Catholic Origins of Futurism and Preterism

With the advent of the printing press in the15th century, and the resulting explosion of Bibles accessible in the common language from Protestant sources, it became readily apparent to those who could now study the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation in particular, that Bible prophecy identified by symbols a persecuting apostate entity generally known as antichrist. The following table shows the common elements from several places in scripture that aid in identifying this antichrist power:
The Little Horn
(Daniel 7)
The Man of Sin
(2 Th 2:3)
The Sea Beast
(Rev. 13)
Woman on Beast
(Rev. 17-18)
Source grows out of the head of the 10 horned fourth beast (Rome) owes his rise to removal of a hindering power comes from the "sea", meaning many people (densely populated Europe) arises in a city with seven hills (Rome) and rules over many waters (peoples, and  multitudes, and nations, and tongues)
Time of Origin comes up among 10 horns (the divided successors of the Pagan Roman Empire) revealed only after the fall of the hindering Pagan Roman Empire receives power, seat and authority from the Dragon (Pagan Rome) arises among the ten horns (divisions of Rome) that will hate her
Diverse power, blasphemes God, exercises authority over the saints, changes times and laws of the most high political characteristics not mentioned, but demands and receives worship composite of Daniel's beasts, which are kingdoms, and wear crowns, that demands and receives worship the woman is an apostate church - the beast is the power of the state, hence this is a religio-political power having a priest-king ruler
in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things and  words against the most high exalts himself above God. has a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies
full of names of blasphemy
Time of
given power over the saints for a time, times and a dividing of times. (1260 years)
given power forty and two months (1260 years)
God's people
made war with the saints and prevailed against them
makes war with the saints and overcomes them this woman (apostate church) is drunk with the blood of the saints - in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
Great Power looks more stout than his fellows has all power, signs and lying wonders who is able to make war with him? the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Divine Homage
sets himself over the saints, times, and laws of the most high sets himself up as God, above all that is worshipped causes multitudes to worship him this woman is the apostate "mother" of harlot churches
End they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end (the second coming) the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: cast into the lake of fire
utterly burned with fire

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 papacy 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 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 the 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.


Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) was a Jesuit doctor of theology, born in Spain, who began writing a lengthy (500 page) commentary in 1585 on the book of Revelation (Apocalypse) titled In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij, and published it about the year 1590. He died in 1591 at the age of fifty-four, so he was not able to expand on his work or write any other commentaries. In order to remove the Catholic Church from consideration as the antichrist power, Ribera proposed that the first few chapters of the Apocalypse applied to ancient pagan Rome, and the rest he limited to a yet future period of 3 1/2 literal years, immediately prior to the second coming. During that time, the Roman Catholic Church would have fallen away from the pope into apostasy. Then, he proposed, the antichrist, a single individual, would:

  • Persecute and blaspheme the saints of God.
  • Rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
  • Abolish the Christian religion.
  • Deny Jesus Christ.
  • Be received by the Jews.
  • Pretend to be God.
  • Kill the two witnesses of God.
  • Conquer the world.
Francisco Ribera's Commentary on the Apocalypse
So, according to Ribera, the 1260 days and 42 months and 3 1/2 times of prophecy were not 1260 years, but a literal 3 1/2 years, and therefore none of the book of Revelation had any application to the middle ages or the papacy, but to the future, to a period immediately prior to the second coming, hence the name Futurism.
Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, one of the best known Jesuit apologists, published a work between 1581 and 1593 entitled Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed Points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of This Time, in which he also denied the day = year principle in prophecy and pushed the reign of antichrist into a future period of 3 1/2 literal years.


Manuel De Lacunza
(1731?1801), a Jesuit from Chile, wrote a manuscript in Spanish titled La Venida del Mesías en Gloria y Magestad ("The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty"), under the pen name of Juan Josafa [Rabbi] Ben-Ezra about 1791. Lacunza wrote under an assumed name to obscure the fact that he was a Catholic, in order to give his book better acceptance in Protestantism. Also an advocate of Futurism, Lacunza's manuscript was published in London, Spain, Mexico and Paris between 1811 and 1826.

