December 15, 2017

Time to Leave Behind the Rapture

By Chaplain Mike

Come on, children
You’re acting like children
Every generation
Thinks it’s the end of the world

– Wilco, “You Never Know”

I had a spiritual awakening as a teenager in a time when prophetic expectations were high. Israel was in her land and engaged in violent confrontations with her antagonistic neighbors. Issues regarding Arab oil and other tensions in the Middle East were becoming more intense. Life in the United States itself was in turmoil. Ongoing civil rights struggles, the Vietnam war, the youth culture of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, amazing technological achievements such as the Apollo space program, the continuing Cold War, and political intrigue in the White House — all these things and more had believers feeling certain that we were in the last days and that Jesus must certainly be returning soon. Prophetic teachers like Hal Lindsey were having a field day and selling lots and lots of books. Youth groups and outreach events often featured films like A Thief in the Night.

In those days I started following Jesus in a fresh way with my New Scofield Bible in hand, prophetic teaching a major part of the Bible studies I attended and the churches where I worshiped. I wasn’t able to spell “dispensationalism,” but my friends and I believed Jesus was coming back. We sang Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” with real feeling.

Soon, it was off to Bible College and full immersion in the theology of C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, Alva J. McClain, Renald Showers, and Charles Feinberg. If theology was the “Queen of the Sciences,” then dispensationalist eschatology was her crown, I was taught.

In this light, we were warned that such established and traditional interpretations such as “Covenant Theology” and “Amillennialism” were to be dreaded and viewed as hopelessly inadequate. And God forbid that we should get caught making any “compromises” such as acceptance of a post-tribulation rapture. The Book of Revelation was taught in a purely futurist fashion, and the Bible as a whole was presented almost like a giant puzzle book that, once figured out, provided a detailed prophetic vision of “God’s plan for the ages.” It was as clear as the amazing draftsman-like charts in Clarence Larkin’s Dispensational Truth. Which is to say, it was confusing.

Before I ever began to grasp specific exegetical and theological problems with the dispensational system, I felt uncomfortable with the whole approach. The theological charts and outlines and lists of proof texts bore no resemblance to the form of the text I saw when I opened my Bible. I read stories and poetry as well as prophetic passages that spoke in eloquent imagery and with dramatic symbolism that engaged my imagination as well as my mind. However, I could not detect the same kind of beauty or wonder in the prosaic, mechanical system of theology my professors droned on about. All the magnificent animated three dimensional literature of the Scriptures became flattened, reduced to a blueprint or series of mathematical formulae.

Not only that, but the system seemed to miss (or at least downplay) the most important theological point of all — that Jesus and the story of him told in the Gospels is the pinnacle of God’s plan, the fulfillment of his promises. In essence, dispensationalism denies that. Jesus’ ministry was necessary, but only an interim step in God’s ultimate triumph. The real victory will be won when Christ returns. The church is only a “parenthesis” in God’s plan until he starts to work with Israel again.

The dispensational approach fails to see that Jesus fulfilled the calling and role of Israel. They failed to be the light of the world, but he succeeded. Now in him God is gathering his new creation people, made of up of Jews and Gentiles alike. The Jewish people are called to Christ through the Gospel like everyone else, and though God continues to deal providentially with nations, there is no special divine plan for the nation of Israel. The boundaries of the Promised Land now encompass the entire earth, and soon all the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

Not so, say the dispensational teachers. For them the future vision is made up of the Middle East, the nation of Israel, the land of Palestine, the coming Antichrist, a rebuilt temple, the battle of Armageddon, and so on. The event that will trigger it all is the Rapture, when the Church is “caught up” to heaven to be with Christ, spared from the season of trouble that will come on the whole world.

It is only within the entire dispensational system that the teaching of the “Rapture” makes any sense. In fact, you will not find any passage or text in the Bible that unambiguously teaches the pre-tribulation Rapture. It must be inferred from the whole theological package. The reasoning goes like this.

  • God made an eternal covenant with the nation of Israel.
  • As part of that covenant, Jesus came to offer himself to Israel as their King.
  • Israel rejected Jesus, so God set aside Israel for this age and formed the church, which he deals with during this parenthesis in God’s plan known as the Church Age.
  • God’s prophetic clock has stopped until the end of the Church Age, when the church will be removed from earth (via Rapture), and God will restart his plan for Israel.
  • God resumes his work with Israel during the Tribulation period and the prophetic clock starts ticking once more, leading to the Second Coming, the resurrection and the judgment, the millennial kingdom, the final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth.

Dispensationalism asserts that the reason for the Rapture is to bring the Church Age to its conclusion and make way for God to resume his plan for Israel. Deconstruct that reasoning and out goes the Rapture. Without that theological infrastructure, one would be hard pressed to find anything that looks like the Rapture in the teaching of the Bible.

The one passage that people most invoke as a description of the Rapture (“caught up”) is 1Thessalonians 4:13-17, which is Paul’s teaching about Christ’s return (parousia). I won’t take the time to discuss it in detail here, but refer you to an article by N.T. Wright and another piece that includes commentary by Ben Witherington III and others. Both give excellent explanations of the imagery Paul uses in this text. The Apostle is describing Jesus’ return using language from the culture that evoked the visit of a Roman official, something that has been recognized since the days of the early church. For example, here’s a quote from John Chrysostom (349-407) which gives the sense:

For when a king drives into a city, those who are honorable go out to meet him; but the condemned await the judge within. And upon the coming of an affectionate father, his children indeed, and those who are worthy to be his children, are taken out in a chariot, that they may see him and kiss him; but the housekeepers who have offended him remain within. (Homily 8 on 1 Thessalonians)”

As James-Michael Smith says, “Paul is not talking about the mass disappearance of Christians from all over the globe.  He is talking about the final return of Jesus as conquering King and Judge of the Living and Dead.  And he is doing so using the unmistakable vocabulary of Roman Imperial rhetoric, which his Thessalonian readers would’ve immediately recognized.” In other words, the text does not teach a “Rapture” in which the church is removed from the earth, but a triumphant return of a King coming to rule, who is welcomed by those who come out to greet and attend him as he enters his kingdom with acclaim.

There will be one Second Coming, one return, one glorious “appearing” of the Lord Jesus Christ when he comes to consummate his triumphant finished work. It’s time to leave behind puzzle piece theology and read the Bible more carefully as it is given to us, not as we dissect it and put it back together.

In doing so, we will leave teachings like the Rapture far behind.

Comments

  1. Well said & well written.

    Thank you.

  2. Nicely done. Ditto.

  3. I can see where you are going to be left behind on Saturday.

  4. I’ve read the article by Professor Wright. There’s also a lecture online that he gave at Duke last year on this very topic. His page has it.

  5. Chaplin Mike…that was well said. I appreciated you saying those words.

    I heard so much about the rapture when I was in evangelicalism I was kind of say “raptured out”. I was baptized and involved in CCC in 1999/2000 when the Left Behind series was all the rage. Some people couldn’t get enough. We got together watched the cheesy Kirk Cameron movie where Buck learns the evil role of the United Nations, etc.. It was a weird and strange way to start out what would be a 9 year journey on such far out material. And I thought the Mormon’s belief God residing on the planet Kolob strange….

    Then in 2001 I was in the upper midwest when September 11 happened. The rapture theology dialed up a notch. On a day when most people should have been shocked, astounded, and perplexed as to the enormous amounts of lives lost…I couldn’t believe the mixed reactions I heard at my Crusade meeting. One person was like, “Oh Eagle the rapture is going to happen soon and when it does I hope I’m in a sky scraper so I can fly through the building…!!!” Yikes!!! Why are some Christians so weird….? During my time in CCC in the upper midwest Hal Lindsey was strongly pushed. I really didn’t pursue it.

    Then in 2003 there was the next coming “End Times” event given in my evangelical church where the pastor gave a sermon. With close to 250,000 American troops building up for the Iraq invasion, the fact that we have so many troops going into Babylon means that the tribulation could soon be starting. That was an eye opener…but I really couldn’t buy it. People wondered…when is the rapture going to happen?

    Fast forward through frustrating discussions, different small groups, etc.. I eventually found myself working and living in the Washington, D.C. area. The fundegelical mega church I attended and did a mission through did a series on the Emergent Church and what was “orthodox Christianity.” And the Senior Pastor taught and explained that ALL evangelicals must believe in the pre-tribulation rapture. He tied it to other issues and said that if we didn’t agree then we were Emergent and he wanted us to leave this fundegelical chruch. This was in 2008 if I remember. By this time I was sick of hearing about the rapture.

    Here are the problems that deeply trouble me about the rapture.

    1. It appears that given how many Christians are “caught up” in it (pun intended) that it has almost led to a thinking similar to what Jonah had with Ninevah. Let’s focus on ourself and take delight in our leaving and oh…let’s also take delight in the enemies’s destruction. They are sinful and deserve it. At it’s root I would suggest that the rapture concept is a pride filled theology that really has no such place in Christianity. If Christianity is true than I can’t imagine God being smirk about the destruction of many. If it’s true God would probably cry over the destruction and lives lost.
    2. It’s become a substitute for day to day living for some Christians and that is what is really important.
    3. I would suggest it has poisoned the church and that Hal Lindsey and Nelson Derbyshire have passed down a theology that led to a creation of generations that has resulted in a legacy of ashes.
    4. When so many pastors teach and point to the rapture and draw Middle East politics and events into it, as I heard, and illustrated with some of the examples above. Why do these pastors and Christian leaders still have credability? Is their teaching any more perverse than that of Mormon founder Joseph Smith? Or Mormon leader Brigham Young? Why call out the false prophesis and teachings of the Mormons when there are false teachings such as the rapture?
    5. I know John Piper took on Hal Lindsay for his Late Great Planet Earth, but why haven’t more people called out Harold Camping? To be fair I know Al Hohler has as well as Chuck Swindoll. But what about DA Carson, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, etc..?

    As I have exited Christianity a while back I don’t hear about the rapture anymore with the exception of blogs like this. And I will say its refreshing not to hear about it as much as I once did. Last Sarurday I braved enough courage to venture into an evangelical church by myself for the first time in almost 2 years. I noticed as I studied their doctrinal statement that almost 1/3 related to the tribulation and rapture. I just shook my head in disbelief.

    From my perspective I think rapture based theology really poisoned Christianity.

    • I think some people have ignored Harold Camping because he went off the deep end a long time ago and this is just his latest and loudest craziness. Sometimes giving a person like this attention gives him too much credibility.

    • As for calling out Harold Camping, I’m guessing there’s a bit of fatigue and obscurity to it all. People have been warning against him for years: when the 1994 predictions came out, when he called for everyone to flee the church in 2002, and now. In addition, while Family Radio has stations all over the country (and worldwide), they’re often very low-power and barely cover everywhere they claim. They make money by keeping the same thing on every station and having no local staff. Even in the world of weird TV/Radio preachers, Camping’s been a known crank for 20-30 years.

      It’s kind of like how people don’t write books or critique Mike Warnke anymore — he’s still around, but anyone paying attention already knows the story.

      On the other hand, people are calling him out – I’ve heard Al Mohler, Tim LaHaye (!), Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, and Ravi Zacharias’s show address him. Today the radio station I’m working at is interviewing Colin Smith about this whole mess – and we’ve even linked Jason Boyett’s comments about end-times prophets on our site.

      • cermak_rd says:

        I don’t know about their stations being low powered. 91.9 comes in booming strong in Chicagoland. I’m surprised Cardinal George hasn’t issued some kind of statement given that he felt so strongly about warning Chicagoans of the Fraternite Notre Dame which runs St. Roger’s Abbey (a wonderful purveyor of French baked goods).

        • I agree that they cover some large metro areas, and Chicago is one of them (NYC and a good chunk of California as well).

          But those lists on their site are filled with stations that, quite literally, have the power of a car’s dome light. Some of their claims to reaching major cities means that they have a small repeater that may not reach 5 miles from the transmitter — but it looks good in PR.

          Sorry..I’m a radio geek 😉

    • Some of the guys you mentioned ignore Camping because he’s old news…how many times can he say he got his math wrong? It draws more attention to bash Rob Bell, because he’s a better known, more contemporary figure.

    • Eagle:

      Do not give up hope! There are evangelical churches out there that are amillenial and post-millenial who even do not believe in the rapture!

      I’ve always enjoyed my time up the D.C. area. I would not mind one bit if God every called me there to live and serve. Though it seems unlikely, who knows? Either way, I always enjoy the town.

      Blessings

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        For that matter, there are any number of churches where a question about the Rapture would provoke puzzled looks. I don’t know that I even heard of it until I was an adult. Even then it was years before I figured out what it was supposed to be. My church believes in the Rapture to exactly the same degree it believes in the immaculate conception, but talks about it even less. The subject simply does not come up.

    • Eagle, rapture-based theology is only a small fraction of Christianity. I would agree that it poisoned a whole segement of AmericanChristianity, but America is not the world.

      Anyway, I’ve given up on any end-of-the-world scenarios since – well, let me take you back to 1980. The Soviets had just gotten involved in Afghanistan, and going into the New Year, with all the political rhetoric floating around, I was genuinely convinced this was it: the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. were going to go head-to-head in a hot war, which would be a nuclear war, which would be the end of us all. If we made it to 1985, I was going to be very surprised.

      Well, here it is 2011. So I’m expecting that tomorrow, we’ll all still be here after 6 p.m. local time.

      One day it will come, but ‘you know not the day nor the hour’.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And if precedent is any guide, your own Personal End of the World will come first.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Dispatch from the front lines:

      My writing partner (the burned-out rural pastor) told me that a couple days ago, somebody slipped into his church and left a LOT of Campingite 5/21/2011 flyers and pamphlets all over the Sanctuary. Kicker was, that part of the building won’t be occupied until Sunday the 22nd.

      This is the same burned-out pastor who told me once “John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay single-handedly destroyed Protestant Christianity in America.”

      • You can blame the (Anglo)-Irish for part of that one, HUG, as John Nelson Darby originated in Dublin; quick précis of Wikipedia article: born in London of an Angl-Irish family, became a Church of Ireland clergyman, had some success converting Roman Catholics until his bishop wanted converts to swear allegiance to the King, thought this was unBiblical and quit, fell off his horse and came up with Dispensationalism in the period of meditation after his accident.

