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Origins Of Futurism And Praeterism

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#1 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:13 AM

This thread will provide historical evidence for the origins of Praeterism and Futurism as methods of interpreting prophecy.
  • LeRoy Edwin Froom (The Prophetic faith of Our Fathers, The Historical Development of Prophetic Interpretation, Vol. 2, Review and Herald, Washington, D.C., 1948, excerpted, pp. 464-532), on the origins of Praeterism and Futurism here.

  • Laurence Kellie, Seventh Day Adventist exegete, on the origins of Praeterism and Futurism - here.

  • Enoch Pond, against Praeterism - here.

  • David Pio Gullon, Seventh Day Adventist exegete, on the influence of the Jesuit Lacunza's work on 19th century Protestants (extracted from a larger paper), here.

Edited by Fortigurn, 05 December 2003 - 07:01 AM.

#2 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:14 AM


A History of the Foundation of Futurism and Preterism

The papacy suffered a major setback through the Reformation. The help of the monastic orders was sought, but they were so decadent that they had lost the respect of the people. The Dominicans and Franciscans, peddling relics and indulgences, had become the butt of ridicule and mockery.

At this crisis Loyola and his companions offered their services, to go wherever the pope should designate, as preachers, missionaries, teachers, counselors, and reformers. A new order was created, authorized in 1540, which infused a new spirit and spread rapidly in Europe. Like a wounded giant, Romanism arose in desperation to recover her lost prestige and shrunken territory.

Their ambitious goal was to become the universal and principal order of the Roman church. Though they took the name Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Protestants termed them Jesuwider (against Jesus).

Their influence was immediately felt. They grew more powerful and comprehensive year by year, employing science, art, culture, politics, foreign missions, trades and industry. They began to preach, as Protestants were accustomed to do, in the streets and marts, coming to be among the most eloquent preachers of the age.

The churches were too small to accommodate the multitudes that flocked to hear them. At Rome, they were scattered throughout the various churches. Then they began to spread throughout Italy, Portugal, Germany, and especially Austria and Bavaria. They hemmed in the Protestant movement on all sides. Some cities, such as Ingolstadt and Cologne, opened their doors; others opposed them.

In 1558 Lainez was elected second general of the order. At the Council of Trent he successfully exerted his power and skill in behalf of papal supremacy. The Jesuits became entrenched in universities throughout various countries. They were among the best teachers in the land. Even Protestants began to send their children to them because of the scholastic progress they could make.

#3 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:16 AM

The conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism was basic and irreconcilable. The Romanist believed in the authority of the church; the Protestant, in that of the Bible. The one yielded his conscience to the priest; the other to God alone. The Romanist believed in the pope as the visible representative of Christ on earth; the Protestant looked, instead, upon the pope as Antichrist.

The one regarded the church—meaning the hierarchy—as the depository of all spiritual truth; the other looked upon the clergy as ministers of the church, not as the church itself. The Romanist, satisfied with the teaching of the church, was content to leave the Bible to the learned; the Protestant, on the other hand, held that it was to be diligently and reverently studied, by all, as the word of God.

The one dreaded its spread as tending to heresy; the other multiplied translations as the assurance of soundness, and sought to introduce them to every household. Between the time of Luther’s appeal to a general council, in 1518, and the convening of the Council of Trent in 1545, Bibles in German, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, and English (Tyndale’s New Testament and Coverdale’s complete Bible) had been published, and the Reformation established in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and England.

The two systems stood forth in absolute and irreconcilable opposition at the Council of Trent, where the council expressly condemned what the Reformation taught.

The Council of Trent—beginning in 1545 under Paul III and ending in 1563 under Pius IV—crystallized its actions into decrees that became permanent law of the Catholic church. Reformation truths were there rejected and stigmatized as pestilential heresy. In one sense Trent became the culmination of the Counter-Reformation. It was Rome’s definitive answer to the Reformation.

The molding Jesuit influence was attested to by the fact that the two noted Jesuits, Salmeron and Lainez, who served as the pope’s theologians, and who had been enjoined by Loyola to resist all innovation in doctrine, were invited to preach during the council. They soon ingratiated themselves into the good will of the delegates. And by their unusual knowledge of the fathers, the conclusions of scholastic philosophy, and of Catholic doctrine, they came to wield a preponderant influence in the council.

