As a moderately dispensational premillennialist, I groan a little every time there is some kind of celestial wonder such as is supposed to come our way Sunday night – a Super Blood Wolf Moon. Two things happen that irritate me – and as someone who six weeks out from surgery, is not healing well, still has a lot of pain, and feels tired and grumpy all the time, I don’t need this kind of irritation.
- Eschatology wingnuts come out of the woodwork telling us about the powerful portent of this sign, and of the next, and of the next, and of the goings on in Israel and in the Middle East and Russia and China and Red Heifers and Harbingers and Shemitahs and all sorts of other things. They sell books and whip up frenzies and then move on to the next “sign of the times” that awaits, filled with awesome omen of the sure and soon coming of Christ.
- Those who disdain the position I hold take great pleasure in the rantings of said wingnuts to heap ridicule on the dispensational position. It seems many Christians have no greater pleasure than demeaning the brethren who still hold to the dispensational hermeneutical system.
Now, all of you get off my lawn.
I would like to speak a few words to those few eschatological dinosaurs who still hold to the same position I do, who have not become amillennial or historic premil. I’m told that contrary to all biblical, historical, and logical evidence, there are even some postmillennialists hanging around these days. (See how inconsistent I am – I complain about ridicule and then there’s that postmil zinger!). But I would like to address my tribe today. I am not trying to convince anyone of our position – the Rapture will do that, right? I am just trying to appeal to my pretrib brethren and sistern to exercise a modicum of sanity during the Super Blood Wolf Moon and into the future. I would make the following points.
One appeal to those who hold other positions – there is and has been a more serious and scholarly version of dispensationalism than the populist version you see on TV and in books. It focuses on things like the eternal fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and the distinction of Israel and the Church, on Romans 11, and on other hermeneutical issues, not on Blood Moons and Red Heifers. If all you do is deal with Hagee, Van Impe, and LaHaye, you’ve not really dealt with dispensationalism.
But, to my fellow dispensationalists, whether classical, progressive, or like me, tepid, here are some things to remember.
1. We are not looking for signs, but listening for the Son.
I have heard that all of my life – nice cliche, huh? One of the fundamental assertions of our view is that the return of Christ for his church (sometimes called the Rapture) is imminent – it could happen at any moment. There are no signs that need to take place before the trumpet sounds. Those signs in the heavens that are spoken of in Matthew and Revelation take place after that, not before. There are no signs that need occur in the sky or on earth before the trumpet sounds.
Anyone who stirs us up with stories of Blood Moons and all that other nonsense is missing the point.
2. We do not know the time.
Honestly, how much more clear could Christ have been that he would come as a thief in the night and that we would not know the day or the hour. There are not going to be a bunch of signs – thieves don’t leave hints! We are supposed to be ready every day not wait for Super Blood Wolf Moons to warn us.
3. God will restore Israel in the future.
It is true that we believe that God’s promises to physical Israel will be physically fulfilled in the future kingdom. Every passage that speaks of the end times focuses on Israel and Jerusalem – a core part of our doctrine. I would point out that God restores Israel in his time. The Bible never puts the burden of the restoration of the nation of Israel on the church.
4. HOWEVER…Right now we are in the ‘Times of the Gentiles”
Romans 11 is a core passage for us. The nations have been grafted in for a time until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. What is the point? One day, God will restore Israel to its rightful place but right now our duty is to reach people from EVERY tribe and language. That means that God cares about Muslim nations today EVERY BIT as much as he does Israel. If we “support Israel” in such a way that we act as if the Muslim nations do not matter we are not honoring God, but disobeying him.
5. It is our duty to take the Gospel to the Nations, not primarily to save Israel.
Please understand, I love Israel. I’ve been there and want to go back – it was an experience I cannot describe. Politically, I think America should support Israel for many reasons. But the church should preach the Gospel everywhere and not make Israel a priority over Muslim nations.
It was shameful when a resolution in support of Palestinian Christians was opposed at the SBC because it might be seen as “Anti-Israel.” We do not get to pick which Christians we treat as brothers and sisters.
I hope the USA will be responsibly supportive of Israel (not blindly so), but I hope that we will never think that being pro-Israel is an excuse to ignore evangelizing Muslim countries. That is anti-Gospel.
6. The sensationalism really needs to stop.
Do I need to defend this statement? The Scripture says “by their fruit you shall know them.” These sensationalistic, conspiratorialist movements have never accomplished great things in the kingdom. They have brought ridicule, shame, and disrepute. They’ve made the perpetrators rich and famous but they’ve not brought glory to Jesus Christ.
7. Every End-Times Scripture gives us an admonition to soldier on, not go nuts.
Look at some passages that we dispys have thought to be key to our doctrine through the years.
1 Thessalonians 4, which speaks of being caught up into the clouds with Christ, does not end with an admonition to speculate about the identity of the antichrist or to watch the skies for blood moons, but to be encouraged to walk in Christ.
Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul touches on issues of the resurrection and of that moment when in a “twinkling of an eye” we shall all be changed. What does he tell us to do? Quit our jobs and wait for Red Heifers? Make sure the capital of Israel is in Jerusalem? No, he has a much simpler command.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
We are to just keep serving Christ faithfully as long as Jesus tarries, until that day and hour which no one knows where he comes as a thief in the night. After warning of the fact that deception would arise in the days to come in 2 Thessalonians 2, leading right up to the end, another key passage for our doctrine, he gives another warning.
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote. 2 Thessalonians 2:15
We ought not to be alarmists but to be faithful.
I am making no effort to convince those who hold to other positions in this post. I do not delve into these matters often for two reasons. While I am a dispensationalist, I believe there is enough mystery in the end-times teachings of the Scripture to give Christians room for respectful disagreement. There is an intriguing simplicity in the Amillennialist position and Historic Premillennialism is not without biblical logic. I can’t see how anyone can biblically argue Postmillennialism, but I can understand why people would want to believe that the church reaches the world in the end – noble, if misguided, optimism. Preterism is troubling. After long hours of study, I hold my position, but it is not a “thus saith the Lord” position but a “this explains the evidence to me better than the other positions.”
I really have no desire to argue eschatology with anyone.
My purpose here today is to speak to my tribe and to beg people to avoid the excesses “our side” has so often been guilty of committing.
- Let us remember that we are not supposed to be reading tea leaves but listening for the trumpet that will signal the coming of the Son as a “thief in the night.”
- Let us stop getting caught up in sensationalist commercialism.
- Let us obey Christ and live faithfully until he comes.
- Let us carry the gospel to EVERY nation. God loves Muslims EVERY BIT as much as Jews. The mandate of the church is to evangelize Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and Egypt every bit as much as it is to evangelize Israel and Jews.
- Enjoy the Blood Moon, if the sky is clear, but realize that there is ABSOLUTELY NO eschatological significance to it.
On the other hand, if my friend, the KC Wolf, can somehow turn this into a reason for the Chiefs to beat the NE Communists, I will be much less grumpy. I mean, It’s the Chiefs and the whole Blood Wolf Moon thing has Native American roots. How appropo!