        Founded what would eventually become the Plymouth Brethren: numbers in 2007 “There are perhaps 1,000,000 people who can be roughly classified as Plymouth Brethren worldwide, the majority of which belong to the Open Brethren. Of the rest, it is difficult to number, with the exception of the Raven/Taylor/Hales group, of which there are approximately 40,000 meeting in 300 church assemblies in 19 countries, with strongest representation in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and North America.”

        Tiny numbers to have had such a huge influence on American Christianity. I’m trying to hammer home here that the Rapture is an American concern; even if it’s only a small percentage in American Christianity, it’s minute to the point of invisibility elsewhere, even in the countries where it originated.

        I’m fascinated to know how exactly this kind of doctrine so appeals to Americans – any thoughts on that?

        • Radagast says:

          Had a feeling he wasn’t a true Catholic Irishman….

          • What intrigued me was the falling off the horse bit; he obviously felt it was in the nature of a Pauline conversion, but I have to wonder: how hard did he hit his head?

            😉

          • Darby’s pedigree was British, and Martha is well in bounds to disclaim him as a true Hibernian. Darby’s sojourn in Ireland seems to have been focused on converting the Catholics to Christianity. C. I. Scofield was only ab associate of the real impetus behind the popularization of dispensational theology in the US, the revivalist and religious entrepreneur, Dwight L. Moody.

        • Quixotequest says:

          A strong American nationalism seems to go hand in hand with Rapture belief. (Thankfully I don’t know anyone so hyper Rapture-ite that they’ve made plans for tomorrow’s End of Days.) Those I’ve met have a strong sense of America being a God-ordained country, sometimes even being seen as the pinnacle of righteous human governmental and socio-economic expression. I’m only guessing here: Perhaps someone with such a strong sense of nationalistic purposefulness looks around at Mass Culture, and feeling like it is losing some measure of its influence, righteousness and import, can’t help but thinking God’s final purposes for creation are imminent, and hence Rapture belief becomes strongly appealing.

          Mormonism has a very distinct take in these regards, and as an ex-Mormon I have no attraction nor sympathy for end-of-world preoccupation and hyper-nationalism, especially when latter is expressed as an aspect of the former. Since my life as a Believer began I’ve enjoyed community among Evangelicals except do feel an outsider among those who make nationalism and pre-Trib Rapture eschatology a strong identifier of their faith being mature and well-placed. God’s granted me more patience to worship among these kind of Believers, but an outsider I feel all the same around them because a strong allegiance to certain perspectives on eschatology isn’t a dominant quality by which I self-identify my belief in Christ.

    • David L says:

      “When so many pastors teach and point to the rapture and draw Middle East politics and events into it, as I heard, and illustrated with some of the examples above. Why do these pastors and Christian leaders still have credability? ”

      Because it would be way too uncomfortable to deal with our industrialized need for oil causing many of these issues. Believing in all these end times theories mean they can still drive their SUVs to the grocery and it not be their fault in any way shape or form.

      Says someone who’s definitely NOT a tree hugging environmentalist.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Believing in all these end times theories mean they can still drive their SUVs to the grocery and it not be their fault in any way shape or form.

        op cit James Watt’s 1981 appointment as Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior; specifically the urban legend version of his examination by Congress.

    • Radagast says:

      I always wondered about what dispensationalists thought about events leading up to WWII. In America we had the wild 20’s followed by world wide economic crisis of the 30’s, the rise of a Fascist regime and in particular Hitler who could have been associated with an antichrist and finally a huge world conflict with many nations banning together. Doesn’t that fit a lot of the scenario?

      Also – Eagle – since you are looking at Christianity from a more reason based point of view these days – why not venture out into the Christianity you are less familiar with (mainline Protestant, Anglican, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox) and just give it all a listen. Since you already have the in-depth background it might actually be kind of fun to compare and contrast (OK – my idea of fun could be a bit warped). And in a number of these churches you won’t hear recent inventions like Rapture. If I didn’t have an interest in other Christian/JewishMuslim traditions or spend time on this site I wouldn’t even know what dispensationalism is.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In America we had the wild 20′s followed by world wide economic crisis of the 30′s, the rise of a Fascist regime and in particular Hitler who could have been associated with an antichrist and finally a huge world conflict with many nations banning together. Doesn’t that fit a lot of the scenario?

        As I understand it, the End Time Prophecy types of the period completely dropped the ball. They concentrated on Proving Mussolini Was The Antichrist while ignoring Hitler completely. (A real kicker when Reichsminister Goebbels was praising Hitler as “the only intermediary between God and Man” and “Jesus Christ cannot be compared to the Glory of the Fuehrer”.) The scenario was that Hitler would conquer the world (“It’s Prophesied, It’s Prophesied…”) then step aside and hand everything over to Mussolini who would fulfill all the prophecies of The Antichrist. I think this was because Mussolini (in his bombast) officially renamed Italy “The New Roman Empire” and punched the “Revived Roman Empire” button of the End Time Prophecy checklists.

  6. Martin Romero says:

    There is a certain sense of pride on having it all figured out, on having that special revelation which “clears” everything, of being the chosen ones and, somehow, being above all the others who supposedly got it wrong.

    I think that, in a way, it is a type of gnosticism where the knowledge of something else puts you in an advantageous, special place. Christ and the cross might even become relegated to a second position, not being enough for our salvation, since it is those who have this knowledge who will in the end be redeemed.

    All you’ve mentioned sounds very familiar to me, since I’ve seen the same attitude, in a different theological background, but dealing with the same escathological issues. And the somewhat amusing thing (although it is actually sad) is to see how people who commit the same basic mistakes end up accusing each other of being wrong and deceived.

    • My brother calls this “incipient gnosticism”. I tend to agree. There is a real element of having the special knowledge required to “really” understand the Bible.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think that, in a way, it is a type of gnosticism where the knowledge of something else puts you in an advantageous, special place.

      t.e. “The Secret (Occult) Knowledge (Gnosis) that I And Only I Alone Possess!”

      Lewis called this “The Lure of the Inner Ring,” and it fuels every Conspiracy Theory in existence. “But (unlike all the sheeple) I KNOW What’s REALLY Going On! (smug smug smug)”

      Christ and the cross might even become relegated to a second position, not being enough for our salvation, since it is those who have this knowledge who will in the end be redeemed.

      Whether This Knowledge (TM) is Young Earth Creationism/Flood Geology or Bible Code Numerology-calculated 5/21/2011.

      • t.e. “The Secret (Occult) Knowledge (Gnosis) that I And Only I Alone Possess!”

        Lewis called this “The Lure of the Inner Ring,” and it fuels every Conspiracy Theory in existence. “But (unlike all the sheeple) I KNOW What’s REALLY Going On! (smug smug smug)”

        Whether This Knowledge (TM) is Young Earth Creationism/Flood Geology or Bible Code Numerology-calculated 5/21/2011.

        i am surprised no one has yet mentioned the Prophetic Movement which took its que from Dispy teachings. in order to make sense of the times & events happening now & how they fit into the Grand Plan of God’s End Times Mega-Blender, every self-appointed ‘prophet’ & their kitchen sink have something new & freshly revealed to throw into the mix…

        [sigh]

        the ramped up spiritual warfare crowd on steroids as well as the signs+wonders thrill seekers & the Uber Prophetic-Rhetoric X-treme types all feed into this madcap mania that is no longer a fringe element of the church. it is big business, full-time, hyper-hyped up full-blown frenzy much akin to a 1Kings 18 scenario! all of this is inter-related since the crazy uncle types flock together as birds-of-a-feather. since i am pleased that many responders here actually refer to the Dispy teachings as ‘poison’ or ‘toxic’ or at the least damaging, there must be an equal or louder cry about the continual craziness being done today in the name of God that makes Dispy teachings+attitudes look life biblical fluff compared to what’s being peddled on the more extreme streams of gnostic/esoteric claims+practices…

        Lord have mercy… 🙁

  7. I read the article all the way through very carefully (in fact, more than once), and would offer these comments…

    1. The author, Chaplain Mike, is doing more condemning, whining, coming to false conclusions and complaining than offering any solid scriptural backing (he relies on opinion and comments, but NOT scripture) for what he claims that he now believes in, or claims is wrong with (his interpretation of) what he has labeled “Dispensationalism.”

    2. He, like many who follow the same thinking toward the Bible as he does, rely heavily on reducing scripture ad hoc to mere symbols to prove their doctrines. And I quote him…

    “I read stories and poetry as well as prophetic passages that spoke in eloquent imagery and with dramatic symbolism that engaged my imagination as well as my mind.”

    “Dramatic symbolism” of what? He fails to tell us, as do other Amillennialists.

    Every Amillennialists I have EVER debated ALWAYS reduces scripture to symbols; that is to say that a given scripture we happen to debate that disproves what an Amillennialists believe in is immediately reduced to ONLY a symbol, and when asked what said scripture (now symbolized) means, in almost ALL cases I hear these words “I don’t know.”

    Yes, the Bible contains many symbols, but it is dangerous when passages of scripture are seen ONLY as symbols and not as actual events or reality. Amillennialists, as Chaplain Mike is doing, reduce far too many passages of scripture to symbols.

    I was once told by an Amillennialist that the Garden of Eden, the creation of Adam and Eve, the temptation of Adam and Eve, the fruit of temptation, the serpent, the fall of Adam and Eve, the fig leaves, etc., did not actually happen and were “only symbols.”

    When I pressed him as to what they were symbols of he couldn’t tell me only commenting that “maybe how evil people are and that God does not approve of disobedience to him.” When I asked him where did humanity come from, he answered “evolution, where else?!”

    I am NOT saying that all Amillennialist would agree with him, but his thinking is typical of the arguments used by Amillennialists; i.e., relying heavily on symbolizing direct straight forward scripture they can’t explain away, or that disprove their point of view, using any other method.

    Again; the first rule of the Bible is that it says what it means, and means exactly what it says. If it is using symbols, you will know. The story of Adam and Eve is NOT a symbol.

    In discussing the 1000 year reign of Christ, the millennium, my other Amillennialist friend exclaimed “there is no such thing!” When I asked him why it was in the Bible (book of Rev.) he said, and I quote “its a neat symbol!” I asked a symbol of what? He answered “ummm, not sure, something like 10 times 10 times 10 or something like that.”

    3. Chaplain Mike states…

    “Not only that, but the system seemed to miss (or at least downplay) the most important theological point of all—that Jesus and the story of him told in the Gospels is the pinnacle of God’s plan, the fulfillment of his promises. In essence, dispensationalism denies that.”

    Simply stated; HOG WASH, it no case does so-called “dispensationalism” downplay the supreme importance of Jesus and the story of His life, death and resurrection as revealed in the gospels. That claim by Chaplain Mike is 100% NONSENSE. Jesus’ life is the center focus of the Bible and God’s plan for man and redemption.

    4. Chaplain Mike states…

    “The dispensational approach fails to see that Jesus fulfilled the calling and role of Israel.”

    No, it does not. Jesus IS the reason for the nation of Israel. God called a people, the children of Israel, to be His people. The people through whom the Messiah Jesus would be born and that He would reveal Himself through.

    Jesus DID fulfill His calling, BUT, that DOES NOT mean that God is finished with the nation of Israel, HE IS NOT FINISHED with them. He has many promises to fulfill toward the nation and people of Israel and he WILL DO SO. “Chaplain Mike” has not the slightest idea of what he is talking about if he believes that God is done with Israel.

    As as side point; that kind of thinking by Chaplin Mike lead Luther to refer to Jews as “snakes and vipers.” Luther, as great of a man that he was, was also a strong anti-Semite AND an Amillennialist. Also, I had an Amillennialist try to convince me that the holocaust was “a Jewish lie.” And he went on to tell me that “God was finished with the Jews for good.”

    5. Chaplain Mike states concerning 1Thessalonians 4:13-17…

    “Both give excellent explanations of the imagery Paul uses in this text. The Apostle is describing Jesus’ return using language from the culture that evoked the visit of a Roman official, something that has been recognized since the days of the early church.”

    He, Chaplin Mike, goes on to quote John Chrysostom (349-407) concerning the rapture of the church and 1Thessalonians 4:13-17…

    “For when a king drives into a city, those who are honorable go out to meet him; but the condemned await the judge within. And upon the coming of an affectionate father, his children indeed, and those who are worthy to be his children, are taken out in a chariot, that they may see him and kiss him; but the housekeepers who have offended him remain within.”

    Nice poetry, nice fantasy, and nice try; but is a ridiculous and silly explanation of 1Thessalonians 4:13-17 which states…

    13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

    14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

    15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

    16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

    17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

    This is NOT a symbol, it is in fact a future reality.

    And, how does this comment (referred to by Chaplin Mike) disprove the rapture of the church? It simply does not…

    “For when a king drives into a city, those who are honorable go out to meet him; but the condemned await the judge within. And upon the coming of an affectionate father, his children indeed, and those who are worthy to be his children, are taken out in a chariot, that they may see him and kiss him; but the housekeepers who have offended him remain within. (Homily 8 on 1 Thessalonians)”

    Again; Nice poetry, nice fantasy, nice try!

    Chaplin Mike also relies on the comment of James-Michael Smith who states the following…

    “Paul is not talking about the mass disappearance of Christians from all over the globe.”

    Really, he isn’t? Paul thought he was when he writes “…shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” “IN THE CLOUDS, IN THE AIR.”

    It is CLEAR that Paul WAS talking about the mass disappearance of Christians from all over the globe. But, NOT, if this is mere symbol. Sorry, it was NOT mere symbol. Paul said what he meant, and meant what he said.

    6. Chaplin Mike seems to have a problem with the following (as he states)…

    “God made an eternal covenant with the nation of Israel.”

    God did, via an eternal covenant with Abraham.

    “As part of that covenant, Jesus came to offer himself to Israel as their King.”

    Jesus did.

    “Israel rejected Jesus, so God set aside Israel for this age and formed the church, which he deals with during this parenthesis in God’s plan known as the Church Age.”

    Not sure about any “parenthesis in God’s plan,” but God DID turn His attention to the Gentiles including calling Paul to minister to the Gentiles. Also, the Bible states that a partial blindness has come on Israel.

    “God’s prophetic clock has stopped until the end of the Church Age, when the church will be removed from earth (via Rapture), and God will restart his plan for Israel.”

    Really, the clock stopped? I did not know that. There is nothing in scripture that states that “God’s prophetic clock has stopped” Nothing.

