|The Rise of
|Related to the
demise of Historicist approach Theologically bound to “new” denominations.
The appeal of being “in on the secret” - especially in a time when Christians
are a minority.
Of course, if the Historicist approach had continued in popularity this approach would now be a minor footnote. It is not; it is the dominant thinking on Revelation today, especially among evangelicals and fundamentalists -- the groups most likely to think about it. The demise of the Historicist approach left a vacuum; the futurist approach was not invented to fill it (it dates from the Plymouth Brethren in 1830) but was available at hand.
One big reason for its success is that it appealed to the number of “new” denominations and sects which have arisen, particularly in America. Having no long traditions of scholarship in this area, and given to the thunderous in preaching, this approach had great appeal. It allowed these sects to be “different” in a significant way without doing any particular violence to the Scripture. Indeed, the method tends to be much more literalist than others. For example, some interpreters hold that “stars falling from the sky” in Revelation are just that -- astronomical phenomena, ranging from comets to actual stars “falling” somehow (e.g...., going out). This method of interpretation -- fundamentalism, or hyperorthodoxy -- when applied to Revelation produces the futurist approach. God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days (a theory almost unknown in the early church) so of course these signs and wonders are literal ones too. (This also explains why there are so many versions of this).
There is one other factor: the secret society. In a society in which most people consider themselves as Christians (or are hypocrites hoping God won’t know the difference) the appeal of knowing the meaning of Revelation is one of scholarship: “The Right Reverend Jessup, up late nights, poring over old history books, writing out his commentary on Revelation.” If you understood Revelation in the historicist sense, you were both educated (in history) and studied (in the Bible).
In a society where most people are not Christians, and the name of the Christian is despised (you “right wing fundamentalists,” you), the human psyche naturally reaches for support. One way that support is given is to feel that you are “in the know.” You are a member of the secret society, the outcasts, the ones who know the deadly secret. It helps bind the church together. Coupled as it is (next slide) with evangelism, it is a very powerful glue.