Early Pentecostals and Dispensationalism

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Early Pentecostals and Dispensationalism: A Critical

Examination of the ‘Latecomer to Dispensationalism’ View

By Jonathan Boyd

 

A dissertation submitted to the University of Birmingham In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the

Master of Arts in Evangelical and Charismatic Studies September 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Birmingham

School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion

 

Introduction

The history and theology of early Pentecostalism have been debated and reimagined by modern Pentecostal scholars. One area of such reflection has been the movement’s relationship to dispensationalism. Were the early Pentecostals dispensationalists? How did their eschatology compare to that of other Christian groups in the early years of the movement? If they were dispensationalists, how did their views compare to those of other dispensational groups? If they did not hold to dispensationalism in the early years, why did many Pentecostal groups affirm dispensational positions in later decades? Would a rereading of the early sources provide inspiration for a renewal of non–dispensational Pentecostalism, or would it encourage Pentecostals to allow or even seek a Pentecostal appropriation of dispensational ideas?

Amongst  Pentecostal  scholarship  of the  20th century,  the  most  influential  article on this subject was written by Gerald T. Sheppard in 1984 and was entitled ‘Pentecostals and  the  Hermeneutics  of Dispensationalism:  The  Anatomy  of  an  Uneasy  Relationship’.1 The title provides the major thesis of the article. Sheppard’s desire was ‘to show both that Pentecostals  were  not  originally  dispensationalist-fundamentalists  and  that  the  efforts secondarily   to   embrace   such   views   have   raised   new   problems   for   the   identity   of Pentecostals’.2 In  this  narrative,  early  Pentecostals  came  to  accept  dispensationalism  in the  1920s  or  1930s  for  pragmatic  reasons,  primarily  to  gain  further  acceptance  within fundamentalist    ranks.  3   This    perspective    may    be    termed    the    ‘latecomer    to dispensationalism’ view of Pentecostalism.

 

Research Questions

The ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view raises two main research questions. First, does this view reflect the majority position of Pentecostal scholars on the

1 Gerald T. Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism: The Anatomy of an Uneasy Relationship’, Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 6, no. 1 (1984).

2 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 5. Sheppard spoke of Pentecostals relationship to ‘dispensationalist–fundamentalists’, but his argument was broadened by others to speak about dispensationalism in general.

3 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 5.

 

relationship between dispensationalism and Pentecostalism in the early 20th century? Second, does the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ best account for the historical data of the early Pentecostal movement? Does an examination of the primary sources confirm the ‘latecomer’ view, or should it be modified?

 

Conceptual Framework and Initial Definitions

Ascertaining the relationship between religious movements and overlapping theological viewpoints requires a conceptual framework that can account for variation. In this dissertation, I rely on several thinkers who have wrestled with the difficulty of defining or distinguishing religious movements. Ludwig Wittgenstein discusses the difficulty of playing the ‘language–game’4 when discussing concepts. Due to the difficulty of determining essential and unessential aspects of a definition,5 he proposes speaking in terms of ‘family resemblances’,6 which allows ‘blurred edges’ in the defining of concepts.7

In defining Pentecostalism, I rely on Allan Anderson’s thinking. He appropriates Wittgenstein’s ‘family resemblances’ concept for the Pentecostal context,8 defining the key feature of Pentecostalism as ‘an emphasis on the Spirit and spiritual gifts’. Within this broad categorisation, Anderson delimitates the Pentecostal/charismatic field to four main groups: ‘classical Pentecostals’, ‘Older Independent and Spirit Churches’ (e.g. African independent churches), ‘Older Church Charismatics’ (e.g. Catholic charismatics) and ‘Neo–Pentecostal and neo–Charismatic Churches’.9 Of these groups, Anderson categorises as classical Pentecostal those denominations that came out of the ‘revival and missionary movements’ at the beginning of the 20th century. He further parses this group into ‘Holiness Pentecostals’, ‘Baptistic or Finished Work Pentecostals’, ‘Oneness Pentecostals’

4 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 4th ed., ed. G. E. M. Anscombe, P. M. S. Hacker, and Joachim Schulte (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 22.

5 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 35.

6 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 36.

7 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 38.

8    Allan     Anderson,     ‘Varieties,     Taxonomies,     and     Definitions’,     in     Studying     Global Pentecostalism: Theories  and  Methods,  ed.  Allan  Anderson  et  al.,  The  anthropology  of  Christianity  10 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 15.

9 Anderson, ‘Varieties, Taxonomies, and Definitions’, 17–20.

 

and  ‘Apostolic  Pentecostals’.10 This  typology  is  important,  since  each  of  these  groups differs from the others in certain areas of theology and practice.

The  difficulty  of defining dispensationalism has beclouded the  discussion  on  the relationship  of  the  early  Pentecostals  to  this  theological  system.  According  to  R.  Todd Mangum, the term ‘dispensationalism’ was only accepted by proponents of the system in 1936.11 Of course the major tenets of the system were demarcated long before that date, as indicated  in  the  writings  of  John  Nelson  Darby  (1800–1882).  By  the  1830s,  the  major elements of Darby’s interpretational framework were in place. These included a belief in premillennialism,  a  futurist  reading  of  Revelation  and  acceptance  of  a  secret  rapture.12 These beliefs were filtered through the theologies and ministries of numerous individuals, forming  the  milieu  in  which  Pentecostalism  was  birthed.  Given  the  cross-fertilisation evident amongst these influences, it is no wonder that definition has proven difficult.

In regard to understanding the definition of dispensationalism, I follow the approach of Mark S. Sweetnam, as outlined in his article ‘Defining Dispensationalism: A Cultural Studies Perspective’. Inspired by David Bebbington’s ‘quadrilateral’, Sweetnam proposes a definition of dispensationalism based on the following criteria:

  1. A commitment to Evangelical
  2. A commitment to a literal Biblical
  3. A recognition of distinction in manifestations of Divine dealing with mankind, which insists on the uniqueness and importance of both Israel and the Church in the Divine
  4. An expectation of the imminent return of Christ in the
  5. An emphasis on apocalyptic and millennial 13

 

Sweetnam’s    approach    avoids    some    of    the    pitfalls    of    other    formulations    of dispensationalism,  such  as  that  offered  by  Charles  Ryrie.14 Sweetnam’s  definition  is  not

10 Anderson, ‘Varieties, Taxonomies, and Definitions’, 17–18.

11 R.  Todd  Mangum,  The  Dispensational–Covenantal  Rift:  The  Fissuring  of  American  Evangelical Theology  from  1936  to  1944,  Studies  in  Evangelical  History  and  Thought  (Eugene,  OR:  Wipf  &  Stock Publishers, 2007), 6.

12  Mark   S.    Sweetnam   and    Crawford    Gribben,   ‘J.   N.    Darby    and    the   Irish    Origins    of

Dispensationalism’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 3 (2009): 574.

13 Mark  S.  Sweetnam,  ‘Defining  Dispensationalism:  A  Cultural  Studies  Perspective’,  Journal  of Religious History 34, no. 2 (2010): 198.

 

directly  linked  to  any  historical  figure  because  to  do  so  ‘seriously  underestimates  the variety  encompassed  within  the  system’.15 Many  scholars  have  erred  by  directly  tying dispensationalism to a historical figure, such as Darby, or have restricted their definition to  a  specific  view  on  the  rapture.  Sweetnam’s  method  of  defining  dispensationalism follows  the  spirit  of  Wittgenstein,  since  he  refuses  to  let  hard  and  fast  boundaries frustrate his desire to seek out what Wittgenstein would term ‘family resemblances’.

 

Select Literature Review

Before examining the primary sources, I will set the stage for this analysis through a select literature review. I will give special attention to sources that discuss in a  substantive manner the views of early Pentecostals on eschatology and dispensationalism. The sources will be arranged by original date of publication in order to trace any development within the field on the subject. I acknowledge that it is probable that other relevant sources exist, but I believe that the following works will provide a representative sampling of what recognised scholars have argued.

GERALD T. SHEPPARD. The appeal of Sheppard’s article ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism: The Anatomy of an Uneasy Relationship’ lies in the way in which the title resonates with modern Pentecostal scholars. Numerous authors have borrowed his phrase ‘uneasy relationship’ to speak of the way in which Pentecostalism and dispensationalism are related.

Sheppard  defines  dispensationalism  in  relation  to  a  certain  understanding  of  the pretribulational  rapture,  as  explained  by  Darby,  C.  I.  Scofield  and  Lewis  Sperry  Chafer, and later  by  scholars such  as John  Walvoord and Charles Ryrie.16 This conflation  of the broader dispensational system with a cessationist version of the system necessarily makes the relationship ‘uneasy’ for Pentecostals, but it  remains to be seen if early Pentecostals

 

14 Ryrie speaks of three defining features of dispensationalism: 1) A distinction between Israel and the  Church,  2) A ‘literal’  or ‘normal’  interpretation, 3) The  glory of  God  as overarching purpose in God’s programme. Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 44–47. For a critique of Ryrie see Sweetnam, ‘Defining Dispensationalism’, 196.

15 Sweetnam, ‘Defining Dispensationalism’, 195.

16 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 5–6.

 

understood  the  system  in  this  light,  and  to  what  extent  these  theologians  influenced Pentecostals in the early years of the movement. Sheppard finds little evidence for belief in  the  secret  rapture  amongst  Pentecostals  until  1920  and  therefore  posits  that  later Pentecostals read a fuller understanding of the rapture back into the statements of earlier confessions of faith.17 Thus, on his reading of the history, the statement of the Assemblies of  God  (AOG)  in  1935  against  the  ‘post-tribulation  rapture  teaching’  represented  their official  acceptance  of  dispensationalism  and  marked  a  turn  away  from  their  initial beliefs.18 Similarly, the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) included a ‘personal premillennial second coming’ of Christ  in their Articles of Faith.  Sheppard explains that ‘later leaders assume that this statement implicitly affirmed a pre-tribulation rapture’ when in his view this  could  be  evidence  of  the  ‘reading  back’  of  dispensational  ideas  from  the  1920s.19 Another  example  is  the  section  on  ‘The  Blessed  Hope’  in  the  AOG  confession  of  faith (1916),  which  uses  the  term ‘translation’  instead  of  ‘rapture’.  Sheppard  states,  ‘Certainly these  statements  may  have  implied  for  their  writer(s)  a  secret  “rapture”  of  confessing Christians at  the end of the  Church  Age  prior  to  the tribulation,  but  in itself this issue remains  somewhat  ambiguous.’20 His  article  includes  relevant  passages  from  official statements   and   books,  but   is   limited   because   of   his   lack   of   interaction   with  the periodicals, which were not readily available in 1984.

Another  limitation  to  Sheppard’s  approach  is  his  focus  on  the  AOG.  As  Althouse states,  ‘Sheppard  focuses  on  the  Assemblies  of  God,  the  largest  Reformed  Pentecostal denomination  in  the  United  States,  though  he  believes  the  results  of  his  analysis  are applicable  to  other  Pentecostal  denominations.’21 Sheppard’s  conclusions  are  based  on one  denomination’s  publications  and  do  not  include  research  on  Wesleyan  Holiness groups.

 

17 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 10.

18 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 11–12.

19 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 10.

20 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 8.

21 Peter  Althouse,  Spirit  of  the  Last  Days:  Pentecostal  Eschatology  in  Conversation  with  Jürgen Moltmann 25 (London: T&T Clark International, 2003), 37.

 

Sheppard provides the initial expression of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ approach in his article. As we will see, his influence has been far-reaching in the writings of others.