    “God resumes his work with Israel during the Tribulation period and the prophetic clock starts ticking once more, leading to the Second Coming, the resurrection and the judgment, the millennial kingdom, the final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth.”

    Again, what clock has stopped?

    7. Chaplin Mike concludes…

    “In doing so, we will leave teachings like the Rapture far behind.”

    Very sad that he does. The future rapture of the church off the earth is solid Biblical doctrine. Not only stated clearly in 1Thessalonians 4:13-17, but also in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53…

    51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

    52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

    53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

    Chaplin Mike needs to do a bit more studying. The bible is clear in revealing a 1000 year reign of Christ and to some degree what it will be like…

    Millennium” is a theological word derived from the Latin words mille, meaning “thousand,” and annus, meaning “year.”

    The theological word “millennium” has been used to refer to the “thousand years” mentioned in Rev. 20:2-7.

    Rev. 20:2 – “Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years”
    Rev. 20:3 – “until the thousand years are fulfilled”
    Rev. 20:4 – “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years”
    Rev. 20:5 – “until the thousand years were ended”
    Rev. 20:6 – “reign with Him a thousand years”
    Rev. 20:7 – “whenever the thousand years are ended”

    1. The Greek words used in these verses…

    a. chilia ete means “thousand years”

    b. Term “chiliasm” also sometimes used as theological term for “thousand years,” but often carries pejorative sense.

    2. Some theological interpretations believe that other Biblical passages refer to the period of the millennium…

    O.T. – Isa. 9:6; 11:1-12:6; 52:7-12; Jer. 33:17-22; Ezek. 37:25; Zech 9:9

    N.T. – Matt. 19:28; 25:31-46; Lk. 14:14; I Cor. 15:22; I Thess. 4:13-18

    • Terry, I have one question for you: how important is dispensationalist eschatology to salvation?

      In the present day, I don’t see that there’s any conflict between your approach and Chaplain Mike’s approach as to how we ought to live our lives. I hope one of you will correct me if I’m wrong, but I imagine that both amillenialists and dispensationalists believe that we should live every day as if we expected to die tomorrow – hopeful, prayerful, and prepared to meet God (as much as that’s possible).

      That Jesus will come again as King, there is no disagreement between you. That is the foundational hope of Christianity. Whether a person studies the prophecies and watches for signs, or whether that person waits in blissful ignorance, Jesus will return just the same. Please, don’t lose sight of that, however fascinating the period leading up to his return may be. At the end of things, after all, it won’t matter how we got there.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        From the length and micromanaging precision (backed up with chapter-and-verse doubleplusduckspeak), Terry threw Christ under the PMD bus long ago.

        PMD = Pre-Millenial Dispensationalism or Protestants of Mass Destruction, take your pick.

        All I know for sure is Terry’s brand of Dispensationalism Uber Alles and the resulting Rapture Scares du Jour really F’ed up my head back in the Seventies. Didn’t stop having flashbacks until 1988. When you’ve been immersed in an end-of-the-world cult and come out of it, you develop an allergic reaction.

      • RE: “Terry, I have one question for you: how important is dispensationalist eschatology to salvation?”

        I am not exactly sure what you are asking, but agree with you when you write “…amillenialists and dispensationalists believe that we should live every day as if we expected to die tomorrow – hopeful, prayerful, and prepared to meet God (as much as that’s possible.”

    • Adrienne says:

      Thank you Terry. Excellent post. You “spoke for me” and I am very grateful.

    • Terry, thanks for assuming that I’ve never studied this. I told you I was indoctrinated in dispensationalism from the mid-70’s. I could prove all the points you made better than you do.

      The point is, I came to see that it’s all a bunch of hooey.

      I said in the post that I was not going to deal with it in detail at this point, and I’m not going to do so in the comments to this post either. Look for future posts to clarify and expand.

      Suffice it at this point for me to answer with this:

      1. An Amillennial or other approach (partial preterist) does not “reduce everything to mere symbols.” It properly recognizes the use of metaphorical language in prophetic teaching (which, by the way is almost entirely written in poetry).

      2. Most of the OT visions of the future have to do either with the return of Israel from exile and the first coming of Christ to redeem them or with the new heavens and new earth. In the NT, many of Jesus’ prophecies have to do with the fall of Jerusalem and much of the Book of Revelation should be read in the light of the Roman empire. This is not “symbolizing” but recognizing the true intent of the prophecies.

      3. Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel. That means God’s covenant with Israel is fulfilled and completed in Christ, and those who are IN CHRIST are the people of God, not the “nation” of Israel. As Paul says in Galatians 3:26-29: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”

      4. Many of the things you attribute to me—”parenthesis,” “prophetic clock stops ticking,” and so on are not my language but the exact language of those who teach the doctrines you are advocating. I know because I sat under them for years and read all their books.

      5. You did not answer the interpretation about the background of 1Thess 4:13-18 at all, merely called it “poetry and fantasy.” I quoted recognized biblical scholars and an early Church Father that held that view.

      6. 1Cor 15 does not teach a rapture. It teaches that at the time of the resurrection, those who are alive will be changed.

      7. As for the millennium, you put all your eggs in the basket of one short passage that is found in Revelation, the most symbolic and difficult-to-interpret book in the Bible. The passage can be explained in several other ways. Furthermore, even if it did teach a millennium, it does not teach the kind of millennium the dispensationalists assert—with a renewed people of Israel and a King reigning from a Davidic throne in the new temple in Jerusalem.

      Thanks for your input, Terry. I’ve heard it all before a thousand times. I don’t think it holds any water whatsoever.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “An Amillennial or other approach (partial preterist) does not “reduce everything to mere symbols.” It properly recognizes the use of metaphorical language in prophetic teaching (which, by the way is almost entirely written in poetry).”

        My standard response to those who imagine that they read the Bible literally, rejecting any symbolic interpretation, is to quote the first clause of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd”. If we are serious about reading that literally, the inevitable conclusion is that the Psalmist is saying that the Lord is an employee who works for him: sort of like saying the Lord is my baby sitter. The usual interpretation can’t work in a literal reading, since the Psalmist is not a literal sheep.

        Yet no one seems to actually read the text literally, or to have any problem with the usual reading that the Psalmist is comparing his relationship with the Lord to that of a sheep to its shepherd. Even people who break out in hives at the word “metaphor” have no problem with this. From this I conclude that either they don’t know what “metaphor” means or that they are very careful indeed to avoid thinking to much about scripture.

      • Radagast says:

        +100

      • Chaplin Mike, I never said “that (you) never studied this.” I suggested that you need to study the subject at hand further.

        As I stated “Chaplin Mike needs to do a bit more studying.” That is an honest opinion and it is based on many statements you make that to me (based on reasonable Biblical logic) are in error.

        Case in point; how could you take the position of “Time to Leave Behind the Rapture” when this event is so clear in (among other scriptures) 1Thessalonians 4:13-17, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53?

        Goodness sakes, Chaplin, how much more clearer could Paul have been? This is as CLEAR as it could be…

        ” we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

        Leave it behind? Are you saying we need to abandon it? Abandon ” caught up together.” i.e., rapture? Harpazo? “Leave behind” or abandon obvious and straight forward clear scriptural doctrine? What exactly are you saying? Are you reducing, as Amillennialism does, so much of scripture to nebulous symbols?

        Paul could not have been clearer in describing the event of the rapture of the true believers. Something you call “a bunch of hooey. ” I call it truth, fact, reality; and I seriously believe Paul did also.

        Harpazo…KJV (13) – catch, 1; catch away, 2; catch up, 4; pluck, 2; pull, 1; take by force, 3;

        ** ref.: 1Thessalonians 4:13-17…

        13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

        14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

        15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

        16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

        17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

        • There is only one return of Christ and all your references describe the resurrection that will occur at that time perfectly. It’s all about the one single return of Christ and the resurrection.

          • Correct, Jesus will ONLY return ONCE, but the rapture of the church IS NOT a return; Jesus does not set foot on earth, we, as Paul reveals, meet Him in the clouds. NOT on earth. The rapture of the church is NOT the second coming of Christ (which will happen after).

            Notice “…IN THE CLOUDS to meet the Lord IN THE AIR.”

            1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18

            13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them IN THE CLOUDS to meet the Lord IN THE AIR. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

        • Terry, I stand by my answer to your previous post. It appears you did not listen to what I wrote then. So I’m not going to answer further.

          • JoanieD says:

            Chaplain Mike posted at 6:56 pm, so he is not raptured! Me neither. Party on, fellow imonkers!

          • Chaplin Mike, I have just one question for you, and with all due respect to you as a brother, please be kind enough to answer this following question.

            All Amillennialists that I have read of OR spoken to in person (two of my very good friends are Amillennialists) claim that ALL of the events spoken of by Jesus in Matt. 24 have already come to pass (they claim by 70AD at the sacking of Jerusalem). I am assuming that you, as Amillennialist in your point of view, adhere to the same point of view.

            My point (leading to my question) is that if the events of Matt. 24 HAVE NOT come to pass as Amillennialism claims, then Amillennialism, that is to say a great part of the claims of Amillennialism, are strongly unproven and shown to be in error.

            Therefore I ask you to list for me relative to verse by where, how and when IN FACT…please note I emphasize IN FACT have come to pass as Jesus stated they would. We know that His statement of the temple being destroyed leaving not a stone upon another came to pass by 70AD, but please provide for me proof of where, how and when IN FACT the remaining statements of Jesus (in the Olivet discourse) came to pass. I.e., events such as (among others)…

            > Matt. 24:30…

            30 Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

            NOTE: “the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory”

            > Matt. 24:14…

            And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

            NOTE: “in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.”

            > Matt. 24:21…

            21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

            NOTE: “unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”

            > Matt. 24:44…

            So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

            NOTE: “Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

            > Matt. 24: 39…

            That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

            NOTE: “Two men…Two women… one will be taken and the other left.”

            Chaplin Mike, how, where and when did these (and the remainder of Matt. 24) IN FACT come to pass by 70AD as Amillennialism claims?

            I await your response, Chaplin Mike. Thank you.

            • Terry, I said I was not going to get into detail at this point. Please stay tuned for future posts. There are perfectly legitimate answers to your questions, and I will deal with them. At this point, let me say I do think that Jesus was pointing primarily to 70AD, but that the language goes beyond that and applies to the End as well. This is the way most “prophecy” works in Scripture. There is always a near-term event that is the primary focus of the prophet, but the prophet’s language points to ultimate events as well. So it is not a simple “amillennialism” thinks it’s all about 70ad, and “dispensationalism” thinks it’s all about the future. That is simplistic thinking and doesn’t represent either the richness of the text or the views of those who thoughtfully interpret it.

    • Terry let’s be honest..the same dispensationalism theology crap that I heard in many Christian ministries is garbage. Its the height of arrogence and pride to focus so exclusively on yourself and heaven while in the process be full of glee at the smiting or destruction of others. Not only that it allows “Christians” to ignore their neighbor.

      Why take care of that alcoholic if you’re going to be raptured tomorrow?
      Why take care of the gay man with HIV if you’re going to be raptured tomorrow?
      Why take care of that homeless drug addict if you’re going to be raptured tomorrow?

      The rapture theology is pretty screwed up. It’s in the same league as Mormonism’s “Godhood” and the idea that God lives on a planet called “Kolob”. Christianity lost its way when some parts of the rapture were firmly embraced. And it’s garbage like that which really repulses me from Christianity. Do you have to believe in the rapture to know God? NO. Is it neccessary for salvation? NO. If it is…then I’ll stay away from the church.

      • Eagle, I admit that I may have started us down this direction, but let’s be careful of disrespectful language here.

        I think some of your connections with Mormon theology in the past could be an area of fruitful discussion here. Do you see any specific parallels with regard to eschatology? I find it interesting that both Mormonism and adventist approaches to eschatology (of which dispensationalism is a form) arose and became movements at about the same time and in similar cultural circumstances here in America. William Miller (of the Millerite “Great Disappointment”) lived from 1782-1849 in New York and New England. Joseph Smith lived from 1805-1844 and started his movement in western NY.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I find it interesting that both Mormonism and adventist approaches to eschatology (of which dispensationalism is a form) arose and became movements at about the same time and in similar cultural circumstances here in America.

          Just from that, I would expect the two movements to have some similarities. Both came out of the same culture in roughly the same place and time.

        • Chaplin Mike-

          Before the founding of Mormonism there were many revivals and religious movements in upstate New York that shaped and probably influenced Joseph Smith. Brigham Young is from Vermont if my memory serves me and I am not sure if he was as influenced by those same movements. The Mormons do not believe in the rapture. However they firmly believe that Christ will return will be post-tribulation, and pre-millennial. According to LDS theology (I got this off the Utah Lighthouse Ministry website of Sandra and Jerald Tanner) the wicked will die and those who are deemed moral will stay on the earth in mortal condition. The purpose for the Millennium are to catch up on baptisms and all temple marriages needed for the dead, so that they may have the same opportunities to accept Mormonism as the living. At the end of the millennium they believe Satan will be let loose for a short time.

          Mormons also believe that Jesus will return and usher in the Millennium. One from Jerusalem and one from Jackson Country. Missouri. It can be really farfetched…..

          • cermak_rd says:

            I believe that area was referred to as the Burned Over District because of all the revivals that had gone through.

            I’ve always wondered if one of the reasons for the Millerites and the Mormons and such was the impending Civil war. It must’ve looked a bit like a Gotterdamerung was just looming on the horizon.

          • Radagast says:

            I do have a fondness for the Mormons – after all I could not have gotten as far in my geneology research if it wasn’t for them…. though they do have an underlying agenda of baptizing all the dead relatives I find in the Mormon faith. I had a great discussion with a mormon while doing some research and the whole – where you go when you die thing reminded me a bit of Catholic Purgatory (although I think of that more as a process than a place).

            I think a deep discussion on Mormon theology would be fun one day. Some of it – for me – almost seems like good science fiction fodder.

            That being said – I do enjoy those missionaries that come to talk, we have some wonderful theological discussions and most are young – and with all the kids I have I guess they feel more at home (most come in from Idaho).

        • @ Chaplin Mike, I have to pause and have a bit of a laugh at Eagle and his comment on dispensationalism; Eagle would have a real problem with Paul who all but declared himself a dispensationalist by stating that we are living in a time Paul labeled and referred to as “the dispensation of grace.”

          Clearly a person would not refer to the age we are living in as “the dispensation of grace” unless he saw it as a dispensation and therefore he could accurately be referred to as a “dispensationalist.”

