The Historicist school of prophetic interpretation results in a progressive and continuous fulfillment of prophecy. This continuous fulfillment starts in Daniel’s time (circa 600 BC), continues through John the Revelator’s time (circa 100 A.D.), on to the Second Coming of Jesus. (Froom, v1, p23)
This school of prophetic interpretation is not novel or new. Biblical scholars throughout the centuries, actually from 2 BC to the present, have ascribed to it. Daniel, John the Revelator, Hippolytus, Joachim, Wyclif, Luther, Knox, Newton, and Wesley (Froom, v1., p2) are examples of the prominent people who believed in and used historicist method of prophetic interpretation.
Another source, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Student’s Source Book (BSSB), lists the Waldenses, Hussites, Wyclif, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, John Gill, and the martyrs Cranmer, Tyndale, Latimer, and Ridley as proponents of the historicist school of prophetic interpretation. (BSSB, No. 1258, p. 776.)
Shea, on page 25, states that the historicist declares “that the prophecies of Daniel portray an outline of human and ecclesiastical history and the story of the struggle between good and evil down to the end of time” (Shea 25), while BBSB adds that the book of Revelation also presents in symbols the “entire course of history of the church from the close of the first century to the end of time” (BSSB, No. 1257, p. 775).
This manner of prophetic interpretation, as I stated above, was used from approximately 2 B.C. to the present. Yet, you very seldom hear of the Historicist view of prophetic interpretation. What you mostly hear about is Futurism or Preterism. How did they evolve?
Evolution of Futurism and Preterism
Quite simply, the two alternative methods of prophetic interpretation were developed during the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation to oppose the historicist’s interpretation that the Antichrist was the Roman Catholic church.
The virtually unanimous interpretation of the papacy as the Antichrist of prophecy, by all Protestant groups in all lands, led Roman Catholic leaders to attempt to divert the accusing finger and to direct Protestant attention away from the medieval Catholic system. In this they were highly successful. Francisco Ribera and Luis de Alcazar, both 16th-century Spanish Jesuits, rose to meet the challenge by introducing plausible counterinterpretations of prophecy. (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4 [4BC], 42.)
These two opposing views, as will be seen below, confused the Protestant prophetic interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. (4BC 42)
Now to look at those two opposing, mutually exclusive views.
Futurism, developed by Francisco Riberia (1537-1591), owes its existence to the Counter Reformation. During the Protestant Reformation, the reformers, using Historicism, concluded that the system, as best represented by the Pope, of the Roman Catholic Church was the Beast of Revelation 13. Shea states:
The futurist interpretation of apocalyptic [prophecies] poses a … problem. It also leaves most of the history of the Christian era unaddressed by God except in general spiritual terms. After this lengthy historical and prophetic vacuum, futurists then see the prophetic voice again taking up a concern for the last seven years of earth’s history. (Shea 57.)
Futurism claims that most of the prophecies of the Apocalypse were fulfilled to ancient Rome. The rest is restricted to a literal Antichrist who will reign for 3½ literal years. Futurism further claims that the Antichrist will be an individual and not a system. This method of prophetic interpretation has a few prophetic events happening early in the Christian dispensation, a large gap of no prophetic interest, and a literal close of 3½ years instead of hundreds of centuries. (You will recognize this scenario as the current Dispensationalist view.)
Besides the short-term results of reducing the pressure being felt by the Papacy, Futurism has had an unexpected long-term result. Historicists believe that the 70-week prophecy and the 2300-day prophecy have a common beginning. Therefore, there are 1810 days (years) remaining after the 70 weeks have ended. By splitting the 70 weeks into two parts (69 weeks and one week), Futurism diverts attention away from the relationship between the 70 weeks and the 2300 days. This separation hides the significant events of 1844. Froom sums up this process: “Accordingly, confusion of the Historical School of interpretation, and its final breakdown, is now definitely under way.” (Froom3:658.)
Synopsis of Futurism
Since the Antichrist is in the future, it could not be the Papacy.
Summary of the Fallacies of Futurism
Futurism is designed to relieve pressure on Rome.
Futurism violates the principle of consistent prophetic symbolism.
Futurism makes prophetic time meaningless.
Futurism removes application from historical verification.
Futurism creates an arbitrary gap which is an unjustifiable device.
Futurism ignores the view of the early church.
Futurism cannot be correct if Preterism is correct. (Froom2:803-805.)
Preterists are committed to the view that the majority of the prophecies of the book of Daniel have already been fulfilled and therefore no significance for the present day. (Shea 25.)
The Preterist view of prophetic interpretation was developed by Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613), also as part of the Counter Reformation. It was developed to take the heat off the Pope, who was feeling some discomfort from the Reformers’ talk that the Papacy was the Antichrist.
The preterist view of apocalyptic prophecies and their time elements essentially leaves the whole Christian era, with the exception of a very small initial fraction, without any direct historical or prophetic evaluation by God upon the course of that history. (Shea 56.)
Preterism claims that the apocalyptic prophecies, especially those dealing with the Antichrist, were fulfilled before the Papacy ever ruled Rome. Since they were already fulfilled, the prophecies could not apply to the Papacy. The Preterist view ignores the fact that within the Old Testament itself is the foundation of prophetic interpretation and this foundation produces a broader view of God’s interaction with human history.
Synopsis of Preterism
Since the Antichrist had been fulfilled in the past, it could not be the Papacy.
Summary of the Fallacies of Preterism
Preterism is an expedient designed to shield Rome.
Preterism violates the principle of consistent symbolism.
Preterism glorifies the Papacy by ignoring the actualities.
Preterism denies the elemental principle of Bible prophecy.
Preterism, like futurism, leaves an explained gap.
Preterism offers no adequate fulfillments.
Preterism cannot be correct if Futurism is correct. (Froom2:803-805.)
Froom sums up this entire discussion quite well:
The Preterist finds only the contemporary meaning [at the time of the writer] of the Revelation as applicable to the early church, and the Futurist sees the prophecy as projected into a remote age to come, but the Historicist sees that the Revelation had its function first in counseling and encouraging the early Christians in the vicissitudes through which they were passing, while at the same time extending its prophetic pictures beyond their range of vision to the final victory. Otherwise its portrayal of the Second Advent, the judgment, and the kingdom of God have no meaning for our day. (Froom v.1, p.89.)
Now if we list and develop the above characteristics of antichrist, the following becomes readily apparent:
1. It will rise to be a great power after the fall of the pagan Roman empire (after 476 A.D.).
2. It will be a geographically small nation (a little horn).
3. It will rule over many people, nations, and tongues (it will be universal).
4. It will be headquartered in the city of seven hills, Rome.
5. It will be a religio-political entity — a political city-state ruled by a priest-king.
6. Its priest-king will make great and blasphemous claims.
7. It will claim authority over all kings.
8. It will claim its power to change the holy times and laws of God as its mark of authority.
9. It will be an apostate church, that makes the nations drink her cup of apostate doctrine.
10. It will be a “mother” church, with apostate daughters coming from her.
11. It will be a persecuting power, killing the faithful saints of Jesus Christ as heretics.
12. It will hold power and authority for 1260 years following the fall of pagan Rome.
13. It will suffer a deadly wound that will end 1260 years of dominance and persecution.
14. It will be revived after the deadly wound, and all the world will wonder at it’s revival.
In this the “Historical” interpretation, the antichrist was clearly not merely a single individual, it was a system of apostasy and persecution that would hold sway for over twelve centuries. The inevitable conclusion of those who studied these prophesies in scripture, before and during the Protestant Reformation, was that there was only one entity that fit all the above characteristics: the papal dynasty of the Roman Catholic Church. Is it any wonder that the Catholic Church was so violently opposed to the scriptures being available for everyone to read for themselves? There was such a stir created during the reformation that the (CLICK) Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17 A.D.) resorted to strictly forbidding anyone to publish a book without prior censorship, and also prohibited anyone from preaching on the subject of antichrist:
SESSION 10, 4 May 1515, On censorship of books:
… “some printers have the boldness to print and sell to the public, in different parts of the world, books — some translated into Latin from Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldean as well as some issued directly in Latin or a vernacular language — containing errors opposed to the faith as well as pernicious views contrary to the Christian religion and to the reputation of prominent persons of rank. The readers are not edified. Indeed, they lapse into very great errors not only in the realm of faith but also in that of life and morals. This has often given rise to various scandals, as experience has taught, and there is daily the fear that even greater scandals are developing.” …
… “We therefore establish and ordain that henceforth, for all future time, no one may dare to print or have printed any book or other writing of whatever kind in Rome or in any other cities and dioceses, without the book or writings having first been closely examined, at Rome by our vicar and the master of the sacred palace, in other cities and dioceses by the bishop or some other person who knows about the printing of books and writings of this kind and who has been delegated to this office by the bishop in question, and also by the inquisitor of heresy for the city or diocese where the said printing is to take place, and unless the books or writings have been approved by a warrant signed in their own hand, which must be given, under pain of excommunication, freely and without delay.”
“In addition to the printed books being seized and publicly burnt, payment of a hundred ducats to the fabric of the basilica of the prince of the apostles in Rome, without hope of relief, and suspension for a whole year from the possibility of engaging in printing, there is to be imposed upon anyone presuming to act otherwise the sentence of excommunication.” …
SESSION 11, 19 December 1516, On how to preach:
… “We command all who undertake this task of preaching, or will later undertake it, to preach and expound the gospel truth and holy scripture in accordance with the exposition, interpretation and commentaries that the church or long use has approved and has accepted for teaching until now, and will accept in the future, without any addition contrary to its true meaning or in conflict with it. They are always to insist on the meanings which are in harmony with the words of sacred scripture and with the interpretations, properly and wisely understood, of the doctors mentioned above. They are in no way to presume to preach or declare a fixed time for future evils, the coming of antichrist or the precise day of judgment; for Truth says, it is not for us to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. Let it be known that those who have hitherto dared to declare such things are liars, and that because of them not a little authority has been taken away from those who preach the truth.” …
But the Catholic Church eventually came to the conclusion that it would not be able to ban or burn all the Bibles, heretical books, and heretics that possessed or preached from them. This oppressive and crude tactic merely confirmed their identification as the harlot persecuting church of prophecy. A new and more subtle approach was needed in order to effectively counter the application of apocalyptic prophecy to the Catholic Church.
One major identifying characteristic the Catholic Church needed to deal with was the time period of 1260 years that the Antichrist power was to rule, according to Protestantism’s Historicist interpretation. There simply is only one entity on earth that has ruled for this length of time after the fall of pagan Rome, and that is the Roman Catholic Church, A new “interpretation” would have to be found that deflected attention away from the twelve century papal rule of the middle ages.
ANTICHRIST IS MOVED EITHER FORWARD OR BACKWARD IN TIME Ribera’s Futurism Puts the Antichrist Into A Future Three and One-half Literal Years.
Alcazar’s Preterism Identifies the Antichrist as Nero.
Both of Them Put Antichrist Outside the Middle Ages and the Reformation Period,
Identified by Protestant Historicists as Antichrist’s Reign of 1260 Prophetic Years.
Now the truly amazing part of all this is that the Futurist theory dominates Protestant teaching today. About all you hear or read about today is the yet-to-appear antichrist, who will be unveiled in the last 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s 70th week, when he declares himself to be God in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. That scenario, as you can now see, is directly traceable back to the pen of the Jesuit Francisco Ribera. Note what one Protestant writer had to say over one hundred years ago:
Next we come to consider the time of the rise of the Futurist system as we now have it, and the occasion which led to it.
So great a hold did the conviction that the Papacy was the Antichrist gain upon the minds of men, that Rome at last saw she must bestir herself, and try, by putting forth other systems of interpretation, to counteract the identification of the Papacy with the Antichrist.
Accordingly, towards the close of the century of the Reformation, two of her most learned doctors set themselves to the task, each endeavouring by different means to accomplish the same end, namely, that of diverting men’s minds from perceiving the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Antichrist in the Papal system. The Jesuit Alcasar devoted himself to bring into prominence the Preterist method of interpretation, which we have already briefly noticed, and thus endeavoured to show that the prophecies of Antichrist were fulfilled before the Popes ever ruled in Rome, and therefore could not apply to the Papacy. On the other hand the Jesuit Ribera tried to set aside the application of these prophecies to the Papal Power by bringing out the Futurist system, which asserts that these prophecies refer properly not to the career of the Papacy, but to that of some future supernatural individual, who is yet to appear, and to continue in power for three and a half years. Thus, as Alford says, the Jesuit Ribera, about A.D. 1580, may be regarded as the Founder of the Futurist system in modern times.
It is a matter for deep regret that those who hold and advocate the Futurist system at the present day, Protestants as they are for the most part, are thus really playing into the hands of Rome, and helping to screen the Papacy from detection as the Antichrist. It has been well said that “Futurism tends to obliterate the brand put by the Holy Spirit upon Popery.” More especially is this to be deplored at a time when the Papal Antichrist seems to be making an expiring effort to regain his former hold on men’s minds. Now once again, as at the Reformation, it is especially necessary that his true character should be recognized, by all who would be faithful to “the testimony of Jesus.”
From Daniel and the Revelation: The Chart of Prophecy and Our Place In It, A Study of the Historical and Futurist Interpretation, by Joseph Tanner, published in London by Hodder and Stoughton, 1898, pages 16,17.
In what could only be described as a stunning reversal, Protestants have over time actually become the papacy’s greatest ally by spreading its Jesuit spawned propaganda. What irony that Protestants, who originally broke away from what they clearly recognized to be the harlot antichrist led church of prophecy, now champion the Futurist interpretation from high profile global ministries. Futurism has without doubt, been successful beyond the wildest dreams of its Jesuit authors. The same can be said for the Preterist interpretation of Luis De Alcazar, although to a lesser degree.
As you can see,the deception the church has been under for the better part of its History is immense in its scope and diabolical in its inception! The church had better wake up before its too late because we have WASTED CENTURIES on false doctrines created by Religious Demons to STUNT the Growth of God’s Churches and delay the day of his return,till we all come in UNITY OF THE FAITH!
Modern Christianity has largely forgotten the importance of the Protestant Reformation, which took place during the 1500s. “The sixteenth century presents the spectacle of a stormy sunrise after a dismal night. Europe awoke from long sleep of superstition. The dead arose. The witnesses to truth who had been silenced and slain stood up once more and renewed their testimony. The martyred confessors reappeared in the Reformers. There was a cleansing of the spiritual sanctuary. Civil and religious liberty were inaugurated. The discovery of printing and revival of learning accelerated the movement. There was progress everywhere. Columbus struck across the ocean and opened a new hemisphere to view. Rome was shaken on her seven hills, and lost one-half of her dominions. Protestant nations were created. The modern world was called into existence.”1
For almost a thousand years, Europe had been ruled by the iron hand of Rome. Only a few Bibles existed then, and Christianity was largely permeated with superstition. Faith in Jesus Christ, heartfelt appreciation for His love, and a simple trust in His death on the cross, were almost unknown. The New Testament truth about grace, full forgiveness, and the free gift of eternal life to believers in the Son of God (Romans 6:23), had been buried under a mass of tradition. Then Martin Luther arose like a lion in Germany. After a period of tremendous personal struggle, Martin Luther began teaching justification by faith in Jesus Christ (being declared “just” by God), rather than through reliance on “creature merits,” or any human works (Romans 1:16; 3:26, 28; 5:1).
Luther’s Discovery Eventually, Martin Luther turned to the prophecies. By candlelight, he read about the “little horn,” the “man of sin,” and “the beast,” and he was shocked as the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart. Finally, he saw the truth and said to himself, “Why, these prophecies apply to the Roman Catholic Church!” As he wrestled with this new insight, the voice of God echoed loudly in his soul, saying, “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2). And so, at the risk of losing his life, Martin Luther preached publicly and in print to an astonished people that Papal Rome was indeed the Antichrist of Bible prophecy. Because of this dual message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ apart from works and of Papal Rome being the Antichrist, the river of history literally changed its course. Hundreds of thousands of people in Europe and in England left the Catholic Church.
“‘There are two great truths that stand out in the preaching that brought about the Protestant Reformation,’ American Bible Commentator, Ralph Woodrow, reminds us, ‘The just shall live by faith, not by the works of Romanism and the Papacy is the Antichrist of Scripture.’ It was a message for Christ and against Antichrist. The entire Reformation rests upon this twofold testimony.’”2 It has been said that the Reformation first discovered Jesus Christ, and then, in the blazing light of Christ, it discovered the Antichrist. This mighty, Spirit-filled movement, for Christ and against the Antichrist, shook the world.H. Grattan Guinness wrote these memorable words: “From the first, and throughout, that movement [the Reformation] was energized and guided by the prophetic word. Luther never felt strong and free to war against the Papal apostasy till he recognized the pope as Antichrist. It was then that he burned the Papal bull. Knox’s first sermon, the sermon that launched him on his mission as a reformer, was on the prophecies concerning the Papacy. The reformers embodied their interpretations of prophecy in their confessions of faith, and Calvin in his ‘Institutes.’ All of the reformers were unanimous in the matter, even the mild and cautious Melanchthon was as assured of the antipapal meaning of these prophecies as was Luther himself. And their interpretation of these prophecies determined their reforming action. It led them to protest against Rome with extraordinary strength and undaunted courage. It nerved them to resist the claims of the apostate Church to the utmost. It made them martyrs; it sustained them at the stake. And the views of the Reformers were shared by thousands, by hundreds of thousands. They were adopted by princes and peoples. Under their influence nations abjured their allegiance to the false priest of Rome.
“In the reaction that followed, all the powers of hell seemed to be let loose upon the adherents of the Reformation. War followed war: tortures, burnings, and massacres were multiplied. Yet the Reformation stood undefeated and unconquerable. God’s word upheld it, and the energies of His Almighty Spirit. It was the work of Christ as truly as the founding of the Church eighteen centuries ago; and the revelation of the future which He gave from heaven—that prophetic book with which the Scripture closes—was one of the mightiest instruments employed in its accomplishment.”3
A Counter-Reformation In 1545, the Catholic Church convened one of its most famous councils in history, which took place north of Rome in a city called Trent. The Council of Trent actually continued for three sessions, ending in 1563. One of the main purposes of this Council was for Catholics to plan a counterattack against Martin Luther and the Protestants. Thus the Council of Trent became a center for Rome’s Counter-Reformation. Up to this point, Rome’s main method of attack had been largely frontal—the open burning of Bibles and of heretics. Yet this warfare only confirmed in the minds of Protestants the conviction that Papal Rome was indeed the Beast which would “make war with the saints” (Revelation 13:7). Therefore a new tactic was needed, something less obvious. This is where the Jesuits come in.
On August 15, 1534, Ignatius Loyola (in the title picture) founded a secretive Catholic order called the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. The Jesuits definitely have a dark history of intrigue and sedition, that’s why they were expelled from Portugal (1759), France (1764), Spain (1767), Naples (1767), and Russia (1820). “Jesuit priests have been known throughout history as the most wicked political arm of the Roman Catholic Church. Edmond Paris, in his scholarly work, The Secret History of the Jesuits, reveals and documents much of this information.”4 At the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church gave the Jesuits the specific assignment of destroying Protestantism and bringing people back to the Mother Church. This was to be done not only through the Inquisition and through torture, but also through theology.
The Jesuit Commission At the Council of Trent, the Jesuits were commissioned by the Pope to develop a new interpretation of Scripture that would counteract the Protestant application of the Bible’s Antichrist prophecies to the Roman Catholic Church. Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), a brilliant Jesuit priest and doctor of theology from Spain, basically said, “Here am I, send me.” Like Martin Luther, Francisco Ribera also read by candlelight the prophecies about the Antichrist, the little horn, that man of sin, and the Beast. But because of his dedication and allegiance to the Pope, he came to conclusions vastly different from those of the Protestants. “Why, these prophecies don’t apply to the Catholic Church at all!” Ribera said. Then to whom do they apply? Ribera proclaimed, “To only one sinister man who will rise up at the end of time!” “Fantastic!” was the reply from Rome, and this viewpoint was quickly adopted as the official Roman Catholic position on the Antichrist.
“In 1590, Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation as a counter-interpretation to the prevailing view among Protestants which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist. Ribera applied all of Revelation but the earliest chapters to the end time rather than to the history of the Church. Antichrist would be a single evil person who would be received by the Jews and would rebuild Jerusalem.”5 “Ribera denied the Protestant Scriptural Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2) as seated in the church of God—asserted by Augustine, Jerome, Luther and many reformers. He set on an infidel Antichrist, outside the church of God.”6 “The result of his work [Ribera’s] was a twisting and maligning of prophetic truth.”7
Following close behind Francisco Ribera was another brilliant Jesuit scholar, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) of Rome. Between 1581 and 1593, Cardinal Bellarmine published his “Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed Points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of This Time.” In these lectures, he agreed with Ribera. “The futurist teachings of Ribera were further popularized by an Italian cardinal and the most renowned of all Jesuit controversialists. His writings claimed that Paul, Daniel, and John had nothing whatsoever to say about the Papal power. The futurists’ school won general acceptance among Catholics. They were taught that Antichrist was a single individual who would not rule until the very end of time.”8 Through the work of these two tricky Jesuit scholars, we might say that a brand new baby was born into the world. Protestant historians have given this baby a name—Jesuit Futurism. In fact, Francisco Ribera has been called the Father of Futurism.
Defining the Issue Before we go much farther, let’s define some terms. Historicism is the belief that Biblical prophecies about the little horn, the man of sin, the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Babylonian Harlot of Revelation 17, all apply to the developing history of Christianity and to the ongoing struggle between Jesus Christ and Satan within the Christian Church, culminating at the end of time. Historicism sees these prophecies as having a direct application to Papal Rome as a system whose doctrines are actually a denial of the New Testament message of free salvation by grace through simple faith in Jesus Christ, apart from works. Historicism was the primary prophetic viewpoint of the Protestant Reformers. In direct opposition to Historicism, and rising up as a razor-sharp counterattack on Protestantism, was that of the Jesuits with their viewpoint of Futurism, which basically says, “The Antichrist prophecies have nothing to do with the history of Papal Rome, rather, they apply to only one sinister man who comes at the end.”
Thus Jesuit Futurism sweeps 1,500 years of prophetic history under the proverbial rug by inserting its infamous GAP. This theory teaches that when Rome fell, prophecy stopped, only to continue again right around the time of the Rapture, thus the “gap” was created. The ten horns, the little horn, the Beast, and the Antichrist have nothing to do with Christians until this “last-day Antichrist” should appear. According to this viewpoint, there were no prophecies being fulfilled during the Dark Ages!
Inroads in Protestantism For almost 300 years after the Council of Trent, Jesuit Futurism remained largely inside the realm of Catholicism, but the plan of the Jesuits was that these theological tenets be adopted by Protestants. This adoption process actually began in the early 1800s in England, and from there it spread to America. The story of how this happened is both fascinating and tragic. As I briefly share some of the highlights, I want to clarify that I am not judging the genuineness of these Christian men. They may have been sincere, yet at the same time deceived in some areas of their theological understanding.
“The Futurism of Ribera never posed a positive threat to the Protestants for three centuries. It was virtually confined to the Roman Church. But early in the nineteenth century it sprang forth with vehemence and latched on to Protestants of the Established Church of England.”9 Dr. Samuel Roffey Maitland (1792-1866), a lawyer and Bible scholar, became a librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is very likely that one day he discovered Ribera’s commentary in the library. In any event, in 1826 he published a widely-read book attacking the Reformation and supporting Ribera’s idea of a future one-man Antichrist. For the next ten years, in tract after tract, he continued his anti-Reformation rhetoric. As a result of his zeal and strong attacks against the Reformation in England, the Protestantism of that very nation which produced the King James Bible (1611) received a crushing blow.After Dr. Maitland came James H. Todd, a professor of Hebrew at the University of Dublin. Todd accepted the futuristic ideas of Maitland, publishing his own supportive pamphlets and books. Then came John Henry Newman (1801-1890), a member of the Church of England and a leader of the famous Oxford Movement (1833-1845). In 1850, Newman wrote his “Letter on Anglican Difficulties,” revealing that one of the goals in the Oxford Movement was to finally absorb “the various English denominations and parties” back into the Church of Rome. After publishing a pamphlet endorsing Todd’s futurism about a one-man Antichrist, Newman soon became a full Roman Catholic, and later even a highly honored Cardinal. Through the influence of Maitland, Todd, Newman, and others, a definite “Romeward movement was already arising, destined to sweep away the old Protestant landmarks, as with a flood.”10
Then came the much-respected Scottish Presbyterian minister, Edward Irving (1792-1834), the acknowledged forerunner of both the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Irving pastored the large Chalcedonian Chapel in London with over 1,000 members. When Irving turned to the prophecies, he eventually accepted the one-man Antichrist idea of Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera, yet he went a step further. Somewhere around 1830, Edward Irving began to teach the unique idea of a two-phase return of Christ, the first phase being a secret rapture prior to the rise of the Antichrist. Where he got this idea is a matter of much dispute. Journalist Dave MacPherson believes Irving accepted it is a result of a prophetic revelation given to a young Scottish girl named Margaret McDonald.11 In any case, the fact is, Irving taught it!In the midst of this growing anti-Protestant climate in England, there arose a man by the name of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). A brilliant lawyer, pastor, and theologian, he wrote more than 53 books on Bible subjects. A much-respected Christian and a man of deep piety, Darby took a strong stand in favor of the infallibility of the Bible in contrast with the liberalism of his day. He became one of the leaders of a group in Plymouth, England, which became known as the Plymouth Brethren. Darby’s contribution to the development of evangelical theology has been so great that he has been called The Father of Modern Dispensationalism. Yet John Nelson Darby, like Edward Irving, also became a strong promoter of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture followed by a one-man Antichrist. In fact, this teaching has become a hallmark of Dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism is the theory that God deals with mankind in major dispensations or periods. According to Darby, we are now in the “Church Age,” that is, until the Rapture. After the Rapture, then the seven-year period of Daniel 9:27 will supposedly kick in, and this is when the Antichrist will rise up against the Jews. In fact, John Nelson Darby laid much of the foundation for the present popular removal of Daniel’s 70th week away from history and from Jesus Christ in favor of applying it to a future Tribulation after the Rapture. Thus, in spite of all the positives of his ministry, Darby followed Maitland, Todd, Bellarmine, and Ribera by incorporating the teachings of Futurism into his theology. This created a link between John Nelson Darby, the Father of Dispen-sationalism, and the Jesuit Francisco Ribera, the Father of Futurism. Darby visited America six times between 1859-1874, preaching in all of its major cities, during which time he definitely planted the seeds of Futurism in American soil. The child of the Jesuits was growing up.
Futurism in America One of the most important figures in this whole drama is Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921), a Kansas lawyer who was greatly influenced by the writings of Darby. In 1909, Scofield published the first edition of his famous Scofield Reference Bible. In the early 1900s, this Bible became so popular in American Protestant Bible schools that it was necessary to print literally millions of copies. Yet, in the much-respected footnotes of this very Bible, Scofield injected large doses of the fluid of Futurism also found in the writings of Darby, Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera. Through the Scofield Bible, the Jesuit child reached young adulthood. The doctrine of an Antichrist still to come was becoming firmly established inside 20th-century American Protestantism.
The Moody Bible Institute and the Dallas Theological Seminary have strongly supported the teachings of John Nelson Darby, and this has continued to fuel Futurism’s growth. Then in the 1970s, Pastor Hal Lindsey, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, released his blockbuster book The Late Great Planet Earth. This 177-page, easy-to-read volume brought Futurism to the masses of American Christianity, and beyond. The New York Times labeled it “The number one best-seller of the decade.” Over 30 million copies have been sold, and it has been translated into over 30 languages. Through The Late Great Planet Earth, Jesuit Futurism took a strong hold over the Protestant Christian world.
Left Behind Now we have Left Behind. In the 1990s, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins took the future one-man Antichrist idea of Hal Lindsey, Scofield, Darby, Irving, Newman, Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera, and turned it into “The most successful Christian-fiction series ever” (Publishers Weekly). Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth, was largely theological, which limited its appeal, while Left Behind is a sequence of highly imaginative novels, “overflowing with suspense, action, and adventure,” a “Christian thriller,” with a “label its creators could never have predicted: blockbuster success” (Entertainment Weekly). The much-respected television ministries of Jack Van Impe, Peter and Paul Lalonde, and Pastor John Hagee, have all worked together to produce LEFT BEHIND: The Movie. The entire project has even caught the attention of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, resulting in an interview of LaHaye and Jenkins on Larry King Live. The Left Behind books have been made available on displays at WalMart, Fry’s Electronics, and inside countless other stores.
