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Spring 1997 · Vol. 26 No. 1 · pp. 62–79 

Visions of the End: A History of the Last Days

Richard Kyle

“Rape, murder, earthquakes and floods, single-parent families, war, AIDS. They’re all part of God’s plan to destroy Earth within the next 10 years, according to Rev. Carl Holland of York Assembly of God in York County, VA.” 1 While Reverend Holland’s words are a bit strident, TV preachers, popular authors, and flamboyant clergymen are bringing a similar message to millions of Americans.

Through much of human history, Henny Pennys have dashed about proclaiming that the sky is falling—and many have followed them.

On a gentler note, there is the old English fable about Henny Penny. One day she is hit on the head by something. Convinced that the sky is falling, Henny Penny believes that she must run off and tell the king. Along the way, she picks up several followers who also become convinced that the sky is falling.

Through much of human history, there have been the Henny Pennys who have dashed about proclaiming that the sky is falling or that some other catastrophe will happen. There have also been many people willing to follow these prophets of doom. 2 This article is about the Henny Pennys of history and those who have followed them.


Whether strident or temperate, apocalyptic thinking is in the air. The sense of an ending looms over the land. For only the second time in history, we are in a 90s decade that precedes a millennium. Interest in the end of the world is probably greater now than at any time since the {63} Millerite movement of the nineteenth century.

The year 2000 is an arbitrary date on the calendar. Still, the millennium is loaded with immense historical symbolism and psychological power. As a result, oddballs of many sorts have set their alarm clocks for the year 2000. But such cranks are not alone in approaching the end of a millennium with eerie feelings. Individuals from all ranks of society are apprehensive. Public opinion polls in the 1990s say that from forty to sixty percent of Americans pay some attention to prophecy beliefs. 3 While such people may not embrace specific apocalyptic ideas, they have a sense that something big is about to happen.

Since the 1970s there has been a flood of end-of-the-world predictions. In fact, prophecy books—whether Christian, occultic, or secular—have been a growth industry. They have become big sellers. 4 Christian fundamentalists insist that the second coming of Christ is imminent. They claim to hear better than ever “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—War, Plague, Famine, and Death—galloping toward Armageddon.” Occultists tell of great calamities to come at the end of this millennium. “New Age astrologers foresee psychic anguish, earthquakes, and economic collapse” before the dawn of the Age of Aquarius. More down-to-earth scientists have even jumped on the bandwagon, warning us of impending man-made disasters. 5

Predictions regarding the end of the world are not new. They are as old as human history itself. But until the world does come to an end, such prognostications are an idea, a belief. And this is what this article is about—the idea of how and when this world will end. Many world religions—Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Jewish—have legends regarding the end of time. However, this article will look at end-time predictions as they have related to the Western Christian tradition.

I will take two approaches to this subject. First, I will examine why people are attracted to end-time thinking. After this, I will briefly examine Western Christian history and point out the major patterns in apocalyptic thinking.

These two approaches should reveal two themes. One, end-time ideas have run the course of Western history. To be sure, they have had their ups and downs. Still, they have persisted for two thousand years and have gripped the imagination of millions of people. Two, end-time thinking is highly adaptable. It has persisted because it has been able to adjust to changing cultural situations. It has a chameleon-like character. Apocalyptic ideas can be adapted to current political and social circumstances.


But before examining the attraction of doomsday and taking a brief {64} journey through Western Christian history to see how people have viewed doomsday, some terms should be defined. “Eschatology” deals with the study of the last things. It is a general term referring to all end-time events and ideas. In contrast, “apocalyptic” is a more narrow term, a specific type of eschatological belief characterized by a sense of impending doom.

The word “apocalypse” means revelation, to uncover or unveil a divine secret—especially those concerned with end-time events. The apocalyptic outlook is catastrophic. It views human history as a cosmic struggle between absolute good and evil. And this conflict will be settled by means of battles and disasters in which evil will be defeated. In common language, apocalypse is a synonym for disaster. But this is only a half-truth. The apocalypse concerns both disaster and triumph. Something good follows the catastrophe. 6

Millennialism (or millenarianism) and apocalypticism often overlap, but they are not the same. “Millennialism” refers to a belief in a one thousand-year period of blessedness. “Chiliasm” means the same thing. At times it may refer to a lengthy golden age, if not precisely one thousand years. Many apocalyptics are millenarians, believing that cataclysmic events will either precede or follow a millennium. But there are apocalyptic thinkers who do not believe in a millennium. 7 Within millennialism there are subdivisions, usually concerning the chronology of the Second Advent. Premillennialists argue that Christ will return before the millennium; postmillennials say he will come at the end; and amillennialists spiritualize the millennium, rejecting the idea of a literal golden age.


