Apocalypse Best Layer: Futurism, Preterism, or Something In Between?

Math vs. Accounting

When I was in college, I had to work at a warehouse. It was known that I was the smart math guy (I was a math major). A fellow blue collar worker commented to me, "So you are a numbers man." Now, I don't think that I fully explained to this man that mathematicians are not really numbers persons, which is to say, I believe my coworker, who perhaps had never transcended general math in high school, was confusing my discipline of math with accounting. For, mathematicians do not really crunch numbers. That is what accountants do. Mathematicians are rather, in their essence, philosophers, which is to say, they contemplate abstract principles and use rigorous logic and argumentation to prove ideas that formally model phenomenon. And, in reality, these models, as well as the rigorous argumentation and logic that prove them, are the foundation for the whole of the sciences and hence, as it were, far exceed the importance of those persons that merely apply the principles and crunch the numbers for the myriads of day-to-day-life scenarios that only, as it were, supply the “wiggle room statistics” for the models in specific, concrete cases.

Which is to say this: once a model for a problem or phenomena is developed, the model can then be applied to ANY situation that has characteristics that fit the model. But once the model has been discovered and proved, "the wiggle room statistics" of any particular case for the model are simply arbitrary. What do we mean? Well, we mean that the possibilities of the actual numerical values for the various individual components of the model in any given case could literally be endless, but to ponder what those statistics happen to be in any particular case is useless, because such data is arbitrary. The fascination with a project, therefore, is not the wiggle room statistics, but the model of the phenomenon, and why the model works, which is to say, how the model relates the statistics to one another and which drives what the solution must be, given the laws that govern the model.

For example, to put into plain English, we all recall the law of Pythagoras, which proves that the length of the hypotenuse, c, of a right triangle, is always the square root of the sum of the squares of its other sides (a and b). In other words, the formula,

a^2 + b^2 = c^2

What is important, therefore, to this question, is how the model relates the components according to a structure, a structure that guarantees an outcome once the other quantities are known. But no mathematician, or for that matter, an engineer, would marvel at how the law works out in, say, several different cases where a and b are supplied with respective particular values.

To illustrate, let us consider a simplistic scenario of an engineer who gets a job to build a right triangle structure. In this case, he is given that the building should have a on the ground and equal to 12.354 ft., and be b high, a height of 45.67 ft. The engineer's problem would then be to compute the value of the slanting roof, or hypotenuse, which, in this case, would work out to be, approximately, the square root of 12.354^2 + 45.67^2, which in turn works out to the square root of 2238.37, or approximately 47.311 ft.

Now, to illustrate the absurdity of a situation, obviously, the engineer will not marvel at these individual figures of 12.354, 45.67, and 47.311, because such numbers are arbitrary. The only fascination, however small, that would come from the scenario, is the law of Pythagoras that guarantees the proportional and algebraic relationship between the numbers.

In other words, if he goes on to build twenty more structures of similar design, but with different dimensions, (such as (a,b) = (123.74, 65.87) and another with (a,b) as (546.98, 100.25), etc.), it would be useless of the engineer to gaze in wonderment at all these arbitrary figures amongst the twenty structures, as if the numbers 123.74 and 546.98 had any relevance. It is the Pythagorean Theorem that is what is important, the idea that forms the foundational law of the general relationship of the arbitrary numbers that applies in all cases, regardless of the endless possibilities of particular inputs to the problem.

Details vs. Spiritual Conditions

Why, you ask, do I go to such trouble and make such a fuss? Well, it will be apparent in a moment. On that vein, let us consider a parallel situation in the Bible, the account of the Flood. Now, in Genesis, the only thing that is recorded regarding the reason for the Flood is that humanity had grown mostly wicked, saving a remnant. But, the details of such wickedness is not explored in any real sense. Simply, "that man's desire is to do evil" is mainly what is said. Does this mean that God did not know of every detail of the wickedness in that time? Of course not! God is eternally present to every instant of human history. God stands outside the doorway of time and history, eternally present to every minute detail of the existence of this world and the world to come. Think of it this way: time and history are a like a wall of countless pictures, each picture, a detailed snapshot of an instant of existence in the ocean of instants that, when arranged from beginning to end, span a vast museum. God, in a certain sense, is like the artist who spans the whole series, seeing in every instant the condition of the creation.