Again, let me clarify, I am not judging the genuineness of the authors of Left Behind and the leaders of these television ministries. They may be sincere, and have their own walk with God. But they are deceived into wrong ideas concerning Bible prophecy. God may even use Left Behind to influence people for Jesus Christ. But, in the full light of Scripture, prophecy, and the Protestant Reformation, something is terribly wrong. Left Behind is now teaching much of the same Jesuit Futurism as Francisco Ribera, which is hiding the real truth about the Antichrist. Through Left Behind, the floodgates of Futurism have been opened, unleashing a massive tidal wave of false prophecy which is now sweeping over America. Sadly, it is a false “idea whose time has come.”
The Prophetic Foundation As we have already seen, the theological foundation for the entire Left Behind series is the application of the “seven years” of Daniel 9:27 to a future period of Tribulation. Are you ready for this? Guess who was one of the very first scholars to slice Daniel’s 70th week away from the first 69 weeks, sliding it down to the end of time? It was Francisco Ribera! “Ribera’s primary apparatus was the seventy weeks. He taught that Daniel’s 70th week was still in the future. . . It was as though God put a giant rubber band on this Messianic time measure. Does this supposition sound familiar? This is exactly the scenario used by Hal Lindsey and a multitude of other current prophecy teachers.”12
When most Christians look at the last 1,500 years, how much fulfilled prophecy do they see? None, zero, because almost everything is now being applied to a future time period after the Rapture. As we have seen, this GAP idea originated with the Jesuits, and its insertion into the majority of 21st century prophetic teaching is now blinding millions of hearts and eyes to what has gone before, and to what is happening right now inside the Church. “It is this GAP theory that permeates Futurism’s interpretation of all apocalyptic prophecy.”13 In love and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, someone should publicly appeal to the major prophetic television ministries of today to re-evaluate their positions. Hopefully, like noble ships with a new command from their captain, they will yet change their course.Jesuit Futurism has almost completely changed the beliefs of Protestant Historicism. “The proper eschatological term for the view most taught today is Futurism, which fuels the confusion of Dispensationalism. The futuristic school of Bible prophecy came from the Roman Catholic Church, specifically her Jesuit theologians. . . However the alternative has been believed for centuries. It is known as Historicism.”14 “It is a matter for deep regret that those who hold and advocate the Futurist system at the present day, Protestants as they are for the most part, are thus really playing into the hands of Rome, and helping to screen the Papacy from detection as the Antichrist.”15
Who Had It Right? Who had the right theology—those who were burned at the stake for Jesus Christ, or those who lit the fires? Who had the true Bible doctrine—the martyrs or their persecutors? Who had the correct interpretation of the Antichrist—those who died trusting in the blood of Christ, or those who shed the blood of God’s dear saints? Dear friend, Jesuit Futurism is now at war with the Protestant Reformation by denying its power-packed application of prophecy to the Vatican. “The futurist school of Bible prophecy was created for one reason, and one reason only: to counter the Protestant Reformation!”16 In fact, Jesuit Futurism is at war with the prophecies of the Word of God itself! And if that’s not enough, consider this. Jesuit Futurism originated with the Roman Catholic Church, which makes it the very doctrine of the Antichrist! And when Christian ministries and movies like A Thief in the Night, Apocalypse, Revelation, Tribulation, and Left Behind, proclaim an Antichrist who comes only after the Rapture, what are they really doing? I shudder to even say it. Are you ready for this? They are sincerely and yet unknowingly teaching the doctrine of the Antichrist!Now you know why truth has been left behind. You are now able to see The Left Behind deception. I appeal to you in the loving name of Jesus Christ, the Crucified One—Don’t fall for it.
By Steve Wohlberg
Pastor Wohlberg currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas. This article is adapted from his recent books, Truth Left Behind and The Left Behind Deception.
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