Recently, I have been reading through a commentary on Revelation. The author implies that a futurist reading of Revelation would rob the book of its relevance to the original audience. This is a fairly common argument. But is this valid?
I think not. If it were so, then there could be no far future prophecies in the Bible, because all books in the Bible had a contemporary audience. Using this argument, no passage in the Old Testament could prophesy of the First or Second Advent since both would have been far future to the original audience! Such an argument seems to confuse a futurist reading with a futurist application. Let me illustrate. Suppose 1,000 years from now, an archaeologist discovers a book dated to the early twenty-first century. The book apparently made certain predictions about some phenomena called “global warming.” Would the archaeologist be correct in assuming that the book could not have been referring to far future events because it would then not have had any contemporary relevance?
In the Bible, predictive prophecy with near or far fulfillment, always has relevance to the original audience. Indeed, it is the scoffer who denies contemporary relevance in the midst of apparent delayed fulfillment (see 2 Peter 3:1-13). So while there might be good reasons for rejecting a futurist reading of Revelation, this is not one of them.