#4 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:18 AM

Jesuits Introduce Futurist Counterinterpretation

For some time following the launching of the Reformation, Roman Catholic leadership carefully avoided exposition of the prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse. They seemed unable to parry the force of the incriminating Protestant applications of the prophecies concerning Antichrist, which were undermining the very foundations of the Catholic position.

Upon the first outbreak of Luther's antipapal protest two Catholic doctors, Prierias and Eck, in the true spirit of the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517), had boldly reasserted the Lateran theory and declared the papal dominion to be Daniel's fifth monarchy, or reign of the saints, and identified the existing Roman church with the New Jerusalem.

But the reformers, with declarations by pen and voice, forcefully stated that the Papacy was the specified Antichrist of prophecy. The symbols of Daniel, Paul, and John were applied with tremendous effect. Hundreds of books and tracts impressed their contention upon the consciousness of Europe.

Indeed it gained so great a hold upon the minds of men that Rome, in alarm, saw that she must successfully counteract this identification of Antichrist with the Papacy, or lose the battle. The Jesuits were summoned to aid in the extremity, and cleverly provided the very method needed both for defense and for attack.

From the ranks of the Jesuits two stalwarts arose, determined to lift the stigma from the Papacy by locating Antichrist at some point where he could not be applied to the Roman church. It was clearly a crisis of major proportions.

#5 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:20 AM

Two Conflicting Alternatives Brought Forth

Rome’s answer to the Protestant Reformation was twofold, though actually conflicting and contradictory. Through the Jesuits Ribera, of Salamanca, Spain, and Bellarmine, of Rome, the Papacy put forth her futurist interpretation. Almost simultaneously Alcazar, Spanish Jesuit of Seville, advanced the conflicting preterist interpretation. These were designed to meet and overwhelm the Historical interpretation of the Protestants.

Though mutually exclusive, either Jesuit alternative suited the great objective equally well, as both thrust aside the application of the prophecies from the existing Church of Rome. The one (preterism) accomplished it by making prophecy stop altogether short of papal Rome's career. The other (futurism) achieved it by making it overleap the immense era of papal dominance, crowding Antichrist into a small fragment of time in the still distant future, just before the great consummation. It is consequently often called the gap theory.

According to the Protestants, the vision of Babylon and the supporting Beast is divinely interpreted in chapter 17 of the Apocalypse. It was on this that the Reformers commonly rested their case—the apostate woman, the Roman church; the city, seven-hilled Rome; the many waters, the many peoples; the Beast, the fourth, or Roman beast of Daniel; the sixth head, the Caesars; and the seventh, the popes.

Roman Catholics as well as Protestants agree as to the origin of these interpretations. The Roman Catholic writer G.S. Hitchcock says:

“The Futurist School, founded by the Jesuit Ribera in 1591, looks for Antichrist, Babylon, and a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, at the end of the Christian dispensation.

“The Praeterist School, founded by the Jesuit Alcasar in 1614, explains the Revelation by the Fall of Jerusalem, or by the fall of Pagan Rome in 410 A.D.” (G.S. Hitchcock, The Beasts and the Little Horn, p. 7.)

Similarly, Dean Henry Alford (Protestant), in the "Prolegomena" to his Greek Testament, declares:

“The founder of this system [Futurist] in modern times…appears to have been the Jesuit Ribera, about A.D. 1580." (Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, vol. 2, part 2, p. 351 [bottom numbering].)

“The Praeterist view found no favour, and was hardly so much as thought of , in the times of primitive Christianity. … The View is said to have been first promulgated in anything like completeness by the Jesuit Alcasar … in 1614.” (Ibid, pp. 348, 349 [bottom numbering].)

#6 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:22 AM

Francisco Ribera (1537-1591)

About 1590 Ribera published a 500-page commentary on the Apocalypse, denying the Protestant application of Antichrist to the Church of Rome. Ribera’s death at fifty-four halted the preparation of further commentaries. Those that were printed passed through several revised editions—at Salamanca about 1590, Lyons and Antwerp in 1593, Douay in 1612, and Antwerp in 1603 and 1623.

