Van Voorst suggests three ways to interpret Revelation: first, there is the historical approach, which acknowledges the historical context of Revelation in the first century CE. Because the audience in the first century would have been familiar with the apocalyptic imagery, the historical approach assumes that the author of Revelation used this imagery to interpret current events in that context (Van Voorst 538). The second approach to interpreting Revelation is the “future predictive” approach, which acknowledges that the apocalyptic imagery had meaning for current events in the first century CE but claims that the main purpose is to predict future events (Van Voorst 539). Finally, the third approach is what Van Voorst calls the “timeless” approach, which interprets Revelation as having “a vitality that transcends any particular situation, time, or place” (539).
Of these three interpretive approaches to Revelation, both the historical approach and the timeless approach make sense to me. I am suspicious of the future predictive approach, as I have experienced this approach being used for purposes of fear and judgment. I appreciate the historical approach and its respect for the historical context in which Revelation was written; as a biblical studies major, the historical approach is most in line with biblical scholarship as I know it, which Van Voorst acknowledges (538). However, as much as I appreciate this accountability to the historical context of Revelation, I also find the timeless approach refreshing. This concept of Revelation having a dynamic vitality and wisdom to be shared in any and every context is exciting; however, I tend to approach the text in a manner that seeks out this timeless vitality by using the tools of the historical approach. So, my personal interpretation is probably one that combines the historical and timeless approaches, respecting and exploring the original context for the purpose of finding and applying timeless truth.