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I have heard* that the book of revelation was written to provide comfort to persecuted Christians in the early days during persecution from Rome. And that the contents are best understood as metaphors for the the end of that persecution, the imagery as evocative of certain persons/institutions of the day.

Is this a commonly held belief, or a doctrine of any churches or movements?

*My grandfather was a minister in the United Church of Christ. He discussed this topic with my mother, when she asked him about it. She then related it to me many years later when I asked her about it. (Personal story included to ward off claims of unsourced opinion.)

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Sounds like you are talking about Preterism.

Essentially, this is that all the events described in Revelation have already happened, in the first century. Since Revelation was written towards the end of the first century, if this view is true then its readers would have been reading about events that had already happened.

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    Preterism does not fully do justice to the passages of Daniel and Revelation, the idea that all prophecy has already been fulfilled does not do justice to the fact that Daniel and Revelation talk about the full judgement of God and the complete vindication of the righteous. – jchaffee Oct 11 '11 at 20:22
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    @jchaffee: I agree, but that was not the question, I think. The question was whether this belief existed, not whether it was valid. – Reinstate Monica Oct 11 '11 at 20:42
  • Perhaps, but in the question there is no statement that the prophecies can only be understood as having already been fulfilled. The question was about interpretation and not about beliefs concerning prophecy. Perhpas the question just needs to be reworded a little. – jchaffee Oct 11 '11 at 20:45
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Great question!

It is a commonly held interpretation that parts of Revelation are to be understood in light of 1st century persecution. Often this interpretation is done by people who do not buy into dispensationalism and what might be seen as an overspiritualzed attempt to interpret a symbolic book literally instead of in the context in which it was written.

However, preterism does not fully do justice to the passages of Daniel and Revelation, the idea that all prophecy has already been fulfilled does not do justice to the fact that Daniel and Revelation talk about the full judgement of God and the complete vindication of the righteous.

For more information, feel free to consult these commentaries that pay a good amount of attention to the context of the book as well as the eschatological emphasis:

  1. The Book of Revelation by Craig Keener
  2. The NT Background Commentary by Craig Keener
  3. Revelation by Kenneth Maahs

I hope this helps!

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[T]he Book of Revelation is not a book of esetoric information to give the curious something to do, it is a book filled with pastoral comfort - Kim Riddlebarger

When I read the book of Revelation in light that God will set things right, then I understood that this book comforts the saints, from the First Centiry Christians to Present Day ones.

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I too agree it was a first century letter, written before 70 a.d. most likely around 65-66 before Roman Armies invaded Jerusalem. It was more than likely written by John Eliezer (Lazarus) as internal evidence points to the only disciple mentioned that Jesus loved was Lazarus. (the 12 were not the only Disciples...) Therefore, it did predict things "soon to happen" as mentioned numerous times and does agree with the same time passages that other authors of the NT wrote of. The Churches of Christ have been the most open to this interpretation over the past century (I am not C of C) IMO this system of interpretation is the most accurate and complete and leaves the salvific work of Yeshua intact and credits it with the fullness it deserves.

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