DONALD W. DAYTON. Dayton, relying on Sheppard, 22 understands dispensationalism as one of various influences on Pentecostalism, whilst qualifying its importance. He states that

it is not clear that Pentecostal eschatology, with its emphasis on the inauguration of the ‘new order of the latter rain’ and the ‘restoration of spiritual gifts’ as a prelude to the return of Christ, fits as easily into dispensationalist categories as it is sometimes assumed.  It  was  generally  premillennial  in  expecting  a  millennial  kingdom  to  be inaugurated  by  an  imminent  return  of  Christ,  but  contradicted  dispensational distinctives  by  adopting  different  (generally  tripartite)  periodizations  of  human history, by applying many Old Testament promises to the church, by appropriating more directly texts (the Lord’s Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, and so forth) that dispensationalists relegate to the millennial kingdom, and so on.23

 

Dayton follows Sheppard’s lead in equating dispensationalism with a certain scheme of (Scofieldian or Darbyite) dispensationalism. From his comments on ‘tripartite’ schemes of dispensations one may infer that for Dayton a given number of dispensations (presumably seven) forms part of the essence of dispensationalism. He also judges certain views non-dispensational based on their use of certain passages of Scripture, such as the Sermon on the Mount.

Dayton writes of evidence that indicates that Pentecostal groups with theological proclivities towards fundamentalism, such as the AOG, tended to favour dispensational eschatology, whereas Holiness groups from different ethnic backgrounds, such as black Americans, embraced dispensationalism to a lesser degree.24 In this judgement he offers no evidence of his own but cites Sheppard’s article.25 In summary, he understands

 

 

 

22 He mentions his reliance on the article and personal conversations with Sheppard in endnote 12. Donald W. Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), 168.

23 Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, 145. 24 Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, 146. 25 Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, 168.

 

Pentecostal eschatology as ‘a parallel development (or occasionally an antecedent) to the rise of dispensationalism’.26

STEVEN LAND. In a book originally published in 1993, Land accepts the influence of dispensationalism  on  early  Pentecostals  but  differentiates  them  from  the  ‘traditional fundamentalist dispensationalist who, in agreement with Augustine, Warfield and others, believed that the gifts of the Spirit, the so called “sign gifts”, were limited to the Apostolic era.’ He states, ‘Though influenced by Scofieldian dispensationalism, they put a different twist  on  it.’  These  twists  include  a  belief  in  three  dispensations  instead  of  seven,  an acceptance of ‘overlap and interpenetration of these dispensations’ and the belief in the miraculous gifts for today. According to Land, early Pentecostals distinguished between ‘new Israel’, the Church, and ‘national Israel’, although both shared a common ‘spiritual destiny’.27 Land  gives  evidence  of  familiarity  with  the  primary  sources  of  Pentecostal eschatology   but   shows   reticence   towards   the   term   dispensationalism   because   he conceives  of  it  in Scofieldian  terms.  Given  his  interest  in  Pentecostal  spirituality  rather than   history,   he   does   not   discuss   whether   Pentecostals   modified   their   views   on eschatology after the first decade.

PETER ALTHOUSE. Althouse places eschatological viewpoints in four quadrants based on their relationship to four factors: ‘present hope’, ‘future hope’, ‘present despair’ and ‘future despair’. He locates Pentecostals in the quadrant of ‘future hope’ as proponents of the ‘Latter Rain eschatology’ rather than of premillennial dispensationalism, which he places in the ‘future despair’ quadrant.28 He follows closely the views of Sheppard, writing that

Pentecostals did not generally hold a dispensational fundamentalist eschatology in the early history of the movement. Over time, however, Pentecostals embraced a fundamentalist version of dispensational eschatology with such tenets as a pretribulation ‘secret’ Rapture.29

26 Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, 147.

27 Steven Jack Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2010), 71–72. Kindle.

28  Peter    Althouse,    ‘An    Introduction’,    in    Althouse;    Waddell,    Perspectives    in    Pentecostal Eschatologies, 14.

29 Althouse, Spirit of the Last Days, 36.

 

 

He recognises the influence of dispensational premillennialism on Pentecostals but equates their early views more to Joachim of Fiore than to Darby or Scofield. He states,

Fundamentalist  forces  would  soon  be  felt  among  Pentecostals  and  they  would abandon  their  latter  rain  eschatology  for  dispensational  premillennialism,  yet  at the  cost  of the  foundation  of  their  dearest  doctrine—speaking  in  tongues  as the expression of the baptism of the Spirit. … The meaning of the Blessed Hope thus changed from the advent of the Second Coming to this new view of the rapture.30

 

Throughout his writing Althouse provides another clear expression of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view.

FRANK MACCHIA. Macchia also follows Sheppard’s analysis and accepts the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view. As may be noted in the following passage, he equates dispensationalism with the cessationist version of the system:

I   essentially   agree   with   Sheppard’s   effort   to   distance   Pentecostalism   from dispensationalism.    My    reading    of    early    Pentecostal    literature    shows    a nondispensationalist  openness  to  different  understandings  of  end–time  events, even a certain lack of interest in such questions. … Sheppard argues persuasively that  Pentecostalism  accepted  certain  features  of  the  end–time  schema  from  the dispensationalists   early   on   but   did   not   swallow   its   larger   hermeneutical implications  until  they  attempted  later  to  gain  the  acceptance  of  conservative evangelical churches.31

 

His comments on ‘a certain lack of interest in such questions’ raise questions relevant to this dissertation. Were early Pentecostals concerned with eschatological issues, or was this an interest that was later fomented by their interaction with fundamentalist dispensationalists?

  1. WILLIAM FAUPEL. Although including ‘eschatology’ in the title, Faupel’s work The Everlasting Gospel 32 includes little interaction with the eschatology of early Pentecostals.

30   Peter    Althouse,    ‘An    Introduction’,    in    Althouse;    Waddell,    Perspectives    in    Pentecostal Eschatologies, 15.

31  Frank   D.   Macchia,   ‘Pentecostal   and   Charismatic   Theology’,   in   The   Oxford   Handbook   of Eschatology, ed. Jerry L. Walls, Oxford Handbooks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 285.

32 David W. Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology  in the Development of Pentecostal  Thought,  Journal  of  Pentecostal  Theology  Supplement  Series  10  (Blandford  Forum,  UK:  Deo Publishing, 2009).

 

He  traces  the  roots of the  majority  of early  Pentecostals’ eschatology  to  the  thought  of Darby 33  but   highlights   the   ‘Latter   Rain   motif’   as   a   key   to   understanding   their appropriation of his ideas.34 He allows variation in the number of dispensations without positing separate dispensational systems.35 Based on my reading of Faupel’s discussion of the issues, I conclude that he is not a proponent of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view.

GERALD  WAYNE  KING.  King’s  PhD  thesis  focuses  on  the  relationship  between Pentecostalism and fundamentalism in the United States from 1906 to 1943. He interacts extensively  with the periodical  literature.  King speaks of a ‘leavening’ of Pentecostalism by  fundamentalism  and  later  by  evangelicalism,  and  then  he  notes  the  influence  of Pentecostalism in the other direction since 1980. He labels the two initial periods as the ‘fundamentalization’     (1920–1940)     and     the     ‘evangelicalization’     (1940–1980)     of Pentecostalism.36 He explains this leavening in the following manner:

I  will  argue  that  the  process  of  ‘leavening’  in  pentecostalism  from  holiness  to fundamentalist  thought  transpired  through  three  stages,  which  I  have  called  the ‘language’ of fundamentalism, the ‘content’ of fundamentalism, and the ‘rhetoric’ of fundamentalism;  and  that  these  stages  correspond  roughly  to  the  1910s,  the  1920s and the 1930s respectively.37

 

King discusses at numerous points the interaction of Pentecostals with dispensationalism. He credits the Scofield Reference Bible as a key source of the leavening of Pentecostalism in relation to dispensationalism. King is one of few authors who have attempted to explain changes that occurred in Pentecostalism in relation to dispensationalism in a concrete manner with reference to the primary sources.

Whilst not accepting an extreme version of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ perspective, King sees the appropriation of dispensational categories as part of the leavening of Pentecostalism by fundamentalism. For instance, he states that

33 Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 29.

34 Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 30–34.

35 Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 32n37.

36 Gerald  W.  King,  ‘Disfellowshiped:  Pentecostal  Responses  to  Fundamentalism  in  the  United

States, 1906–1943’ (PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 2009).

37 King, ‘Disfellowshiped’, 5.

 

‘Dispensationalism seized CG [Church of God] in the early 1930s, which culminated in its wholesale   adoption   by   S.W.   Latimer   in   1937.’ 38  King   maintains   this   ‘latecomer’ understanding by viewing the first decade of Pentecostals as non–dispensationalists. For example, he refuses to label D. Wesley Myland’s views as dispensational, finding instead similarities and dissimilarities with dispensationalism in his hermeneutic.39

  1. WILLIAM   OLIVERIO,   JR.   The   work   by   Oliverio   on   the   hermeneutics   of Pentecostalism 40  provides    a    helpful    model    for    interpreting   the   relationship    of Pentecostalism   to  fundamentalism.   He   posits   that   ‘many   Pentecostals  were  closely relating themselves to Fundamentalism, especially during the 1920s and 1930s, while still remaining  essentially  distinct.’41 On  this  view,  the  similarities  found  between  the  two movements    may    be    attributed    to    the    Pentecostals’    general    alignment    with fundamentalists on a conservative stance towards Scripture and culture.42

Regarding Pentecostals appropriation of dispensationalism, Oliverio notes several differences between dispensational and Pentecostal views, especially on the ‘Latter Rain’ concept.    First,    in    spite    of    their    shared    premillennialism,    Pentecostals    and dispensationalists  disagreed  on  the  applicability  of  texts  dealing  with  national  Israel  to the Church. Second, they differed on the validity of the miraculous gifts for the present age.43 Summarising,  Oliverio  states  that  ‘Instead  of  letting  Dispensational  hermeneutics permeate their theologies, Pentecostal theologians tended to choose which aspects of the system  they  were  willing  to  adopt  and  to  reject  those  which  contradicted  Pentecostal doctrines.’44

 

 

 

 

38 King, ‘Disfellowshiped’, 316.

39 King, ‘Disfellowshiped’, 135–36.

40 Oliverio,  L.  William,  Jr.,  Theological  Hermeneutics  in  the  Classical  Pentecostal  Tradition:  A Typological Account (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

41 Oliverio, L. William, Jr., Theological Hermeneutics, 107. 42 Oliverio, L. William, Jr., Theological Hermeneutics, 108. 43 Oliverio, L. William, Jr., Theological Hermeneutics, 114. 44 Oliverio, L. William, Jr., Theological Hermeneutics, 116.

 

Oliverio’s approach has much to commend it. He acknowledges the influence of Sheppard on his views but balances this with the perspective of French Arlington,45 who links Pentecostals’ interest in dispensationalism directly to eschatology rather than to any desire to receive approbation from evangelicals or fundamentalists. 46 He notices similarities and tensions between fundamentalist dispensationalism and early Pentecostal perspectives. Nevertheless, in discussing these issues, he understands dispensationalism based on a cessationist form of the system, thus undermining the possibility that early Pentecostals held to a form of dispensationalism.

LARRY R. MCQUEEN. McQueen in his work Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology47 provides the most comprehensive study of the eschatology of the early Pentecostals in light of their publications. McQueen examines a great variety of periodicals from both the Wesleyan Holiness stream and the Finished Work stream. Given the overlap between his study and the research questions of this dissertation, I will interact with McQueen on a number of issues.

