The Apostolic Faith and the Millennium

The Apostolic Faith and the Millennium

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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:

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

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,


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.

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