With this entry I am going to wrap things up with a few points about Dispensationalism. I may come back to it, or a related topic, someday, but I have to admit, when I started I had no idea how long it would go. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it was a surprise.
From Historicism To Dispensationalism:
There are still people who use the Historicist model in understanding the end times, but there is no doubt that its teachings have been displaced as the predominant one among Protestants. Looking at the two, though, I can’t help but notice similarities in their methods. Both provide believers with complex schemas that explain everything, if only you take the time to lay all the facts out ‘correctly.’ Dispensationalism simply replaces the history books with newspapers. I haven’t seen any studies to confirm this, but I suspect that generations of Historicist teachings were in some way important in creating the intellectual climate necessary to make Dispensationalism possible.
In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul taught that all scripture is inspired by God and ‘is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’ But Futurists, including Dispensationalists, teach that Revelations, chapters 4 to 22, is only applicable to the end times. How can these two assertions be reconciled? If we were living in 1537 would any of the book matter? Believing that this is now the end times, Dispensationalists might deny there is a problem, but what does that say about the book’s relevancy for the last two thousand years?
A teaching of Dispensationalists – and a central part of the Left Behind novel series – is that you can still be saved if you miss the Rapture. As far as I can tell, this teaching has its origins in Dispensationalism’s problem of in explaining scriptures that describe a Church on earth during the Tribulation, but the whole idea of becoming a Christian after Jesus comes for His Church runs counter to the teachings of so much of the New Testament that I don’t know where to being! The Parable of the Ten Virgins. The analogy comparing His coming to that of a thief in the night. We are taught to be ready, because when He comes it will be too late to say, ‘Oh, I guess its time to repent!’
Previously I said I would discuss Dispensationalism’s pessimism. Here are three examples.
History Of Failure:
Dispensationalist history is one of continuous failure. God makes a covenant with man and man fails to honour it. God makes another covenant and, again, man fails to honour it. The pattern of failure continues, literally, until the end of time. Why don’t we instead read the Bible as God’s effort to bring man into a closer and deeper walk with Him? Then each covenant would make God a more intimate part of our lives.
Pessimism And Government:
Dispensationalism has been tied to a conservative and distrusting view of government, but at the same time Dispensationalists often advocate stronger and stronger policing and security policies. I have never been able to make any sense of this. Why would people who fear a coming One World Government want to give that government the tools to control and monitor their lives? Presumably, they expect to be Raptured out of here before they face the consequences of their actions.
Pessimism And The Environment:
First off, let me acknowledge that I am not going to win an environmental award any time soon. In fact, I am only now learning to drive, after 42 years of doing without. Nevertheless, another puzzling thing about Dispensationalists is how little regard they have for the earth. Why? Because the Lord will someday destroy the earth with fire, anyway, before He makes make a new heaven and earth (1 Peter 3:10-13). So, why worry? But ask them about money, time or their family and they’ll tell you that God wants them to be good stewards of His blessings, even though they are temporal. But didn’t He also give us a responsibility for the earth (Genesis 1:28)? Can you think of one aspect of your life that God has given you authority over in order for you to exploit it and discard it?
(Interestingly, not everyone believes that Peter is referring to the end of time. Many believe the passage refers to the second coming, with the fire representing God's judgement. Notice when this is supposed to happen: ‘the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night’ [verse 10]. This is a phrase Dispensationalists understand to mean the Rapture! There is more to it than this one phrase, but that would mean a much lengthier study than I have time for right now. Perhaps I can return to it after I move.)
Wars And Rumours Of Wars:
Finally, since I don’t really know when I will be coming back to this subject, I thought I’d add this point as well. Everyone has some pet peeve. And often they are about trivial things. For example, I hate it when people say ‘nauseous’ when they mean they feel ‘nauseated.’ I have an end times pet peeve, too. How often have you heard the phrase ‘wars and rumours of wars’ when discussing prophecy? It comes from Matthew 24:6, when Jesus was asked by His disciples about the end times.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Notice what he says? ‘[B]ut the end is not yet’? Remember that. Jesus starts by telling His disciples to ignore false prophets and rumours of war and other disasters. He then goes on to describe the end times, beginning with apostasy in, and persecution of, the Church. And how can the Church be prosecuted if it has been Raptured out of here?