Through the centuries, humanity has had a huge appetite for the apocalypse. Why have people been fascinated with doomsday? What has sustained this interest? These are complex questions that defy simple answers. No one theory can account for this attraction as it relates to all periods in history.

While nearly all cultures have their doomsday stories, the attraction with the end time has been most persistent in the Western tradition. In part, this development relates to certain ideas that are more readily found in Western culture.

First, the Christian faith inescapably teaches that Jesus Christ will return to earth personally and visibly. While Christians may debate the details of Christ’s return, they agree on the reality of the Second Advent and that it will bring an end to the world as we know it. Scripture does not spell out the when and how of this event. Unfortunately, this gap in {65} respect to details has spawned all kinds of wild speculations and soothsayers. While the Second Advent is a nonnegotiable truth to the sober Christian community, it has also become the fodder for fanatics.

Another biblical teaching, that the world was destroyed by a flood, has encouraged apocalyptic thinking. Christians believe that God judged and destroyed the first world by water because of its evil and wickedness. They are convinced that this world’s sin and violence will bring a second divine judgment. 8

The alleged sinking of the lost continent of Atlantis has had a similar impact on the occult world. This story has persisted until the present. Atlantis is the grist for many occultists and their cataclysmic predictions for the modern world. 9 The point is not to equate the historicity of the Noahic flood with the Atlantis story. However, what Daniel Cohen says is true, “What we believe is going to happen in the future is profoundly influenced by what we think has already happened in the past.” An important reason people were convinced that “the world would end catastrophically was their belief that a similar catastrophe had already occurred.” 10

A third factor encouraging end-of-the-world thinking is the Western view of history. There are two classic models of history—cyclical and linear. History is seen as either a circle or a line. Most Eastern religions and ancient cultures have seen all human events as occurring in cycles. Such a view generally does not encourage end-of-the-world predictions. 11

But a linear view of history does encourage end-time thinking. This view of history began in the ancient Near East with the Hebrews and their neighbors and underlies much of Western thinking. This model of history views events as generally moving in one continuous direction. History moves from one event to the next until it reaches its final goal. 12 In the case of apocalyptic thinking, history is moving toward the end of time, the final judgment, and the catastrophic events that accompany these happenings. 13


Accompanying this Western view of history are two other characteristics that encourage end-time predictions—optimism and determinism. Both are characteristic of apocalyptic thinking. While Western apocalyptic thinking predicts disasters, there is an optimistic side. The cataclysm will be followed by heaven or a utopia of some sort. Also, terminal visions are often deterministic. Individuals who envision great upheavals or the end of the world usually see these events as determined by forces beyond their control, usually God. {66}

Also related to this traditional Western concept of history is the notion that the earth is relatively young. Such a young earth concept has driven many end-time predictions. Prior to the seventeenth century, many Christians believed that God had created the world sometime between 5000 and 6000 B.C. But in 1650 Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland added up all the age references in the Old Testament. From the sum of these figures, he calculated that the world had been created in 4004 B.C. 14

Any version of the young earth theory can be used for end-time predictions. According to 2 Peter 3:8, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” Thus, for centuries many millennialists based their predictions on the sixth day or sabbath theory. They believed that the world would end at the completion of the sixth day or six thousand years. The millennial age or sabbath would then begin.

The sixth day theory has presented apocalyptic prophets with a number of possibilities for end-time predictions. For example, if one believed that creation took place somewhere between 5000 and 4800 B.C., then the world would end from A.D. 1000 to 1200. Through history, many prognosticators have selected various dates for creation—prompting them to set different time tables for the end of the world. According to this thinking, humanity has run out of time. I know of no one who claims that God created the world any later than 4000 B.C. Subtract six thousand years from this and you wind up with a date around A.D. 2000.


The persistence of end-time predictions through Western history is due to several factors. Certain ideas have been important. But ideas must be supported by events. Thus, social, economic, psychological, and political conditions have also fostered end-time anxieties. Apocalyptic movements are so complex as to defy any simple cause-and-effect answers. Some social theories are helpful for one period in history, but they are inadequate for others.

