What is Futurism? What is Historicism?
By J. L. Haynes
What is Futurism?
Futurism, as it pertains to Biblical prophecy, is the theory that most of the events of Revelation, and the 70th week of Daniel 9, are to be fulfilled sometime in the future. Futurists generally believe that an individual will appear on the world stage who will usurp the place of Christ as the head of the Church. This individual, they anticipate, will deceive many people into believing that he is some kind of messiah. He will become a world-leader, and through his influence persecute Christians and Jews for a period of time. This person, futurists believe will be the Antichrist.
- Some Futurists believe that Christ will return at the beginning of Antichrist's reign to rescue the faithful Christians and take them to heaven so that they are spared the seven years of "great tribulation." After these seven years Christ will return to earth with His saints to destroy Antichrist and establish His Kingdom on earth to last a thousand years.
- The other main view of Futurism holds that Christians will not be spared from the tribulation under the Antichrist. These Futurists believe that Christ will only return to rescue His Church and destroy the Antichrist at the end of seven years of persecution. Most Christians today hold one of these two Futurist views.
What is Historicism?
Historicism is the view that most of Revelation describes history as it has been unfolding over the last 20 centuries. Historicists see in the prophecies concerning the Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Whore of Babylon, references to the pagan Roman Empire, papal Rome (that is, Roman Europe under the rule of the popes ), the Papacy, and the Roman Catholic Church. The majority of Historicists also identify the symbols of the smoke rising from the Abyss and the invasion of locusts as descriptions of the rise and spread of Islam. This view united all Protestants throughout the Reformation and has largely been replaced by Futurism as the dominant eschatology (belief about the end-times) of evangelical Christians.
To put it another way, Historicism is the method of interpreting Biblical prophecy by comparing history to the prophecy in question. Historicists believe that prophecy is history pre-written. Therefore prophecy can be understood by looking to the past to discover what has, and hasn't, been fulfilled. Historicism, as a school of thought, like futurism, contains many differing opinions as to details of prophetic interpretation. It is not a system that must stand or fall by its ability to withstand criticism. It is a method of interpretation that allows its adherents to continually re-evaluate their opinions as they grow in their understanding of both history, and the Bible.
What does the Bible have to say?
These days I often hear statements like the following: "The current moves of the EU toward centralization lead many to believe that, soon, a powerful leader will emerge who will..." [you fill in the blanks]
Obviously this is based largely on the prophecies found in Daniel 7, Revelation 13, and 17 (If you are unfamiliar with these passages of the Bible, I suggest that you read the above chapters before going on ). Basically, since the prophets foresaw the fourth beast dividing into 10 "kingdoms" out of which the Antichrist would appear, and since there are many indications that we are in the last days, these events in Europe lead us to believe the ten-fold world-order is upon us. After all, that makes sense: we know that Antichrist would come out from among 10 kingdoms (Dan. 7:24,25), and we know that these 10 kingdoms are most likely those of Western Europe. We know this because the fourth beast is undoubtedly the Roman Empire, and the area where the 10 horns grow must, by necessity be the area that was not taken, by Rome, from any of the preceding empires, but must be unique to those conquests of Rome. Daniel 7:12 reads, "As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time." (NAS) Since the four beasts are separate from each other, and their lives "were prolonged for [an appointed time]"-- ( the Chaldean word here is "zeman:" (Strong's Hebrew Chaldee Dictionary, 2166), "season, time" from "zaman: to fix a time, or appoint."-- I believe the domains of the beasts do not overlap.
"These ten kings should be looked for in the territory of the western empire of Rome only. 'The ten horns of the fourth empire must none of them be sought for in the realms of the third, second, or first, but exclusively in the realm of the fourth, or in the territory peculiar to ROME, and which had never formed part either of the Grecian, Medo-Persian, or Babylonian empires.' The master mind of Sir Isaac Newton perceived this long ago. He says: 'Seeing the body of the third beast is confined to the nations on this side the Euphrates, and the body of the fourth beast is confined to the nations on this side of Greece, we are to look for all the four heads of the third beast among the nations on this side the Euphrates, and for all the eleven horns of the fourth beast among the nations on this side of Greece.'..." (H.Grattan Guinness, Light for The Last Days, Edited by E.P. Chachmaille.( London & Edinburgh: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1917), pp. 72-73.) (emphasis mine)
So, to sum up what we know:
1) Antichrist must be somehow "Roman" (since he comes out of the Roman beast)
2) He must arise during the time of the 10 fold "European union"
3) Both Antichrist, and his 10-fold "empire" are to be destroyed by Christ (Dan.2:34, 44-45; 7:8-9, 26-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Rev.19:20-21) "by the brightness of His coming".
The problem is timing. To anyone who knows history the truth should be obvious, but of course, we know that "only the wise would understand" (Dan.12:10) So perhaps God has allowed many of us to be blind to the truth so that in His timing HE would reveal the truth so HIS name would be glorified?
Please read what I have to say with an open mind. I sense the "time" is upon us. We have, I believe, little time to debate the finer points of our diverse eschatologies, when we should be motivated by our knowledge of the "end times" to witness, actively, for Christ, to those who, otherwise, would be lost! That is my motive. If you reject my arguments, at least ensure that you encourage other believers to share their faith, with a sense of urgency.
1) The fourth Beast of Daniel 7, is the same "composite" beast of Rev. 13 and 17.
2) This is the Beast of Rev. 19, who is destroyed by Christ.
3) "Antichrist" was prophesied as coming out from among a ten-fold division of the fourth Beast- i.e.: from among its 10 horns.(Dan.7:8)
4) This 10-fold condition of the Beast's kingdom exists at the coming of Christ to begin His millennial reign.(Dan.2:34-35, 44-45).
One interpretation best fits the evidence we have seen so far. I suggest it is the following...