Hence, theoretically, God could have had the Sacred Author of Genesis record various accounts of specific wicked men in the time of Noah, their names, and a detailed account of their deeds, however many God would have chosen to reveal. Why then, did this not happen? In part, we know from Catholic theology that it is because it wasn't important. Which is another way of saying this: the specifics of the wickedness of Noah's day are really like the "wiggle room statistics" of our engineer. The specific data of such does nothing to enhance what is important regarding the first age, which is to say, the age of the wickedness of Noah's day. Therefore, the beginning sections of Genesis are allegorically explaining the first ages of human history, but their point is only to focus on what is important regarding that history as regards our Salvation and the Divine Plan to begin to redeem humanity, the beginning stages leading up to the Coming of Messiah.

In a similar vein, the apocalypse is traditionally a book that complements Genesis, that lays out the ending ages of salvation history, which are the ages of the Church. For this reason, we would neither expect wiggle room statistics to be present in what is revealed there, for such data is equally as useless as the specific numbers in the engineers work. Hence, the Christ, Our Savior Himself, already implies that “wiggle room statistics”, as we could call them, are not part of New Testament Revelation of history beyond the first century, if any, by Scriptures like the following:

The Gospel Apocalypses of Jesus on the two-fold-layered Scripture of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world has Christ saying, “And you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that ye be not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matt. 24:6, see also Luke 21:9)

Similarly, we recall Jesus at the Ascension, and the Apostles petition Christ about the kingdom: “They therefore who were come together, asked him, saying: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? [7] But he said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in his own power”

Hence, Apocalypse, in its most important layer of meaning, should not reveal things like literal nations or wars, specific earthquakes, or literal time periods.

Fundamentalist Futurism: Not very Useful

And hence, this brings us to the extremes of apocalyptic theology today, the Fundamentalists and the liberals, who each in their own respects, as futurists (the book is played out mostly at the end of the world) and preterists (the book is played out mostly in the early church), are in a certain sense like our goofy engineer, who relishes in arbitrary figures instead of focusing on the proof of the theory of the model. And what do we mean? We mean that, for example, the Fundamentalists are all the time concerning themselves with "wiggle room statistics" of the very end of the world, which is to say, they wish to know how the various wickedness of the end of the world shall play out geographically and politically in the times of the very closing of history, when humanity shall be wicked as in Noah's day.

But for the very same reason that the account of the Flood does not specify any details of the wickedness in the times immediately preceding the Flood, it would be equally useless for the apocalypse to outline the political permutations of the final world war in the time of the end. And why? Mainly because of the following law: what is important to the end of the world is mainly only the reason that the world will be ending, and not what specific temporal horrors occur in that time of the end. And we know from general Catholic theology that the primary reason that the world will end is because humanity will be turn against God in such a manner that they will not repent even when the very fruits of their wickedness fall upon them. Because of this, there will be nothing to “restrain” (see 2 Thes. 2, and Augustine’s view of the restrainer as the Holy Spirit, who, once He can no longer bring a greater renewal of the world, its ultimate destruction becomes unstoppable by grace) the full consequences of spiritual death, which is physical destruction. We can see this in that the fruit of turning one's desires away from love of God and toward the creation is that, inevitably, the pride and selfishness shall conflict amongst the motives of their adherents, and so the collapse of the human order follows. It is this spiritual law that matters and that governs why the world will be ending when it does. But, however the political and social horrors evolve in this time is of no consequence, which is to say, such data is merely “wiggle room statistics”.

And hence, the Fundamentalist is indeed like an accountant who wants to know what the specific “scary financial data” shall be when the big corrupt corporation of the world falls, failing to understand that such data is arbitrary. It is rather the mathematical model that matters, or derivatively, the theology of the ages of salvation history that progressively bring human history to a close.

Preterism not much Better

But so that I am not to be rendered a friend of the liberals, we must also point out that the liberal preterists fair only a little better, which is to say, much of their data is also useless wiggle room statistics, which is another way of saying that whereas the liberals believe they have the true "wise and balanced approach", in reality, they commit most of the same very same errors, only on the opposite spectrum of Church history. And what do we mean?

