Idealism (Christian eschatology)

Idealism (Christian eschatology)

Idealism (also called the 'Spiritual view') in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as non-literal symbols which are perpetually and cyclically fulfilled in a spiritual sense during the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the forces of Satan throughout the time from the first advent to the Second Coming of Christ.

As such it is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future.


Robert G. Clouse

"A preterist is one who believes that most of the prophecies of the Apocalypse have been fulfilled in the past.. The idealist [herein labeled the "spiritual" approach] views the Revelation as a great drama involving the transcendent truths such as the conflict between righteousness and unrighteousness or the victory over Satan." (Revelation: Four Views, xiv.)

Steve Gregg

"What I am calling the spiritual approach (often called the idealist or symbolic approach) to Revelation does not attempt to find individual fulfillments of the visions but takes Revelation to be a great drama depicting transcendent spiritual realities, such as the spiritual conflict between Christ and Satan, between the saints and the antichristian world powers, and depicting the heavenly vindication and final victory of Christ and his saints. Fulfillment is seen either as entirely spiritual or as recurrent, finding representative expression in historical events throughout the age, rather than in one-time, specific fulfillments. The prophecy is thus rendered applicable to Christians in any age." (Revelation: Four Views, p. 2-3)

"..most modern commentators, both of the evangelical wing and of the literary-critical type, have mixed some of the ideas of the spiritual approach with one of the other historically-based approaches. This is not a difficult merger to effect, as Pieters rightly observes: [Spiritual] interpretations combine readily with those of the Preterists or of the Historicists, because any symbol, understood by them to refer to a certain force or tendency may be considered fulfilled in any event in which such a force or tendency is dominant." (Revelation: Four Views, p. 44)

"The most common tendency is to mix the spiritual approach with the preterist and then either call their view preterism, leave their view unlabeled, or give it an original name." (p. 44)

William Hendricksen

"PROPOSITION VI. The seals, trumpets, bowls of wrath, and similar symbols refer not to specific events, particular happenings, or details of history, but to principles - of human conduct and of divine moral government - that are operating throughout the history of the world, especially throughout the new dispensation. [idealism]

PROPOSITION VII. The Apocalypse is rooted in contemporaneous events and circumstances. Its symbols should be interpreted in light of the conditions which prevailed when the book was written. [preterism]." (More than Conquerors, pp. 43-45, quoted and noted by Gregg)

Samuel Lee

"In all which cases it should be remembered, that language is the mere vehicle of things conceived of, or entertained, in the mind : and that the things themselves, so entertained, are the great objects of our inquiries ; and hence, that we should not confuse ourselves and others, by inconsiderately mistaking one for the other." (The Events and Times of the Visions of Daniel and St John investigated. . xxi)

Ron Maness

"It is here that we should note that the lines are not as clearly drawn as one might imagine. For example, one common tendency is to mix the spiritual approach with the preterist, such as Leon Morris and Michael Wilcock. Gregg also classifies William Hendriksen’s commentary as “essentially spiritual/idealist in character, with some preterist or historicist elements” (page 45). George Eldon Ladd is a futurist who believes that “the correct method of interpreting Revelation is the blending of the preterist and futurist methods” (page 46), but he also in some instances brings in spiritual/idealist views. The same can be said for futurist Robert Mounce." (review)

Tim Martin

"the Mosaic covenant (sanctions and all) pictured greater, eternal realities in Christ. The Mosaic Covenant is a shadow of something else - something greater - the Covenant of Christ. It cannot be the case that the end of the Mosaic sanctions mean that all covenant curses are ended. If that were the case, Jesus really did come to destroy (abrigate) the Law. Yet, he did not come to abrogate the law, he came to fulfill it (Matt. 5)- bring it up to its fullest measure. The Mosaic sanction are typological. This is what the Comprehensive Grace'rs (and the Theonomists for that matter) miss. The blessings and curses of the Mosaic covenant are pictures of the reality of the blessings and curses which are inseparable components of Christ's covenant. I agree the Mosaic sanctions have ended, but NOT THE REALITIES THEY POINTED TO. Christ's covenant is greater than Moses'." (Discussion Board)

Albertus Pieters

"Today, scholars are prevailingly in favor of this system [preterism], either unchanged, or combines with the ideas of the Philosophy of History [spiritual] School." (The Lamb, the Woman and the Dragon, p. 44)

J. Denny Weaver

"Idealist and preterist views are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. The universal message derived from idealist interpretation supplies the contemporary relevance of a preterist interpretation. This comparison of views shows that the combination of a preterist approach with the general meaning of an idealist view is the only approach that takes seriously both the significance of symbolism for first-century readers along with relevance for contemporary readers." (Revelation as Nonviolent Rhetoric, Introduction)


Roderick Edwards

"Idealism, or more specifically Preterist-Idealism tends to "hyper" individualize historical markers. For example, Christ was crucified at a specific point in time & though Christians understand that the Cross is effective back to Adam & forward to indefinite generations it is erroneous to so "idealize" the Cross as to remove that historical marker. The same hyper-individualized error is often applied to the Parousia (return of Christ) which though happened at a specific historical marker has indefinite effect." (Interactions with Preterist-Idealists)

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