By Rusty Lee Thomas
As one raised in Dispensational theology, I understand first hand the End-Time jitters and paranoia associated with that particular interpretation of Scripture. I lived through the Hal Lindsey and Edgar Whisenant’s End-Time scares. Through the years of study in the Scriptures, however, I have rejected that view for a number of reasons.
Most rest their conjectures of the End-Times based upon Jesus’ Olivet discourse found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Dispensational theology regulates these passages of Scripture to a future fulfillment, perhaps in the near future. Thus the reason for some of the hysteria over the current events taking place in the Middle East. Jesus spoke of wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, the rise of false teachers and religions, etc. In conjunction, people also read newspapers, watch the news, see some of these things happening in this generation, and are led to believe the time is at hand and the end of the world has come upon us.
There are a number of problems with this interpretation. Namely, it is never safe to interpret Scripture by reading the daily news. Scripture should interpret Scripture. The Bible is a self-authenticating book and doesn’t need the opinions of men nor commentary from CNN to validate Itself. Secondly, after Jesus pronounced judgment upon Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, the Apostles were obviously alarmed and asked, “… Tell us, when shall these things be (i.e., the destruction of the Temple) and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (or “age”)? Jesus answered their questions with a prophetic warning. His purpose was to make sure the Apostles and the early Church would be prepared to escape the wrath that was to come upon Israel, Jerusalem, and the Holy Temple.
Some may question the validity of this interpretation. I give three reasons to support this claim. First and most important, there is a time text quoted by Jesus Christ that one cannot escape. It inextricably places the entire context in a historical setting, rather than in a future scenario. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). Jesus didn’t say “that generation” indicating a future generation, but “this generation” indicating His contemporaries. Besides, Jesus stated this phrase “this generation” five other times in the book of Matthew and all five times it referred to the generation under the sound of His voice. For example, right before He pronounced judgment upon Jerusalem He stated, “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Batrachians, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”
Secondly, one cannot escape the personal pronoun Jesus used as He addressed His contemporaries. He stated continually that “you” would experience this (persecution) or when “you” see this sign (The Abomination of Desolation for instance) or “So likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors (Matthew 24:33).” If words mean anything, Jesus’ use of the personal pronoun “you” as opposed to the use of “they” indicates the people hearing Jesus’ warning were the ones that would be affected and not some future generation.
Thirdly, Jesus stated, “When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains (Matthew 24:15,16).” If this reference is one of the signs that the world is coming to an end, then why confine a major warning to a small locale and then tell the people of that small region to flee? If this is one of the signs that is signaling the end of the world, what is the use of fleeing? Where are you going to go? It is over; fleeing to survive is absolutely futile.
I’m sure many will struggle with this interpretation as they go through the list of signs and events declared by our Lord in Matthew 24, but I would encourage them to contact American Vision, Gary Demar, and order his end-time packet series. His website address is http://www.americanvision.org. The phone number is 770-222-7266. As you browse the website, you will find a section on eschatology (Bible prophecy). I would encourage anyone to purchase these materials and study them like a faithful Berean to see if these things be so (Acts 17:10,11) Some of the books, CD’s, and DVD’s go into great detail Biblically and shows that the entire Olivet discourse was fulfilled in 70 AD and is history, rather than a future fulfillment.
I also reject the “Last Days Madness” (to coin a phrase by Gary Demar) based upon the Biblical criteria found in God’s warning in the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 18:22 states, “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou salt not be afraid of him.”
Clearly, many so-called “prophecy” writers and preachers that hold to the dispensational view have given many predictions about the End-Times and the Second Coming of the Lord. They all have one common denominator. They have all been one thousand percent wrong. Not one of their dates and end-time scenarios have panned out. Yet, we still continue to buy their books, listen to their tapes, and believe their interpretation of Scripture.
God says in paraphrase, “If someone predicts something in My name and it doesn’t come to pass, they were not speaking for Me.” These “End of Days” prophets spoke presumptuously from their own hearts. I’m not saying these brothers in Christ are not saved or are false in the sense that they are purposely trying to deceive. I just believe their interpretation of Scripture is faulty and thus their conclusions and predictions are erroneous.
It is important to note as well, though all three millennial positions (premillennial, amillennial, and postmillennial) have been advocated in the Church throughout most of its history, the dispensational pre-tribulation rapture theory is the theological “new kid” on the block. This novel interpretation of Scripture was first popularized in the 1850’s. Slowly, but surely, however, its influence grew to the point that I dare say many Bible-believing Christians accept it as the orthodox view of the End-Times.
Ideas have consequences, however, and a belief system will lead us somewhere. Since the Church has adopted this position, what has happened to America and the world? This view has taught: “Why polish brass on a sinking ship and why rearrange furniture in a burning house?” As a result, the Church has for decades withdrawn into our buildings trying to save the lost and then stack them up at a spiritual bus stop so Jesus can return and rescue us from the mess on the earth. Thus in affect, the Church has acted as though it is spiritual to neglect, abandon, and retreat from the market place of ideas, the gates of our cities, the Cultural Mandate established in Genesis, and the Great Commission established by our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20). This accounts for the inactivity of the Church in America while babies are being murdered in their mother’s wombs, homosexuals parade their sins like Sodom, and evil flourishes under our watch. Wonderful brothers and sisters in the Lord actually believe this is God’s will based upon this view of the End-Times. They fail to see the fatalism it has produced and how it has paralyzed the Church. It is this view of Scripture that I’m convinced has greatly hindered the Church’s obedience to be salt and light to preserve and protect God’s creation and creatures from evil.
So, maybe it is high time for the Church to rethink what is happening in the Middle East as the fulfillment of Matthew 24. Perhaps, we are long overdue in thinking are real problem is actually found in Matthew 5:13 which states, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
My last point concerns the history of America. When you study the Colonial Fathers and the Founding Fathers, you will find this view strangely missing. They held to a Kingdom/Covenant view of Scripture that taught an eschatology of victory. They were for the most part Presbyterians and the early Methodists that believed in the Crown-Rights of King Jesus and His word as the standard by which men shall live by and will one day be judged by. In other words, they believed in time and history that the Great Commission will be fulfilled. The Mayflower Compact declares “in the name of God, for the glory of God, and for the advancement of the Christian faith.” Our spiritual forefathers and foremothers came to these shores believing that America was to be a city set on a hill that was to be a light to the nations. Strange, when the Church believed this, God blessed this nation beyond any other nation in the earth. What has happened to us since we have rejected this understanding of Scripture and adopted the dispensationalist view instead? Jesus taught, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a).
Finally, what one believes about the End-Times does not determine one’s salvation. Men can believe the Lord is coming back tonight and I can believe that He won’t be back until the Great Commission is fulfilled, either way, we will make it to heaven. Our salvation is not based upon our views of the End-Times, but based upon our common belief in Jesus Christ, His atoning work on the cruel cross ,and His subsequent resurrection from the dead. The historical creeds of the Church dealing with the topic of eschatology simply stated that Christ would return to judge the living and the dead. How it happens and when it happens remains a struggle. The only important matter about our views of the End-Times is that what one believes about the future can affect the quality of one’s faith today.
Reprinted with permission from http://www.elijahmin.com.
«- R.C. Sproul Jr. - The Church's Silence on the Abortion Issue
- Victorious Eschatology
-» Should Christians know Greek and Latin?
Your comments are welcome!
Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“Here I stand … I can do no other!”
With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Running time: 105 minutes
Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each.
Watch a clip from Martin Luther.
$9.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)