The Rise and Spread of Futurism - Jesuit Futurism

The Catholic Counter Reformation - Futurism

Source: Wikimedia CommonsThe Jesuits were commissioned by the Pope to develop a new interpretation of Scripture that would counteract the Protestant application of the Bible’s prophecies regarding the Antichrist to the Roman Catholic Church. All the reformers’ studies pointed the finger directly at the Roman Catholic Church as the Antichrist power described in Daniel as the “little horn.”

Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), a brilliant Jesuit priest and doctor of theology from Spain, answered Papacy’s call. Like Martin Luther, Francisco Ribera also read by candlelight the prophecies about the Antichrist, the little horn, the man of sin, and the beast of Revelation.

He then developed the doctrine of futurism. His explanation was that the prophecies apply only to a single sinister man who will arise up at the end of time. Rome quickly adopted this viewpoint as the Church’s official 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 to the end time rather than to the history of the church. Antichrist, he taught, would be a single evil person who would be received by the Jews and who would rebuild Jerusalem.1

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.

The result of [Ribera’s] work was a twisting and maligning of prophetic truth.

Following close behind Francisco Ribera was another brilliant Jesuit scholar, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine of Rome (1542-1621). Between 1581-1593, Cardinal Bellarmine agreed with Ribera in his work Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of this Time.

The futurist teachings of Ribera were further popularized by an Italian cardinal and the most renowned 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

Through the work of these two clever Jesuit scholars, Jesuit futurism was born.

For almost 300 years after the Council of Trent, Jesuit futurism remained largely within Catholicism, but the plan of the Jesuits was that Protestants would adopt this doctrine. 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. Many individuals were genuine Christians but unknowingly became channels of error.

The Futurism of Ribera never posed a positive threat to Protestants worldwide for three centuries. It did stop the Reformation in Eastern Europe. However, largely, it was virtually confined to the Roman Church. But earlier in the nineteenth century it sprang forth with vehemence as it latched on to Protestants of the Established Church of England.5

Key Players

Dr. Samuel Roffey Maitland (1792-1866), a lawyer and Bible scholar, became a librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1826 he published a 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, the Protestantism of England—the very nation that produced the King James Bible in 1611—received a crushing blow.

After 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.

Source: Wikimedia CommonsThen came John Henry Newman (1801-1890), a member of the Church of England and a leader of the famous Oxford movement. In 1850, Newman wrote his Letter on Anglican Difficulties, revealing that one of his goals in the Oxford movement was to 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 became a 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.”6

Dispensationalism and the Secret Rapture

by Unknown artist,drawing,circa 1823 As the doctrine of futurism was spreading across Europe, The much-respected Scottish Presbyterian minister Edward Irving (1792-1834), the acknowledged forerunner of both the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, came onto the scene. Irving pastored the large Chalcedonian Chapel in London with over 1000 members.

When Irving turned to the prophecies, he eventually accepted the one-man Antichrist ideas of Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera. But Irving went a step further. 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.

In the midst of this growing anti-Protestant climate in England arose John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). A brilliant lawyer, pastor, and theologian, Darby wrote more than 50 books on Bible subjects. A much-respected Christian and a man of deep piety, he took a strong stand in favor of the infallibility of the Bible in contrast with the liberalism of his day.

However, John Nelson Darby, like Edward Irving, also became a strong promoter of a pre-tribulation rapture followed by a one-man Antichrist. In fact, his teaching has become a hallmark of dispensationalism.

John Nelson Darby laid much of the foundation for the present popular idea of removing Daniel’s seventieth week from its historical context in the time of Jesus Christ and applying it to a future tribulation after the rapture.

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. Thus, a link was created between John Nelson Darby—the father of dispensationalism—and the Jesuit Francisco Ribera—the father of futurism. Darby visited America six times between 1859 and 1874, preaching in all of its major cities, during which time he planted the seeds of futurism in American soil.

One of the most important figures in the spread of these false doctrines is Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921), a lawyer from Kansas who was greatly influenced by the writings of Darby. In 1909, Scofield published the first edition of his famous Scofield Reference Bible.

Throughout the 20th century, futurism and dispensationalism became popular through books marketed to Christians.

The Scofield Bible

In the early 1900s, the Scofield Bible became so popular among American Protestants that it was necessary to print millions of copies. Yet, in the much-respected footnotes of this very Bible, Scofield injected large doses of futurism also found in the writings of Darby, Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera.

Through the Scofield Bible, Jesuit futurism spread successfully across America. The doctrine of an Antichrist still to come was becoming firmly established inside twentieth-century American Protestantism.

The Late Great Planet Earth

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 volume brought futurism to the masses of American Christianity and beyond. The New York Times labeled it, “The number one bestseller of the decade.” Over 30 million copies have been sold, and it has been translated into more than 30 languages.