At this point, I will summarise his views on the relationship between early Pentecostalism and dispensationalism. With respect to the Finished Work stream, McQueen concludes that ‘classical dispensationalism was the only model of eschatology articulated in the early Finished Work stream of the movement.’48 In regard to the Wesleyan Holiness stream, McQueen concludes that ‘no single model or system dominated the articulations of eschatology in this stream.’ In addition, he highlights an approach within the periodicals that incorporates a ‘discerning process’ led by the Spirit’s work within the community.49 In his view, a tendency may be observed within this stream: those positions which emphasise the ‘discerning process’ tend away from classical

 

45 French L. Arrington, ‘Dispensationalism’, in The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed.  Stanley  M.  Burgess  and  Ed  M.  van  der  Maas,  rev.  ed.  (Grand  Rapids,  MI: Zondervan, 2002).

46 Oliverio, L. William, Jr., Theological Hermeneutics, 115.

47 Larry  R.  McQueen,  Toward a  Pentecostal  Eschatology: Discerning the  Way  Forward,  Journal  of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 39 (Blandford Forum, UK: Deo Publishing, 2012).

48 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 293.

49 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 141.

 

dispensationalism, whereas those which focus on ‘reasoned principles of interpretation’

move towards it.50

McQueen, in another publication, examines The Apostolic Faith from 1906 to 1908 to  ascertain  ‘how  influential  dispensationalism  was  during  the  earliest  period  of  the movement.’51 McQueen gives three reasons for which he believes that ‘The eschatology of early   Pentecostalism   is   not   a   non-critical   assimilation   of   classical   dispensational categories’. These reasons include the ‘Latter Rain’ concept, in which spiritual gifts were restored. According to McQueen, this idea does not combine well with the dispensational system. He also finds difficulties with the differences in the number of dispensations (e.g. three or seven). Finally, he believes that Pentecostals applied certain passages directly to the Church, which cessationist dispensationalists believed applied only to Israel. 52

McQueen’s   writings   provide   a   nuanced   view   of   the   relationship   of   early Pentecostalism to dispensationalism.  Nonetheless, McQueen orients his thinking in line with   the   contours   suggested   by   Sheppard. 53  With   respect   to   the   ‘latecomer   to dispensationalism’  view,  he  suggests  the  importance  of  investigating  ‘beyond  the  early 1920s  to  discover  the  reasons  why  classical  dispensationalism  finally  became  the  single model  of  eschatology  in  those  groups  in  which  the  discernment  process  was  still ongoing.’54 This comment indicates that for McQueen dispensationalism is directly linked to  a  certain  instantiation  of  the  system.  He  does  not  entertain  the  possibility  that dispensationalism   could   be   a   broader   eschatological   position   within   which   both Pentecostals and cessationists lived and moved and had their being.

 

 

 

 

 

50 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 142.

51 Larry R. McQueen, ‘Early Pentecostal Eschatology in the Light of The Apostolic Faith, 1906–1908’, in Althouse; Waddell, Perspectives in Pentecostal Eschatologies, 139.

52 Larry R. McQueen, ‘Early Pentecostal Eschatology’, 154n69.

53 The section on Sheppard opens the final section of his literature review, providing a framework

for evaluating ‘constructive contributions’. McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 33–35.

54 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 296.

 

Assessment

This  select  literature  review  gives  evidence  of  the  influence  of  the  ‘latecomer  to dispensationalism’ view  amongst  leading Pentecostal  scholars who have  interacted with the relationship of early Pentecostals to dispensationalism. Whilst not all scholars accept this   view   completely,   its   influence   continues   to   be   felt.   Sheppard’s   views   have overshadowed the conversation since 1984, obscuring for many the possibility that early Pentecostals were dispensationalists, albeit not of the cessationist school.55

Thus,  in  spite  of  some  dissenting  voices,  the  majority  view  amongst  Pentecostal scholars  today  may  be  outlined  along  the  following  lines:  1)  Pentecostals  were  not originally  dispensationalists;  2) The  influence  of fundamentalism in the  1920s  led to an infiltration   of   Pentecostalism   with   dispensationalist   ideas;   3)   The   result   was   a fundamentalised, dispensationalist Pentecostalism.

 

Methodology and Scope

The second research question of this dissertation is whether this portrayal of the history and theology of early Pentecostals conforms to the historical data. Are these points confirmed by an examination of the primary sources of the movement? Does the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ perspective faithfully narrate the history of the movement?

The scope of this study must be limited to a manageable set of historical data. I will limit my research especially to the North American, classical Pentecostal context, and following McQueen’s lead, I will focus especially on classical Pentecostal periodicals in the first two decades of the 20th century. Of the many periodicals surveyed by McQueen, I will examine the three that provided the strongest evidence for the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view: The Apostolic Faith, The Bridegroom’s Messenger and The Church of God Evangel. I will also discuss The Christian Evangel, the official periodical of the AOG, due to the importance of this denomination in Sheppard’s argument.

55   The    ‘latecomer    to    dispensationalism’    view    is    also    accepted    by    some    cessationist dispensationalists. E.g. Thomas D. Ice, ‘The Calvinistic Heritage of Dispensationalism’, Liberty University, accessed September 8, 2018, http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/pretrib_arch/11, 8.

 

Outline of the Dissertation

In chapter one, I will provide a brief discussion of competing eschatological systems of the early 20th century. This section will allow us to place the Pentecostal approach within the theological context of competing visions. Once the contrasting systems are examined, the ‘family resemblances’ of Pentecostal eschatologies to other systems may be evaluated. In chapter two, I will examine the four periodicals mentioned above in light of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view. In chapter three, I will bring out some implications from this research in assessing the relationship of early Pentecostalism to dispensationalism. My hypothesis is that if we read the primary sources in light of a ‘broader dispensationalism’, we may see substantial ‘family resemblance’ to other dispensationalists of the early 20th century without negating the differences amongst them. On this reading, the changes seen in Pentecostal eschatology after the first two decades may be understood as adjustments rather than major changes.

 

 

Chapter 1

Competing Eschatological Approaches in the Early 20th Century

 

In order to determine whether the early Pentecostals were dispensational in their eschatology, I will outline the major eschatological views extant in the early 20th century. This  exploration  will  provide  historical  context  for  evaluating  the  eschatological  and hermeneutical views of the early Pentecostals in the light of ‘family resemblances’. I will illustrate the various views from the writings of proponents of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The different approaches will be ordered according to the approximate date of their appearance on the theological scene.

Various approaches to doctrinal issues existed at the beginning of the 20th century. Some individuals were traditionalist in their approach, whereas others innovated in their eschatology.    Michael    S.    Hamilton,    discussing    the    difficulties    of    understanding fundamentalism, identifies the network established in the late 19th century in the United

 

States through the influence of D. L. Moody as ‘interdenominational evangelicalism’.56 This term is helpful, since it distinguishes between this new interdenominational movement and the traditionalists of the established denominations. Some members of the traditional denominations were premillennial in their eschatology, due to the influence of Moody’s network, 57 whereas traditionalists rejected the premillennial understanding based on a stricter reading of their historic confessions.

 

1.1  Lutheran Eschatology

Some Lutheran theologians of the early 20th century rejected a literal millennium of  one  thousand  years,  finding  instead  a  unity  in  the  events  of  the  last  times.  Henry Jacobs, a Lutheran professor, wrote in 1905 that ‘Christ’s coming and His rewards to the godly and His condemnation of the godless are always closely connected in the Scriptural accounts  of  the  Judgment.’  He  rejected  the  use  of  Revelation  20:1–6  as  proof  of  a dispensational  interpretation  because  the  book  was  ‘figurative’  in  nature,  whilst  other scriptural witnesses to the end times speak in ‘plain language’.58 Relying on the testimony of Matthew 25:31, 32, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Augsburg  Confession,  Jacobs  concluded  that  the  judgement  will  occur  immediately following the Second Coming.59

Jacobs answers the question, ‘Will there be a two–fold coming or manifestation of Christ?’ by quoting the Augsburg Confession,  Art. 17, which condemns ‘others also who now  scatter  Jewish  opinions  that,  before  the  resurrection  of  the  dead,  the  godly  shall occupy  the  kingdom  of  the  world,  the  wicked  being  everywhere  suppressed.’  He  states that  this  statement  ‘clearly  disclaims  all  responsibility  for  any  teaching  that  separates

 

56 Michael S. Hamilton, ‘The Interdenominational Evangelicalism of D. L. Moody and the Problem of  Fundamentalism’,  in  American  Evangelicalism: George  Marsden  and  the  State  of  American  Religious History, ed. Darren Dochuk, Thomas S. Kidd and Kurt W. Peterson (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014), 234–35.

57 Hamilton, ‘Interdenominational Evangelicalism’, 246.

58  Henry   Eyster   Jacobs,   A   Summary   of   the   Christian   Faith   (Philadelphia:   General   Council Publication House, 1905), 515–16.

59 Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, 517.

 

between a resurrection for the godly and a resurrection for the ungodly by any long period of time, and which affirms that there are two comings of Christ in the future.’60

This was not the only Lutheran understanding of eschatology. Joseph Seiss (1823– 1904)  provides  an  example  of  a  Lutheran  form  of  dispensationalism.  He  held  that  the Augsburg Confession could be read as condemning Anabaptist views of the millennium and  other  abuses,  without  negating  the  possibility  of  a  literal  thousand–year  reign  of Christ after the resurrection.61 Speaking of the timing of future events, Seiss states that ‘as the  great  tribulation  occurs  only  in  connection  with  these  seals,  trumpets  and  vials [in Revelation], the translation by which these honored saints are brought to their rewards necessarily  precedes  that  tribulation  in  point  of  time.’62 In  unique  fashion,  Seiss  taught three  raptures:  ‘Here,  then,  are  at least three distinct  classes of saints,  and each  has its translation and reward at a different time from the other, the rank, privileges and honors being diminished as the succession moves.’63 Following the raptures and tribulation, Seiss taught  a  premillennial  coming  of  Christ:  ‘It  is  Christ’s  coming  that  is  to  make  the millennium, and not the millennium which is to prepare the world for Christ’s coming.’64

Seiss’s dispensational views flowed out of an interest in literal interpretation of prophecy. Seiss quotes a saying that encapsulates his approach: ‘Distinguish the  times, and the Scriptures will harmonize.’ This principle leads to a rejection of ‘mystical and figurative treatment of the Sacred Word, which has so emasculated and obscured it’ and allows one to ‘easily see how every jot and tittle may be, as it will be, literally and completely fulfilled.’ 65 Although holding unique views on certain points, Seiss appropriated dispensationalism within a Lutheran framework.

 

 

 

 

60 Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, 515.

61 Joseph  A.  Seiss,  The  Last  Times:  Or,  Thoughts  on  Momentous  Themes,  7th  ed.  (London:  J.  B. Lippincott & Co., 1878), 327–29.

62 Seiss, Last Times, 348.

63 Seiss, Last Times, 352.

64 Seiss, Last Times, 40.

65 Seiss, Last Times, 353.

 

1.2  Reformed Eschatology

Churches of the Reformed tradition at the beginning of the 20th century held to covenant theology. Reformed theologians may speak of dispensations, but these are unified under the eternal Covenant of Grace. A. A. Hodge is representative, when he states that

in the several dispensations, or modes of administration of the eternal Covenant of Grace, Christ has contracted various special covenants with his people, as administrative provisions for carrying out the engagements, and for applying to them the benefits of his covenant with the Father.66

 

Thus, the Reformed see a general continuity in God’s plan for the ages, since his actions are determined under a single covenant. Hodge, speaking of the people of God, finds continuity between the Testaments: ‘The church, under both dispensations, has the same nature and design.’67

In Reformed eschatology, this continuity leads to an eschatology in which all of the events of the end times are unified. In Hodge’s words, ‘Christ’s advent, the general resurrection and judgment, will be simultaneous, and immediately succeeded by the burning of the old, and the revelation of the new earth and heavens.’ 68 In this understanding, a literal millennium of one thousand years is rejected in Revelation 20, as is the idea of ‘two resurrections’ and any return of Israel to their land as a fulfilment of prophecy.69 The traditionalist Reformed of the early 20th century generally held to either postmillennialism or amillennialism. In the former view, the Church would expand and advance, bringing in the kingdom through the preaching of the gospel. According to the latter position, the millennium was a symbolic period in which the Church militant acts. Any thought of a rapture of the Church as a distinct event from the Second Coming of Christ or as a first phase of that return was rejected.

