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What does the word Futurism mean in relation to prophecy?

Hello U,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

Futurism is defined by E.B. Elliott, in his classic commentary on the book of Revelation republished for the fifth time in 1862, called Horae Apocalyptica as:

“The futurist scheme, as I have elsewhere stated, was first, or nearly first, propounded about the year 1585 by the Jesuit Ribera; as the fittest one to turn aside the Protestant application of the Apocalyptic prophecy from the Church of Rome. In England and Ireland of late years it has been brought into vogue chiefly by Mr. S.R. Maitland and Mr. Burgh; followed by the writer of four of the Oxford Tracts on Antichrist. Its general characteristic is to view the whole Apocalypse, at least after the Epistles to the Seven Churches, as a representation of the events of the consummation and second advent, all still future: the Israel depicted in it being the literal Israel; the temple, Apoc. xi., a literal rebuilt Jewish temple at Jerusalem; and the Antichrist, or Apocalyptic Beast under his last head, a personal infidel Antichrist, fated to reign and triumph over the saints for 3 1/2 years, (the days in the chronological periods being all literal days) [rather than years], until Christ’s coming shall destroy him” (Horae, Vol. 4, p. 597).

According to the Futurist viewpoint, “the whole 1800 years that have passed subsequently are to be viewed as a blank in prophecy; the period having been purposely skipped over by the Divine Spirit, in order at once to plunge the reader into the events and times of the consummation”.

Thus, Futurism is the belief that views Revelation as a book that deals with events that have not taken place yet and will happen in the future, including the 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 is guilty of shedding the blood of millions of martyrs during the Dark Ages.

Besides its stand on the Antichrist, Futurism is not Biblical because it 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.

Most Protestant reformers including Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and Spurgeon adopted instead the Historicism view of Revelation which deals with the progressive history of the church from the first century to the end of time. These reformers believed that the Antichrist power had already arisen in their lifetimes and will continue till the end. This theory is consistent with all the Scripture.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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