Let us consider a prime example: the delineation of the seven kings of the beast in Revelation 17:9-11. In effect, the text is rendered as thus:

"...and here is meaning for him who has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. And they are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he does, he must continue a short space. And the beast which was and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goes into perdition."

Now the preterist interpretation says the immediate sense of the beast is pagan Rome, and that the heads are the emperors in the early times of the Church. From this, it is deduced from above that the primary meaning of the text is that a certain five emperors preceded the time of St. John's writing (the author of the apocalypse), that one then reigned, and that another was to follow. The reference of the eighth being a return of the former is said to refer to the rumor that Nero, would come back from the dead.

What we can say in response is perhaps not to deny that the book has a meaning for the immediate audience, as the preterists assert, but, rather, to seriously challenge the notion that such data above is the only, much less primary, meaning of the text. And what do we mean?

Roman Emperors or Ages of Sin?

To explain further, we need a digression. In effect, the first greater age of the Church was what is dubbed "the age of the martyrs," in that pagan Rome viciously persecuted the Church. The Roman Emperors were essentially the supreme instigators of such persecution. The spirit of this age was therefore that humanity, until the first primary conversion under Constantine, remained under the mantle of a great pagan civilization that did not understand Christians and that, in a similar spirit as Egypt of Old, perceived the incoming kingdom of God's People [the Catholic Church] as a threat to their dominion and so oppressed them. The Roman Emperors in general shared in this spiritual darkness, usually considering themselves the all-powerful God, and seeking to impose their blasphemy on the innocent Christians who were martyred if they resisted. This prevailing spirit and characteristic of the age is clearly what is most important in this early time for the Church.

But in consideration of these things, we see that the number of Roman Emperors, their respective times of rule, and how they are chronologically delineated across this first period of history is not all that relevant to the greater meaning of the stage, which is another way of saying that such statistics as "how many Roman emperors reigned in a given period, up until a given point" are really our familiar "wiggle room statistics."

Or put it another way: if God created other worlds that He redeemed, how might the history vary? I suppose in some conjecturing, we might say that other worlds that, if they had fallen, would have completely different history unlike ours in any respect. Although, we also discern that God has a "Plan" for our world. But, for the sake of argument to illustrate our point, suppose that there were twenty other worlds in addition to our own, all of which had fallen like ours, and that the stages of the spiritual history were similar, so that after the Messiah comes in these worlds, the attending stage of pagan resistance to conversion follows, but that the pagan rulers in this period of resistance, both in number and duration of reign, varies amongst the respective worlds. We could ask, would such variations have such effect as to dismantle the general Plan? Would such variations drastically alter the fate of the world? For example, if, in one of the other worlds, had 13 rulers reigned prior to the time of the writing of the parallel apocalypse, and that 27 followed in the first great division of that period, would it somehow have a particular importance for the age? I suppose the reader shall say, who knows and who cares, but I would say the thinking reader who ponders would conjecture, if he were "wise", that such variations would not be significant, because it is the general sense of the spirit of the ages that governs the larger history, and not the "wiggle room details."

Spiritual Conditions and Ages are What Matters

The purpose of this discussion is to illustrate the fact that certain aspects of history are clearly more important than others. In fact, the discussions above lead us to contemplate the notion that the greater spiritual conditions of the ages are a more important consideration than the "wiggle room statistics" that populate the various ages. In that regard, we come to see that, while not rejecting that certain Biblical texts may deal with wiggle room statistics in their immediate context and audience, the person with wisdom must accept that where God intends greater meaning, we must seek to go beyond the merely arbitrary details and explore the implications of what could veritably be far deeper meanings, meanings that look at a bigger picture.

Toward this end, if we return to the text on the beast, we do not need to reject preterism as a layer unto itself. For certainly, the sacred authors many times address an immediate audience, so that certain details of the text may veritably speak to the times in which they are written. But we must also understand that God can intend deeper meanings to arise later in history that have greater relevance, and, in general, the Church does not discount the reality that the question of salvation history in its overall sense is a subject of Divine Revelation that is meant to be deepened, which is to say, that the People of God are predestined to have a fuller understanding of the bigger picture of God's Plan than merely the crisis felt by God's People in the Early Church.

