Historicists on Matthew 24

The key to remember is that the abomination of desolation causes the Great Tribulation. The language doesn’t allow any separation in the events of v.15 and v.21. It stands to reason that Titus’s actions, at least on this reading, cause the Great Tribulation. Moreover, and Matthew Henry is very clear on this, the Great Tribulation is cut short only by the return of Christ. Therefore, any tribulation you experience today as a Christian is ultimately caused by Titus’s actions in AD 70. This is the practical conclusion historicists not only must draw, but in fact do draw.

Matthew Henry

verse 15: The Romans setting up the abomination of desolation in the holy place.
verse 21: links it with the Roman armies, which makes sense.

The tribulation of those days includes not only the destruction of Jerusalem, but all the other tribulations which the church must pass through; not only its share in the calamities of the nations, but the tribulations peculiar to itself; while the nations are torn with wars, and the church with schisms, delusions, and persecutions, we cannot say that the tribulation of those days is over; the whole state of the church on earth is militant, we must count upon that; but when the church’s tribulation is over, her warfare accomplished, and what is behind of the sufferings of Christ filled up, then look for the end.

John Gill

verse 15: From signs, Christ proceeds to the immediate cause of the destruction of Jerusalem; which was, “the abomination of desolation.”

verse 21: The burning of Sodom and Gomorrha, the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt, their captivity in Babylon, and all their distresses and afflictions in the times of the Maccabees, are nothing to be compared with the calamities which befell the Jews in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

Unlike Henry, Gill seems to limit the entire discussion to AD 70 on this point. He doesn’t draw the conclusion Henry does.


Osborne on Revelation: Introduction


Grant R. Osborne. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002

Lord willing, I am going to blog through Grant Osborne’s magnum opus on Revelation.

Date of Revelation: 3:17 alludes to an earthquake in Laodicea, which happened around 80 AD.  That’s all that Osborne writes.  I wish he had spent more time onit.

Interpretation of Symbols

There is a false dichotomy between literal and symbolic (Osborne 15). A symbolic book can still communicate literal events.  For example, 12 is a symbolic number. That doesn’t mean, however, that there weren’t 12 tribes or 12 apostles.

Methods of Interpretation

While Osborne himself is a premillennialist, he points out that earlier premillennialists (Walvord, Ironside, Gaebelin) who read church history into the seven letters were wrong.  Recent dispensationalists such as Blaising and Saucy simply read them as historical letters.

Historicist: This could be anything from reading church history into the seven letters, or with the Reformers in seeing the Pope as the Antichrist.  Osborne critiques: “Because of its inherent weaknesses (its identification only with Western church history, the inherent speculation involved in parallels with world history, the fact that it must be reworked with each new epoch in world history, the total absence of any relevance for John or his original readers….) few scholars today take this approach” (19).

Preterist: the main problem with the Gentry/Chilton school is that it limits the universal language of the book to the Jewish people.  How do events in Jerusalem signify the end of the world for fringe believers in Asia Minor?

Idealist: the main problem is that the text itself suggests future fulfillments to the prophecies, which makes a “timeless truth” approach difficult.

Osborne wants a combination of futurist, idealist, and limited preterist views (21).

Nota Bene: Bauckham suggests that the book as a whole reflects the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: hallowing the name, the kingdom coming, and will done (Bauckham 1993b: 40).

Uneasy tension of choosing and eschatology

A brief history:

In college and seminary I was a postmillennial reconstructionist.  To put it delicately today, I am not. When I left seminary I understood the reasons behind Historic Premillennialism.  Exegetically, I still think it is the strongest case.  My own position, rather, was a mix between postmil and premil.

When I left the EO debate I was a convinced historic premillennialist.  I stayed like that for about 3 or 4 years. One of the reasons that historic premillennialism won by default was that idealist Amillennialism was just so bad. It’s gnostic.  But when I read the Reformed Scholastics I realized that they had a very interesting eschatological timeline worked out.  Ultimately, I couldn’t accept it. It’s tied in with historicism, which says the Pope is the Antichrist.  Mind you, it’s easy to pick on Francis today, and he deserves it, but he isn’t the eschatological Man of Sin who sitteth in the temple of God.

So that couldn’t work.  So here I am today.  I feel a strong tug in my heart back to historic premil.

If I were to be postmillennial…

…it would be of a historicist persuasion.

Richard Cameron preached on July 18, 1680 just three days before his violent death on the moors at Ayrsmoss, from the text, ‘Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen: I will be exalted in the earth.’ (Ps. 46.10). To his hearers, gathered with him under the shadow of eternity, Cameron declared:


‘You that are in hazard for the truth, be not troubled: our Lord will be exalted among the heathen. But many will say, “We know He will be exalted at the last and great day when He shall have all the wicked on His left hand.” Yes but says He, “I will be exalted in the earth.” He has been exalted on the earth; but the most wonderfully exalting of His works we have not yet seen. The people of God have been right high already. Oh, but the Church of the Jews was sometimes very high, and sometimes the Christian Church! In the time of Constantine she was high. Yea, the Church of Scotland has been very high, “Fair as the moon, clear as the sun; and terrible as an army with banners.” The day has been when Zion was stately in Scotland. The terror of the Church of Scotland once took hold of all the kings and great men that passed by. Yea; the terror of it took hold on Popish princes; nay, on the Pope himself. But all this exalting that we have yet seen is nothing to what is to come. The Church was high, but it shall be yet much higher. “There is none like the God of Jeshurun.” The Church of Christ is to be so exalted that its members shall be made to ride upon the high places of the earth. Let us not be judged to be of the opinion of some men in England called the Fifth-Monarchy men, who say that, before the great day, Christ shall come in person from heaven with all the saints and martyrs and reign a thousand years on earth. But we are of the opinion that the Church shall yet be more high and glorious, as appears from the book of Revelation, and the Church shall have more power than ever she had before.'”

– Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (Chapter 4: Apostolic Testimony: The Basis Of The Hope), emphases added.