 

 

66 A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, rev. ed. (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 370.

67 Hodge, Outlines of Theology, 619.

68 Hodge, Outlines of Theology, 569.

69 Hodge, Outlines of Theology, 571–72.

 

1.3  Methodist Eschatology

John Fletcher’s (1729–1785) views have particular importance for our discussion on the  relationship  between  Pentecostalism  and  dispensationalism.  This  is  due  to  early Pentecostals’ appropriation  of his views on  the  dispensations and  modern Pentecostals’ retrieval   of   Fletcher’s   ideas   in   their   theologising.   Lawrence   Wood   captures   his eschatological appeal for Pentecostals:

Fletcher often spoke of the coming kingdom of God, its fulfilment on the day of Pentecost, its personal appropriation by faith in the lives of individual believers, and the final arrival of the kingdom when a global Pentecost would engulf the whole world. The essence of the millennium when the whole world would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, was loving God with all the heart, mind, and soul.70

 

Fletcher taught that history was divided into three dispensations that correlated to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He states, ‘Under the dispensation of the Father, the  grand  promise  was  that  which  respected  the  external  manifestation  of  the  Son.’71 Then,  during the dispensation  of the Son, Jesus promised ‘the  abundant  effusion  of the Holy  Spirit’.72 This  glorious  dispensation  of  the  Spirit  looks  forward  to  the  even  more glorious  return  of  Jesus  Christ.  As  laid  out  by  Fletcher,  the  Holy  Spirit  dispensation  is characterised by waiting for Christ’s second coming.

We observe Fletcher’s understanding of both prophecy and the day of Pentecost in his treatment of prophecies that speak of a future spiritual restoration of Israel ‘under the reign of the Messiah’, such as Joel 2:28, Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 44:3 and Ezequiel 36:25–27. He  states,  ‘That  man  must  be  prejudiced to  an  extreme  degree,  who  perceives not  that these  gracious  prophecies  began  to  receive  their  accomplishment  upon  the  day  of pentecost, when the multitude of them that believed were “of one heart and one soul”’.73

 

 

70 Laurence W. Wood, The Meaning of Pentecost in Early Methodism: Rediscovering John Fletcher as John  Wesley’s  Vindicator  and  Designated  Successor,  Pietist  and  Wesleyan  Studies  15  (Lanham,   MD: Scarecrow, 2002), 147.

71 John Fletcher,  The Works of the Reverend John Fletcher,  4  vols.  3 (New  York:  B. Waugh and T. Mason, 1833), 166.

72 Fletcher, Works, 167.

73 Fletcher, Works, 168.

 

Fletcher appears to refer to a future reign of Christ centred in Jerusalem, but he understands Israel as the Church: ‘In prospect of this glorious time, the prophet calls upon the Church under the ancient name of Zion, Jerusalem, and Israel, to break forth in praise to Jehovah the Redeemer’.74 In equating Israel and the Church, he followed a traditionalist Lutheran understanding of a unified people of God. Fletcher may have popularised the use of three dispensations to divide history, but as J. Russell Frazier comments, ‘Fletcher’s doctrine of dispensations has very little resemblance to the dispensations of modern dispensationalism of the Plymouth Brethren’.75 It is to that dispensationalism that we now turn.

 

1.4  Darby’s Eschatology

John Nelson Darby, although not the first to promote dispensational ideas,76 is considered the father of modern dispensationalism. Although his writings are vast, a general understanding of his eschatology may be briefly outlined. He used Daniel 9 and the ‘seventy weeks’ as an outline for his historical time line. Speaking of the last week, he states,

But there is still a week left—we have only had sixty-nine weeks—and then there is a lapse. Messiah comes, is rejected, and is cut off, does not get the kingdom at all, gets nothing—He gets the cross, it is true, but that is all He gets. He ascends to heaven, and therefore our hearts must follow Him up to heaven, while He is there.77

 

During  this  lapse,  God  is  calling  out  ‘heavenly  saints’  or  the  Church.78 According to

Darby, ‘all the direct dealings of God with the world through the Jews are suspended until

 

 

 

74 Fletcher, Works, 528.

75 J. Russell Frazier, True Christianity: The Doctrine of Dispensations in the Thought of John William Fletcher (1729–1785) (Cambridge: James Clarke, 2014), 79n118.

76 William C. Watson, Dispensationalism before Darby: Seventeenth-century and Eighteenth-century English Apocalypticism (Silverton, OR: Lampion Press, 2015).

77 John Nelson Darby, Seven Lectures on the Second Coming of the Lord: Delivered in Toronto, in 1863

(Toronto: Gospel Tract Depository, 1863), https://archive.org/details/cihm_07686, 67.

78 Darby, Seven Lectures, 69.

 

the Church is taken up’79 in the rapture. After the rapture, a tribulation period will begin on earth.80

Darby  distinguished  between  the  resurrection  of  believers  and  the  raising  of unbelievers   because   they   are   ‘entirely   distinct   …   in   nature,   time,   character,   and everything else’,81 being separated by the one thousand years of the millennium.82 During the millennium, the Jewish people will be restored to their land and blessed spiritually in fulfilment  of  the  promises  of  the  New  Covenant.83 In  summary,  the  final  events on  the prophetic calendar for Darby were the rapture, the tribulation, the ‘glorious appearing’ of Christ and the earthly millennium.84

 

1.5  Interdenominational Premillennial Eschatology

As    mentioned    above,    the    late    19th    century    saw    the    growth    of    an ‘interdenominational evangelicalism’. This movement was influenced eschatologically by a  series  of  prophecy  conferences  held  in  the  19th  century.  To  cite  one  example,  Daniel Steele, an opponent of premillennialism, noted the influence of one of these conferences in 1878. The conference promoted a dispensational reading of history, and the core of the teaching  was  ‘recommended  to  American  Christians  by  certain  popular  evangelists  in their  sermons,  Bible  readings,  and  evangelical  conferences’. 85 This  was  the  type  of conference  that  influenced  people  like  A.  B.  Simpson.  Simpson  published  an  article  in 1891 entitled, ‘How I was Led to Believe in Pre-Millenarianism’,86 and later explained his eschatological  views  in  more  detail  in  his  work  The  Coming  One.87 Whilst  Simpson differed  from  Darbyite  dispensationalism  on  the  issue  of  how  to  interpret  the  book  of

79 Darby, Seven Lectures, 70.

80 Darby, Seven Lectures, 76.

81 Darby, Seven Lectures, 80.

82 Darby, Seven Lectures, 87.

83 Darby, Seven Lectures, 105–6.

84 Crawford Gribben, Evangelical Millennialism in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500–2000

(Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 84.

85 Daniel  Steele,  Antinomianism  Revived;  or,  the  Theology  of  the  So-called  Plymouth  Brethren Examined and Refuted (Toronto: William Briggs, 1887), 193.

86 Franklin  A.  Pyles,  ‘The  Missionary  Eschatology  of  A.  B.  Simpson’,   accessed  June 22,  2018, https://online.ambrose.edu/alliancestudies/ahtreadings/ahtr_s141.html.

87 A. B. Simpson, The Coming One (New York: Christian Alliance, 1912).

 

Revelation, opting for a more historicist reading,88 he held to the basic structure of a broader dispensationalism.

Simpson  believed  that  Christ’s  Second  Coming  would  be  premillennial,  and  that Christ  would  establish  ‘a  glorious  terrestrial  millennium’.89 In  his  understanding  the Church and Israel were distinguished,90 and Israel would be restored ‘in two stages, first, national,  and  then  spiritual’  in  accord  with  the  prophecy  of  Ezequiel  37.91 The  Zionist movement was understood as an initial fulfilment of the promise of the return of Israel to their land.92 Before the final events could occur, Simpson believed in a coming apostasy93 and a  great  tribulation,  from which  the Church  would be  removed in the  Parousia  (i.e. Christ’s coming), ‘when His Church shall be withdrawn to meet Him in the air and the holy dead shall be united with them in the first resurrection.’94 He plainly distinguished ‘two aspects of the Lord’s return, the first, at the beginning of the Tribulation, the second at  its  close,  and  at  the  commencement  of  His  Millennial  reign.’95 He  uses  the  term ‘translation’ to refer to a pretribulational rapture:

There will be, doubtless, many spiritual blessings poured out upon the world immediately after the Parousia of our blessed Master, and the translation of His waiting Bride but it will be too late to enter into the joys of the marriage, and escape the sorrows of the great tribulation.96

This common usage of the term is relevant to Sheppard’s comment on the ambiguity of the term ‘translation’ in relation to the rapture. Rather than ambiguous, the term ‘translation’ was commonly understood as the rapture. This brief discussion shows that, although differing on minor details, Simpson’s eschatology follows the broad outlines of

 

 

 

88 Pyles, ‘Missionary Eschatology of A. B. Simpson’.

89 Simpson, The Coming One, 15.

90 Simpson, The Coming One, 23.

91 Simpson, The Coming One, 69.

92 Simpson, The Coming One, 71–72.

93 Simpson, The Coming One, 77–101.

94 Simpson, The Coming One, 126–28.

95 Simpson, The Coming One, 133.

96 A. B. Simpson, The Holy Spirit or Power from on High: Part II: The New Testament  (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1896), https://archive.org/details/cihm_24366, 33.

 

Darby’s. Simpson’s views are expounded here as an example of what many pastors, theologians and lay people held within ‘interdenominational evangelicalism’.

This introduction to the major views on eschatology at the beginning of the 20th century provides a basis for evaluating Pentecostal views. If a ‘family resemblance’ approach is taken towards different types of dispensationalists, should early Pentecostals be included in this broader category, or were Pentecostals latecomers to dispensationalism? We will now examine the primary sources in dialogue with these questions.

 

 

Chapter 2

An Investigation of Early Pentecostal Periodicals

 

In this chapter, I will examine the eschatological views found in four early Pentecostal periodicals in light of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ perspective. Given the limitations of this dissertation, I focus on The Apostolic Faith, the first Pentecostal periodical, two early Wesleyan Holiness periodicals (The Bridegroom’s Messenger and The Church of God Evangel) and the periodical of the Assemblies of God (The Christian Evangel). To locate relevant passages, I used the search engine of the Consortium of Pentecostal Archives,97 searching for terms such as ‘dispensation’, ‘rapture’, ‘Second Coming’, ‘Scofield’, etc. I then examined each hit and read in their entirety the articles most relevant to this dissertation.98

 

2.1  The Apostolic Faith

Any discussion of the early Pentecostal periodicals generally begins with The Apostolic Faith (AF) connected to Azusa Street and the ministry of William J. Seymour. The first issue of the paper included a piece on the millennium.99 This section speaks of

97 Consortium of Pentecostal Archives website’s search: https://pentecostalarchives.org/search/

98 Digital  research  presents  special  challenges,  on  which  see:  Tim  Hitchcock,  ‘Confronting  the Digital’, Cultural and Social History 10, no. 1 (2015): 12, https://doi.org/10.2752/147800413X13515292098070.

99 The Apostolic Faith, September 1906, 1, 3.

 

the thousand years of the millennial age and how ‘The saints who have part in the first resurrection will return with Jesus and reign over unglorified humanity’. The millennium will be ‘the time when the lion and calf shall lie down together and a little child shall lead them’.  In  another early  issue,  the  distinction between the  rapture  and the  revelation  of Christ  is made  explicit:  ‘There will be two appearances of Jesus under  one  coming.  The first appearance is called the Rapture, when He comes as a thief in the night and catches away  His  bride;  the  second  is  called  the  Revelation  when  He  shall  come  with  ten thousand of His saints …’100 Here in the first year of the periodical we see a dispensational outline of future events.