          That does not mean that Paul would agree with all dispensationalist thinking today, but it DOES indicate that he saw our age as a dispensation and had no problem using the phrase “the dispensation of grace.”

          Paul was clearly a dispensationalist.

          ref. Ephesians 3:2 (King James Version)

          “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward…”

          NOTE: “DISPENSATION of the grace”

          Sorry Eagle, take up your aversion toward dispensationalism with The Apostle Paul and ask him if it’s “crap.”

          • Sorry, Terry, I don’t base my beliefs on a translation from the King James Version. You have ignored my attempts to engage you in discussion on fundamental issues of interpretation every step of the way throughout these comments and insisted on pursuing your own agenda. I see no further reason to continue. I am placing you on moderation, and your comments will only be approved if you truly want to have a discussion.

      • @Eagle…

        RE: “Its the height of arrogence and pride to focus so exclusively on yourself”

        I’m not focusing on myself, but rather on Amillennialism and it’s claims, so I fail to see your point.

      • @Eagle

        RE: “Terry let’s be honest..the same dispensationalism theology crap that I heard in many Christian ministries is garbage.”

        Yes, but you offer NOTHING to prove your point that “dispensationalism theology crap that I heard in many Christian ministries is garbage,” so it is pointless to answer you beyond this note.

        Sorry, your comment is meaningless and of little, if any, value.

    • So the Church was wrong for over 1800 years in their end times teaching, and it was only in the last 100 years that men finally unlocked the secret meaning of the Bible through Dispensationalism by John Darby, CI Schofield, etc? Too many people proof-text and fail to understand Bible generes which leads to bad theology, IMO.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Don’t forget how Hal Lindsay finally unlocked the secret meaning of the plagues of Revelation — Nuclear Weapons Effects, All Of Them!

        Secret = Occult.
        Meaning/Knowledge = Gnosis.

        P.S. Terry? The original IMonk had a standard comment to comments as long as yours:

        “If you’re going to write a comment that long, get your own blog.”

    • The Guy from Knoxville says:

      Terry, I’m inclined to agree with the posts following this………… I was raised with the dispensational background in a rural SBC church and we had a copy of the book The Dispensational Truth at home and my dad sill hangs on to that to some degree but not I….. I too have heard it all and the one thing I am convinced of is how one believes on this issue is not salvation critical! No person – no one is going to heaven or hell based on their end time beliefs. Far too many times this stuff is used to beat people over the head to the point of “if you don’t believe this you are lost and without hope” and this is exactly how you come across and you need to stop it as does the rest who embrace the idea! Just STOP IT!!

      I do tend to believe God is not finished with the nation of Israel – they became a nation again in 1948 – that was no accident and the fact they are still in existance itself says that God is not done yet. I think our president yesterday set his face against them and there is reason to think/believe that that will not be at all good for the US but that’s as far as I go with this and even my postion has nothing what-so-ever to do with salvation any more than dispensationalism does or any other end times beliefs or senarios. Listen, my wife came from the Preterist background and it does not get more messed up than that but thankfully she didn’t fully embrace that anymore than I have dispensationalism. End times is good to discuss but where the “rubber meets the road” salvation is where you stand with Christ – your relationship with him……. my trust in Christ is my only hope not trust or faith in an end times senario.

      In a word (or three) get over it – believe what you want – you are free to do so but don’t try to make it a salvation critical issue and try to sweep all who differ into hell. Just stop it!

    • Terry said, “Again; the first rule of the Bible is that it says what it means, and means exactly what it says.”

      First, where did this rule come from? Is it in the Bible? I don’t remember reading that in the preface. If not, then it’s a hermeneutical principle that you’ve brought in from outside the Bible itself. Which, in and of itself, is not a problem, we all do that and must. But it means that you have to have rules for interpretation. Which leads to the second problem.

      Second, “it means exactly what is says” is very ambiguous. That is to say, what is “exactly?” You said afterwards that if its a symbol, we’ll know it… how? Does eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood mean exactly what it says? In what sense?

      Hermeneutics is at the core of the issue. This is almost invariably the case, especially when dealing with differences between theological systems. Investigate methods of interpretation and you’ll see that it’s not so simple as the Bible means exactly what it says.

      I tend to agree with Chaplain Mike’s interpretation on this one.

      • I thought the first rule of the Bible is: You do not talk about the Bible.

        And the second rule of the Bible is: You do not talk about the Bible.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Second, “it means exactly what is says” is very ambiguous. That is to say, what is “exactly?”

        Kynge Jaymes Englyshe?

      • You’ll all be sorry when that seven-headed, ten-horned beast rises from the sea.

      • @Kevin…

        RE: Terry said, “Again; the first rule of the Bible is that it says what it means, and means exactly what it says.”

        OK, we’ll go with “the Bible doesn’t mean what it says, and doesn’t say what it means.” Is that better, Kevin?

        My point should be obvious; a good place to start when studying the Bible is that the Bible is true, reliable, says what it means and means what it says.

        Does that make sense to you, Kevin? It does to me, and is a very good way to keep out of error when studying the Bible. Have to say, it has worked for me.

        It would be hard to list all of the doctrines, religious cults and error that have arisen from “private interpretations” of scripture. Another rule of Bible study is this; “the Bible will interpret itself.” Is it OK by you to make that the second rule?

        Amillennialism relies heavily on symbolizing vast sums of scripture to bend said scripture to Amillennialist thinking. If Chaplin Mike answers my questions concerning Matt.24, my guess is that you will see massive symbolizing in blatant action to explain away what Jesus IN FACT said and to bring His words under the control of Amillennialist doctrine.

        As I have said, SOME use of symbols does appear in the Bible, but we need to be VERY careful when applying symbolization to scripture.

        • Terry, there are many problems with your approach. Let me mention a couple.

          First, you keep using the word “symbolizing” when you obviously don’t know what it means. It sounds like you are just repeating stereotypical, blanket criticisms used by dipensationalists against other interpretations. No one is talking about “symbolizing.” Prophecy/poetry uses metaphor and other kinds of illustrative language to describe reality. that’s not “reading into” the Bible, that’s reading it properly according to the language in which it is written.

          Second, I find it ironic that you criticize “private interpretation” when the whole “rapture” doctrine and end times approach that you advocate grew out of the private interpretations of people like Darby and Scofield.

          • Chaplin Mike, to be honest, I am well aware of the concept of using symbols (and types) in the Bible, having said that, I am equally aware of the problems of over symbolizing scripture in an attempt to bend said scripture to a set of doctrinal beliefs.

            One example of using a symbol would be the dove that landed on Jesus’ shoulder after He was baptized by John. The dove was a symbol, not an actual bird that the Holy Spirit had perhaps “incarnated into.” How do we know it was a symbol or at the very least not a real dove? Simple; the bible says so…

            Mark 1:8-10:

            “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

            Notice “LIKE a dove.” This is a clear indication that we are not to take literally that it was an actual physical dove or bird. The Holy Spirit had not incarnated into a bird. It was something that looked like a dove, or a symbol of a dove, NOT a real dove.

        • @Terry
          Just got back around to checking on this, so I realize it’s very late in the game, but i wanted to respond – if only for posterity’s sake. 🙂

          What I was trying to do was point out that you are using a particular hermeneutic in your approach to understanding the Bible, and that that hermeneutic itself is not found in the Bible and therefore not infallible. It’s not up to me to decide what the proper hermeneutics ought to be, but I was attempting to show that there are difficulties with the hermeneutic you are using because it’s not enough to say it means exactly what it says and that it interprets itself.

          With that in mind, I tend to agree that Chaplain Mike’s way of interpreting things seems more in line with what the Bible really is attempting to convey on this issue.

    • Terry,
      you should read G. K. Beale’s commentary on Revelation

    • Terry, if we are not to read symbolism but only pure literalism, explain this to me – when St. Paul says “We”, does he mean himself?

      Then that means either that (1) he is still alive to this day, since it’s been over a thousand years since his time and the whole list of faithful caught up into the air, second coming, binding of Satan, etc. has not yet happened or (2) he was speaking in some different fashion.

      Because if this is a FUTURE event, then should he not have said “YE who are alive and remain”? Explicate this text for me, please!

      Oh, and am I bound to believe that the fruit in the Garden of Eden was an apple, or can I think it a different kind of fruit, or maybe not even an actual growing-on-a-bush-fruit at all? Seeing as how when the Scriptures were translated into Latin, “apple” was chosen as a pun? (Apple = malum, evil = malum in Latin) Not to mention that Jewish tradition and other Christian exegesis nominates as candidates everything frmm wheat to the quince?

      I’m an amillenialist (apparently, that’s the official Catholic position, so if that’s what my church believes, I accept it) and I do believe in the Creation, the Fall, and the results of sin. But I’m not pinned down to every single word has to interlock in a jigsaw puzzle of literal meaning, otherwise all the house of cards comes tumbling down.

      As for what Chaplain Mike says regarding the symbolism and poetry: have you never heard of the Four Senses of Scripture? These are: the literal sense (what the words are saying that we can take literally) and three spiritual senses – the allegorical sense, the tropological, or moral, sense, and the anagogical, or final, sense.

      As an example of how this works, this exegesis gives the example of one of the parables:

      “In Matt 13:44 we read: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, a man having found which, he hid it and, for joy thereof, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

      Now, Terry, I’m pretty sure even you would not insist that when Jesus said this, He quite literally meant that the Kingdom of Heaven was a chest of gold and silver in a particular field on the outskirts of Jerusalem and that the disciples were to go buy that field and dig up the Kingdom. So we have to interpret the words above the literal to find the meaning.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’m pretty sure even you would not insist that when Jesus said this, He quite literally meant that the Kingdom of Heaven was a chest of gold and silver in a particular field on the outskirts of Jerusalem and that the disciples were to go buy that field and dig up the Kingdom.

        Dake’s Annotated Bible would. Dake was THAT literalist.

        • Of course! Now it all makes sense!

          The pearl of great price that the woman lost obviously dropped out of the treasure chest after her husband dug it up and brought it home; meanwhile, the kids had gotten into the kitchen while mom and dad were busy with the treasue and were playing with the spice rack so the mustard seed was spilled and too small for them to see to sweep it up!

          Thank you, Mr. Dake!

          🙂

          • wow…i perceive a prophetess! 😉

          • Vladimir says:

            I for one accept that every word of the Bible is literally true, rejecting liberal attempts to reduce it to mere symbolism. And that is why I accept the view that Jesus was married.

            To a sheep.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Mary Magdalene was a Falklands War Bride?

      • Martha,

        You have no idea how glad I was to find out that the Catholic Church’s teaching on the End times is amillenism. I had already rejected, mostly instinctively, dispensationalism and come to amillenism just on my own. It was a benefit completely unexpected.

        Terry,

        I do beleive that there is a lot of symbolism in Revelation, and that we have lost the key to it. Because I think in analogies, here is one. Suppose a child visited a zoo and saw pelicans and then went inside a church and saw a pelican in stained glass and on the front of the altar. He wouldn’t know what to think or thought perhaps the people worshiped pelicans. But, a wise teacher was there and explained the idea. (At one time pelicans were thought to stab themselves to feed their young.) So with Christ feeding us, his children, with his own body and blood, it is a perfect symbol. BUT, only if you have the key.

    • Calebite says:

      I’d like to also point out that as a historic premillenial guy (i.e. post-trib), I had no issues whatsover with what CH Mike wrote. So, while CH Mike may be amillenial(?), that’s not the only theological position that can come from the same arguments and foundation that he represents. I too was raised in the pre-trib dispensational world, and changed that position not because I was pressured to do so, but because my largely pre-trib denomination encouraged me to clarify my end times position through careful study!!

      I look forward to the “one glorious “appearing” of the Lord Jesus Christ when he comes to consummate his triumphant finished work” along with CH Mike, and agree that the pre-trib rapture is built on some shaky biblical ground and leads to some strange conclusions/excesses within evangelicalism.

    • This assumes either that for me to recognize that a passage is symbolic, or for me to be justified in believing that a passage is symbolic, i must know what the symbol stands for. That’s just false. The symbols being used weren’t communicated to me directly, or to anyone in my socio-historical context. Insomuch as those symbols were given to people who’s socio-historical context differs from my own, that’s a very good reason to think at the very least that none of the referents of the symbols will be obvious to me, and at the most, even after investigation i may never know precisely to what they refer in all detail. This, of course, doesn’t imply that they were equally as puzzling to the original recipients, who may very well have had an answer to all the “What does such-and-such symbol stand for?”-type questions. Bottom line: Just because i don’t know what it stands for doesn’t mean i’m wrong that it’s a symbol. Knowing what the symbol stands for is not the sole legitimate justification for knowing that something is symbolic.

      (These guys make it sound like the whole Bible was written last week and explicitly mentions my name at the start of every book and chapter.)

      –guy

    • Thanks, Terry,

      I like this blog a LOT and appreciate most of what is posted here, but the amillenialism (and old earth/”theistic evolution”) does get old. 🙂

  8. I spent two years in a high school that taught all this stuff. I’m not sure how much that influenced me, but a few years ago I decided that, when the call to take sides on the end-of-the-world issue comes, I will abstain.

    I have a few personal opinions on what may or may not happen, but that’s just my imagination, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone over it. So many people are ready to scream anathema about this issue, even to the point of schism and denying other people’s salvation. On this issue, I won’t argue.

    That said, I do feel that it’s narrow-minded of us to assume that our times are all that bad. As the quote at the beginning of the article said, every generation thinks they’re the chosen ones, and it’s been that way for two millenia already – was it the Corinthians who were quitting their jobs to await the rapture? Really, if we expect a Tribulation, it has to be the worst time ever in all of history, as in worse than anything that’s ever happened before. That means it has to be worse than World War II, worse than the Bubonic Plague, worse than any natural disaster or war or evil empire or slavery or genocide or any of the things that went before and WEREN’T the Tribulation. So I guess all that’s left is the zombie apocalypse . . .

  9. I feel sorry for all you people who don’t live just down the street from tomorrow’s Rapture like I do (at least according to where Scot McKnight’s forum is advertising it’s going to be – i.e., Lewisville, TX):

    http://wp.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/files/2011/05/Screen-shot-2011-05-19-at-8.09.31-PM.jpg

    See y’all here, there, or in the air!

  10. My rapture-ready friends preaching through Matthew 24 were always stymied by this verse: “28. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” The imagery is similar to our “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” with the implication being that when you see the buzzards circling, that’s where you find the body. This is in contrast to the folks shouting “We’ve found the Christ! Here he is!” This section clearly teaches a proliferation of false messiahs, all who attract attention, like vultures circling a corpse. By contrast, when Jesus comes, he will not be a secret that needs to be discovered, but will be like lightning that flashes across the sky for everyone to see. It is impossible for them harmonize this with a secret rapture that only snatches a few.

    And this gets to the Jack Chick publications that portray world-wide catastrophe and devastation at the sudden disappearance of millions and millions of Christians. These same people teach that true believers make up a tiny remnant of the world and that there are “few that be” that find the narrow gate. So how they have a remnant minuscule minority that results in millions disappearing is a mystery to me.

    • Tim van Haitsma says:

      A few million is a small fraction of 7billion.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And this gets to the Jack Chick publications that portray world-wide catastrophe and devastation at the sudden disappearance of millions and millions of Christians.

      Which all too easily slides into lip-smacking glee at the destruction of the Other and Proof that You Are Right. “HAW! HAW! HAW!”

      • Careful, or you’ll get thrown into a literal Lake of Fire by an angel, after having Bible verses quoted at you by a faceless glowing giant.

        “Neither heathens, Catholics, Mormons, Freemasons, nor followers of the social gospel shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “…or D&D gamers, or Furries, or Bronys (My Little Pony fans)…”

  11. ” J. Dwight Pentacost” ?

    Was that the name his Momma gave him???

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Stranger things HAVE happened…

      • Like some of the Puritan names, the most extravagant of which apparently ran in the Barebones (or Barbon) family:

        “Nicholas If-Jesus-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thou-Sins-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebon who traded as Nicholas Barbon (c. 1640 – c. 1698) was an English economist, physician and financial speculator… Nicholas Barbon was the eldest son of Praise-God Barebone (or Barbon), after whom the Barebone’s Parliament of 1653—the predecessor of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate—was named. Praise-God’s reputed Christian name was “Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned”, a variant of his son’s middle name. He became a religious separatist with Millenarianist beliefs, with fervent views in favour of infant baptism in particular.”

        Though other versions say that “Unless Jesus Christ” etc. Barbon was Praise-God’s father, and that amongst his acquaintance, he was popularly known as “Dr. Damned”.

        🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Woo. Didn’t know Puritan naming conventions got that… Unique.

          I’m more familiar with Massachusetts Puritan naming conventions, where they tended to name girls after Virtues and boys by random Bible-dipping (open Book at random, first name you come to…). This resulted in name combos like “Zerubabbel Shealtiel Smith and his wife Patience Prudence”.

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

            I’m a real estate appraiser in central Texas. It’s not uncommon for me to appraise a home whose occupants are youngish (30’s and 40’s) non-denominational Christians who have named their three daughters Faith, Hope, and Charity.

          • cermak_rd says:

            The Amish do this as well. My sister student taught in an Amish area and she got to teach both Sobriety and Chastity as well as the usual Patience, Grace and Hannahs.

          • Well, the Catholic version of that would be the convention of naming girls Assumpta (after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin) or Concepta/Immaculata (after the Immaculate Conception) or Annunciata (after the Annunciation).

            Though it does make you think that all the characters in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” are less allegories and real names of neighbours (calling your son “Standfast-for-Faith” seems positively pedestrian next to Praise-God’s dad or son, whichever he was).

          • And of course, these are the naming conventions gently mocked by Terry Pratchett in his “Discworld” novels, where one of the members of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is an Omnian named “Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets”, who in his off-duty hours goes proselytising door-to-door with his fellow-Omnian “Smite-the-Unbeliever-With-Cunning-Arguments.”

            This is after the Omnian Reformation, of course, where previous conversion tactics were more along the lines of `visit-the-infidel-with-swords-and thunderbolts’.

            🙂

          • Damaris says:

            Martha, I’ve never been susceptible to Omnian doctrine. I’m a devout follower of Annoya.

  12. This is an excellent post. Thanks!

  13. Oh boy. Chaplain Mike you are going to get it…… You can not challenge or question dispensationalist and not expect to have your thread hijacked into a debate.

    Here are some of my experiences…

    1. I grew up in a strain of “Missionary Baptist Churches” in North Alabama (interestingly every Missionary Baptist Church I have found outside of that area is a “black” church) . These were basically SBC churches before there was an SBC, coming from the split and fight over the place of missions and SS and such. Interestingly all of these churches were almost all Amillennial, but we weren’t smart enough to know such big words so we knew ourselves as General Resurrectionist. In the late 70’s early 80’s as I”m told by my father (I was too young) these churches begin to split over dispensational theology.

    2. I blame (or credit rather) dispies for part of my move to Anglicanism. As I was looking for good writing on the topic I found that most of the good Amill wirters out there were mainline guys. The best I found was a book by an Anglican. That led to other readings and voila here I am.

    3. Growing up there were only two bibles (both of course KJV) and you could tell a preachers preference based on his bible. If he was an Amill guy he carried a Thomspson Chain Reference bible, if he was a dispie he carried a Scofield.

    4. To those of you who have are from either camp and have never been in a place where the two are trying to mix you don’t know the controversy that can be causes. I’ve seen folks ready to fight over this. I heard a preacher once preach a message with this outline to a mixed crowd…

    Dispensational Theology robs…

    1. The cross of its cause.

    2. The King of his crown.

    3. The church of her commission.

    Ouch. It was a broo-ha-ha:)

    • cermak_rd says:

      You’re right about MBs. Here in Chicago, MB churches are an important part of African-American Protestantism. Rev. Charles Jenkins, who offered the Prayer for Guidance at the Rahm Emanuel inauguration, is a MB preacher.

      • cermak

        funny story,

        my family was travelling one time and stopped in a churh for worship, we recognized the missioary baptist, but imagine our surprise when we walked in to an all black congregation:)

        • Having read some of your others posts here, Austin, I think I can imagine your surprise. Did you stay?

          • sure, why not

            just longer than i was used to, same gospel

          • cermak_rd says:

            The same message, and if they’re like the MBs I’m familiar with, I bet they don’t sugar-coat anything.

            I walk my dog past a MB church and the people are super nice. They have a barbecue after church and they’ve invited me and my dog more than once for food and water. I’ve taken them up on the water before but no way can I eat when I’m in the middle of a 7 mile walk (I’ll get sick).

            I’ve also been offered water and a seat in the shade by some Quakers and water from the UCC church members as well.

    • Austin:

      Nice opening lines, this subject is a veritable powder keg!

  14. I’ve been raised as a dispensationalist pre-trib rapture Christian all my life. My fascination with the whole End Times bag was, mercifully, short-lived. Simply put, Christians spend way too much time arguing over this, as they do many non-vital issues. Whether the rapture is literal or not, whether we go through the Tribulation or not — none of that matters to me anymore. We are all between the paws of Aslan. I just want to know how to be the best servant I can be here and now so that He can truly say of me, “Well done.” See you all on Monday!

  15. If you want reading, and all these books are out of date probably and I don’t attest to everything in there try…

    R. Bradley Jones (one of the few baptists I found) he used to teach at Carson Newman I believe.

    Philip Mauro- his The church, the churches, and the Kingdom is great, he also has a book on Daniel

    The best I read was Michael Wilcock the Message of Revelation

  16. Your last line reminds me of this important text of St. Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd Century) against the Gnostics and their penchant for manipulating Scripture. I love his mosaic analogy.

    St. Ireneaus:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103108.htm
    Against Heresies (Book I, Chapter 8)
    How the Valentinians pervert the Scriptures to support their own pious opinions.
    1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked are in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions.

    • Outstanding quote. Thank you. I will use that again.

    • Father Anastasios:

      Help me clarify something. I recently heard a Southern Baptist professor teaching that St. Ireneaus was one of the few church fathers who taught a literal 1000 year reign with a seven year tribulation scheme minus the rapture. I had never heard that before and have not had time to investigate its truthfulness. Can you tell me more? I realize the early church rejected this doctrine, so even if one father went of the rails does not matter, but I would like to know if the claim is true or wishful dispensational thinking. Appreciate any input you have.

      • Guido, Wikipedia seems to have a good article on this:

        “Ireneus exercised wide influence on the immediately following generation. Both Hippolytus and Tertullian freely drew on his writings. But his literal hope of an earthly millennium made him uncongenial reading in the Greek East and it is only in the Latin translation that his work as a whole has been preserved. [citation: Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, Penguin Group, 19932, p. 83]

        …Irenaeus held to the old Jewish tradition that the first six days of creation week were typical of the first six thousand years of human history, with Antichrist manifesting himself in the sixth period. And he expected the millennial kingdom to begin with the second coming of Christ to destroy the wicked and inaugurate, for the righteous, the reign of the kingdom of God during the seventh thousand years, the millennial Sabbath, as signified by the Sabbath of creation week.

        …Irenaeus was not looking for a Jewish kingdom. He interpreted Israel as the Christian church, the spiritual seed of Abraham.”

        The article states that St. Irenaeus set out his understanding of the millenium in the fifth book of his “Against Heresies”. So if you can find that online, and read it through, it might answer your question? The online “Catholic Encylopedia” has it in an old translation, e.g.

        “Chapter 35 He contends that these testimonies already alleged cannot be understood allegorically of celestial blessings, but that they shall have their fulfilment after the coming of Antichrist, and the Resurrection, in the terrestrial Jerusalem. To the former prophecies he subjoins others drawn from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Apocalypse of John.

        Chapter 36 Men shall be actually raised: the world shall not be annihilated; but there shall be various mansions for the saints, according to the rank allotted to each individual. All things shall be subject to God the Father, and so shall he be all in all.”

        • I also would like to note that by the Jewish calendar, today is 16th of Iyyar, 5771.

          So if Irenaeus is correct in following the Jewish tradition, we’re all still in the sixth millenium, and the Second Coming isn’t due for over another two hundred years.

          😉

      • Here is the link to which Martha alludes:

        http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103528.htm

        Most interesting is this quote:

        “And for this cause tribulation is necessary for those who are saved, that having been after a manner broken up, and rendered fine, and sprinkled over by the patience of the Word of God, and set on fire [for purification], they may be fitted for the royal banquet.”

        So literal millenium? Seems so. Pre-tribulation of 7 years? No; all human history is thus the time of Tribulation, and the righteous will suffer to be purified during this time.

        Here is a brief Orthodox take on this:

        http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/485/

        In Christ,
        Fr. Anastasios

      • I believe Justin Martyr also said he was a millenialist and that the view was widely held, though he also mentioned that many others considered to be part of the orthodox faith thought differently. There was nothing about a rapture to my knowledge.

  17. William says:

    Hey Chaplain Mike, I just graduated from Liberty University, and after taking a fair share of Bible classes, I can say that I closely relate to your experience. I’ve read almost all the dispensationalist theologians you listed. I found my Bible classes–especially my Inductive Bible Study class–to be painfully dry and mathematical. Sometimes I felt like I was witnessing the murder of Scripture before my very eyes! (That may be a bit of an exaggeration 🙂 I’ve grown tired of dispensational assumptions and interpretations and the puzzle-piece approach to the Bible.

    I’ve said all that to say that I’ve only heard a few interpretations of important passages of Scripture. My question to you is how would you interpret Romans 9 through 11? I’m not sure what to do with it, and I’ve only heard the Calvinist and dispensationalist interpretations of it. What do you do with it?

    • I don’t have time to do an in-depth analysis here, William. Let me simply say, Rom 9-11 says nothing at all about “the nation” of Israel. It speaks of the Jewish people. It answers why God has apparently “set them aside” and turned his attention to the Gentiles through Paul’s mission. Paul’s answer is that he hasn’t really “set them aside.” Because of their unbelief, a new door has been opened now to take the Gospel to the whole world, and so God is no longer focusing merely on the Jews but is now including the Gentiles and engaging in blessing the whole world through the Gospel. Paul uses himself as an example of how God has not abandoned his people—after all, he, a Jew, has come to faith in Christ! God has now broadened the focus of his attention, as it were, beyond the Jewish people to the whole world. Eventually many of the Jewish people will acknowledge Christ and come to God through him too.

      The big point is that EVERYONE, Jew and Gentile alike, must come to God through Christ in the Gospel. There is no secondary plan for the nation of Israel. The Gentiles have been “grafted in” to the plan that has been there all along—to bless the world through God’s promises to Abraham, which have now been fulfilled in Christ.

    • beakerj says:

      I think – I haven’t read it – you might get a different view from something like F. Leroy Forlines Randall House Commentary on Romans.

    • William, my Christian college experience was very different from yours. I was at Gordon College in the early 1980s, and was a new Christian, age 23, who had been swallowing Hal Lindsey’s little book for breakfast every morning. It was also shortly after the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afganistan, and the early oil crises. The end-timers had plenty to write about and I read it.

      So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at Gordon, took a bunch of Bible courses, and none of them, repeat, none of them taught dispensationalism or end-times prophecy. And no mention of the rapture in any classes. Zilch. The only mention of the rapture was jokingly, the way students would joke about the no-dancing rule on campus.

      Since you’re a Liberty grad, perhaps you can appreciate that Jerry Falwell was big in the news back in those days, for having just formed the Moral Majority. Dr. Falwell did get talked about quite a lot, particularly by one of my OT professors who was concerned about Dr. Falwell’s increasing influence on politics and the church.

      And Jerry Falwell did have a tremendous impact on politics and the church. Jimmy Carter was in the White House and something had to be done, apparently. The something turned out to be Reagan, and off with a bang went the culture wars, down to this day. I think we’re just now starting to realize what has happened to the church.

      As for Romans 9-11, that same OT prof would agree with Chaplain Mike, that God is not done with the Jews. One of the the important assignments was the book by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man. Powerful, biblical interpretation of God, the OT, Judaism, and life in general—and some of the best prose I’ve ever read.

      Liberty is a good school. I wish you well, and I hope you’ll keep reading other viewpoints beyond dispensationalism. As others on this post have pointed out, dispensationalism isn’t the gospel. Jesus is the gospel.

  18. I think the worst fundamental error I once shared with other dispensationalists is, as you said, that the church is a parenthesis. In fact, the church is an exclamation point!! It changes everything in one’s outlook realizing that the Gospel message and its being lived out in the church is THE fulfillment of every promise and every bit of imagery in the OT (as well as NT). I had the mistaken view that if one believed that way, it must mean you didn’t believe Jesus literally would return or that there would be a literal resurrection…but there’s no conflict at all. It’s just that all of that is the final complete wrapping up of the reality that already exists (“already and not yet”).

