The Good News in the Bible

Interpreting the Symbols of Revelation
William Diehl

There are generally 3 schools of prophetic interpretation: the Preterist school, the Historicist school, and the Futurist school.

However, there is also another "school" of prophetic interpretation which is seldom mentioned. This is the allegorical school. This school of interpretation combines the historicist view with a more symbolic general view. Please allow me to explain what this means.

The great strength of the historicist view is the fact that the Apostle Paul in II Thes. 2 uses the historicist method when he identifies the little horn of Daniel 7 and 8 with the apostasy that was going to take place in the Christian church. By referring to the little horn as a future apostate religious "falling away", he shows that he did not believe that all the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (the Preterist view). The preterists insist that all prophecy ends with the fall of Jerusalem. Paul shows us that the "false prophet" and the "little horn", that John and Daniel refer to respectively, is yet future to Paul's day and would take place after the "one who restrains him" would be "taken out of the way". The Protestants of the 16th -19th centuries (Luther, Calvin, Wesley, et. al.) generally recognized that the Papacy was this "little horn" or the "false prophet". This would mean that the Reformers were in the historicist school of prophetic interpretation. However, after the Reformers left the scene, others began to try to fit every single symbol in Daniel and Revelation into a historical event. This extreme historicism has lead some interpreters into very regrettable mistakes in trying to identify every star falling, every earthquake, every horseman, every seal, every trumpet, and each angel with a historical event. This branch of extreme literalism of the historical school has caused some within the historicist school to adopt a less literal approach to historicism. This approach can be called "Allegorical Historicism".

This school recognizes the GENERAL symbols of the book of Revelation to be symbols of historically real things and events but this school avoids the pitfall of trying to identify each and every symbol of Revelation with a historical event.


The Allegorical Historicist school recognizes the following:

1.)The group called the "144,000" symbolizes the Christian church throughout the Christian era, not just a special sinless group at the end of time.

2.) The "Sealing" of the believers as an ongoing historical event which takes place throughout the Christian era as the believers are tested on disputed points of truth throughout this era.

3.) The "Image to the Beast" and the "False Prophet" symbolizes the Papacy and other apostate forms of Christianity which have overtaken the Church of Christ and sought to rule the nations of Europe after the fall of Pagan Rome.

4.) The "7 Headed Beast" represents the Roman Empire up until its collapse (deadly wound).

5.) The "Deadly Wound is Healed" represents the resurrection of pagan Rome in the form of the "Ten Horns" of the Holy Roman Empire and modern Europe.

6.) The kingdom of "Babylon" represents Satan's earthly kingdom in the form of pagan and papal Rome.

7.) The "Three Angels" messages represent the proclamation of the Everlasting Gospel throughout the entire Christian era.

8.) The "Woman in the Wilderness" represents the persecuted Christian Church
throughout her entire sojourn of "1260 days" of hiding from the wrath of the Antichrist.

9.) The "Two Witnesses Prophesying" for "forty two months" represent the proclamation of the word of God during the Christian era and its persecution at the hands of the "Gentiles".

10.) The events of the final chapters of Revelation which describe the 2 resurrections, the 1000 years of Satan's being bound, and the final punishment and destruction of Satan and the wicked are interpreted as genuine historical events to take place after the 2d Advent. These literal events are described using allegorical symbols however.


The Allegorical Historicist school denies that the 4 Horsemen and the other symbols associated with the 7 Seals, the 7 Trumpets, and 7 Last Plagues are associated with specific historical events, but are rather allegorical symbols of the fact that God is acting in history to fulfill His sovereign will to save all who repent and also to defeat the purposes and plans of the Devil and his kingdom. To attempt to identify these symbols with SPICIFIC time periods (such as the apostolic church, then the medieval church, then the Reformation church, then the church of 1833-1844, and then the church of 1844-today) or with SPECIFIC kingdoms like the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union, China, the United States, England, or ten specific nations or barbarian tribes in Europe is to over-extend the historical method of interpretation of Apocalyptic Biblical scripture.

This is not to say that nations like the United States of America and the modern United States of Europe will not have a significant role to play in the final scenes of conflict between the "144,000" and the "Image to the Beast" and imposing of the final "mark of the Beast" versus the "seal of the Living God". We believe that the final great test for the church of the Christ will revolve around the Gospel as it relates to the true Sabbath Day as a sign of the literal seven day Creation and also a sign of our justification by the grace of God through faith alone in the imputed righteousness of the Sinless One, our Lord Jesus Christ.

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