This is my final installment in this mini-series on “Dispensational Distortions.” I come now to the dispensationalists’ problems in understanding contemporary history from a Biblically based worldview. Dispensationalism is seriously hampered by a historical system that is both confused and distracting to a full-orbed Christian witness.
Multiple Advents of Christ
First, we witness confusion regarding the coming of Christ. The blessed hope of the Christian is the singular, literal, bodily, glorious Second Coming of Christ (Titus 2:13). But dispensationalism teaches multiple literal comings of Christ from heaven to earth.
Of two future, literal comings of Christ (the Rapture and the Second Advent) dispensational theologian J. Dwight Pentecost writes: “There are a number of contrasts to be drawn between the rapture and the second advent which will show that they are not viewed as synonymous in Scripture … These are two separate programs and can not be unified into one event.”1
Charles Ryrie writes: “This passage cannot refer to the Second Coming of Christ because that even was not a mystery unrevealed in the Old Testament. The reference is to something distinct, that is, the rapture of the Church before the tribulation.”2
Thus there are in the dispensational view two more future, literal comings of Christ, a second coming and a third coming. But the Bible speaks only of a “second” coming. Hebrews 9:28 reads: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” The Bible speaks of His coming again (Acts 1:11), not of His “comings” or His “coming again and again” or of a “third coming.”
Closely related to this error in dispensationalism is the Biblical teaching regarding the resurrection. The Bible speaks of but one resurrection, on the “last day.” Our Lord teaches this in John 6:39–40: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” He does not say, “I will raise him up 1000 years before the last day.” John 6:44, 54; 11:24; and 12:48 agree.
Dispensationalism is driven by a system requiring two programs: one for the Jew and one for the Gentile. It is not driven by Biblical revelation. Consequently, its view of a second and third coming of Christ is wrong. And being wrong, it misdirects the Christian’s blessed hope.
Mingling the Mortal and Immortal
Second, we witness certain absurdities in dispensationalism’s millennial view. One particularly strange aspect of their system is that the Messianic Kingdom will involve 1000 years of mingling resurrected, glorified believers and non-resurrected, mortal men.
Ryrie comments in this regard: “The kingdom will be established on the earth … The center of government in the millennium will be Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be the city to which Christ returns. It seems clear that there will be unsaved people in the millennium … There is no evidence that those who enter the kingdom as a result of this judgment will have redeemed bodies so that children may be born during the millennial period.”3 But this mixes fallen, unresurrected men with glorified saints, for Ryrie also argues: “The reason that God can bring … believers with Him at His Second Coming into the kingdom is because before that time God will have raised them, and Paul then goes on to speak of that resurrection and translation which must occur before His Second Coming.”4
Pentecost concurs when he writes: “Among those unregenerated in that day will come the multitude known as ‘God and Magog,’ who come up against the ‘camp of the saints,’ which must be Palestine, and ‘the beloved city,’ which must be Jerusalem.”5
Thus, we see that the Kingdom will involve resurrected believers and the glorified Christ ruling over unresurrected mortals. The place of Christ’s throne will be in literal Jerusalem on earth.6 In other words, for 1000 years these glorified people live without sickness, weakness, or death among unresurrected men and women who, though they live longer life spans, still get sick and die. And incredibly, these unresurrected mortals attempt to attack these 1000-year-old, glorified people!
No pointing to Christ’s dwelling in His resurrected body upon the earth after His crucifixion can relieve the absurdity of this feature of dispensationalism. For Christ was only one person, was in His resurrected body for a short period upon the earth (Acts 1:3), and was only seen by a selected few brethren (1 Cor. 15:5–8). Neither may we speak of the blind stubbornness of sin as accounting for the attack upon these glorious people and their city during the millennium. Even sinners believe in self-preservation and restraint against overwhelming and well-documented odds.
Third, we witness distraction from a hope-filled, holistic mission in dispensationalism’s inherent historical pessimism. The dispensationalist urges believers to accept the view, as H. Wayne House and Thomas Ice note, that “the church age will end in apostasy, not revival” because it was destined so by God.7 Furthermore, they teach believers today that “[t]his current world is headed toward judgment. After that judgment, Christ will take over control of the world and rule it. But until that happens, the message and activities for believers should be, ‘Flee the wrath to come by finding safety in Jesus Christ.’”8 John Walvoord dogmatically asserts: “Christians have no immediate solution to the problems of our day.”9
In fact, House and Ice actually discourage Christian efforts to effect change: “[T]o attempt to establish a long-term change of institutions before Christ returns will only result in the leaven of humanism permeating orthodox Christianity.”10 They even castigate Christians for trying: “Tragically, this will contribute to the further unfaithfulness of the church in these last days before the return of Messiah.”11
But the Bible expects ultimate success and victory in the world. The Great Commission promises that Christ, Who has all authority in heaven and on earth, will be with us to the end (Matt. 28:18, 20). For what purpose? To see that we disciple and baptize all nations (Matt. 28:19).
Jesus has promised that “if I be lifted up … [I] will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Indeed, we learn that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Paul instructs us that Christ must continue to reign [He is presently reigning!] until all of His enemies are put down (1 Cor. 15:21–25). He believed that God was in Christ reconciling “the world” to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).
Despite the attraction of millions of evangelical Christians to dispensationalism, the system is fraught with distortion, error, and even absurdity. The errors are not insignificant. They involve major matters: Christ, redemption, and history.
In that “ideas have consequences,” the ultimate outcome of dispensationalism is to discourage Christians from advancing the cause of Christ in the world. Both its grave distortions as well as its misguided concerns make dispensationalism a system fraught with much potential harm.
1 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), 206–207.
2 Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Bros., 1953), 133.
3 Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, 147, 149, 150.
4 Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, 133–134.
5 Pentecost, Things to Come, 550.
6 Pentecost attempts to escape this dilemma (Pentecost, Things to Come, 577) by having Jerusalem floating and shining brilliantly above the earth! But the popular perception and the demands of literalism forbid it.
7 H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice, Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? (Eugene, Ore.: Multnomah, 1988), 390, 378.
8 House and Ice, Dominion Theology, 356.
9 John F. Walvoord, in Charles Lee Feinberg, Prophecy and the Seventies (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 212. Walvoord says: “A solution to this unrest and turmoil is provided in the Bible, and there is no other. That solution is that Jesus Christ Himself is coming back to bring peace and rest to the world” (p. 210).
10 House and Ice, Dominion Theology, 340.
11 House and Ice, Dominion Theology, 161.