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Category Archives: John Walvoord

JOHN F. WALVOORD (A.B., D.D., Wheaton College; A.M., Texas Christian University; Th.B., Th.M., Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary), former president of Dallas Theological Seminary and editor of Bibliotheca Sacra, America’s oldest theological quarterly, was recognized as one of the leading evangelical theologians in America and an authority on systematic theology and eschatology. His academic background and extensive travel in the Middle East made him unusually capable of preparing theological and eschatological studies. He authored numerous books on theology and biblical prophecy, including The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ Our Lord, and Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation.

THE THREE STAGES OF DISPENSATIONALISM

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CLASSICAL REVISED PROGRESSIVE
Other Names Essentialist Normative Non-dispensational
Dates 1830-1952 1952-present 1987-present
Scholars Darby, Scofield, Chafer, Ironside McClain, Walvoord, Pentecost, Ryrie Bock, Blaising, Saucy, Ware
Dispensations Seven Four or More Three or More
Schools Dallas Dallas, Talbot, Western, Moody, Grace Dallas, Talbot
Covenants David future; Two new covenants Davidic future; One New Covenant Davidic Present; One New Covenant
Continuity Sharp Discontinuity More Continuity Even greater Continuity
Peoples Two separate programs: Israel-earthly;

Church-heavenly

Converging programs: earthly/heavenly distinctions are minimal One people: the church continues program with Israel until Israel believes
Believers of Daniel’s 70th Week Tribulation saints who are not part of the church Tribulation saints who are not part of the church Tribulation saints who are part of the church
Church Age Parenthesis in God’s program with Israel Parenthesis in God’s program with Israel Not a parenthesis but a progressive outworking of God’s program
Postponement Theory Belief that the kingdom was postponed due to Israels rejection Believed by many but de-emphasized Not taught due to the progressive fulfillment of the kingdom
Kingdom Totally Future Mostly Future (majority) or Total Future (some) Present now, though fullest dimensions are yet Future
Spirit during Tribulation Absent and not indwelling Present but not indwelling Present and indwelling
Sermon on the Mount Millennial Principles Present ethics while anticipating the kingdom Present ethics while anticipating the kingdom

RESOURCES ON CLASSIC/REVISED AND PROGRESSIVE DISPENSATIONALISM:

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF DISPENSATIONALISM:

Dispensationalism Before Darby by William C. Watson.

Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption: A Developing and Diverse Tradition edited by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider.

CLASSIC:

The Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford University Press. 1909, 1917, 1937, 1945.

God’s Plan of the Ages: A Comprehensive View of God’s Great Plan from Eternity to Eternity by Louis T. Talbot.

Dispensationalism and Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer.

REVISED:

The New Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford University Press, 1967.

Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie, 2007.

Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths by Michael J. Vlach, 2017.

Things to Come by J. Dwight Pentecost, 2010.

PROGRESSIVE:

Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism by Darrell L. Bock and Elliott Johnson, 1999.

Progressive Dispensationalism by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, 2000.

The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism by Robert Saucy, 2010.

Dispensationalism, Israel And The Church by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, 2010.

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Israel In Prophecy – What Of The State Of Israel?

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The New State Of Israel

(Chapter 1 in Israel in Prophecy by Dr. John F. Walvoord, Zondervan, 1962)

When Theodor Herzel announced in 1897 the purpose of the Zionist movement—“to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law”—few realized how dramatic would be the fulfillment. The Jews had dreamed for centuries of re-establishing themselves in their ancient land. Now this longing was translated into action. Few nations could point to a richer heritage as a basis for the hope of the restoration of the nation.

The History Of Israel In The Old Testament

The history of Israel began more than thirty-five hundred years ago, when, according to the early chapters of Genesis, the divine call was extended to Abraham to leave his ancient land of Ur and proceed to a land that God would show him. After some delay, Abraham finally entered the land, and there the promised son Isaac was born.

Though God miraculously fulfilled the promise of a son in Isaac, Abraham himself never possessed the Promised Land but lived as a pilgrim and stranger. Rich in earthly goods, Abraham never fulfilled his hope of a homeland in his lifetime. His son Isaac shared a similar fate. Under Jacob, Isaac’s son, the people of Israel forsook the Promised Land entirely and at the invitation of Joseph set up their homes in Egypt where they lived for hundreds of years. It was not until their very existence was threatened in Egypt by a hostile king that the day finally came for Israel’s possession of the land. With Moses as their appointed leader, they began their momentous migration, one of the largest ever undertaken by any nation. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, they finally completed their pilgrimage from Egypt to the land promised Abraham.

The book of Joshua records the conquest of Palestine and its partial occupation. The nation Israel, however, was doomed to generations of oppression and moral declension. They periodically were oppressed by Gentile nations about them with occasional cycles of spiritual and political revival, led by judges whom God raised up. The political anarchy which characterized the period of the judges was succeeded by the reign of the kings, beginning with Saul, and was followed by the glory and political power of the kingdoms under David and Solomon. Under Solomon, Israel reached its highest point of prestige, wealth, and splendor, and much of the land which God promised Abraham temporarily came under the sway of Solomon.

Again, however, moral deterioration attacked from within. Because of Solomon’s disregard of the law against marriage to the heathen, many of his wives were pagans who did not share his faith in God. His children, therefore, were raised by their pagan mothers and they were trained to worship idols instead of the God of Israel. The resulting judgment of God upon Israel was manifested in the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The ten tribes, united to form the Kingdom of Israel, persisted in complete apostasy from God, and idol worship became the national religion. In 721 B.C. the ten tribes were carried off into captivity by the Assyrians. The Kingdom of Judah, including the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, continued for a little more than another century until they too were taken captive by Babylonia. For a generation, the land of Israel was denuded of the descendants of Abraham.

The book of Ezra records the restoration of Israel which followed the captivities. In keeping with the promise given to Jeremiah that the captivity would continue for only seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10), the first expedition of the children of Israel, led by Zerubbabel, began their trek to their homeland. The book of Ezra records their early steps in restoring the land and building the temple. Nehemiah completes the picture with the building of the walls and the restoration of the city of Jerusalem itself. Once again Israel was in their ancient land, re-established as a nation.

The history of Israel from that point on was not without its serious problems. First, the warriors of Macedon under Alexander the Great swept over Palestine. Then they were subject to the rule of the Seleucian monarchs and later were controlled by Syrians. One of the sad chapters in Israel’s history was the Maccabean revolt which occurred in 167 B.C. and which resulted in severe persecution of the people of Israel. In 63 B.C. Pompey established Roman control and from then on the land of Palestine, the homeland of Israel, was under Roman control for centuries. It was in this period that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. During Christ’s lifetime on earth, Israel was under the heel of Rome and Christ Himself was sent to the cross on the basis of Roman authority.

The History Of Israel Since Christ

The subsequent history of Israel was most unhappy. In A.9. 70, Titus, the Roman general, ordered Jerusalem and its beautiful temple destroyed, and a quarter of a million Jews perished. The remaining Jews continued to revolt and finally in A.9. 135 the desolation of Judea was ordered. Almost a thousand towns and villages were left in ashes and fifty fortresses razed to the ground. The people of Israel, except for a few scattered families who remained, were dispersed to the four winds.

From A.D. 135 to modern times, the nation Israel made their homes all over the world. In the eighth century the Abbasid Arabs took possession of Israel’s ancient land. For a brief period the Frankish crusaders were established in Palestine only to be defeated by Saladin in 1187. The Ottoman Turks assumed power in 1517 and the land of Palestine continued as part of the Ottoman Empire until Turkey was defeated in World War I. The conquering of Palestine by General Allenby in 1917 and the British occupation of Palestine proved to be a dramatic turning point in the history of Israel.

The Return Of Israel To The Land

Before control of Palestine was wrested from the Turks, the Zionist movement had already begun. As early as 1871 some efforts were made by the Jews to re-establish themselves in a small way, but in the entire area there was not one Jewish village and only the more learned were familiar with the Hebrew tongue. In 1881 modern Zionist resettlement began in earnest. At that time only 25,000 Jews lived in the entire area. The Zionist idea as stated in “The Basle Programme” was adopted by the first Zionist congress called by Theodor Herzl in 1897. Its published aim was to reclaim the land of Palestine as the home for Jewish people. By the outbreak of World War I, the number of Jews had swelled to 80,000.

The Zionist movement was, given impetus during World War I when British Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour instituted the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917, in which he stated: “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…“This declaration, though welcomed by the Jews, was opposed by the Arabs and little came of it. Meanwhile a British mandate given over the land of Palestine by the League of Nations became effective, but through a desire of the British to maintain friendship with the Arab nations, no progress was allowed in establishing a homeland for Israel.

In 1939, during the early portion of World War II, the British government issued a white paper which set forth the conditions for establishing an independent Arab state in Palestine. By that time, 400,000 Jews were in the country. The restrictions on Jewish immigration, however, were severe, and future immigration was subject to Arab consent. Only a small part of the land could be sold to the Jews.

