A Historicist Interpretation of Revelation — Continued – Part 1
This article goes into more detail on the chapters of Revelation that are briefly mentioned in the first article, “A Historicist Interpretation of Revelation.” Readers are referred to A Flood of Light Upon the Book of Revelation by John S. Fox, The Book of Revelation by F. W. C. Neser, and Study in Revelation by Howard B. Rand for a more detailed description of the events being described in Revelation and the symbolism.
The following historicist explanation is from Fox’s, Neser’s, and Rand’s descriptions. Just as there are several futurist and praetorist interpretations, so there are several historicist interpretations. There is as much disagreement among the members of the historicist school over what events are being described as there is among members of the futurist school.
The Rise and Fall of the Papacy
Chapters 10 describe the Reformation. Chapter 11 describes the decline of the Papacy to the end of the age. Chapter 12 describes the general movement of the lost tribes of Israel. Chapter 13 describes the rise of the papacy. Chapter 14 describes the decline of the papacy and the establishment of the Kingdom. Chapter 15 describes the victory over the beast, i.e., the defeat of the Papacy.
Chapter 10 of Revelation describes the early days of the Reformation from John Wycliffe in the middle of the fourteenth century to the end of the sixteenth century.
Revelation 10:1-4. Jesus Christ is the mighty angel. “Mighty angel” is also associated with God’s protection and direction of His Kingdom throughout the Reformation.
Opening the book is the beginning of the Reformation, which begins with John Wycliffe (1320-1384). About 200 years later Martin Luther, Zwingli, Melancthon, and others follow.
In 1526 Tyndale translates and prints the New Testament in English. The printed Bible, which becomes available to the masses, is the “small book” as opposed to the large handwritten Bible in Latin hidden by the Roman Catholic Church and closed to the people. Thus, the Bible is brought to light.
“Set his right foot upon the sea” denotes preventing Rome’s attempt to close the Book and capture Israel, Britain, as witnessed by the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588. “Set his left foot on the earth” depicts preventing Rome’s suppression of Protestantism on the Continent.
“Cloud” is associated with Christ’s second coming. “Rainbow” represents God’s mercy or the everlasting covenant with Israel. “A lion roareth” is Christ.
“Thunder” refers to edicts and bulls of the Papacy against the Reformation. “Seven thunders” represents Rome, the home of the Pope. Others view the first four thunders as great events during the Reformation occurring 2520 years (7 x 360) after great events in Israel’s history and the last three thunders as dealing with the work of the Kingdom. The first thunder is the removal of images and rejection of transubstantiation in 1551-2. This is related to Rehoboam’s instituting the worship of the golden calves in Israel. The second thunder is the Puritan movement of 1607 to 1688. It is related to Israel’s loss of power between Ahab’s and Jehu’s reigns. The third thunder is the revival of spiritual religion in 1781. This is related to Tiglath-Pileser III carrying away the tribe of Manasseh in 740 B.C. The fourth thunder is Napoleon’s defeat in Egypt in 1800-2. It corresponds to the capture of Samaria in 721 B.C. The fifth thunder represents the worldwide missionary work of Great Britain and the United States (Isa. 49:6). The sixth thunder is the awakening of Israel (Anglo-Saxondom) to its true identity. The seventh thunder is Israel turning to God and living by His commandments and laws.
Revelation 10:5-7. Jesus swears by God, the Eternal Creator, that judgement should no longer be delayed (“there should be time no longer”). The Book of Truth must be opened for all to read and the dark ages ended.
“Time no longer” may also refer to some great event 360 years (one time) after another great event. Thus, 360 years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada is 1948, which marks the beginning of Israel’s spiritual awakening.
Revelation 10:8-10. These verses describe people reading (“eat it up”) the Bible in their own language instead of Latin, which few understand. Reading the Bible brings light to their spiritual darkness — it is sweet. Consequently, it reveals the falsity of the Roman System, styling it as the “man of sin” and shows that the Roman System is an anti-Christ system. Thus, the Papacy begins burning Bibles and persecuting those who proclaim its truths — it becomes bitter within.
Chapter 11 presents the two witnesses. The two witnesses are the Church (the candlestick) and Israel (the olive tree). The beast is Papal Rome and its false doctrine. This chapter describes events from the sixteenth century until the end of the twentieth century. (Many historicists who wrote before 1980 seem to believe that the end of the age would occur before the end of the twentieth century. In this respect, they hold a belief in common with many futurists who wrote before 1980.)
Revelation 11:1-2. These two verses show the final crowing act of the Reformation.
Jesus Christ is the angel. The “rod” is the measuring rod of truth. God’s true elect Church is the “temple.” The “temple” also symbolizes God’s presence among his people, Israel (not Jewry).
John is not to measure any false system (Gentile court). Therefore, the Roman System is not to be reformed or reconstituted; it is to be rejected. Instead of the Pope, the Bible becomes the divinely authorized measuring rule of the Church.
The “holy city” is the building that God is raising. It is the completed Israel Kingdom. The building begins with the 12 apostles and the true Church. Thus, what is being measured is the ultimate, complete organization of Israel according to God’s plan for a perfect Kingdom.
The 42 months begins in 533 when Emperor Justinian declares the Bishop of Rome to be the head of all churches and priests of God. It ended in 1793 during the French Revolution (the execution of Louis XVI, adoption of the constitution, and the beginning of the Reign of Terror and the confiscation of church property).
Alternatively, the 42 months could have begun in 606-607 when Emperor Phocas made the Bishop of Rome the head of all the churches in Christendom. It ended in 1867 when the Papacy fell and lost all its temporal power.
Another reading of the 42 months deals with events related to Islam. One begins in 622 when Mohammed fled Mecca and ends in 1882 when Great Britain takes over Egypt. Another begins in 657 when Pope Vitalian commands that Latin be used in all divine services and ends in 1917 when General Allenby captures Jerusalem.
Revelation 11:3-4. Two witnesses are identified. They are the olive tree (Israel, not Jewry) and the candlestick (the true Church). (See Zech. 4:11-14, Rom. 11: 17-27, and Isa. 43: 1, 10.)
For 1260 years, the Papacy persecutes Israel, the Western Protestant Nations, and the true Church for preaching the true Gospel and exposing the falsity of the Papacy (see Zech. 4:11-14, Rom. 11:17-27, Isa. 43:1, 10, 12, Acts 1:8). “Clothed in sackcloth” symbolizes sorrow and persecution.
In verse 4, the two olive trees are probably the two Houses of Israel. They may also be the Old and New Testaments.
Revelation 11: 5-13. These verses provide more details about the candlestick. God sends retribution upon those who condemns His witnesses. His retribution is revealed in the seven vials, especially the seventh (Rev. 11:5-6).
Verse 6 proclaims that the witnesses have power over spiritual darkness. They can prevent this darkness from obscuring the light of God’s Word.
“Waters” in verse 6 represents the Roman Empire and Papal Rome. Consequently, the testimony of the witnesses results in wars — “have power over waters to turn them into blood.”
In verse 7, the beast refers to the Roman Empire and its successor Papal Rome, whose origin is the bottomless pit, which symbolizes evil and darkness. Papal Rome wars against the witnesses and kills them for exposing the Papacy’s false teachings.
Verses 8-10 describe the Papacy at the height of its power, which was reached between 1513 and 1516. The “three days and an half” occurs from 1514 to 1517 when all opposition to the Papacy seems to have ceased. In 1517, Luther ends the power of Rome with his “95 Thesis” (Rev. 11:11). Now the Reformation is unstoppable; the power of the witnesses is from God (Rev. 11:12).
Others identify the beast coming out of the pit in verse 7 as false doctrines far more deceptive and insidious than those of the Papacy and far more effective than the sword. They make the testimony of the witnesses so ineffective that the witnesses appear dead. These false beliefs attack the Word itself. They appear as higher criticism and modernism.
Under this interpretation, the three and a half days (three and a half years) occurs before the end of the twentieth century. At the end of this period, God intervenes on behalf of his witnesses and revives their power. Higher criticism, modernism, and their doctrinal kindred fall. The return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead may accompany this revival.
“Great city” in verse 8 refers to the European beast system of Papal Rome.
“Heaven” in verse 12 does not refer to God’s abode. It means the political heavens, i.e., Christians openly worshiping God in truth with Bibles in their own language. It represents Protestant Europe.
In Revelation 11:13, the earthquake is Great Britain separating from Papal rule, the “city,” in 1536. Others associate the earthquake with the resurrection of the dead; it is a real physical earthquake.
The seven thousand slain men symbolizes the seven provinces of the Netherlands that seceded from Papal rule. Others connect the seven thousand to Elijah and the 7000 who remained faithful to God. The nations that become Protestant and break away from Rome are the descendants of the House of Israel, the Ten Tribes.
