Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"The Lord Is at Hand"[1]: Tracing the History of Christian Eschatological Thought

"Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come."
-- Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:1-2)


If man’s purchasing habits be any indicator of what excites him, we are certainly experiencing a time of unparalleled interest in the coming of the Lord. The Left Behind series, a collection of apocalyptic[2] novels about life on earth around the time of the rapture and the Tribulation, has sold over 55 million copies. The official website for the series declares it “the fastest-selling adult fiction series ever.” Of the twelve books in the series, the last six have all topped the charts of The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly and the Christian Booksellers Association. Book nine, Desecration, was the best selling novel in the world in 2001.[3] Though the series may be classified as fiction, its authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, use them to propagate very real beliefs about the end times and the coming of the Lord. Since, 1995, when Left Behind, the first in the series, was released, LaHaye and Jenkins have been declaring that the Second Coming will take place in the very near future, and that the true Christians will be raptured into heaven, freed from the terror and suffering that will immediately precede this Coming. Yet, such predictions are not unique to our time, and neither are the eschatological views espoused by the Left Behind series. As evidenced by Paul’s plea in his second letter to the Thessalonians, there were even in his day men who were being “quickly shaken” by sensational, end-times prophets.

This then raises several questions: “What exactly did these Christians of Paul’s time believe? What of the successive Christians of the Patristic age? How do their beliefs compare to what is being popularly propagated today regarding the end times? Is today’s presentation of the eschaton truly unique to our time, or do we see roots of this in previous generations?" By answering these questions we can place the current craze within its proper perspective, determine the voice that we should truly follow, and avoid being “quickly shaken” when all manner of “prophets” come to the fore. Since most of the terminology used to describe the end times is strictly particular to the field and thus foreign to many, I have attached an appendix of key terms to aid the reader as we investigate the history of eschatological thought.

Eschatology in Apostolic Times

The verses in the Bible that discuss the coming of the Messiah are quite numerous. With much ground left to cover, we can allow ourselves only a general overview. First, it is important to note that the New Testament writers understood the “end times” to be not just some future period of the Second Coming, but also the very age in which they were living, an age inaugurated by the First Coming, the advent of the Messiah with His Incarnation.[4] In the letter to the Hebrews, we read, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:1-2). The letter goes on to say, “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (9:26b). Furthermore, we see in the account of Pentecost from the Book of Acts that Peter applied Joel’s words about the “last days” to his own day:
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams….’” (Acts 2:14-17; cf. Joel 2:28-32; emphasis mine).
Much later, Peter will tell us in his first epistle that Jesus “was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake” (1 Pet 1:20). Even when the New Testament writers speak of the “last days” as a future event (cf. 2 Tim 3:1; 2 Pet 3:3), their descriptions can easily be applied to the present age.[5] St. John agrees (1 Jn 2:18), as does Jude (Jude 1:17-18). Essentially, we have been living in the last days since “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). This is an important point because it shapes how these writers also understand the Kingdom of God and the Church.

Now, we see throughout Scripture[6] that it is in the last days, at the coming of the Messiah, that the Kingdom of God is established:
Gen 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Isa 9:7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Jer 23:5-6 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'

Dan 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever

Mic 4:8 And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.

Zech 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.
From this, we can derive a second important belief of apostolic Christians. They understood this kingdom foretold by the prophets as inaugurated in the time of Christ. He heralded the kingdom with his preaching[7] and instituted it when he left them the Holy Spirit[8] to “guide [them] into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). The believers in Christ knew what was taking place when Our Lord rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. They cried out, saying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:10). The apostles knew the kingdom was at hand, for Jesus had explicitly assigned it to them (Lk 22:29-30). The Father transferred His people “from the dominion of darkness” to “the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13-14), and they were grateful for having received it (cf. Heb 12:28). Belief in reception of the kingdom in this life leads to the third and final belief of apostolic Christians: this kingdom, inaugurated in the last days, is forever being realized in the Church.

Jesus preached many parables about his Kingdom, especially in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel. He said that it was like a sower’s field (cf. Mt 13: 24), a mustard seed (vs. 31), leaven for bread (vs. 33), a hidden treasure (vs. 44), a fine pearl (vs. 45), and a net (vs. 47). All of these images point to the Church. The Church sows the seed of the gospel, which grows and bears much fruit in the hearts of those who believe. Like a mustard seed, the Church has humble beginnings, yet it has become a great and sturdy tree for all those who seek her shelter. Just as leaven gradually ferments all the dough, so the Church spreads to convert all the nations. Like the treasure and the pearl, the Church is a great find, and one will do anything to have it. Finally, the Church is a net that collects both the good and the bad, which co-exist until their separation “at the close of the age” (vs. 49). The apostles understood all these things (vs. 51), and strengthened with the Spirit they will make the Church these things and much more.

We see the most intimate connection between the Kingdom and the Church in the famous discourse between Jesus and Peter in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel:
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:17-19).
Why would Jesus give the keys of the kingdom to the person he was building His Church upon unless there was some inextricable union between the kingdom and the Church?

Now, believing that the “last days” were inaugurated with the Incarnation, that the kingdom was established in these last days, and that this kingdom is the Church may at first seem irrelevant to a study of eschatological thought. But, as we will soon see, the presuppositions about the Church that a person brings to the Bible shape the very way in which he interprets eschatological events. “The doctrine of the Church …must be carefully examined before eschatology can be understood.”[9]

Eschatology in the Patristic Age

The Early Church Fathers unanimously held to the ecclesiology that has already been mentioned. These beliefs will shape how they understand the role of the Church when the last days find their culmination in the Second Coming of Christ.

A central phenomenon in the events of the Second Coming, or Parousia, is the millennium. Literally “a thousand years,” this period is most explicitly seen in Revelation 20:1-10, and there are many different views concerning it. Some have interpreted the millennium to be a literal period of one-thousand years in which Jesus Christ will reign in a physical kingdom on earth. This view is commonly referred to as millennarianism, or chiliasm. Others understand the millennium to be the Age of the Church, inaugurated at Pentecost (and continuing until He comes again) in which Jesus reigns in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, and on earth through His Church. This view exemplifies amillennialism. Regarding the relation between the Second Coming and this millennium, there are two views: premillennialism and postmillennialism. Adherents of premillennialism believe that Jesus will come first, or “before (pre-) the millennium”, and then establish his one-thousand year reign. Adherents of postmillennialism believe that there will be a time of peace on earth and widespread Christianity and “after (post-) this millennium” our Savior will come. All of this can be quite dizzying (!!) and it makes one wonder: What did the Early Church Fathers believe?

While the Church has traditionally been amillennial (because of its ecclesiology), we do find examples of millennarianism in the Fathers. St. Justin Martyr says, in his response to Trypho’s inquiry regarding the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the gathering of Christians to “rejoice with Christ in the company of the patriarchs and prophets,” that there were many Christians in his day that both agreed and disagreed with it:
“I am not such a wretched person, Trypho, that I would say other than what I think. As I admitted to you before, I and many others are of this opinion, and we believe absolutely that this will happen. But still, I signified to you that there are many Christians of pure and pious faith who do not share this belief.”[10]
Eusebius Pamphilus tells us that “many ecclesiastical writers” believed in an earthly, one-thousand year reign, these writers apparently being influenced by Papias.[11] Olson lists 9 such writers: Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Methodius, Commodianus, and Lactantius.[12]

Justin, in the paragraph previously cited, goes on to say, “I and such other Christians as judge rightly in everything believe that there will be … a thousand years in which Jerusalem will be built up, adorned and enlarged, as the prophets Ezechiel and Isaias and the others declare.” The Montanists were proclaiming that this would happen any day now, and when it did, Jesus would set up his kingdom, the “New Jerusalem” in Phrygia, of Asia Minor.[13] Likewise, Tertullian, in his treatise Against Marcion, confesses, “a kingdom has been promised to us on earth, but before heaven and in another state of existence. It will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely built city of Jerusalem, let down from heaven, which the Apostle also calls ‘our mother from above.’”[14] Lactantius says, “Truly, when He shall have destroyed injustice and shall have rendered the great judgment, and shall have restored to life all the just who ever were, even from the beginning, He will remain among men for a thousand years, and He will rule them in a most righteous reign.”[15]

