The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2



APPENDIX A - Fundamental Fallacies of Futurist System

Because of the far-reaching implications and later effects of Futurism, we here list the fundamental weaknesses of this Jesuit counterinterpretation. PFF2 801.1


Ribera’s and Bellar-mine’s Futurism was deliberately designed to counter the interpretationnot only of virtually all Protestants but likewise of that large group ofpious Spirituals within Catholicism’s own ranks whose application of theprophetic symbols concerning Antichrist pressed uncomfortably upon thepapal hierarchy. Futurism was an expedient designed to relieve thatpressure and to divert the application of Antichrist from the papal system.Protestant writers had pressed fulfillment in the Papacy with unbearablelogic. So recourse was had by the Jesuits to ridicule, play upon words, andclever turning of phrases in an attempt to confuse the issue and winthe case. That is a questionable basis of exposition. PFF2 801.2


Futurism breaks the law of harmonious prophetic symbolism—that all factors insymbolic prophecy must be consistently applied. Thus a symbolic “woman,“denominated “mystery” and seated on a seven-headed beast, dearly standsfor something different from what the actual words describe. It is true thatnot all Apocalyptic prophecies are symbolic. There is no reason, forexample, to consider the recital in Daniel 11 as symbolic prophecy, forhere the prophet speaks of kings, battles, and leagues, or of taking citiesand conquering countries, not of figurative beasts, horns, and tempests;neither is there any indication that Revelation 20, which speaks of Satan,the saints, the dead, the resurrection, and the nations, means anything butSatan, the saints, the dead, the resurrection, and the nations. PFF2 801.3

As a rule, there is no difficulty in distinguishing literal from figurative language. Winged lions, composite beasts, multiple heads and horns, winds, waters, and Babylon on her seven hills are all obviously symbols. And even if the prophecy did not in many cases supply the interpretation of the symbols, no one could possibly mistake the figurative nature of the language. But Futurism is based largely on literalism, and literalism, paradoxically enough, leads to grotesque conclusions if applied to symbols. Therefore the impossibility of maintaining a consistent literalism leads to confusion. PFF2 801.4

If the Futurist admits that a scarlet woman seated on a seven-headed beast is not a woman on a beast, but is a false religious system enthroned in a seven-hilled city, and supported by the civil power, how can he insist that the Two Witnesses (identified by the prophecy itself as the two symbolic olive trees) must be literal persons preaching in sackcloth, and lying unburied in the streets of literal Jerusalem for three and a half literal days, and demand an extremely unlikely series of varied exploits performed in a very short time by a future superman Antichrist? PFF2 801.5


As a consequence of confusing the figurative and the literal, Futurism mixes prophetic and literal time.The three and a half days of the Two Witnesses are admitted by Ribera asalso prefiguring, on the year-day principle, three and a half actual years;but the prophetic three and a half times, or years, applied to the womanand the Little Horn (both obviously symbolic figures), he considers simplyliteral years. Such confusion is utterly inconsistent and illogical. Anyonewould expect to find literal time in a literal prophecy, but symbolic timeobviously belongs with symbolic prophecy. And whereas Ribera holds tothree and a half years, Bellarmine, whose main assault is upon the year-dayprinciple, destroys all dependability of prophetic time by making it meananything—either days or months, years or millenniums. Confusion is worseconfounded when Ribera makes the Little Horn, with its three and a halfyears, refer to a yet future Antichrist, and Bellarmine applies it to AntiochusEpiphanes, for three and a half years way back in the time of the Maccabees,thus resurrecting the contention of Porphyry the sophist. PFF2 802.1


Futurismremoves the application from the tangible check of historical fulfillmentwhere it can be tested, and gets it into the future where necessarily imaginative treatment of predicted but as yet unfulfilled events cannot be checkedagainst anything solid or historical as a guide. It is therefore without limitas to speculative possibilities that can scarcely be gainsaid. If literalismleads to absurdities, futurity of application leads to fantasy. PFF2 802.2


Futurism makes a greatgap between the events of the early centuries and the last, supposedly brief,terrific struggle with a personal Antichrist at the end of the age. It violatesthe principle of historical progression and unbroken sequence for the outline prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, recognized as established by mostCatholics as well as all Protestants of the time—the four consecutive worldpowers, followed by the breakup of the fourth, and these in turn by Antichrist. The absence of any indication in the prophecies to account for sucha gap of centuries leaves as the only adequate reason for the theory thenecessity of parrying the application to the Papacy of the specifications setby prophecy for that period following the breakup of Rome. So Futurismdeliberately overleaps the centuries of the Middle Ages and seeks to fastenall eyes on a superman Antichrist at the end of the age. PFF2 802.3

(This did not convince the Protestants of the post-Reformation era, for none accepted this device to relieve the pressure on Rome, produced by inexorable Protestant application. Acceptance by Protestants had to wait until the nineteenth century.) PFF2 802.4


Futurism ignores and repudiates the principle of progressive interpretation built up through fulfillment of prophecy. Futurism insists on clinging to the interpretations of the early church writers of things they expected shortly, but which were not yet fulfilled. In that time all the prophecies beyond the first advent of Christ, the rule of Rome, and its breakup were still in the future. They looked for a future Antichrist at the end of time, for to them the end was imminent. Paul found it necessary to explain to the Thessalonians that a falling away must come first, but he gave no hint as to whether that falling away would be of long or of short duration. John’s prophecy, written many years later, probably extended their conception of the time until the consummation of all things; therefore it would never occur to them to interpret the 1260 days as years because, expecting their Lord soon, they could not possibly foresee the stretch of centuries ahead. But, because the early church saw certain prophetic fulfillments as future in their day, it does not therefore follow that more than a thousand or fifteen hundred years later they should still be future. The early church argument of the Futurists is therefore beside the point. PFF2 803.1