Most prevalent have been the social theories—and none fit all periods in history. Some scholars insist that millennial movements grow out of a socially and politically oppressive environment. They contend that revolutionary millennial movements draw their strength from people living on the margins of society—peasants and unskilled workers. 15 Rather than focus on social classes, other scholars emphasize social and environmental conditions. They see millenarian activities as coming against a background of natural disasters—especially plagues, famines, and earthquakes. {67} 16

Social change and social chaos create an atmosphere conducive to end-of-the-world predictions. But such theories must be modified. The social change and chaos must seem to be inexplicable. When disruptions seem to have reasonable explanations, apocalyptic visions do not usually arise. Also, social change and chaos are relative. What is disruptive in one culture may not be so in another.

But such social theories do not conform to all apocalyptic situations. The Millerites of the 1840s lived during a time of social change. But they were generally middle class people. 17 In our day, the millions of people who buy Hal Lindsey’s books or who watch Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on television are not the downtrodden and the powerless. In fact, many of these people are part of the “religious right,” which has gained considerable political and economic power in the late twentieth century. 18

The cognitive minority theory may help explain the apocalypticism of such people. The Christian fundamentalists of our day may not be economically downtrodden. Yet, they are a cognitive minority—that is, their ideas no longer fit comfortably into the mainstream of American society. Apocalyptic thinking assumes a literal reading of ancient writings and a supernaturalist vision—two suppositions that are not at home in the modern world. The fundamentalists see their moral values and religious faith being challenged and even ridiculed by many. Intellectually and morally, the Christian fundamentalists are a minority and they long for a divine intervention to rectify the current social order. 19


We must now take a brief journey through Western Christian history to illustrate this article’s two major themes. Doomsday thinking is highly adaptable and has persisted through much of Western history, taking different shapes in different historical periods.

Among the early Christians—about the first three centuries of the Christian era—no clear consensus existed in respect to eschatology. But several end-time themes dominated. First, the early Christians intensely expected Christ to soon return and bring an end to the present order. Yes, they generally embraced an apocalyptic mind-set. 20 Second, a majority of the early Christians were chiliastics—that is, they believed Christ’s return would usher in a golden age. While their eschatology can be seen as a version of premillennialism, it was not that of the modern-day dispensationalists.

Within this context, the early Christians took two approaches to premillennialism. Some focused on the material blessings associated with {68} Christ’s rule on earth. 21 Other early Christians adopted the “six day theory” which they drew from 2 Peter: “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” People of this persuasion often believed that the earth was about fifty-seven hundred to six thousand years old. 22 Thus, the end was at hand. Christ would soon return and set up the New Jerusalem. The “six day theory,” of course, led to some date-setting. For example, Hippolytus, the bishop of Porto, calculated that Christ would return in A.D. 500. 23


But as time went on, this brand of apocalyptic millennialism became less fashionable. Why did it decline? One, the anticipated events of the last time did not develop. No Antichrist came on the scene. Christ did not return in triumphant glory. 24 Two, the political scene changed dramatically. By the fourth century, Christianity had moved from being a persecuted sect to the official religion of the empire. Three, Christianity became institutionalized in respect to both organization and doctrine. 25 Throughout history, institutionalization has put a damper on the fires of apocalypticism. People who believe that the world will end in the near future tend not to build church organizations. (The contemporary fundamentalists are an exception to this statement.) Lastly, an allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture now became dominant. 26 Millennialism assumes a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, the only passage in the Bible referring to the millennium.

Augustine (A.D. 354-430) led this assault against millennialism. He interpreted the books of Daniel and Revelation allegorically. He saw Revelation as describing the history of the church, not a prophecy of the end of time. Thus, the millennium was the present church age. 27 In the modern world, such a view became known as amillennialism. This spiritualized version of end-time events became the official doctrine of the Catholic Church, holding sway for over a thousand years. The Protestant Reformers even embraced such a view.