The most popular Church Father cited in support of millennarianism is St. Augustine. It is true that in his early works he espoused this view.[16] For example, in Sermon #259, we read:
The eighth day signifies the new life at the end of the world; the seventh day, the future rest of the saints on this earth. For the Lord will reign on earth with His saints, as the Scriptures say, and here He will have His Church, into which no wicked person will enter, separated and cleansed from every contagion of iniquity.[17]
However, we find that later in his life, Augustine retracted this view in favor of the amillennial one, which understands the millennium not as a literal one-thousand year reign of Christ, but as the current Church age, in which Jesus reigns in heaven and on earth. Augustine admits of the change in his City of God:
Those who, because of this passage [Rev 20:1-6] in this book, have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been influenced, especially, among other things, by the number of a thousand years, to suppose that it were fitting that among the saints there should be during that time a kind of sabbatism, a holy vacation as it were after the labors of the six thousand years since man was created … This opinion would be somewhat tolerable, if the delights of that Sabbath to be enjoyed by the saints were through the presence of the Lord, of a spiritual kind. For we too were at one time of this opinion[18] [emphasis mine].
However, he says immediately after this that millennarianism is untenable and “only for the carnal”:
But, as they assert that those who then rise again shall enjoy the leisure of immoderate carnal banquets, furnished with an amount of meat and drink such as not only to shock the feeling of the temperate, but even to surpass the measure of credulity itself, such assertions can be believed only by the carnal. They who do believe them are called by the spiritual Chiliasts, which we may literally reproduce by the name Millenarians. It were a tedious process to refute these opinions point by point: we prefer proceeding to show how that passage of Scripture should be understood.[19]
In Ch. 9 of the same book, Augustine articulates what Daley calls Augustine’s “ecclesiological interpretation”[20]:
But while the devil is bound, the saints reign with Christ during the same thousand years, understood in the same way, that is, of the time of His first coming. For, leaving out of account that kingdom concerning which He shall say in the end, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you,” the Church could not now be called His kingdom or the kingdom of heaven unless His saints were even now reigning with Him, though in another and far different way; for to His saints He says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Certainly it is in this present time that the scribe well instructed in the kingdom of God, and of whom we have already spoken, brings forth from his treasure things new and old.[21]
In the same chapter, Augustine goes on to say:
Therefore the Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, even now His saints reign with Him, though otherwise than as they shall reign hereafter; and yet, though the tares grow in the Church along with the wheat, they do not reign with Him. For they reign with Him who do what the apostle says, "If ye be risen with Christ, mind the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Seek those things which are above, not the things which are on the earth." Of such persons he also says that their conversation is in heaven. In fine, they reign with Him who are so in His kingdom that they themselves are His kingdom.[22]
Essentially, we have in Augustine the culmination and the refinement of what the Fathers were gradually coming to understand about the nature of the Church. Instead of waiting for Jesus to establish a new kingdom when he comes again, we instead wait for the fulfillment of the kingdom that he has already established in the Church. Instead of establishing this millennium in a future, one-thousand year period, they instead began to see “one thousand years” as symbolic of the fullness of time in which the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ. They began to see themselves as not just awaiting the “last days” but living in them. These insights, which we have already seen in the New Testament writers, will have a great effect on how they will come to understand the apocalyptical works in the Bible.

Of course, another reason for their rejection of millennarianism was the way in which the majority of the Fathers read scripture. It was not common for the Fathers to read scripture as literally as fundamentalist Protestants do today. It requires a very literal reading of scripture to separate the Church from the Kingdom, and to understand the millennium as a literal one-thousand year reign of Christ on earth. Instead, early Christians tended to focus, at least initially, on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. Olson tells us this about Origen:
Origen (ca. 185-254), a Scripture scholar from Alexandria, was a strong opponent of chiliasm. Famous for his allegorical interpretations of Scripture, Origen located types and foreshadowings of Christ in nearly every nook and cranny of the Old Testament. He taught that the book of Revelation is highly symbolic and should not be interpreted literally.[23]
Eusebius Pamphilus will use this same approach to scripture in response to millennarianism:
The same author [Papias] presents other accounts as if they had come to him from unwritten tradition, and some strange parables and teachings of the Savior, and some other more mythical accounts. Among them, indeed, he says that there will be a period of about a thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, when the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this earth. I suppose that such ideas came to him through a perverse reading of the apostolic accounts, he not realizing that they had spoken mystically and in figures. For he appears to have been a man of very little intelligence, if one may so peak on the evidence of his words.[24]
Perhaps Theodoret of Cyr asserts it the most plainly:
The Munificent Giver promised that He would give not a perishable nor a transitory enjoyment of good things but an eternal one. For, unlike that of Cerinthus and of those whos views are similar to his, the kingdom of our God and Savior is not to be of this earth, nor circumscribed by a specific time. Those men create for themselves in imagination a period of a thousand years, and luxury that will pass, and other pleasures, and, along with them, sacrifices and Jewish solemnities. as for ourselves, we await the life that knows no growing old.[25]
But it is Augustine who is the definitive voice on the matter. After his interpretation of Daniel and the Apocalypse in City of God, millennarianism would essentially die out altogether. But what about all of these Left Behind books? At what time did Protestantism pick millennarianism back up again? With these questions in mind, we can turn now to the final chapter in our history of eschatology.

