What are the most common theories for Biblical prophetic interpretation?

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Out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century there developed three distinct schools of Biblical prophetic interpretation for the book of Revelation. These were preterism, futurism, and historicism.

Preterism is the belief that views Revelation as a history book that ended by 70 AD. This prophetic approach maintains that its prophecies have already been fulfilled– which refer mainly to the triumph of Christianity over Judaism and paganism.

Why it is not Biblical? Preterism implies that because all Biblical prophecies were fulfilled by 70 AD, God has no prophetic message for Christians living today. It also teaches that many prophecies simply did not and will not come to pass, such as the great Christian apostasy in Matthew 24 that Christ warned would take place in the church just before His second coming.

Futurism is the belief that views Revelation as a book the deals with events that have yet to occur even in our day, including the future rise of the Antichrist. This theory was first put forth by the Jesuit—Francisco Ribera—in the late 1500s in an effort to divert the attention from what the Reformers taught about the Papacy being the Antichrist who was guilty of shedding the blood of millions of martyrs during the Dark Ages.

Why it is not Biblical? Besides its stand on the Antichrist, Futurism promotes a fire-escape gospel that encourages a wait-and-see approach to salvation which is adopted by the popular Left Behind series that promotes the unbiblical Secret Rapture theory. Unfortunately, this theory is accepted by mainstream Protestant Christianity today.

Historicism is the belief that views Revelation as a book the deals with the progressive history of the church from the first century to the end of time. This is the theory that most Protestant reformers including Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and Spurgeon adopted. These reformers believed that the Antichrist power had already arisen in their lifetimes. This theory is logically and spiritually consistent with all the Scripture.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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