Since its inception his basic thesis has been virtually unchanged. He assigned the first few chapters of the Apocalypse to ancient Rome, in John’s own time; the rest he restricted to a literal three and a half year’s reign of an infidel Antichrist, who would bitterly oppose and blaspheme the saints just before the second advent.

He taught that antichrist would be a single individual, who would rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, abolish Christian religion, deny Christ, be received by the Jews, pretend to be God, and conquer the world—all in this brief space of three and one half years!

  •   Places Antichrist’s coming at the close of the seals

  •   Places trumpets under the seventh seal

  •   Death of the witness is literal time

  •   Antichrist's persecutions last three and one half years

  •   Judgements upon Rome for ultimate apostasy—in Revelation 17 Ribera admits the woman to be not only pagan Rome but also Rome Christian after a future falling away from the pope. (Francisco Ribera, Sacram Beati Ioannis … Apocalypsin Commentarij, chap. 14, pp. 282, 283).

  •   Repudiates Augustinian earthly millennium

  •   Antichrist’s reign counted by literal days

  •   Babylon is Rome past and future, not present

Edited by Fortigurn, 03 December 2003 - 05:22 AM.

#7 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:23 AM

Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), focused his attack on the year-day principle.

  •   Capitalized on Luther’s hesitation over Apocalypse

  •   Main assault centered on year-day application

  •   Assigns symbols to past and future, thereby eliminating application to the long papal ascendancy of the Middle Ages.

  •   Exploits variations on time of the Antichrist
The heart of Bellarmine’s thesis was both clever and plausible, though deceptive.

(1) Antichrist is an individual Jew, and not an apostate Christian system.

(2) Therefore the length of his exploits must harmonize with the life period of one man—three and one half literal years, and not 1260 years.

Edited by Fortigurn, 03 December 2003 - 05:23 AM.

#8 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:24 AM

Luis de Alcasar (1554-1613), Spanish Jesuit of Seville.

  •   Made the seals the early expansion of apostolic Christianity

  •   God’s longsuffering, warnings, and punishments were allotted to the Jews

  •   The trumpets were judgments on fallen Judaism

  •   The two witnesses—the doctrine and holy lives of the Christians

  •   After the persecutions Christianity would arise with new glory and convert many Jews

  •   Revelation was the apostolic church, bringing forth the Roman church

  •   The first beast of Revelation 13 declared to be the persecuting arrogance of pagan Rome—the second beast, its carnal wisdom

  •   Revelation 17, the mystical meaning of idolatrous ancient Rome

  •   Revelation 18, its conversion to the Catholic faith

#9 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:26 AM

Lawrence Kellie:

Historicism, Futurism, Preterism

This page will examine the history and meaning of the three principal methods of Biblical, more specifically prophetic, interpretation--Historicism, Futurism, and Preterism.


The Historicist school of prophetic interpretation results in a progressive and continuous fulfillment of prophecy. This continuous fulfillment starts in Daniel's time (circa 600 BC), continues through John the Revelator's time (circa 100 A.D.), on to the Second Coming of Jesus. (Froom, v1, p23)

This school of prophetic interpretation is not novel or new. Biblical scholars throughout the centuries, actually from 2 BC to the present, have ascribed to it. Daniel, John the Revelator, Hippolytus, Joachim, Wyclif, Luther, Knox, Newton, and Wesley (Froom, v1., p2) are examples of the prominent people who believed in and used historicist method of prophetic interpretation.

Another source, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Student's Source Book (BSSB), lists the Waldenses, Hussites, Wyclif, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, John Gill, and the martyrs Cranmer, Tyndale, Latimer, and Ridley as proponents of the historicist school of prophetic interpretation. (BSSB, No. 1258, p. 776.)

Shea, on page 25, states that the historicist declares "that the prophecies of Daniel portray an outline of human and ecclesiastical history and the story of the struggle between good and evil down to the end of time" (Shea 25), while BBSB adds that the book of Revelation also presents in symbols the "entire course of history of the church from the close of the first century to the end of time" (BSSB, No. 1257, p. 775).

This manner of prophetic interpretation, as I stated above, was used from approximately  2 B.C. to the present. Yet, you very seldom hear of the Historicist view of prophetic interpretation. What you mostly hear about is Futurism or Preterism. How did they evolve?

Edited by Fortigurn, 03 December 2003 - 05:26 AM.

