The Bible Believer’s Guide to Dispensationalism
The Bible Believer’s Guide to Dispensationalism is not merely another evaluation of a preferred system of study. Rather, it is an earnest defense of true biblical interpretation.
Some think interpreting the Bible is relative and dependent upon personal preference. Others insist that various systems of study are necessary to find the right interpretation. Still yet, some go as far to claim that their church or organization has the only key to unlocking the Bible’s meaning.
All of these views err tremendously. Joseph acknowledged the only one who can “interpret” when he said: “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen. 40:8). Furthermore, Simon Peter declared “that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).
So, if “interpretations belong to God,” and we are not to “privately interpret” the scriptures, how are we to understand what we read (Acts 8:30)?
The answer to that question brings us to the premise of this work. Namely, that God has given us a book without error, inconsistency or contradiction, and He has laid out a method that guarantees correct interpretation every time. This biblical method is actually God’s system of validating His own word, and is known as “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). When one traces this biblical practice throughout church history he finds its most common name: dispensationalism.
Purchase this excellent book!
Click here to order from the Bible Believers' Bookshop
A comprehensive and thorough yet an easy to understand guide to the great Biblical theme of Dispensational Truth. This book contains 408 pages with names, subject, and verse indexes; 16 illustrations and charts; over 1600 verses referenced; over 70 bibliography entries and over 400 footnotes of documentation.
Excellent for personal Bible study, a textbook for a Bible institute or Sunday School class. Perfect for a new Christian desiring to dig into the deeper truths of Scripture. $21.95 paperback. Click here to order.
(excerpt from book)
Definition, Description & Distinction
Why the Background?
Before the Bible student can equitably plunge into a study of dispensational truth, there are some preparatory ground rules and guidelines that need to be established.
Just as some background notes on evolution, the new age, and different religions are helpful to the soul winner, so it is with a study of dispensationalism. To write a treatise on dispensationalism without reference to church history, what major authors have said about it, and what the majority of people are being taught about it, would not be considered thorough. Laboring through history and quotations establish the whole picture. To omit that would do you a great injustice. Furthermore, it would fail to give the background material needed to defend the truth. The view of truth is more certainly distinguished when all error is exposed and wiped off the lens.
Knowing that Satan is the great counterfeiter, the student of the word of God must be aware that Bible truths are often perverted. This is readily seen with definitions of Bible words, and additions of extra-canonical words. The former can be demonstrated with the word “dispensation,” and the later with the word “sovereign.” “Dispensation” has been altered to mean, “a period of time,” and the word “sovereign” is NOT a part of the “authorized canon!” Satan also counterfeits his counterfeits. For example, some would say that since the words “trinity” and “rapture” are not found in the Bible, what they describe and teach is not true. This is ridiculous. If an extra-canonical word (like “trinity,” and “rapture”) explains a true biblical concept there is no harm in using it.
Since Satan did more damage with his tongue (Gen.3), utilizing words, (even positive words!) it is essential for the child of God to be “sober,” and “vigilant” (1 Peter 5:8) regarding definitions, implications, and systems of Bible study. It is pertinent that definitions and descriptions are made clear from the beginning, so the student does not get lost in the high weeds of tradesman terminology.
Dispensationalism (except where it teaches that “men are saved the same in the Old Testament as they are in the New”) is simply “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Adherence to this type of Bible study:
is the interpretive key that unlocks the pages of Scripture, opens the door for our understanding of prophecy, and orients our thinking about God’s blueprint for human history.
Dispensationalism as a system of theology has been defined various ways. One Reformed author defines it “as that system of theology which sees a fundamental distinction between Israel and the church.” That is true, but leaves much wanting. A true dispensationalist while “rightly dividing the word of truth” understands that there is also a distinction between the “Gentiles” (1 Cor. 10:32), as well as Israel and the Church.
1 Cor 10:32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. In His household-world God is dispensing or administering its affairs according to his own will and in various stages of revelation in the passage of time. These various stages mark off the distinguishably different economies in the outworking of His total purpose, and these different economies constitute the dispensations. The understanding of God’s differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies.
