Good testimonies are usually told to my wife. That is the way reports of blessings come to this pastor. Sometimes news of bad events is made to my face, but good tidings seem always to be said to my wife. One of the ladies of our church snares my wife, looks both ways, and says, "Oh, by the way, your husband's preaching has changed our lives!" The most frequent blessing I receive in this fashion is that couples have decided to have a child for the first time, or to have additional children after years of birth control. I am always glad to hear this because years of "prophecy-mongering" by premillennial preachers have terrified some Christians into birth control and even childless marriages. Barrenness is just one consequence of premillennial prophecy teaching; wrecked careers and poverty are others. For example, about thirty years ago, Dr. Jack Van Impe held a giant rally in Greenville, South Carolina. He solemnly told the audience that, in his learned opinion, we didn't have five years until the Lord would return. Rapture fever gripped the campus of my Christian university. One of my fellow students, a 30-year-old freshman, quit school because he believed it was a waste of valuable time to train for a future that didn't exist. He had prayed and "was definitely moved," so he said, to evangelize on the street, if necessary, to snatch as many souls as possible from the tribulation certain to come.
I met my friend six years later at a conference of Christian educators in Tampa, Florida. He was an unhappy insurance salesman. When I asked about his family, he looked hurt and changed the subject. I didn't press him. I could easily guess why the question hurt. My experience as a pastor is that many premillennial families suffer poverty and divorce. Bad theology has terrible consequences. I tried to lighten up the conversation by saying (with gallows humor, an Irish specialty), "Well, Van Impe was wrong, but I hear he's still preaching to a full house. Marvelous thing, the ministry. In any other profession, mistakes get you less business, not more."
My sad-faced friend didn't smile; instead he remarked that he had an appointment to keep. He had dropped by when he saw the marquee at the Dixon Convention Center advertising our conference. He was happy to find someone he knew. He said, "Good-by," and then staring at me, he asked with a quivering chin, "Pray for me."
Not waiting for my answer, he turned too late to hide his tears and walked away. I never saw him again. Probably there are other reasons that destroyed my friend's dream of the ministry, but goofy reading of the future by a premillennial preacher played a part. The Lord will sort out the blame, and wise men fear his vengeance. But premillennialists seem oblivious to their peril, a sure sign of a curse (1 Pet. 2:20).
Precise eschatology, the doctrine of last things, is not found in any of the historic creeds, such as the Belgic or Westminster Confessions. Extensive future predictions are not one of the fundamentals of the Faith. We cannot deny credentials to a Christian on the basis of his understanding of prophecy. We can, however, exclude a person claiming to be a Christian if he denies the doctrines expressed in the Apostles' Creed or the Athanasian Creed. These must be endorsed, or a person cannot be accepted into our number. There is a way, however, to judge and deny credentials on doctrine other than the fundamentals. It is, by their fruits you shall know them (Mt. 7:20). For example, a prophet who foretells an event that doesn't come to pass is to be condemned as a false prophet (Jer. 23:32). Please do not write me letters pointing out that Van Impe and others of his ilk qualify their remarks by saying, "No man knows, but I can safely guess on the basis of the signs that we don't have more than five years. I am not setting a date, because that is forbidden, but. . . ."
It seems after thirty years of such doubletalk, false teachers must either repent or keep silent. How much damage to the body of Christ must they do before someone says, "Your fruit stinks"? The fact that prophecy conferences draw crowds does not prove anything except that sinful men love to use the Bible as a witch does the entrails of a chicken.
On the other hand, the fruit of rejecting premillennialism is very good. I still recall with reverent excitement the testimony a self-employed mechanic presented before Tri-City Covenant Church in Somersworth, New Hampshire. He said, in a voice filled with gratitude and emotion, that for the first time in his life, he had cleared all his debts and had opened a bank account. "The Son is making us free," his pastor told me, "and if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." Robust Calvinism coupled with postmillennialism is making Pastor Tom Clark's congregation triumphant in Christ.
I still remember the night his church rejected Arminian baptism for covenantal sprinkling. Over fifty parents and their children lined the front of the repentant Baptist congregation. Some couples had two and three children to baptize. Some of the mothers stood heavy with child. All of the mothers seemed happy, but the pregnant ones had the most radiant smiles of joy on their faces. Their proud husbands stood at their sides vowing to bring their children up in the fear and admonition of Christ. If Christ would be so gracious to bless their children, they vowed as parents and as church members to faithfully teach their children to claim salvation only after supernatural obedience to the law-word had marked their children's lives. A virtual population explosion has marked this church, and a large and growing Christian school is helping parents make good their vows. The command to multiply and take ownership of the earth to the glory of Christ (see Gen. 1:27, 28) follows the application of sound doctrine. False doctrine like premillennialism brings barrenness and totalitarian poverty. By their fruits we shall know them.
There are many other churches experiencing such victory. Shiloh Christian Church in Leroy, Ohio, under Pastor Phil Vollman, is one that I visited recently. Healthy, happy children abound in this church. The men talk of starting businesses and optimism shines as the sun. The future belongs to those who trust in Christ. Just as a new bride trusts in her husband, so a church freed from the living death of dead theology greets each day filled with hope. Some brides trust wrongly in weak and false men, but our husband, the Lord, is omnipotent and faithful. His prayer for us is "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in good heath, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 Jn. 2). "Rejoice in the fruit of the womb, which is His reward" (Ps. 127:3). Be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion. The future belongs to the bride of Christ.
- Ellsworth McIntyre