The Woman and the Dragon
Chapter 12 of Revelation describes the woman and the dragon. The woman symbolizes Israel. The dragon, the serpent, and the beast are Satan usually revealing himself through Pagan Rome or Papal Rome. This chapter describes the general movement of the lost tribes of Israel.
Revelation 12: 1-5. The woman represents Israel (not Jewry). Sun, moon, and stars symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen. 37:9-10). “Third part of the stars” refers to the Western European part of the Roman Empire, the Roman Empire having broken into three parts. Western Europe is also symbolized by the dragon’s tail. The man child represents the Reformation.
Thus, these verses show Israel (the woman) escaping Pagan Roman rule and fleeing to the Isles. Pagan Roman transforms into Papal Rome (the dragon). Papal Rome pursues and overcomes Israel in the Isles. Israel remains in bondage until the Reformation (the man child). The dragon devouring the child of the woman symbolizes the burning of the Wycliffe and continues to this day. (See also Jer. 31.)
Another interpretation identifies the man child as Christ and his Church. “Her child was caught up unto God” describes the ascension of Christ (John 20:17, Heb. 12:2, Luke 20:42-43, Acts 1:9, 3:21).
“Red dragon” personifies Satan’s rebellion against God and symbolizes Pagan Rome. “Ten horns” are the 10 kingdoms into which the Roman Empire divides. “Seven heads” are the seven hills on which Rome is built. “Seven crowns” are the seven forms of governments through which Rome passes. These seven forms are kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, imperial caesars, and Diocletian.
“Third part” refers to the Roman Empire in the Near East (Palestine, etc.). Thus, “her tail drew the third part of the stars from heaven” represents the Roman conquest of the Near East in 63 B.C.
Alternatively, “her tail drew the third part of the stars from heaven” represents the last half of the rule of the four empires, the Roman Empire, as foretold in Daniel; that is, it represents Papal Rome. Papal Rome gains support of many in Israel to revive the Roman Empire ecclesiastically. Many in Israel follow the dragon and worship her power.
Revelation 12:6. This verse refers to Israel’s journey through the wilderness, Europe, to the Isles. (See Hos. 2:14, II Sam. 7:10, Isa. 49:5-12.) This period is from c. 720 B.C. with the fall of Samaria to c. 500 A.D. with the Saxon invasion of Britain and then to c. 1800 A.D. when Great Britain begins her rise to becoming the world’s greatest empire.
Revelation 12:7-13. War between Great Britain and Papal Europe is being described. Michael is Jesus Christ. The dragon represents Pagan Rome and later Papal Rome, both of which dominate Britain for a while. “Seven heads and ten horns” symbolizes Pagan or Papal Roman earth.
Others place the events described in verse 7 in heaven, God’s abode. The ejection of Satan from heaven in verses 8 and 9 correspond with the withdrawal of Pagan Rome from England. This withdrawal allows mass migration of Israel to England between 500 and 1100. It also corresponds with Constantine the Great officially recognizing Christianity and his defeat of the pagan army led by Licinius, who headed the Eastern Empire, in 324, and Theodosius (reign 379-385) outlawing the worship of idols.
Verse 11 reveals the secret of the Church’s greatness and how it defeats the Papal dragon. It does so not by might but by proclaiming the Word of God.
Verse 12 refers to the defeat and fall of the Papacy. “Heavens” represents Israel. “Inhibitors of the earth” refers to the inhabitants of the old Roman world. Upon these people come the woes of the last three trumpets.
Verse 13 describes Israel’s migration across Europe to the British Isles and then to North America.
Revelation 12:14-17. These verses refer to the end of Israel’s (woman’s) sojourn through the wilderness. After 500 A.D., Israel arrived at its new home (Rev. 11:14). It is liberated from the domain of the Papal dragon or serpent via the Reformation (Rev. 11:15-16). Nevertheless, the Papal dragon continues to war against Israel plunging her into two world wars. The dragon continues to war against Israel (not Jewry) and the Church until the end of the age (Rev. 11:17).
“Floods” in verses 15 and 16 represents peoples and nations sent against the two women, Israel (Protestant Europe) to destroy her. However, the serpent fails as the barbaric invasions brought down Pagan Rome. Likewise, Papal Rome’s persecution and religious wars also fail (see Isa. 43:1-2).
The remnant in verse 17 is the people of Israel who reside in Europe that remain under the Pope’s control, e.g., France and Italy. The Pope seeks to eradicate them. Among these people are Huguenots.
