Revealing Revelation – This Idea is Ideal


In our previous post we looked at the first of four different methods used to interpret the Book of Revelation. The first was Historicism and that view sees the entire Book of Revelation as a picture of the time between the two advents of Christ. Here we will look at was is called the Spiritualist or idealist interpretive method.


The Idealist or Spiritualist view would be the most popular among contemporary Reformed theologians, especially those in the Amillennial camp. The Idealist sees the Book of revelation as a symbolic picture of the reoccurring cycles of persecution, judgment and success of the Church. There are seven cycles representing the perfect number of totality and should be seen, like the entire book, as symbolic for the entire Church Age.

To the idealist no actual historical events are pictured in the prophecies, but rather a reoccuring morality tale of good versus evil with God triumphing over and over again.

Does not view the events as actual events in history but rather as pictures of the never ending battle between good and evil

  • The primary view of Amillennialist
  • Held by large number of contemporary Reformed theologians
  • The book is arranged in seven repeated cycles representing the constant cycles of judgment, tribulation and success for the Church in history
  • The seven churches are descriptive of the Church in history, but in no order – seven is taken as symbolic for “complete”
  • The seals, trumpets and bowls represent God’s dealing with mankind through the beginning of cycles of wars, judgment, plagues – but with no specific historical events tied to them
  • The two witnesses represent the true Church throughout history
  • The two beasts are political and religious powers that persecute the Church throughout history – may represent the Pope
  • Chapter 19 is primarily seen as the Second Coming of Christ on a White Horse where the sword that comes out of His mouth is a sword of judgment

This view is held by many leading contemporary and historical theologians.

Adherents include:

Hendricksen, Morey, Horton, Riddlebarger, Rushdooney, Hobbs, Wilcock, Warfield, Hailey, Moffat, Swete, as well as many Puritans

Some of the shortcomings of this method include a difficulty in overcoming the objection that John declares that these are real events and that they were to happen soon. This also includes the fact that John declares that the Beast was a man alive at the time of his writing (Rev 13 and 17).

Also, this view avoids the fact that similar Old Testament language was used to describe real and actual events, persons and times and there is no need to make this book any different.

Theologians within this camp have differed greatly on how to best interpret different visions and symbols. Though the main thrust of the argument does not changed greatly from commentator to commentator that actual analysis of individual symbols differ greatly.

The last difficulty with this view, and this does relate to the first, is that it gives no actual warning to the first century Church that received the book what to consider and look out for with the current persecution and tribulation they were suffering under. John is instructed to send the letter to seven actual Churches because “the time is short!” It may give general comfort, but the book makes an appeal for actual comfort and actual warning of real events.

But that being said, the proponents of this view have done a great job in dealing with the difficulty of the passages and symbols and have done more to distinguish the type of literature and the attachment to the Old Testament than probably any other view. They have also done a marvelous job critiquing and displaying the dangerous wooden literal hermeneutic employed  many modern eschatological prognosticators.


One Response to “Revealing Revelation – This Idea is Ideal”

  1. 1 Yeshua the Lord of Glory

    Hi David

    This is absolutely not the way we see the book of Revelation…I knew there was a reason why i did not want finish reading K.R book…As i said before,what we believe does not fit into a neat little box…

    Btw: you are right,i did not just want a “no i do not”…It’s bad enough already that you do not agree with me teacher 🙂 .I’ll talk to you later David…

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