The key word in understanding dispensationalism is the negative word “divide.” Dr. Ruckman:
In the second clause in this verse (“rightly dividing the word of truth”), is found the METHOD of Bible study, if it is going to be a scriptural method of study. This method is negative; you are to “divide” something. You are not to “integrate” anything, you are not to try to get anything (or anyone) “together,” and you are not to “join together” what “God hath sundered.” You are to DIVIDE, you are to SEPARATE, you are to “put asunder” what God “hath not joined.”
Remember, division was behind Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea; Gideon’s three hundred; the cities of refuge, and the choosing of the disciples. Do not forget that the Lord Jesus Himself prompted division (see Luke 12:51; John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19). Dividing and separating is not all pessimistic and bad. It can be healthy and purifying!
While anti-dispensationalists attribute all Bible division to men (like Poythress: “ . . . they divide the course of history into a number of distinct epochs”), God Himself is the most ardent dispensationalist. In Genesis alone, we read of Him DIVIDING light (Gen. 1:4), waters (Gen. 1:7), the earth (Gen. 10:5), and the nations (Gen. 10:25).
Dispensationalism then, encompasses the complete system of Bible study known by the biblical phrase, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The contrary theological position to dispensational thought is covenant theology, which Poythress terms the “principal rival” of dispensationalism. Dr. Vance summarizes:
Covenant theology, like Calvinism, is a Reformed doctrine, not to be confused with sound Bible doctrine. In this system, two covenants, works and grace, govern the whole of Scripture. Some Reformed theologians have added a third covenant: the “covenant of redemption,” made in eternity between God the Father and God the Son.
The “covenant of works” relates to Adam before the fall, and the “covenant of grace” relates to all men after the fall. It is based on the death of Christ. Covenant theologians, as most dispensationalists, teach that all men after Adam are saved by “grace through faith” in the finished work of Christ. We will later substantiate the fallacy and misconceptions of that claim.
Although the name “covenant theology” sounds appealing and biblical, it is tremendously deficient as a system of study. Pentecost aptly clarifies: “Covenant theology is woefully inadequate to explain the Scriptures eschatologically, for it ignores the great field of the biblical covenants which determine the whole eschatological program.” What good is a “covenant” system of study that overlooks and neglects all of the biblical covenants? Covenant theology fails to “declare. . . all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), and abandons the orders to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
The word dispensation has been incorrectly defined by many, to mean “a period of time.” Note:
A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.
A period of time under which mankind is answerable to God for how it has obeyed the revelation of God which it has received.
A dispensation is an era of time during which man is tested in respect to obedience to some definite revelation of God's will.
It means the last dispensation; or, that period and mode of the divine administration under which the affairs of the world would be wound up. There would be no mode of administration beyond that of the gospel. But it by no means denotes necessarily that the continuance of this period called "the last times," and "the ends of the world" would be brief, or that the apostle believed that the world would soon come to an end. It might be the last period, and yet be longer than any one previous period, or than all the previous periods put together.
A dispensation then is a period of time in which God is dealing with men in some way in which he has not dealt with them before.
. . . a “DISPENSATION” stands for a “moral” or probationary” period in the world’s history.
The word “dispensation” is used in the Bible four times. In every case, it is obvious from the context that God is referring to a period of time.
The authors quoted above made reference to “a period of time” because dispensations always occur during “a period of time.” McGee states: “A dispensation may fit into a certain period of time, but it actually means the way God runs something at a particular time; it is the way God does things.” The fact of the matter is that most Bible teachers, and authors (even if they know the word “dispensation” is not a “period of time”) refer to it as such, and have for about three hundred years now. Nothing is going to change that. Ryrie makes a suitable point stating that “it is perfectly valid to take a biblical word and use it in a theological sense as long as the theological use is not unbiblical.” Maybe so, and maybe not. Take the “theological use” of the Bible word “election.” It is obvious that it has been perverted to teach Calvin’s nonsense for hundreds of years now, insomuch as Bible believers seldom mention the biblical word in their preaching or teaching. Will the Bible word “dispensation” have the same fate as other Bible words like “perseverance,” “tongues,” “chosen,” and “elect?”
There is no possible way you could force the definition of “dispensation” as “a period of time,” unless you fail to examine the English text where the word appears (see 1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; Eph. 3:2; and Col. 1:25). If you still insist it means “a period of time,” you would create a “period of time” called “God!”
Col 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
The breakdown of the word “dispensation” is as follows:
1. To distribute. Note the origin of the word:
Dispense comes ultimately from Latin dispender “weigh out” (partial source of English spend) . . . It had a derivative, dispensare, denoting repeated action; hence “pay out, distribute,” senses which passed into English via Old French dispenser.
2. The English definition is:
a. the act or an instance of dispensing; distribution. b. something that is distributed or given out. c. a specified order, system, or arrangement; administration or management.
3. The Greek word “oikonomia” (oikonomia) comes from the verb that means to manage, regulate, administer, and plan. The word itself is a compound whose parts mean literally ‘to divide, apportion, administer or manage the affairs of an inhabited house.’
4. It is from this Greek word that we derive our English word, “ecumenical,” and “economy.”
Dispensations are closely related to “ages” but, as Ryrie states,
the words are not exactly interchangeable. For instance, Paul declares that the revelation of the present dispensation was hidden “for ages,” meaning simply a long period of time (Eph. 3:9). The same thing is said in Colossians 1:26. However, since a dispensation operates within a time period, the concepts are related.
Dispensations then, are NOT “time periods,” and they are not “ages.” This is glaringly true when one considers the so-called “dispensation of the Grace of God.” The burden of proof as to whether or not such a “period of time” exists is propounded by this question: Since when, was there not a “period of time” when God’s grace was not manifested in some way or another? Grace was exhibited in the lives of Noah, Samson, David, and countless other Old Testament saints who lived “under the curse” (Gal. 3:10). If it was not manifested, there would be no children of Israel, no Gentiles, and no people! Old Testament characters were given grace dozens of times, even though they were NOT saved “by grace through faith” (Eph 2:8,9). [They could not have been saved by faith in the testament of Jesus Christ, because the “where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb 9:16-17). How could Jesus be “dead” when he had not been born yet? To respond by saying Jesus was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8) is to confuse the omniscience of God with the appropriation of the sacrifice to the sinner.]
Now, we understand what is meant by “the dispensation of the Grace of God.” What is meant, is that the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) was NOT preached until after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But since the Bible does not assume people understand what is meant, neither should we.
One can also discern that dispensations are not “time periods,” by the multiple overlaps contained within the different dispensations. For example, under the dispensation of Conscience, details concerning the curse of the earth, childbirth, and headship of the man (although that one seems to be on the way out!!) remain doctrinally true through the next five dispensations. Under the dispensation of Human Government, administrative rules (or truth) regarding capitol punishment remain in effect through the Law, to the Church Age. Even though certain aspects of dispensational truth have occurred at specific points in time and history (such as the fall of man, the flood, the giving of the law, and the cross), many of them extend beyond “periods of time,” and some (like the Law – Rev. 12:14), skip over past the Church Age and return again in the Tribulation or Millennium.
Dispensations are administrations of truth (methods or systems) that God has dispensed during a period of time. To say that “a dispensation can be used to reference a period of time” (as Dr. Stauffer does) can be misleading.
The English word “covenant” in the singular form appears 292 times in the AV, three times as “covenants,” and four times as “covenanted.” A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties. The Hebrew word for “covenant” “beryith” comes from the word “bara” meaning “to cut, to cut out, to carve, to form by cutting or carving.” Hence, the Abrahamic Covenant is marked with a “cutting” or a “dividing” (Gen. 15:9,10) of the sacrifices, and the New Covenant with the “piercing” or “cutting” in the Saviour’s side. All the unnecessary discussion from LaHaye and Ice (“the royal grant treaty . . .the suzerain-vassal treaty . . .and the parity treaty”) to describe the difference between a conditional covenant and an unconditional covenant is unnecessary. There are basically two types of covenants: conditional and unconditional.
Some insert a “Palestinian covenant” after Mosaic, and do not list the “Eternal Covenant,” still arriving at eight. The “conditions under which Israel entered the land of promise” (called the “Palestinian Covenant”) is technically included under the Mosaic Covenant (see Deut. 28-30).
The eight well-defined covenants in scripture are:
- An Edenic Covenant (Gen. 2-3).
- An Adamic Covenant (Gen. 3).
- A Noahic Covenant (Gen. 8,9).
- An Abrahamic Covenant ( Gen. 12, 15, 17, 22).
- A Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19-34).
