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The 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:"

Click to enlarge


Now if we list and develop the above characteristics of antichrist, the following becomes readily apparent:

  1. . It will rise to be a great power after the fall of the pagan Roman empire (after 476 A.D.).
  2. . It will be a geographically small nation (a little horn).
  3. . It will rule over many people, nations, and tongues (it will be universal).
  4. . It will be headquartered in the city of seven hills, Rome.
  5. . It will be a religio-political entity — a political city-state ruled by a priest-king.
  6. . Its priest-king will make great and blasphemous claims.
  7. . It will claim authority over all kings.
  8. . It will claim its power to change the holy times and laws of God as its mark of authority.
  9. . It will be an apostate church, that makes the nations drink her cup of apostate doctrine.
  10. . It will be a "mother" church, with apostate daughters coming from her.
  11. . It will be a persecuting power, killing the faithful saints of Jesus Christ as heretics.
  12. . It will hold power and authority for 1260 years following the fall of pagan Rome.
  13. . It will suffer a deadly wound that will end 1260 years of dominance and persecution.
  14. . It will be revived after the deadly wound, and all the world will wonder at it's revival.

In this the "Historical" interpretation, the antichrist was clearly not merely a single individual, it was a system of apostasy and persecution that would hold sway for over twelve centuries. The inevitable conclusion of those who studied these prophesies in scripture, before and during the Protestant Reformation, was that there was only one entity that fit all the above characteristics: the papal dynasty of the Roman Catholic Church. Is it any wonder that the Catholic Church was so violently opposed to the scriptures being available for everyone to read for themselves? There was such a stir created during the reformation that the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17 A.D.) resorted to strictly forbidding anyone to publish a book without prior censorship, and also prohibited anyone from preaching on the subject of antichrist:

SESSION 10, 4 May 1515, On censorship of books:
... "some printers have the boldness to print and sell to the public, in different parts of the world, books — some translated into Latin from Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldean as well as some issued directly in Latin or a vernacular language — containing errors opposed to the faith as well as pernicious views contrary to the Christian religion and to the reputation of prominent persons of rank. The readers are not edified. Indeed, they lapse into very great errors not only in the realm of faith but also in that of life and morals. This has often given rise to various scandals, as experience has taught, and there is daily the fear that even greater scandals are developing." ...
... "We therefore establish and ordain that henceforth, for all future time, no one may dare to print or have printed any book or other writing of whatever kind in Rome or in any other cities and dioceses, without the book or writings having first been closely examined, at Rome by our vicar and the master of the sacred palace, in other cities and dioceses by the bishop or some other person who knows about the printing of books and writings of this kind and who has been delegated to this office by the bishop in question, and also by the inquisitor of heresy for the city or diocese where the said printing is to take place, and unless the books or writings have been approved by a warrant signed in their own hand, which must be given, under pain of excommunication, freely and without delay."
"In addition to the printed books being seized and publicly burnt, payment of a hundred ducats to the fabric of the basilica of the prince of the apostles in Rome, without hope of relief, and suspension for a whole year from the possibility of engaging in printing, there is to be imposed upon anyone presuming to act otherwise the sentence of excommunication." ...
SESSION 11, 19 December 1516, On how to preach:
... "We command all who undertake this task of preaching, or will later undertake it, to preach and expound the gospel truth and holy scripture in accordance with the exposition, interpretation and commentaries that the church or long use has approved and has accepted for teaching until now, and will accept in the future, without any addition contrary to its true meaning or in conflict with it. They are always to insist on the meanings which are in harmony with the words of sacred scripture and with the interpretations, properly and wisely understood, of the doctors mentioned above. They are in no way to presume to preach or declare a fixed time for future evils, the coming of antichrist or the precise day of judgment; for Truth says, it is not for us to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. Let it be known that those who have hitherto dared to declare such things are liars, and that because of them not a little authority has been taken away from those who preach the truth." ...

But the Catholic Church eventually came to the conclusion that it would not be able to ban or burn all the Bibles, heretical books, and heretics that possessed or preached from them. This oppressive and crude tactic merely confirmed their identification as the harlot persecuting church of prophecy. A new and more subtle approach was needed in order to effectively counter the application of apocalyptic prophecy to the Catholic Church.

One major identifying characteristic the Catholic Church needed to deal with was the time period of 1260 years that the antichrist power was to rule, according to Protestantism's Historicist interpretation. There simply is only one entity on earth that has ruled for this length of time after the fall of pagan Rome, and that is the Roman Catholic Church (See also Time, Times, and Half a Time? and The Red Dragon and Rome).

