptic questions in general and in the Apocalypse of St. John in particular has greatly developed within recent years. The catastrophe of the world-war, with its attendant conditions and consequences, has given added stimulus to the study of New Testament prophecy, particularly as this bears upon the Second Advent of Christ, and the Millennium or thousand-years’ reign of Christ and His saints upon earth. Within the last twenty years there has been a great output of “prophetic” literature on the part of what is known as the “pre-millennarian” school. In addition to this, several important Commentaries on the Apocalypse have made their appearance, among which we especially note the works of the late Professor Henry Barclay Swete,1 and (more recently) of Archdeacon Charles2 and Professor I. T. Beckwith.3

Among the books of the New Testament, the Revelation of St. John has had a history in many respects unique. To begin with, it was long before it received general recognition on the part of the Church as an authentic and integral part of the New Testament canon. And even since its formal reception as inspired Scripture, owing to the peculiar nature of its contents, it has suffered on the one hand from sheer neglect, and, on the other, from the vagaries of wild and extravagant modes of interpretation. Among those who have undertaken seriously to expound this Book, two methods of exposition have contended for mastery,—the one an ultra-literalistic and the other a purely symbolical method. Conclusions have been drawn and detailed predictions have at sundry times been made as to the exact date of our Lord’s visible return to

earth. These predictions having been disproved by the event, have led as a result to the discrediting of predictive prophecy as a whole in the minds of many. The literalism of the school of “pre-millenarian” adventists is, to a certain extent, the outcome of a restricted theological viewpoint. With all their religious earnestness, this school of writers in general can hardly be said to be characterized by scientific breadth of vision and balance of judgment. Moreover, they show a certain lack of appreciation of the artistic and dramatic aspects of so highly imaginative a book as the Apocalypse. The truth of the matter is, that in the interpretation of the Apocalypse the literalism of fact and the symbolism of imagination alike demand recognition. While we are not at liberty, like Swedenborg, to reduce the whole R...

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