Revelation - Introduction, Part 8

© 2003-2004 Tony Garland -


Systems of Interpretation

Importance of System of Interpretation

Preterism Emphasized

Why is Preterism Popular?

  1. No Future Tribulation
    A time marked by cataclysmic events and great tribulation is effectively "erased" from the future. This is encouraging for those whose focus is on "this world." 
  2. Christian Social Action
    Having removed the Tribulation from the future, there is no longer a perceived disincentive for efforts by Christians to "change the world" through social and political action.
  3. Does Away with Pretribulational Rapture
    Those who view the pretribulational rapture of the Church as a "defeatist escape" can avoid this doctrine.
  4. Politically Correct regarding Middle East
    Preterism denies the continued importance of Israel in the plan of God and sees Old Testament promises concerning Israel to be irrelevant. Israel is seen as having no biblical mandate for possession of the Promised Land. Preterism believes the Church replaced Israel in the plan of God.
  5. Lack of Bible Knowledge
    Many Christians lack a comprehensive understanding of biblical passages concerning prophecy. Especially those from the Old Testament. Lack of teaching from the pulpit concerning prophecy exacerbates this trend. It then becomes easy to embrace views such as Preterism which contradict less-familiar passages (e.g., Zec. 12; 14).

Types of Preterism

Hermeneutics of Preterism

Problems with Preterism

  1. Denies Predictive Prophecy
    As more prophetic passages are "fulfilled" in the past, the Word of God has less to say about the future.
  2. Denies Global Judgment
    Revelation is localized to events in the Mediterranean some 2,000 years ago. It is not about a coming time when God's wrath is poured out on a rejecting earth!
  3. Denial of Reality
    Full preterism holds we are already in the new heavens and new earth of Rev. 21 and 22. All forms of preterism believe that the decisive victory over Satan described in Revelation has been completed. This does not square with reality and the daily news!
  4. Blurs Canonical Boundaries
    The constant focus on secular history texts in supposed "fulfillment" of unfulfilled prophecy blurs the boundary between the canon of Scripture and other uninspired books.
  5. Denies Imminency of Second Coming
    As more passages related to the Second Coming are seen as already fulfilled in spiritual "cloud comings," the moment-by-moment expectation of the coming of Christ wanes.

     "... if my eschatology is correct, the Church has many more years left to write many more words! " [emphasis added] Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, xiii.

Idealist Interpretation

Problems with Idealist Interpretation

  1. Inconsistent Interpretation
    Small sections of the text are interpreted literally, then the interpreter reverts back to symbolism and allegory.
  2. Abuse of John's Vision
    The idealist interpretation assumes that since John is being shown events in a vision, that the events themselves are not real.
  3. Variation in Results
    Of all interpretive systems the idealist system results in the widest diversity of opinion concerning the meaning of the text. This provides evidence of its bankruptcy.
  4. Shares Problems with Preterism
    Future events, the Jewishness of Revelation, and the literal thousand-year reign on earth are denied. Effectively moves Revelation "out of the way" of serious Christian consideration regarding the future.

Historicist Interpretation

Problems with Historicist Interpretation

  1. Beast's Career only 42 Months
    The Beast's career spans 42 months or 1260 days (Rev. 11:2; 13:5). Historicists must interpret each day as a "prophetic day" in order to stretch forty-two months into long time periods spanning centuries.
  2. Biased Toward Western Church
    Most historicists have been members of the Western Church so interpretation favors events of significance to the West. Significant events elsewhere in the Christian church tend to be ignored.
  3. Wide Variation in Results
    Like idealist interpreters, historicist interpreters obtain widely varying results, especially in the correlation of historic events with events in Revelation. Examples: monks and friars as the "locusts," Muhammad as the "fallen star," Alaric the Goth as the first trumpet, Elizabeth 1 as the first bowl, Adolf Hitler as the red horse. These identifications are highly subjective.

Futurist Interpretation

Ecclectic Interpretation


  1. Varied Meanings are due to Interpretive Systems
    The text never changes, but interpretive systems affect how it is understood.
  2. Golden Rule = Futurism
    Consistent application of the Golden Rule of interpretation will yield a futurist understanding.
  3. Futurism has less Variation
    All interpreters differ in their understanding of some details. But futurism yields the smallest variation within any one interpretive system.
  4. God's Word Has a Single Meaning
    All systems of interpretation cannot be correct. An ecclectic view endorses inconsistent logic and interpretation, so it must be incorrect. Therefore we must make a decision! How are we going to read and interpret the text? Let the Golden Rule be your guiding principle!
For additional information on this topic, see the commentary.