    I think the whole dispensational view is intimately connected with the other major problem in the evangelical world—that all-encompassing drive for evangelism no matter what compromises must be made (and no matter the “kind” of convert created). If the rapture can occur at any moment and this interim parenthesis will go away, all that matters is getting people to sign on so they can be taken out of the world. Discipleship, living out the Gospel in the here and now, improving the world we live in—anything that takes time—becomes essentially meaningless. I doubt anyone in dispensational circles would put it in those terms, but I honestly think that eschatological view is at the heart ultimately of that view of the mission of Christians (and the church) in the world.

    • You are right, Jeff. Dispensationalism is ultimately a world-denying view that seeks escape from this earth for all people except the nation of Israel, who, as God’s “earthly people,” are part of some plan to have a kingdom in this world. There is a dualism in dispensationalism that approaches gnostic fervency. On the other hand, people like Wright affirm God’s plan for the world and the place of everyone in it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        As someone over at Slacktivist described Left Behind (the latest incarnation of Pop Dispy):

        “The Ultimate Escape Fantasy, followed by The Ultimate Revenge Fantasy.”

        If The World Ends Tomorrow and It’s All Gonna Burn, why should you care? Why should anyone care?

        • HUG said, “If The World Ends Tomorrow and It’s All Gonna Burn, why should you care?”

          [clandestinely inserts non-link link: youtube.com, and paste in ” tom lehrer we will all go together when we go “]

          • “There will be no more misery
            When the world is our rotisserie,
            Yes, we will all fry together when we fry.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Tom Lehrer, “We Will All Go Together When We Go.”

            A Secular Apocalyptic song (Nuclear War subtype).

          • Tom Lehrer himself is a subtype. He had at least three of these apocalyptic ditties.

            “So long, Mom, I’m off to drop the Bomb, so don’t wait up for me.”

            and

            “Who’s Next?” (in ref to Nuclear Proliferation, a common phrase in our lexicon during Those Days)

            All available on youtube.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “I’m sure we’ll stay
            Serene and calm
            When ALABAMA gets The Bomb…”

    • +1

  19. dumb ox says:

    “As James-Michael Smith says, ‘Paul is not talking about the mass disappearance of Christians from all over the globe. He is talking about the final return of Jesus as conquering King and Judge of the Living and Dead.’ ”

    This removes the alleged differences between Paul’s writings on the subject and Revelation 20:4, which dispies have to turn into a separate resurrection for the tribulation martyrs.

  20. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    Oh how I wish I didn’t have to work today and can instead spend the next several hours reading NT Wright’s commentary on Romans 9-11!

    I’ve got serious problems with aspects of Dispensationalism, especially the kinda of thing that Chap refers to when he said that the way that “the Bible as a whole was presented almost like a giant puzzle book that, once figured out, provided a detailed prophetic vision of “God’s plan for the ages.” That said, there’s some serious stuff that needs to be considered regarding how Israel fits into everything, especially looking at Rom 9-11. I don’t really know how all that works, though. Hopefully this afternoon I’ll have time to check out Bp. Wright’s take 🙂

  21. A very important post and discussion thanks for brining it up. On the surface, the issue sees always to be who has the correct theology (a spiritual arrogance thing). But that is only window dressing to the real impact that eschatology has. It profoundly effects the way you live your life and the way the Church relates to the world. Many of my major life decisions were made when I was a dispensationalist and believed that I would be raptured before I turned 30.

    When the Church has not been consumed with the imminent return of Christ and being raptured out of this “disgusting” world, it has had a much more profound effect on society and culture, like building churches with tremendous beauty and designed to last more than a few years, starting real universities (not brainwashing centers pretending to be colleges and universities), investing in the arts and I could on and on. If you think the earth is junk and you are going to be raptured out of the this “sewer” and it is going to explode in 10 years, everything you make and do is of temporary stuff. Churches are made of press-board and plastic . . . designed to last five years but that is just a token example. Also, you start to see human beings, created in God’s image (say the Palestinians ) as soulless pawns, pieces of crap and no more than paving bricks under your steamroller theology. May God have mercy on us who have lived a significant part of our lives under this cursed way of thinking. Once again I feel pointed to NT Wright. I’ve got to read the man.

    • Completely with you, Michael.

    • Well put.

    • That’s pretty much exactly how I feel.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      J Michael Jones (JMJ) has covered the subject extensively in his own blog, “Christian Monist”. His core thesis is that Dualism (hard division between the Physical and Spiritual — “Spiritual Good, Physical Baaaaaaaad!”) has caused more continuing problems for the church than most anything else. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

    • Amen.

    • dumb ox says:

      I don’t think the church can forget the temporal nature of earthly existence. As I mentioned before, look up pictures of the citiy of Ani on the border of Turkey and Armenia. The ruins of a cathedral rivaling Agia Sophia is there – abandoned for over 500 years. I don’t think that means we don’t build or create, but we do so with courage and caution. Many of the medieval cathedrals of Europe were built out of competition with neighboring kingdoms and cities for the honors of having the tallest cathedral. Some were built beyond the limits of flying-butress physics and are now falling apart. Many are empty now, because even when they were built they were nothing but a show piece. I’m with you; churches made out of ticky-tack are so frustrating and embarassing. But we must remember the haunting message of Ash Wednesday: from dust you came; to dust you will return.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Also, you start to see human beings, created in God’s image (say the Palestinians ) as soulless pawns, pieces of crap and no more than paving bricks under your steamroller theology.

      More like Palestinians, Jews, you, me, everybody become nothing more than pieces to move about on the End Time Prophecy gameboard.

    • Amen, especially to this –

      “Also, you start to see human beings, created in God’s image (say the Palestinians ) as soulless pawns, pieces of crap and no more than paving bricks under your steamroller theology.”

  22. I have to say, I’m not sure how anyone can read their Bible with any honest attempt to come to terms with its authors and come up with anything like dispensationalism. That being said, I suspect the point is that Jesus is coming back, and will be looking for those doing the will of his Father. I guess a lot of our theological constructs will seem kind of silly then.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Here’s my theory:

      The original Dispys started out with “Verbal Plenary Inspiration” in the sense of the entire Bible — every chapter, verse, word, and letter — being literally factually true as-dictated-word-for-word-by-God. How then, do you reconcile apparent discrepancies in such Absolute Literal Truth?

      The Dispys solution was to separate the apparent discrepancies into separate Dispensations over time. Then the OCD approach took over, and things got parsed and Dispensationalized to the extent of a handwritten Francis E Dec flier, hyperdetailed psychotic three-point type extending to the edge of the paper.

      And if you think Scofield’s notes are bad, you haven’t seen a Dake’s Annotated Bible. The margin notes ARE as dense and crowded as the kook rant flier described in the previous paragraph. Dake’s were THE Bible for that end-of-the-world cult that ate my brain in the Seventies; everyone I knew with it never read the actual KJV text in the center two columns; everybody went straight to Dake’s notes and read them.

      Tying the above two paragraphs together is a comment from a friend of mine: “This Dake might have started out sane, but he sure didn’t stay that way.” Going as deep into it as Camping with his numerology calculations, until you leave reality behind for Secret Gnosis and Utter Certainty.

      • Josh T. says:

        I’m unfortunately quite familiar with Dake’s. As for the “information” contained within his commentaries, all I can say is, “Wow.” I haven’t seen that thing since about 1994 or 1995.

  23. “Before I ever began to grasp specific exegetical and theological problems with the dispensational system, I felt uncomfortable with the whole approach.”

    That is exactly how I felt when I was in high school too. Thank you again Chaplian Mike.

    With all the information on the Internet, and with Christianity changing, I sincerely hope that Dispensationalism is the only “parenthetical age” that will soon be on its way out.

  24. Dispensationalism is a movement bound for historical obsolescence. You can only continually be wrong from so many times before the majority of people stop taking you seriously. Sure, there may be some holdouts, but there will always be fringe movements. I’m actually a little more hopeful now than I was concerning all the Left Behind nonsense. There are a good number of people I know who used to be diehards who are now coming to their senses. It’s not all of them, but I think people can only ignore facts for so long.

    • Calebite says:

      I agree. When I finished at an evangelical seminary in 2000, I found almost no one who self-identified as a dispensationalist. Then again, not many were strict covenantal theologians either. If you pressed most of us, we might say we were ‘progressive dispensationalists’ or ‘modified covenantalists’, but the debate between the camps was somewhat of a moot point! Like many polarizing issues in the history of the church, there’s a middle ground that is pretty solid.

  25. Thanks Chaplin Mike. Very timely and direct. I think Dispensationalism has done more harm than good, and has led to many choosing to seperate from the world rather than be salt and light and engaging the culture as Paul did to spread the good news.

  26. Because it’s often headline-driven, maybe it should be called “Dipsensationalism.”

  27. I frequently go to a pentecostal church where premillenial dispensationalism is taught at least once a year, I’ve found it a good exercise in expressing charity in non-essential doctrines. (and also keeping my mouth shut.) I find the fixation on the whens and wheres to be (as the reformed amongst us might put it) unprofitable speculation.

  28. Clay Knick says:

    Once I started reading George Eldon Ladd my understanding of “last things” greatly changed. Thankful, so thankful for that.

    Great post, Mike, as always.

    • Jimmy Bennett says:

      I want to echo this. Ladd’s book was great and it really helped me put some things into perspective.

      It’s also good that Ladd is a pre-millenialist. I say that because plenty of rapture believers are used to dealing with post or a millenialist trains of thought which can seem too “metaphorical”. Ladd clearly believes that Revelation contains literal predictions about the future, he just isn’t obsessed with extra-biblical ideas about a secret rapture or a double-return of Christ.

  29. We let the dispensastionalist debate cloud the meaning of the word “rapture” and the context of the 1Thessalonians 4:13-17 passage. Paul tells us to “comfort one another with these words..” The snatching up or rapture IS taught in the passage. The issue is not one of will there be or not be a rapture. The real questioin is WHEN it will occur.

    It bothers me GREATLY that non-dispinsastionalists diss the rapture concept as though its ONLY a dispensatinalist concept. If the “snatching up” is not a Biblical concept then why did Paul talk about it at all? I have my doubts about the pre-trib rapture of the church. I have no doubts whatsoever about the rapture of all living beleivers at Christ’s return. We are in danger of letting the debate about timing steal from us the comfort Paul intended for us to get from his words, and we miss Pauls pastoral intent in writing about the matter in the first place….

    In that light I refuse to give up the concept of the rapture because I refuse to give up clearly Biblical concepts period. And pardon me if I get a little passonite about reclaiming aa Biblical concept from the dispensatinal abuse of the concept.

    Peace…

    • As with any Biblical passage, the question we should ask ourselves isn’t so much “what does this passage mean to me”, but rather, “what did it mean to the original readers” and “what did the author intend it to mean”. Given the fact that Paul is borrowing language that pretty much parallels language used to describe a royal visitation, the picture he’s painting becomes clear. When a governor or an emperor visited a city in the Roman Empire, it was customary for a greeting party to be sent out ahead of him. They would then turn around, head back in to the city, “catching up” others with the welcoming party as they made their way back. So Paul isn’t describing us being taken away somewhere else. He’s describing Jesus making His way back to earth.

    • See Phil’s comment, Bill. There is no “snatching up” as though we are being removed from earth.

      • Maybe there’s some confusion as to whether “snatching up” happens at all versus whether those taken up are transported somewhere into heaven away from the earth. It seems to me that what is described actually does imply being lifted into the air to meet the descending Christ, but I fully agree that if this is true, it’s only to join Him and come right back down to earth, like the royal visitation scenario. I think also the word rapture comes from the use of the word in the Vulgate in Thessalonians and the implication of the word is “snatching” away not just a voluntary going out to meet someone. Not trying to make a big deal here, just saying that I think one can accept that there is a “rapture” in the sense of being caught up into the clouds without thinking that means we leave the confines of earth and go off into some remote spiritual waiting area.

      • Gentlemen and beloved brothers in Christ,

        Really!!!

        I am VERY well aware, and have been for MANY a year, of the picture of the King approaching the city and the dignataries of hte city going out to meet that King. I also read in verse 17 “arpagasometha ‘en nephlais” and “eis aera”. (Yes, my transliteration sucks…) The initial meeting does not take place on the “ge”. And yes we will then escort the King down to the “ge”

        If you read my origianl response I make no mention of those “taken up” as being taken away somewhere else. Your assumption is that “being taken away someplace else” is a sin que non of ANY rapture theology and my contention is that it is NOT.

        Jerome supposedly translated “arpagasometha” with the Latin word from which we get the English word “rapture”. You may argue that word, but please don’t argue with arpagasometha ‘en nephlais” or the factual events Paul says will happen.

        And if your are Pastors, please, please, please don’t allow dispensatinal abuse of the passage to deter you from following Paul’s pastoral intent to “comfort one another with these words”…

        Peace…

        • conanthepunctual says:

          Not saying that isn’t a reasonable way of reading it, but isn’t it also possible that Paul in his excitement regarding the return of Christ was using hyperbole?

      • Complete personal opinion, ignore if any heresy stumbled into:

        As a Catholic, I always took that imagery of St. Paul’s about the iving believers being caught up into the air as on a parallel with the Ascension of Christ and the Assumption of Mary, particularly the latter, since there is a divergence of opinion between the Eastern and Western Churches as to whether she knew bodily death.

        However, the important fact there was the example of two glorified physical bodies being taken up into Heaven. Also, the ascension of Elijah, who was still alive. The point being that when the Second Coming happens, the living will be taken up into Heaven (after all, why should they have to die first, when the Resurrection means that all will be united body and soul again? Seems a bit redundant to kill off the living and then resurrect them again).

        The important part here is not ‘the true faithful will be vanished away and all the reprobate left for the tribulation’ but that *all* – both the living and the dead – will be in their bodies for judgement and their ulitmate fates – the New Heaven and the New Earth, or the Lake of Fire.

        • Martha,

          Thank you for sharing your perspective. I apreciate it. 🙂

          Peace…

        • David Cornwell says:

          “The important part here is not ‘the true faithful will be vanished away and all the reprobate left for the tribulation’ but that *all* – both the living and the dead – will be in their bodies for judgement and their ulitmate fates – the New Heaven and the New Earth, or the Lake of Fire.”

