It's hard to narrate the history of millennialism to a general audience without losing the plot in a thicket of obscure Bible verses, dispensational disorientation, and premill fatigue. Sure, there's a rage to explain. But how many paragraphs should a historian of American millennialism devote to "Armageddon," "tribulation," "Gog," "Magog," "Mark of the Beast"? (Paul Boyer navigated this well in his classic When Time Shall Be No More. That's a wonderful guide.)
What better illustration of the Babel of premill confusion than the charts, diagrams, and cartoons premill experts used. The gleeful focus on minutiae, sidetracks, and the like dominates so much premill writing from the 19th and 20th centuries. It must not have been too difficult for a superfan of Star Trek to have turned his/her attention to the second advent in the 1970s or 80s.
So, I paste here some of my favorite confusing charts and illustrations. Try explaining any one of these to a room full of the uninitiated. It would be easier to wax eloquent about the distinguishing characteristics of the Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, Vulcans, and Cardassians.
From William E. Blackstone's wildly popular Jesus Is Coming (1878). Degree of difficulty: 6 out of 10.
Click to enlarge this iconic Millerite poster from 1843, which deciphers prophetic math from Daniel and Revelation. Would like to see a black light version of it. Degree of difficulty: 9 out of 10.
From Isaac Cummings Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message and Mission, Doctrine and People (1874). Degree of difficulty: 7 out of 10.
And finally, this one from a copy I picked up back in seminary days, Clarence Larkin, The Dispensational Truth: God's Plan and Purpose in the Ages (1920). This handsome text has some real mind-blowing charts in it. Degree of difficulty: 8 out of 10.