A Comparison of Futurism, Historicism and Preterism
Within Christianity there are three basic outlooks pertaining to the Great Tribulation and fulfillment of the Apocalypse. This article will provide a brief treatment of the three positions for your consideration.
Futurism is the oldest of the views, by default held by all the earliest Christians whom held also to imminency. It is explicitly taught as such by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus and others. To its advantage can be pointed out that Daniel 9:26 demands a gap of at least forty years, so a longer duration comes as no great surprise. The ancient Church explained this ongoing duration via the sexta-septamillennial tradition, as in, the final things would unfold about the time the six thousand years of wickedness were to be concluded. The span seen from today's perspective is now so large it becomes easy to see that the span is, itself, a dispensation of its own - the dispensation of the Mystery (the Church age). This above illustration is perhaps presented more clearly in our chart pertaining to Daniel's major prophecies, found here.
Historicism was the dominant position of Reformation era Christians. It was created to justify the Reformation movement. The antichrist and beast themes were seen as gradually unfolding through the long history of Roman Catholic apostasy and tyranny. This view has been misused by those such as the Millerites in a "date-setting" manner, which resulted in what is knows as "The Great Disappointment." This failure attributed to Historicism and its natural tendencies, caused students of prophecy to return to the futurism and constant imminency of the ancient Church which, when embraced, makes the setting of dates an impossibility.
Preterism is the newest of the three outlooks. Some preterists believe certain statements from Eusebius lean preterist, but that opinion remains disputed. Preterism places the fulfillment of the Great Tribulation at 67-70 A.D., and the "spiritualizing" necessary to accomplish this goal leaves the associated prophecies to bear no resemblance whatever to the alleged fulfillments. Preterism suggests the wild idea that the Great Tribulation and coming of the Lord was fulfilled without the ancient Church happening to notice it. Preterism is the least likely of the three outlooks.
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