Edward Irving (1792-1834), a Scottish Presbyterian and forerunner of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, translated Lacunza's work from Spanish into English and added his own 200+ page preface in Preliminary Discourse to the Work of Ben Ezra entitled the Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, published in London in 1827.
Margaret McDonald, a 15 year old Scottish girl, and member of Edward Irving's congregation, had visions in early 1830 that included a Secret Rapture of believers before the appearance of the Antichrist. She informed Irving of her visions by letter. Irving then attended the prophecy conferences that began in Dublin Ireland in 1830 at Powerscourt Castle, where he promoted both Futurism and a Secret Rapture.

Samuel Roffey Maitland (1792-1866), scholar and librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, further promoted and established Futurism in England after 1826, as a result of reading the work of Manuel De Lacunza.

John Nelson Darby (1800?1882), a Church of Ireland clergyman, later with the Plymouth Brethren, also promoted Futurism and a secret rapture. Darby attended the series of meetings on Bible Prophecy that began in 1830 at Powerscourt, Ireland, and at these conferences Darby apparently learned about the secret rapture as revealed by vision to Margaret McDonald, and promoted by Edward Irving, and he soon visited Margaret MacDonald at her home in Port Glasgow, Scotland. Darby later visited America several times between 1859 and 1874, where his Futurist theology was readily accepted.

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921), greatly influenced by the writings of J. N. Darby, incorporated Futurism in the notes of his Scofield Reference Bible. First published by Oxford University Press in 1909, one million copies were printed by 1930. The Scofield Bible was instrumental in firmly establishing the Jesuit inspired Futurist interpretation in the Protestant Bible schools of the United States in the 20th century.

The Jesuit Inspired Futurist Lie Spreads
To America's Protestant Seminaries

Trinity Broadcasting, the largest Christian TV Broadcasting Network, is also regularly airing movies with end-times, secret rapture / futurism themes: Well known television ministries teaching Futurism and the Secret Rapture:

Another counter-interpretation to the Historicism held by Protestantism was proposed by the Spanish Jesuit Luis De Alcazar (1554-1613), who also wrote a commentary called Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse, which ran to some 900 pages. In it he proposed that it all of Revelation applied to the era of pagan Rome and the first six centuries of Christianity. According to Alcazar (or Alcasar):

  • Revelation chapters 1-11 describes the rejection of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
  • Revelation chapters 12 - 19 were the overthrow of Roman paganism (the great harlot) and the conversion of the empire to the church.
  • Revelation 20 describe the final persecutions by Antichrist, who is identified as Cæsar Nero (54-68 A.D.), and judgment.
  • Revelation 21 -22 describe the triumph of the New Jerusalem, the Roman Catholic Church.
Again, Alcazar found no application of prophecy to the middle ages or to the papacy. That his interpretation differed so greatly from that put forth by Francisco Ribera or Cardinal Bellarmine, mattered little. Catholicism, the supposedly divine and infallible interpreter of scripture, was presenting two vastly different and quite incompatible interpretations of prophecy in a desperate effort to counter the claims of the reformers.


The intent of both Futurism and Preterism was to be diversionary, to counter or offset the Protestant Historical interpretation, and present alternatives, no matter how implausible they might be. The result is evident from the following chart, which illustrates the three schools of interpretation regarding antichrist:

1260yrs.gif (5922 bytes)


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 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:
 "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 endeavouring 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."

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.

The above comments are based primarily on information obtained from The PROPHETIC FAITH OF OUR FATHERS, The Historical Development of Prophetic Interpretation, by Le Roy Edwin Froom, Volume II, Pre-Reformation and Reformation Restoration,  published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., Copyright 1948, Chapters 21-23 in particular.

A More Sure Word Of Prophecy

—by Jonathan Burke—

brings together a neat summary of all the principal symbols of the books of Daniel and Revelation and how they have been interpreted through 20 centuries. It is a truly amazing achievement. The reader will be excited to see the unanimity of interpretation that prevailed. In fact, many of the earlier writers in our lists were early Roman Catholic priests, writing of a Christian apostasy! No Christadelphian, with 1,400 more years of evidence, should fall victim to the Jesuits’ seduction and lose their basic understanding of these remarkable prophe-cies. Rome’s own priest and Bishops had a clear perception themselves. It was only the later writings of her Jesuit scholars, Ribera, Alcasar and Lacunza, that deliberately muddied the stream of prophetical understanding.
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