General Studies

Can We Be Left Behind: A study of dispensational premillenialism

There has been immense popularity in a new series of books called “Left Behind.” These books tell the story of things that the authors believe will happen at the second coming of Christ. Because of the popularity of these books, we need to determine if there is any truth to what the books speak about. Are the books a factual representations of what will happen at the second coming of Christ? These books are based on the end of time theory called is dispensational premillenialism. Let us examine what the theory teaches and see if it stands up against what the Bible teaches.

Dispensational Premillenialism

There is simply no way to be able to describe all the intricacies found in this theory. It is the most complex and most complicated theory about the end of time events available. There are other theories about the end of time called postmillennialism, historical premillenialism, and amillennialism, but we will not have the time to cover these theories in this article.

Dispensational premillenialism generally goes like this. From the very beginning God had a desire for an earthly kingdom. The theory states that Genesis 1:26-28 refers to Adam and God’s desire for Adam to establish a government that all would be under. But humanity rejected God and did not recognize his power, so God abandoned the attempt of an earthly kingdom and destroyed the world in the flood. Next, God attempted to accomplish his will through the patriarchs. God established his terrestrial kingdom beginning with Abraham. And so with Abraham there would be mediators or kings that would exercise absolute authority. These people included Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, the judges, Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon. These were the rulers of his terrestrial kingdom. But spiritual deterioration began after the judges, thus the need for the prophets to try to get the leaders to follow the law. But as the kingdom deteriorated more and more, the prophets began to foretell of a future, ideal kingdom. God, therefore, suspends his attempts to establish an earthly kingdom. The prophets then looked forward to someone who would set up the kingdom at a later time.

Later Christ is sent to establish God’s terrestrial kingdom. But the people rejected Jesus and his attempt to establish an earthly kingdom fails. Jesus, realizing that the rejection of his kingdom was coming, alters his plans and turns in a new direction. Jesus, instead of establishing the kingdom as he desired, establishes the church. Jesus is then rejected and crucified by the people and the kingdom is again in a state of suspension. The theory states that the kingdom is still in suspension and will remain this way until the time of Christ’s return when he will finally establish his kingdom that God has desired.

The organization of this kingdom is rather interesting. Jesus will reign as Lord on a literal, physical throne in Jerusalem. The Jewish system will be revived, being a continuation of the Davidic kingdom. This means that there will be a rebuilding of the temple and a restoration of the entire Old Testament laws and sacrifices.

Responsibilities of this government will be delegated to three groups:
(1) the resurrected saints of the first century church
(2) the resurrected Old Testament saints and
(3) the martyrs of the tribulation.

Beneath these are the redeemed living nation of Israel, who will be head over all nations of the earth, “exalted above the Gentile nations.” “On the lowest level there are the saved, living, Gentile nations.”

The theory further states that Christ will return and there will be a rapture of the saints, the raising of Christians and taking the church to heaven while there is a great tribulation upon the earth. This great tribulation will last seven years and there will be wars, chaos, fighting, plague, devastation, and more. The tribulation is to expel the usurpers of the earth and the evil in the world. Then Christ will return to the earth with the church after the seven year tribulation. The Old Testament saints will be raised from the dead. Christ will then reign on his physical throne in Jerusalem with the Jews who are all converted and are exalted over the Gentiles. All of the enemies of Christ will be either converted or destroyed. After the 1000 year reign of Christ, the resurrection of all the wicked will occur and judgment is going to take place. This is when the books will be opened and all will be judged according to their deeds. Once Satan and his followers are cast into the lake of fire, then the kingdom on earth and the kingdom in heaven will merge into an eternal kingdom.

The Consequences of Dispensational Premillenialism

Here are the problems that we encounter when we accept the theory of dispensational premillenialism:

1. Dethrones Christ

Premillenialism teaches that because the Jews rejected the kingdom, the kingdom is in suspension until a future time. Therefore, at Jesus resurrection, he returned to heaven and took a seat at the right hand of God. The theory states that he is not on his throne but one his Father’s throne. Until he takes his own throne he is not reigning. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 teaches otherwise. “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” This passage clearly states that Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father. Christ must reign until all enemies have been put under his feet and the last enemy is death. Therefore, Christ is reigning on the throne now and will continue to reign until death is destroyed. Premillenialism takes Christ off the throne and makes him a prince in heaven who is waiting to establish his authority on earth at a later time.