In this regard, we come to discover what truly matters in history: since God's purpose of creating us is to populate heaven, to give us a share of His Divine Life for all eternity, we see that salvation is what matters. Further, our salvation depends on our relationship with God. Our relationship with God depends on the condition of our two faculties of soul, intellect and will. Our intellect needs to know and understand God's truth, and our wills need help and life [grace!] to carry out and live faithful to, the truths we know. Hence, what matters at any point in history is not the wiggle room statistics but the spiritual conditions of the ages, which is to say that history needs to be seen in light how the world relates to God, His Truth, and His grace, so that what matters in any given age is how well the world around the People of God both accepts the truths of God and His graces.

Another Example: The Fifth Trumpet, Roman Soldiers, Muslims

To continue the elaboration, let us consider an illustrative example of a particular Seventh Day Adventist teaching, their interpretation of the fifth trumpet of the apocalypse, which is found, beginning in Revelation 9. Now, the text essentially describes a great woe, the first of three, in which those without the seal of God are "tortured" for "five months". The SDA interpretation is to relate the event to a particular war by Muslims in the Middle Age time that lasted for 150 years. They relate this to the five months, such that a day symbolizes a year, so that five months, or 5 X 30 = 150 days, stands for 150 years.

The problem is not that the allegory could not apply, but to once again misunderstand what "matters", which is to say, the SDA's here lack wisdom. The reason is, as with the other examples above, what any individual Muslims happen to do, whether as nations, individuals, or kingdoms, is just "wiggle room data." What is rather important is the spiritual condition of Islam itself, whose primary deficiency is its rejection of the Trinity and Incarnation. But where Islam happens to take root geographically, or what temporal problems any particular Muslim societies might cause is not important, seeing as the driving force or prima-causa is the spiritual deficiencies.

Hence, it is not that the Muslim religion in general could not be treated in the apocalypse, but that the only thing that would need to be present about it is the recognition of its spiritual depravities, not any particulars of its "wiggle room statistics", such as the SDA's reference to the 150 year Muslim war.

While we are at it, to totally drive the point home, let consider how our familiar extremes deal with the fifth trumpet. Some fundamentalists have seen the bizarre and scary, torturing creates of this trumpet as helicopters of modern times, and that the tails of the apocalypse creatures are the tails of the helicopters, and that they shall literally torture non Jewish people of literally five months. Of course, this is insane, for even if it were true, it is useless wiggle room statistics. Spiritual conditions of an age matter, not temporal woes. For that matter how does the five months help us?

To move on, preterism has something to work with, in that, in the Fall of Jerusalem by Roman soldiers the war took actually five months. Well, great, but, again, if we had twenty parallel worlds, and the prefiguring peoples’ literal place of worship was falling across all of them for failing to recognize their Messiah, would there be anything meaningful in how long, specifically, relative to however time is measured in these worlds, it took for the pagan warriors to lay waste to the primary dwelling place that was once regarded as the ultimate salvation, but that Messiah had now just revealed was only a picture of what really mattered, the place of the Beatific Vision, heaven? For, in the end, whether the fall of our Jerusalem took five months, or three months, or seventeen months, would those differences really epically affect the general trajectory of God’s Plan? Isn’t this really like our Roman Emperor scenario, if we are honest?

The 144,000 are “Protected”, but in What Manner?

For that matter, who are these ones (the 144,000 “Jewish Virgins”) who are “protected” from the harm of the trumpet? It kind of begs the question relative to Catholic wisdom. The Catholics Church has never endorsed the health and wealth Gospel. From her outset, she was wanted dead or alive. Her first great age was paved with her blood and torture—terribly PHYSICAL!

If God wants to protect His People from physical harm, where was He when myriads of martyrs were tortured and killed for their faith in pagan Rome?

Where was He was myriads of men died in battle to save Europe from the barbarians?

Where was God when surely many faithful Christians of northern Africa before the Muslims ran it over were stung by literal scorpions, or bitten my literal serpents, of the desert?

Where was God to protect countless Crusaders from terrible deaths at hands of brutal Muslim soldiers?

