APPROACHES TO REVELATION: FUTURISM (1)

PMT 2014-080 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.Futurism

Revelation has confused the minds of the best theologians and thinkers. The confusion is so deep-rooted that four basic schools of interpretation regarding Revelation have arisen and dominated the exegetical landscape. In this series I am summarizing each of the basic interpretive schools so as to better inform the Christian of the lay of the land in Revelation studies.

We come now to the most popular view in our current evangelical world: futurism. The dominant view among futurists is, of course, dispensationalism. In this article I will summarize its basic teachings, then in the next I will highlight its strengths and weaknesses. Futurism is basically the “End of History” view.

The most widely prevalent interpretive approach in American evangelicalism today is futurism. Futurism is sometimes designated the “pure eschatological,” “end-historical,” or “ultimate-eschatological” view — or more technically endgeschichtlich (end-history). This approach expects a future fulfillment.

Futurism understands Revelation’s prophecies (beginning after 4:1) as presenting remotely distant events, well beyond John’s own historical setting. This view understands Revelation as dealing with the ultimate historical issues that the world and/or the church will face just prior to Christ’s return. Most scholars agree with J. Court that “the pioneer, and a notable exponent, of this method of exegesis was the Spanish Jesuit Ribera” who was responding to “the bombardment of anti-Catholic exegesis from the Protestant Reformers who used the Apocalypse as ammunition for their attacks on the Papacy and the Church of Rome” (W. Lund).


The Climax of the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)
Six lectures on six DVDs that introduce Revelation as a whole,
then focuses on its glorious conclusion.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


It is difficult to class some of the very early premillennialists as futurists, despite the obvious predilection for futurism among present-day premillennialists. The reason for this is because the several early church fathers who are premillennial (contrary to dispensationalists the Ante-Nicene church is not predominantly premillennial) think they are already in the very end times. Thus, they have no thought of a distantly future second advent as they believe that they exist on the event-horizon itself.

The earliest church is close enough to the writing of Revelation that some forms of historicism or preterism could both explain its views. While mistaken regarding the historical origins of futurism, even futurist John Walvoord laments: “Though the premillennial conclusions of the futuristic view seem to have been held by the early church, the early fathers did not in any clear or consistent way interpret the book of Revelation as a whole in a futuristic sense. In fact, it can be demonstrated that the principal error of the fathers was that they attempted to interpret the book of Revelation as being fulfilled contemporaneously in the trials and difficulties of the church.”

Futurism is very popular due to the widespread influence of dispensationalism. Popular evangelical proponents of dispensationalist futurism in Revelation include: C. I. Scofield, John F. Walvoord, Charles C. Ryrie, Hal Lindsey, Robert L. Thomas, and John F. MacArthur, Jr.


House Divided: Break-up of Dispensational Theology (by Ken Gentry)
A rebuttal to dispensationalism’s view of eschatology and God’s Law
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


This view also is strongly held by Reformed amillennialist theologian Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper claims that nothing in Revelation is prior to the events building up to the Second Advent: “The Apocalypse of St. John treats exclusively of what will come to pass when the ordinary course of things shall be broken up, and the concluding period of both the life of the church and the life of the world is ushered in.” He adds that Revelation “shows even at great pains that the Return of the Lord will almost immediately be preceded by extremely important and very striking events.” Still further: “These Apocalyptic prophecies do not refer to the past, they are no history of the past twenty centuries, but forecast what is to come at the beginning of the end.”

I will return to consider its strengths and weaknesses in my next article. Though a widely-held view, its weaknesses are debilitating.

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2 thoughts on “APPROACHES TO REVELATION: FUTURISM (1)

  1. John Barron July 8, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Would you consider historical premil schools of thought of today futuristic?

  2. Kenneth Gentry July 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Generally: yes. They can however be either idealist, historicist, or futurist. Different historic premillennialists have different approaches to Revelation.

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