In this article I wish to outline the three common interpretations of end time prophecies; Preterism, Historicism and Futurism. End time prophecies must be studied with Biblical principals in action, meaning that the Bible must be its own interpreter, the whole Bible must be in harmony with the interpretation, Biblical timelines must be used during the course of the study and history must confirm the prophecy wherever possible.
As you will learn, only one of the three interpretations of Bible prophecy matches all the above criteria. All three interpretations are in direct opposition to each other although two of the three does have commonalities.
Can it be that all three interpretations are actually correct and that the Bible allows personal interpretation too? The obvious answer is no and I’m sure most people would agree with me. Can it also be that we are allowed to spiritualize certain prophecies to apply a dual meaning wherever necessary, in order to fit our model of interpretation? Again, I’m sure most people would agree with a definite “no”. What I’m am not trying to disprove is that certain verses in the Bible can have dual meanings or that certain prophecies do have dual fulfilments, because we already know it to be so. Keep this thought as we will discuss it later and in other studies as well.
To define the events that are in reference when we deal with end time prophecies, we can read from Matthew 24. In the last few verses of Matthew 23 Jesus Christ was foretelling certain events that would take place in their immediate future, which was a warning of the destruction of Jerusalem. The disciples then asked Jesus what would be the signs preceding this events and also what would be the signs preceding His second coming. Jesus then answered them with the famous quote, saying that deception, war and rumours of war, famine, pestilence and earthquakes would precede BOTH these events. The disciples asked Jesus two questions and He gave then one in return.
The events in reference to end time prophecies are thus events that would lead to the ultimate destruction of this world as we know it and the signs before the coming of the Lord. Logically it would also be events that are foretold in prophecy leading up to the final confrontation between good and evil and the victory of Christ over Satan, the False Prophet and the Antichrist.
First interpretation of end time prophesies, in this case the word eschatology would be more accurate, is Preterism. As the word implies, Preterism teaches that almost all prophecies relating to Antichrist, tribulation and the battle between the saints and the whore of Revelation, has already transpired in the conflict between the Jewish nation and Prince Titus in 70 AD, when Jerusalem was destroyed.
Verses to back this interpretation are predominantly quoted from Matthew 23 and 24. Interesting to note is that Cesar Nero was the Roman emperor at that time and the numerical value of the title and name “Cesar Nero” is 666. For Preterists this is enough evidence to hold to their view. Interesting to note though, is that Jesus said in 1 John 2:18 “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”. In the own words of Jesus many, Antichrists was already in the world at that time but He is also saying that Antichrist will come. Cesar Nero was only a foreshadow of the final fulfilment of the Antichrist as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was a type of the end time fulfilment of these truths on a global scale.
Preterism is therefore incorrect by interpretation although it does hold some truth for us today. I will have another article soon that will systematically describe what Preterism stand for, where the theology came from and why it is a false interpretation.
The second interpretation of end time prophecies is Historicism. If you have had time to read some of the other prophetic interpretations on this website, you would most probably know that we hold to Historicism as the correct interpretation of Bible prophecy and eschatology. We have countless reasons to hold to these believes and that is exactly what we wish to demonstrate here.
Historicism is the interpretation of Bible prophecies that describes a continues flow of events from the days of Israel, through the church age until the last plagues and the coming of Christ. To understand Historicism one must begin to study the prophecies in Daniel and examine then in conjunction with the prophecies in Revelation.
A logical way of studying these prophecies is to start with the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar, which describes four world empires that will control the known world. These four world empires are found to be the Babylonian empire depicted in the statue’s head of gold, the Media-Persian Empire depicted in the statue’s breast of silver, the Greek empire depicted in the statue’s waist of bronze and the Roman Empire depicted in the statue’s legs of iron. The statues feet of iron and clay depict the end of the Roman Empire and its division into ten kingdoms, just like the statue has ten toes. These ten kingdoms are identified as coming out of the Western Roman Empire and were the first European countries to exist; today’s England, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland etc.
The next logical prophecy to study is the vision that Daniel had of four beasts, in Daniel 7. These four beasts are identified as the same empires that we found in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. By means of enlargement, we learn a little more about these empires in this prophecy. The fourth beast in this prophecy is described as a terrible beast with ten horns and it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it, which is quite an accurate way of describing the Roman armies that destroyed its enemies and conquered the world, so to speak.
