It’s the End of the World As We Know It – Dispensational Premillennialism

13Jan12

Dispensational Premillennialism

I was attending a “revival” meeting of sorts at the Church I was raised in. I was very excited since the topic was the “Soon Return of Jesus Christ!” As one who was so obsessed with anything and everything prophetic I had the dates circled on my calendar and would not miss it for the world.

I was not disappointed. I entered the sanctuary early on the first night of the conference and saw splashed across the entire back wall of the church a timeline poster of monstrous proportions. This poster, a billboard really, detailed to the last speck of minutia of every recent prophetic sign of the soon coming Rapture of the Church starting with the birth of Israel in 1948.

The timeline billboard spoke of wars, earthquakes, martyrdom and social upheaval of the day from 1948 to the present moment at that time. There were position dates for Jewish festivals and holy days splattered across the timeline indicating a certain soon approaching time of great tribulation. There were pictures of world leaders who could most possibly be the Antichrist at the time.

What struck me most was a 40 year line that was directly underneath the main timeline. This 40 year line began at 1948 and ended at 1988. Just below the year 1988 where the 40 year line had ended were the words, Battle of Armageddon. But what was even more striking was seven years earlier along that 40 year timeline was an arrow pointing to 1981. In fact, September of 1981 when some traditional Jewish festival was marked. Just below that arrow was the word “Rapture!”

It was the Fall of 1980. I was 15. I had one year left on earth!

Across the top of the billboard was the phrase “Dispensational Timeline of History.” The gentlemen who would be speaking came over as he noticed I was loitering around the billboard for quite some time. He introduced himself and asked if I had any questions.

“No, not really,” I responded. “Except I do want to know what that word means,” I said pointing to the word title of the timeline.

“Dispensation?” He asked. I nodded. He then asked me a few basic questions about what I thought about the Rapture, Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ. 

“Why, that’s what you are! You’re a Dispensationalist.”

I’m a Dispensationalist?

 

This current chapter, if I used the previous model would probably be the longest chapter of the book because of the general popularity of the view and the intricacies in the details of the view. So, even though there will be a similar outline of this chapter to the three previous chapters, there will be several more chapters that deal with the subject of Dispensationalism.

The following chapters will detail the history, theological implications and impact this view has had on the Church. We will also examine the differences between Dispensationalism and all the other prophetic views. Because at Dispensationalism’s core are several very unique and novel concepts that impact nearly all of the adherent’s worldview, these difference must be explored in greater detail.

So, for this chapter we will simply outline the particulars that make Dispensationalism what it is just as we have done in the previous chapters. The more important and radical distinctions will be dealt with in the following chapters. The emphasis here is on the Millennial expectations, not the underlying or resultant theological implications.

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

It should be noted from the outset that this view is also called the Left Behind as it is the view that is associated with the popular series of books by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. This multi-million selling series fictionalizes a possible end times scenario according to the Dispensational Premillennial position. This is brought up at this point to make the reader aware that often that will be the choice of label for the view, especially when dealing with the modern expectation of the view.

 

DISPENSATIONAL PREMILLENNIALISM

1. Christ offered the Davidic Kingdom (Kingdom of God) at His first advent. This kingdom was rejected by the Jews and was thus postponed to some future time in which the Jews will be punished for their rejection, repent of their transgression and have their kingdom reinstituted during the Millennium Kingdom.

2. The Church was wholly unforeseen and unknown to the Old Testament prophets. The Church is, in a sense, a Plan B alternative to the original Jewish centric plan that was postponed due to Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah. This postponement included the Millennial Kingdom which could have started at Christ’s first coming if the Jews would have embraced Jesus as their Messiah.

3. God has two distinctive eternal plans – one for the Church and one for ethnic Israel. These two “peoples of God” are completely unique and distinct and one cannot receive the blessings or promises of the other. When Scripture speaks of Israel it can and only does mean the natural descendants of Abraham.

4. The “Prophetic Clock” stopped ticking at Christ’s first advent as all Old Testament prophesies were related to Israel exclusively and cannot find their fulfillment in the Church. This postponement or “parenthesis” of prophetic time is most closely associated with Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy in Daniel 9.

5. The Church will fail in history and apostatize near the end times. The Church will then be “raptured” so that the promises made to Israel may be fulfilled during the tribulation. This includes the restoration and fulfillment of the land promises.

6. Christ returns (partially) to “rapture” the Church before the Great Seven Year Tribulation. This novel, two-part second coming of Christ places the Church in heaven during the tribulation celebrating the Great Supper of the Lamb and His Bride (Revelation 19)

7. During the literal seven year Great Tribulation Jews will be converted en masse without the benefit of the Holy Spirit whom will be taken away from the earth during the rapture with the Church since the promise of the Holy Spirit was a New Testament promise given to the Church. Here again the Israel/Church distinction is shown.

8. The Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem – during or previous to the tribulation – and Old Testament Jewish ordinances will be reinstated including the sacrifices of animal. It is believed by many that during that time the animal sacrifices will be efficacious. These sacrifices will be halted by the Antichrist during the Tribulation signaling the start of the Great Tribulation of the final 3 ½ years.

9. Christ returns after the Tribulation with the Church that has been with Him in heaven to kill the Beast (Antichrist) and False Prophet and set up a distinctly Jewish government in Jerusalem – Animal sacrifices (that were stopped during the tribulation by the Anti-Christ) will be re-instituted. It is debated whether these Millennial sacrifices would be efficacious or memorial in nature.

10. The Millennium is a distinctly Jewish economy with the world’s government centralized in Jerusalem. Jesus will reign from the throne of David with a rod of iron. This is the Davidic promise realized and there will be virtual peace throughout this time with the converted Jews receiving the greatest place of honor and the resurrected Church members will have a place, but a lower level of governance.

11. After the 1000 years, Satan is loosed and leads a rebellion against Christ. God intervenes and destroys Satan and throws him into the fiery pit. The eternal order is established.

Early Church Adherents: NONE

Modern Church Adherents: Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Nelson Darby, CI Scofield, Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, Chuck Missler, Charles Ryrie, Thomas Ice, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord

 

EVERYONE IS A CRITIC

 

The detailed criticism of this position will follow in future chapters. Suffice it to say that the timing criticisms of the Classical Premillennial positions would follow here as well. The same for the understanding of the resurrection passage of Revelation 20 and the Judgment passages (Matthew 25). As mentioned in the previous chapter the issue relating to the Second Humiliation of Christ will be dealt with later as well.

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