The Left Behind Series

Then came Left Behind. In the 1990s, Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins took the future one-man Antichrist idea of Lindsey, Scofield, Darby, Irving, Newman, Todd, Maitland, Bellarmine, and Ribera, and turned it into “The most successful Christian-fiction series ever,” according to Publishers Weekly.

Hal Lindsey’s book was largely theological, which limited its appeal, while Left Behind is a sequence of highly imaginative novels. According to Entertainment Weekly, the series is “overflowing with suspense, action and adventure,” a “Christian thriller” with a label its creators could never have predicted: “blockbuster success.”

The television ministries of Jack Van Impel, 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 Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins on Larry King Live.

The authors of Left Behind and the leaders of these television ministries are genuine Christians who are doing their best to influence people for God’s Kingdom. Yet, in the full light of Scripture, prophecy, and the Protestant Reformation, something is terribly wrong.

Left Behind teaches much of the same Jesuit futurism of Francisco Ribera, 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.

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. This separates the 70th week away from the first 69 weeks in the 70-week prophecy, putting it at the end of time. Remember, one of the first people to do this was Jesuit Francisco Ribera:

Ribera’s primary apparatus was the seventy weeks. He taught that Daniel’s seventieth 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.7

When most Christians look at the last 1500 years, how much fulfilled prophecy do they see?
None. Because almost everything is now being applied to a future time period after the rapture. 

As we have seen, this idea of separating the weeks 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 happened and is happening in the Church.

It is this theory that permeates Futurism’s interpretation of all apocalyptic prophecy.8 Jesuit futurism has now become like a 300-pound boxer with spiked gloves. With an apparently all-powerful punch, it has almost knocked Protestant historicism entirely out of the ring:

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.9

It is a matter of 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.10

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?

Jesuit futurism’s aim is to deny the Protestant Reformation’s application of prophecy, giving the Vatican an alternative doctrine:

The futurist school of Bible prophecy was created for one reason and one reason only: to counter the Protestant Reformation!11

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. When Christian ministries and movies like A Thief in the Night, Apocalypse, Revelation, Tribulation, and Left Behind: The Movie proclaim an Antichrist who comes only after the rapture, what are they really doing? They are sincerely and unknowingly teaching the doctrine of the Antichrist.

We live in a time when obedience is characterized as legalism, prophecy is viewed as some sort of optional study because no one can accurately understand it, and the love of Jesus over rides any rational reasoning, essentially voiding the Word of God.

Along with the relativistic attitude so popular today, it is no wonder that, according to a Barna Group study, 55% of American pastors do not believe in the Bible anymore as the unerring Word of God.

While the Bible has its good points, they say, it is not to be taken too literally.

The sad truth is, however, that rarely does a congregation rise much above the pastor or church leadership. Most people simply accept what comes from the pulpit without checking its accuracy in the Word of God.

We are no longer people of the Book. Instead we follow the majority. There is a perceived safety in numbers. The majority of Christians can’t be wrong, can they? Hasn’t God appointed these pastors to their positions? But sadly, church leadership throughout Bible history has often been wrong.

Although futurism may be a comforting doctrine, it demands a faith that has no justification or fulfillment in the Bible or any history book. The Bible must be its own expositor. Letting the Bible explain itself allows for no other private interpretation. The Bible calls itself a double-edged sword:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV). 

God loves everyone and calls us to love everyone

It is never comfortable to have error exposed—not to the one having to say it nor to the one listening. It is always much easier to compromise or to say nothing. God has patience with each one us, and leads us to truth as we are able. All Christians are growing as God leads them.

God loves everyone and calls us to love everyone as well. Part of loving other is to speak the truth in love. We must accept the truth no matter what others may think, and no matter how deep it cuts us (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

By Jim Holdeman. Jim writes from Oklahoma. If
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1. George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope. A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and Rapture (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1956): 37-38. 

2. Ronald Charles Thompson, Champions of Christianity in Search of Truth (TEACH Services, 1996): 89.

3. Robert Caringola, Seventy Weeks: An Historical Alternative (Destiny Image Publishers, 1991): 32.

4. Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies of the Bible (1971): 198. 

5. Ronald Charles Thompson, Champions of Christianity in Search of Truth (TEACH Services, 1996): 91.

6. H. Grattan Guinness, History Unveiling Prophecy or Time as an Interpreter (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1905): 289.

7. Robert Caringola, Seventy Weeks: The Historical Alternative (Abundant Life Ministries Reformed Press, 1991): 35.

8. Ronald Charles Thompson, Champions of Christianity in Search of Truth (TEACH Services, 1996): 90.

9. Robert Caringola, Seventy Weeks: The Historical Alternative (Abundant Life Ministries Reformed Press, 1991): 6.

10. Joseph Tanner, Daniel and the Revelation: The Chart of Prophecy and Our Place In It, A Study of the Historical and Futurist Interpretation (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1898): 16.

11. Robert Caringola, Seventy Weeks: The Historical Alternative (Abundant Life Ministries Reformed Press, 1991): 34.