Next, our attention is directed to the ten horns and we are shown a little horn that would arise between the other ten. We already know that a horn in prophecy is a kingdom, so this little horn is a little kingdom that would arise between the ten Western European kingdoms after the Roman Empire dissolved into ten kingdoms, in other words, after 476 AD. Other characteristics of this little kingdom are given which undeniably points to the Vatican, as we know it today. There is some history to be considered here, but that is for another study as this is just an outline.
This little horn is said to make war with the saints and overcome them, to blaspheme the name of God and to reign for a period of 42 months. Using the Biblical day for a year principle, we know that 42 months is (42 months X 30 days = 1260 prophetical days = 1260 literal years) 1260 years. The fulfilment thereof was the papal reign from 538 AD until 1798 when on February 21, 1798 Pope Pius VI was dethroned by Napoleon. His ring was torn from his finger and he died in exile soon afterwards.
During the Roman Catholic reign of 1260 years, church and state was joined and thus the Pope was not only a religious figure but also a political one. An estimated 150 million Christians died for their faith during this period; many where burned at the stake, many where tortured to death and some were drowned. Anyone that denied that the Pope was the way to salvation died, anyone that held to the true way unto salvation died and anyone that denied the Pope’s title as Vicar of Christ, died. Vicar of Christ means in the place of Christ, antichrist.
Vicar of Christ is just the English translation of what actually is written on the Pope’s golden mitre, which is kept away from the public eye. In Latin it reads Vicarius Filii Dei, with a numerical vulue of 666.
The next prophecy to study would be found in Revelation chapter 13; the beast that rises out of the sea. This beast is a conglomerate of the four beasts that we saw in Daniel 7. He has seven heads and ten horns. He is also given a certain period to reign, which is 1260 day (1260 prophetic days = 1260 literal years) which is the same period given to the little horn of Daniel chapter 7. This beast in the prophecy is therefore an enlargement of the little horn that we studied in Daniel; it is also the Vatican / papal power.
In this prophecy we read that the beast (papal power) would receive a deadly head wound that would be healed. The deadly head wound is referring to the dethronement of the pope in 1798 which led to the end of the Roman church-state unity. The head wound was healed in 1929 with the enthronement of Pope Mussolini although the Vatican hasn’t yet again received it’s full church-state status of the middle ages.
In Revelation 17 this beast is referred to as the Son of Perdition, which is another name given to the Antichrist. The Antichrist is therefore not one single sinister man that would arise at the end of time, but the power within the Vatican. By studying the Vatican and its connection to secret societies like Freemasonry, the Orders of Rome and the Jesuits, we can safely conclude that the Antichrist has been identified with evidence in abundance.
In the same chapter of Revelation we read about a beast that would arise out of the earth. This beast is called the False Prophet and he would make an image of the first beast so that the world would once again wonder after the first beast (Rome / papal power / Antichrist) and worship it. In another study we will learn that this beast is referring to the United States of America, more specifically to the religious and political entities found in the US. The religious entities is in reference to apostate Protestantism which was spawned by false revivals such as Azusa, which is today almost under full cotrol of Jesuit-trained false leaders, to further pollute and corrupt what the Reformation once stood for. This movement would make an image of the first beast (Roman Catholicism) and Christians would once again be worshipping this beast unknowingly. The ecumenical movement is an effort by Rome to unite churches, once again, under the Mother Church, the Mother of Harlots, as described in Revelation 16 and 17.
End time deception, as spoken of in Matthew 24, is therefore almost entirely referring to the false doctrine found in apostate Protestantism, or polluted Christianity.
With the teachings of Historicism, other prophecies in Revelation are also better understood, amongst others, the Two Witnesses, the abomination of desolation, the tribulation period and the seven last plagues.
The third interpretation of end time prophecies is Futurism. This school of interpretation teaches that almost all Bible prophecies relating to Antichrist, the tribulation period, the two witnesses and the False Prophet are still in the future and that most of the events in Revelation are to be fulfilled in the final 7 years before the second advent of Christ. Futurism has much to explain if some of the foundational prophecies of Historicism are understood, like the 70 weeks prophecy in Daniel, for instance.
