But now we must take a look at another movement in
Great Britain which was destined to derail the Protestant prophetic
In 1825 a small group of men, dissatisfied with the spiritual
condition of the Protestant Church in Ireland, met in Dublin to
spiritually strengthen one another. Soon other groups were formed
in Ireland and in England. The most famous of these was the one in
This group came to be known as the Plymouth Brethren. Among the notables in these fellowships were Edward Irving, Dr. S. P. Tregelles and John Nelson Darby (who joined in 1827). At some point during this time, Edward Irving heard some mysterious utterances in an unknown tongue telling him that there was going to be a secret rapture of the church before the visible coming of Jesus.
This was a new concept in the incredible journey of futurism. Futurists
themselves will admit that this idea was alien to the Christian church until the 19th century. Dr. S. P. Tregelles, who, as we have noted, for some time belonged to the Plymouth Brethren movement but later abandoned it describes Irving’s experience:
“I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there would be a secret rapture of the Church at a secret coming, until this was given forth as an utterance in Mr. Irving’s church, from what was there received as being the Voice of the Spirit. But whether anyone ever asserted such a thing or not, it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God.” (S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, first published in 1864, and now available at Ambassadors for Christ, Los Angeles, California).
From 1830 onward, a series of conferences were held at Powerscourt Castle in Ireland. We know that Edward Irving attended some of these as did John Nelson Darby and other key leaders of the Plymouth Brethren. At these meetings literalistic futurism became the prophetic methodology of choice and the idea of the secret rapture was adopted. The views established at these conferences soon spread like grassfire and penetrated other denominations.
We must say a few words about John Nelson Darby. He was born in Ireland in 1800 and died in 1882. He was a brilliant law student at
Westminster Trinity College. Though Darby was intellectually brilliant, physically, he left much to be desired. A brother of Cardinal Newman, who was a good friend of Darby’s describes his physical traits:
“. . . a most remarkable man, who rapidly gained an immense sway over me. His bodily presence was indeed ‘weak.’ A fallen cheek, a blood-shot eye, crippled limbs resting on crutches, a seldom shaven beard, a shabby suit of clothes, and a generally neglected person, drew at first pity, with wonder to see such a figure in a drawing room.” (Quoted in McDougall, The Rapture of the Saints, p. 45).
Darby soon broke with the Church of England and embraced literalistic futurism with a vengeance. Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons why he did not discern the Papacy as the Antichrist was his total disdain for
history. He once remarked: “I do not want history to tell me Nineveh or Babylon is ruined or Jerusalem in the hands of the Gentiles. I do not admit history to be, in any sense, necessary to the understanding of prophecy.” (Quoted in, Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church [Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company], 1977, p. 26).
In the historicist method, a knowledge of history is of critical importance because it provides the reference point for the understanding of prophecy. But in futurism, an understanding of history is superfluous.
It is of great importance to realize that between 1859 and 1874, Darby made six trips to the United States where he was warmly welcomed and his views were eagerly adopted.
Darby’s writings, however, would have been forgotten had it not been for Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921). Scofield was converted in 1879 and, though he had no theological training, he was ordained a Congregationalist minister three years later. At this time, Darby’s books were gathering dust in the few libraries where they could be found. But when Scofield discovered them, he came up with the idea of incorporating Darby’s futuristic ideas into a series of footnotes in the King James Bible. Thus in 1909, the famous Scofield Reference Bible was born. Soon, the notes were considered as inspired as the Bible itself. Even today, this is the Bible of choice among Protestants who uphold a futurist
outlook of Bible prophecy.
Before we move on to speak of the baleful influence of futurism upon contemporary Protestantism, it would be well to quote various scholars who trace the origins of preterism and futurism to Alcazar and Ribera. We will begin with George Eldon Ladd:
“It would probably come as a shock to many modern futurists to be told that the first scholar in relatively modern times who returned to the patristic futuristic interpretation was a Spanish Jesuit named Ribera. 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, abolish Christianity, deny Christ, persecute the Church and rule the world for three and a half years.” (George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope, Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1972, p. 37).
Next we will quote Joseph Tanner: “ 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 endeavoring by different means to accomplish the same end, namely, that of diverting men’s minds from perceiving the fulfillment 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 endeavored to show that the prophecies of Antichrist were fulfilled before the Popes ever ruled at 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.” (Joseph Tanner, Daniel and the Revelation, [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1898], pp. 16, 17).
Dean Henry Alford in the “Prolegomena” of his Greek Testament, declares: “The founder of this system [Futurist] in modern times. . . appears to have been the Jesuit Ribera, about A. D. 1580.” (Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, vol. 2, part 2, p. 351).
Alford also states: “The Preterist view found no favour, and was hardly so much as thought of, in the times of primitive Christianity. . . The view is said to have been first promulgated in any thing like completeness by the Jesuit Alcasar. . . in 1614.” (Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, vol. 2, part 2, pp. 348, 349).
Even the Roman Catholic, G. S. Hitchcock, states: “The Futuristic School, founded by the Jesuit Ribera in 1591, looks for Antichrist, Babylon and a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, at the end of the Christian Dispensation. . . The Praeterist School, founded by the Jesuit Alcasar in 1614, explains the Revelation by the Fall of Jerusalem, or by the fall of Pagan Rome in 410 A. D.” (G. S. Hitchcock, The Beasts and the Little Horn, p. 7).
Well has Tanner remarked: “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.” (Joseph Tanner, Daniel and the Revelation, [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1898], p. 17).
And what about conservative Protestantism today? The fact is that they have not only swallowed these futuristic views hook, line and sinker, but they have swallowed the fishing pole and fisherman as well!! In fact, they have taken the literalistic hermeneutic of futurism so far that it borders on the ridiculous.
Evangelicals, Baptists, Pentecostals and other born-again Christians have proliferated futurism around the globe. This phenomenal growth has been due to four main factors:
- The influence of the Scofield Reference Bible. This annotated Bible provides a futuristic and literalistic interpretation of the little horn of Daniel 7 seeing it as a future individual world dictator who will rule the world for three and a half literal years from a rebuilt Jerusalem temple. On the other hand, this same Bible manifests a touch of preterism by interpreting the little horn of Daniel 8 as a symbol of Antiochus Epiphanes [see the footnotes in the Scofield Reference Bible, pp. 909, 910].
- The proliferation of television evangelists. For example, Jack Van Impe showed his unabashed admiration for Pope John Paul II by repeatedly stating on his television program: “What a man!!”
- A plethora of both fiction and “ non-fiction” books. For example, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have written a series of Christian thrillers which explore the last days. The titles tell it all: Left Behind: A Novel ofthe Earth’s Last Days; Tribulation Force: The Continuing Drama of Those Left Behind; Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; Soul Harvest: The World Takes Sides; Appollyon: The Destroyer is Unleashed; Assassins: Assignment: Jerusalem, Target: Antichrist. This series has sold over 10 million copies and was on the New York Times best seller list for months!! Jenkins states: “The purpose was to encourage the church and to persuade unbelievers. We have found that people are reading the Bible again because of it and many have become believers” (The Costco Connection, “Arts and Entertainment”, March 2000, p. 49). The question is: Believers in what? Are people reading the Bible through the futurist eyeglasses of these novels? Even more amazing is the comment made by LaHaye: “I’m hearing from church pastors all over the world (the series has been published in at least 14 languages) and they’re telling me that the books are the best evangelistic tools they’ve ever seen. It’s gratifying to see so much interest in this story because, of any of the major world religions, Christianity has the most exciting story to tell about the future.” (The Costco Connection, “Arts and Entertainment”, March 2000, p. 49). Here LaHaye lauds the world-wide evangelistic thrust of futurism through the message of these books. Thus, futurism is being exported to every nation, kindred, tongue and people!!
- The multiplication of thriller movies such as The Omega Code, and Left Behind. I have personally seen The Omega Code. It is pure, untarnished, unvarnished futurism and literalism. The number of proponents of the futuristic scenario is legion. Among the main prognosticators are: Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, Grant Jeffrey, John Walvoord, John Hagee, Benny Hinn, Jack Van Impe, Jack LeLonde, Dave Hunt, David Jeremiah, Zola Levitt, Arno Froese, Pat Robertson, Randall Price, Dwight Pentecost and ad infinitum.
These recent proponents of futurism have outdone by far their forefathers. As an example, we will refer to Grant Jeffrey’s book The Signature of God: The Handwriting of God. Jeffrey claims to have cracked a secret Bible prophecy code by using the Hebrew numbering system.
He claims to have found, among other things, the following specific predictions in this secret code: The death of Princess Di, the plague of AIDS, the assassination of Franz Joseph I of Austria, the peace process of Israel and the PLO, the assassination of Yitzak Rabbin, the Gulf War including the specific names of America, George Bush, General Schwartzkoff, Scud-B Missile, Russia, etc.
He also claims to have found predictions of the Oklahoma City bombing including the specific names, Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma. Amazingly, he even claims to have found “day 19, and 9th hour” the precise day and hour of the explosion. Apart from the fact that the Bible is not interested in trivialities such as this, I find it amazing that Jeffrey thinks he is able to find all these hidden, cryptic, secret, veiled, subliminal messages but at the same time has not been able to figure out something as clear and simple as, which is the right day of the week to go to church!!
Dave Hunt presents an interesting case. He has written two scathing
books denouncing the Roman Catholic Papacy as the harlot of Revelation 17 (Global Peace, A Woman Rides the Beast).
For example, he makes the following astounding statement: “Some suggest that the Vatican will move to Babylon in Iraq when it is rebuilt. But why should it? The Vatican has been fulfilling John’s vision from its location in Rome for the past 15 centuries. Moreover, we have shown the connection to ancient Babylon which the Vatican has maintained down through history in the paganized Christianity it has promulgated. As for ancient Babylon itself, it wasn’t even in existence during the past 2300
years ‘to reign over the kings of the earth.’ Babylon lay in ruins while pagan Rome and later Catholic Rome, the new Babylon, was indeed reigning over kings.” (Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, p. 84). So much for consistent literalism! What hermeneutic allows Hunt to see in literal Babylon a symbol of a worldwide apostate Christian Roman Catholicism and yet to not see in literal Jerusalem a symbol of God’s faithful worldwide Christian church?
Hunt has also castigated Protestants for betraying the Reformation when they signed the joint declaration: Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Yet he still remains a futurist at heart. For him, Daniel seven’s little horn is a literal person who in the future will rule three and a half literal
years during the Tribulation. He believes this horn will oppress the
literal Jews from a rebuilt literal Jerusalem Temple.
Regarding Daniel 2, Hunt comments: “He [Daniel] explained that
Nebuchadnezzar, represented by the head of gold, was the ruler of the first world empire. The three other parts of the image, made of silver, brass, and iron, foreshadowed three more world empires that would follow Babylon as its successors. In a later vision Daniel would be given the name of the second world empire, Medo-Persia, and details concerning the third kingdom which clearly identified it as the Grecian empire. The fourth world empire, of course, would be Rome. That much is history.” (Dave Hunt, Global Peace, p. 68).
Up to this point, Hunt sounds like a genuine historicist. But wait, there is more! Referring to the ten toes, Hunt then affirms: “Obviously, what the
toes represent has not yet come to pass. God’s kingdom was not established ‘in the days of these [ten] kings.’” (Dave Hunt, Global Peace, p. 69).
What he says next is simply amazing: “Furthermore, the Antichrist never appeared to take the reins of the ancient Roman Empire.” (Dave Hunt, Global Peace, p. 69).
What Hunt has done is sever the feet from the legs. He has created a gap of over 1500 years between the legs [the Roman Empire] and the toes [the divisions of the Roman Empire]. Why is he not able to see that Rome was divided by the Barbarian invasions and that, shortly thereafter, the
Papacy arose to govern in what had been the Roman Empire?
The fact is that the literalistic hermeneutic of futurism has blinded Hunt and led him to shield the Papacy from her baleful work during the Middle Ages. The gap he has left between the legs and the toes is the hiding place for the REAL ANTICHRIST!!