Still, there existed a continuous interest in apocalyptic eschatology throughout the Middle Ages. From about A.D. 400 to 1200, apocalyptic movements were more subdued. But after 1200, these pent up apocalyptic expectations exploded. Previously, end-time ideas were common in the sect groups existing on the fringes of society. But now they even penetrated institutionalized Catholicism. 28

What caused this apocalyptic explosion? End-time thinking often emerges during times of stress, anxiety, and disasters. The years from {69} 1100 to 1500 experienced all of these and more. The many reform movements in the late Middle Ages prompted an upsurge of radical millenarian movements. 29 Natural disasters (especially the Black Death), wars, and famine all fostered end-time anxieties. 30

Many apocalyptic movements and individuals paraded across the late medieval world. The most famous was Joachim of Fiore who burst upon the medieval scene and dramatically changed how Western Europeans viewed the end of time. In fact, he influenced end-time thinking from his time to the modern New Age movement. 31

Joachim divided history into three overlapping ages—the Ages of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These ages corresponded with the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Holy Spirit. Joachim saw humanity posed between two ages—that of the Son and Spirit. 32 In respect to end-time thinking, such ideas turned Europe upside down. Joachim had challenged the spiritualized interpretation of Revelation. The Antichrist, the millennium, Gog, and Magog were no longer spiritualized. They were real people and events. 33

Spurred on by Joachim and other influences, millennialism roared back with a vengeance. But these medieval millennialists were not premillennialists. Rather, they usually held that Christ would return after the millennium, a view that resembled the postmillennialism in a later era. Instead of looking for the return of Christ in the near future, these millennialists expected the Antichrist to appear before the millennium. Thus, many people in the Middle Ages set dates for the coming of the Antichrist, not Jesus Christ. 34


Such apocalyptic zeal did not end with the Middle Ages. It spilled over into the Reformation and slightly beyond. From about 1500 to 1650, Europe exploded with an apocalyptic expectancy. These years were charged with apocalyptic anticipations. Europeans believed that they were living in the last and perilous times. They saw the events of their time in the light of Daniel, Revelation, and even astrological predictions. 35

Such apocalyptic fervor was at home both with the Radical groups and with many mainstream Protestants. Nearly all Radicals believed in the soon return of Christ and that “Christ and Antichrist were locked in the final struggle.” 36 Most waited quietly for the return of Christ. But there were two major exceptions to this peaceful anticipation—Thomas Münzer and the debacle at the city of Münster. Such revolutionaries were convinced that the last days were at hand and that the godly were engaged in the final war of extermination against the ungodly. {70} 37

The horrible episodes associated with Thomas Münzer and the city of Münster sent shock waves through Europe. As a result, the Protestant Reformers pulled back from millenarianism in stark horror. No major reformer was a millennialist. They usually spiritualized the millennium. But several reformers—Luther, Melanchthon, Knox, and Bullinger—were nonmillenarian apocalyptics. They believed the end to be at hand. And they intensely insisted that the Catholic papacy was the Antichrist. 38


Such apocalyptic fervor did not cease with the Reformation. In the seventeenth century, end-time expectations gripped England. Ordinary people, not simply scholars, made end-time calculations. Talk that doomsday or the millennium would arrive on this day or that became common conversation. 39

Events of the time pushed England in this direction. The break from Catholicism, Queen Mary’s persecution of Protestants, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the English Civil War, the beheading of King Charles, and the Thirty Years’ War were interpreted in apocalyptic terms. 40 In England, millennialism also returned. Instead of spiritualizing the millennium, the Puritans and other English sectarians began to speak of a future golden age. However, these millennialists were not clear as to whether Christ would come before or after the millennium. 41

But the fervent apocalyptic expectancy that gripped people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries declined by 1700. Europe in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries witnessed some lively millennial movements, but nothing compared to those of the preceding centuries.

Why did apocalyptic eschatology wane in Europe? In part, the supernatural worldview of previous centuries declined. The Age of Reason and the rise of science had undercut the supernaturalness of the Christian faith—including millennial and apocalyptic ideas. 42 In part, the Industrial Revolution improved the material aspects of life. Famine and disease were less pronounced. In such a context, the end of the world seemed distant and remote. In part, the secularization of life had reduced the sacred apocalyptic. In modern Europe, God no longer occupied center stage. People were no longer preoccupied with the world to come—the Antichrist, the millennium, and the judgment. 43


We must now cross the Atlantic Ocean to see how doomsday has fared in America. End-time expectations did not decline in America to {71} the extent that they did in Europe. They go right to the heart of American religion. Unlike Europe where millenarianism usually existed on the fringes of society, in America it has been more central to the religious experience. In various shapes, the millennial hope has been an enduring strand in American religion. In fact, by the early nineteenth century, end-time excitement was so strong that Ernest Sandeen could say that America was “drunk on the millennium.” 44

For much of the colonial period and well past the Civil War, post-millennialism dominated the American scene. On the whole, this strand of millennialism lacked apocalyptic qualities. It did not see the world ending any time soon. Rather, the gospel would penetrate society and things would gradually improve until Christ’s return.