Papal Rome Replaces Pagan Rome
Chapter 13 describes Papal power replacing Pagan Rome. It describes the rise of the Papacy. The Papacy is the beast out of the sea and the man of sin. The beast of the earth, land, is the political Roman Catholic system of Continental Europe. Others believe that this chapter deals primarily with the world’s economic system, especially its financial system, which is modeled after Babylon’s economic and financial system.
Revelation 13:1. “Seven heads and ten horns” symbolized Pagan Rome. “Seven” could refer to seven-hilled Rome itself or to seven phases of pagan rule before Papal Rome. Thus, “seven heads and ten horns” represent the political aspects of history during the fourth empire, Pagan Rome and Papal Rome. The ten crowned horns are ten individual kingdoms of Europe.
“The name of blasphemy” depicts Papal Rome.
Revelation 13:2-3. These verses describe Papal Rome replacing Pagan Rome. Pagan Rome dies with the fall of the Draconian system of government, the seventh head. Rome returns to life as the Papacy. In essence, Pagan Rome transforms itself into Papal Rome. Paganism is Christianized.
The lion, bear, and leopard illustrate the Roman Empire. (In Daniel 7:4-6, these three animals symbolize three empires that precede the Roman Empire. Rome adopts the characteristics of these three empires: swiftness of conquest of Macedonia, tenacity of purpose of Persia, and voracity of Babylon.) Pagan Rome is the dragon, which passes its power to Papal Rome, the beast.
The beast being described here, which rose “up out of the sea,” also represents the Babylonian economic system, which is now universal.
Revelation 13:4. Religious Papal rule replaces Pagan Roman rule. The Pope becomes so powerful that no one can “make war with him.” The dragon is Satan that gives power to the beast, which is Pagan Rome and later Papal Rome.
Revelation 13:5-6. These verses describe a blaspheming Papacy. The Popes utter blasphemies for 1260 prophetical years from 606 with the decree of Phocas to 1866 with the crowning of Italy’s first king (see Dan. 7:25). Others place these 1260 years as beginning in 533 with Emperor Justinian’s decree making the Bishop of Rome the head of all Churches and ending in 1793 during the French Revolution. Among these blasphemies are bulls declaring that the Pope has the authority of Christ and is in essences God (see II Thess. 2:4).
“Tabernacle” represents Christ’s true Church. “Heaven” symbolizes God’s elect nation Israel (not Jewry).
Revelation 13:7. The Papacy wars against the saints. Millions of Waldenses, Albigenses, Vaudois, Wycliffites, Hussites, Reformers, and others who see and teach that the Pope is the “man of sin” and the “anti-Christ” are killed during the Papacy’s supremacy.
Revelation 13: 8-9. Except the true Church, people accept Papal rule and its false doctrines. “Whose names are not written in the book” refers to the non-Israel nations. The true Church is found where the descendants of Israel (not Jewry) live: the British Isles, Northwest Europe, and Frances as Huguenots, Albigenses, and Waldenses.
Revelation 13:10. The Papacy is judged and sentenced accordingly. This punishment includes the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, and World War II.
Revelation 13:11-13. These verses describe the growth and expansion of Papal Rome’s power. The Popes and their priests claim the power to inflict God’s judgment on the disobedient (Rev. 13:13).
“Another beast coming up out of the earth” in verse 11 is the countries of Europe that submit to the Papal Rome System (the beast that comes out of the sea) and give it their political, economic, and military support. Others hold that this phrase symbolizes the Babylonian economic system, especially the modern banking and financial system.
Revelation 13:14-15. These verses describe the councils of Papal Rome, especially those used to condemn true believers like Huss and Jerome to death.
Revelation 13:16-18. These verses discuss the mark of the beast. The right hand represents manual labor. The forehead represents intellectual ability. In 1179 the Lateran Council enslaves all to Papal Rome’s rule (Rev. 13:16). No one can trade with anyone who rejects the Pope’s authority (Rev. 13:17). Only people who are baptized into the Roman Catholic Church (sprinkling on the forehead of babies and new converts could be the mark of the beast on the forehead) can buy or sell. All others are outcasts, and no one is permitted to buy from them or to sell to them.
“Six” is the number of man (man [lateinos] equals 666). It symbolizes a kingdom or political, economic, and religious system that man has built in opposition to God’s Church and nation, Israel (not Jewry). The Pope’s title “Vicar of Christ” in Latin yields 666. Some identify 666 with gold (I Kings 10:14), which is the image of the Babylonian financial system.
Copyright © 2011 by Thomas Coley Allen.
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