Paul Boyer. When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture. Harvard University Press, 1992.
Even though this book is in some ways now getting a bit dated (for example, one wonders how Boyer’s analysis would be differ now in light of the powerful impact the Christian Right had during the Bush II administration), it remains an extraordinarily helpful resource.
Paul Boyer, history professor at the University of Wisconsin, gives a detailed and reasonably objective portrayal of the background and emergence of what he calls “prophetic belief” (that is, dispensational premillennnialism) in the United States. Boyer is a reliable chronicler and engaging writer. He’s critical of prophecy belief, but does a good job of letting the story come through in a way that even a supporter of prophecy belief would gain understanding.
Boyer does a good job setting the context for prophecy belief in the United States. He pays special attention both to the role of the United States in the future-prophetic schema and to the role of the establishment of the Israeli nation-state as the lynchpin for current assertions of the imminence of the End. In particular, it is interesting to learn of how the understanding of Israel’s “re-establishment” changed after 1948 when it turned out that masses of Jews did not convert to Christianity as had been understood to be a necessary precursor to fulfillment of the prophecies about Israel as a restored nation-state.
The alarms Boyer raised back in the early 1990s are even more worthy of taking seriously today–this approach to Christianity will continue to wreak major havoc. His background study, hence, remains relevant, even essential.