#10 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:27 AM

Evolution of Futurism and Preterism

Quite simply, the two alternative methods of prophetic interpretation were developed during the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation to oppose the historicist's interpretation that the Antichrist was the Roman Catholic church.

The virtually unanimous interpretation of the papacy as the Antichrist of prophecy, by all Protestant groups in all lands, led Roman Catholic leaders to attempt to divert the accusing finger and to direct Protestant attention away from the medieval Catholic system. In this they were highly successful.

Francisco Ribera and Luis de Alcazar, both 16th-century Spanish Jesuits, rose to meet the challenge by introducing plausible counterinterpretations of prophecy. (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4 [4BC], 42.)

These two opposing views, as will be seen below, confused the Protestant prophetic interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. (4BC 42)

Now to look at those two opposing, mutually exclusive views.

#11 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:28 AM


Futurism, developed by Francisco Riberia (1537-1591), owes its existence to the Counter Reformation. During the Protestant Reformation, the reformers, using Historicism, concluded that the system, as best represented by the Pope, of the Roman Catholic Church was the Beast of Revelation 13.

Shea states:

The futurist interpretation of apocalyptic [prophecies] poses a ... problem. It also leaves most of the history of the Christian era unaddressed by God except in general spiritual terms. After this lengthy historical and prophetic vacuum, futurists then see the prophetic voice again taking up a concern for the last seven years of earth's history. (Shea 57.)

Futurism claims that most of the prophecies of the Apocalypse were fulfilled to ancient Rome. The rest is restricted to a literal Antichrist who will reign for 3½ literal years. Futurism further claims that the Antichrist will be an individual and not a system.

This method of prophetic interpretation has a few prophetic events happening early in the Christian dispensation, a large gap of no prophetic interest, and a literal close of 3½ years instead of hundreds of centuries. (You will recognize this scenario as the current Dispensationalist view.)

Besides the short-term results of reducing the pressure being felt by the Papacy, Futurism has had an unexpected long-term result. Historicists believe that the 70-week prophecy and the 2300-day prophecy have a common beginning.

Therefore, there are 1810 days (years) remaining after the 70 weeks have ended. By splitting the 70 weeks into two parts (69 weeks and one week), Futurism diverts attention away from the relationship between the 70 weeks and the 2300 days.

This separation hides the significant events of 1844. Froom sums up this process:

"Accordingly, confusion of the Historical School of interpretation, and its final breakdown, is now definitely under way." (Froom3:658.)

Synopsis of Futurism

Since the Antichrist is in the future, it could not be the Papacy.

  • Summary of the Fallacies of Futurism

  • Futurism is designed to relieve pressure on Rome.

  • Futurism violates the principle of consistent prophetic symbolism.

  • Futurism makes prophetic time meaningless.

  • Futurism removes application from historical verification.

  • Futurism creates an arbitrary gap which is an unjustifiable device.

  • Futurism ignores the view of the early church.

  • Futurism cannot be correct if Preterism is correct. (Froom2:803-805.)

#12 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:29 AM


Preterists are committed to the view that the majority of the prophecies of the book of Daniel have already been fulfilled and therefore no significance for the present day. (Shea 25.)

The Preterist view of prophetic interpretation was developed by Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613), also as part of the Counter Reformation. It was developed to take the heat off the Pope, who was feeling some discomfort from the Reformers' talk that the Papacy was the Antichrist.

The preterist view of apocalyptic prophecies and their time elements essentially leaves the whole Christian era, with the exception of a very small initial fraction, without any direct historical or prophetic evaluation by God upon the course of that history. (Shea 56.)

Preterism claims that the apocalyptic prophecies, especially those dealing with the Antichrist, were fulfilled before the Papacy ever ruled Rome. Since they were already fulfilled, the prophecies could not apply to the Papacy.

The Preterist view ignores the fact that within the Old Testament itself is the foundation of prophetic interpretation and this foundation produces a broader view of God's interaction with human history.

Synopsis of Preterism

Since the Antichrist had been fulfilled in the past, it could not be the Papacy.

Summary of the Fallacies of Preterism

  •   Preterism is an expedient designed to shield Rome.

  •   Preterism violates the principle of consistent symbolism.

  •   Preterism glorifies the Papacy by ignoring the actualities.

  •   Preterism denies the elemental principle of Bible prophecy.

  •   Preterism, like futurism, leaves an explained gap.

  •   Preterism offers no adequate fulfillments.

  •   Preterism cannot be correct if Futurism is correct. (Froom2:803-805.)

#13 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:31 AM


Froom sums up this entire discussion quite well:

The Preterist finds only the contemporary meaning [at the time of the writer] of the Revelation as applicable to the early church, and the Futurist sees the prophecy as projected into a remote age to come, but the Historicist sees that the Revelation had its function first in counseling and encouraging the early Christians in the vicissitudes through which they were passing, while at the same time extending its prophetic pictures beyond their range of vision to the final victory.

Otherwise its portrayal of the Second Advent, the judgment, and the kingdom of God have no meaning for our day. (Froom v.1, p.89.)

And that brings us to one of the purposes of this web site: To provide a place on the web for Historicist Christian writings as opposed to the prevalent futurist (dispensationlist) writings of most Christian authors.

Since the Historicist school of prophetic interpretation influences other aspects of Christianity, I feel it is important to provide a place for the Historicist to share the true, time-tested meanings of prophecy and Biblical truths.


Froom, L.R.E. The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers. 4 Vols. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing House, 1950.

Holbrook, F.B., ed. Symposium on Daniel. Biblical Research Institute, Hagerstown, MY: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1986.

Neufeld, D.F. and J. Neuffer, eds. Seventh-day Adventist Bible Student's Source Book. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962.

Nichol, F.D., ed. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. 7 vols. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977.

Shea, W.H. Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation. Lincoln, NE: College View Printers, 1982.

#14 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:37 AM

Enoch Pond on Praeterism:


By Enoch Pond, Professor at the Theological Seminary, Bangor Maine

Among my ministerial friends who have passed away, no one stood higher than the late Professor Moses Stuart of Andover. I loved and honored him while he lived, and venerate his memory now that he is gone. He was the father of biblical learning in this country. He did more to promote a knowledge of the original Scriptures, especially those of the old Testament, than any other individual.

On most of his exegetical writings I set a high value, and it is with pain that I feel constrained to differ from him in regard to any of them. But his learned, labored, exhaustive work on the Apocalypse I consider the least valuable of his Commentaries. The plan of this Commentary, borrowed mostly from the Germans, is founded on a false assumption; and this fact vitiates, confuses, and half spoils the whole.

Professor Stuart assumes that the Apocalypse was written about the year 68, just before the death of Nero, and two years previous to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.

In the Apocalypse, we have set before us, he says, three distinct catastrophes:

1. The fall of Jerusalem, in chapters 6-11.

2. The fall of Nero, and ultimately of Pagan Rome, in chapters 12-19.

3. The overthrow of Gog and Magog, after the close of the millennium.

There is no reference to Papal Rome anywhere. The prophetic symbols, from the beginning of the sixth chapter to the close of the eleventh, all relate to the destruction of Jerusalem. Those from the twelfth to the nineteenth, to the fall of Nero and of Pagan Rome.

#15 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:38 AM

The principal reasons assigned for referring all the debatable parts of the Apocalypse to the former two of these catastrophes, are the following:

1. On any other supposition, the symbols of the Apocalypse would not have been understood by those to whom the book was addressed, nor even by John himself.

This consideration seems to have had great weight in the mind of Professor Stuart, and also of Professor Cowles, as both writers refer to it often, and in various connections. Let us then inquire, for a moment, how much it is likely that John understood of the Apocalypse at the time when he was receiving and writing it.

John knew what he saw in vision—the symbols, pictures, and images that were presented. He knew what he heard said and sung among the celestials. He knew enough, to record what he had seen and heard in plain intelligible language. But did he know to what particular events the symbols which he employed—the horsemen, the locusts, the beasts, the trumpets, the vials, etc., referred—what they were designed to represent, so that he could have written out a clear and full explication of them?

I doubt it. It is not at all likely that he had such an understanding as this of what he was writing. Nor was such knowledge on his part at all necessary to accomplish his object in preparing the work, or the object of the spirit in enabling him to prepare it.

This was, to comfort the afflicted persecuted people of God with the assurance, that all heaven was in sympathy with them in their trials, and that they were sure to end in victory and peace. Such was the immediate object of the Apocalypse; and this could be as well answered without a particular understanding of the significance of each of the symbols, as with it.

