What is Futurism?

Futurism is an approach to Bible prophecy which interprets most biblical prophecies as having not yet been fulfilled.  With regards to the end times, futurism interprets all or most of the book of Revelation as being set to occur sometime in the typically near future.

A popular set of books outlining the futurist interpretation is the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.  In this series, LaHaye and Jenkins describe near to future events as follows:

  1. A rapture of true Christians, resulting in total chaos on earth.  This begins a 7-year period known as the “Tribulation;”
  2. The rise of a totalitarian and satanic one-world government and religion promising “peace” to the world;
  3. An antichrist figure who heads the one-world government.  He makes a treaty with the nation of Israel for 7 years but breaks that treaty after 3.5 years.  This figure is at one point killed and then comes back to life to continue his satanic agenda;
  4. A succession of judgments by God on the world, generally interpreted literally from the book of Revelation.  For example, the locusts of Revelation 9 are taken as being literal locusts with women’s heads who torment unbelievers, etc.;
  5. A rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem from which Antichrist seeks to rule the world.  Old Testament animal sacrifices will be re-instituted in this Temple;
  6. Persecution of true believers who convert after the rapture.  Death often comes to these believers by guillotine.  Those who aren’t killed generally live in hiding;
  7. An earthly battle of Armageddon taking place in the Middle East and culminating in the eventual return of Jesus to earth, whereby Antichrist is overthrown and Jesus’s physical millennial reign on earth begins (premillenialism).

In the Left Behind series, the Antichrist is a European politician, although futurists acknowledge he could in reality come from any nation.  Some futurists believe that the last pope will be the Antichrist, although he is not currently so.  This view is also known as “modified futurism.”  Given recent world events, futurists tend to believe that the Antichrist is already alive or will be in the very near future.

In addition, not all futurists believe there will be a rapture of believers before the Tribulation period.  However, the rapture view is very prevalent in North American churches today.

Overall, futurism seems to be the view most commonly taught in churches of all denominational stripes.