Protestant Eschatology: From Darby to Left Behind [26]

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an ex-Anglican priest who founded the Plymouth Brethren, is often considered to be one of the most influential proponents of dispensational, premillennial beliefs in America.[27] Although we do see dispensationalism and millennarianism in a few earlier Protestant sects[28], none of them had quite the impact, nor were they as novel in their teaching, as Darby.

As noted in the introduction, a prominent theme of the Left Behind series is the rapture, in which Christians will be “caught up together … to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes 4: 17) and thus avoid the Great Tribulation, a time of persecution that will befall the world before the Second Coming. In Darby, we find one of its earliest proponents. Around 1830, Darby met Margaret MacDonald, a young girl who claimed to have had a vision about the secret rapture of true believers. Eventually, Darby and his followers would develop a theological system that would propagate this belief. He also believed that immediately after the rapture, the seventieth week of Daniel[29] would be ushered in, which describes the Great Tribulation and the defeat of the Antichrist. After this, Christ will reign on earth for one-thousand years, for the benefit of those among the “left behind” who turned to Christ and were not persuaded by the Antichrist. After the Millennium, Satan will have one last opportunity to win back the world, where he will finally be defeated, launched into the pit for all eternity (cf. Rev 20:9-10). Currie outlines the implications of Darby’s beliefs regarding the Millennium:
Although it is questionable whether Darby himself was even aware of the full ramifications of his theology, his Millennium also forced his followers into a new view of the Church. It meant that the Church was not God’s main plan of redemption, but a parenthetical time—dubbed the “Church age”—that would eventually give way to God’s primary plan: a corporeal reign of the Messiah over the Jews. Jews who came to God in the Millennium would never become a part of the Church. They would be a part of redeemed Israel, which would remain forever distinct from Christ’s Bride.
Soon, other prominent Christians and pastors began to embrace these beliefs and spread them throughout the United States. W. E. Blackstone, Charles Erdman (famous for his Erdman’s Bible Dictionary), and J. Hudson Taylor all championed the cause. C. I. Scofield was particularly influential. His Scofield Reference Bible became the definitive source for a rapturist and dispensational premillennialist perspective on the Bible. Even today, his work is widely read. Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Talbot Seminary all trained future pastors in this perspective, focusing on the rapture as one of the most central messages of the Gospel.

Before long, a whole host of prophecy preachers began declaring the imminent return of Christ. Scofield himself claimed that World War I marked the beginning of Armageddon. Oswald J. Smith, a Canadian missionary and pastor, and founder of the People’s Church, predicted that the Armageddon would take place before 1933. Blackstone posited 1934 or ’35. American was soon becoming a frenzy of end-times speculation.

With the Second World War came even more predictions of the end. Stalin was the obvious choice for Antichrist, and the Soviet Union, his evil empire. Dan Gilbert proclaimed in his work on the subject that “Stalin is now in the process of building the very Empire outlined in Ezekiel 38-39.”[30] The Christian periodical Pentecostal Evangel declared, “that we are nearing the great battle of Armageddon.”[31] Billy Graham even got involved, claiming in a 1950 issue of U. S. News and World Report that in “two years it’s all going to be over.” He would make similar predictions in 1984 and 1995.

A tremendous contribution in spreading the rapture doctrine and end-times fever in America came in 1970, when Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth. One of the most sensational works of the genre, it became the best-selling work of the decade, selling over thirty-five million copies.[32] It held all of the popular dispensational themes: the restoration of Israel as a nation, the bible as prophetic of world events (cf. the apostasy of mainline Churches, the collapse of morality in Western culture, the Cold War, natural disasters, etc.), predictions of the end of the world (he thought it would come in the 1980’s), and of course, the rapture. “While Lindsey broke no new theological ground, his confident linking of obscure and difficult passages of Scripture to modern-day events and global situations endeared him to millions of readers.”[33] I doubt if anyone ever imagined that his work would be eclipsed … that is, until a certain series of books threatened to leave it behind.