During World War II, however, due to the world-wide sympathy aroused for the people of Israel because of the slaughter of six million Jews under Nazi domination, the feeling became widespread that Israel should have a homeland to which its refugees could come and establish themselves. An Arab league was formed in 1945 to oppose further Jewish expansion. After World War II the British government turned Palestine over to the United Nations and under the direction of this body a partition of Palestine was recommended with the division into a Jewish state and an Arab state. By 1948 Jewish population had risen to 650,000.

The Establishment Of The New State Of Israel

On May 14, 1948, as the British withdrew control, Israel proclaimed itself an independent state within the boundaries set up by the United Nations. Before the day passed, however, Israel was attacked by Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, and open warfare broke out. Though both sides suffered heavily, a series of truces began. The first was on June 11 and was followed by a renewal of hostilities which ended in a final truce on July 17. On January 7, 1949, a general armistice was arranged in which Israel was allowed to retain the additional land secured during the hostilities. Israel itself was admitted to the United Nations. In the years that followed no adequate solution was found for the many difficulties attending a permanent peace. The Arab nations refused to recognize Israel and denied it the right of existence. Israel on her part adopted an unrealistic approach to the refugee problem which continued to be an open sore.

Since 1949, the nation Israel has made rapid strides until today it is well established. Though surrounded by enemies, Israel rests in its security of superior arms and effective military organization. Of significance is the unassailable fact, that for the first time since A.D. 70, the nation Israel is independent and self-sustaining, and is recognized as a political state.

The restoration of Israel to its ancient land and its establishment as a political government is almost without parallel in the history of the world. Never before has an ancient people, scattered for so many centuries, been able to return to their ancient land and re-establish themselves with such success and such swift progress as is witnessed in the new state of Israel.

Political And Military Growth Of Israel

Of special significance is the fact that Israel is a recognized political state. In its original declaration on May 14, 1948, provision was made for the establishment of an ordered government in the form of a democratic parliamentary republic. The principal legislative body in Israel is the knesset, from a Hebrew word which means “assembly.” The knesset meets in Jerusalem, which is the capitol of Israel, and temporarily occupies quarters adapted for this purpose. A government center is planned on an elevation which will face Mount Herzl where the founder of the Zionist movement is buried. The knesset has power to make and amend laws, and its approval is necessary before a government can take office. A new government must be formed at such times as the knesset votes no confidence in the existing government. Of its 120 members, the great majority are of Jewish background, but a few Arabs are included.

The constitution of Israel provides that any citizen over twenty-one may be elected, and each citizen over eighteen, without respect to sex, race, or religion, is entitled to vote for members of the knesset. Though most matters of law are handled by civil courts divided into three main categories—namely, magistrate courts, district courts, and the supreme court—a series of special courts corresponding to the religion of respective citizens have been established in regard to marriage, divorce, and similar matters. A Jew therefore is referred to the rabbinical courts, Moslems to the Moslem court, and Christians to the Christian court. All of the religious courts are under the control of the Ministry of Religion. The internal government of Israel allows considerable freedom to minority groups, and provides a proper legal basis for this enterprising nation to grow.

One of the important factors of Israel’s progress has been its highly efficient army. Formed under great difficulty during the early days of the state of Israel when they were being attacked by enemies on all sides, through heroic efforts, it was able to give a good account of itself and actually enlarge the area of Israel by some fifty per cent in the resulting hostilities. The army is called in Hebrew Tsahal, representing the initials of the defense army in Israel known in Hebrew as the Tseva Hagana Leisrael. Included in its organization are forces equipped to fight on land, sea, and air. The army has been trained by experienced officers from Europe and America and several military academies and a staff college have been created.

The corps of the army consists of volunteers who are supplemented by reserves. Men on reaching the age of eighteen serve for two and one half years. They are eligible for service until they are forty-five. Single women are also given two years of training. A system has been devised by which reservists are settled in border areas and Israel is reputed to have the fastest mobilization system of any nation in the world. Along with the development of the army itself has been the creation of an arms industry which has enabled Israel not only to supply its own forces, but to export in large quantities arms of various kinds, including one of the best automatic weapons available today.

Humanly speaking, it is because of the efficiency of their army that Israel has enjoyed peace since the armistice of 1949 and was able to overrun the Gaza Strip in the hostilities which broke out in October, 1956. Though the nations which surround Israel number some thirty million and conceivably could overwhelm the small nation, the army of Israel is more than a match for all of its enemies combined. Because of this, the nation Israel today is in a high state of confidence coupled with alertness.

Development Of Agriculture And Industry

Probably the most astounding aspect of the restoration of Israel is the rapid reclamation of the eroded land and wasted resources which for centuries have characterized the area which Israel now occupies. Travelers who visit Syria and Jordan first before coming to Israel are immediately impressed with the dramatic difference. Everywhere there is evidence of astounding progress in Israel.

One of the first problems which beset Israel was to reclaim the land strewn with rocks and seemingly hopeless as far as vegetation was concerned. By prodigious toil, often on the part of immigrants who had little knowledge of agriculture before, the land was cleared, terraced, and cultivated. In Israel, as in surrounding countries, the scarcity of water is a principal problem. Huge projects provided water for irrigation, not only for the northern portion of the nation, but also for the reclamation of the Negiv, the southern desert which forms a major portion of Israel’s territory.

Travelers through Israel are introduced to field after field of cultivated crops on land that was hopelessly eroded just a few years before. By 1961, eighty million trees had been planted, and the continuing program eventually will make a major contribution in conserving water and providing timber. Orange trees have been planted in abundance, as well as other citrus fruits, and oranges have become a major export of the new nation. Crops such as cotton, sugar cane, grapes, peanuts, and sisal have become major productions, just a few years ago eggs were closely rationed. By 1961 Israel was exporting almost a million eggs a day.

Though hampered somewhat by failure to conclude peace agreements with Arab nations which share the water available, by making the most of its own opportunities, Israel is building a gigantic irrigation system, drawing water from the Yarkon as well as from the Jordan and sending it south to the Negiv. Thousands of acres are being restored to fertility, and it is estimated that the reclaimed land, will permit another one million immigrants during the next decade. Not only have desert lands been reclaimed, but one of the spectacular achievements was the draining of the swampland of the Valley of Esdraelon, the elimination of the mosquito menace, and the restoration of this broad area to cultivation, which has proved to be one of the most fertile areas in all Israel.

Progress in agriculture and reclamation of the land has been matched to some extent by establishment of industries. Textiles have now become an important part of Israel’s production. The cutting of diamonds imported for this purpose, the manufacture of military weapons and arms, and the exploitation of the measureless chemical wealth of the Dead Sea are major factors of Israel’s economy. Some oil has already been discovered as well as gas. One by one problems that beset Israel at the beginning are being solved.

The expanding economy has also furnished a basis for construction of fabulous new cities. The new city of Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel, has been beautifully constructed of stone with lovely streets and parks and by 1961 had attained a population of 160,000. Tel Aviv, the largest of the cities in Israel, has a population nearing 400,000, and offers every convenience of a modern city. Next to Tel Aviv is Haifa, with a population of 175,000. The growth of the cities has kept up with the growth in population which has almost tripled since 1948, reaching over two million in 1960.

Educational System And Revival Of Biblical Hebrew

One of the impressive sights in Israel is the spectacular rise of its educational system. Not only are new elementary schools built throughout the country to take care of the expanding population, but the Hebrew university with an enrollment in 1959-60 of seven thousand is one of the finest in the Middle East. In addition the Israel Institute of Technology has some twenty-five hundred students with training in various aspects of modern science. In the entire educational system Biblical Hebrew is used as the spoken and written language and has restored this ancient language to popular usage in Israel. New terms are being coined to meet modern situations. The revival of Hebrew inevitably ties the people of Israel to their ancient Scriptures in a way that otherwise would have been impossible.

The revival of Hebrew has also paved the way for a renewal of Biblical studies. Unlike American universities which neglect the Bible, the Old Testament is taught in public schools, including the universities, and is considered essential to any true education. Some four hundred study groups have been formed by the Israel Bible Study Association with a membership approaching twenty thousand. The reading of the Old Testament is popular, though often attended by little theological discernment. Even the New Testament is read as religious literature, though not considered on a par with the Old Testament by orthodox Jews. To some extent the new interest in the Bible has created an increased interest in the Jewish religion as such.

Religious Life Of Israel

It is to be expected with the rebirth of the nation and its renewed interest in the Bible that attendance at the synagogue has taken on new life in Israel. Visitors normally will find the synagogue crowded, though meeting in new and spacious buildings. It soon becomes evident, however, that the religious life of Israel is to some extent one of outer form. The religious exercises are devoted primarily to revival of their traditions, their reassurance of the general providence of God, and the application to some extent of moral standards. For Israel their religion is one of works rather than of faith, and their redemption is to be achieved by their own efforts.

