Fallacies of Futurism


Henry Grattan Guinness

1. “The Woman” and “The Beast” of Revelation 17.

The first accusation is that a confusion is made in “The Approaching End of the Age” between “the woman” and “the beast” of Revelation 17.

“Mr. Guinness confounds ‘the woman’ and ‘the beast’ of the Apocalypse together as if they were one and the same creature, just as if one were the head and the other the body.”

If this criticism is not intentionally unfair (which we do not think it is), it indicates most careless reading of the passage alluded to, or else great lack of accuracy of thought. It is distinctly argued in the volume that the two are not the same; that these widely different symbols represent realities equally distinct One entire chapter is devoted to the consideration of the first, and a second and longer chapter to that of the second. The “woman” is interpreted in the light of its companion and contrasted symbol, “the bride the Lamb’s wife,” to be an apostate church — the Church of Rome; while the “beast” is interpreted in the light of the four beasts of Daniel — to be the Roman Empire, seen here under its last head — the man of sin, or Antichrist. If, therefore, there is no difference between a professing Christian Church and a great secular empire, then confusion is fairly chargeable on the “Approaching End of the Age”; but if the two are as different as possible, then the confusion is in the mind of the critic alone.

That there exists an important connection between the Roman Empire under its last governing head, and the Roman Catholic Church, is not, and cannot be, denied. The symbols employed distinctly show that connection to be close and of long continuance. The woman, or church, is supported or carried by the beast, or empire, for more than twelve centuries. The church and the empire in this its last stage, are not represented by two distinct and separate symbols, but by one double one. John saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet colored beast, not a beast apart from a woman, nor a woman apart from a beast. He is told in explanation that the peoples, nations, and tongues forming the Latin Empire, under its last head, would first uphold and obey the woman, or church, and then in the end turn against and rend her. The beast would first bear her up, and accept her guidance, and then at last hate, insult, and destroy her; in either case the two are associated. There is a relation between them, but not identity. On page 227 the difference is thus stated: “There is a vast difference between the Papacy and the corrupt church which it founded, governed, and used as its tool; a difference less in degree, but similar in character, to that existing between the Head of the true Church, and that Church which He founded, governs, and employs as an instrument to accomplish His will in the world. Many things are true of the Lord Jesus that are not true of the Church which is His body, close and inseparable as is the connection between them. So, many things are true of the Popes of Rome which are not true of the Roman Catholic Church, close as is the connection between them. Widely different hieroglyphs are selected to prefigure the two in the Apocalypse, and yet the connection between them is very clearly indicated; they are never confounded, yet never disjoined.”

Could any statement more carefully avoid confusing the two?

Christ is the Head of His body the Church, but Christ is also Son of God, Creator and upholder of all things, Judge of all men, God over all blessed for ever. The Church is not any of these, though very closely connected with Him who is!

So the Roman Empire, under its last ruling head — the Papal dynasty, is very closely connected with the apostate church; but that dynasty were not heads of a church merely; they were also European monarchs, temporal sovereigns, who, enthroned at Rome, succeeded to the empire of the Caesars, governed, and for more than twelve centuries united in the bond of a common obedience to themselves, all the nations of the Western Empire of Rome. The Church of Rome as such, never did this.

The beast is a political power; the woman is an ecclesiastical system; and these two are not one, whatever the relation between them.

Our futurist critics are an enigma to us! They cannot deny or be blind to certain grand historical facts. No one can fail to see how exactly the symbols of prophecy answer to these facts. Even Futurists admit this, and yet they deny that the symbols foretell the facts, and assert — what of course can neither be proved nor disproved — that they foretell other future events!

We have in the Apocalypse a great threefold symbol, and in the history of the period which has elapsed since John saw its visions, three great series of facts. These latter are: —

  • The facts about the Roman Empire, including its course, history, character, and sway, its decline and fall, and its division into the kingdoms of modern Europe, with their subsequent common submission to the Popes of Rome.
  • The facts about the Papal dynasty; how, from being simple bishops of a local church, the Popes of Rome rose to be first universal bishops, and then temporal sovereigns, crowned monarchs, holding and governing large states, possessing and employing armies, and collecting revenues as kings. How they rose further to be kings of kings in Europe, so that “all the kings of the West reverenced the Pope as a god on earth.” How Charlemagne, and John of England, and Francis the First of France, and the Emperor Henry of Germany, as well as all the lesser princes of Europe, did homage to the Popes of Rome, and paid them tribute, as their ancestors did to the Caesars. How they became and continued for ages to be the mightiest power in Western Europe, uniting its various kingdoms under their own sway as one Latin empire.
  • The facts about the Church of Rome, its character, conduct, past dominion, present decadence, and loss of influence over the continental nations, together with the facts of the Reformation, and the total withdrawal from the Roman Catholic Church of all the Protestant nations.

Now bearing in mind Scripture usage elsewhere, what symbols could more appropriately prefigure these three series of closely related, yet distinct facts, than the three that are chosen?

  • For the Roman Empire as a whole, a wild beast resembling Daniel’sfourth (especially in having connected with it ten horns, and a singular power of evil), but differing from that earlier symbolization by having seven heads or successive forms of government, five of which had already fallen in John’s day, the sixth was then regnant, and the seventh had “not yet come.” This, when it did come, was to continue but a short space, and to be followed by an all important eighth and last.
  • The Papal dynasty is symbolized as this eighth and last head of thisRoman beast, and is represented as a power which would run a dreadful career of self-exaltation, blasphemy, opposition to God, and persecution of His saints for “forty and two months” (the miniature symbol employed in this consistently miniature symbolic prophecy, for 1260 years; the same period assigned to the “little horn” of Daniel’s earlier symbol of the Roman Empire). The deadly wound foretold the destruction of Roman supremacy in Western Europe, on the fall of Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman Emperor who ruled at Rome; its healing, the revival and long continuance of Roman political supremacy under the Popes when the Potentates of Europe were crowned and uncrowned at pleasure by them.
  • The Church of Rome is symbolized as a woman of false, corrupt,degraded, cruel character, yet exerting a marvelous universal influence over the nations of Western Europe. A woman at first and for long upborne by them (as a State Church), and as at last despised and despoiled by them.

The complexity of the symbols answers to the complexity of the events themselves, and the apparent contradictions exist as much in the facts as in the figures.

The figures answer the facts. There is a woman, a seven-headed tenhorned wild beast, and an eighth head of that beast. So there is a church, an empire, and an eighth form of government or succession of rulers in that empire. The interrelation between these three in the symbols is exactly answered by what is recorded in the history of the past, and what exists in the events of the present. Why object to such an interpretation of the symbols as exactly fits the acknowledged facts of the case?


Learn More →