- A Davidic Covenant ( 2 Sam. 7).
- A New Covenant (Matt. 26).
An Eternal Covenant (Rev. 21, 22). A thorough examination of the covenants will yield more insight into locating the various dispensations, than merely a study of the dispensations. The dispensations occur within the set covenants, and are limited to the “dispensing of truth,” or the “order of arrangement.” The Kingdom Age (or Millennial Age) can be categorized under the Davidic Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant plus the New Covenant (Heb. 8). There are different dispensations under each of those covenants however.
Dispensational Camps –
A dispensationalist is one who follows and obeys 2 Tim. 2:15, thus allowing the Holy Spirit to be the “interpreter” (Gen. 40:8; Dan. 5:16; 2 Peter 1:20) of scripture. To some degree, everyone who divides the Old and New Testaments is a dispensationalist. But just as Baptists must be classified and sorted (i.e. Primitive, Hard-shell, Independent, American, General, Southern ect.) so it is with dispensationalists. The assorted dispensational “camps” are as follows:
1. Normative – those who follow Scofield, Chafer, Ironside, Walvoord, Pentecost, and Ryrie.
2. Ultra – broken up into two groups:
a. the extreme -Bullinger and Welch (of London).
b. the moderate -C.R. Stam, O’Hair, and Baker (of America).
Hyper-dispensationalists pervert the scriptures by “wrongly dividing” the word. They eliminate water baptism for this age, misrepresent prayer and confession of sin, and eventually revert to Calvinism.
3. Progressive – a modern trend in dispensational circles moving ever closer to the adversary of Covenant Reformed theology:
We can see how close Progressive Dispensationalism has come to Covenant theology in the very way it defines a dispensation.
Progressive dispensationalists call the church “the new Israel” and state that part of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant belong to the church. They also teach that Christ is reigning now as king on the Davidic throne in heaven, even though they still believe that He will reign in the future Millennial kingdom. “Progressives do not see the church as completely distinct from Israel as normative dispensationalists have maintained.” Some see five groups; making a difference between “pre Scofieldian dispensationalism,” (some calling this “classic dispensationalism”) “Scofieldian dispensationalism,” “moder-ate,” “ultra,” and “progressive.”
4. King James Bible believing – this is the category upon which this author will fall.
While considered “moderate” or “normative” up to a point, this group cannot be considered “ultra,” or “hyper.” They hold to water baptism and the Lord’s supper for this age, and apply portions of Matthew, Acts, and Hebrews through Revelation to the Church Age. They do affirm that salvation has not always been by “grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8,9), and that no one in the Old Testament was saved by “looking forward to the cross.”
The most prolific author in this “camp” is Dr. Peter S. Ruckman. Others who have addressed dispensationalism in this light would include: Dr. James Modlish, Dr. Samuel Gipp, Dr. Ken Blue, and Dr. Douglas Stauffer. The out-standing characteristic of this camp is their complete adherence to the AV text as the absolute and final authority.
Most dispensationalist use the terms “age” and “dispensation” interchangeably although technically (as Ryrie’s quote stated) the dispensation operates within the “age.” The English word “age” never appears in the sense of a “period of time” with regard to the dispensations of history. We only find reference to the “age” of individuals. The plural form “ages” occurs four times and is undoubtedly “periods of time” connected with different dispensations:
Eph 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Eph 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Eph 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Col 1:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Larkin makes a formidable distinction between “age” and “dispensation” even fastidiously demarcating an “age” as “a period between two great physical changes in the earth’s surface.” He then lists the “Ages” as:
- The Ante-Diluvian Age.
- The Present Age.
- The Age of Ages composed of the Millennial Age and the Perfect Age.
“Age” vs. “World”
Much unnecessary ruckus is made against the AV translation of “world,” for the Greek word “aiwn.” The Old Scofield Reference Bible supplied a definition in the margin, either by “i.e. earth,” or “i.e. “age” theoretically helping the reader out. Redefining and “rewriting” (not to mention “retranslating”) only confuses matters, and is anti-biblical in approach to Bible study. The Bible method of learning the meaning and “interpretation” or words, is by contrast and association (see Acts 8:31-35).