The religious life of Israel is directed by some 430 rabbis who actively carry on their duties. It is to these leaders that Israel turns for direction. As a result of the revival of Judaism, the Sabbath is strictly enforced and everyone observes it, even those who never attend the synagogue. The religious life of Israel is largely in the hands of the orthodox, though the majority of ordinary Jews in Israel do not necessarily follow their leaders. The revival of interest, therefore, in the Jewish faith and the religious activities which characterize it, to some extent is an expression of patriotism and enthusiasm for the progress of the state rather than for theological or spiritual reasons. Nevertheless, the movement is a phenomenon without parallel in the modern history of Israel and is doing much to revive their ancient faith. The land of Israel which historically has been the cradle of Judaism, Christianity, and the Moslem faith is once again witnessing a revival of that which held sway for centuries.

Political And Prophetic Significance Of The New State Of Israel

The significance of the new state of Israel is bound up with the growing importance of the Middle East in international affairs. The land of Israel is located geographically in the hub of three major continents. Because of this strategic location, it is involved in the economic life of the world. Any major nation seeking to dominate the world would need to conquer this portion. Its military value is also obvious, for the Middle East is not only a channel of world commerce but is the gateway to the immense reserves in oil and chemicals found in that portion of the world. It is inevitable that any future world conflict would engulf this portion of the world as a primary objective. It is especially significant that from a Biblical standpoint the Middle East remains a center of interest. World events which are yet to unfold will find this area also its major theater. It is for this reason that students of the Bible, whether Jews or Christians, find the development of the new state of Israel one of the most important and significant events of the twentieth century.

The repossession of a portion of their ancient land by the new state of Israel is especially striking because of the promise given by God to Abraham of perpetual title to the land between Egypt and the Euphrates. As recorded in Genesis 15:18 the covenant of God with Abraham included the promise: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” This promise was subsequently repeated in Genesis 17:8 in these words: “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Consideration will be given to these passages in later discussion, but their mention at this time demonstrates the great significance of the reoccupation of this area by the new state of Israel.

In the subsequent history of Israel neither Abraham nor his immediate posterity were able to possess the land and, as stated earlier, only at the time of the Exodus was the land ever actually possessed. Of great importance are the Scriptures which describe the dispersion of Israel in the captivities of Babylon and Assyria and the later scattering of Israel resulting from the persecution of the Romans. This will be followed by Israel’s ultimate regathering. A study of some of the great promises relating to this future restoration of Israel to the land will be examined in detail later. The revival of Israel after these many centuries of dispersion introduces the major questions relating to the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and whether the creation of the new state of Israel is indeed a confirmation of Israel’s continuance as a nation.

The return of Israel and the organization of the new state of Israel is especially significant in the light of prophecies to be examined concerning Israel’s future time of trouble when Israel is pictured in the land, as for instance in Matthew 24:15-26. The predictions of the grand climax of the nation’s history, given in Daniel 9:26, 27, when Israel is described as making a covenant with the future world ruler, is of special importance in the light of their renewed presence in their ancient land. Of the many peculiar phenomena which characterize the present generation, few events can claim equal significance as far as Biblical prophecy is concerned with that of the return of Israel to their land. It constitutes a preparation for the end of the age, the setting for the coming of the Lord for His church, and the fulfillment of Israel’s prophetic destiny.

 

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Dr. John F. Walvoord on “Is a Posttribulational Rapture Revealed in Matthew 24?”

Matthew 24 is a crucial passage in the debate between pre- and posttribulationists. The context of Matthew 24 and especially vv 40–41  argues that a posttribulational rapture is not being taught. Rather Christ, on the analogy of Noahs flood, spoke of some being taken in judgment. Thus it can be concluded that no biblical text places the rapture after the tribulation (The article below is adapted from the Grace Theological Journal [Fall 85], p.258ff).

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Among premillenarians, the question as to whether the rapture of the church occurs before or after the end time tribulation continues to be a live subject for debate. Among other eschatological points of view such as postmillennialism and amillennialism, it is assumed that the rapture is a part of the second coming of Christ and therefore is posttribulational. Postmillenarians and amillenarians accept almost without question a posttribulational rapture because they interpret prophecies of the events leading up to the second coming nonliterally. By contrast premillenialism depends upon a literal interpretation of prophecy.

Among premillenarians, however, the issue of pretribulationism continues to be discussed, and books continue to be published on the issues involved. The differences of opinion stem largely from the question as to whether end time prophecies are to be interpreted literally, especially as they distinguish Israel’s future from that of the church, the body of Christ.

Both pretribulationists and posttribulationists are confronted with the fact that the Scripture does not expressly state either view. Pretribulationists find what approximates a direct teaching of their view in 2 Thessalonians 2 where the lawless one is said to be revealed only after the restrainer is removed. The traditional interpretation among pretribulationists is that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit who indwells the church. Thus, it is the Holy Spirit (and by implication the church) who must be removed before the lawless one can be revealed (E.g., see D. Edmond Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles [Chicago: Moody, 1971] 313-14; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958] 259-63; and John F. Walvoord, “Is the Tribulation before the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians,” BSac 134 [1977]107-13).

If the lawless one is the end time ruler, he would be revealed at least seven years before the second coming of Christ. According to this interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2, then, the rapture occurs prior to the tribulation. Posttribulationists, of course, dispute this interpretation and interpret the passage in a manner that does not yield a pretribulational sequence of end time events (E.g., see Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973] 122-28. For a recent discussion of the passage from pre-, mid-, and posttribulational perspectives see Gleason L. Archer, Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard D. Reiter, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-tribulational? [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984] 126-27,189-90,228-29.

What is often overlooked in the discussion by posttribulationists is that they also lack a specific statement that the rapture of the church occurs at the time of Christ’s second coming to set up his kingdom. It is quite common for posttribulationists to challenge pretribulationists to offer a single verse in the Bible that teaches their position. Pretribulationism counters by offering passages that imply it, such as 2 Thessalonians 2. Pretribulationists also point out that all the passages clearly identified as referring to the rapture name no preceding events. On the other hand, passages dealing with the second coming of Christ to set up his kingdom predict a complicated series of world-shaking events such as are described in Revelation 6–18  and other passages dealing with the end time.

Posttribulationists are also embarrassed by the fact that the most detailed account of the second coming of Christ, found in Revelation 19–20 , nowhere mentions either a rapture or a resurrection in connection with Christ’s coming from heaven to earth, and there is no legitimate place to insert the events of 1 Thessalonians 4. Accordingly posttribulationists recognize the need for a specific passage that will support the posttribulational view. This for many posttribulationists is found in Matthew 24. This chapter of the Bible, therefore, becomes a strategic crux interpretum in the debate between the two views. Those who hold a midtribulational view, that is, that the rapture will occur three and one-half years before the second coming of Christ, also turn to Matthew 24. The discussion of this portion of Scripture and its proper exegesis, therefore, becomes quite determinative in any conclusion as to where the rapture fits into the prophetic scheme. Practically every author who attempts to refute the pretribulational view discusses in some detail Matthew 24 in an effort to find support for posttribulationalism (E.g., see Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, 135–39, 158; George E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956] 144-45; and Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ [London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1932] 29, 208, 214-15).

The Context of Matthew 24

As the Gospels make clear, the Olivet Discourse, contained in Matthew 24–25 , occurred only days before the death and crucifixion of Christ. Opposition to Christ and efforts to kill him on the part of religious leaders of the day intensified as the time approached for the death and crucifixion of Christ. All of this troubled the disciples because it did not fit into their expectation that Jesus Christ was their Messiah and Savior, the Son of God, who would deliver them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. They were further troubled by Christ’s own statement that he was to die by crucifixion. This had been implied in his comparison of his own death and resurrection to the experience of Jonah (Matt 12:38–41). Then he had explicitly predicted his death and resurrection three times as recorded in all three Gospels (Matt 16:21; 17:22–23 ; 19:18–19 ; Mark 8:31–33; 9:30–32 ; 10:32–34 ; Luke 9:22; 9:43–45 ; 18:31–34 ). These predictions did not harmonize with the disciples’ expectation that Christ would deliver Israel from the oppression of Rome.

The disciples were further disturbed by Christ’s denunciation of the Pharisees (Matthew 23) when he pronounced seven woes upon them. He denounced them as hypocrites, as whitewashed tombs, and as vipers. He closed his denunciation with the reminder that their forefathers had killed the prophets God had sent them. Accordingly, because they rejected Christ, Jerusalem would also be left desolate. These prophecies did not fit in with the anticipation of a glorious kingdom on earth in which Christ would reign.

It was in this context that the disciples reminded Christ of the beauty of their temple, the symbol of their religion and national solidarity. Here again they were dismayed when Christ announced “not one stone here will be left upon another; every one will be thrown down” (Matt 24:2).

Things came to a head after Christ had crossed the brook Kidron with his disciples and had stopped on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. It was then that the inner circle of the twelve disciples (Peter, James, John, and Andrew, according to Mark 13:3) came to Christ privately with three major questions (Matt 24:3). These questions were (1) “when will this happen,” (2) “what will be the sign of your coming,” and (3) “(what will be) the sign…of the end of the age”? The first question, referring to the destruction of the temple, is answered in Luke 21:20–24 by a prophecy which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Matthew does not record Christ’s answer to the first question but does record the answers to questions (2) and (3) which both deal with the second coming of Christ. At this time the disciples did not understand the difference between the first and second coming of Christ. What they were really questioning was, what were the signs of the approaching kingdom? Their questions were prompted by their attempt to harmonize in some way the OT prophecies of the Messiah’s death and resurrection with the promises of his glorious reign and the deliverance of Israel.

