What is Futurism? What is Historicism?

By J. L. Haynes

This article can also be found at www.historicism.com/tour/tour2.htm

Four Interpretations of Revelation: Preterism, Historicism, Idealism and Futurism. Copyright Prairie Distance Education, 2002. Created 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.

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 This view united all Protestants throughout the Reformation and has largely been replaced by Futurism as the dominant eschatology (belief about the end-times) of evangelical Christians.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...

Interpreting the Biblical Evidence

1) The fourth beast is the Roman empire. It was the fourth empire following Nebuchadnezzar's, as the head of the Babylonian. (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome)

2) The Roman empire is shown to exist in some form continuously until the coming of Christ. (Dan. 2:33-34, 40-44)

3) The 10 horns are a description of a divided, but united, Western Europe. This has been the state of things since the fall of the last Roman emperor, Augustulus, in 476 A.D. (Three did fall shortly afterward, only to be replaced; the 10-fold division was to be characteristic of the Beast's "empire" at the coming of Christ.)

4) One power, different from the 10 horns, did arise from among them:

494 A.D. Gelasius, Bishop of Rome, "There are two authorities by which the world is governed-- The PONTIFICAL AND THE ROYAL, the sacerdotal order being that which has charge of the sacraments of life, and from it must be sought salvation. Hence in Divine things it becomes kings to bow the neck to priests, especially to the head of priests, whom Christ's own voice has set over the universal Church."

533 A.D. The Emperor Justinian decreed the Bishop of Rome, "...head of all the holy Churches and of all the holy priests of God."

590 A.D. The ascension of Gregory the Great.

607 A.D. The Emperor Phocas declared the Roman pontiff, Boniface III, head over all the churches of Christendom, and even of Constantinople. At this time as well, the last of the 10 "Roman" kingdoms, the Anglo-Saxons and the Lombards "gave in their formal submission to the religious supremacy of Papal Rome." For nearly a thousand years, after this point, the 10 primary powers of Europe gave their allegiance to the Pope of Rome, as if to Christ Himself!

1073 A.D. Pope Gregory VII claimed authority and temporal power over kings, and succeeded in removing the German emperor Henry IV from the throne, replacing him with another.

1198 A.D. Innocent III brought the power of the Pope to new heights. "He excommunicated Sweno, king of Norway; threatened the king of Hungary to alter the succession; put the kingdom of Castile under an interdict; and when Philip Augustus of France refused at his bidding to take back his repudiated wife, Innocent did not hesitate to punish the whole nation by putting France also under the same dreaded penalty, until her king humbly submitted to the Pope's behest. King John of England and Philip II of Aragon were both constrained to resign their kingdoms and receive them back as spiritual fiefs from the Roman pontiff, who claimed also the right to decide the election of the emperors of Germany by his confirmation or veto." (Romanism and the Reformation, H.Grattan Guinness. N.J.: OFPM, 1967. p.14. -- from the Second edition, 1891.)

1294 A.D. Boniface VIII declared that the Pope represents God upon Earth. "In the summary of things concerning the dignity, authority, and infallibility of the Pope, set forth by Boniface VIII, are these words: 'The pope is of so great dignity and excellence, that he is not merely man, but as if God, and the vicar of God (non simplex homo, sed quasi Deus, et Dei vicarius). The pope alone is called the most holy,... Divine monarch, and supreme emperor, and king of kings... The pope is of so great dignity and power, that he constitutes one and the same tribunal with Christ (faciat unum et idem tribunal cum Christo), so that whatsoever the pope does seems to proceed from the mouth of God (ab ore Deo). ...The pope is as God on earth (papa est QUASI DEUS IN TERRA )." (Romanism and the Reformation, H.Grattan Guinness, p. 16)

1964 AD -- "The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful. "

"Bishops, therefore, with their helpers, the priests and deacons, have taken up the service of the community, presiding in place of God over the flock..."

"...bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ."

"...bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person."

"The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power."

"Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will."

"And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith,(166) by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment."

ON NOVEMBER 21, 1964

5) The "Whore of Babylon" who "rules over the kings of the earth" is "that great city" which is also a fallen church of Christ, refusing to believe that she is fallen--and now false--the False Bride of Christ, that is why she is called a "Whore" (Rev. 17:18), she is the "Church of Rome", who, under the leadership of the Papacy, is estimated to have murdered more than 50 million saints, calling them heretics for not submitting to the Pope, throughout the "Dark Ages." Paul Johnson, the well known historian, and a Roman Catholic himself, quotes in A History of Christianity, p. 514, "The oath of allegiance of all Roman Catholic bishops includes the promise: 'with all my power I will persecute and make war upon heretics.' (Note Dan.7:21 and Rev.13:7...For more on this go to the link What does the word 'Vatican' mean? on the links page.)

6) As the "seventy-weeks prophecy" of Dan. 9 was fulfilled- each day representing a year- (thus 70 weeks, or 490 days, was fulfilled in 490 years)- so the 1260 day period of "war against the saints" by the Beast- or "time, times and half a time"- was fulfilled in a large 1260 YEAR period. Nobody can say for certain what exact terminal points for this period God had in mind, however, the illustration can be made very well, that the war of deceit waged by the Papacy corresponded with its' "temporal" power, which lasted, approximately, from 610 A.D. until 1870 A.D.

"He who, being a man, a sinful man, makes himself a god as the Pope does, who claims divine powers and prerogatives, is unquestionably a blasphemer, and that antichrist." -- Matthew Henry

The very eschatology most Christians profess, has been one of the most effective weapons of Rome to blind the saints to the existence of the Antichrist among us. This eschatology is Roman. Christ may come at any moment. Events may already be leading to the gathering of the nations to Armageddon. We dare not be looking under every bush for an imagined "Antichrist" to appear, when one of our most needy mission fields is the laity of the Roman Catholic Church. The real, historical Antichrist has been identified by men like Calvin, Luther, Knox, Huss, Wesley, Spurgeon, Sir Isaac Newton, H.Grattan Guinness, E.B. Elliot, and hundreds of other leaders of Christ's Church through the last five centuries. This Antichrist, this "Son of Perdition" as he is called by the Westminster and the Baptist Confessions of Faith, is already facing imminent destruction by the "appearance of " Christ's coming. (2 Thess. 2:8)

There is no "one-world-order" yet to arise. Nor is there any antiChristian "Superman" soon to emerge. The "tribulation" spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 24 is all but over! Before you think to yourself that I must be crazy for suggesting such a thing, take the time to read THOUGHTS on the Great Tribulation, by Dr. G.R. Dawe (further-on in this tour of our site). The "Great Tribulation" means something much GREATER than you have probably imagined--greater both in scale and intensity!

J.L. Haynes