A Critique Of Idealist And Historicist Views Of The Two Witnesses In Revelation 11 -- By: Christine Joy Tan

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 171:683 (Jul 2014)
Article: A Critique Of Idealist And Historicist Views Of The Two Witnesses In Revelation 11
Author: Christine Joy Tan


A Critique Of Idealist And Historicist Views Of The Two Witnesses In Revelation 11

Christine Joy Tan

* This is the third article in a four-part series “A Defense of a Futurist View of the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11:3-13.”

Christine Joy Tan, Bible prophecy teacher and Christian educator, serves in Asia, America, and Europe.

The first two articles in this series critiqued three preterist views on the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, finding each view to be problematic and unsustainable. The present article addresses idealist and historicist views of the two witnesses.

The Idealist Approach To The Book Of Revelation

The idealist view of Revelation does not attempt to identify specific fulfillments of prophecies. Instead advocates of this view believe that “only . . . spiritual lessons and principles (which may find recurrent expression in history) are depicted symbolically in the visions.”1 Idealist William Milligan declares that “we are not to look in the Apocalypse for special events, but for an exhibition of the principles which govern the history both of the world and the Church.”2 This approach “leans heavily on the conclusion that Revelation is basically apocalyptic in style, and continues the allegorical

approach to the book so characteristic of the middle ages of the Christian era.”3

This approach began in the Alexandrian School of theology, whose leaders influenced others and helped turn the early church from its chiliastic position.4 Its modern emergence has been attributed to the influence of William Milligan.5 Its major weakness is that Revelation itself claims to be predicting events “which must soon take place” (1:1), giving the impression that specific occurrences in particular historical settings are intended.6 Tenney observes that idealism “allows no concrete significance whatever to the figures that it employs,” so that “in interpretation the Apocalypse may thus mean anything or nothing according to the whim of the interpreter.”7

The Idealist View Of The Two Witnesses In Revelation 11

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