A new "interpretation" would have to be found that deflected attention away from the twelve century papal rule of the middle ages. This would fulfill the prophecy of Dan 7:25, that the little horn power would think to change the prophetic set times of the most High, just like king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon thought to change the prophetic vision of the statue man in Daniel chapter 2, by building an all gold statue in chapter 3. The little horn, Mystery Babylon, would in like manner, try to deny and obscure the meaning of prophecy.


Francisco Ribera - In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij Click to enlarge

Francisco Ribera

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 on Revelation. 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:

  1. Persecute and blaspheme the saints of God.
  2. Rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
  3. Abolish the Christian religion.
  4. Deny Jesus Christ.
  5. Be received by the Jews.
  6. Pretend to be God.
  7. Kill the two witnesses of God.
  8. Conquer the world.

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.

Robert Bellarmine - Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed Points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of This Time - Click to enlarge

Robert Bellarmine

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.

Recently reprinted: A treatise of Antichrist. Conteyning the defence of Cardinall Bellarmines arguments, which inuincibly demonstrate, that the pope is not Antichrist. Against George Downam by Michael Christopherson priest ..., Volume 1 of 2 by Michael Walpole (1570-1624?), a 1974 reprint of a 1613 edition, by Scolar Press Limited, Ilkley, England, ISBN 0859672042.

Manuel De Lacunza

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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 Jewish name to obscure the fact that he was a Catholic, in order to give his book better acceptance in Protestantism, his intended audience. Also an advocate of Futurism, Lacunza was deliberately attempting to take the pressure off the papacy by proposing that the Antichrist was still off in the future. His manuscript was published in London, Spain, Mexico and Paris between 1811 and 1826.

La Venida del Mesías en Gloria y Magestad online at the National Library of Chile (in Spanish).

Edward Irving

Edward Irving (1792-1834), a Scottish Presbyterian and forerunner of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, translated Lacunza's work from Spanish into English in a book titled The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty with a Preliminary Discourse, published in London in 1827 by L.B. Seeley & Sons, which included Irving's own lengthy preface. Here are excerpts from Irving's translation:

Lacunza asserts that Antichrist would appear near the end of time:

That there shall be an Antichrist; that he shall be revealed, and publicly declared, towards the last times; and that he shall commit in the world the greatest evils, making formal war against Christ, and all that pertains to him; —these are three certain things, of which no Christian can doubt. -- Vol. I, Part II, Phenomenon III, pg. 259.
Edward Irving's translation of Lacunza's Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty

Volume I in Adobe 6 PDF format. (1.4 mb)

Volume II in Adobe 6 PDF format. (1.4 mb)

Both Volumes I & II revised on 28 July 2003.

Antichrist, Lacunza concludes, would not be just one man:

ACCORDING to all the signs given in the Holy Scriptures, and others, not equivocal, offered to us by time, which is wont to be the best interpreter of the prophecies, the antichrist, or the contrachrist, with whom we stand threatened in the times immediate upon the coming of the Lord, is nothing but a moral body, composed of innumerable individuals, diverse in themselves, but all morally united and animated with one common spirit, against the Lord and against his Christ; -- Vol. I, Part II, Phenomenon III, pg. 260.

As to the harlot woman riding the beast in Revelation 17, Lacunza acknowledges it is indeed referring to Rome:

... the doctors do all agree, that the woman here spoken of is the city of Rome, in other times the capital of the greatest empire in the world, and now the capital and centre of unity of the true Christian church. On this first point, which is not called in question, there is no occasion to tarry. -- Vol. I, Part II, Phenomenon III, pg. 288.
... it is not present Rome which is at all spoken of here, but future Rome alone to which the prophecy hath its determinate application. -- Vol. I, Part II, Phenomenon III, pg. 295.

Rome yes, Lacunza agrees, but not the Roman Catholic Church of his day, which he calls the true church, rather he pushes this prophecy in Revelation 17 off into the future:

Rome, not idolatrous but Christian, not the head of the Roman empire but the head of Christendom, and centre of unity of the true church of the living God, may very well, without ceasing from this dignity, at some time or other incur the guilt, and before God be held guilty of fornication with the kings of the earth, and amenable to all its consequences. And in this there is not any inconsistency, however much her defenders may shake the head. And this same Rome, in that same state, may receive upon herself the horrible chastisement spoken of in the prophecy; -- Vol. I, Part II, Phenomenon III, pg. 296.

This apostate Christian group termed Antichrist would be:

... slain and destroyed by Christ himself in the great day of his coming in glory and majesty. -- Vol. I, Part II, Phenomenon IV, pg. 321.

Margaret McDonald

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

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

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.

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875), formerly with the Plymouth Brethren, he became Presbyterian, and published The Hope Of Christ's Second Coming in 1864, in which he gave the following testimony on the origin of the secret rapture:

"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 any one ever asserted such a thing or not, it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God, while not owning the true doctrine of our Lord’s incarnation in the same flesh and blood as His brethren, but without taint of sin." -- Footnote 1 for Chapter 9, pg 35.

