The wry and sometimes disparaging humor of Ambrose Bierce is recorded in his Devil’s Dictionary. There he defines “Revelation” as follows: “Revelation. n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.” He would have loved our modern tele-evangelism use of Revelation.
Though Revelation was given to be a “revelation,” it has generated much confusion. As a consequence, four basic schools of thought have arisen regarding Revelation. I am continuing a series on this matter. In this study we will consider “Idealism.”
The idealist school is also called the “timeless symbolic” and the “poetic-symbolic,” or more technically übergeschichtlichen. This view sees a “repeated pattern of fulfillment” (Poythress 29). This school is ahistorical — or perhaps better supra-historical — in that it sees the point of Revelation as not so much painting an objective, historical portrait at all. Rather, John’s concern is to provide a non-historical, allegorical summation of various significant redemptive truths or historical principles. It attempts to provide the scene behind the scenes; that is, it offers a look at the philosophical/spiritual issues working themselves out in history, rather than at historical events themselves.