"The interpretation of Revelation can be broken down to the Spiritual Scheme, the Preterist Scheme, the Historicist Scheme, and the Futurist Scheme. Of course, there is some truth in each of these systems of interpretation. The first three chapters must be interpreted historically. There are great spiritual principles set forth in the judgments, promises, prophecies and Messianic victories of this book. For the most part, however, the apocalypse will be most correctly interpreted if the futurist scheme is adopted." (Emphasis added) 1
Even before the Bible was completed or canonized the Apostles had to confront false and heretical teachings of Hymenaeus and the Gnostics who had an aversion of things material and wanted to explain everything spiritually or figuratively. This particular false belief was like a wart in the days of the Apostles that has now become a cancer in today's religious circles.
Although interpreting things figuratively or spiritually was a problem in the first century, it was popularized in the third century by Origen, a teacher in Alexandria (A.D. 155-215), who directed the Catechetical School of Alexandria in Egypt, an influential school of thought at that time. In this position he took some of the false beliefs of the Gnostics of the first century with their pattern of allegorizing Scripture and brought them into mainstream thought. They believed that Scripture had more than one meaning. They speculated that Scripture had a literal meaning, an underlying moral meaning, and a hidden spiritual meaning. Their beliefs catered to their fleshly spiritual pride where they considered themselves the elite who could understand the deeper truths of the Bible through allegory. Origen's speculative theology led him into heretical beliefs such as the denial of a physical resurrection and many other false beliefs. There have been mystical tendencies in the church down through the centuries that are traced back to Origen. 2
Origen's thinking had a great influence on Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (A.D. 354-430). Augustine was an influential writer who greatly affected the Medieval Roman Catholic Church. The allegorizing influence of Origen left its wake and ever since then this group has been looking for hidden meanings in the Scriptures. In this speculative vein, there are no two people in this group that come to the same meaning and the result is that they can make the Scriptures mean anything that they want. This is certainly not a sure foundation from which to study the Scriptures.
Actually, it is an interpretational quicksand that can shipwreck a person's faith. Augustine popularized the view that there is no place for the Jew in the future and believed that the present age of the church is the Millennium. These views are still a problem for the church today. It has caused much harm to sound interpretation of the Scriptures and has caused multitudes to fall into the ditch of speculative interpretation.
As reported by Earle E. Cairns (among many Scholars), the canon of Scriptures was essentially completed and recognized as Scripture by about A.D. 175, way before any councils or pagan emperors got involved. All the New Testament books were written in the first century and some within 20 or 30 years of the death of Christ. The last book of the New Testament was completed by about A.D. 95. Later councils merely verified and listed the books of the canon that had been recognized for over two centuries. The term canon actually means "a standardized list." Most of the spurious books that were written by Gnostics or were not inspired by God were written in the second to third centuries, long after the New Testament books had been written and recognized. There is much more that could be said, but I will leave that to the included references. 3, 4, 5, 6
Another area that is perennially contested is the divinity of Christ. Jesus pronounced Himself divine and the Apostles confirmed it. It is attested to in the New Testament and predicted in the Old Testament. Some Scriptures to examine in this area would include: Matthew 12:38-40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:9; Mark 8:38; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-34; John 14:8, 9; John 10:33; Colossians 1:15-16; etc. 4, 5, 6
As a side issue, there have been a number of movies and books lately that attempt to cast suspicion on the authority or completeness of the Bible or the Deity of Christ. The fiction in these books and movies is easily refuted. 3, 4, 5
The corrective for these speculations is the Grammatical-literal interpretation which is reading and interpreting the Scriptures as the first century author intended, which includes the prophetic that uses types and symbols and the accounts of supernatural events that are listed in the Bible. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. The only symbolism or allegory that is allowed is that which is already in the Bible. We are not allowed to add our own allegorical interpretation. That would be changing or adding to the Scriptures, which are forbidden.
Let's think about this for a minute. The Gospels were first hand witness accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. The reports were plain and to the point. Why would they want to try to embed some hidden meaning in the Gospel? They would not. They were writing historical accounts. The letters were written to churches and specific people to correct a problem. They were to the point with the intent of fixing the problem.
When I was in upper management and wrote corrective memos I did not expect people to try to read into them something other than what I intended to say. The Bible was written the same way. It is folly to read into the Scriptures some imaginary interpretation that is not what the author intended. This causes mass confusion. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of all the books of the Bible so that it tells us a coherent account of God's message to us if we read it as the author intended. The best way is the grammatical-literal method unless there is a clear direction to read it otherwise, such as the figurative or other figures of speech. The key is that there must be some clear direction to read it other than literal. Even the figurative can be used to describe actual literal events.The Bible Knowledge Commentary includes the following comments:
In the 1500's, over a thousand years after Origen and Augustine, the Reformation corrected some of the past errors on salvation and clarified the definition of salvation by faith, but did not address the errors in eschatology - the study of the End Times (and several other theological subjects). Therefore, to this day, we still have the denial of the future Millennium in the doctrines of most of the Protestant denominations.
A derivative of the denial of the future Millennium (called amillennial interpretation of the Scriptures) is that it also denies Israel's future role in God's plans. The allegorical interpretation with its many permutations (called speculations in 2 Timothy 2:23) finally blossomed into "Replacement Theology" that speculates that the church has replaced Israel in God's plans. I addressed this briefly in Chapter 3, so I will not elaborate on it here.And finally, as a permutation of Replacement Theology, we finally wind up with Partial Preterism and Full Preterism (Preterism is Latin for "past"). People who believe Replacement Theology and those who believe in Partial Preterism have their differences, but they both believe that Israel today has no place at all in the Scriptures.