Still, there were plenty of exceptions to this general pattern. The early Puritans looked for Christ’s soon return. Some were premillennialists, and some even set dates. 45 Even the early postmillennialists used apocalyptic language. While they did not see Christ returning in the near future, they insisted that the Antichrist had to be defeated before the millennium could begin. 46


But the major exception to progressive postmillennialism was historicist premillennialism. This version of premillennialism surged in the early nineteenth century, culminating in the Millerite movement. Historicist premillennialism contends that the prophecies of the book of Revelation have significance for various periods in Christian history. This approach to premillennialism tended to lock the interpreter into a more specific prophetic timetable. Thus, the interpreter tends to set dates.

This is what happened to William Miller, a Baptist lay minister. Using Bishop Ussher’s dates for creation, he devised a mathematical formula based on the book of Daniel. His calculations led him to the conclusion that Christ would come sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. 47 Miller’s predictions and preaching created a mass movement, ranging from thirty to one hundred thousand followers—the largest millennial movement in American history. 48

When Christ did not return by March 21, 1844, great disappointment set in. But some people will forgive one miscalculation. Under considerable pressure, Miller went back to the drawing board and recalculated the date for Christ’s return to be October 22, 1844. The Millerites had painted themselves into a prophetic corner. When Christ did not return, again disillusionment set in and the movement fragmented. This has been called “The Great Disappointment.” {72} 49


Another challenge to the dominant postmillennial pattern came from the numerous fringe religions. The nineteenth century, especially the first half, witnessed an explosion of new religions. Included were communal and Adventist groups who believed either the millennium or the Second Advent to be at hand. Best known of these groups were the Shakers, Mormons, Oneida Perfectionists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 50

Late in the nineteenth century, the apocalyptic pattern in America changed significantly. Postmillennialism rests on the premise that the world is improving. Events ran counter to this assumption. To most people, life did not seem to be getting better. Thus, postmillennialism went into a decline. 51 But historicist premillennialism could not displace it. The Millerite fiasco had totally discredited this version of premillennialism. It faded from the scene.

Instead, a new version of premillennialism arose: futuristic premillennialism. This type of premillennialism adopted a futuristic interpretation of the book of Revelation. This approach looked forward, insisting that Revelation points to events beyond the current age not to past historical periods as did historicist premillennialism. 52

Futuristic premillennialism is usually called “dispensationalism,” a theology that divides biblical history into periods called dispensations. In each of these dispensations, humankind is tested in a different way. In respect to eschatology, dispensationalism is premillennial and pretribulational. Christ will partially return at the start of the tribulation, secretly rapturing the church into the air. The rest of the world must suffer through a terrible tribulation. During the tribulation, the Antichrist reveals himself and wrecks evil deeds upon humanity. God also pours out punishment on the evil world. At the end of these seven years, Christ returns to set up his earthly rule. The hallmark of dispensational eschatology is the any-moment rapture of the church. 53

Dispensationalism arose in the first half of the nineteenth century in England under the direction of John Nelson Darby. In America it has been promoted by the Scofield Reference Bible, Dallas Theological Seminary, and most Bible colleges. In our day, the names most closely associated with dispensationalism are John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, and, on a popular level, Hal Lindsey, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Jack Van Impe, and others. 54


Dispensational premillennialism is the driving force behind the late {73} twentieth-century doom boom. 55 A number of reasons have prompted this development. One, dispensationalism maintains an intense expectancy for Christ’s return without locking itself into setting dates. To be sure, some dispensationalists fall into this trap. But dispensational theology does not require this. 56 Two, the events of the twentieth century seemed to fulfill the projections of dispensational theology. World War I, the return of the Jews to Palestine, the emergence of Communism, the rise of totalitarianism, the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the rise of Soviet power, the development of the atomic bomb, the emergence of the Common Market, and the 1967 War are but some examples. In the eyes of many people, such events validate dispensational eschatology.

