Ever heard of Joachim of Fiore? This Twelfth Century Italian theologian came up with a dispensation theory, or a distribution of world history, that fell into three periods–each one associated with a person of the Christian Trinity.
1) The time of God the Father was all time before the arrival of Jesus Christ, 2) the era of God the Son was after the birth of Christ to somewhere around the middle of the Thirteenth Century, and 3) the age of God the Holy Spirit was thereafter.
Fifteenth Century Roman Catholic missionaries to the New World had a slightly different interpretation. They coordinated the end of the era of God the Son (2) with the discovery of North America. In their view, the third–and final–period of time had begun. This meant that God the Holy Spirit was readying the world for the millennium, or thousand year reign of Christ that would precede the end of all time.
The End Will Not Come Until Everyone is Saved
Augustine taught the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. His argument inferred that although pagans may possess goodness, they have no right to claim the benefits of being good.
Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage said that there is “no salvation outside the church.”
Observant Franciscans (not meaning simply aware, but this is one of many types, or Orders of Franciscans) believed that once the last Native of the New World was baptized, the Second Coming of Christ would follow.
The Jesuits, another Roman Catholic Order, had strict rules regarding effective communication. Therefore, with great intention they followed the instruction to learn the Natives’ language. Even so, symbolism and other cultural barriers clouded the conversation.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
How does one convert another if they can’t understand the language? Many friars sought to demonstrate their faith through the example of Christian love, and Missions became centers for cultural change, the idea being “if one is to be civilized, one must be Christianized.” But lifestyle evangelism takes a long time. When the Natives did not embrace the faith quickly enough, the friars performed mass baptisms.
Even so, the end did not come.
Of course these Renaissance missionaries did not grasp the entirety of world geography.
Today, an organization called The Joshua Project estimates that 85% of unreached people (or people whose knowledge of the Christian religion is negligible/null/void–just like the Native Indians our Fifteenth Century missionaries sought to baptize) are in something called the 10/40 window. This rectangular region has many hard to reach areas, both geographically and culturally.
When will all the people in the 10/40 window be reached? Fifteenth Century friars of the New World project, if they were still alive, might have something to say about it. But they’re not. However, you are.
Can we know anything for certain? Yes.
If You Are Reading This, The End is Not Yet Come!
The idea of end of the world continues to ignite the imagination. It inspires books, movies, sects . . . the theories themselves seem unending.
I don’t understand everything about eschatology (the study of end times), nor do I know when the world will end, but the motivation behind the friars of the Old Spanish Missions is clear.
“If we beheld a soul after baptism with the eyes of faith, we would see angels taking their watch around it.”
~ Elizabeth Ann Seton, Collected Writings