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield

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

These seminaries and ministries have wholly abandoned the historical Protestant and biblical teaching that the Roman Catholic Church is the apostate church, the harlot of Revelation, with the Antichrist papacy at its head, and instead serve to screen the papal Antichrist power from being perceived by their students or viewers. They are accurately described as false prophets!

  • Dallas Theological Seminary (a nondenominational Protestant school): Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952), a student of Cyrus Scofield, founded Evangelical Theological College (now DTS) in 1924, which is likely the most influential seminary in the United States today. Futurism, and the secret rapture (which they call the blessed hope), are covered in articles 18-20 of the DTS Full Doctrinal Statement].
Some of the more well known alumni and faculty of DTS:
  1. John Walvoord (Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, President of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986, Chancellor of DTS since 1986), author of The Rapture Question (1957), and member of the revision committee for The New Scofield Reference Bible.
  2. Chuck Swindoll (Insight for Living]), President of Dallas Theological Seminary since July of 1994.
  3. Charles C. Ryrie (Professor Emeritus Dallas Theological Seminary), author of The Ryrie Study Bible, which has been characterized as the updated Scofield Reference Bible for the end of the twentieth century.
  4. Hal Lindsey, (hallindsey.com - hallindseyoracle.com) author of The Rapture: Truth or Consequences (1983), perhaps the best known prophecy author of the last 30 years. Sole credited Bible authority for Trinity Broadcasting's recent Futurist antichrist movie Omega Code.
  5. J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988), Through the Bible Radio series.
  6. Kenneth N. Taylor (former director of Moody Press, founder of Tyndale House Publishing), author of The Living Bible. Tyndale House publishes the hugely popular Left Behind Futurist series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
  7. Thomas Ice (Executive Director of the Pre-trib Research Center), Th.M. from DTS, co-founder of Pre-trib Research Center with Tim LaHaye.
  8. Renald Showers, Most High God: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel.
  • Moody Bible Institute of Chicago: In 1890, C. I. Scofield began a Comprehensive Bible Correspondence Course, later taken over about 1914 by the Moody Bible Institute (Dwight. L. Moody, founder of the Moody Church, had converted Scofield, and Scofield preached and presided at Moody's funeral in 1899).
  1. Moody Press supplied Sunday School lessons to the Assembly of God churches about 1914, introducing Pentecostals to Futurism and the secret rapture theory.
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible, by Charles C. Ryrie, a graduate Dallas Theological Seminary, boasts 10,000+ study notes and is listed among the best selling books published by Moody Press.
  3. Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series, is the former vice president for publishing of Moody Bible Institute, and former editor of Moody Magazine. Currently he is Moody Bible Institute's writer-at-large.
  1. Alma Mater of Tim LaHaye, founder of the Pre-trib Research Center, co-author of the Left Behind series of books, by far the most popular series promoting Futurism and the secret rapture, which has sold 20+ million copies. Published by Tyndale House, at least 12 titles are planned for the series. The film version of the first book in the series has been produced by prophecy authors Peter and Paul Lalonde of Cloud Ten Pictures:
Left Behind - The Film Project
Left Behind - The Movie
Released first on video cassette, and then in theaters in early 2001, people who have seen Left Behind say it is confusing, and lacks a Gospel presentation of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, making it of little (if any) evangelistic value, much like TBN's Omega Code and Megiddo (Omega Code II).
Lynchburg, V.A., Dr. Jerry Falwell - Chancellor. Tim LaHaye says he was impressed by the prophecy conferences of Albury Park and Powerscourt held in Britain in the 1820's and 1830's and this led directly to his co-founding the Pre-trib Research Center. Edward Irving and J. N. Darby attended, and apparently greatly influenced, these 19th century British prophecy conferences where the secret rapture and futurism gained in acceptance among Protestant prophecy scholars.

Well known ministries teaching Futurism and the Secret Rapture:

  • Trinity Broadcasting - perhaps the largest Christian TV Broadcasting Network, TBN has produced two futurist themed movies: Omega Code and Megiddo (Omega Code II). TBN also airs the following movies with end-times, secret rapture / futurism themes:
The Moment After - TMA Productions.
Two FBI agents investigate the reason for the sudden mysterious disappearance of millions of people.
The Gathering - DRC Productions.
Two unbelieving women and a believing husband have disturbing visions of the impending tribulation and sudden rapture of Christians.
End of the Harvest - Christiano Film Group.
A college student, who experiences strange dreams of a farmer harvesting wheat, reluctantly defends end-time Bible prophecy when another student fails to give the presentation to a group of die-hard atheists in a philosophy club. Subtly promotes spiritualism (communications from the dead).
  • Jack Van Impe Ministries - Author of The Jack Van Impe Prophecy Bible and a verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation entitled Revelation Revealed. On his TV program, Jack claims that God Himself has shown him the error of previous Bible interpreters and given him the absolutely correct interpretation of the book of Revelation. Producer of the following futurist-themed movies:
  1. Apocalypse I: Caught in the Eye of the Storm.
  2. Apocalypse II: Revelation.
  3. Apocalypse III: Tribulation.
  4. Apocalypse IV: Judgment.
  • Jerry Falwell Ministries - heavily promotes the Tim LaHaye School of Bible Prophecy, which opened in January 2002 on the campus of Falwell's Liberty University.
  • John Hagee Ministries - Offers the John Hagee Prophecy Study Bible, billed as "the only Prophecy Study Bible of its kind", with over 300 pages of Bible Prophecy study notes and having unique Bible Prophecy charts. John Hagee has strongly promoted the Left Behind books and movie with hour long infomercial TV programs.
  • The King is Coming, World Prophetic Ministry, Colton, California, Ed Hindson President. Founded by Dr. Howard C. Estep (1916-1986), author of The Catching Away (1967). Committed to the literal interpretation of the Bible. Dr. Dave Breese, former President of W.P.M. and Teacher on "The King is Coming." referred to Scofield's margin notes when teaching the Futurist interpretation of Daniel's 70 weeks on The King is Coming. Contributed to the Tim LaHaye Study Bible, billed as "the most complete study Bible ever!". Tim LaHaye has been guest speaker for a series of programs on the "The King is Coming".
  • Zola Levitt - Zola Levitt Ministries "holds to a strictly literal and inerrant Bible interpretation, salvation through Christ alone, a soon pre-tribulation Rapture of all believers and the establishment of a thousand-year kingdom on Earth."


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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 Great Catholic Diversion

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:

Click to enlarge

Now the truly amazing part of all this is that the Futurist theory dominates Protestant teaching today. About all you hear or read about today is the yet-to-appear antichrist, who will be unveiled in the last 3 1/2 years of Daniel's 70th week, when he declares himself to be God in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. That scenario, as you can now see, is directly traceable back to the pen of the Jesuit Francisco Ribera. Note what one Protestant writer had to say over one hundred years ago:

Next we come to consider the time of the rise of the Futurist system as we now have it, and the occasion which led to it.
So great a hold did the conviction that the Papacy was the Antichrist gain upon the minds of men, that Rome at last saw she must bestir herself, and try, by putting forth other systems of interpretation, to counteract the identification of the Papacy with the Antichrist.
Accordingly, towards the close of the century of the Reformation, two of her most learned doctors set themselves to the task, each endeavouring by different means to accomplish the same end, namely, that of diverting men's minds from perceiving the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Antichrist in the Papal system. The Jesuit Alcasar devoted himself to bring into prominence the Preterist method of interpretation, which we have already briefly noticed, and thus endeavoured to show that the prophecies of Antichrist were fulfilled before the Popes ever ruled in Rome, and therefore could not apply to the Papacy. On the other hand the Jesuit Ribera tried to set aside the application of these prophecies to the Papal Power by bringing out the Futurist system, which asserts that these prophecies refer properly not to the career of the Papacy, but to that of some future supernatural individual, who is yet to appear, and to continue in power for three and a half years. Thus, as Alford says, the Jesuit Ribera, about A.D. 1580, may be regarded as the Founder of the Futurist system in modern times.
It is a matter for deep regret that those who hold and advocate the Futurist system at the present day, Protestants as they are for the most part, are thus really playing into the hands of Rome, and helping to screen the Papacy from detection as the Antichrist. It has been well said that "Futurism tends to obliterate the brand put by the Holy Spirit upon Popery." More especially is this to be deplored at a time when the Papal Antichrist seems to be making an expiring effort to regain his former hold on men's minds. Now once again, as at the Reformation, it is especially necessary that his true character should be recognized, by all who would be faithful to "the testimony of Jesus."
From Daniel and the Revelation: The Chart of Prophecy and Our Place In It, A Study of the Historical and Futurist Interpretation, by Joseph Tanner, published in London by Hodder and Stoughton, 1898, pages 16,17.

In what could only be described as a stunning reversal, Protestants have over time actually become the papacy's greatest ally by spreading its Jesuit spawned propaganda. What irony that Protestants, who originally broke away from what they clearly recognized to be the harlot antichrist led church of prophecy, now champion the Futurist interpretation from high profile global ministries. Futurism has without doubt, been successful beyond the wildest dreams of its Jesuit authors. The same can be said for the Preterist interpretation of Luis De Alcazar, although to a lesser degree.

The above article is 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, and Second Departure, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., Copyright 1948, Chapters 21-23 in particular.

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