It is most significant that saints in the OT (including the writers of Scripture [1 Pet 1:10–12]) as well as the twelve disciples in the NT never understood clearly the difference between the first and second coming of Christ. It was only after Christ’s ascension into heaven that the distinction was made clear. With the help of historical hindsight, today the difference between the first and second coming of Christ can be sorted out because in the first coming of Christ the prophecies relating to his birth, life on earth, miracles, death and resurrection were all literally fulfilled while the prophecies of his glorious kingdom reign still await future fulfillment. If major events like the first coming and second coming of Christ could be so mingled in the OT and even in the Gospels, it is not surprising that there should be confusion today between a pretribulational rapture and a second coming of Christ to set up his kingdom.

However, in contrast to the universal confusion of the first and second coming of Christ prior to Christ’s ascension, many students of prophecy today firmly believe that the rapture of the church will be pretribulational. They do this on much the same grounds that the first and second coming of Christ are separated today—that is, they distinguish the two events because they are so different in many characteristics, including the events which precede the event itself, and the events which follow.

Taking all the facts available, it can be determined that the setting for the questions of the disciples was that they did not know how to harmonize events relating to the first and second coming of Christ. It is to this crucial question that Christ gave the answers recorded in Matthew 24–25.

Contemporary Confusion on the Interpretation of Matthew 24

An examination of major commentaries on Matthew 24 demonstrates that there is disagreement as to what the passage really teaches.

Conservative scholars who accept a literal second coming of Christ are usually united in their interpretation that the passage in general refers to the second coming of Christ. This is because the passage is very explicit. The events described will climax in Christ’s coming as stated by Christ himself—”they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matt 24:30).

The confusion arises in interpreting what Christ said about events leading up to the second coming. G. Campbell Morgan divides the Olivet Discourse into three divisions. He considers Matt 24:5–35 to be talking about Israel. He relates Matt 24:36–25:30  to the church “as the spiritual Israel of God.” He interprets Matt 25:31–46 as a judgment that Christ pronounced on the nations (G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929] 284). He holds that Matt 24:6–22 was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem, but in his exegesis he skips almost completely the problems of interpretation that exist in Matt 24:1–44.

Robert Gundry illustrates the posttribulational interpretation of this passage. He directs attention away from the subject matter to the hypothetical question, “To whom is the passage directed?” He writes, “To what group of redeemed do the Jewish saints addressed by Jesus and represented by the Apostles belong, Israel or the church?” (Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, 129).

In his complicated answer to this problem, he needlessly misdirects attention. This point of view is adopted by other posttribulationists and midtribulationists. They also insert the hypothesis that the prophecies had to be fulfilled in the lifetime of the apostles—an erroneous approach since the second coming of Christ and the course of the entire preceding age is predicted.

The disciples were both Jews and the initial members of the church, the body of Christ. The answers to their questions concerned anyone who was interested in the events of the end of the age, and they are not limited to the apostolic age. While the disciples obviously were interested in how this related to the Jews, as illustrated by their questions, the answer that Christ gave is largely non-Jewish. It involves prophecies which affect the whole world with the Olivet Discourse specifically concluding with the judgment of the Gentiles. The issue at hand is not to whom Christ’s answer is addressed, but the question of the content of the prophecy itself. Gundry never even mentions the three questions that are being answered in this discourse of Christ.

A typical amillennial interpretation is offered by R. C. H. Lenski. He holds that many of the prophecies of this passage, including the great tribulation, have already been fulfilled in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem and the events which preceded it. In general he finds that the prophecies are largely fulfilled already historically, but that they obviously lead up to the second coming of Christ. He does not consider the question as to whether the subject of the rapture is being presented. Everything is related to the second coming of Christ as far as the consummation is concerned (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthews Gospel [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1943] 956).

The great variety of opinions on Matthew 24 indicate that this passage is difficult to interpret. The present discussion will focus on the contribution of Matt 24:31 and Matt 24:37–42 toward understanding the time relationship between the rapture and the tribulation.

The Gathering of the Elect

Immediately following predictions of catastrophic interference with the sun, moon, and stars, Christ states,

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other [Matt 24:30–31].

Among conservative interpreters of Scripture, there is general agreement that this prophecy concerns a gathering of the elect in connection with the second coming of Christ. Some premillenarians limit the “elect” to the Jewish people because Christ is addressing the apostles in this passage. Others view the “elect” as including all the saved, whether OT or NT saints. Premillenarians, whether pretribulational or posttribulational, recognize that there will be a gathering of all the saints at the time of the second coming of Christ in order that they may all participate in the millennial kingdom. Amillenarians would agree with this, but they would add the resurrection of the wicked as indicated in Rev 20:11–15. Postmillenarians would have essentially the same view as the amillenarians.

The major question raised by premillenarians, whether pretribulationists or posttribulationists, is whether this event includes the rapture of the church. Even if the church is raptured earlier in the sequence of events, it nevertheless would be included in this gathering.

The two essentials of the rapture of the church are resurrection of the dead in Christ and translation of living Christians, as brought out clearly in central passages such as 1 Thess 4:13–18 and 1 Cor 15:51–58. The prophecy in Matthew, however, says nothing of either resurrection or translation and refers only to the gathering of the elect. It may be assumed that the elect so gathered have been either translated or resurrected, but it is not indicated when this occurs. Accordingly the passage cannot properly be used by either the pretribulationists or the posttribulationists as positive proof of their position, although the silence relative to resurrection and translation here would be in favor of the pretribulational position.

Most of the attention between pretribulational and posttribulational arguments, however, has centered on Matt 24:36–42. Here the time factor is specifically discussed. Christ states, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt 24:36). This presents a problem for all eschatological views in that Christ states that he does not know the day or the hour, but that only the Father knows. Christ is emphasizing that the time has not been revealed. If Christ did not know it, neither can anyone else.

In the interpretation of end time prophecy, many premillenarians hold that the last seven years referred to in Dan 9:27 will culminate in the second coming of Christ. Even if prophetic years of 360 days are used, it is not clear what day or hour will actually signal the second coming of Christ. The final period of great tribulation leading up to the second coming of Christ is defined as one-half of the last seven years in Dan 9:27. In Dan 7:25 and 12:7  the expression “a time, times and half a time” is usually interpreted as three and one-half years. The same expression occurs in Rev 12:14. In Rev 13:5 the period is referred to as forty-two months. In Dan 12:11–12, the period is described as 1290 and 1335 days. Here the forty-two month period is extended thirty and seventy-five days to uncertain termini. While all of these should be interpreted as literal time periods, they do not reveal the day or the hour of Christ’s return.

Expanding on the uncertainty of the day and the hour, Christ declares it will be like the days of Noah (Matt 24:37). While Noah was building the ark, it was obvious that the flood would not come until he had completed the project. Once the ark was completed the situation changed radically. As observers saw the animals going into the ark by two in a manner contrary to nature, it was obvious that this was a sign that something was about to happen. But the day or the hour still was not clear. Then as they observed Noah’s family enter the ark and the door shutting, they still could not know the day or the hour, but it was obvious that the flood could come at any time.

Because of the uncertainty of the time of the flood and their skepticism as to whether the flood was even going to occur, Christ describes them as continuing in the normal course of life “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark” (Matt 24:38). Christ goes on to say that when the flood came it “took them all away” (Matt 24:39).

Using this OT illustration, Christ compares it to the events which will occur at the second coming of Christ. Like the flood, the second coming will be preceded by specific signs which indicate the approach but not the day or the hour of the coming of the Lord. Like the flood, it will be a time of judgment. This is summarized in Matt 24:40–41, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”

The similarity of this to the rapture of the church has caused many expositors, especially posttribulationists, to liken this to what will take place at the time of the second coming. Alexander Reese, whose major work is The Approaching Advent of Christ, cites these verses as proof that the rapture occurs in connection with the second coming of Christ. His book, on which he spent twenty-five years, has been the regularly-cited classic work on posttribulationism ever since it was published. There is a major problem, however, with this interpretation.

In the illustration of the flood which Christ himself used, the one who is taken is drowned whereas those who are left, that is, Noah’s family, are safe in the ark. To view the one taken as the righteous one and the one left as the judged one is to reverse the illustration completely.

Reese, however, believes he has solved this problem and makes this a major argument for his posttribulational position. He notes that there are two different Greek words used for “taken.” In Matt 24:39 the verb used is ἧρεν from αἴρω. In vv 40–41  the verb παραλαμβάνεται from παραλαμβάνω is used. Reese claims that παραλαμβάνω is used in Scripture only in a friendly sense. In taking this position, he opposes Darby:

Darby, in one of the few instances where he allowed views to influence (and mar) his admirable literal translation, translated paralambanō in Luke xvii:34–5  by seize. The use of this word in the NT is absolutely opposed to this; it is a good word; a word used exclusively in the sense of ‘take away with,’ or ‘receive,’ or ‘take home.’ (Reese, Approaching Advent, 215).