The eschatological vision of the AF is further explained in the January 1907 issue in an  article  entitled  ‘Behold  the  Bridegroom  Cometh’.101 The  parable  of  the  ten  virgins serves as focal point for a reflection on the need to be prepared for Christ’s coming. The virgins are understood as the Church, the oil represents the Holy Spirit and those virgins who have oil in their lamps are those who have been baptised with the Holy Spirit. ‘Those that are  not  ready at the rapture will be left to  go through  the awful  tribulation that is coming upon the earth’. Those who are unprepared will miss the marriage supper of the Lamb  but  may  reign  with  Christ  in  the  millennium  if  they  prove  faithful  during  the tribulation. One difference between this interpretation and that of Darby’s deals with the meaning of the  oil.  For  the  writer  of the  article,  the  oil  represented the  baptism of the Spirit as a separate work of grace, whereas for Darby the oil signified the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers as opposed to those who were mere ‘professors’.102 It is not clear where the AF’s partial rapture interpretation originated, although the writings of the Lutheran Joseph Seiss are a possible source. McQueen notes the influence of Seiss in early  periodicals  of  the  Wesleyan  Holiness  stream,  so  his  influence  here  is  probable.103 Seiss held to a partial rapture view, as exemplified in his commentary on Revelation 7:9 with  respect  to  the  ‘great  multitude  …  clothed  with  white  robes,  and  palms  in  their

 

100 The Apostolic Faith, ‘Notes on the Coming of Jesus’, September 1907, 10, 4.

101 The Apostolic Faith, ‘Behold the Bridegroom Cometh’, January 1907, 5.

102 John Nelson Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, rev. ed. 3 (London: G. Morrish, 1820), 169.

103 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 129.

 

hands’.  According  to  Seiss,  these  believers  were  ‘people  whom  the  judgment  found unprepared,  and  who  consequently  were  “left”  when  the  rapture  of  the  Church  took place.’ 104 Another possible source are the writings of Simpson. In his interpretation of this parable from Matthew 25, Simpson understood the baptism with the Holy Spirit to be the distinguishing feature between those who would be allowed to participate in the marriage feast  and  those  who  would  be  shut  out.105 In  either  case,  we  notice  variation  from  a Darbyite  reading  of  the  parable  but  a  view  similar  to  that  which  was  held  by  other dispensationalists.  Also  noteworthy  is  how  Zechariah  14:3,  4  were  quoted  as  a  literal prophecy that Christ ‘shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives. … The mountain shall be parted in two.’ In this article we see a broad dispensationalism: an affirmation of the  rapture,  the  tribulation  and  the  millennium  and  of  a  literal  fulfilment  of  prophecy from Zechariah.

Several of the articles cited above are discussed by McQueen, but he focuses on the variations  between  the  eschatology  expressed  and  that  of  ‘classical  dispensationalism’ instead of the ‘family resemblances’. He concludes his section on the AF by finding major differences: ‘Immersed within a different worldview, the Pentecostals of Azusa Street did not   merely   modify   the   script   of   classical   dispensationalism,   but   departed   from   it significantly.’106

Perhaps most indicative of this posture is his discussion of an article entitled ‘Full Overcomers: Rev. 14’,107 which was included in the January 1908 issue of the periodical.108 McQueen  emphasises  the  symbolic  interpretation  of  the  144,000,  which  the  author understood as ‘the highest overcomers’ who would ‘go with Christ to the marriage supper of the Lamb’. The author continued by interpreting the ‘man child’ of Revelation 12 as this same group of sanctified believers. McQueen, in his summary, states that ‘the eschatology presented here is shaped more by the holistic and apocalyptic nature of early Pentecostal

104 Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ with Revised Text, 12th ed. 1 (Philadelphia: Philadelphia School of the Bible, 1865), 448.

105 Simpson, The Holy Spirit or Power from on High, 32.

106 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 74.

107 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 69.

108 The Apostolic Faith, ‘Full Overcomers: Rev. 14’, January 1908, 12.

 

spirituality than by classical dispensational categories.’109 I agree with McQueen’s claim in regard  to  some  of  the  details  of  the  interpretation  of  Revelation  12  and  14,  but  he  has neglected   to   point   out   the   ‘family   resemblances’   in   the   broader   contours   of   the eschatology presented. The author distinguished between the rapture and the ‘revelation’ of Jesus Christ. He believed in the revealing of ‘the man of sin’ or ‘antichrist’ before this revelation.  The  rapture  is  termed  ‘the  blessed  hope  of  the  church’,  and  the  ‘great tribulation’ will follow the rapture. During the tribulation the antichrist will ‘compel men to serve him and bow down and call him god’. The author distinguished between the ‘first resurrection’ and another resurrection at the beginning of the millennium. This outline of the events of the end times follows the dispensational model. Also, the author appealed to  a  literal  fulfilment  of  various  prophecies  in  sustaining  these  positions.  For  example, Isaiah  26:20  supports  a  literal  interpretation  of  ‘the  awful  tribulation’.  The  battle  of Armageddon was interpreted in a literal manner from Zechariah 14, as were the ‘200 miles of blood up to the horses’ bridles’ from Revelation 14:20.

King is another scholar who has placed more emphasis on the differences than on the  similarities.  Commenting  on  an  article  in  the  September  1907  issue  of  the  AF,  he labels   the   distinction   between   the   rapture   and   the   revelation   a   ‘more   explicitly dispensational’  teaching,  though  he  provides  a  caveat  by  saying  that  this  is  ‘without reference  to  Darby’s  seven  “ages”.’  In  King’s  assessment,  we  observe  the  conflation  of dispensationalism  with  Darby’s  expression  of  the  system.110 Therefore,  despite  great continuity  on  eschatology,  in King’s view  Pentecostals were  non-dispensationalists who borrowed dispensational categories.

This   examination   of   the   views   of   the   AF   gives   evidence   of   more   ‘family resemblance’  to  dispensationalism  than  to  any  other  eschatological  system  of  the  early 20th    century.    Of    the    defining    features    proposed    by    Sweetnam    for    defining dispensationalism,111 the  criterion  that  receives  the  least  attention  in  the  AF  is  the

109 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 74.

110 King, ‘Disfellowshiped’, 91.

111 Sweetnam, “Defining Dispensationalism,” 198.

 

distinction between Israel and the Church. Nonetheless, whilst not a major focus of the periodical,  Seymour  acknowledges  the  distinction  between  Israel  and the Church  when he  speaks  of  how  ‘John was permitted to  see  from  the  beginning  of  the  church  age  on down to the white throne judgment, the final winding up of the world.’ He then refers to this as John’s seeing ‘the glory and the power of the apostolic church’. These comments indicate a belief in a distinction between the age that had come before and ‘the church age’.112 Based  on  this  examination  of  the  AF,  I  conclude  that  the  periodical  should  be classified  as  dispensational,  albeit  a  broader  form  of  the  system  than  that  proposed  by some classical dispensationalists such as Darby.

 

2.2  The Bridegroom’s Messenger

The Bridegroom’s Messenger (TBM) proved an influential periodical in the South of the United States, drawing other groups to the Pentecostal persuasion.113 Elizabeth Sexton outlined the vision of TBM in an editorial piece from 1911 in the following manner:

We  believe  in  justification  by  faith;  sanctification  of  believers;  healing  in  the atonement;  the  baptism  of  the  Holy  Ghost  as  on  the  day  of  Pentecost,  with speaking of tongues as a distinguishing evidence, as on that day; in the restoration of all of the gifts of the Spirit; and in the pre-millennial coming of our Lord Jesus. We believe that before He comes to reign a thousand years, He will catch away His prepared saints, who will be adorned in their wedding garments, and that they will be at the wedding supper, and be counted ‘worthy to escape’ those things that are coming upon the earth during the tribulation.114

 

Sexton’s outline of future events includes a belief in the rapture, the tribulation, the

premillennial coming of Christ and the ‘thousand years’ of the millennium.

In regard to the last point about those ‘worthy to escape’ Sexton states: ‘The Bride is still hidden. They will be the overcomers, but they are not known as yet, except to Him, the Bridegroom.’115 This understanding follows the influence of Seiss with respect to the

 

112 William J. Seymour, ‘Christ’s Messages to the Church’, The Apostolic Faith, January 1908, 11, 3.

113 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 74–75.

114 Elizabeth A. Sexton, ‘Entering the Fifth Year of Service’, The Bridegroom’s Messenger, October 1, 1911, 95, 1.

115 Sexton, ‘Entering the Fifth Year of Service’, 1.

 

view  that  only  certain  Christians  will  be  overcomers.  Sexton  took  Seiss’s  comments  on Revelation  3:21,  ‘To  him  that  overcometh’,  and  applied  them  to  ‘some  faithful  ones, perhaps in every church, and some few churches’ who would go against the Laodicean age of the 20th century and be raptured.116 In a an issue thirteen years later, she propounded the same view: ‘The pre–milleannial [sic] coming of our Lord Jesus Christ has always been the hope of the true church’. She supported this view with the words of Seiss, who had stated that when the Church fails ‘to look and long for that [coming] as the crown and goal of their faith and hope … they show and prove that they do not belong to that elect body of God’s saints which constitutes the Bride of the Lamb’.117

A dispensational understanding of history was not promoted only by Sexton. J. A. Culbreth  wrote  an  article  in  1908  that  espoused  dispensational  views.  He  contrasts  the revelation given in the Old Testament with that of the New, given that the former ‘only foreshadowed and typified a  fuller  revelation  and manifestation  to  be  made  in a  future dispensation’.118 For  Culbreth,  the  ‘fuller  revelation’  was  the  new  work  of  the  Spirit. Culbreth differentiated the dispensation of the Son from that of the Spirit precisely by the baptism of the Spirit. He states that ‘we see that the baptism of the Holy Ghost did not belong to the dispensation of Jesus at all’. This view follows the standard dispensational interpretation that the day of Pentecost began a new baptising work of the Spirit and the beginning of the Church. Darby comments on this dispensational distinctive in relation to the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost: ‘The Church, then, being Christ’s body, could not exist before the Head was in heaven, as Ephesians i teaches clearly, nor the habitation of God through the Spirit when the Spirit was not sent.’119 Culbreth and other Pentecostals disagreed  with  cessationist  dispensationalists on  the  implications  of  Spirit  baptism  and

 

 

116 Elizabeth A. Sexton, ‘The Laodicean Age’, The Bridegroom’s Messenger, March 15, 1909, 34, 1.

117 Elizabeth  A.  Sexton,  ‘Strikingly  Strange  Not  to  Believe  Jesus  is  Coming’,  The  Bridegroom’s Messenger, Sep 1922, 239, 1.

118 J.  A.  Culbreth,  ‘The  Baptism  and  Evidence  of  Pentecost  Foreshadowed’,   The  Bridegroom’s Messenger, February 15, 1908, 8, 2.

119 John N. Darby, ‘Is the Comforter Come? And Is He Gone?’, The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby,

Doctrinal 2, Vol 10, accessed July 8, 2018, http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/10793.

 

speaking in tongues, but they agreed that the Church was formed as a new entity on the day of Pentecost.

