The book of Revelation is the only large portion of the Word of God concerning which four basic differing systems of interpretation have been developed. The system of interpretation a Bible student adopts will make an enormous amount of difference in what he believes the book teaches.

The Four Principals Schools of Interpretation are as follows:

The Spiritual Scheme (or idealist) of Interpretation

The Preterist Scheme of Interpretation

The Historicist Scheme of Interpretation

The Futurist Scheme of Interpretation

The Spiritual Scheme of Interpretation (or idealist) insists that, the book is designed to teach us the spiritual history of the Church of Christ, to warn us of those spiritual dangers to which we are exposed, to inform us of the spiritual trials to which we are liable, to describe the great contest with evil, and to comfort us with the assurance of the final victory of Christ over the powers of darkness.
There have always been some Biblical scholars with this view.

The Preterist Scheme of Interpretation insists that, the author [John] only describes the events taking place on earth in the Roman Empire during his own time, especially toward the end of the first century. Developed in the 17th century by a Jesuit scholar.

The Historicist Scheme of Interpretation has this conception, that the book of Revelation, especially in the prophecies of the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls, sets forth particular events in the history of the world that relate to the welfare of the Church from the first century down to modern times. The earliest complete commentary on the Book of Revelation was carried out by Victorinus of Pettau, considered to be one of the earliest historicist commentators, around 300 AD

The Futurist Scheme of Interpretation insists that, for the most part, the visions of this book will be fulfilled toward the end and at the end of this age. The commonly accepted scheme today. Roman Catholic Jesuit Francisco Ribera (15371591) wrote a 500 page commentary on the Book of Revelation. This commentary established the futurist interpretation of Bible prophecy. Jesuit is a member of the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534 and devoted to missionary and educational work.

The Origin of Futurism -

So why, when and how did Futurism creep into early church doctrine? When this interpretation of prophecy began should be of particular interest to all schools of prophetic interpretation. Dr. Guinness throws open the door of enlightenment to that dubious honor with this revealing bit of history:

We shall show that the futurist school of interpretation, on the contrary, is chiefly represented by teachers belonging to the Church of Rome; that the popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests of that apostate Church are all futurists, and that the futurist interpretation is one of the chief pillars of Romanism.

The former, or futurist system of interpreting the prophecies is now held, strange to say, by many Protestants, but it was first invented by the Jesuit Ribera, at the end of the sixteenth century, to relieve the Papacy from the terrible stigma cast upon it by the Protestant interpretation. This interpretation was so evidently the true and intended one, that the adherents of the Papacy felt its edge must, at any cost, be turned or blunted. If the Papacy were the predicted antichirst, as Protestants asserted, there was an end of the question, and separation from it became an imperative duty.

First, note the fact that Rome's reply to the Reformation in the 16th century included an answer to the prophetic teachings of the Reformers. Through the Jesuits Ribera and Bellarmine, Rome put forth her futurist interpretation of prophecy. Ribera was a Jesuit priest of Salamanca. In 1585 he published a commentary on the Apocalypse, denying the application of the prophecies concerning antichrist to the existing Church of Rome. He was followed by Cardinal Bellarmine, a nephew of Pope Marcellus II, who was born in Tuscany in 1542, and died in Rome in 1621. Bellarmine was not only a man of great learning, but the most powerful controversialist in defence [sic] of Popery that the Roman Church ever produced." Clement VIII used these remarkable words on his nomination: "We choose him, because the Church of God does not possess his equal in learning." Bellarmine, like Ribera, advocated the futurist interpretation of prophecy. He taught that antichrist would be one particular man, that he would be a Jew, that he would be preceded by the reappearance of the literal Enoch and Elias, that he would rebuild the Jewish temple at Jerusalem, compel circumcision, abolish the Christian sacraments, abolish every other form of religion, would manifestly and avowedly deny Christ, would assume to be Christ, and would be received by the Jews as their Messiah, would pretend to be God, would make a literal image speak, would feign himself dead and rise again, and would conquer the whole world Christian, Mohammedan, and heathen; and all this in the space of three and a half years. He insisted that the prophecies of Daniel, Paul, and John, with reference to the antichrist, had no application what- ever to the Papal power.


  • The author, Jack M. Russell, looks at the book of Revelation through the Spiritual Scheme of Interpretation.
    The commonly accepted scheme today is that of the Futurist Scheme of Interpretation.