Reese and others have pointed out that παραλαμβάνω is used of the rapture in John 14:3. This is an illustration, however, that even a careful scholar may make mistakes. Reese evidently failed to check John 19:16 (“the soldiers took charge of [παρέλαβον] Jesus”), where “took charge of” is hardly a reference to a friendly taking. As a matter of fact, it refers to taking Christ to the judgment of the cross.

Gundry is aware of this problem and attempts to settle the matter dogmatically by stating,

But granting that the context indicates judgment, we are not forced to conclude that ‘one will be taken’ in judgment and ‘one will be left’ in safety. The reverse may just as easily be understood: ‘one will be taken’ in rapture and ‘one will be left’ for judgment (Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, 138).

However, the context completely contradicts Reese and Gundry. The context here is more determinative than the fact that the word παραλαμβάνω is used for the rapture in John 14:3 by a different author.

Interestingly, after additional study, Gundry changed his mind. In his later work (Matthew) he reversed his opinion. He states, “But Matthew’s parallelistic insertion of airen in v. 39 , where judgment is in view, makes the taking judgmental in his gospel. Hence, being left means being spared from instead of exposed to judgment” (Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982] 494).

In other words, he concedes what he formerly refuted and agrees with the pretribulational interpretation of this passage.

If there is any doubt as to the interpretation here, it should be settled by a parallel reference in Luke 17 where Christ, predicting the same event in the same context states, “I tell you, on that night, two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:34–35). Gundry also cites this passage but significantly stops before 37, which would have made the matter clear. Here the disciples asked the question, “Where, Lord?” Christ replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” It is clear that the ones taken are put to death. This actually is a preliminary stage of the judgment that is later detailed in Matt 25:31–46 where the unsaved Gentiles are destroyed.

Conclusion

Posttribulationists and midtribulationists as well have misread the immediate context of Matt 24:40–41 and have reached an unwarranted conclusion that there is a rapture in this passage. Instead, the passage teaches that the righteous will be left as Noah and his family were left alive in the ark, whereas all others will be taken away in judgment. The argument for posttribulationism based upon this text, which even posttribulationists admit is the only passage approximating a direct statement of a posttribulation rapture, collapses upon careful analysis. Even Gundry has reversed his former view of this passage.

The fact that those who are left, are left alive to enter the millennial kingdom because they are saved is further confirmed by Christ in Matt 25:31–46 where the sheep are ushered into the kingdom and the goats are cast into everlasting fire. This indicates the separation of the saved from the unsaved at the time of the second coming. There is no rapture at the second coming because those who survive the period after this purging judgment of God enter the millennium in their natural bodies so that they can fulfill the Scriptures that describe them as living natural lives, bearing children, living, dying, and even sinning. All of these factors would be impossible if every saved person were raptured at the time of the second coming.

A careful study of the passage relating to the second coming of Christ in Matthew 24, therefore, gives no ground for a posttribulational rapture. In fact it confirms the concept that those who are caught up at the rapture are caught up to heaven to the Father’s house as Christ promised in John 14. This will occur at a time preceding the events of Matthew 24–25  which must be fulfilled prior to the second coming of Christ. The rapture therefore is an imminent event which today may be expected momentarily.

in judgment. The argument for posttribulationism based upon this text, which even posttribulationists admit is the only passage approximating a direct statement of a posttribulation rapture, collapses upon careful analysis. Even Gundry has reversed his former view of this passage.

The fact that those who are left, are left alive to enter the millennial kingdom because they are saved is further confirmed by Christ in Matt 25:31–46 where the sheep are ushered into the kingdom and the goats are cast into everlasting fire. This indicates the separation of the saved from the unsaved at the time of the second coming. There is no rapture at the second coming because those who survive the period after this purging judgment of God enter the millennium in their natural bodies so that they can fulfill the Scriptures that describe them as living natural lives, bearing children, living, dying, and even sinning. All of these factors would be impossible if every saved person were raptured at the time of the second coming.

A careful study of the passage relating to the second coming of Christ in Matthew 24, therefore, gives no ground for a posttribulational rapture. In fact it confirms the concept that those who are caught up at the rapture are caught up to heaven to the Father’s house as Christ promised in John 14. This will occur at a time preceding the events of Matthew 24–25  which must be fulfilled prior to the second coming of Christ. The rapture therefore is an imminent event which today may be expected momentarily.

About Dr. John F. Walvoord

John Flipse Walvoord, theologian, writer, and teacher, seminary president, and defender of dispensational pretribulational premillennialism, was born on May 1, 1910, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He was the youngest of three children.  John was raised in a home that valued education in general and religious training in particular. His father, John Garrett Walvoord, was a school teacher.  During his mother Mary Flipse Walvoord’s difficult pregnancy, her doctors advised an abortion; however, because of their conviction that the child was a gift from the Lord, they brought John to term. The child proved to be robust, and Mary lived to be 102. The family were members of the First Presbyterian Church, his father an elder and Sunday school superintendent. His parents determined that their children would be reared on the Westminster Shorter Catechism and Scripture memory.

When John was fifteen, the family moved to Racine where his father was a junior high school superintendent. During his high school years, John excelled in academics and athletics but continued to have only a nominal interest in Christianity, although he had committed his life to Christian work when he was twelve. His family joined the Union Gospel Tabernacle (now the nondenominational Racine Bible Church). While attending a study of the book of Galatians, he became assured of God’s mercy toward him. Three years later (1928), he entered Wheaton College. John continued to excel in academics and athletics, though he also distinguished himself as a member of the debate team that won state championships in 1930 and 1931. Additionally, he was president of the college’s Christian Endeavor where he made a commitment to foreign missions. He completed his undergraduate degree in 1931 with honors having accelerated his progress due to summer school work at the University of Colorado.

Wedding photo of John and Geraldine (Lundgren) Walvoord in 1939

Wedding photo of John and Geraldine (Lundgren) Walvoord in 1939

He married Geraldine Delores Lundgren in her hometown of Geneva, Illinois. Geraldine was the fifth of six children born to native SwedesGustaf Edward Lundgren and Emily Skoglund.

Geraldine was born September 6, 1914 in Geneva, Illinois. Geraldine made a personal decision to accept Christ as her Savior at an early age. After developing avenues of ministry in music and youth programs in her church, Geraldine continued her education at Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University. It was during this time that Geraldine`s sister Harriet Lundgren began dating Ellwood Evans, a student from Evangelical Theological College (later renamed Dallas Theological Seminary). One Christmas holiday, another theology student traveled with Ellwood as he headed north to visit Harriet. When they arrived, Ellwood made the simple introduction, “Geraldine, I want you to meet my friend John Walvoord.”

John accepted the invitation to stay for dinner before traveling on to his parents’ home in Wisconsin and over the next several years more than a few letters and visits cultivated their friendship into a lifelong romance. Deeply in love and convinced of God’s will for their lives, John and Geraldine were married on June 28, 1939.


“What I covet for you is the same experience that I had — and that is discovering God’s perfect will for your life — nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.”

– John F. Walvoord


Blessed Hope: The Autobiography of John F. WalvoordBlessed Hope: The Autobiography of John F. Walvoord

John graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1934. He wanted to go to China as a missionary. At the time he couldn’t believe that everyone didn’t want to go to China. But the Lord had different plans for him. As he launched into his doctoral studies in Dallas in 1934, the young graduate was called to the Rosen Heights Presbyterian Church in nearby Fort Worth where he served as a pastor for sixteen years. Then in 1936 more responsibility came. He was asked to temporarily fill the position of registrar at the Seminary and in a short time he did much to organize and structure the office. In 1945, after nine years of faculty service, Dr. Walvoord was asked to assume the role of assistant to the president, a position he held until the death of Dr. Chafer seven years later. On February 6, 1953, John F. Walvoord was inaugurated as the second president of Dallas Theological Seminary.

SAVE TIME AND MONEY WITH EMEALS MEAL PLANSDr. John F. Walvoord is considered perhaps the world’s foremost interpreter of biblical prophecy. He was a member of the Dallas Theological Seminary faculty for fifty years from 1936 to 1986. He served as president and professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986. He has served as chancellor at that institution since that time. He holds A.B. and D.D. degrees from Wheaton College; an A. M. degree from Texas Christian University; a Th.B., Th.M., and Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary; and a Litt.D. from Liberty Baptist Seminary.

Under Dr. Walvoord’s leadership, Dallas Theological Seminary enrollment grew from 300 to over 1,700, four major educational buildings were erected on campus, and the degree programs increased from three to six. Dr. Walvoord is known worldwide for his evangelical scholarship in Christology, pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), and Bible prophecy. Dallas Theological Seminary, one of the world’s largest, is recognized for its commitment to the inerrancy of the Scriptures, premillennial theology, and biblical preaching and teaching.

