The Spanish Jesuit priest, Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), devised this system, and published it in a very large commentary on the book of Revelation. He taught the very opposite of Praeterism! He taught that the entire book of Revelation dealt with future events, to occur just prior to Christ’s return. He taught that Antichrist was someone who would only appear in the far-distant future, at the very end of the world – so there was no need for anyone to either view the pope of Rome as the Antichrist, or to be at all concerned about who he would be.
His theory essentially went like this:
The first few chapters of Revelation deal with Rome at the time of John the apostle in the first century AD, but the rest deal with the distant future;
Antichrist will be a single individual at the end of the world; he will abolish Christianity, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and be welcomed by the Jews;
His work will last for three and a half years;
The Middle East will be the geographical location of the great conflict with Antichrist.
Does all this sound familiar? To anyone well-versed in the Futurist theory of prophetic interpretation, it should! It is essentially the view that has been propagated by countless Protestant preachers and authors for many, many decades now! It is doubtless the dominant view held by most professing Protestants today!
Later, Ribera’s theory was expanded by other Roman Catholic scholars, becoming the dominant Roman Catholic view, long before it became the dominant Protestant view! The cardinal Bellarmine (1542-1621), the great Roman Catholic controversialist and the foremost apologist of the Counter-Reformation, declared that the biblical prophecies about Antichrist in the writings of Daniel, Paul and John had nothing to do with the Papacy. He published a defence of the Papal religion, and in it he sought to “prove” that the Antichrist, far from being the pope of Rome, was a single individual at the end of time.
Significantly, it was admitted by the Roman Catholic author, G.S. Hitchcock, that both Futurism and Praeterism were inventions of the Jesuits! This is what he wrote in his book, The Beasts and the Little Horn, pg.7: “The Futuristic school, founded by the Jesuit Ribera in 1591, looks for Antichrist, Babylon, and a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, at the end of the Christian dispensation. The Praeterist school, founded by the Jesuit Alcazar, explains the Revelation by the Fall of Jerusalem or by the fall of Pagan Rome in 410 AD.”
The Jesuit Futurist theory was to receive some new twists in the early 19th century, through the writing of yet another Jesuit, Emmanuel Lacunza (1731-1801). He was to add to the theory the germ of the idea of a “rapture” before the second coming of Christ, which was progressively developed by others into the “pre-trib rapture” doctrine within Futurism.
Lacunza taught this theory in a book, which was published in 1812, entitled The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty. The book was written in Spanish, and Lacunza, a Chilean of Spanish descent, wrote under the assumed name of “Rabbi Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra”! As a good Jesuit agent, working to undermine Protestantism, Lacunza concealed his true identity and pretended to be a converted Jewish rabbi, so as to deceive the Protestant world. He succeeded.
It was the perfect disguise, because the Jesuits had so persecuted the Jews in Spain that none would suspect anything. It would also guarantee that the Vatican would condemn Lacunza’s book, putting it on its index of forbidden books! This of course made the book even more acceptable to Protestants – the fact that Rome had condemned it.