It is in this way that the book has been a light and a comfort to the Church in all succeeding ages. Christians have not known—in general they have not pretended to know, the particular significance of the symbols. Yet they have derived much instruction and comfort from the book.

Indeed, the knowledge of the ancient prophets, in predicting the Messiah and the way of salvation through Him, did not extend much farther than has been here represented; for we are told that they searched diligently ‘what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow’ (1 Pet. 1:11).

And, so far as John understood his writings, I suppose the Churches to which they were addressed understood them, and no further. They knew what John had written, what things he had described, and the meaning of his words. But did their knowledge extend much beyond this? I think not.

Further knowledge was not necessary to their encouragement and comfort; and judging from the specimens which we have of the explications and comments of the early Christians, we cannot give them much credit for their knowledge of the Apocalypse.

They early began to allegorize it after the fashion of the times. They appealed to it in support of their millenarian views, which had begun to prevail before the Apocalypse was written. And of all the wild vagaries that have ever been written on this book, some of their interpretations were the wildest.

Take, for example, the comments of Hippolytus on Rev. 12. "The woman is the Church; the sun which encompasses her means the Word of God; the moon under her feet indicates that her splendor is celestial.

The crown of twelve stars indicates the twelve apostles; the woes of parturiency show that the Church at all times is bringing forth the Word of God, which suffers persecution by the world. By the two eagles’ wings given to the woman, in order to aid her flight, we are to understand belief in Christ, who, on the cross, spread out. His followers.’ This will do as a specimen of patristic interpretation.

#16 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:42 AM

2. Professor Stuart, and others who follow him, endeavor to support their theory by certain representations of the Apocalypse, which,—though in the midst of symbols, and themselves manifestly symbolical,—it is insisted must be understood literally.

Thus, because the 144,000 sealed ones in Rev. 7. Are said to be taken from the twelve tribes of Israel, it is thought that they include none but believing Jews,—the same that took warning and fled from Jerusalem when the city was destroyed. But do not these interpreters know that the whole Christian Church is called in Scripture ‘the Israel of God,’ though a vast majority of its members are not, and, since the first century, never have been converted Jews?

As well might it be inferred, since the names of ‘the twelve tribes of Israel’ are inscribed over the gates of the celestial city, chapter 21:12, that none but converted Jews can ever pass through them into heaven.

If the passage before us is to be understood literally, then, not only were 144,000 converted Jews sealed, but 12,000 were sealed from each of the twelve tribes. Now, does any one believe such a statement as this? Professor Stuart did not believe it.1

Clearly the passage is to be understood, not literally, but symbolically; and thus understood, it is easy of interpretation.

In Rev. 11:1,2, John says, that there was given him a reed, and he was commanded to rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. "But the court that is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles. And the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.’ From this, it is confidently affirmed, that the temple at Jerusalem was standing when the passage was written.

The whole question resolves itself into this: Is this passage to be understood literally, or symbolically? If literally, then John, on the isle of Patmos, in the Aegean sea, was commanded to take a measuring-rod and hide away to the literal Jerusalem, and measure the temple, and the altar, and them that worship therein!

And now, I ask, Who believes this? Who can believe it? But this is not all. In measuring the temple and the altar, John was to leave out the court of the temple, and not measure it; for this was given to the Gentiles to be trodden under foot. According to this, interpreted literally, the Romans were not to destroy the temple itself, but only the court; whereas it is certain that they did destroy the entire temple, court and all, leaving not one stone upon another.

What then are we to say of the representation in Rev. 11:1,2? Is it to be understood literally or symbolically? Literally, it cannot be understood. So says Professor Stuart himself.2  But symbolically understood, the interpretation is easy. The temple and the holy city signify the Church of God, which was to be persecuted and trodden down of the wicked for a given time, but ultimately was to be delivered, and to triumph.

It is further said, that the two witnesses spoken of in this chapter, must have been slain in the literal Jerusalem, because their dead bodies are said to ‘lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.’

Upon this, I have only to ask, Are Sodom and Egypt to be understood literally? And if not, why is Jerusalem to be taken literally? And if the whole passage is to be understood symbolically, as it certainly must be, then it furnishes no more evidence that the literal Jerusalem was standing when John wrote the Apocalypse, than that the literal Sodom was.