Futurism as interpretation of end time prophecies was masterminded by Rome during the Reformation in the 1500′s, mainly to discredit and pollute the efforts of the Reformation, as part of their Counter Reformation. Almost all the Reformation leaders pointed towards Rome as Antichrist, as the Son of Perdition, as the Lawless one, and the effects of their bold teachings on this topic was a serious blow for Rome. With Futurism as a new theology, Rome managed to shift focus away from themselves to a single individual at the very end of time as the Antichrist.
Although Futurism can be refuted without much effort, it is still the primary interpretation of mainline Christianity. This is not true for most of the church age leading up to the 1900′s. Futurism as interpretation of choice only became popular during the 20th century with the aid of many different efforts by Rome. Some of these efforts include the Schofield Bible Reference, the Plymouth Brethren’s publicity and modern novels and films like Tim La Hay’s Left Behind and Late Great Planet Earth, co-authored by Hal Lindsey and Carole C. Carlson in 1970.
In Futurism, the final 7 years on earth leading up to the second coming of Christ, is called the tribulation period. Some teach that the tribulation is not a seven year period, but a 3 1/2 year period. In the camps of Futurism there is also much division on the teaching regarding a so-called Rapture. Pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post-tribulation Rapture are the main schools of thought, which teaches that Christ would take away the elect during the Rapture, and only seven or three and a half years later return in physical form at His second advent. Words in the Bible, like falling away, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 are used to justify the falling away of the elect during the so-called Rapture. In context, this falling away is referring to a falling away of the pure gospel; deception, in other words, not a supposed rapture.
Futurists are also divided on the interpretation of the coming of the Antichrist. Some teach that the Antichrist would arise at the beginning of the seven year tribulation period; others teach that he would arise in the middle of this period, and some have no opinion at all.
Futurism’s view of a seven year tribulation period is taken, amongst others, from the 70 weeks prophecy (70 prophetical weeks = 490 prophetical days = 490 literal years) given to Daniel. This prophecy, also known as the Messianic prophecy, was fulfilled to the very letter from 457 BC until 34 AD. The final week of this prophecy foretold the coming of the Anointed one, Jesus Christ at His baptism; the midst of the week was foretelling His Crucifixion and the end of the week was referring to the end of probation for the nation of Israel. Futurists dismembers this 70th week from the rest of the 69 weeks and apply it to the final seven years on earth, label it as the tribulation period and apply most of Daniel and Revelation’s prophecies to the same period, out of context obviously.
One of the latest developments within the camp of Futurism, is to accept most of Historicism’s eschatological views, but to futurise the 1260 years reign of Antichrist, which was from 538 AD until 1798 AD, and apply it as a literal 3 1/2 years reign at the end of time; seen as an antitypical, end time fulfilment of the historical view. Although it might sound correct at first glance, there are many problems with this view. The main problem is; what to do with the rest of the prophecies in Revelation that describes the events AFTER the beast’s deadly head wound heals.
The prophecies in Revelation do give us a clear picture of what will happen after 1929, when the symbolic beast’s deadly head wound healed. Revelation 16 depicts the same beast, this time a woman (the whore of Babylon = apostate Christianity = Roman state-church) as riding the beast, and the beast (beast = political entity/ kingdom) is seen in the setting of a wilderness (not yet church-state unity). This beast will regain its former glory and by the help of the False Prophet, church and state would once again be joined to form a coalition against the woman, the bride of Christ. They will once again persecute the woman, but, unlike the first occurrence of this event, the wrath of God would overcome them during the final seven plagues. And then the Ancient of days would come to make an end to all these atrocities and take the woman to be where He is also.
It is clear that Preterism and Futurism does not stand the test of time as Historicism does, and we should be grateful that prophecies can be understood and interpreted in a proper manner. The reformers of old, like Martin Luther, John Wesley, Wycliffe and probably a hundred more, preached with unrelenting boldness the truths on this matter, some even burned at the stake for their faith and their believe that the seat of the Pope is the very seat of Antichrist. I believe time has come for the truth on this matter to be accepted once again.
The following video is presented by Steve Wohlberg, teaching on the Counter Reformation by the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican. The main goal of the Counter Reformation is to unite churches under Rome and to pollute the work that was initiated at the Reformation. Preterism and Futurism forms part of the Counter Refromation’s tactics and is still alive and well today.