As noted in the Introduction, the Left Behind series[34] has already sold at least 55 million copies, easily eclipsing Lindsey’s work. It has essentially turned into an industry, spawning a parallel series for kids, audio books, picture books, calendars, clothing, Left Behind: The Movie (starring the oh-so-“painful” Kirk Cameron), the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, and online “Readers Groups” where fans can discuss the series.[35] Its impact on our culture cannot be exaggerated.
What is perhaps most unique about this series is that it takes the events of the Book of Revelation and renders them in a fictional narrative, following the lives of several characters in the aftermath of the rapture.[36] But, what makes these books like their predecessors is the message: the end is coming soon, prepare for the rapture, the Great Tribulation, and the Millennial reign of Christ. “In essence, the books are ‘tract novels’, stories wrapped around huge chunks of blatant proselytizing.” [37]

After purveying the history of this message, an intriguing question comes to mind: Why has this rapture become a “trap”[38] for so many people? Why are the beliefs found in these books held by so many Christians, and the stylized packaging of these beliefs enjoyed by so many people? Carl Olson gives us the following assessment:
For Christians trying to make sense of the world in light of Scripture, popular dispensationalism offers a convenient vision and an air-tight solution. Matching up current events to passages of Scripture fulfills both the desire to understand the Bible better and to make sense of what is happening around the globe. It assures people that the bible is true and historically accurate without any need to grapple with the complex challenges of the Bible. It also frees the reader from any sense of obligation to improve or change significantly the culture, the arts, the political order, or any other aspect of society. The impending end of the world makes such pursuits trivial, even ridiculous—what matters is saving souls from the approaching tribulation. The ability of popular dispensationalists to frighten people with talk about imminent disaster and to link current events to Scripture is what will determine the longevity of the movement.[39]
However alluring it may be, as Catholics we must cling to the Church, the sure and steady guide when “every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14) attempts to whisk us away. We have seen what Scripture and the Early Church Fathers can teach us about the end times, and how the beliefs of this craze compare to our sure rules of faith. Even when the earlier Fathers did believe in a literal Millennium, they still did not believe in dispensations, a pretribulational rapture, or a radical distinction between Israel and the Church. Instead they held an enduring view of the Church as the presence of Christ until He comes again in glory. So, we stand with this Church, and we hope that when we meet Him face to face, he will be able to say, “well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).
- - -
[1] Phil 4:5 (RSVCE) “Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand.”
[2] all italicized terms can be found in the appendix.
[3] all sales figures and ratings are from the official website of the series, LeftBehind.com:
[4] “For the Catholic, adequate answers to these questions start with the understanding that the terms ‘end times’ and ‘last days’ refer not only to the end of time at some future date, but equally—even especially—to the last two thousand years. Scripture teaches that it was the Incarnation, the entrance of God into time and space, in the person of Jesus Christ, that marked the start of the end times and the last days” (Carl Olson, Will Catholics Be Left Behind?: A Catholic Critique of the Rapture and Today’s Prophecy Preachers [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003], p. 27).
[5] “So, we can observe that when a prophecy is fulfilled, that fulfilling event may itself become a prophecy, pointing to another, more final and complete fulfillment. … To put it succinctly, history can become prophecy” (David B. Currie, Rapture: The End-Times Error that Leaves the Bible Behind [Manchester, NH: Sophia Press, 2003], 62). The Navarre Bible uses this rule for interpreting bible prophecy: “‘The last days’: strictly speaking, this means the time immediately prior to the second coming of our Lord; but because it has not been revealed to us exactly when that will be (cf. Mt 24:3ff), the ‘last days’ can be taken to mean the entire period between the Incarnation (cf. Heb 1:2) and our Lord’s coming in glory: these are the times when the vices mentioned will afflict mankind” (Jose Maria Casciaro, General Editor, “The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy [2 Tim 3:1-5]”, The Navarre Bible: The Letters of Saint Paul [Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005], 599).
[6] cf. 1 Chron 17:12,14; Psa 45:6; 89:3-4; 103:19; 145:10-13; 2 Sam 7:12-16; Isa 11:1-16; 49:1-26; Jer 33:15-18; Dan 4:17; 7:13-14,18,22,27; 12:11-12; Zech 14:4-9.
[7] Matthew tells us, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 4:17), and elsewhere: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt 12:28). In Luke, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk 17:20-21).
[8] “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama'ria and to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:6-8). This will be fulfilled at Pentecost (cf. 2:14-26).
[9] John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), 221, cited in Olson, 208.
[10] Dialogue with the Jew Trypho, ch. 80; in William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers: Vol. 1 (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1970), 61, hereafter referred to as “Jurgens1.”
[11] History of the Church, bk. 3, ch. 39; in Jurgens1, 294.
[12] Olson, 118.
[13] ibid., 143.
[14] Against Marcion, bk. 3, ch. 24; in Jurgens1, 139.
[15] The Divine Institutions, bk. 7, ch. 24; in Jurgens1, 270
[16] “The millennium, for the early Augustine is still not eternity but a part of history, ‘the seventh and last period of this age’” (Brian E. Daley, S.J., The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991], 133); cited in Olson, 138.
[17] Sermons, #259, ch. 2; in William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers: Vol. 3 (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1979), 31; hereafter referred to as “Jurgens3”
[18] City of God, bk. 20, ch. 7; in Jurgens3, 103-104.
[19] City of God, bk. 20, ch. 7; online at:
[20] Daley, 133.
[21] City of God, bk. 20, ch. 9; cited in Olson, 139.
[22] cited in Olson, 139, footnote 57.
[23] Olson, 144.
[24] History of the Church, bk. 3, ch. 39; in Jurgens1, 294.

