Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tough Topic Tuesday: Four Views on Revelation, Pt. 3

This is post 3 in our 4 part series featuring the article "Four Views on Revelation" written by Pat Zuckeran.  Our goal in this series is to help readers gain a basic understanding of each view.

Pt. 1 is here.  Pt. 2 is here.

The Historicist View

The third view is called the historicist approach. This view teaches that Revelation is a symbolic representation that presents the course of history from the apostle’s life through the end of the age. The symbols in the apocalypse correspond to events in the history of Western Europe, including various popes, the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and rulers such as Charlemagne. Most interpreters place the events of their day in the later chapters of Revelation.

Many adherents of this position view chapters 1-3 as seven periods in church history. The breaking of the seals in chapters 4-7 symbolizes the fall of the Roman Empire. The Trumpet judgments in chapters 8-10 represent the invasions of the Roman Empire by the Vandals, Huns, Saracens, and Turks. Among Protestant historicists of the Reformation, the antichrist in Revelation was believed to be the papacy. Chapters 11-13 in Revelation represent the true church in its struggle against Roman Catholicism. The bowl judgments of Revelation 14-16 represent God’s judgment on the Catholic Church, culminating in the future overthrow of Catholicism depicted in chapters 17-19.

There are several criticisms of this approach. First, this approach allows for a wide variety of interpretations. Adherents have a tendency to interpret the text through the context of their period. Thus, many saw the climax of the book happening in their generation. John Walvoord points out the lack of agreement among historicists. He states, “As many as fifty different interpretations of the book of Revelation therefore evolve, depending on the time and circumstances of the expositor.”  Moses Stuart echoed the same concern in his writings over a century ago. He wrote, “Hithertho, scarcely any two original and independent expositors have agreed, in respect to some points very important in their bearing upon the interpretation of the book.”

Second, this view focuses mostly on the events of the church in Western Europe and says very little about the church in the East. Thus, its narrow scope fails to account for God’s activity throughout Asia and the rest of the world. Finally, this view would have little significance for the church of the first century whom John was addressing. It is unlikely they would have been able to interpret Revelation as the historical approach suggests.

Prominent scholars who held this view include John Wycliffe, John Knox, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, C. H. Spurgeon, and Matthew Henry. This view rose to popularity during the Protestant Reformation because of its identification of the pope and the papacy with the beasts of Revelation 13. However, since the beginning of the twentieth century, it has declined in popularity and influence.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad
Footnote:
1. All references are included in the original article found here.

No comments: