What is Historicism?

Historicism, or historicalism as it is sometimes called, is an approach to interpreting Bible prophecy that could be described as “prophecy as historical blueprint.”  From a historicist point of view, the prophecies of Daniel, Revelation, and other books related to the end times give a blueprint, or roadmap, for much of history.  Specifically, the book of Daniel is considered to give a blueprint of history from the Babylonian exile to the first coming of Christ and beyond, while the book of Revelation and related passages are considered to give a blueprint of history from the apostolic era to the creation of the new heavens and earth.

While historicists may disagree on the specific details of this eschatological scheme, they generally agree on the following (based on information from the Historicism Research Foundation):

  1. In biblical prophecy, the Year-Day Principle applies, meaning that the word “day’ is generally interpreted as indicating a “year” in real time unless the context of the passage indicates otherwise;
  2. References to “time, times, and half a time,” 3.5 years, 1260 days, and 42 months have already been fulfilled in history;
  3. The Roman Catholic Papal System, ie. the Papacy, is the antichrist (one who comes in place of Christ or Christ’s stead), man of sin, and beast of Revelation; and
  4. Revelation 9 applies to the rise of Islam.

When it comes to the book of Revelation, the approach we will be investigating on this website interprets the seal, trumpet, and vial judgments as occurring in successive order in history.

Interestingly, the historicist interpretation was the standard Protestant interpretation of biblical prophecy for a period of about 500 years, from Wycliffe to Spurgeon.  It can be contrasted with the Futurist (think “Left Behind”) and Preterist (think “The Last Disciple”) interpretations, which were conceived by Roman Catholic Jesuits (members of the Society of Jesus) during the time of the counter-reformation.

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