Though the editorial committee of the 1967 New Scofield Reference Bible, claimed their work was “not a new translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts,” they still re-translated “world” (where it was translated from “aion”) with “age” (except in 1 Cor. 8:13, and Eph. 3:21). These changes are completely unnecessary (as are thousands in the 1967 New Scofield), and reveal the misleading nature of modern scholarship. [By the way, how could C.I. Scofield be the “editor” of the New Scofield Reference Bible when he had been dead forty-six years? The title page claims he is the editor! Did the editorial committee (E. Schuyler English, Frank E. Gaebelein, William Culbertson, Charles L. Feinberg, Allan A. MacRae, Clarence E. Mason, Alva J. McClain, Wilbur M. Smith, and John F. Walvoord) believe in necromancy? Would not an editor’s job be to approve or disapprove changes? Did Scofield endorse the changes within the AV text? He did not, and probably never would have. When he was alive he flatly rejected the RV and the ASV (of 1901) stating the King James to be “accurate,” and “superior,” possessing “unrivalled pre-eminence.” It is interesting to note that in 1998 a new edition of the New Scofield Study Bible was published which placed the Authorized Version back in the text.]
Below are the facts substantiating why the AV translators were correct in their utilization of “world:”
- The modern “world” (point proven) has no trouble differentiating between two meanings of the word “world.” People often speak of New York City as being “another world,” but at no time are they referring to another planet. The previous sentence just proved “world” can be used to designate an “age” or “period of time” (i.e. modern world vs. ancient world).
- The dictionary gives one definition (among nineteen) as: “this or some specified other existence: this world; the world to come.”
- “World” is the best translation of “aion” in some cases (like Matt. 12:32) because “The ‘world to come’ has literal cities (Luke 19), with literal rulers (Matt. 19), and literal transformations in nature (Isa. 11, Rom. 8).”
- The word “age” expresses an idea but does not provide tangible substance and literalness like “world” does. Changing “world” to “age” deletes the connection between the physical “world” to the different “ages.” The physical world WAS affected under some of the various “ages.” In fact, there are nine earth transformations that coincide with the beginning and/or end of a specific “age” (see chart – The Physical World and the “Ages” page 20).
Let us never doubt the English AV text where “world” (instead of “age”) occurs, discerning its proper application with reference to the located “periods of time.”
Eschatology (from the Greek word: escatos) is the study of “last things” and concerns particularly the prophecies of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
One cannot study dispensationalism without making reference to eschatology. Most of the prophetic authors (Lindsey, LaHaye, Walvoord, Grant, Pentecost, et. al) are dispensationalists because eschatology and dispensationalism compliment one another. Dispensational theology encom-passes God’s overall plan for the ages, which includes not only the past ages, and the current age (Church Age), but the future ages: Tribulation, Millennium, and Angelic Age, or Eternal State.
Eschatological Views –
The prophetic interpretations of the second coming of Jesus Christ and the unveiling events found in Revelation and Daniel can be summarized as:
1. Symbolic – the prophetic events are not actual events, but merely symbols of truth, not real occurrences. “Christ is viewed as coming within the individual’s own experience.”
2. Preterist – from the Latin “preter” which means past. “Thus, a preterist interpretation of a given prophecy would attempt to explain it as an event that has already taken place.” Preterist believe that the prophetic events were current with the writer of scripture or fulfilled soon after.
There are basically two contemporary schools of preterism: moderate (or partial) and extreme (radical or full). Partial preterists (like R.C. Sproul) believe the coming of Christ was fulfilled in A.D. 70 but with a “future consummation of Christ” later; while full preterists “see virtually the entire New Testament eschatology as having been realized already.” Radical preterist believe in NO future second coming at all, and NO future rapture or resurrection:
Full preterism does not see a prophesied end of history. In fact, full preterists say we are not merely in the millennium, but we are now living in what we would call the eternal state or the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21-22.
3. Historical – prophetic events were future from the standpoint of when they were written, but they are all now in the past. They contend that the book of Revelation presents the entire course of church history from the first century to the end of time.
4. Futuristic – prophetic events are all in the future. All Bible believing dispensationalists are futurists, and hold to a literal interpretation of prophetic scriptures.
Incorrect Concepts –
There are several incorrect notions (matching the symbolic, preterist, and historical views) about the second coming of Jesus Christ. Larkin lists the following:
- The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
- Destruction of Jerusalem.