Three, the books of Daniel and Revelation contain much symbolism. This symbolism gives tremendous flexibility to the interpreters, allowing them to read current events into the prophetic books. Four, Protestant evangelicalism and fundamentalism have been very successful in the late-twentieth century. They have grown in numbers and have acquired much power and wealth. Dispensational premillennialism is a sizable component of this subculture and has shared in its success. Lastly, the proponents of dispensational premillennialism have skillfully used the apparatus of modern communication to promote their ideas. Cable television, video recording, and mass market paperbacks have brought apocalyptic themes from the margins of society into the mainstream of American culture. 57


This study has briefly examined how people in Western Christendom have viewed the end of the world. I have not even mentioned some of the most fascinating aspects of end-time thinking. Many groups on the religious fringe are driven by apocalyptic and millennial ideas. I also have not noted the secular apocalyptics. Many people outside the religious community see our world coming to an end.

Still, in this all-too-short journey, I hope that two concepts have risen to the surface. Apocalyptic thinking has been highly adaptable. As a result, it has persisted through two thousand years of Western Christian history. These two characteristics—elasticity and persistence—have shaped end-time thinking in the West for nearly two millennia. Both the great minds and rank and file of the Christian church have thought about how the world will end, often with strikingly different opinions.

From a Christian perspective, history is going somewhere. It is not a static process; it is not a story of randomness and unrelated events. The Christian believes that God is in control of history and that it is following {74} a path of development. The path began with creation. The central event was the life and death of Jesus Christ. But the culmination of the divine program for history is the second coming of Christ and his magnificent rule.

On a personal note, I do not see how anyone can be dogmatic about the specifics of the Second Advent. To be sure, the personal and visible return of Jesus Christ is an inescapable biblical truth. Most Christians also agree on the major issues of judgment, heaven, and hell. But beyond these truths, Christians need to hang loose. Rather than satisfying our human curiosity as to when these events will occur, we should seek to understand them better and to live in their glorious light. {75}