Culbreth followed Fletcher’s scheme of three dispensations related to the three persons of the Trinity. His use of these three dispensations provides evidence of a distinction between Israel and the Church in his thinking. He emphasises the way in which the Jews did not accept Jesus,

but preferred to honor the Father and continue their worship in the old order of sacrifice  and ceremonies which  were  only typical  of the true.  Knowing,  as we all do, that the Jews made an awful mistake in rejecting Jesus, let us be careful lest we reject the Holy Ghost and make the same mistake.120

 

In relation to this three-fold scheme, McQueen121 references this article by Culbreth as an indication of the variety of dispensational views found in TBM. He later references other authors in TBM who write about two or four dispensations. He concludes that ‘It is clear from  these  examples  that  no  single  system  of  dispensations  held  a  monopoly  on  the thought of the early Pentecostals.’122

Whilst he is correct on the lack of a monopoly, nonetheless he acknowledges that the  early  Pentecostals  of  TBM  were  dispensationalists.  Even  J.  M.  Waters,  who  held  to four  dispensations  corresponding  allegorically  to  the  days  of  creation,  held  to  a  literal, premillennial return of Christ to fulfil the prophecies of Micah 4:1–9 and Zechariah 14:1–9,

20.123  Waters does not  clearly  delineate  views on  a  ‘secret’ rapture;  instead he  speaks of

the ‘second coming’ and how ‘every eye shall see Him’. Nonetheless, his views fit better within a general dispensational framework than the other positions surveyed in chapter one.

The article, ‘The Message of the Hour’, provides an understanding of the editor’s views on dispensationalism in a later issue of TBM.124 The editor did not include a detailed description  of  the  ordering  of  the  dispensations  or  their  names,  but  her  dispensational

120 Culbreth, ‘The Baptism and Evidence of Pentecost Foreshadowed’, 2.

121 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 90.

122 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 93–94.

123 J. M. Waters, ‘The Coming Bridegroom’, The Bridegroom’s Messenger, November 1, 1916, 188, 4.

124 Hattie M. Barth, ‘The Message of the Hour’, The Bridegroom’s Messenger, December 1927, 266, 1.

 

beliefs may be inferred in a broad sense from her comments. She implies the following historical divisions: from creation to the fall, from the fall to the flood, from the flood to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Pentecost, from Pentecost to the rapture and from the rapture to the Millennium. She comments on the rapture in the following terms:

Just as sure as God’s Word is true, those who fail to receive the blessings that God is pouring out now will not be ready to meet the Lord when He comes; failing to be ready for the rapture, they will have their part in the greatest judgment that will ever be poured out on the earth.125

 

Whilst ambiguous in itself, this comment, in the context of TBM, should be understood  as expressing a belief in the rapture of only those who receive Spirit baptism. This is an example of the continued influence of Seiss and the independence of the views expressed in TBM from the ‘leavening’ influence of Darbyite or Scofieldian dispensationalism. Instead of standardising the dispensations to seven or accepting the rapture of all believers as taught by Scofield, the editors of TBM followed the initial doctrinal framework formulated at the beginning of the century.

This independence of judgement raises questions about the view that the Scofield Reference Bible dramatically altered the eschatological views of early Pentecostals, at least within  the  Wesleyan  Holiness  groups.  King  views  the  publication  of  the  Bible  as  a landmark   event   in   the   relationship   between   Pentecostalism   and   fundamentalist dispensationalism.  He states: ‘It wasn’t  until 1909 when the Scofield Reference Bible had been  published that the more  dire  aspects of dispensationalism crept  into the paper.’126 He   then   cites   the   article   by   Sexton   entitled   ‘The   Laodicean   Age’ 127 to   argue   that fundamentalist dispensationalism, and the Scofield Reference Bible had begun to influence Pentecostal eschatology towards a darker worldview.  This judgement is questionable on several grounds. First, the Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909 and surely had no  influence  on  Sexton  in March  of the same year.  Second,  she  cites  Seiss in this same

125 Barth, ‘The Message of the Hour’, 1.

126 King, ‘Disfellowshiped’, 92.

127 Sexton, ‘The Laodicean Age’, March 15, 1909, 34, 1.

 

article,  and  her  thought  follows  that  of  the  Lutheran  commentator.  Third,  Pentecostal optimism was balanced by their acceptance of the reality of apostasy and unbelief before the  publication  of  the  Scofield  Reference  Bible.  For  example,  one  author  cited  A.  T. Pierson,  who  says:  ‘The  periods  when  miracles  have  been  common  have  always  been crises, turning points in the history of men—pivotal periods in the kingdom of God, when great   issues   hung   and   swung   on   these   golden   hinges.’   The   author   concluded   by exclaiming,  ‘Oh!  Our  weakness!  Oh!  Our  unbelief!  May  the  Lord  help  us  back  to Pentecostal   experiences.’  128  Although   the   Scofield   Reference   Bible   influenced   the dispensationalism   of   some    Pentecostals,   the    publication    of   the   Bible    did   not fundamentally alter the overall eschatology of the early Pentecostals.

A lack of doctrinal assimilation to fundamentalist dispensationalism may also be observed in 1929 in the confession of faith of the Association of Pentecostal Assemblies, the main constituency of TBM. The confession expresses the same doctrinal outline laid out  by  Sexton  many  years  earlier.  The  relevant  points  include  a  belief  in  justification, sanctification  as  ‘a  work  of  grace  subsequent  to  justification’,  ‘the  Pentecostal  baptism with the Holy Spirit’ with tongues as evidence, ‘[h]ealing in the atonement’ and ‘the Pre- millennial  return  of  our  Lord’. 129 This  confession  of  faith  indicates  continuity  with  the founding  principles  of  the  periodical,  rather  than  doctrinal  development  under  the influence of cessationist dispensationalism.

This examination of TBM shows that this group of early Pentecostals were dispensationalists. They were more influenced by Seiss than by Darby or Scofield and interpreted his writings in light of their Pentecostal understanding of Spirit baptism. In spite of divergence amongst their ranks on the number of dispensations, they maintained a unified belief in the core elements of dispensational eschatology.

 

 

 

 

 

128 F. Bartleman, ‘What We Need’, The Bridegroom’s Messenger, June 1, 1908, 15, 4.

129 The Bridegroom’s Messenger, ‘The Association of Pentecostal Assemblies’, July–September 1929,

273, 7.

 

2.3  The Church of God Evangel

The  Church  of  God  Evangel  (COGE),  originally  known  as  The  Evening  Light  and Church of God Evangel, was the official publication of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), and A. J. Tomlinson served as both General Overseer of the denomination and editor of COGE  from 1910  to  1922.  Given  his  leadership  of the  paper  and  in the  denomination,  a brief examination of the annual meetings of the Church of God is in order. In the first six annual assemblies of the Church of God, practical issues of church government and life were  considered.  In  the  minutes  of  the  seventh  annual  assembly  in  1912,  a  doctrinal statement was included for the first time. Succinct in style, the statement established that the Church of God held to ‘the whole Bible rightly divided.’ The 18th point was listed in the following manner:

  1. 18. Pre-millennial second coming of Jesus.

First to resurrect the dead saints and to catch away the living

saints to meet him in the air. Matt. 24:27, 28, 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, 1 Thes. 4:15–17.

Second to reign on the earth a thousand years. Zech. 14:4, 1 Thes. 4:14, 2 Thes. 13– 10, Jude 1:14, 15, Rev. 5:10, Rev. 19:11–21, Rev. 20:4–6. 130

 

This  doctrinal  statement  follows  a  dispensational  reading  of  eschatology  and  indicates that a belief in a pretribulational rapture was not a later addition to the Church of God’s teaching. Also of interest is the fact that the 1950 doctrinal statement is identical to this first statement on eschatology, showing no signs of modification.131

The official doctrinal position of the Church of God is reflected in the comments of the writers in the COGE from the first issues. For example, C. S. Curtis testified that ‘Since I came to Cleveland, Tenn., the Lord has greatly blessed me. He gave me a vision of His second  coming.  I  saw  myself  standing  and  preaching  the  word  to  the  people;  then  the rapture caught me up’.132  M. S. Lemons urged his readers: ‘Beloved, space would fail me

 

 

 

 

1912), 31.

130 Echoes from the General Assembly Held at Cleveland, Tennessee (Cleveland, TN: Church of God,

 

131 Houston R. Morehead, ed., Minutes of the 43d General Assembly of the Church of God (Cleveland,

 

TN: Church of God Publishing House, 1950), 219.

132 C. R. Curtis, ‘A Word of Testimony’, The Evening Light and Church of God Evangel, March 1, 1910,

1, 6.

 

to comment on all these passages. May it suffice to say, watch and be sober, for “the day of the Lord” is at hand. He is now selecting His BRIDE. His coming is the next thing.’133 This urgency is directly linked to the belief in the relation of the Pentecostal movement to God’s dispensational plan. Seeley Kinne states: ‘It is general conviction among us that this latter rain movement is the opening of the last campaign of this dispensation.’134

The COGE exhibits a concentrated focus on this ‘Latter Rain’ motif. A woman, writing to the editor, expressed her dispensational ideas, stating that

In the end of the Jewish age the people were far from God, and He cast them off and turned to the Gentiles. A few gathered to Jesus as a nucleus for the new dispensation. They received at Pentecost the restoration of tongues … It was a sign or token of a new era.

 

She  went  on  to  speak  of  the  Pentecostal  phenomena  as  ‘Latter  Rain’  in  relation  to  the ‘Former Rain’ of the early Church. She exhorted her readers to prepare for the marriage of the Lamb by watching and praying ‘all the time to the rapture’.135 This letter to the editor indicates several aspects of the piety of the reader. She believed in a distinction between a Jewish   dispensation   and   a   dispensation   begun   at   Pentecost.   She   understood   the dispensation in which she lived to be the same as the early Christians, albeit in the last days of that dispensation, and she encouraged her readers to faithfulness with the rapture in view.

Several articles in the COGE warn against spiritualising the biblical text. This was another hallmark of dispensationalism. I quote at length a comment by Sam Perry in order to illustrate this interest:

The subject of Jesus’ coming back to earth has been sadly neglected, perhaps, partly because of the many false notions and theories on the subject set forth by unreliable and false teachers. Partly because of lack of interest in the subject, which has been brought about by too much spiritualizing and explaining away the

 

 

133 M. S.  Lemons, ‘The Day of the Lord’,  The Evening Light and Church of God Evangel, March 15, 1910, 2, 2–3.

134 Seeley  D.  Kinne,  ‘Tactics,  Demonstrations,  Operations’,  The  Evening  Light  and  Church  of  God Evangel, March 15, 1910, 2, 5.

135 E. N. Howell, ‘Windsor, Fla.’, The Evening Light and Church of God Evangel, June 1, 1910, 7, 6.

 

exact  meaning  of  certain  passages,  or  from  a  lack  of  that  spirituality,  which  is necessary to the right understanding of the things of God.136

 

The early Pentecostals rarely mentioned opposing theological viewpoints by name, but here we probably see a reference to Reformed or Lutheran views against the rapture and the future of Israel in the ‘spiritualizing and explaining away the exact meaning of certain passages’. These were those who would be caught ‘unawares’ and ‘unprepared’, which is an allusion to Christians who would miss the rapture.

In McQueen’s discussion of the COGE, the contrast between Tomlinson and F. J. Lee, the second General Overseer of the Church of God, figures prominently. Tomlinson served as General Overseer from 1903–1923 and Lee from 1923–1928. In McQueen’s view, the two men ‘represent two different models around which the other contributions from The Evangel are clustered’.137. He summarises the two models in the following manner:

Tomlinson approached the biblical text with a dynamic understanding of the relationship between the Spirit, the text, and contemporary experience, allowing all Scripture to have contemporary applicability. Lee approached the text with a much more static and reasoned conception of textual meaning.