- Spread of Christianity.
The Bible plainly teaches that the coming of Jesus Christ will be literal, personal, visible, and bodily. The above ideas will not “jive” with scripture.
Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Other references are: Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 24:30; Matt. 25:31; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7.
Eschatological Schools Of Thought –
There are three prevailing positions of thought with regard to the study of the end times, particularly relating to the Millennial Kingdom.
1. Premillennialism – Jesus Christ will return back to this earth before the Millennial Kingdom, after the Church Age. Among those who hold to the premillennial view are:
a. Pre-tribulationists – believe the church will be raptured before the Tribulation.
b. Mid-tribulationists – believe the church will be raptured during the middle of the Tribulation.
c. Post-tribulationists – believe the church will be raptured after the Tribulation.
Premillennialism believes in the future restoration of Israel, and the promises relating to them as “his people” (Rom. 11:2).
2. Amillennialism – There will be no literal period of one-thousand year reign of Jesus Christ. Many amillennialists see the “millennial prophecies as being fulfilled in eternity.”
There is no rapture with the amillennial system, and the promises made to the nation of Israel are misapplied to the church.
3. Postmillennialism – The Millennial Kingdom is interpreted as the Church Age. Only after the church converts the world will Jesus return and “announce that His kingdom has been realized.”
Postmillennialism adheres to no rapture, is anti-Israel, and pro-Catholic in polity.
Dispensationalism and premillennialism are virtually in-separable. It could be said that a dispensational approach would lead to a premillennial view, and a premillennial view would lead to a dispensational approach. Gerstner attempts to make “historic premillennialism” different than “dispensational premillennialism” in order to establish an historical argument, namely, that “dispensationalism . . .diverges from orthodox Christianity.”
What Is Premillennialism? –
Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus Christ will return to the earth literally, and bodily, to reign as King before the Millennial Age ensues. The premillennial teaching is based upon the literal, grammatical-historical method of interpretation, rather than the allegorical method promoted and developed by the apostate Origen. [It is interesting to note that most dispensational authors (like Walvoord, Pentecost, LaHaye, Crutchfield, Ryrie, et. al) attack Origen and his doctrine, calling him an “Alexandrian theologian” while simultaneously promoting the “Alexandrian type” of manuscripts behind the new Bible versions. Modern dispen-sational authors, although they may be adequate Bible teachers, are NOT Bible believers.]
“Of the three views concerning the Millennium, the premillennial view is the oldest” because it is the biblical view. The fact that the early church believed in the literal, visible return of Jesus Christ to this earth before the Millennium is not disputed. What is disputed are the tenets of premillennialism. [For detailed proof of the premillennial view in the early church see Things to Come by Pentecost, pages 370-380.]
The Tenets Of Premillennialism –
- Jesus Christ will return to this earth literally and bodily.
- He will establish the kingdom thus fulfilling the promises of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies.
- The kingdom will fulfill the promises of the covenants to the nation of Israel literally.
- This kingdom will continue for a thousand years “after which the kingdom will be given by the Son to the Father when it will merge with His eternal kingdom.”
Premillennialism is not only the oldest view (although Gerstner differentiates between “older premillennialism and “modern dispensationalism”) it is the biblically correct view.
The Characteristics Of Premillennialism –
Premillennialism takes the Bible at “face value.” In other words, “God means what He says, and says what He means.” Reformed Calvinists may say: “What about parables and symbols given in scripture?” Jesus Christ (the true manifestation of the “word” – i.e. “Word”) expounds the case in point time and time again. For example, when Jesus wanted to use a symbolic meaning He made it clear by using “like:”
Matt 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Sometimes He would give the “similitude” (Hos. 12:10) and then explain it:
John 6:57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
When Jesus wanted the symbol or figure explained He made it clear:
Matt 13:25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
Matt 13:38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
Notice the definition and interpretation of the “fire” in the parable:
Matt 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Matt 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
Matt 13:42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The logical “face value” understanding can easily be seen. “Fire” is “fire.” How can that type of reasoning be hard, or considered fallacious? It is only unreasonable to those who have been educated out of their belief in the Bible (whether by secular or seminary measures). [It is significant that the unwarranted “educated” rejection of the word of God can be manufactured after only six to eight grades of public school instruction. What once germinated in the minds of atheistic professors, has now sprung up in the minds of unsaved teenagers and street kids! Juvenile delinquents will dispute a literal hell, argue about Cain’s wife and endorse Darwinism as articulately as some college students do. If you do not believe me, open the floor for questions at a Youth Detention Center!]
