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The Origins of Dispensationalism Part 2: The Spanish Deception

Updated on August 21, 2018
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Barry is the founder and director of Expositors International Ministry and dean of Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.

Part 2: The Spanish Deception

In the first article we looked at the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation and the commentary on the book of Revelation written by the Spanish Jesuit theologian Francisco Ribera. Ribera was responding to the break-away Protestants who referred to the Papal system as “Antichrist” and the Roman Catholic Church as “Babylon.” In this article we will look at the next step in the development of Dispensational thought.

Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) was a Jesuit scholar in Belgium. He was considered to be one of the leading Catholic scholars of his time. So much so in fact that in 1576 Bellarmine was called by Pope Gregory XIII back to Rome to teach theology to English and German missionaries at the Collegio Romano.[1]

What is significant to our story is that in his work Disputationes de controversiis Christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos (Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of this Time) Bellamrmine agreed with Ribera. This kept Ribera’s teaching alive and spread it further.

Manuel Diaz Lacunza (1731-1801)

Manuel Diaz Lacunza was also a Spanish Jesuit priest. He served in Chile. After studying the church fathers he turned his attention to the Scriptures. He claims that it was during this time that he developed his views on eschatology (the Biblical doctrine of the End Times). He agreed with Ribera that the Church was living in the last days and that the “great falling away” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 referred to the Protestants.[2]

He published a 22 page tract entitled "The Anonymous Millennium." This tract was widely circulated in South America. In a very short time Lacunza’s tract become a popular topic of discussion and debate in South American and in the Roman Church throughout the world. Needless to say there was disagreement and opposition to Lacunza’s tract. Lacunza appealed to the Spanish court to approve his work which would protect him against those who opposed him and his teachings. He was never granted approval.[3] Lacunza’s work was denounce and outlawed by the Spanish Inquisition.[4]

While in exile Lacunza continued his work on Bible prophecy. In 1790, he published La venida del Mesías en gloria y majestad ("The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty"). This was a three volume work that expounded vastly on the short 22 page tract he had published earlier. It was in this work that he claimed to make new discoveries that would enlighten the Church’s previous understanding of Bible prophecy.

Lacunza’s New “Discoveries”

In his three volume work, Lacunza explained that the destruction of the world would not be an instantaneous event. He said that the Bible does not teach the complete annihilation of creation. He further said that the “end of days” and the “end of the world” spoken of in the Bible does not refer to the same time period time. These two phrases refer to two different time periods. He said that the “day of the Lord,” “the end of days” and the “end of the age” refer to the same thing. Theses phrases are about the time when Christ would return to the earth.

Prior to the return of Christ there would be a great apostasy in the Church. He did not see the Church as converted or baptized individuals but rather as a corporate body. The corporate body of the Church would apostatize and align itself the Antichrist. This would set the stage for the final battle between good and evil. Because Lacunza said that the Roman Catholic Church would be part of the apostasy his work was banned.

When Jesus returns he will administer judgment on the people in the world. During this time the Jewish people would all be converted to accept Christ as the Messiah. This would bring in an era of peace and justice. The time of the Messiah’s reign would last for 1000 years.

After the literal 1000 year reign of Christ human physical history will end. Then there will be a resurrection of the all the dead for final judgment. The final judgment will determine the state of each person’s soul. Lacunza does not see the world ending in a fireball of wrath and destruction. Rather he says that the created universe will be transformed and united with the spiritual plane where God dwells.

Tracing the Development

It is important that we pause here and consider the development of this teaching so far. Ribera writes his commentary on the book of Revelation. In it he says that there will be one man who will be called the Antichrist. There will also be a group that apostatizes from the church before the end of time. Ribera identifies the Protestants as the apostates and says that in the future the Antichrist will appear.

Lacunza takes Ribera’s work further. He says that the before the end of the world the apostate church will align itself with the Antichrist, Christ will return to judge the world, the Jews will be converted and Jesus will reign on the earth for 1000 years. After the 1000 years the world will end and become united with the heavenly realm. This will then be the eternal state.

So far we have:

1) The Antichrist

2) The Great Apostasy

3) The 1000 years of Christ’s reign on earth

4) The mass Conversion of the Jews

5) The battle between good and evil

6) The resurrection of the dead for judgment

7) The end of this world and the eternal state

While the doctrine of Dispensationalism is not yet fully developed, we do have the major teachings already in place.

The Deception

We have already seen that the Inquisition was opposed to the Jesuits and that Lacunza was censored for his work. In 1810 or 1811 Lacunza’s work "La venida del Mesías en gloria y majestad” was republished in Cadiz, Spain. Lacunza printed his book under the pseudonym Rabbi Juan Josaphat ben-Ezra. The title page of his book says that the author (Ben-Ezra) was a “converted Jew.”

The book was printed a second time in 1812 and a third time in Catilian, Spain in 1816. An edition was released in London, England in 1819. It was on January 15, 1819 that the Inquisition ordered that the book be banned. Despite the ban the book was reprinted in Mexico (1821 or 1822), Paris and in London again (1826). In September of 1824 a pamphlet was issued against Ben-Ezra’s (Lacunza) work. In the same year Pope Leo XII pronounced that the book would be added to the “Index of Prohibited Books.” It was already too late. Now, Luncanza’s teaching was spread all over the world and there was no way the Catholic Church could suppress it.

Coming soon: Part 3: The English Connection

Go on to Part 3


[1] Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, The Galileo Project, <> June 27, 2018

[2] In my upcoming book I will deal with this and many other proof texts used by the Dispensationalists.

[3] [“MANUEL LACUNZA”, Article WHEBN0003808226, World Hertiage Encyclopedia;
<> June 26, 2018

[4] It should be noted that there was a general dilike of the Jesuits by the Spanish court during this time. In 1767 King Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from Spain and its possessions. Lacunza sought refuge with others from Chile in Italy. In 1773 the Pope, under political and financial pressure from Spain and France, issued "Dominus ac Redemptor” which disovled the Jesuit Order.

Did you miss Part 1? Here is the link: Origins of Dispensationalism

Read Lacunza's work for yourself HERE


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      Larry W Dean 

      2 years ago

      Very good!


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