home > articles > The Disappointment of Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!

 

DISPENSATIONALISM’S BIG PROBLEM

Book of RevelationPut simply, Dispensationalism’s big problem is its inability to consistently forecast world events based on its interpretation of Bible prophecy. The things that Dispensationalism predicted would happen in the 20th century have largely not happened. This is a big problem especially because most Dispensational Bible Prophecy teachers usually add time-frames to their interpretations. For example, Dispensationalists were almost shrill in their claims of what the future held leading up to the year 2000. Some of the most outrageous claims were made about how the Bible predicted the coming Y2K bug!!! When it became obvious that there was no global financial collapse, no revelation of  a world dictator (the “Anti-Christ”), no rapture of the Church, no reconstruction of a Jerusalem Temple, or any other such Dispensational prediction, these Prophecy Teachers became very quiet. Except for some, like John Hagee who presses on with Dispensationalism regardless (I have written about some of his outrageous claims separately).

Here’s a really dangerous example of what I’m talking about-

2008 – God’s Final Witness
From now until the latter part of 2008, many prophecies are going to begin to be fulfilled, especially the Seven Thunders of the Book of Revelation, which the apostle John saw but was restricted from recording. Those thunders are revealed in this book, as well as detailed accounts of the final three and one-half years of man’s self-rule on earth, which are recorded in the account of the Seventh Seal of Revelation.

Some of these prophecies concern the demise of the United States over the next year, which will be followed by man’s final world war. This last war will be the result of clashing and the governments they sway. Billions will die! This time will far exceed even the very worst times in all human history…

http://www.the-end.com/

Most reasonable Christians are going to recognise immediately that this type of shrill is certainly outside of the pale of orthodoxy – even for the most extreme varieties of Dispensationalism. This particular author, Ronald Weinland, though, promotes the same kinds of Bible Prophecy interpretation ideas that generally characterise Dispensationalists-

  • He claims that the Book of Revelation was written to describe events taking place today.

  • He claims that God has given him special revelation into the Book of Revelation.

  • He claims that the Book of Revelation addresses contemporary events unfolding in the United States.

  • He claims that the world will get rapidly more evil and that “billions” will die.

This is exceptionally dangerous teaching. It deserves to be tested for its Biblical accuracy. And can even be tested for its prophetic accuracy since he claims that these events will take place in 2008.

In my eBook on the Book of Revelation, I have addressed these types of claims in evaluating some of the ways that people attempt to interpret Revelation. As more Dispensationalists become disappointed with Dispensationalism’s ability to make sense of current events and accurately forecast what the Bible really says about the future it is my hope that they won’t abandon the Bible altogether but will rather relook at what the Bible really says about the future- especially the Biblical Book which promises that the reader will be blessed by its contents- not confused by them.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
Revelation 1:3

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, March 26th 2008

Download Dr Corbett’s eBook on the Book of Revelation

Determining The Date Revelation’s Authorship

It would be remiss of any serious student of Revelation not to at least do a cursory examination of the historical context to which Revelation is back-dropped. The first point of reference would have to be to determine when Revelation was written. Most scholars regard there being only two possible dates. Dr. Leon Morris explores this adequately in his Tyndale Commentary series volume on Revelation, and I recommend that this widely available commentary be read. In the case of most books of the Bible, determining the date of its authorship, while certainly important, is not necessarily crucial to its interpretation. But this is absolutely not the case with the Book of Revelation. Some tradition has up until recent times regarded the date Revelation’s authorship to be around 95AD. This has been based almost entirely on a misunderstanding of one vague statement by the second century Church Father, Irenaeus.

The Symbolism of The Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation has variously been described as so mysterious that it simply cannot be understood. But this has not stopped some from speculating about what its symbolims means. Such speculation is based on the assumption that the Book of Revelation is uniquely symbolic. But what are the implications of the idea that Revelation is written with consistent Biblical symbolism in how we understand its message?

In fact, it can be shown that the Book of Revelation is saturated in Old Testament imagery and symbolism. Understanding this should help us to avoid abusing this profound Book with ridiculous speculation that forces such contemporary events as the European Union, the United States, modern Iran, and computer technology into the text.

The Disappointment of Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!

The Trinity Examined and Explained

There is no greater mystery than God. And perhaps there is no greater quest than to answer the question who is God? as truthfully as possible. When the identity of God is discussed there are a wide range of ideas put forward. Some have gained acceptance and formed the basis for the world’s religions. For those who have realised that God must have an identity they conclude that He must be a person. This is called theism- or more precisely, monotheism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are three great monotheistic religions of the world. But Christianity is further distinguished from these other monotheistic religions by identifying God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Is Preterism Over-Realised Eschatology?

Even preachers who claim to have no view on “End-Times” actually do – and usually make it known even if only subtlely. Thus, there are many great Gospel preachers who have built huge churches but who have a lousy eschatology! Then there are some preachers who have dangerous eschatology (such as John Hagee). When those who have some proficiency in the field of eschatology dare to disagree with any of these mega-church “big guns” about eschatology (even in a constructive manner), it is not surprising (but still disappointing) to be called “heretical” by them. To these pop-preachers, Preterism is merely “over-realised” eschatology. Here’s why it isn’t…

Perhaps these preachers have this view because they have accepted a caricaturisation of Preterism and not a well informed understanding of it. This is understandable from those preachers who are generally not careful in their in the research and tend to be more inspirational than exegetical. But when this criticism comes from one of the most popular preachers in the world (and a mega-church pastor) many Preterists are left bewildered for good reasons.

