Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 September 2009
ESCHATOLOGY AND APOCALYPSE IN THE ENGLISH SETTLEMENT OF THE NEW WORLD
Spain and Portugal had laid the foundation for the incorporation of America as a sacred place within the confines of providential, ecclesiastical history. Theirs, however, was the Catholic apocalyptic interpretation of history which saw Luther “as the real Antichrist,” and the Protestant Reformation as the eschatological “great time of troubles” before the end of the world. Accordingly, in view of the apocalyptic and eschatological events taking place in Europe with the great schism which the Protestant Reformation brought in the Christian Old World, the New World increasingly acquired a prominent role in the providential history of salvation. For some Catholics “the Church's losses in the old were being compensated by her gains on the other side of the Atlantic,” and with the great harvest of the Indian souls' conversion to the Catholic faith it seemed that “the New World was restoring the religious balance of power which the Old World had been unable to maintain.” The great prophetic migratory transfer of the Gospel to America was seen, therefore, not only in the eschatological context of the Indians' conversion to Christianity and the spread of the Gospel to all the corners of the world, but also in the context of the apocalyptic struggle in the Old World between Christ and Antichrist, or the Church of Rome's struggle against the great tribulations Satan brought to the church with the Protestant Reformation.