Premillennialism is also a position that endeavors to guard, maintain, and “contend for the faith” (Jude 3). It avows the integrity of scripture over personal prejudices. If the Bible is to be taken “at face value,” the true biblical eschatological system must be premillennial. Premillennialism allows the scriptures to harmonize, correspond, and synchronize, by accepting the veracity of Old Testament prophecies instead of pretending God meant something He did not say! The very people who accuse dispensationalists and premillennialists of “divid[ing] the Bible into sections which share little or no unity,” create a system of interpretation that generates contradictions, inconsistencies, ambiguity and doubt! “Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is a command that not only properly instructs, but unifies and bonds the scriptures together as a whole. Notice the contradiction of the postmillennial system with the following verse in mind:
2 Tim 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
|Apostasy prevalent before Jesus returns||Things get better before Jesus returns|
The premillennial system gives the prevailing glory to Jesus Christ alone. It is the premillennial system (and Bible teaching) that identifies ALL “betterment of societal ills” to Jesus Christ alone, APART from any organization, church, or alliance. Premillennialsim teaches that this world will NEVER be a peaceful “habitation for humanity” until, and ONLY until, Jesus Christ [the armies follow him, not lead him - Rev. 19:14] returns bodily to this earth so as to humiliate, defeat, and dethrone the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and take back the “throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32).
“Amillenarians believe that the millennium is a present reality (Christ’s heavenly reign), not a future hope (Christ’s rule on earth after his return).” Amillennialism, as Walvoord states, “is basically non-millennial. It denies there will be a millennium.”
The amillennial view holds that the kingdom promises in the Old Testament are fulfilled spiritually rather than literally in the New Testament church. Those who hold this view believe that Christ will literally return, but they do not believe in His thousand-year reign on the earth. According to the amillennial view, the kingdom of God is present in the church age, and at the end of the church age the second coming of Christ inaugurates the eternal state. The book of Revelation is interpreted as a description of those events that take place during the church age.
What two great personages do we have to blame for this undue perversion of millennial truth? Origen and Augustine:
With the contribution of Augustine to theological thinking amillennialism came into prominence. While Origen laid the foundation in establishing the non-literal method of interpretation, it was Augustine who systematized the non-literal view of the millennium into what is now known as amillennialism.
Augustine (354-430 A.D.), followed Origen’s allegorizing of scripture, and thus engendered the amillennial philosophy.
Augustine abandoned the premillennial position for the superficial reason that some millenarians had envisioned a kingdom age of unparalleled fruitfulness featuring banquet tables set with excessive amounts of food and drink (city of God 20.7).
Once “Augustine set forth the idea that the church visible was the Kingdom of God on earth,” no literal fulfillment of the promises to Israel were even considered, and since the millennium was the “inter-advent period,” Jesus was now reigning (notice the removal of “now” in the RSV in John 18:36) on a throne instead of sitting on the right hand of the Father awaiting the future kingdom!
Heb 1:13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
[Hebrews 1:13 reminds me of a father telling his son as they gaze at the beautiful sunset: “Look son, what a lovely sunset God has painted for us. Isn’t it pretty?” “It sure is dad,” answered the son, “and God painted it with His left hand.” The father replied, “Son, how do you know that God painted it with His left hand?” “Because,” said the son, “The Bible says that Jesus is sitting on His right hand!”]
Adherents to amillennialism include Reformed theologians, Roman Catholics, Lutherns, Episcopalians, Protestant Reformers, Southern Baptist liberals, some Presbyterian churches, and Hardshell Primitive Baptists.
Blunders Of Amillennialism –
- Amillennialism fosters no literal interpretation of scripture, even though Old Testament verses quoted in the New Testament were taken literally by New Testament authors, and Jesus Christ Himself.
- Amillennialism equates the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven and the church. This permits misapplication of doctrinal passages. For example, if the Kingdom of Heaven is synonymous with the church, then it would be possible for a saved person to be “cast out into outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12).