          Right on the nose Martha! Good theology and very biblical.

  30. David Cornwell says:

    About five years ago several downtown mainline churches in our city came together to hold a three day colloquy to establish some common sense, answer questions, dispel confusion, and help establish a more biblical theology regarding the Second Coming of Christ. The book “The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation” by Lutheran theologian Barbara Rossing was used as a common text. for discussion. Also a prominent theologian from Fuller Seminary (his name totally escapes me) was on hand to lead a seminar and discussions on a Saturday. This was at the large downtown Lutheran Church (ELCA). The attendance was way beyond what anyone expected. The church I attend hosted other events and helped finance the event.

    The damage that this kind of false teaching has done to the Church will probably never be known. People have been confused and misled. And they are hungry for the truth.

  31. The latest reactionary campaign should start again about….yesterday – when President Obama proposed the pre-’67 boundaries. Expect an immediate screech fest from every television talking head like someone stuck a needle in their eye.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Since at least the times of Hal Lindsay, “Peace in the Middle East” HAS been one of THE End Time Checklist Countdown triggers…

      • I thought “War in the Middle East” was one of the triggers…? (Along with earthquakes) You know, Gog and Magog and Armageddon and all that…?

  32. Chaplain Mike,

    (1) A lot of sentiment here has expressed ‘end times’ as not ‘salvation-critical.’ But do you think that’s right? It may not be the case that there’s any hard-and-fast end-times-creedal requirement taught in scripture, but as some here (including you) have pointed out, one’s eschatology does effect areas like ecclesiology, soteriology, and missiology. (NT Wright certainly argues at the end of Surprised by Hope that a great lot of our doctrine is effected by our eschatology.) Aren’t these areas that do start to get salvation critical? Is it really UNcritical to my personal salvation if i think it’s okay just to snub my nose at the poor and homeless because, ‘so what, i’ll be flying out of here by tomorrow’?

    (2) i’m really curious about the parallels people are drawing between Mormonism and Dispensationalism. On the one hand, i’d like to know precisely what parallels there are to draw between the two doctrines. On the other hand, it appears that the primary parallel being alluded to is some sort of “craziness” factor. i think the latter is quite relative, isn’t it? If our audience were a group of non-believers, and three men stated in blunt and succinct terms the eschatological views of Mormonism, Dispensationalism, and NT Wright-ism [is there a proper theological label for this view?] respectively, do you think the audience would honestly think the NT Wright guy was saying things any less “crazy” sounding than the other two?

    –guy

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Well, Mormonism did start in the “burned-over district” of upstate New York around the same time as a LOT of other groups and religious fads. And their official name is “Church of Jesus Christ of LATTER-DAY SAINTS,” so I assume they originally had an Apocalyptic tone. The “White Horse Prophecy” urban legend and survival food-storage customs also point to a Tribulation crossover.

      Though for offbeat end-of-the-world choreography, it’s hard to beat the Seventh Day Adventists. (Come to think of it, the SDAs started out as the Millerites in the same geographic area and time as the Mormons. And the Millerites WERE an end-of-the-world cult with a lot of parallels to the current Harold Camping Rapture Scare, including the Bible Code numerological calculations and “God Hath Said” Utter Certainty. The Millerites’ predicted date and time in 1844 were subsequently named “The Great Disappointment.”)

    • Can I also emphasise that Dispensationalism is a storm in a very small teacup as far as the rest of global Christianity is concerned?

      It seems to have had a massive influence in America, going by what you are all saying, but its roots lie with one man primarily: John Nelson Darby, an Anglo-Irish clergyman during the middle of the 19th century, who founded what would become “The Brethren” (most over here know them as the Plymouth Brethren, due to that being where the first English assembly was held).

      Paraphrasing various articles here: Darby’s influence seems to stem from missionary journeys he made to America between 1862-1877 and his teachings were popularised by Charles Henry Macintosh; his teachings influenced various groups during the early 20th century and with Cyrus Scofield’s “Scofield Reference Bible” of 1909 which was an annotated study-Bible with the notes pushing dispensationalism that became extremely popular, “It was largely through the influence of Scofield’s notes that dispensationalism and premillennialism became influential among fundamentalist Christians in the United States.”

      Darby is credited with the discovery (or invention, whichever you prefer) of this unique doctrine:

      “As there was no Christian teaching of a “rapture” before Darby began preaching about it in the 1830s, he is sometimes credited with originating the “secret rapture” theory wherein Christ will suddenly remove His bride, the Church, from this world before the judgments of the tribulation.” However, Scofield seems to have been the one, with his correspondence Bible study course and reference Bible, who developed, popularised, and spread it in America.

      And I can assure you that outside of the U.S.A., you mention Scofield (or even Darby) and most people calling themselves Christians will go “Who?” Granted, the Brethren probably would recognise Darby, but they constitute a small fraction; indeed, they have split between Exclusive Brethren and Open Brethren, and the Exclusives only number around 16,000 in Britain.

      Such small numbers may explain why the Rapture is considered to take up only a tiny minority of humanity: after all, if only Group X is sufficiently True Believer, and there are only so many in Group X, naturally the rapture of the saints will leave millions and millions behind!

      • Rough thoughts on “why America ?” being the fertile soil for all this.

        1) well, we have the time and money to pursue all kinds of things and theologies. Perhaphs tied to this is that there became a market for the Scofield bible, perhaps because it put forward something “new” and different. We luvs our novelties.

        2) We love our “us vs. them” scenarios, relgious and non-religious. We began as an under-dog overcomer, and like the picture that is framed in ‘small valiant warrior Vs. the rest of the evil empire’.

        3) close to #2: Pietism of many stripes has always been a top ten seller: we have enough geography to find a hidden away place for the elect, and the we’ve held a hope that America’s future is indeed a blessed and fated one. I think much of what I’ve heard of pre-mill dispy theology fits well in this kind of worldview.

        More later; great questions
        GregR

      • I don’t know that I’d exactly say that “there was no Christian teaching of a ‘rapture’ before Darby began preaching about it in the 1830s,” unless you’re limiting your reference to the Dispensationalists’ “secret rapture” (which would be kind of hard to keep secret). But even that does not appear to have been entirely original with Darby, although it may have been an early 19th century innovation that was being kicked around by prophecy enthusiasts at the time, and Darby latched onto it. While I do not make this a central focus, I do touch on the rapture issue in (Shameless Plug Warning!) my book Darby, Dualism, and the Decline of Dispensationalism.

        The standard texts frequently used to back up the concept of a rapture (1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15) have never been a secret to Christians. Augustine commented on them. Calvin commented on them, and also commented on Augustine’s comments on them. There’s no question that the Bible teaches a “catching up” of Christians who are alive at the time of His return, following a resurrection of all who have died in Christ. What sets Dispensationalism’s take on this apart is the timing of this prophesied event and how it fits into their eschatological scheme. From the very mouth of one of the deans of Dispensationalism, the late John F. Walvoord, it all boils down to this: the Dispensationalists’ rapture has to occur prior to a seven-year period of Great Tribulation in which God resumes dealing with the world primarily through ethnic Israel solely because of Dispensationalism’s unique ecclesiology—i.e., because it views Israel and the church as two completely distinct entities (“two peoples, two programs, two destinies”), and because they believe that God only deals with humanity through either one or the other at any specific time. Once you remove Dispensationlism’s ecclesiology, you’ve removed the only theological rationale they have for a “pretribulational rapture.” There is no exegetical rationale, and never has been.

      • Martha, even here in the USA a lot of people would say, “Who?” to the names of Scofield and Darby, unless they were taught in a dispensationalist church or had a Scofield Reference Bible.

        But the influence of these two men, even though most aren’t familiar with their names, is deep and wide.

    • Let me deal with your first question. There is a sense in which eschatology is at the very heart of our faith. The first words of the Bible, “In the beginning,” set up a story that will brought to ultimate fruition in “the end of days.” The Bible looks forward from its first page and God’s promises in history point to their eschatological fulfillment in Christ. I think what some are saying is that having all the details down pat regarding Christ’s return and the consummation is not “salvation-critical.” Nevertheless, each Sunday in worship we proclaim the mystery of faith: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”

      • That seems right–i don’t have to have precise and infallible knowledge of eschatology in order to have the rest of my more immediately-important bits of theology together. But, of course, that’s not the same as saying even general eschatological commitments do not matter to salvation whatsoever (not even indirectly). Surely the latter is false.

        –guy

        • The Guy from Knoxville says:

          Guy, alot of folks here, including myself, have been so beaten up over these issues it’s really a wonder any of us have stayed the course in some cases. The point I made above to Terry was not that end times doctrines etc are not important – on the contrary they are and that particular belief does, to some degree, shape our faith but he problem comes in when these folk that are so legalistic and fundamental about it consider one who takes any other position or no position to be lost, unredeemable and without any hope of salvation. They cross the line there because there is simply no truth to that postion and this is done with many church doctrines and traditions in other areas of the faith as well along with this one.

          All I was saying is that if your salvation assurance is soley based on this……. well, then you see the problem – you trust something other than Christ for salvation. Now there would be arguments to the contrary from most of these folks but bottom line is they treat, in many cases, those with a different end time view or position from theirs as one without hope……. hopelessly lost which looks an awful lot like they are making that a condition for salvation when it’s not.

          Again, not saying these things are unimportant – indeed they are very important but they are not what saves a person and I was saying to Terry – stop it – it’s driving more away than it’s attracting. Listen, I’m just as interested as the next person here about the end times and I carry a lot of that dispensationalist background with me just like Chaplin Mike but I come to realize that not everything in that senario is correct so I chose to part with it for the most part. I dare say though that my position of God still having dealings with Israel as part of the end times is not totally agreed with here but I do think that other nations that mess with them is serious business and God will not take kindly, in my opinion, to nations and leaders (like our president) who decide to stick their nose in where it does not belong such as happened yesterday. Anyways, that’s discussion for another time. Hope that clears the air a little on my statements.

          • Sounds good. Obviously eschatological beliefs matter–in the case of many dispy’s, it has moved them into a frighteningly stringent soteriology.

            My own fellowship has suffered from radically stringent soteriological positions such that it’s a wonder the people who even hold them are saved themselves. My fear is the hyper-reaction that has followed. Some do have terribly abusive and spiritually unhealthy experiences as a result of such environments, and take that as a motive to retreat into easy-believe-ism where practically nothing matters at all–just say good and fuzzy things about Jesus and otherwise go along to get along and you’re fine. Sadly, many have reacted by leaving Christianity altogether. Over-reacting to abuse is typically ultimately as unhealthy as the bad environment to which you’re reacting. That was my concern i guess.

            –guy

    • S.J. Gonzalez says:

      On your comment on what to call Wright’s eschatology…

      I’ve read about four and 3/4s of NT. Wright’s books. Making my way through After You Believe, actually. If I were to pin down Wright’s eschatology, I would call it Neo Kuyperian. Abraham Kuyper believed that Christ inaugurated His Kingdom, and we’re gonna build for the kingdom, darnit.

      Actually, if I could be honest, Wright’s eschatology is standard Reformed fare with some Catholicism thrown in. He describes Hell as the wasting away of the image of God in man. The Reformed won’t agree with that, my interacts with Catholics on Hell make it sound like it’s the culmination of unGod decisions that we have made. I don’t think the Catholics would agree with Wright on Hell, but they don’t emphasize a literal wrath like the standard Reformed folk do.

      Wright’s the same way. I mean, that’s what I read in Surprised by Hope when he discussed Hell.

      It’s certainly not New Calvinistic, since, that’s not a thing that is discussed among the American New Calvinists.

      So, I’d called Wright Neo Kuyperian, or Reformed Catholic. The crazy part is how influential his theology is to me, it’s affecting how I read, well everything.

      Now regarding dispensationalism. I live in Miami and I consider Miami part of the Global South. I mean, dispensationalism might be dieing in the rest of the country but it’s alive and well down here. I’m one of the few amillinialists in my groups of friends. Most people have dispy eschatology in their heads.

      Why? The Pentecostals. We have lots of Latin Pentecostal churches in Miami. But that’s another post.

  33. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Life in the United States itself was in turmoil. Ongoing civil rights struggles, the Vietnam war, the youth culture of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, amazing technological achievements such as the Apollo space program, the continuing Cold War, and political intrigue in the White House—all these things and more had believers feeling certain that we were in the last days and that Jesus must certainly be returning soon. Prophetic teachers like Hal Lindsey were having a field day and selling lots and lots of books. Youth groups and outreach events often featured films like A Thief in the Night.

    Sounds like “Beam Me Up, Jesus! There’s No Intelligent Life Here!”

    I wasn’t able to spell “dispensationalism,” but my friends and I believed Jesus was coming back. We sang Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” with real feeling.

    Did you sing it as Larry Norman sung it, as a tragic lament?

    Or as so many sing it today, a cackling crow of triumph?

  34. Charles Fines says:

    Chaplain, you briefly mentioned escapism as a primary motivation of dispensationalism, the rapture theory in particular. I agree with you and feel that this should be the main point of any discussion rather than playing ping pong with Scripture quotes. In my view the whole western church tends to fall into escapism with salvation seen as fire insurance and a get out of hell free card. It’s a sorry tasting fruit and the dispensationalists just give us the best model to study. Even Jesus wanted to escape what was coming but he bit the bullet.

    Someone mentions Finis Dake. I dug my copy out the other day after 30 years to see what he had to say about atonement. The guy is so convincing he is dangerous! Fortunately I didn’t get heavily into him back in the 70’s. Finding my way out of Hal Lindsey took long enough. In all of this argument, I think it important not to inadvertently throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are lessons to be had in all perspectives, if nothing else in figuring out just what doesn’t fit with what Jesus taught.

    I believe it would be a big mistake to poo-poo very hard times coming down the road on the basis of a few mistaken but well-meaning Left Behinders. People all over the world seem to have a sense of world-wide catastrophe building. Let’s hope this isn’t so. My game plan is to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. If we did indeed experience the end of civilization as we know it, that would likely mean the end of the institutional church as we know it as well. My goal is not only to help folks make it thru alive, but to help avoid making the same mistakes all over again that got us into this mess in the first place.

    Perhaps acting uncharitably toward Reverend Camping and his followers would be one of those mistakes. After all is said and done, we all seem to be in the same boat here.