2.Makes God powerless

Premillenialism strips power away from God. The theory states that God has desired an earthly, or terrestrial kingdom since the days of creation. But God has been unable to establish his kingdom. He tried to establish it with Adam but failed and the flood came. He tried to establish the kingdom with Abraham and the patriarchs but failed and had to send the nation of Israel into captivity. God tried to establish his kingdom with Christ, but they crucified Christ, rejected the kingdom and God failed again. This theory makes God unable to accomplish his will. He cannot set up a kingdom he desires and is constantly foiled by his own creation. It makes God powerless and unable to establish any of his will. How can God who spoke the world into existence be unable to establish a kingdom on his creation? It does not work. Further, if God has been foiled all of these times and the kingdom continues to be put into suspension, then why should we believe that God will be successful in establishing his kingdom when he returns? Christ supposedly already came once to establish his kingdom but failed. Now he is going to return in the future to try again. Why should we have any confidence that it will happen now after so many failures? No, we do not accept this. Christ did come to establish his kingdom and he did establish it while on the earth,

3.Makes Christ a liar, John the baptist and the apostles false

John preached the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Christ confirmed that his kingdom was near and he was going to establish it. Premillenialism teaches that Jesus thought that he was going to establish his kingdom, but when he saw the rejection of his kingdom imminent, he discarded his plans. The problem is that Jesus is then a liar because he said the kingdom was at hand and so did John the baptist. They are now liars, and Jesus is now a sinner and not the son of God because not only did he lie, but he could not be God for he would have known not to preach something that would not happen. Further, Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16 that he gave him the keys of the kingdom. Since Christ did not establish his kingdom he must have lied to Peter or taken the keys back from him so that Christ could establish the kingdom later. Jesus is also a liar on the cross when he says “it is finished.” In fact the opposite was true, nothing was finished, but everything was postponed, according to this theory. Jesus is a liar in speaking to God the Father in John 17:4, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” Again, Jesus did not finish the work, he was rejected. Or was he deluded also while on the earth? He failed in his mission and came to the earth for no reason. It is a total waste of time. Jesus goes through his suffering for no reason. Jesus did not really come to save people but to establish his kingdom. This consequence is also unacceptable and cannot be for we know that Christ is not a liar and that he did finish the work that he came to do.

4.Makes the church an accident and nullifies the wisdom of God

In keeping with this, then the church is an accident. Christ came to establish his kingdom, but since he could not, he established the church instead. The church then is an afterthought, a plan B substitution for what God really wanted. Yet Paul said in Ephesians 1:22-23 that the church is the fullness of Christ. How can the church be the fullness of Christ, if the church is not what Jesus really wanted anyway? Therefore the apostles are all deluded and we cannot trust what they say. Do we see the problems that occur when we accept the tenets of premillenialism?

5. Mutilates the gospel

Premillenialism states that the Jews will be exalted above the Gentiles in the kingdom when Christ returns. The Jewish system is going to be restored, with the sacrifices, and the temple will be rebuilt. This mutilates and nullifies the gospel. Where is the good news in the separation of Jews and Gentiles? Jews and Gentiles are not one in Christ, as Paul said, they are separated in the reign of Christ and thus God does show partiality. God does show favoritism. Where is the good news if the Jewish system is restored? Paul tells us in Galatians and in Romans that we are dead under that system, that it is a system of slavery. Why did Christ die on the cross, if we are going to offer animal sacrifices again? Where is the all sufficiency of Christ? The whole letter of Hebrews is nullified and made worthless because we are going to return to the inferior system. There is no good news, for the condition we are in is only temporary if when Christ returns we will do the things contained in the old covenant. Premillenialism ignores the new priesthood that we are under in Christ, returning back to the Levitical priesthood under Moses. This theory clearly destroys the good news

6.Nullifies salvation to the Gentiles

Premillenialism unwittingly removes the availability of salvation to the Gentiles, thus meaning we are all lost. How? Because premillenialism states that it is not until the 1000 year reign that Christ will establish his authority and the tabernacle of David will not be rebuilt until then. Look at Acts 15:13-17, “And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: “Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.'” Notice that it is after the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David that the rest of mankind (the Gentiles) can seek the Lord. The rebuilding of the tabernacle is reference to the kingdom of God. If the kingdom is still in the future, then salvation is not yet available to the Gentiles and will not be available until the 1000 year reign. We reject this.

7.Breaks plain scripture

Verse 1 sets the tone of the letter of Revelation. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,”

First, everything that is read in Revelation must shortly take place. This is not a letter about things to happen over 2000 years later. This is a revealing about things that will shortly take place. Verse 1 also tells us that the letter was put into signs, signified by his angel. What is read is not to be taken literally but the things that are found are to be taken in signs, figuratively. The imagery read about cannot refer to the second coming of Christ because that was not something that would shortly take place.

Second, notice that in Revelation 20:1-6 there is nothing referring to and no mention of the second coming of Christ, a bodily resurrection, a reign on the earth, a literal throne, Jerusalem of Palestine, us, or Christ on the earth. All of that is read into the text to support this theory. This theory makes Revelation of no value to its readers in A.D. 90. If everything that is written in it would not happen for another 2000 years, then this letter did not have any hope for the people who read it and gives no comfort to those who were enduring the persecution at that time.

Conclusion:

We cannot accept the consequences of premillenialism. If the theory is true and the things in the Left Behind books are true, then all of these consequences are true and that causes many problems. We see that scripture solidly defeats this theory and we have no reason to accept it or believe it. Look for the next article about what the Bible does say about the end of time.

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