|Father Manuel de Lacunza|
Edward Irving\’s Preliminary Discourse to the English Translation of Father Manuel de Lacunza\’s Book The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty (1790/1826)
Edward Irving\’s English translation of de Lacunza\’s book included a rather lengthy (194 pages) \”preliminary discourse\” giving Irving\’s views of de Lacunza\’s eschatology. In this discourse Irving spoke clearly of the very fundamentals of \”dispensationalism\” years before Darby wrote anything of the kind. All of the basic elements of \”dispensationalism\” can be found in this de Lacunza/Irving 1790/1827 book.
\”This idea being clearly demonstrated to my mind as the root and germ of the dispensations both Jew and Gentile, or of \”earthly things\” as distinguished from \”heavenly things,\” or the things of the kingdom, (John iii) it was a very easy matter to derive and set forth the wisdom and adaption of those particular forms which the purpose assumed, under the one and the other of these great prepatory institutions of God. …”
Note in the above quote, Irving distinguished three dispensations, the Jewish dispensation, the Gentile dispensation, and the Kingdom.
\”[F]or the declaration of the righteousness which is by faith; in order that the mystery might come full before the observation of men, and be a witness against them, whether they would read the written word or not: this they had in the temple and sacrifices and levitical priesthood of the former dispensation, and this we have now in the two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord\’s Supper, and the Communion of the Saints, who are partakers of Christ\’s sufferings, and \”fill up that which is wanting of these sufferings for his body\’s sake, that is the church.\” These three great parts are necessary to express and embody that idea of witness and testimony for the conviction of the world, which we believe to be the germinating principle of this prepatory dispensation.\”
Here, Irving included the Temple, sacrifices, and Levitical priesthood, as being elements of \”the former dispensation.\” But, he saw baptism, and the Lord\’s Supper, as elements of Christ\’s body – the Church – in the present dispensation.
\”The restoration of the Jewish nation, to be again the Church of God, and their re-establishment in their own land, to be the head of the nations, and the centre of the earth\’s unity,\”
The restoration of the Jewish nation, and national salvation of the Jewish nation is an essential element of dispensational pre-millennialism.
In the following important quote, Irving disagreed with Fr. de Lacunza\’s view. de Lacunza argued for a literal interpretation of such terms as Jews, Israel, Zion, etc. in Old Testament prophecy, arguing that such prophecies should be seen as applying to the physical nation of Israel, rather than the New Testament Church, as was common in the Reformed eschatology of the day. De Lacunza further argued that these terms in Revelation also applied to the Jews, including the 144,000 in Revelation seven. (Incidentally, this is precisely how modern dispensationalists view these things). Irving agreed with de Lacunza regarding the literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel. However, he disagreed that such Jewish terminology in Revelation referred to physical Jews. This quote is important because it illustrates Irving\’s/de Lacunza\’s view of a \”parenthetical period,\” where the Gentile Church intervenes between God\’s past and future program for Israel.
\”The epistles to the seven churches in Asia, to whom the whole book of the Apocalypse is addressed, do show that it was intended for the instruction and consolation of the Gentile and not the future Jewish church as my author would have it. Upon the same grounds, on which I conclude that Isaiah was inspired to be a witness to the Jewish church and nation, and believe that all the terms there used of Jerusalem, Zion, Judah, Israel, &c. are to be literally understood of them, and by right belong to them in the first intention, and will certainly be fulfilled of them, I do conclude that the Apocalypse belongeth to the Gentile church, and was given for her instruction and consolation, and will be all fulfilled in her… From whence we conclude, as well as from the emblematical character of the whole book, that if Jewish names do occur in it, as in the sealing of the tribes, and in the new Jerusalem which cometh down from heaven, they ought not to be understood literally, but emblematically, as Egypt, and Sodom, and Babylon are.
It is apparent that Irving and de Lacunza saw the present age as a parenthetical period between God\’s past and future dealings with Israel. This is THE KEY feature of \”dispensationalism,\” which is still attributed to Darby. Yet, J. N. Darby did not put forward such ideas until years later!