    • If we did indeed experience the end of civilization as we know it, that would likely mean the end of the institutional church as we know it as well. My goal is not only to help folks make it thru alive, but to help avoid making the same mistakes all over again that got us into this mess in the first place.

      que R.E.M.’s It’s the End of World as We Know It.

      a big thank you for such a timely tune as we are being whisked away to our eternal destinies. WHOOOHOOO!!! BRING IT ON!!!

      {sarcasam implied for those unfamiliar with my slightly skewed sense of religious experience humor} 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        queue R.E.M.’s It’s the End of World as We Know It.

        What do you think local morning drive-time radio (KFI in Los Angeles) has been doing all morning? You can tell it’s Camping coverage when they use REM as a sound bumper.

        • hey HUG…you mentioned being a Cal Poly SLO grad. year? major?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Not Cal Poly SLO.
            Cal Poly Pomona, Class of 1978.
            Information Systems major.
            (With an unofficial minor in Dungeons & Dragons.)

          • me, thee Cal Poly, SLO. major in orn hort. 1979-1983. no minor except one earned from the School of Hard Knocks, which is the fine print on everybody’s diploma no matter what major or where earned… 😉

            p.s. actually graduated class of 1988. yeah. a 2-unit senior project held up until 6 years later. by then i had acquired wordprocessing skills from working in mortgage banking (longer story). the project itself finished shortly after leaving SLO. did the write up (by hand). but did not finish it until constant encouragement from my then wife convinced me to close the educational loop, so i did…

        • been singing that tune all day, HUG; perfect fit

  35. By the way, is there a way to subscribe to comments by email that i’m not aware of? i don’t see any little box to tick at the bottom for that option.

    –guy

    • Use the link to the comments RSS feed. You can plug that into a news reader. Also, I think there are RSS->email gateways (Google news reader?)

  36. this from Terry :

    As as side point; that kind of thinking by Chaplin Mike lead Luther to refer to Jews as “snakes and vipers.” Luther, as great of a man that he was, was also a strong anti-Semite AND an Amillennialist. Also, I had an Amillennialist try to convince me that the holocaust was “a Jewish lie.” And he went on to tell me that “God was finished with the Jews for good.”

    To my Lutheran friends: how accurate is that regarding Luther’s eschatology: was he amillennialist ???

    @Terry, this kind of comment tears at the fabric of the body of Christ. I am (for now at least) strongly convinced that the mind and heart of Christ and the gospel are reflected in amillenial theology AND I loathe Luthers quotes (made very late in life…….dementia, perhaps ???) about the state and purpose of the Jewish nation. I do not have to own Luther’s late in life position on the Jews to be a true amillennialist, and it irks me to be told that one will lead to the other.
    I hope the discussion here produces light to match the heat. This is an important topic, but NOT a hill to die on, though I’ve been told repeadedly by many a dispy that in fact it is.

    GregR

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Sounds like Terry was invoking Godwin’s Law on Amils by indirect association.

    • greg r, Luther probably was amillenialist because at that period, everyone was. It wasn’t until the 19th century and John Nelson Darby that dispensationalism got legs under it and, once planted in America, started developing into its various grades and off-shoots during the late 19th/early 20th centuries.

      So calling Luther an amillenialist would be much the same as callling Luther a Trinitarian.

  37. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The Book of Revelation was taught in a purely futurist fashion, and the Bible as a whole was presented almost like a giant puzzle book that, once figured out, provided a detailed prophetic vision of “God’s plan for the ages.” It was as clear as the amazing draftsman-like charts in Clarence Larkin’s Dispensational Truth. Which is to say, it was confusing.

    I wonder if that was part of its appeal — Solving The Ultimate Puzzle?

    A lot of the high-profile Dispys and their charts and number-crunching sure look like Obsessive/Compulsives. Or at least Aspergers who majored in the hyperfocus trait. I wonder how many of them over history (like Darby & Larkin) would be diagnosed with full-blown OCD?

    • beakerj says:

      This is a question I’ve asked myself about quite a lot of Theologians/Pastors in history who seem to be total fanatics, rather than just committed & faithful. Jonathan Edwards springs to mind. I’m pretty sure the iMonk once did a post where he said he though JE had OCD, & his ‘style’ was responsible for suicides in his congregations.

      Anything with this much detail & importance is going to appeal to those with the kinds of conditions you mentioned.

    • Puzzle-solving is a big part of the appeal, HUG. A system like dispensationalism could only have arisen in the heady days of the mid-1800’s when the Industrial Revolution met the spiritual awakenings. The approach to Scripture that arose might be termed “exegetical engineering.”

      • that is the BIG appeal to the Prophetic Movement. i replied to one of HUG’s posts above stating my perception than one feeds directly on the other. these are not just fringe teachings any longer. and the continuing damage is only going to escalate…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The approach to Scripture that arose might be termed “exegetical engineering.”

        Which is subject to the same Entropy (and collateral damage) as the Social Engineering approaches also originating around that time. (Remember Karl Marx? He was just the one with staying power.)

        “His mind is wheels and metal.” — Treebeard regarding Saruman

        And when your mind is wheels and metal and numbers, other people do not exist — except as raw material for your engineering solutions. (See the variant take on the Tower of Babel from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.)

      • Brendan H says:

        that’s actually a quite brilliant insight.

  38. There is a piece of discussion on this whole mess we sometimes miss, and it is tied to the pragmatic church growth movement. Remember, the end justifies the means. I mentioned something inappropriate being discussed on our local CCM station, and someone said “Even if it isn’t right, it may attract people to listen to the station who otherwise would not and by listening to the radio station may come to Christ”. My former pastor said similar things about subjects he was preaching on Sunday mornings “I know teaching on ‘How to be a better xxx in xxx easy steps’ may not be right, but once we get them in the door we can teach them about Christ”. I have heard followers of Harold Camping say the same thing “Even if he gets the date wrong, perhaps someone will give their life to Christ just in case”

    Is typical church any different than Camping?

    • Right.

      Or in this case, the end *times* justifies the means!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I have heard followers of Harold Camping say the same thing “Even if he gets the date wrong, perhaps someone will give their life to Christ just in case”

      That’s what Mike Warnke’s fanboys said to justify him after Cornerstone exposed him as a fraud. “But lot$ of $oul$ got $aved!”

  39. cermak_rd says:

    I guess, the thought I have is that most of this theology while it may divide churches, it’s usually not harmful. But what about now with Camping? Who is going to be hurt? Obviously the people who signed on with Camping and have made foolish decisions regarding issues of employment and finances due to his advice. One would hope that Rev. Camping would pay some sort of restitution to those folk (but he probably won’t and it’s hard to prove fraud in a court of law on issues regarding religion).

    I don’t get the sense that Christianity as a whole has suffered. Most non-believing people I know are able to discern the difference between a regular church (local non-denom, mainline, MB, et al) and outlier groups like Camping.

    I’m just hoping that no one acts on the spur of the moment and hurts themselves due to this silly man.

    • Just curious–is cermak a road or a last name? i was just reading an article by a TL Cermak the other day.

      –guy

      • cermak_rd says:

        Both. Anton Cermak was a grand mayor of my beloved Chicago. He was assassinated whilst standing next to FDR. Cermak was Czech and was criticized for being an immigrant who wanted to be mayor. His response was something along the lines of I may not have come over on the Mayflower but I got here as soon as I could.

        And it’s a major east-west artery in Chicago and the near burbs as well.

    • I guess, the thought I have is that most of this theology while it may divide churches, it’s usually not harmful.

      Wish this were the case, Cermak, but ….uh…usually NOT. When you say “divide churches..” think “divide families, friends, small group members, divide relationships..” Not that this is always the case, but in fact it can and quite often gets very, very uglly. To be amillenial (or anything other than the stripe of dispy theology that you friend/family has) is often to be seen as unamerican, not patriotic, and anti-Israel. And of course, therefor antiGOD. I know this sounds extreme, and not all dispy’s would take it to this level, but it’s just not that uncommon here in the states. I think it will be LESS true in the next generation as more and more 20 and 30somethings decide NOT to fight this kind of battle. At least that’s what I’m thinking will happen, with large pockets of dispy resistance, of course.

      • You nail it gregr with this and yes this is extremely harmful – “anything other than the stripe of dispy theology that your friend/family has is often to be seen as unamerican, not patriotic, and anti-Israel. And of course, therefor anti-GOD.”
        This is exactly why I keep my eschatology cards close at hand and don’t pursue too many conversations/arguments with friends/family because most around me have been infected with this Darby disease and the fruit you imply it produces; which is a huge barrier/gulf between us and therefore I have to walk/talk very judiciously in order to maintain and build relationships with these fellow believers. Dispyism definitely has a, chilling effect: In my circumstances, it’s not easy knowing that you’re probably the only pan millenialist/amellenialist at your church. One of these days I will probably stick my neck out a little further, but I’m not looking forward to it.

      • cermak_rd says:

        I guess I’m just flabbergasted at the concept of family being divided by a subtopic within a theology. In my family we have Atheists, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Wiccans and at least one Buddhist. We’re still family. We somehow manage to eat together, mourn together, and laugh together. I feel badly that others don’t have the same experience.

  40. Let me suggest “Reversed Thunder” by Eugene Peterson for his discussion on the Book of Revelations.
    And then there are the Pan-Millenialists – It will all pan out in the end.

  41. Too bad you guys don’t like Bart Ehrman. His “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium” has a great run-down of various end-times prophets, beginning with the “88 Reasons why the Rapture will Happen in ’88” guy and going all the way back to, well, Jesus himself. Kind of puts the whole religion in context!

  42. What gets me about the rapture crowd is that they will not tell their listeners that it is only a theory and that there are other ways to look at the return of Christ. For most of them it is the rapture as they see it and that’s it,period.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In my experience, to the Rapture Crowd the Doctrine of The Rapture was Dictated word-for-word by God in SCRIPTURE (TM). They point out the “We wll meet the LORD in the air” verses chapter-and-verse.

      To them, it’s “God Said It; I Believe It, That Settles It.” Period.

      And if you’re immersed in the Rapture Ready culture, you probably have never heard otherwise. To them, The Rapture is as obvious a Law of God as gravity is a Law of Nature.

  43. Randy Thompson says:

    Thanks for your article.

    The first time I ever did real theological thinking was right after I heard Hal Lindsey speak about the Rapture many, many years ago. (So long ago, in fact, it was before he wrote “The Late, Great Planet Earth.”) I was a teenager, and remembered thinking that all this stuff was pretty cool. So, I started reading my Bible to learn more. It turned out that my Bible wasn’t much help in making sense of what Lindsey taught, which, as I was to discover, wasn’t the Bible’s fault. So, since I the Bible didn’t make any sense of what Lindsey was teaching, I asked someone who was really into this stuff to recommend a book, and they did. The book was by Dwight Pentecost. I read it eagerly, hoping that it would help me make sense of this Rapture business, but that didn’t move me forward at all. After reading it, I was struck by the fact that Pentecost, like Lindsey , was doing a cut and paste job with Scripture. You cut out a bunch of seemingly random proof texts and pasted them together in a way which tells you the conditions under which the Lord returns and the world ends,

    So, what I learned from Lindsey, Pentecost and others like them is this: When you read a passage of Scripture, read it in its context. This was a valuable lesson, at a very young age, in exegesis and Christ-centered skepticism of grand theological schemes, especially about the end of the world!

  44. thinking says:

    It seems like a good weekend to plant a tree.

  45. “…Not only that, but the system seemed to miss (or at least downplay) the most important theological point of all—that Jesus and the story of him told in the Gospels is the pinnacle of God’s plan, the fulfillment of his promises. In essence, dispensationalism denies that….” Yes! And how tragic to deny the most important fact in the whole universe.

    Amen to every word of this.

  46. D. Wood says:

    “Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything —anything — be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.” -quote from Sam Harris

    I’m another fallen away Christian who is so tired of the arguments and latest fads that I just stopped attending church altogether. It’s sad because I really wanted to believe, and I do still believe in God. This blog has been my church and church family for several years. I usually agreed with Michael Spencer’s writing. And I’m still refreshed by reading whatever is posted here and the comments by other readers. I envy those of you who still believe.

    I tried reading the Bible literally, until I learned that the creation story was just another version of the creation myths abundant in all ancient cultures. I thought “The Jews” where “chosen people” until I realized that there is really no pure “Jewish” gene. My sister-in-law’s father was a “Jew.” Is she Jewish? 52% Jewish? What about her children and grandchildren? Aren’t we all related human beings? Wasn’t it circumcision and belief in one God that distinguished Abraham from his nomadic brethren? There are plenty of circumcised people who believe in God. Are they all Jewish? Which Jewish group are the “real” Jews? Orthodox? Hasidic?

    Then there’s Satan. The early Jews viewed “Satan” as simply a “messenger of God,” not an evil entity. When did Satan become such a major player? And of course there’s the topic of the day, the “End of Time!” Islam has a similar theme. The fundamentalists and moderates Muslims alike are certain that God literally had the Koran dictated to his prophet through the angel, Gabriel. OK, if you can believe that, you can believe the Bible is the literal word of God, too. Why would God dictate 2 holy books that don’t come to the same conclusions? (For the record, I think Islam is a dangerous combination of politics and religion that controls people through constant fear.)

    I read one of the “Left Behind” books and kept wondering. I’m a Christian – am I supposed to believe this? It came from a Christian bookstore, so it must be OK. That’s how naïve I was. I guess this is what happens when naïve people become disillusioned. I’m tired of CCM, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, WWJD, prayer warriors, and prayer chains. Pray for me if you think it will help.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I guess this is what happens when naïve people become disillusioned. I’m tired of CCM, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, WWJD, prayer warriors, and prayer chains. Pray for me if you think it will help.

      Too bad they’re not allowing links from here. My usual response to this is “Veterans of the Psychic Wars” by Blue Oyster Cult. That song is the best description of what it’s like to burn out on The Cause. Any cause, including YEC, End Time Prophecy, Culture War, Spiritual Warfare, “Rick Warren, Beth Moore, WWJD, prayer warriors, and prayer chains.”

      “Did I hear you say that THIS is Victory?
      Don’t let these shakes go on,
      It’s time we had a break from it;
      It’s been driving us insane,
      It’s been eating up our brains —
      Oh please don’t let these shakes go on…
      Don’t let these shakes go on…
      Don’t let these shakes go on…”

    • Praying for you.