Dr. Walvoord is the author of nearly thirty books including:

  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary* (co-editor of two volumes).
  • The Holy Spirit,
  • The Rapture Question* ,
  • Israel in Prophecy,
  • The Nations In Prophecy
  • The Church In Prophecy
  • The Return of the Lord,
  • The Millennial Kingdom,
  • To Live Is Christ,
  • The Thessalonian Epistle,
  • The Revelation Of Jesus Christ,
  • Jesus Christ Our Lord,
  • Daniel, The Key to Prophetic Revelation
  • The Holy Spirit At Work Today,
  • Major Bible Themes* ,
  • Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come,
  • The Blessed Hope And The Tribulation,
  • Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies That Affect You Today,
  • The Final Drama: 14 Essential Keys To Understanding the Prophetic Scriptures,
  • The End Times: An Explanation of World Events in Biblical Prophecy
  • What We Believe: Understanding & Applying The Basics Of The Christian Life,
  • Four Views On Hell (co-author), and
  • Every Prophecy of the Bible* .
  • Blessed Hope: The Autobiography of John F. Walvoord*

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50 Reasons For a Pretribulational Rapture By Dr. John F. Walvoord

Dr. John Walvoord’s 50 Arguments For A Pretribulational Rapture

TRQ Walvoord

In previous discussion of premillennialism in relation to the Tribulation, the respective arguments for pretribulationism, partial rapture, posttribulationism, and midtribulationism have been examined and the pretribulational position in general sustained. By way of conclusion and summary, some fifty arguments for pretribulationism can now be proposed. It is not presumed that the statement of these arguments in themselves establishes their validity but rather that the previous discussion supports and justifies this summary of reasons for the pretribulational view.

For the sake of brevity, the term rapture or translation is used for the coming of Christ for His church, while the term second coming is uniformly used as a reference to His coming to the earth to establish His millennial kingdom, an event that all consider posttribulational. While the words rapture and translation are not quite identical, they refer to the same event. By the term rapture, reference is made to the fact that the church is “caught up” from the earth and taken to heaven. By the term translation the thought is conveyed that those who are thus raptured are transformed in their physical bodies from natural and corruptible bodies to spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal bodies. Strictly speaking, the dead are raised while the living are translated. In common usage, however, this distinction is not normally maintained.

In the discussion, the posttribulational view is considered the principal contender against pretribulationism and is primarily in mind in the restatement of the arguments. The other positions, however, are also mentioned insofar as they oppose pretribulationism on some special point. The preceding discussion has pointed to the preponderance of argument in support of the pretribulational position, and the following restatement should serve to clarify the issues involved.

 Historical Argument

1. While posttribulationism appeared as early as 2 Thessalonians 2, many in the early church believed in the imminency of the Lord’s return, which is an essential doctrine of pretribulationism.

2. The detailed development of pretribulational truth during the past few centuries does not prove that the doctrine is new or novel. Its development is similar to that of other major doctrines in the history of the church. Hermeneutics

3. Pretribulationism is the only view that allows literal interpretation of all Old and New Testament passages on the Great Tribulation.

4. Pretribulationism distinguishes clearly between Israel and the church and their respective programs.

Nature of the Tribulation

5. Pretribulationism maintains the scriptural distinction between the Great Tribulation and tribulation in general that precedes it.

6. The Great Tribulation is properly interpreted by pretribulationists as a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration (Deut. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:4-11). It is not the purpose of the Tribulation to prepare the church for glory.

7. None of the Old Testament passages on the Tribulation mention the church (Deut. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:4-11; Dan. 8:24-27; 12:1-2).

8. None of the New Testament passages on the Tribulation mention the church (Matt. 13:30, 39-42, 48-50; 24:15-31; 1 Thess. 1:9-10, 5:4-9; 2 Thess. 2:1-11; Rev. 4-18).

9. In contrast to midtribulationism, the pretribulational view provides an adequate explanation for the beginning of the Great Tribulation in Revelation 6. Midtribulationism is refuted by the plain teaching of Scripture that the Great Tribulation begins long before the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11.

10. The proper distinction is maintained between the prophetic trumpets of Scripture by pretribulationism. There is no proper ground for the pivotal argument of midtribulationism that the seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last trumpet in that there is no established connection between the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11, the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52, and the trumpet of Matthew 24:31. They are three distinct events.

11. The unity of Daniel’s seventieth week is maintained by pretribulationists. By contrast, posttribulationism and midtribulationists destroy the unity of Daniel’s seventieth week and confuse Israel’s program with that of the church.

Nature of the Church

12. The translation of the church is never mentioned in any passage dealing with the second coming of Christ after the Tribulation.

13. The church is not appointed to wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9). The church therefore cannot enter “the great day of their wrath” (Rev. 6:17).

14. The church will not be overtaken by the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:1-9), which includes the Tribulation.

15. The possibility of a believer escaping the Tribulation is mentioned in Luke 21:36.

16. The church of Philadelphia was promised deliverance from “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (Rev. 3:10).

17. It is characteristic of divine dealing to deliver believers before a divine judgment is inflicted on the world as illustrated in the deliverance of Noah, Lot, Rahab, etc. (2 Peter 2:5-9).

18. At the time of the translation of the church, all believers go to the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:3) and do not immediately return to the earth after meeting Christ in the air as posttribulationists teach.

19. Pretribulationism does not divide the body of Christ at the Rapture on a works principle. The teaching of a partial rapture is based on the false doctrine that the translation of the church is a reward for good works. It is rather a climactic aspect of salvation by grace.

20. The Scriptures clearly teach that all, not part, of the church will be raptured at the coming of Christ for the church (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:17).

21. As opposed to a view of a partial rapture, pretribulationism is founded on the definite teaching of Scripture that the death of Christ frees from all condemnation.

22. The godly remnant of the Tribulation are pictured as Israelites, not members of the church as maintained by the posttribulationists.

23. The pretribulational view, as opposed to posttribulationism, does not confuse general terms like elect and saints, which apply to the saved of all ages, with specific terms like church and those in Christ, which refer to believers of this age only.

Doctrine of Imminency

24. The pretribulational interpretation teaches that the coming of Christ is actually imminent.

25. The exhortation to be comforted by the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:18) is very significant in the pretribulational view and is especially contradicted by most posttribulationists.

26. The exhortation to look for “the glorious appearing” of Christ to His own (Titus 2:13) loses its significance if the Tribulation must intervene first. Believers in that case should look for signs.

27. The exhortation to purify ourselves in view of the Lord’s return has most significance if His coming is imminent (1 John 3:2-3).

28. The church is uniformly exhorted to look for the coming of the Lord, while believers in the Tribulation are directed to look for signs.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

29. The Holy Spirit as the restrainer of evil cannot be taken out of the world unless the church, which the Spirit indwells, is translated at the same time. The Tribulation cannot begin until this restraint is lifted.

30. The Holy Spirit as the restrainer must be taken out of the world before “the lawless one,” who dominates the tribulation period, can be revealed (2 Thess. 2:6-8).

31. If the expression “except there come a falling away first” (KJV) is translated literally, “except the departure come first,” it would plainly show the necessity of the Rapture taking place before the beginning of the Tribulation.

Necessity of an Interval Between the Rapture and the Second Coming

32. According to 2 Corinthians 5:10, all believers of this age must appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven, an event never mentioned in the detailed accounts connected with the second coming of Christ to the earth.

33. If the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4:1-5:14 are representative of the church as many expositors believe, it would necessitate the rapture and reward of the church before the Tribulation.

34. The coming of Christ for His bride must take place before the Second Coming to the earth for the wedding feast (Rev. 19:7-10).

35. Tribulation saints are not translated at the second coming of Christ but carry on ordinary occupations such as farming and building houses, and they will bear children (Isa. 65:20-25). This would be impossible if all saints were translated at the Second Coming to the earth, as posttribulationists teach.

36. The judgment of the Gentiles following the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-46) indicates that both saved and unsaved are still in their natural bodies. This would be impossible if the translation had taken place at the Second Coming.

37. If the translation took place in connection with the Second Coming to the earth, there would be no need of separating the sheep from the goats at a subsequent judgment, but the separation would have taken place in the very act of the translation of the believers before Christ actually sets up His throne on earth (Matt. 25:31).

38. The judgment of Israel (Ezek. 20:34-38), which occurs subsequent to the Second Coming, indicates the necessity of regathering Israel. The separation of the saved from the unsaved in this judgment obviously takes place sometime after the Second Coming and would be unnecessary if the saved had previously been separated from the unsaved by translation.

Contrasts Between the Rapture and the Second Coming

39. At the time of the Rapture the saints meet Christ in the air, while at the Second Coming Christ returns to the Mount of Olives to meet the saints on earth.

40. At the time of the Rapture the Mount of Olives is unchanged, while at the Second Coming it divides and a valley is formed to the east of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4-5).

41. At the Rapture living saints are translated, while no saints are translated in connection with the second coming of Christ to the earth.

42. At the Rapture the saints go to heaven, while at the Second Coming to the earth the saints remain on the earth without translation.

43. At the time of the Rapture the world is unjudged and continues in sin, while at the Second Coming the world is judged and righteousness is established in the earth.

44. The translation of the church is pictured as a deliverance before the day of wrath, while the Second Coming is followed by the deliverance of those who have believed in Christ during the Tribulation.

