1.  I was taught the following about the Book of Revelation: Because in Rev 1:1 it is written concerning “what must soon take place”, therefore all of the Book of Revelation speaks about the events immediately after it was written (96 AD). There are many images of plagues and disasters referring to the decline and fall of Rome (Rev 18 is especially straightforward), but then we know that the power of the Western Roman Empire declined after 376 only. And Rome ultimately fell in 467 only. Between 96 AD and 376 AD there are 280 years. Between 96 AD and 476 AD there are 380 years.  If somebody said that he would tell me things that will happen soon, and would speak about what will happen 280 years from now, in 2301, or what will happen 380 years from now, in 2401, I would find it strange.  Here is my question: can we say that the main focus of the book is staying faithful during violent persecution, and the “soon” in Rev 1:1 refers only to the BEGINNING of the first serious (empire-wide) persecution (under Domitian), not the whole story (which extends over centuries)?
2. Gordon Ferguson wrote in his book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, that Rev 20:7-10 is perhaps about a flare-up of a second, shorter, worldwide violent persecution of the church that will take place sometime in the future. Do you agree?
3. Granted that there are prophecies about the first centuries of the church and about the end time (Rev 20:7-10?) and final judgement. Is it absolutely impossible that a small number of prophecies refer to other significant events in church history in between these frames?


1. You seem to be assuming that all of these visions concern specific things that happened at a specific date, rather than a broad picture of what was happening to the church and in Rome at that time.  I say you should drop back and look at the big picture.  I believe that Revelation is about the bigger picture of the spiritual battle between Rome and the Church.  Does that include the third, fourth and fifth centuries as well?  Sure.  Probably.  It does not really matter the EXACT thing referred to.  To look for that is to miss the point of what the writer of Revelation is talking about.  What we can say is that the visions concerned things that would soon take place.  In fact, a great persecution did soon break out at the end of the first century.  And other, even worse persecutions broke out in the third and fourth centuries.  Which is it about?  This seems to me to be the wrong question to ask.  What we should as is this:  What is the message of Revelation?  It is that, despite the appearances, and despite the tremendous opposition of Rome to the Church, God is in control, his enemies will be defeated and, in the end, we will be with God forever.  Trying to assign exact places and times is not what we ought to do.
Does Revelation apply as well to modern situations?  Of course!  Is that what was being referred to when John was told us it was about things which would “soon take place?”  No!   So, yes on your question about the main focus, and no to the idea that it is “only” about the beginning of the first serious persecution, as the book has a general application., even today  It certainly is about the persecution which would soon take place, but the judgment on Rome was delayed to a later time.  We do not need to nail this down.  In my opinion it is counter-productive to try to nail it down too precisely.
2. I agree with Gordon that it MIGHT be (he says perhaps) a flare-up at the end.  Who knows?  Does it matter?  Not really.  I guess we will find out if we live that long.  It is a mistake to read Revelation to try to find current situations that are a fulfillment.  We can let history interpret itself.  Do not make the error so common in evangelical circles to try to fit current events into prophecies in Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah or Revelation.  This is self-focus.  It is hubris.  This is not at all helpful.  We need to be about the business of being a disciple of Jesus.  If extreme persecution comes up, we can use Revelation to help us to deal with it.  Does that mean that the end is near?  Who knows?  Maybe.  After all, “no one knows the day or the hour.”  Again, let us stop with unhelpful speculation about present-day fulfillments.
3. I am EXTREMELY skeptical that there are “a small number of prophecies [that] refer to other significant events in church history.”  Put it this way.  I really doubt it.  But so what???  What does it matter?  Again, we can let history interpret itself after the events.  It is not helpful to speculate about such things.  What we should do is accept the message of Revelation, which is that God is in control and all will work out in the end, and move on.  Again, those who see Revelation in current events are 99.9% likely to be wrong.  This has been going on for more than a thousand years.  Every generation thinks that they are the one.  They have all been wrong so far. It makes Christianity look foolish.  But some day, someone is going to get lucky.  If Jesus comes back in the year 2437 AD, then probably someone will be predicting he will come back that year and, by total luck, will get it right.  What does it matter?  Our job is to be ready and to not fear.
I hope this helps.
John Oakes

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