For McQueen,  Tomlinson  serves as an  example  of ‘Pentecostal  spirituality’ whereas Lee tends toward a more Word-centred approach to spirituality.138 McQueen cites an article by Tomlinson139 to argue that he was against ‘“speculative” dispensational interpretation of the books of Daniel and Revelation’.140

The article in question gives evidence that Tomlinson, in spite of differences of method or emphasis with Lee, was still a dispensationalist. His concern was not with the dispensations per se but with the overconfident certainty with which many presented their dispensational schemes. Speaking of the abuse of the book of Daniel, Tomlinson explains:

 

136 Sam C. Perry, ‘Jesus is Coming’, The Church of God Evangel, September 26, 1914, 39, 6.

137 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 104.

138 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 111.

139 A.  J.  Tomlinson,  ‘The  Translation  Power:  The  Work  of  the  Holy  Spirit  in  the  Last  Days Emergency’, The Church of God Evangel, March 2, 1918, 9.

140 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 106.

 

They take his figures, measurements, and make charts and paint them in glaring colors and draw long and short curved lines to represent certain periods or certain dispensations and after this is all done and their measurements and time falls at a certain time and place Daniel still rests as silently as the grave, and the authors are afraid  of  their  own  drawings  and  interpretations,  judging  from  their  continuous labors to try to discover something better and more sure.141

 

This belief that many were overinterpreting certain scriptural passages did not stop

Tomlinson from speaking of ‘dispensational truths’, in which

 

The Holy Ghost was not given until the day of Pentecost. John the Baptist introduced water baptism. Daniel was instructed to ‘Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end’. This indicates that there will be  a time when the things revealed to Daniel are to be made known. …

We are now on the very verge of the fulfilment of some of the prophecies that have hitherto been dark.142

 

These comments follow a dispensational understanding of history. Tomlinson later in the article speaks of his belief in the rapture, stating that ‘there will [be] a time come when a multitude will actually go. This Scripture will be fulfilled the same as other Scripture. The translation power will be given and up many will go into heaven.’ The rapture will occur, then the ‘indignation’ (i.e. the tribulation) and finally ‘we can be in the number that will ride  down  upon  the  white  horses  to  take  possession  of  this  old  sin  and  battle  scarred earth  and  reign  with  Christ  a   thousand  years.’143 Thus,  in  spite  of  some  differences  in emphasis,    Tomlinson’s    views    show    clear    ‘family    resemblance’    to    a    broader dispensationalism.

Lee’s dispensational views follow closely those of Scofield. In a series of articles on the book of Revelation, Lee shared a typically dispensational understanding of the book. He divided it into three sections, according to the outline of Revelation 1:19:

  • The things which thou sawest. Chapter 1:9–20.
  • The things which are. Chapters 2 and 3.

 

 

141 Tomlinson, ‘Translation Power’, 1.

142 Tomlinson, ‘Translation Power’, 1.

143 Tomlinson, ‘Translation Power’, 1.

 

  • The things which shall come to pass. Chapter 4:1–22:5. 144

He  understood  ‘the  things  which  are’  to  represent  ‘this  whole  Christian  dispensation’, whilst  the  last  section  dealt with  the  ‘tribulation  period’,  the  ‘millennial  reign’  and  ‘the post millennial ages’. Like many others, Lee viewed the seven churches of Revelation 2–3 as  letters  written  to  ‘the  church  at  seven  periods  of  this  gospel  dispensation’.  This understanding  is  essentially  a  restating  of  the  main  points  from  the  Scofield  Reference Bible,145 which  Lee  explicitly  cites  with  respect  to  the  ‘great  tribulation’.146 In  another article,   Lee   outlines   a   classical   dispensationalist   understanding   of   Daniel   9.   He understood  the  seventy  weeks to  refer  to  God’s  dealings  with  Israel.  In  his words,  ‘The seventieth  week  is  carried  over  on  the  other  side  of  the  Gentile  dispensation  and  will finish out the time known as the tribulation.’ His reading of the text agrees with that of Scofield. For example, his comment on the phrase ‘The kingdom of God is within you’ (Lk 17:21)147 uses  an  almost  identical  phrase  to  that  of  Scofield.148 This  influence  of  Scofield could be illustrated with many other citations from Lee’s writing.

Although  Lee  followed  the  general  outline  of  classical  dispensationalism,  he creatively  appropriated  the  tradition.  In  discussing  Revelation  13,  Lee  distinguishes between ‘spiritual Israel’ and ‘literal Israel’. He understands the ‘man-child’ of v. 5 as ‘Jews and Gentiles filled with the Spirit’, people born of ‘spiritual Israel’. These are also termed the  ‘overcomers’.  In  this  exegesis,  Lee  relies  on  Seiss’s  commentary.  For  example,  Lee’s comments  on  the  Greek  word  ἄρσεν  (arsen),  ‘man-child’  closely  reflect  Seiss’s  views.149 The  Lutheran  commentator  viewed  the  ‘woman’  as  the  ‘visible  Church’  and  the  ‘man child’  as  ‘God’s  saints,  all  who  have  been  begotten  of  the  Holy  Ghost’.150 Lee  modified Seiss’s position at this point: those begotten of the Holy Ghost were understood in light of

144 F. J. Lee, ‘Apocalypse’, The Church of God Evangel, November 12, 1921, 45, 2.

145 C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1909), 1330–31.

146 Lee, ‘Apocalypse’, 2.

147 F. J. Lee, ‘The Seventy Weeks. Dan. 9:24–27 (Apocalypse)’, The Church of God Evangel, December 3, 1921, 48, 3.

148 Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, 1100.

149 Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ, 8th ed. 2 (New York: Charles C. Cook, 1901), 326.

150 Seiss, Apocalypse, 324–27.

 

Pentecostal experience to be those who had experienced ‘the full baptism with the Holy Ghost and walking in the light.’151 Lee illustrates the way in which Pentecostals borrowed from a variety of sources to incorporate them into their Pentecostal vision.

The views of COGE provide more evidence that early Pentecostals were dispensationalists. Their doctrinal statement aligned them with a broader dispensationalism. They used a dispensational outline to explain the contours of biblical history and future prophecy. Whilst Tomlinson and Lee differed in their emphases, both agreed on a broad system that is best categorised as dispensational.

 

2.4  The Christian Evangel

An examination of The Christian Evangel (CE), the periodical of the AOG from July 19, 1913 to October 4, 1919,152 is warranted given the importance of the AOG in Sheppard’s article. As noted above, he considers that the ‘Statement of Fundamental Truths’ (1916) of the   AOG   was   ‘ambiguous’   on   the   issues   of   the   pretribulational   rapture   and   the tribulation.153 This statement of faith must be read in light of the periodicals of the period because they illustrate the common usage of these terms.

In an early issue, the editors wrote on the relationship between the outbreak of the Great  War  and  prophecy.  Although  cautious  in  their  judgements,  they  note  that  ‘It  is altogether possible that when the war is at its height that the rapture of the saints may take place, being scarcely noticed as the whole world is engulfed in the throes of a mighty conflict …’ 154 This is clearly a reference to a secret rapture. In another article on Christ’s coming, J. S. Secrist exhorts his readers to ‘be ready for the glorious rapture of the Saints’, after which they would ‘reign with Him for a thousand years.’ These words come in the context of an account of how Jews were returning to their land in the early 20th century, which  was  understood  as  preparation  for  the  restoration  of  national  Israel  in  her  land

 

151 F. J. Lee, ‘The Sun and Moon (Apocalypse, chap. 12)’, The Church of God Evangel, April 15, 1922, 15,

3.

152 The name was changed for three of the intervening years to Weekly Evangel.

153 Sheppard, ‘Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism’, 8.

154 The Christian Evangel, ‘War! War!! War!!!’, August 15, 1914, 54, 1.

 

based on Ezequiel 37:21–28.155 In another article, the author understood the perilous times of the early 20th century as indications that ‘Without a doubt we are in the fringes of the Tribulation Days … This is an indication that we are in the Last Days of this Dispensation, at  which  time  the  Antichrist,  according  to  Scripture,  is  to  make  his  appearance.’  The author  then  cited  the rise  of a society that promoted anti-Christian  ideas and drew the conclusion that ‘Just as the Holy Spirit is preparing a people for the speedy coming of the true  Christ,  so  is  this  Society  preparing  the  way  for  the  speedy  coming  of  the  false Christ.’156

Scholars  have  argued  that  the  AOG  were  more  influenced  by  Scofield  than  the Wesleyan   Holiness   groups.   The   Scofield   Reference   Bible   was   promoted   by   the denomination and offered to ministers at a reduced price.157 One editorial comment from the CE states that Scofield’s Bible is ‘highly esteemed among us’ and is ‘the best work of its kind that has ever been published’.158 This appraisal comes at the end of an article in which  the  author strongly  takes issue  with Scofield’s view  on  the baptism in the Spirit. This editorial perspective indicates a desire to accept Scofield’s teaching on many topics without   following   his   views   on   topics   related   to   Pentecostalism.   Digital   research reinforces  the  impression  that  Scofield received more  attention  amongst  the AOG than amongst the Wesleyan Holiness groups. A search for ‘Scofield’ in the CE   to 1919 on the Consortium  website  yields  52  hits,  whereas  the  same  search  in  the    three  Wesleyan Holiness periodicals  discussed above yields no hits.

The CE follows a dispensational eschatology consistently. The future events include the rapture, the tribulation, the revelation of Christ and a millennium of one thousand years in which Israel is restored, followed by the eternal state. McQueen

 

 

 

 

 

155 J. S. Secrist, ‘Jesus is Coming Soon’, The Christian Evangel, October 10, 1914, 62, 3.

156 Albert Weaver, ‘Antichrist and His System’, The Christian Evangel, October 3, 1914, 61, 3.

157 Minutes of the General Council of the Assemblies of God (Gospel Publishing House, 1914), 14–15.

158 W. W. Simpson, ‘The Baptism in the Spirit—A Defense’, The Christian Evangel, July 14, 1917, 198,

  1. This passage is discussed in more detail by McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 164–65.

 

concurs,  stating  that  the  eschatology  of  the  CE  is  ‘uniform’  and  ‘compatible  with  the classical dispensational perspective’. 159

 

2.5    Assessment of the Periodicals

This examination of four early Pentecostal periodicals gives clear evidence that the early Pentecostals were dispensational in their understanding of eschatology. If we evaluate the periodicals in light of Sweetnam’s rubric for defining dispensationalism, we find close ‘family resemblance’: each of the periodicals affirmed evangelical doctrine; each argued for a literal understanding of prophecies concerning eschatology; each provided evidence of their understanding of a distinction between Israel and the Church; each spoke of the imminence of the rapture of Christians and the expectation of a coming literal millennium.

By comparing the eschatology expressed in these periodicals to the other models outlined in chapter one, a clear picture emerges. The early Pentecostals rejected the eschatological views of the traditionalist Lutherans and Reformed. They borrowed terminology from Fletcher and used Darby’s basic outline of eschatology, modifying it on certain Pentecostal issues. Their eschatology shows the closest ‘family resemblance’ to that of the broader dispensationalism of ‘interdenominational evangelicalism’. This evaluation calls for a final chapter in which I propose a reappraisal of the early Pentecostals in relation to dispensationalism.

 

Chapter 3

Early Pentecostals as Dispensationalists

 

In this dissertation, I have argued that the evidence of the primary sources of early Pentecostalism contradicts the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ approach. The early Pentecostals were heirs of a dispensational, premillennial eschatology. They believed in a secret rapture from the beginning of their movement. Whilst their interest in the early

 

159 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 163.

 

years was in preaching the coming of Christ with urgency and not producing detailed dispensational charts, nonetheless they should be considered dispensationalists when a ‘family resemblance’ approach is adopted. If this analysis is correct, it calls for a reassessment of the way in which we understand early Pentecostalism in relation to dispensationalism.

 

3.1  Early Pentecostals in Relation to Other Dispensationalists

In reading the periodicals of early Pentecostalism, one notes their shared interests with cessationist dispensationalists. Despite differences over tongues or the miraculous gifts, early Pentecostals had many of the same emphases as other dispensationalists.