45. The Rapture is described as imminent, while the Second Coming is preceded by definite signs.

46. The translation of living believers is a truth revealed only in the New Testament, while the Second Coming with its attendant events is a prominent doctrine of both Testaments.

47. The Rapture concerns only the saved, while the Second Coming deals with both saved and unsaved.

48. At the Rapture Satan is not bound, while at the Second Coming Satan is bound and cast into the abyss.

49. No unfulfilled prophecy stands between the church and the Rapture, while many signs must be fulfilled before the Second Coming.

50. No passage dealing with the resurrection of saints at the Second Coming ever mentions translation of living saints at the same time. The blessed hope of the return of the Lord for His church is a precious aspect of faith and expectation. While learned and devout saints have not always agreed as to the content of this hope, the present discussion has attempted to justify this important aspect of truth. May the promise of our Lord “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3) bring comfort and hope to us in a modern world as it was intended to do for the disciples in the upper room on that dark night before the Crucifixion. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’…He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon’“ (Rev. 22:17, 20).

Article adapted from John F. Walvoord. The Rapture Question. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1979 (Chapter 20).

About Dr. John F. Walvoord

Walvoord J F image

John F. Walvoord (May 1, 1910 – December 20, 2002) was a Christian theologian, pastor, and president of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986. He was the author of over 30 books, focusing primarily on eschatology and theology including The Rapture Question, and was co-editor of The Bible Knowledge Commentary with Roy B. Zuck. He earned AB and DD degrees from Wheaton College, an AM degree from Texas Christian University in philosophy, a ThB, ThM, and ThD in Systematic Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a LittD from Liberty Baptist Seminary.

Walvoord was brought up in a Christian home, but had little interest in the faith until he was fifteen, when his family moved to Racine after his father accepted a position as superintendent of the junior high. They joined the Union Gospel Tabernacle where he committed his life to Christ after attending a Bible study on Galatians.

After continuing his education at Wheaton College, Walvoord went on to Texas Christian University and Dallas Theological Seminary where he completed his ThD in 1936. Seminary president and mentor Lewis Sperry Chafer appointed Walvoord registrar. During his tenure, he also taught systematic theology at the seminary, and pastored the Rosen Heights Presbyterian church in Fort Worth. Walvoord became more involved in the administration of the school, serving as Chafer’s assistant and secretary to the faculty, and upon Chafer’s death in 1952, became the seminary’s second president where he served until his retirement in 1986.

In addition to his responsibilities at the seminary, Walvoord earned a reputation as one of the most influential dispensational theologians of the 20th century and played a prominent role in advocating a rapture of Christians from the earth prior to a time of great tribulation, followed by a literal thousand-year millennial reign of Christ, and a renewed focus of God on the nation of Israel as distinct from the church.

Books Authored

The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1966).

Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1971).

Philippians. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1971).

Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1974, rev. ed. 1976 and 1990).

Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1974).

Major Bible Themes (with Lewis Sperry Chafer) Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1974).

The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation: A Historical and Biblical Study of Posttribulationism (1976).

The Rapture Question. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1979).

The Millennial Kingdom. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1983).

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (with Roy B. Zuck). Wheaton: Cook Communications (1989).

The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit Chicago: Moody Press (1991).

(Contributor: “The Augustinian-Dispensational Perspective”) Five Views on Sanctification. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1996).

(Contributor: “The Literal View”) Four Views on Hell. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1996).

Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago (1974).

The Final Drama: Fourteen Keys to Understanding the Prophetic Scriptures. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (1997).

Every Prophecy of the Bible. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications (1990, 2011).

The Church in Prophecy: Exploring God’s Purpose for the Present Age. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (1999).

The Power of Praying Together: Experiencing Christ Actively in Charge, (with Oliver W. Price). Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (1999).

Major Bible Prophecies. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1999).

Blessed Hope. (Autobiography with Mal Couch), AMG Publishers (2001).

Prophecy in the New Millennium. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (2001).

1 & 2 Thessalonians. Chicago: Moody Publishers (Reprinted, 2012).

 

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An Interesting Overview of Dispensationalism by Dr. John F. Walvoord

Reflections on Dispensationalism

[Dr. John F. Walvoord served for many years as the President, Chancellor and as a Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas. For many free resources by Dr. Walvoord check out: http://www.walvoord.com/%5D

One of the problems in theology today is that many people who refer to dispensationalism do not adequately understand its roots, and therefore they dismiss it without giving it due consideration.

To understand the long background of dispensationalism, I examined approximately one hundred books on systematic theology to seek to determine how they explain dispensationalism. Most of these theologies in the nineteenth century were postmillennial, and most of the ones in the twentieth century were amillennial. They represented almost every system of theology, including liberal and conservative, Calvinistic and Arminian. Relatively few were premillennial. About half of them, regardless of their theological background, recognized biblical dispensations. One of the most significant was that of Charles Hodge, outstanding Calvinistic theologian of the nineteenth century, who was postmillennial in his eschatology but who wrote that the Scriptures describe four dispensations: Adam to Abraham, Abraham to Moses, Moses to Christ, and the Gospel dispensation.[1] And Louis Berkhof, an amillenarian, wrote that the Bible has two dispensations.[2]

Dispensations Related to Progressive Revelation

In the theological works that do discuss dispensations it is evident that acknowledging the presence of dispensations is not limited to a single theological system. Instead, such acknowledgement is based on progressive revelation, the fact that God continued to reveal Himself to humankind through biblical history.

Dispensationalism is an approach to the Bible that recognizes differing moral responsibilities for people, in keeping with how much they knew about God and His ways. God’s revelation of Himself in different eras required moral responses on the part of humanity. In the Garden of Eden the only requirement for conduct was that Adam and Eve were to keep the Garden and not eat of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. With the entrance of sin, human conscience came in as the guideline for conduct. It proved to be faulty, however, and people continued to sin. Following conscience there was the Flood and with it the introduction of the concept of government and the command that murderers be executed. This, however, also ended in failure at the Tower of Babel. The introduction of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12 and 15 presented a totally new perspective, as God revealed His special plan for Israel in the future. Then those dispensations or stages of progressive revelation were followed by the Mosaic Covenant.

The Mosaic Covenant, the most extensive code of conduct to be found in the Old Testament, was given only to Israel. The nations were not judged by it. None of the nations, for example, were punished for not keeping the Sabbath. Each dispensation superseded the previous one, continuing some of the revelation and conduct requirements of the past and introducing new requirements as well as eliminating some requirements of the previous dispensation. This situation was similar to raising a child who in his early years was subject to a number of limitations but for whom some limitations, as he grew, were lifted while new ones were added.

The New Testament introduces God’s plan and purpose for the church. The numerous requirements of the Mosaic Law do not apply to the present era because the present church age is a different dispensation. For instance, while the Law required executing a man for not keeping the Sabbath, no one would extend that requirement to the present day. In dealing with the legalism present in the Galatian church Paul stated that the Law was like a tutor to bring people to Christ. Just as an adult son no longer needs a tutor, so under grace believers no longer need the Law (Gal. 3:24-25; cf. 4:1-7 on the difference between the rules for children and the rules for adults).

Areas of Confusion in Definition

In the twentieth century many strides forward have been made in interpreting the doctrines of Scripture, especially eschatology and dispensationalism. In this area of theology The Scofield Reference Bible played a major part. Written originally by C. I. Scofield in 1909, he revised it in 1917. After World War I and after Scofield’s death in 1921 The Scofield Reference Bible became an unusually popular study Bible. The Bible conference movement became prominent in this country, and Bible teachers in those conferences often recommended The Scofield Reference Bible. As a result millions of copies were sold, and the views presented in that study Bible became the views of numerous Bible institutes and many evangelicals of the twentieth century.

This situation changed after the 1930s and in the decade that followed. Many seminaries that were formerly orthodox had turned liberal. Then as their graduates were called to churches that were traditionally orthodox, clashes occurred between pastors and their congregations. If a pastor opposed the doctrinal convictions of his congregants, he would have to challenge the doctrine of inspiration, the virgin birth, and similar issues, and this would immediately cause his people to raise questions about his own theology. A number of pastors discovered that most of the people who opposed them were carrying Scofield Reference Bibles, and one of the distinctive factors of the Scofield Bible is that it is dispensational. Therefore those pastors hit on the scheme of attacking dispensationalism as a heresy. Because most people did not have clearly in mind what dispensationalism involved theologically, this tactic helped protect those pastors from questions about their own theology and it put those in the pew on the defensive.

Conservative amillenarians saw an opportunity to further their cause, and they attacked dispensationalism as a departure from the Protestant Reformation. Their motto was “Back to the Reformation” as the cure for apostasy. The Reformation, however, did not deal with the subject of dispensationalism. So these theologians went back to Augustine and his amillennial eschatology.

In the ensuing controversy many liberals attacked dispensationalism. But what they were really attacking was fundamentalism, premillennialism, pretribulationism, and the inerrancy of the Bible. In the process, liberals wrongly identified “dispensationalism” with fundamentalism.

Characteristic of the attacks on dispensationalism is that its opponents say it is heretical. [3] Their approach is often characterized by prejudice and ignorance rather than careful study of the Scriptures and of the history of dispensational thought.