#17 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:48 AM

3. Professor Stuart claims credit for his theory of the Apocalypse, on account of the absurd explications which have been given on the commonly received theory. ‘Men have regarded the Apocalypse as a prophetic syllabus of all civil and ecclesiastical history, from the author’s time to the end of the world.’

We admit that a great many absurd and foolish things have been said by commentators, though we doubt whether any have gone so far as Professor Stuart represents, making the Apocalypse a syllabus of all civil and ecclesiastical history. But have there not been as absurd explications by Germans and Roman Catholics, who in general adopt the theory of Professor Stuart? It would be easy to show as much as this, without looking beyond the pages of Stuart’s Commentary.

Professors Stuart and Cowles think to avoid such absurdities, by saying that most of the symbols which John employs have no particular significance. They are the mere dress and furniture of the poem. The seals and the trumpets mean nothing, except that Jerusalem was to be destroyed, as besieged cities commonly are, by the sword, the famine, and pestilence.

In a few instances, however, these men venture upon the interpretation of symbols; and, we doubt, whether explications more absurd were ever uttered. As before remarked, Professor Stuart makes the beast, whose head was wounded to death, and afterwards healed, to be Nero; because some of the old heathen soothsayers had a groundless prediction, that when Nero died he would be restored to life. And Professor Cowles interprets the seventh trumpet,—on the sounding of which ’great voices were heard in heaven saying.

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,’—as denoting the destruction of Jerusalem!! ‘The seventh angle’s trump involves this; nothing less, nothing more,’ p. 138. His only reason for this interpretation is, that his theory demands it. Jerusalem must be destroyed just at this point, and the seventh trumpet must denote it.

#18 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:51 AM

My objections to Professor Stuart’s scheme of interpretation—and that of Professor Cowles is much the same—are, in brief, as follows:—

1. He represents his first catastrophe—the destruction of Jerusalem—as being described in Rev. chapter 11; whereas, in truth, there is no catastrophe there. Let any reader look over the chapter, and see if he can find it. There is first the measuring of the mystical temple, signifying the Church, and a leaving out of the court, which is given to the Gentiles, who are to tread down the holy city—another symbol of God’s living Church—forty and two months. Then follows the testimony of the witnesses in sack-cloth, their death, and their resurrection.

This resurrection probably took place at the time of the reformation from Popery, when there were mighty changes in the Roman earth—all prefigured by an earthquake, and the fall of the tenth part of the city—the Popish hierarchy. That the city here spoken of, a tenth part of which fell, cannot be the literal Jerusalem, is evident from the fact, that Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Romans shortly after the earthquake of the Reformation.

The seventh trumpet sounds, and the millennial period is announced. Such is a brief analysis of this chapter; and where in it are we to look for any such great catastrophe as the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans? I cannot find it; nor do I believe any sober interpreter can.

2. But if there be such a catastrophe here as Professor Stuart represents, it ought to be called the second, and not the first. The second catastrophe, pertaining to Nero, is in the 19th chapter.

But Nero was slain at least two years before Jerusalem was destroyed,—in which time there reigned no less than four emperors. Nero is supposed to have died in the year 68; but Jerusalem was destroyed, under Vespasian, in the year 70. Why then, we ask, was the first catastrophe made the second, and the second the first? Why were not these events predicted, if predicted at all, in the order of time?

3. The symbols of destruction in the Revelation, which Professor Stuart refers to Jerusalem, are said by the writer to apply to the whole earth—that is, the Roman earth. Thus, power was given to him that sat on the red horse to take peace from the earth.

And power was given unto him on the pale horse ‘over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with the beasts of the earth’ (chap. 6:4,8). And when the first trumpet sounded, there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth (chap. 8:7). In Asia Minor, in he last half of the first century, the term earth could never have been understood as referring to the little and remote province of Judea. It must have meant the Roman empire.

4. Those who were smitten by the blast of the sixth trumpet,—some of whom were slain, and some spared,—could not have been Jews; since they are expressly said to have been idolaters. ‘The rest of the men that were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which can neither hear, nor see, nor walk’ chap. 9:20). How is it possible to apply this passage to the Jews, who were not idolaters?’

5. In the same chapter (9.), the number of horsemen drawn together to the battle, and drawn from the East—the region of the Euphrates—is two hundred thousand thousand. Was any such army, or any thing like it, or any army at all, drawn from the region other Euphrates to fight against Jerusalem at the time of its overthrow. Let those who have read the history decide.

6. The woman described in chapter 12., Professors Stuart and Cowles both take to be the virgin Mary, giving birth to the Saviour of the world, and then fleeing to her hiding-place in Egypt; thus looking backward a period of seventy years, and not forward, as a prophet should do, into the future. And why should this little scrap of history—if it be history—be thrown in here, in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem?

7. This scheme of interpretation makes a long stride from the fall of Nero in the first century, or of Pagan Rome in the time of Constantine, to the incoming of the millennium. Of all the intervening space,—so full of incident and of interest to the Church of God,—the writer of the Apocalypse is thought to take not the slightest notice. On any theory of interpretation, would not this be regarded as a strange fact, an a strong objection?

8. But my principal objection to Professor Stuart’s interpretation of the Apocalypse is, that the has fixed upon a wrong time for the writing of the book, and this vitiates an nullifies all his reasonings on the subject.

We have shown, we think conclusively, that this book was written, not during the persecution under Nero, but thirty years later, in the time of Domitian—long after Nero was dead and Jerusalem destroyed. And this changes the whole aspect and import of the book. Instead of being filled up with symbols and predictions in regard to these two events, there is not the slightest reference to either of them, as I have before remarked, in all that the Apostle has written.

#19 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:53 AM

Gerhard Hasel on Historicism and Futurism:

Crossroads in Prophetic Interpretation: Historicism versus Futurism

Paper Presented to the 1990 World Ministers Council,  July 3, 1990, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Gerhard F. Hasel
Andrews University

The matter of the interpretation of prophecy is a subject that has had the interest of Christians for centuries. There are four major schools of prophetic interpretation.

1)  Modernistic, progressive scholars follow by and large the historical-critical method[1] and do not see any significant predictive element in Biblical prophecy.

[2] The function of the prophet is not to predict (foretelling) but to proclaim (forth telling). This view of modern liberalism (here used as a descriptive not pejorative term) allows at best a kind of prognostication that is based on the superior insights of a Biblical writer. It is not a divinely given prophecy in the sense of a prediction about the future.[3]

It has to be admitted that the historical-critical reinterpretation of prophecy does not take the Biblical text at face value, but treats it from modern presuppositions of how a Biblical writer/editor should be evaluated from current perspectives.[4]

3)  Preterism is a method of prophetic interpretation that does not have a yet to be expected future fulfillment. All prophecies have been essentially fulfilled in the past. As regards the books of Daniel and Revelation the preterist school holds that these books found their fulfillment in the New Testament period that reaches to the early history of the Christian church.[5]

4)  The school of historicism takes the Biblical picture of prophetic prediction, also long-range prediction, at face value. It also understands the matter of conditional prophecy. More will be said about it in the following discussion.

4)  The fourth school is that of futurism[6] which has became a major part of modern dispensationalism. It will have the major concern of our investigation.

Edited by Fortigurn, 03 December 2003 - 05:54 AM.

#20 Fortigurn



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Posted 03 December 2003 - 05:54 AM

I. Historicism and Futurism Defined

1. Classical Historicism

Adventists are the proud inheritors, preservers and supporters of the historicist method of prophetic interpretation of the Bible. The historicist method, also described as the continuous historical method, is linked with the outline prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. The outline prophecies of these books trace the history of world empires and subsequent divisions in an uninterrupted chain of historical events to the Second Coming of Christ and beyond.

In historicism, prophecies about Israel and its future are seen to be conditional, depending on Israel's obedience. Historicism takes the entire Bible of both Testaments as providing the norms of prophetic interpretation.

This time-honored method of interpretation had predominance for Bible believers from the beginning of Christianity well into the beginning of the twentieth century.[7] Historicism, however, has been eclipsed by futurism in popularity in much of evangelical Christianity around the world in the latter part of this century.

Futurism is "knocking at our door,"[8] urging to be received in order to modify, challenge, and, if possible, to alter and replace the historicist method of prophetic interpretation which has so profoundly shaped Protestantism and the Advent movement.

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