There are some preachers who deserve to be regarded as among the best in the world. Yet, many of these preachers have a false idea about what “Preterism”. More and more of them have been decrying Preterism and denouncing it as it has grown in its appeal. For example, one popular preacher alluded to Preterism as “over-realised eschatology”.  Since this preacher has such a huge following, his ill-informed comments about Preterism were even more disappointing. I wish to respond to his claim that Preterism is “over-realised eschatology”.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, BIBLE PROPHECY, AND JERUSALEM

I’m currently on Annual Leave. Having just spoken at the A2A Conference on the Gold Coast of Queensland, we chose to tack onto the first part of our leave some time on the Fraser Coast (which is north of the more famous, Sunshine Coast). To our surprise and delight, the motel where we had booked our couple of week’s stay upgraded us to a room which had cable TV. Taking advantage of this perk I channel surfer to the Christian channels and landed at Daystar where Irvin Baxter was interviewing Pastor Paul Begley on his program, End Of The Age (May 7th, 2018). I had never encountered either of these men, who struck as being very zealous and sincere. But what they stated as being ‘Biblical’ and clear signs from the Bible that we are living at the end of the age was bewildering. And even more bewildering was their claim that God was using President Donald Trump as a modern-day Cyrus who would help to usher in the return of Christ by moving the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem!

Eschatology In The Epistles

New Testament epistles are sprinkled with eschatological references which have led to confusion and the belief that the rules of hermeneutics must be re-written to accommodate particular eschatological systems. We will now survey how these Epistles make eschatological references and how we might best understand them.

A Sense of Imminence 

¶ The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
First Peter 4:7

The eschatology found in the New Testament Epistles conveys an expectation of imminence. Each of the writers had a sense that something was about to happen very soon. It could be argued that they were misguided and that the Scriptures accurately recorded their misinformed views. We see evidence of this sort of thing throughout the Old Testament where misinformed human perspectives were accurately recorded in God’s inspired Word. This includes such statements like, “from the rising of the sun” (Psalm 50:1; Isaiah 45:6; Malachi 1:11). Of course, we know that the sun doesn’t rise but from the perspective of the human authors it appeared to. But this doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing happening in the Epistles. Unlike the genre of the Psalms or Prophets, these eschatological statements found in the Epistles are not poetic. They are presented as statements of fact – often linked to an injunction (1Peter 4:7; Hebrews 10:24-25). If it is the New Testament perspective is actually just the accurate recording of misguided human opinion, it then makes the linked injunctions (moral commands) redundant.

How The Feasts of Israel Were Prophetic Types

The seven feasts of Israel were prophetic pictures of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Most of them can be proven to be fulfilled, but there are still some to be fulfilled…

The wonder of God’s amazing revelation in Scripture is that not only has He spoken directly of His plan for mankind, but that He has also given us some beautiful historical pictures of His plan of redemption embedded within the precepts of the Mosaic Law. The ceremonies, rituals, and prescribed festivals each have priceless insights into the life, work, death and resurrection of the coming Messiah- Jesus Christ. Understanding these prophetic pictures should not just amaze us, they should inform and reassure us that God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ has unfolded perfectly and will continue to do so.

Glossary of the Book Of Revelation

Some scholars regard the language of Revelation as “apocalyptic”. By this, they mean- ultimate doom language presented in symbolic terms. If we accept this narrow definition as the working definition of “apocalyptic” then we are forced to reject the Book of Revelation as truly being apocalyptic language. The reason for this is that the Book of Revelation is not about the end of the world as much as it is about the end of something else.

Other scholars take a broader definition of the word apocalyptic and employ it to simply mean prophetic symbolism. Clearly the Book of Revelation is full of symbols. The challenge for the Bible student is to learn its language and interpret what the symbols mean. We do this by following the standard rules for sound Bible interpretation.

What Is Morality?

The issues of right and wrong are integral to the study of ethics which is a core component to morality. Right is understood as morally right, as distinct from absolutely right such as in the science of mathematics. Naturally, wrong is understood as morally wrong, as distinct from incorrect. Moral is understood to be: the best individual and social outcome. As Christians we believe that the best individual and social outcome is only achieved when the mind of God is sought and followed. In the Old Testament era, this was encapsulated within the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments). Now in the New Testament era, its understanding is enhanced by Christ’s teachings.

 In the story, Gulliver’s Travels, the author continually depicts Lemuel Gulliver travelling among different peoples who each reflect an aspect of British morality and culture. After describing the British as either war-mongers, snobs, greedy, or, out-of-touch intellectuals, he finally concludes with a scene where Gulliver travels to an island of savages, called Yahoos. These savages are caucasian, filthy, and promiscuous. Also on this island are horses (referred to as Houyhnhnms). The Houyhnhnms are cultured. They know nothing of lying, greed, or stealing. Each Houyhnhnms is committed to just one other Qwinum as their spouse.

Subscribe To Our Finding Truth Matters (ftm) Perspectives eMail

Subscribe to receive the latest news, updates and discounted special offers.

Thank you for subscribing to the Finding Truth Matters PERSPECTIVES with Dr. Andrew Corbett regular eMail