Inexcusably, Hunt states: “The Reformers and their creeds were unanimous in identifying each pope as the Antichrist. Scripture, however, does not support that claim. The Antichrist is a unique individual without predecessors or successors.” (Dave Hunt, Global Peace, p. 47
Thus, Hunt sides with Ribera, Newman, and Lacunza while he betrays the Reformation. He is saying that Ribera was right and Luther was wrong! How can he complain about the apostasy of Protestantism and then turn around and employ the prophetic method of Apostate Protestantism? No
wonder Protestant leaders signed the ecumenical document,
Evangelicals and Catholics Together. No wonder that Lutheran and
Catholic theologians have signed a Joint Declaration on Righteousness by Faith.
Through preterism, Satan has laid hold of the liberal wing of Protestantism. Through futurism he has laid hold of the conservative wing. Although these two systems appear to be opposites, they really have several striking similarities and they both meet in the abyss of satanic deception.
In both systems, Antichrist is understood as a literal blasphemous individual. Both see this individual as a desecrator of the literal Jewish Temple for three and a half literal years. The only difference is that, in the case of preterism this person was Antiochus Epiphanes, while in the case of futurism it will be an individual who has not yet appeared.
But the most notable similarity is that both systems derived their
hermeneutical methodology from Papal Jesuit theologians and both
systems shield the Papacy from being detected as the great Antichrist of Scripture!! By shifting the fulfillment of prophecy backwards or forwards, these prophetic systems have attempted to change God’s prophetic times.
But now we must ask some very serious questions. Why did
Protestantism first adopt futurism in Great Britain? Why not in Germany or France or, for that matter, in any other European country? And why in the 1830’s? Why did Lacunza’s writings find their way to England and not to another country in Europe? Why was Lacunza’s book translated into English by one of the Plymouth Brethren in 1833?
The answers to these questions are not hard to find. The greatest number of immigrants into the United States in the 1830’s and 1840’s were from Great Britain. What better way for Satan to transplant futurism to the United States than to do it from Great Britain? It is easy to see now, why this whole apostasy from historicism to futurism took place in England in the 1830’s. Satan wanted to transplant futurism from England to the New World!!
Even at this early stage, he was laying the groundwork for the United States to become the champion of futurism and to make an image to the beast!! Remarkably, on the other side of the Atlantic, William Miller and
his co-workers were expounding the same prophecies of Daniel and
Revelation using a historicist hermeneutic–and this, in the same decade of the 1830’s!! In this way, the battle lines were being drawn. Satan was preparing to import futurism into United States at the same time that God was empowering the Millerites to explain the prophecies from a historicist perspective.
Which system was destined to win on the American continent? On the surface, it would appear that futurism has gained the upper hand. But we are reminded that in the end, God’s historicist perspective will prevail because He controls “the times”. No matter how much apostate Protestantism may try to exalt and disperse its prophetic scenario, all will come crashing down because God is the arbiter of history, and prophecy will fulfill as He has predetermined.
By employing the preterist and futurist prophetic principles of the
Roman Catholic Church, Protestants have made an image to the beast. Furthermore, they have become the False Prophet because they speak the prophetic message which they have derived from the beast.
There is a close relationship between Daniel 7:25, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 13:11-18 and Revelation 14:6-12. In Daniel 7:25 the little horn thinks it can change two things: the times and the law. God’s response to this is to raise up a remnant church (after the 1260 years) which will restore what the little horn attempted to change. That is, they will have a true prophet in their midst to explain and restore the true meaning of the times; and they will keep the commandments of God, including the one which the little horn claimed to have changed (Revelation 12:17; 19:10; 22:8,9).
The beast will not take this restoration hands down. It will react in the end-time by imposing the mark of the beast (the change in the law) and by raising up the false prophet ( the change in the times). But, as always, God will speak the last word. The three angels’ messages will be proclaimed to every nation, kindred, tongue and people (Revelation 14:6). These will call the world to keep the Sabbath, and resist the mark of the beast (Revelation 14:9-12). They will also call the world to refuse the
message of the beast and his false prophet.