  1. Ken Baker, “Preachers Proclaiming ‘The End is Near,’ ” Wichita Eagle, 4 February 1995, 7C.
  2. Daniel Cohen, Waiting for the Apocalypse (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1983), 7-8.
  3. Lance Morrow, “A Cosmic Moment,” Time 140, no. 27 (special issue, Fall 1992): 6; Alvin P. Sanoff, “The Faces of Doomsday,” U.S. News and World Report, 19 October 1992, 73; Jeffrey Kaplan, Radical Religion in America (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University, 1997), vii.
  4. Joe Maxwell, “Prophecy Books Become Big Sellers,” Christianity Today 11 March 1991, 60; Peter Steinfels, “Gulf War Proving Bountiful for Some Prophets of Doom,” New York Times, 1 February 1991, 1, 10; Kenneth Woodward, “The Final Days Are Here Again,” Newsweek, 18 March 1991, 55.
  5. Quotes are from Hillel Schwartz, “Fin-De-Siecle Fantasies,” The New Republic, 30 July and 6 August 1990, 22.
  6. Lois Parkinson Zamora, “Introduction,” in The Apocalyptic Vision in America, ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular, 1982), 2-3; H. H. Rowley, The Relevance of Apocalyptic (Greenwood, SC: Attic, 1980), 54ff.
  7. Robert Clouse, “Views of the Millennium,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 714; “Millenarianism,” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3d ed., ed. F. L. Cross (Oxford: Oxford University, 1974), 916.
  8. Russell Chandler, Doomsday (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant, 1993), 34-35; Otto Friedrich, The End of the World: A History (New York: Fromm International, 1982), 17-19.
  9. Cohen, Waiting, 78-82; Friedrich, 20-21.
  10. Cohen, Waiting, 57.
  11. Donald V. Gawronski, History: Meaning and Method (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1975), 24-25; Chandler, 15-16; D. W. Bebbington, Patterns in History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1979), 21-42; Catherine Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then (Boston: Beacon, 1996), 12; Peter N. Stearns, Millennium III, Century XXI (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996), 12-13.
  12. Barry Brummett, Contemporary Apocalyptic Rhetoric (New York: Praeger, 1991), 32-33; Bebbington, 43-67.
  13. W. Warren Wagar, Terminal Visions (Bloomington, IN: Indiana {76} University, 1982), 34-35; Brummett, 32-33; Debra Bergoffen, “The Apocalyptic Meaning of History,” in The Apocalyptic Vision in America, 13-29; Catherine Keller, “Why Apocalypse Now?” Theology Today 49 (1992): 184.
  14. Daniel Cohen, Prophets of Doom (Brookfield, CN: Millbrook, 1992), 15; idem, Cohen, Waiting, 83.
  15. Some examples include John G. Gager, Kingdom and Community (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1975); Gerd Theissen, Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978); Normon Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University, 1974), 281-82.
  16. Michael Barkun, Disaster and the Millennium (New Haven: Yale University, 1974), 6; idem, Crucible of the Millennium (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University, 1986).
  17. James H. Moorhead, “Searching for the Millennium in America,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin 8, no. 2 (1987): 17-33; Brummett, 29; David L. Rowe, “Millerites: A Shadow Portrait,” in The Disappointed, ed. Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee, 1983), 7-8.
  18. Stephen D. O’Leary, Arguing the Apocalypse (New York: Oxford University, 1994), 9; Robert G. Clouse, “The New Christian Right, America, and the Kingdom of God,” Christian Scholar’s Review 2 (1983): 3-16; Erling Jorstad, The Politics of Moralism (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1981); Clyde Wilcox, Onward Christian Soldiers? The Religious Right in American Politics (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1966).
  19. Kenneth A. Myers, “Fear and Frenzy on the Eve of A.D. 2000,” Genesis 3, no. 1 (January 1990): 1, 3; Curt Suplee, “Apocalypse Now: The Coming Doom Boom,” Washington Post, 17 December 1989, B1-2; O’Leary, 9.
  20. J. C. DeSmidt, “Chiliasm: An Escape from the Present into an Extra-Biblical Apocalyptic Imagination,” Scriptura 45 (1993): 83-84; Lester L. Grabbe, “The Social Setting of Early Jewish Apocalypticism,” Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha 4 (April 1989): 27-47; Robert Grant, Early Christianity and Society (New York: Harper, 1977), 79-84.
  21. Stanley J. Grenz, The Millennial Maze (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 38; Avihu Zakai and Anya Mali, “Time, History and Eschatology: Ecclesiastical History from Eusebius to Augustine,” The Journal of Religious History 17, no. 4 (December 1993): 403-4.
  22. Chandler, 39; Grenz, 39; Zakai and Mali, 403.
  23. Yuri Rubinsky and Ian Wiseman, A History of the End of the World {77} (New York: Wm. Morrow, 1982), 56; Justo L. Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, 2 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1970), 1:235-37.
  24. Grenz, 42; J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York: Harper, 1978), 464-65; Bernard McGinn, Antichrist (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994), 70-75; Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then, 97.
  25. Zakai and Mali, 406; Kelly, 464-65; Robert M. Grant, Augustus to Constantine (New York: Harper, 1990), 51; Ernest Lee Tuveson, Millennium and Utopia (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), 14.
  26. Kelly, 41-48; Grenz, 42; Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1971), 124-25.
  27. Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1969), 140, 272; Gerald Bonner, “Augustine’s Thoughts on This World and Hope for the Next,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin, supp. issue, no. 3 (1994): 94-99; Grenz, 45; Paula Fredricksen, “Tyconius and Augustine on the Apocalypse,” in The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, ed. Richard K. Emmerson and Bernard McGinn (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1992), 20-24.
  28. Grenz, 46.
  29. Michael J. St. Clair, Millenarian Movements in Historical Context (New York: Garland, 1992), 95-96.