- Amillennialism teaches that the current age is the Millennial age. But the characteristics of the Millennium (Satan bound, no curse, no devils, absolute peace, longevity of life, ect.) are not in effect today.
- Amillennialism also alleges that the first resurrection is a spiritual resurrection, like Eph. 2:1,2. Once the literal, bodily resurrection is done away with, who is to say that Jesus Christ rose bodily? [See the readings in the NWT and NASB that deny the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ in Luke 24:51,52.]
Postmillennialism teaches that Jesus Christ will return at the end of the Millennium. Daniel Whitby (1638-1725) is attributed with propelling this ideology into a systematic form. Reworking the amillennial perspective, “Whitby popularized the concept that the world would grow progressively better until it climaxed in a golden age of one thousand years during which the Gospel would be triumphant.”
In Walvoord’s book The Final Drama, he uses a question to explain the viewpoint of postmillennialism:
Will the world get better and better and more Christianized through preaching the Gospel until it reaches a thousand years of a golden age, with Christ coming at the end of the period?
The postmillennial heresy was augmented with textual criticism, and the propaganda of evolution. All three teach “upward progression,” (“a better age,” “a better rendering,” “a better ape”), and have damned millions of souls to hell.
After WWI however, the postmillennial divergence took a fall that did not recover until the sixties. Currently the postmillennial position is held by liberal theologians (whether they are Presbyterian, Methodist, or Baptist) who “tend to deny judgment on the wicked and reject the literal resurrection of the body and the actual second coming of Christ.”
Cliques Of Postmillennialism –
Orthodox – believe the Millennium will be brought in through preaching of the gospel.
Liberal – believe that the Millennium will be brought in by humanism and socialism.
Theonomist (Christian Reconstructionist) – believe the Millennium is realized by the establishing of the Old Testament Law.
This new and growing movement emphasizes the covenant theology and postmillennialism of Reformed theology but with an added twist; phonemic ethics; meaning: we are still under the Old Testament law, the book of Galatians notwithstanding
Purchase this excellent book!
Click here to order from the Bible Believers' Bookshop
A comprehensive and thorough yet an easy to understand guide to the great Biblical theme of Dispensational Truth. This book contains 408 pages with names, subject, and verse indexes; 16 illustrations and charts; over 1600 verses referenced; over 70 bibliography entries and over 400 footnotes of documentation. Excellent for personal Bible study, a textbook for a Bible institute or Sunday School class. Perfect for a new Christian desiring to dig into the deeper truths of Scripture. $21.95 paperback. Click here to order
About the Author
Dr. David Walker
DAVID E. WALKER was born and raised in Macon Georgia. He trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour when he was a child, and was called to preach in his teen years. He enrolled in the Pensacola Bible Institute in 1992 where he met his wife Christi. At PBI he worked with several ministries, including street evangelism, visitation and preaching at a Christian school. He graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. In 1996, he and Christi moved back to the Middle Georgia area and began holding Bible studies and Sunday morning services with a few families. Later, he accepted a position as youth pastor, then associate pastor of Southside Baptist Church, in Macon (the very church he was baptized in as a child). Brother David was ordained at Southside in 2001. There he and his wife Christi conducted a very active youth program for teens, a children’s program on Sundays, and a bus and visitation ministry. They also worked at a two week camp sponsored by the church. In addition, Bro. David taught a regular Bible study in the church and supplied the pulpit for the pastor.
Brother David also began working with juvenile delinquents in three different Youth Detention Centers in 1999, and saw many young people come to the Lord. In 2002 Brother David and Christi joined Sylvia Hill Baptist Church in Thomaston, Georgia. Bro. David taught the adult Sunday school class, filled the pulpit for the pastor, and worked in the visitation and street ministries. He also began working on a Master of Theology degree with the Blue Ridge Bible Institute, which he completed in 2003.
Under the leadership of Dr. James A. Lince and the Blue Ridge Bible Institute, brother David traveled to the Philippines to instruct and teach native Pastors at the Bible Believer’s Institute. Having done the required missions work, teaching,and writing, he received his Doctorate of Theology degree in 2004.
Upon returning from the Philippines in June of 2004, Bro. David answered the call to pastor Calvary Baptist Church in Monticello, Florida. He has also written a correspondence course entitled The Bible Believer's Study Course.