Where was God when a part of Europe ate grass for a generation or more after a deadly war?

Where was God in the slaughters of the French Revolution, which killed countless Christians?

The potato famine in Ireland?

The countless famines and plagues of history, such as the Black Plague?

And if good people of Jesus are to be protected from physical harm, why did the Little Flower and the Faustina ultimately suffocate to death on their blood?

Alas, we know, in Catholicism, the ultimate answer: God does not will sin, nor does He delight in the suffering of the innocent, but when we find ourselves in suffering that cannot be helped at the time—and we will if we are Christian—it is an opportunity to unite our pain with Jesus and help redeem others. That is the glorious message of the Gospel at its peak in this world: our sufferings and death are NOT useless, but if, however we are able to, we unite them to Jesus, and we petition graces for others, He will give them. In this way, like the three old girl that the former Rosalynd Moss spoke of--in her struggle to accept the Catholic teaching that we add to works of Christ—we will help mommy bake the cake—not because mommy really needs our help, but that, she wants and cherishes our help. That is, when we love as God loves, even to the point of suffering, we please God and love Him in an even greater degree than if there were never any suffering in this world.

Which brings us back to this mysterious Seal of God that protects those in the trumpets in general, especially the fifth trumpet we have been looking at: no serious Catholic theologian would ever suggest that the protection that this Seal provides in Apocalypse 7 is in any way physical. Hence, it must be spiritual. In what sense? Well, come and see!

Why I Wrote this Book

In fact, that is why I wrote this book. To make a long story short, I am a revert to the Catholic Church. When I found her again, it very much relieved me of much spiritual suffering and uncertainty. When I found the stability and love of Catholicism, my life was changed forever. But soon after finding this, I truly wanted to make sure I had found the truth again. I proved apologetics, and it solidified my faith.

However, I am a perpetual student, learner, pondering one. I don’t like to stop growing. I had been exposed to both extremes of apocalypse in youth, the Fundamentalists, then the typical preterist view. I had even also learned of the middle road but anti-Catholic view of SDAs. Well, having mastered apologetics, I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that these would be the only options. I later learned that Catholicism also admits, in addition to preterism, the layers of idealism and historicism.

This sparked within me simply meditation to see how one might look at things from a spiritual perspective, and even perhaps not merely the Early Church or the very end of the world, but spiritual phases of history between these extremes. More specifically, we have these extremes of details in the beginning phase of Church history with preterism, and then futurism, with details of the very end of Church history, and yet, it leaves so much profound and moving history untouched? What about the early heresies against Trinity and Incarnation, Islam? What about the Great Schism of East and West? What about the moral decline of the clergy in late Middle Ages, the Protestant Rebellion, the so-called Enlightenment, which claimed death for supernatural religion, retaining only natural religion in reason?

And what about the secular apostasy of today? The godlessness, the near moral collapse in the European societies and their derivatives? Will Our Lady triumph over these horrors, reunite Christendom and bring peace for a great time? Or is this the beginning of the end?

How can all these spiritual developments not be foreseen in Scripture, even apocalypse?

I have been pondering these questions for a decade. I would have left it behind, but the meanings and appropriateness of all kinds of Scripture outside of apocalypse and in, analogies, and Catholic doctrine just continued to come together, in a synthesis, in a whole, like the faith itself. The meanings were so wonderfully appropriate, I just couldn’t get over them.

This book is an attempt to share these meditations. Are these meditations guaranteed to be true? And am I suggesting that they must be true? But I am offering them to be considered. I am suggesting them, to the faithful, to the Church. Moreover, I have felt called to share them, and encouraged by so many dear friends who are faithful, beautiful Catholics, that I feel that I must finally put them in writing, as a synthesized whole.

Before you leave, just make sure you understand: this is not sensational. There are no nations really in this book. No literal times and durations, no earthquakes or other such nonsense. No war scenarios. Any interpretations are purely on the level of Catholic doctrine.

So if there are no wiggle room statistics, what might you find? To peak your interest for now, some things already mentioned:

In conclusion, we see that true wisdom seeks to understand the greater spiritual ages of salvation history, and not the wiggle-room temporal statistics of any particular age.