Revelation from the point of view of idealism

Psalm 19:7

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Revelation 19:10

10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

From Reformed Books Online

Idealist Commentaries on Revelation

“What is the Prophetic View of Idealism?

“Idealism is the view that the prophecies of the Revelation generally do not have historic referents (or have very few, such as the first and second comings of Christ), but are to be understood symbolically and spiritually (thus drawing spiritual ‘ideals’ from the book).  Idealism is most often conjoined with an Amillennial outlook.

“This view has become more popular in Reformed circles during the 1900’s.  See B.B. Warfield’s 4 page article below for the best, short, evangelical defense of this view. . . 

“Regarding the interpretation of Revelation, we [at Reformed Books Online] recommend a cross between Historicism and Idealism.”

BBWarfield meme2B. B. Warfield was a defender of Biblical inerrancy. He and A.A. Hodge wrote an influential book about this. According to, “his passion was to refute the liberal element within Presbyterianism and within Christianity at large.” In interpreting Revelation, he was an idealist. The short article linked below was helpful to me in understanding how to approach the genre of apocalypse as it relates to the Book of Revelation. This article is in a pdf format.

The Apocalypse

Chapter 44, Selected Shorter Writings II, pp.  651-654


Meaning and Application – From The Veritas Domain

John 17:17


17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

2 Peter 1:20

20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

2 Timothy 3:16

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

Here is something that I found very helpful from the following blogpost. Thank you, Pastor SLIMJIM!

Analysis of Rachel Held Evan’s Book “Inspired” Part 4: Chapter 2

“There are many limitations to what a biblical text can mean; in other words, there are things the passage ‘cannot mean.’ Authorial intent is important. And the author’s intent of any written narrative cannot be something ‘new’ since the writing was written in a historic moment conveying a message. But from one’s interpretation of what a passage is saying, we get the ‘interpretation’ of the passage, that is, its meaning. The meaning of the passage then shapes applications and the reason why there are many applications is because it varies according to the individual and the individual’s situation.

“Let me add a little more nuance with this discussion of the view that there is ‘one meaning with a biblical passage but many applications.’ A passage having one meaning means the message of the text is defined and fixed. ‘One meaning’ doesn’t deny there are various aspects covered in that one meaning; nor does it deny chronological sequence of events, etc., since the various aspects covered in a passage or chronological sequences of a narrative are defined and fixed. Really if there is the possibility of ‘new meaning’ of the text that means the message of the Bible narrative itself are not defined and fixed; it can be changed to be a different story altogether when chronological sequences in the story can be fluid and moved around, which affects the details and aspects of what the passage is objectively about.”


Exposing the Common Errors in Biblical Interpretation

Critical Issues Commentary provides some of the clearest and most helpful teaching on how to interpret the Bible that I’ve seen. Thank you, Sherry, for bringing it to us!

The X Mass H8rs Blog

An important teaching for every Christian:

Many teachers will twist scriptures because they use faulty interpretation methods. This is how many are fooled into believing they can celebrate X Mass and Easter, or that Christians can be homosexuals.

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Go read! Oral Collins


The following article by Dr.  Collins is really helpful. (I only had one quibble with him!) He is also the author of The Final Prophecy of Jesus: An Introduction, Analysis, and Commentary on the Book of Revelation. Here is a quote taken from this article on interpreting prophecy:

“The serious student will want to study the bib­lical text and develop his personal understanding with some assurance.  To do this, it is absolutely necessary to know and to apply sound principles of biblical interpretation.”

Oral E. Collins


Historicism as a principle of prophetic interpretation


2 Peter 1

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…

19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.



Resources for defining it:



“The Historicist approach to prophecy is an admission of God’s presiding control of history leading to a climactic conclusion with the fulfillment of God’s plan as set forth in Scripture. It is one’s understanding of God’s plan in history that makes clear God’s plan for the future.”

SOURCE: | Explore the classic Protestant interpretation of Bible prophecy

“This way of interpreting Bible prophecy, called ‘Historicism’, is not about guessing the future. It’s about comparing history to the prophecies in the Bible.”

From page 2 of their Site Tour:

“Historicism is the view that most of Revelation describes history as it has been unfolding over the last 20 centuries. Historicists see in the prophecies concerning the Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Whore of Babylon, references to the pagan Roman Empire, papal Rome (that is, Roman Europe under the rule of the popes), the Papacy, and the Roman Catholic Church.  The majority of Historicists also identify the symbols of the smoke rising from the Abyss and the invasion of locusts as descriptions of the rise and spread of Islam. This view united all Protestants throughout the Reformation and has largely been replaced by Futurism as the dominant eschatology (belief about the end-times) of evangelical Christians.

“To put it another way, Historicism is the method of interpreting Biblical prophecy by comparing history to the prophecy in question. Historicists believe that prophecy is history pre-written. Therefore prophecy can be understood by looking to the past to discover what has, and hasn’t, been fulfilled. Historicism, as a school of thought, like futurism, contains many differing opinions as to details of prophetic interpretation. It is not a system that must stand or fall by its ability to withstand criticism. It is a method of interpretation that allows its adherents to continually re-evaluate their opinions as they grow in their understanding of both history, and the Bible.”

SOURCE: Historicism Research Foundation

“In brief, Historicism teaches that biblical predictions are being fulfilled throughout history and continue to be fulfilled today. The Book of Revelation is a pre-written history of the Church from the time of its writing to the future Second Advent of Christ, which shall usher in the new heaven and new earth… Historicists agree on the following unique concepts:

“The ‘Year-Day’ principle – In prophetic language, a day of symbolic time represents a year of actual, historic time.

“The ‘Time, Times and Half a time,’ ‘3 1/2 years,’ ‘1260 days’, and ’42 month’ time period, which occurs seven times in Daniel and Revelation, is understood by Historicists to be fulfilled in history. 

“All Historicists believe that the Papacy is that Anti-Christ, the Man of Sin of II Thessalonians 2, and a Beast of Revelation 13.

“Historicists generally agree Revelation 9 speaks of the Muslim scourge which afflicted Christendom.

“All Historicists agree that the Book of Revelation prophesies the history of the Church from the Apostolic Era to the future Second Advent of Jesus Christ.”


A word of caution:

In studying Bible prophecy, I’ve stumbled across websites and YouTube channels in which historicism is used as a principle of interpretation. However, several times the sites or channels proved to be Seventh Day Adventist (SDA).