[25] Compendium of Heretics’ Fables, bk. 5, ch. 21; in Jurgens3, 245.
[26] my account of the history of Protestant eschatology is taken primarily from David B. Currie, Rapture: The End-Times Error that Leaves the Bible Behind (Manchester, NH: Sophia Press, 2003), 14-23, unless otherwise noted. For a more exhaustive history of Protestant eschatology, see Olson, chapters 5 and 6.
[27] see, for example, Currie, 14; Olson, 162; Thigpen, 144.

[28] “The more anarchistic Protestants, such as the Anabaptists, made an imminent Millennium a centerpiece of their theology, taking their cue from the radical Taborites and Hussites of a century earlier … In the mid-seventeenth century, the Fifth Monarchy Men arose in England. They believed that the four kingdoms of Daniel were about to be replaced by the fifth kingdom of Daniel—Christ’s Millennium. They sought to bring about Christ’s Return through ‘fire and sword’ and set up a supreme council called the ‘Synhedrin’” (Currie, 10 and 12).
[29] “Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (Dan 9:24-27).
[30] Will Russia Invade Palestine? Russia in the Light of Prophecy (Los Angeles: Jewish Hope Publishing House, 1944).
[31] Pentecostal Evangel, 1949.

[32] Olson, 188.
[33] Olson, 189
[34] There are at present 15 novels in the series: 1. Left Behind (1995), 2. Tribulation Force (1996), 3. Nicolae (1997), 4. Soul Harvest (1998), 5. Apollyon (1999), 6. Assassins (1999), 7. The Indwelling, 8. The Mark (2000), 9. Desecration (2001), 10. The Remnant (2002), 11. Armageddon (2003), 12. Glorious Appearing (2004), 13. The Rising (2005), 14. The Regime (2006), The Rapture (a prequel, 2006).
[35] Olson, 51.

[36] ibid., 55.
[37] Olson, 56.
[38] borrowing from the title of Paul Thigpen’s work on the subject, The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to “End Times” Fever (Ascension Press, 2001).

[39] Olson, 203.


  1. Crickey man, why didn't you tell me about your blog. This is easily one of the most useful blogs on the internet. I'm adding it to the Catechetics Online link page the next time I get on my laptop.

    Good job.

    ~ Private First Class Brother Adam

  2. haha, thanks bro, i do what i can ;)

  3. Good Lord man! This may take longer than I thought...

    btw - you should change your comments to the pop up style versus this style. it makes it easy to read the post (easier to quote it) and comment at the same time. i wish i could form a coherent argument (or an expansion of that one at least) but i can't. just do it. please? thanks.

  4. Yours is one of most insightful and historically accurate blogs on earth! I'm confident you would enjoy some riveting Google pieces that share the same outlook: "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" (how the wacko rapture view merchandised by Hagee, Falwell, LaHaye etc. came about), "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)" (the "great researcher" LaHaye etc. lean on!), "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal" (persistent plagiarism in Falwell, Lindsey, LaHaye etc.!), and "The Rapture Index (Mad Theology)" - all by historian Dave MacPherson who's found more damning evidence in British libraries against the current rapture-employing Armageddon watchers than anyone else! B.N.

  5. My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions!
    Read My Inaugural Address
    My Site=http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman

  6. "secret rapture",

    The shot-gun approach isn't very helpful my friend. How about engaging the actual points I make in my paper?

  7. Thank you for leaving my link up. As you noticed, I'm a type of spammer. The Secret Rapture soon! Within months, if not years, by my hand, we will be in the post apocalyptic world of 'Jericho' on TV! Stay tuned!

  8. Oh, I most certainly noticed....


Related Posts with Thumbnails