The  Zionist  cause  is  one  example  of  the  overlap  in  interests  within  this  broader dispensationalism.  In  almost  every  issue  of  the  four  periodicals  I  reviewed  for  this dissertation,  references  to  the  Zionist   cause  abound.   The  editors  provided  current statistics  on  the  repopulation  of  the  ‘Holy  Land’  by  Jewish  immigrants,  in  many  cases linking  this  return  to  prophecies  about  a  future  for  Israel.  Many  of  the  articles  on  the Zionist  cause  were  republished  from  cessationist  dispensational  publications,  such  as Gaebelein’s  Our  Hope.  Titles  such  as  ‘Present  Condition  of  Palestine  Indicative  of  the Lord’s Return’160 are common. In light of this, Macchia’s comment about ‘a certain lack of interest  in  such  questions  [i.e.  end-times  events]’ 161   does  not  accurately  represent  the periodical literature of the early Pentecostal movement. Clearly, Pentecostals shared with other dispensationalists a strong interest in the future, especially in relation to the Jewish people.

Another area of overlap involves, in Althouse’s categories, the relation of early Pentecostals to ‘future hope’ and ‘future despair’. Althouse places Pentecostals in the ‘future hope’ quadrant, over against the ‘future despair’ of cessationist

 

 

 

160 E. L. Langston, ‘Present Condition of Palestine Indicative of the Lord’s Return’, The Bridegroom’s Messenger, July 1, 1912, 113.

161 Macchia, ‘Pentecostal and Charismatic Theology’, 285.

 

dispensationalists.162 As  observed  in chapter  two,  King  also  argues  for  the  ‘leavening’  of Pentecostalism with cessationist dispensational despair. A better approach is to view the eschatology of early Pentecostals as a tension between ‘future hope’ and ‘future despair’, just  as  that  of  other  dispensationalists.  Sexton,  without  a  hint  of  reliance  on  Scofield, wrote  an  editorial  entitled,  ‘What  Will  the  Year  1913  Bring?’  She  opens  the  piece  with James  5:7,  ‘Be  patient  therefore,  brethren,  unto  the  coming of the  Lord’.  Following this exhortation, she proceeds to explain why the world is getting worse, rather than better. Statistics on alcohol use, crime, divorce  and the widespread decline in the churches are marshalled  to  support  this  perspective.  Her  conclusion  highlights  the  tension  in  the eschatology of early Pentecostals:

On account of these sad facts, and because we know that according to the Word wickedness will increase on the earth till the end of the age, our hearts cry out to our Lord to hasten His coming and for such a cloudburst of Pentecostal latter rain as will better fit us for that great, glad day. 163

 

A study of the periodicals of early Pentecostals shows that they, as other dispensationalists, held views that may be considered both pessimistic and optimistic.

 

3.2  Dispensationalism in Light of Family Resemblance

This dissertation argues for understanding dispensationalism in light of ‘family resemblance’ rather than according to a strict set of beliefs based on the views of Darby or Scofield. According to this approach, a set of broad features comprise the essence of dispensationalism, rather than a strict set of beliefs propounded by specific theologians or the number of dispensations or the interpretation of individual passages. Many of the reasons given by scholars for not considering early Pentecostals dispensationalists are answered by this approach. For example, holding to three dispensations or seven does not alter the essence of the system, if the main points cohere. The application or non- application of the Sermon on the Mount to the Church does not alter the essence of the

162  Peter    Althouse,    ‘An   Introduction’,    in    Althouse;   Waddell,    Perspectives   in    Pentecostal Eschatologies, 14.

163 Elizabeth  A.  Sexton,  ‘What  Will  the  Year  1913  Bring?’,  The  Bridegroom’s  Messenger,  January  1, 1913, 124.

 

system, as long as a belief in a literal millennium is upheld. This same approach allows flexibility  in  regard  to  the  interpretation  of  individual  passages  on  the  rapture  or  the revelation of Christ, or on whether or not the dispensations overlap.164

Cessationist dispensationalists and early Pentecostals, according to this approach, may   be   understood   as   fellow   theological   travellers.   On   eschatology,   cessationist dispensationalists  and Pentecostals  of the  first  decades  of the  20th  century had more  in common   than   with   many   traditionalist   Reformed   or   Lutheran   groups.   Although cessationists believed that the exercise of the miraculous gifts ceased towards the end of the 1st century, they did not mark a break in the dispensation of the Church at that point. Their views on the gifts did not appear in their dispensational charts, nor did they disdain all use of typology in their reading of the Old Testament.165 On the other side, the early Pentecostals spoke of the ‘Latter Rain’, but this season did not form a new dispensation in their  eschatological  programme.  They  also  emphasised  the  centrality  of  Scripture  over experience  in  their  doctrinal  formulations.  By  way  of  example,  Pastor  William Hamner Piper urged his audience to ‘remember, please, always to test the vision by the Book, and never  the  Book by  the  vision,  and if your  vision  does not  agree  with the  Word of God, away with it.’166   Further studies  from both cessationist  and Pentecostal  scholars should fairly  assess  the  views of these  early  20th-century groups based on  the  primary  sources, rather than on their personal or denominational notions from a later period.

 

3.3  Refining of Pentecostal Dispensationalism

Proponents of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ approach often portray the changes made within Pentecostal eschatology as evidence of the second-generation Pentecostals’ move towards fundamentalism or evangelicalism. Whilst this may have

 

164 For a similar approach to the essence of dispensationalism in the late 20th century see: John S. Feinberg,  ‘Systems  of  Discontinuity’,  in  Continuity  and  Discontinuity: Perspectives  on  the  Relationship between the Old and New Testaments, ed. John S. Feinberg (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1988). Kindle.

165 For example, Scofield, commenting on Genesis 1:16, says, ‘Dispensationally the Church is in place as the “lesser light”, the moon, reflecting the light of the unseen sun’. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, 4.

166 William H.  Piper,  ‘The  Sovereignty  of  God:  In  Its Dispensational  and  Individual  Aspects’,  The Bridegroom’s Messenger, September 15, 1909, 46, 4.

 

been  true  in  some  instances,  another  approach  is  to  understand  these  changes  as modifications of their already existing dispensationalism. A broad dispensationalism was accepted by  early  Pentecostals,  and this system was then refined upon  interaction  with the  publications  and  conferences  of  other  dispensationalists,  such  as  Scofield,  Arno Gaebelein or Clarence Larkin. For instance, the visual theology of Larkin, as exemplified in his work Dispensational Truth,167  directly influenced F. J. Lee’s presentation of biblical history  and  eschatology  in  a  conference  session.  The  publication  of  the  discourse included  a  diagram  that  borrowed  aspects  of  Larkin’s  charts.168 If  Pentecostals  already accepted a broader dispensationalism, it is not surprising that they would have used other dispensationalists’ work to supplement or modify their own views. Other refinements in their dispensationalism were necessitated by the rise of doctrinal diversity. For example, in  the  1930s,  discussion  arose  about  the  timing  of  the  rapture,  and  for  this  reason Pentecostal  groups  began  to  define  their position  with  respect  to  the  pre-trib,  mid-trib and post-trib positions.169 This could be understood as a move towards evangelicalism or fundamentalism, but on my reading this is the natural development of doctrinal positions as each group confronted differing positions and further defined their own.

This chapter has looked at ways in which a reassessment of early Pentecostals in relation to dispensationalism leads to a more nuanced view of the eschatology of the movement in the first two decades. The ideas I mention provide some first steps towards reassessing the movement’s early history in light of the primary sources, but more research should be conducted in this area.

 

 

Conclusion

In this dissertation, I have argued against the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view

on  the  eschatology  of  early Pentecostals.  Following  a  ‘family  resemblance’  method of

167 Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truth or God’s Plan and Purpose in the Ages, rev. ed. (Glenside, PA: Rev. Clarence Larkin Est., 1920).

168 F. J. Lee, ‘Discourse Delivered by F. J. Lee Thursday Eve[ning at Bi]ble School, Illustrated with

Chart’, The Church of God Evangel, January 3, 1925, 1.

169 E. C. Clark, ‘When Does the Rapture Take Place?’, The Church of God Evangel, March 25, 1933, 4.

 

discussing dispensationalism, I have argued that the early Pentecostals may correctly be understood as proponents of a broader dispensationalism, a theological vision that gained popularity within Moody’s ‘interdenominational evangelicalism’. Following an introduction to the topic and a select literature review in which the popularity of the ‘latecomer’ view was shown, I examined the eschatological approaches available at the beginning of the 20th century in chapter one. In chapter two, I used four periodicals to argue that the early Pentecostals were dispensationalists in a broad sense of the term. They held to the main features of dispensationalism, such as a belief in the division of history into dispensations, the distinction between Israel and the Church, the rapture and a literal thousand-year millennium. In chapter three, I brought out several implications of this analysis.

Based on this research, Pentecostals and cessationists alike need to revise some of their statements on the eschatology of the Pentecostal movement in the early years. This reassessment could provide incentives for questioning the belief that dispensationalism is a  leaven  that  should  be  removed  from  the  bread  of  Pentecostalism.  This  research  also highlights commonalities shared by both cessationist and Pentecostal dispensationalists of the early 20th century. Whilst I had initially begun to research the ways in which the eschatology of early Pentecostalism changed in the 1920s and 1930s, I was redirected by the scope of this dissertation to focus on the early years and consequently was only able to sketch a tentative proposal on the issue of the changes that occurred in the subsequent decades. Further research is needed on how and why Pentecostal eschatology changed in these decades. This dissertation has focused on the eschatological views of only a certain sector of North American Pentecostals, so a fuller treatment would need to incorporate a broader panorama of diverse groups from North America and the rest of the world. I hope that this dissertation may encourage others to take up some of these research questions in  the  quest  for  understanding  the  eschatological  views  of  early  Pentecostals  from  a broader   viewpoint   than   that   espoused   by      the   ‘latecomer   to   dispensationalism’ perspective.

 

Bibliography

 

Althouse, Peter. Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jürgen Moltmann 25. London: T&T Clark International, 2003.

 

———. ‘An Introduction’. In Althouse; Waddell, Perspectives in Pentecostal Eschatologies, 1–24.

 

———, and Robby Waddell, eds. Perspectives in Pentecostal Eschatologies: World without End. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2010. Kindle.

 

Anderson, Allan. ‘Varieties, Taxonomies, and Definitions’. In Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods. Edited by Allan Anderson et al., 13–29. The Anthropology of Christianity 10. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

 

Arrington, French L. ‘Dispensationalism’. In The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Edited by Stanley M. Burgess and Ed M. van der Maas. Rev. ed., 584–586. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

 

Barth, Hattie M. ‘The Message of the Hour’. The Bridegroom’s Messenger, December 1927.

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Bartleman, F. ‘What We Need’. The Bridegroom’s Messenger, June 1, 1908, 15.

 

‘Behold the Bridegroom Cometh’. The Apostolic Faith. January 1907, 5.

 

Clark, E. C. ‘When Does the Rapture Take Place?’ The Church of God Evangel, March 25, 1933, 4.

 

Culbreth, J. A. ‘The Baptism and Evidence of Pentecost Foreshadowed’. The Bridegroom’s Messenger, February 15, 1908, 8.

 

Curtis, C. R. ‘A Word of Testimony’. The Evening Light and Church of God Evangel, March 1, 1910, 1.

 

Darby, John Nelson. ‘Is the Comforter Come? And Is He Gone?’ The Collected Writings of

  1. J. N. Darby, Doctrinal 2, Vol 1 Accessed July 8, 2018. http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/10793.

 

———. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. Rev. ed. 3. London: G. Morrish, 1820.

 

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