The History of End Times Belief
1800 1900


1800- 1882 : John Nelson Darby

The contemporary American version of apocalypticism is based on the writings of the Englishman John Nelson Darby. His thirty-two volumes of collected writings describe a view of history called dispensationalism, which segments God's relationship to humanity into periods of time during which we are subject to different divine laws and different criteria for salvation. According to Darby, the current dispensation began with the Crucifixion; the next will begin with the Rapture of the Saved, leading to a seven-year period during which the Antichrist will rule the earth; and then will come Armageddon and the Last Judgment. Darby wrote that this was the literal truth of Revelation. Darby's dispensationalism was adopted by the fundamentalist C. I. Scofield's First Reference Bible, and is the standard reading of Revelation among those Christians who believe in biblical inerrancy, including Billy Graham and Hal Lindsey .

See Also
: Hal Lindsey, Premillenial Dispensationalism


1850-1878 Early Dispensationalist Books

Darby's work stimulated a surge of premillennial interest during this period. John Cumming's Signs of the Times (1856) enjoyed great success in America, and it was immediately followed by Joseph Seiss' The Last Times that same year. Other books included: The Coming Prince (1884) by Sir Robert Anderson, The Lord Cometh (1870), written by the Presbyterian minister James Brookes, and William Blackstone's Jesus Is Coming (1878). Because of the American Civil War and other European wars, Darby's premillennial teaching gained many adherents among British and American Evangelicals, who found his teachings a source of meaning. Many prominent Baptists and Presbyterian ministers and laymen became dispensational in their theology.


1870-1900 Prophecy Conferences and Bible Institutes

Dispensationalism gained an evangelical following through prophetic conferences, Bible institutes, magazines, and popular books. Prophecy conferences were organized, beginning in 1875 at Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario. An 1878 conference at New York's Holy Trinity Episcopal Church brought media attention to premillennial teachers. A network of Bible institutes, like the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, or Biola, and some fifty others, spread the premillennial teaching. Many magazines and journals followed that were read by thousands. Popular summer prophecy conferences were filled up by trainloads of vacationers who came to hear the prophetic Word. By 1900, dispensationalism had become a systematic way to study the Bible for vast numbers of conservative Protestants. The rise of dispensationalism paralleled the fundamentalist movement in American Evangelicalism.

See Also: