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Insight #93 — Who Interprets Revelation Literally?

Tim LaHaye, in “Revelation Unveiled,” claims that “For the most part, all who believe the Bible to be literal are premillennialists” (page 331). Such a statement is extremely misleading. Nobody “believes the Bible to be literal.” “Literal” interpretation is not what makes a person a futuristic premillennialist.

Like Tim LaHaye, many of us believe that much of the Bible is literal. No question. However, the Bible is also filled with figurative language, as LaHaye himself teaches. Here is only a partial listing from the early pages of his Revelation commentary in which he gives figurative interpretations (page numbers given):
“Seven denotes perfection” (29).
Seven churches “represent the seven basic divisions of church history” (35).
Jesus’ golden sash “refers to a symbol of strength” (38).
“A key is a symbol of release” (41).
“He who has an ear” “could not refer to physical ears” (49).
“Ten days” refers to “ten periods of persecution” (52).
The double-edged sword “refers to the Word of God” (60).
The white stone is a “symbol of the eternal acquittal” (64).
“Woman is used symbolically to convey a religious teaching” (70).
Fornication is “a symbol of the idolatry” (70).
Key of David “obvious reference to the authority of Christ” (80).
John’s “elevation to heaven is a picture of the Rapture” (99).
“John obviously represents the Church” (100).

Space fails to make a full list. One of the enlightening facts about this list is that among the things premillennialists take figuratively, there are many that the rest of us understand literally! The very opposite of their claim. Do not let anybody tell you that they take the book of Revelation literally. Nobody does!  Everyone interprets some expressions as literal and others as figurative.