  30. Robert E. Lerner, “The Black Death and Western Eschatological Mentalities,” American Historical Review 86, no. 3 (1981): 534. See also Philip Ziegler, The Black Death (New York: Harper, 1969); Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (New York: Ballantine, 1978); Hillel Schwartz, Century’s End (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 65-74.
  31. Cohn, 108; Bernard McGinn, Visions of the End (New York: Columbia University, 1979), 128; Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then, 107; Richard Kyle, The New Age Movement in American Culture (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1995), 20-21.
  32. Marjorie Reeves, Joachim of Fiore and the Prophetic Future (New York: Harper, 1976), 1-28; McGinn, Visions of the End, 127; Grenz, 46; Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then, 108; Cohn, 109-10.
  33. E. Randolph Daniel, “Joachim of Fiore: Patterns of History in the Apocalypse,” in The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, 87.
  34. Richard Emmerson, Antichrist in the Middle Ages (Seattle: University of Washington, 1981), 56-57; Grenz, 46.
  35. Walter Klaassen, Living at the End of the Ages (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992), 20, 23.
  36. Quote from Walter Klaassen, “Apocalypticism,” in The Mennonite {78} Encyclopedia, vol. 5, ed. Cornelius J. Dyck and Dennis D. Martin (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1990), 29; Klaassen, Living at the End of the Ages, 20-21.
  37. St. Clair, 155.
  38. See McGinn, Antichrist, 206; Harvey Buchanan, “Luther and the Turks 1519-1529,” Archiv für Reformationsgeshichte 47 (1956): 145-60; Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966), 421; Robin Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis (Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 1988), 1-3; Richard Kyle, The Mind of John Knox (Lawrence, KS: Coronado, 1984), 227-32; Rodney L. Peterson, Preaching in the Last Days (New York: Oxford University, 1993), 136-37.
  39. St. Clair, 200.
  40. Ibid.
  41. Katherine R. Firth, The Apocalyptic Tradition in Reformation Britain 1530-1645 (Oxford: Oxford University, 1979), 144-203; Grenz, 52-53; Paul Christianson, Reformers and Babylon (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1978), 97-113.
  42. See Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Scribner’s, 1971); Barkun, Disaster and the Millennium.
  43. See W. Warren Wagar, Terminal Visions (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 1982), 54-61; Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending (New York: Oxford University, 1967), 93-124.
  44. See Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970), 42; Catherine Albanese, America: Religions and Religion, 2d ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1992); Ernest Lee Tuveson, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1968).
  45. Cotton and Increase Mather were premillennialists. Cotton Mather also set dates. See James West Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought (New Haven, CN: Yale University, 1977), 63, 262, 281; Ruth H. Bloch, Visionary Republic (New York: Cambridge University, 1985), 12.
  46. Jonathan Edwards saw the Antichrist being defeated by 1866. See C. C. Goen, “Jonathan Edwards: A New Departure in Eschatology,” Church History 28, no. 1 (1959): 29; Robert Fuller, Naming the Antichrist (New York: Oxford University, 1995), 66-67; Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1964), 233.
  47. J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions (Wilmington, NC: McGrath, 1978), 1:460; Ruth Alden Doan, “Millerism {79} and Evangelical Culture,” in The Disappointed, 123; David T. Arthur, “Joshua V. Himes and the Cause of Adventism,” in The Disappointed, 43.
  48. James Moorhead, “Searching for the Millennium in America,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin 8, no. 1 (1987): 19; David L. Rose, “Millerites: A Shadow Portrait,” in The Disappointed, 4-5, 9; Barkun, Disaster and the Millennium, 11-33.
  49. St. Clair, 314; Cohen, Waiting, 28-29; John Harrison, The Second Coming (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, 1979), 194; Alice Felt Tyler, Freedom’s Ferment (New York: Harper and Row, 1944), 76.
  50. See Richard Kyle, The Religious Fringe: A History of Alternative Religions in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993).
  51. Timothy P. Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming (New York: Oxford University, 1979), 41-42.
  52. Weber, Living in the Shadow, 16-17; Sandeen, 54, 59, 62-64.
  53. This general information can be found in a number of contemporary dispensational sources. Examples include the following: Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970): John F. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990); Billy Graham, Approaching Hoofbeats (New York: Avon, 1983).
  54. For an excellent analysis of premillennial dispensationalism in modern America see Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1992).
  55. Michael Barkun, “The Language of Apocalypse: Premillennialists and Nuclear War,” in The God Pumpers, eds. Marshall W. Fishwick and Roy B. Browne (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular, 1987), 159; George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York: Oxford University, 1980), 44.
  56. Chandler, 103; Sandeen, 64; Weber, Living in the Shadow, 46-48.
  57. Barkun, “Language of Apocalypse,” 159; Timothy Weber, “Happily at the Edge of Abyss: Popular Premillennialism in America,” Ex Auditu 6 (1991): 92; Joe Maxwell, “Prophecy Books Become Big Sellers,” Christianity Today, 11 March 1991, 60; Erik Davis, “Spiritual Warfare: Televangelists Stay Tuned for the End,” Village Voice, 19 February 1991, 49-50.
Richard Kyle is Professor of History and Religious Studies at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas.
This article has been excerpted from Richard Kyle’s forthcoming book, The Last Days are Here Again: A History of the End Times (Grand Rapids: Baker). It also represents a modified version of the annual faculty lecture presented at Tabor on April 22, 1997.

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