Some years ago I abandoned my former belief in the Futurist eschatology that most of the evangelical churches believe today. That was what is called the pre-millennial return of Christ and where the 70th ‘week’ of Daniel is pushed off into the distant future. I believed that as I was first taught that as a babe in Christ. But 35 + years later I really started to doubt it, and by about 2013 I discarded it entirely. Instead I studied the Historical interpretation, which seemed to be much better.
I began to accept the Historical: Continuing interpretation, but have to admit that it has its drawbacks. It needs a detailed knowledge of history for one thing, which the average believer does not have. Some of the key time line seems to not match, especially after Napoleon. (This interpretation is what the SDA church promotes).
I never believed in the alleged secret Rapture (also called the pre-Tribulation Rapture), but even the pre-millennial return of Christ has multiple returns of Christ before the Great White Throne Judgement (of Revelation chapter 20).
Anyway the Futurist doctrine was developed in the 17th century by a Jesuit, Ribera and later another Jesuit, Bellamine. It is obvious that this was an attempt to get the protestant churches eyes off the papacy, since the Reformers believed the papacy was the AntiChrist. After 1830 the teaching was added to by John N Darby, who promoted it into the evangelical churches. Nowadays it is widely believed.
Recently I have been listening to sermons by Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones on the books of Daniel and Revelation. As a result, I have now learned that even the Preterist interpretation–that all prophecy was fulfilled by the close of the 4th century–was also developed by a Jesuit in 1603. You gotta admire the Jesuits’ efforts to overturn the Reformation. I have also learned that there are 3 forms of the Historical interpretation.
- Historical: Precis (which the Reformers largely believed) – a summary (not detailed) of events from St John’s time to the present. Hence it does not include all events in detail.
- Historical: Continuing — a detailed description of historical events that have happened from Christ to the New Heaven and Earth. This requires almost a continuous timeline from Revelation chap 4 through to chap 22. But many times the descriptions hearken back to what appear to be earlier events. Chapter 12 starts with Christ’s first Advent again.
- Historical: Spiritual — there are spiritual principles behind the battles and events encountered by Christians through all ages from Christ until the final Judgement, but not that each description in the book of Revelation applies to only one event. Similarly to the 7 churches described in Chapters 2 and 3 applying to many different churches through the ages, also the descriptions in the prophecies could apply to many different agents, battles and events. The spiritual forces, like Satan are clearly identified, which act through many earthly agents.
Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones explains these in the following lectures and gives criticism as he sees it. He promotes Historical: Spiritual as the best interpretation.
In this blog you’ll find many Bible studies that follow the Historical: Continuing interpretation. I still believe a lot of it may be correct but many events could be explained by the same symbolic descriptions in the book of the Revelation. This much better the supports the notion that God gave the final revelations to the Apostle John for the benefit of all believers throughout all ages.
I strongly recommend you take the time to listen to what he teaches. See below.
The danger of dogmatism; the difficulty of interpretation since 1830 and the school of Rev. Irving and J N Darby; numbers in prophecy: their significance examined; six events of the seventy years; when are the events in these verses to take place? the alternative view.
The problems with the Gap Theory; an alternative view of Daniel 9:24-27; the man of Daniel 9:27 discussed: who is he? the doctrine of the Rapture; and its origin; revelation apart from Scripture is suspect.
The Bible teaching on the last judgement; the judgement a public event; who are to be judged? the eternal state.
The preterist view; the futurist view; the two schools of futurist thought; the historical view; two sub-divisions : continuous historicist and spiritual historicist.
The futurist view reviewed; general objections; Revelation; one book not three; it postpones the kingdom; threefold division of verse 19; the word ‘hereafter’ examined.
The three schools of interpretation; the Church and the spiritual historicist; the symbols explained; the natural division of the book; and the great theme that unites each section.
Repetition in the symbolism explained; the seven sections and the two sections of revelation defined; Revelation and the Gospels; Revelation and Church history; the 144,000; the meaning of this explained.
The sounding of the trumpets: a sound of warning; the seven trumpets explained in detail; the scroll of Revelation 10 likened to the Christian life; the two prophets.
The seven sections of Revelation; the antagonists exposed; the marks of the beast and the great harlot of Babylon explained; the destruction of the devil.
Criticism of this doctrine; the contradiction with the Lord’s teaching; the 1000 year reign discussed; literal and symbolic interpretations; questions raised by the chapter itself; the final judgement.
The post-millennial view explained; the history and evidence for this teaching; the spiritual interpretation; the casting and binding of the devil into the bottomless pit explained; the first and second deaths explained; the meaning of the 1000 years.