One example of this characterization occurred when a woman indicated to me that in a conversation with her pastor she inadvertently mentioned that her nephew was a student at Dallas Seminary. The pastor immediately replied, “That seminary is heretical.” When she asked him why he felt that way, he answered that it was dispensational. Then she asked, “What is wrong with dispensationalism?” He replied, “I don’t know, but it’s bad.”

When amillenarian ministers are asked, “What is wrong with dispensationalism?” many of them cannot give an acceptable answer.

The widespread prejudice and ignorance of the meaning of dispensationalism was illustrated when I was asked by a prominent Christian publication to write an article on dispensational premillennialism. In my manuscript I referred to The Divine Economy, written in 1687, in which the author, Pierre Poiret (1646-1719), discussed seven dispensations.4 The editor omitted this from the manuscript, and when I protested, he said, “That is impossible because John Nelson Darby invented dispensationalism.” It would be difficult to find a statement more ignorant and more prejudicial that that.

Another work on dispensations, written by John Edwards and published in 1699, was titled “A Complete History or Survey of all the Dispensations and Methods of Religion.” [5] Also Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote on dispensational distinctives. [6]

A most important contribution to the discussion of dispensationalism was written by Charles C. Ryrie in 1966. In his book Dispensationalism Today [7] he answered many objections to dispensationalism. He presented the subject in such a proper biblical and historical light that for some years afterward the attacks on dispensationalism were muted. After several years, however, those who objected to dispensationalism thought it possible to ignore this work. But in 1995 he issued a revised and expanded work entitled Dispensationalism. [8] This work will undoubtedly be unsurpassed by any work on the subject for years to come. Ryrie deals directly with the question of whether dispensationalism is a heresy, and he has a lengthy section on the origin of dispensationalism. He also discusses the hermeneutics of dispensationalism, the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of the church, eschatology, progressive dispensationalism, covenant theology, and ultradispensationalism.

Ryrie says this about the scriptural basis for dispensationalism: “The various forms of the word dispensation appear in the New Testament twenty times. The verb oikonomeō is used once in Luke 16:2 where it is translated ‘to be a steward.’ The noun oikonomos appears ten times (Luke 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2; Galatians 4:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10) and is usually translated ‘steward’ or ‘manager’ (but ‘treasure’ in Romans 16:23). The noun oikonomia is used nine times (Luke 16:2, 3, 4; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; 3:2, 9; Colossians 1:25; 1 Timothy 1:4). In these instances it is translated ‘stewardship,’ ‘dispensation,’ ‘administration,’ ‘job,’ ‘commission.’ ” [9]

As Ryrie points out, there are three major dispensations in the Scriptures. “At least three dispensations (as commonly understood in dispensational teaching) are mentioned by Paul. In Ephesians 1:10 he writes of ‘an administration [dispensation, KJV] suitable to the fullness of the times,’ which is a future period here. In Ephesians 3:2, he designates the ‘stewardship [dispensation, KJV] of God’s grace,’ which was the emphasis of the content of his preaching, at that time. In Colossians 1:25-26 it is implied that another dispensation precedes the present one in which the mystery of Christ in the believer is revealed. It is important to notice that … there can be no question that the Bible uses the word dispensation exactly the same way as the dispensationalist does.” [10]

The fact that the Bible uses the word “dispensation” as a theological term only a few times is no problem. Theologians use the words “atonement” and “Trinity” even though these words do not occur in the New Testament.

Ryrie defines a dispensation as “a stewardship, an administration, oversight, or management of others’ property… . This involves responsibility, accountability, and faithfulness on the part of the steward.” [11] Dispensationalism as a system in present-day discussions is most commonly associated with and stems from premillennialism because of the emphasis of premillenarians on normal, literal, grammatical interpretation, which points to a clear distinction between Israel and the church. [12]

Biblical Dispensations

As noted earlier, only three dispensations are discussed extensively in the Scriptures—the Law, grace (church), and the kingdom (the millennium)—though others are indicated in the Scriptures. For example The Scofield Reference Bible lists seven dispensations in the footnotes and then discusses each one subsequently in later footnotes.

The seven are “Innocence (Gen. 1:28); Conscience or Moral Responsibility (Gen. 3:7); Human Government (Gen. 8:15); Promise (Gen. 12:1); Law (Ex. 19:1); Church (Acts 2:1); Kingdom (Rev. 20:4).” [13]

Wilmington, on the other hand, lists nine dispensations.

1. The dispensation of innocence (from creation of man to the fall of man);

2. The dispensation of conscience (from the fall to the flood);

3. The dispensation of civil government (from the flood to the disbursement of Babel);

4. The dispensation of promise or patriarchal rule (from Babel to Mount Sinai);

5. The dispensation of the Mosaic Law (from Mount Sinai to the upper room);

6. The dispensation of the bride of the Lamb, the Church (from the upper room to the Rapture);

7. The dispensation of the wrath of the Lamb—the tribulation (from the Rapture to the Second Coming);

8. The dispensation of the rule of the Lamb—the Millennium (from the Second Coming to the Great White Throne Judgment);

9. The dispensation of the new creation of the land—the world without end (from the Great White Throne Judgment throughout all eternity). [14]

Each dispensation includes requirements for human conduct. Some Bible students wrongly seek to apply prophecies of the future millennium to the present age. The progressive character of dispensationalism, however, means that it is wrong to bring prophecies of yet-future events and relate them to an earlier era. Nor is it proper to take elements of human conduct and responsibility from passages about Christ’s reign on earth in the millennium and apply them to today. Also a number of writers refer to passages on the Great Tribulation and its terrible disasters as if they will occur in the present dispensation of the church age. However, in the rapture the church will be taken out of the world before these events happen.

A recent development in dispensational circles is called progressive dispensationalism. [15] Advocates of this view hold that Jesus Christ is now partially fulfilling the Davidic Covenant, seated in heaven on David’s throne and ruling over His kingdom as the Messiah and King. I believe, however, that Jesus’ present ministry in heaven involves His intercessory work for believers as their great High Priest, and that His messianic rule is not occurring now but will occur in the millennium. Progressive dispensationalists do affirm, however, their belief that Christ will reign over Israel in His thousand-year rule on the earth.

One of the best summaries of dispensations is found in the doctrinal statement of Dallas Theological Seminary. [16] This states that dispensationalism is a form of stewardship or responsibility of humanity to obey God and to honor Him. Each dispensation recorded in the Bible ends in failure, thus proving that no one under any arrangement can achieve perfection or salvation. Even in the millennial kingdom, with its near-perfect circumstances, humanity will still fail.

In every dispensation salvation is by grace through faith, made possible by the death of Christ. On the one hand the dispensations have diversity of requirements for human conduct, but on the other hand salvation is always by God’s grace. Salvation is the unifying factor in Scripture.

It is most unfortunate that many people misunderstand dispensationalism. Even many of those who are dispensationalists tend to avoid using the term “dispensationalism” because it is often misunderstood. Those who claim that they are not dispensationalists are actually rejecting the wrong view of dispensationalism. For everyone is a dispensationalist—to a degree—whether he or she recognizes it or not.

1 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (New York: Scribner’s Son, 1857), 2:373-77.

2 L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 293-301. Also Anthony A. Hoekema, an amillenarian who argues against dispensationalism, speaks of the Old Testament as “the period of shadows and types” and of the New Testament as “the period of fulfillment,” thereby acknowledging at least two eras of human history (The Bible and the Future [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 195).

3 For example the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States stated that dispensationalism is “evil and subversive” (A Digest of the Acts and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States 1861-1965 [Atlanta: Office of the General Assembly, 1966], 50; see also 45-49). While this accusation was made several decades ago, that general attitude still prevails among many covenant theologians.

4 Pierre Poiret, The Divine Economy, 7 vols. (1687; reprint, London: R. Bonwicke, 1713). The seven dispensations he taught are Creation to the Deluge, the Deluge to Moses, Moses to the Prophets, the Prophets to Christ, Manhood and Old Age, the Christian Era, and Renovation of All Things.

5 John Edwards, A Compleat History or Survey of All the Dispensations and Methods of Religion, 2 vols. (n. p.: Daniel Brown, 1699).

6 Isaac Watts, The Works of the Reverend and Learned Isaac Waats (Leeds, UK: Edward Bainer, 1800), 1:555-65; 2:626-60. Both Edwards and Watts discussed six dispensations: Innocency, Adamical, Noahical, Abrahamical, Mosaical, and Christian.

7 Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody, 1966).

8 Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody, 1995).

9 Ibid., 25.

10 Ibid., 27 (italics his).

11 Ibid., 28.

12 However, not all premillenarians accept dispensationalism as a system.

13 C. I. Scofield, ed., The New Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 3. See also Stanley D. Toussaint, “A Biblical Defense of Dispensationalism,” in Walvoord: A Tribute, ed. Donald K. Campbell (Chicago: Moody, 1982), 81-91; and Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 51-57.

14 H. L. Wilmington, Book of Bible Lists (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1987).

15 Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, eds., Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992); Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1993); and Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993).

16 We Believe: Doctrinal Statement of Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, n.d.), Article V.

 

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