Manuel de Lacunza is one of the most significant figures in Church History. The purpose of this discussion is to examine the life of Manuel de Lacunza. We will also discuss the studies Manuel de Lacunza. Finally, we will explore the contributions that Lacunza made to the church through his theories.
The Life of Manuel de Lacunza
Manuel (Emanuel) de Lacunza was born in 1731 in Chile but spent much of his life living in exile in Italy. ("Church Heritage") Lacunza lived in Chile until he was 15 years old. He was then sent to Spain to become a Jesuit 1 Priest in the Catholic Church. By 1747 Lacunza had become a member of the Jesuit Priesthood and quickly became a prominent figure in the church.
Eventually he became a superintendent of the Noviciates and taught others in the traditions of the Jesuit order. (Gunther)
Lacunza lived in Spain for twenty-two years until 1767, when the Jesuit Priests were thrown out of Spain. The Jesuits had become brutal and the government of Spain found their actions intolerable. Jesuits were also expelled from most of the world's civilized nations. (Tarkowski) Lacunza found his new home in Imola, Italy and resided there until he was found dead alongside a river in 1801. The cause of his death has never been determined. (Fraley)
While living in Italy Lacunza wrote a manuscript under the pseudonym Juan Josafa Ben-Ezra (Rabbi Ben-Ezra). Lacunza claimed that he was a converted Jew and used the pseudonym so that his writings would be accepted in Protestantism2.
It is also believed that Lacunza used this pseudonym because his beliefs were contrary to the doctrine of the Catholic Church and he was afraid of being exposed. Eventually Lacunza was found out and the Roman Catholic Church banned the work in 1824. Gunther explains Lacunza's actions saying;
He, of course, was steeped in Romish teaching, and utterly faithful to the Papacy, who at that time was being called "the Antichrist" by the Reformers. He did not like to hear so much criticism aimed at his beloved Pope and church, so he decided to contrive a way of shifting the accusing finger away from the Papacy. He consequently changed his name to "Rabbi Ben Ezra" - a suitably Jewish name, and in the preface he claimed to be a converted Jew. The Jews, who knew all their Rabbis, were not fooled for a moment, but the Protestants were not so knowledgeable, so they accepted the book at face value."(Gunther)
Lacunza's famous work The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty was written in 1791. It was subsequently translated into English by Edward Irving and published in Paris, Mexico, Spain and London from 1811 until 1826. ("The Catholic Origins of Futurism and Preterism") The work was first published on the Spanish Isle of Leon in two volumes. The work challenged the way that prophecy was viewed in the church.
Lacunza's life was filled with challenges and surrounded by mystery and speculation. His work The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty has been challenged and debated for centuries. Many believe that is beliefs are nothing more than heresy and find fault with his studies. The following section of this discussion will focus on the theological studies of Lacunza.
The Studies of Manuel de Lacunza
Lacunza was best known for his ideas about futurism and his opposition to the pre-tribulation rapture. The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty, explores Lacunza's theology concerning both of these subjects. Now let us explore the theology of Manuel Lacunza in further detail.
Futurism is the belief that many of the events in the bible have not yet come to pass. Lacunza argued that many of the end time events were yet to happen. In his book "He wrote of a future Antichrist and a 1260-day (literal days) tribulation, events just preceding the coming of the Lord. He wrote in opposition to the 'year-day' theory of the Historicists (1260 days = 1260 years)."(Tarkowski)
The idea of futurism was not new but Lacunza was among the first to reexamine the belief during the 18th century.
The assertions that Lacunza made about futurism had a profound impact upon the bible scholars of the time. Ultimately his beliefs in the futurism of end time events became the catalyst for many of the beliefs in the 21st century church.
Opposition to Pre-tribulation rapture
Many scholars believe in the notion of a pre-tribulation rapture 3 of Christian believers. Lacunza did not believe in the theories of the pre-tribulation rapture that were taught by religious scholars in his day. Instead Lacunza's believed that there would be "a short time-period, of 45 days, between the "epiphany" (the appearance of the Lord in glory from Heaven) and the "parousia," (the coming to earth)."(Tillin)
His teachings asserted that during these 45 days the wrath of God would be poured out on His enemies. After the 45 days ended the millennial reign of Christ would begin. (Tillin)Lacunza argued that, "In order to make room for all the Tribulation events... that there had to be a time separation between the calling up of believers and the actual return to earth of Messiah." (Koniuchowsky) In short, he supposed that believers would stay on earth during the seven years of tribulation but would be taken to heaven before the wrath of God was poured out on the earth.
Lacunza's belief about the rapture became known as the "45 day partial rapturist idea" and was a revolutionary concept at the time; though it has never really been accepted by the Christian Church. When The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty was first published Lacunza's ideas about a 45 day interval were preposterous to bible scholars and it has continued to draw ridicule and evoke suspicion.
As we mentioned previously, Manuel Lacunza also rejected the year-day belief of his predecessors. The year-day theory asserts that years and days are equivalent which is based on biblical teaching that state that states that a day is as 1000 years and 1000 years is as a day. Instead, he conceded that the tribulation would last for 1260 days after which the Messiah would come. (Warner)
Lacunza's teachings about the rapture also introduced the concept of three comings of Christ while traditional Hebrew teaching only taught two comings of Christ. Jews and religious scholars assert that the bible only chronicles two comings of Christ. This apparent contradiction with the bible, which is seen as the inerrant word of God, has led many to completely dismiss the ideas of Lacunza.
Although much of Lacunza's theology seemed to be greatly flawed there were lessons to be learned from what he taught.
The Contributions of Manuel de Lacunza
It is clear from our discussion that the theories of Manuel de Lacunza contributed greatly to the church and to church history. His theories were significant in that they made the biblical scholars question their own beliefs in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church.
His writings created a discourse between those that were pre-tribulation and those that were post-tribulation.
Most Profound Contribution
The most profound contribution was the reintroduction of a futuristic view of end time prophecy. Futurism reconstructed the way that many perceived the bible and end time events. It set into motion a revived school of thought which had begun to die. At the time there were many in the church that dismissed his ideas but today futurism is widely accepted. It is certainly the most excepted explanation of end time events that exist in the church today.
The futurism has altered forever the manner in which the bible is interpreted. Not all scholars or Christian ministers believe in futurism but because of Lacunza they are not ignorant of the possibility that end time prophecy is futuristic. Futurism allows those in the church to prepare for end time events through prayer, fasting and church attendance.
The theories presented in Lacunza's book also contributed greatly to the education of future pastors and ministers. Seminary students throughout the world study the theory of futurism and attempt to decide for themselves whether or not the theory is viable. Futurism adds to the range of theories that are examined within the setting of a seminary. Covering a broad range of topics while still in seminary allows the future pastors to confront the different issues that they will face once they are out of seminary and pasturing. This valuable experience teaches the seminary students how to examine the various theological ideas that exist in the church. It also prepares students for the types of questions that may be asked of them by parishioners.
Lacunza's ideas certainly had a profound effect on the church doctrines of various denominations. His theories also contributed greatly to the creation of new denominations. Most denominations have doctrines rooted in futurism and teach futurism to parishioners. The dominations that are steeped in futurism include Pentecostals, Baptist and Assembly of God.