When I first heard the expression, “Y2K,” I had no idea to what that referred. Someone kindly instructed me: “Year two thousand.” I then inquired as to what the excitement concerning Y2K is all about.
I was informed it is twofold:
- Those who designed our computers in earlier decades did not factor in the calendar change for the coming millennium; this, supposedly, will precipitate global disasters of various sorts.
- The return of Jesus Christ, and the commencement of his millennial reign is alleged to be imminent—in the proximity of the year 2000.
I doubt the first of these predictions. I positively deny the second one, for it is wholly at variance with Bible teaching.
There is a popular idea that the earthly millennial (one-thousand-year) reign of Christ is to begin shortly—many believe with the advent of the year 2000. The roots of this theory actually go far back into history. It was a Judaistic concept initially. Note the testimony of prominent historian Augustus Neander:
The idea of a millennial reign proceeded from Judaism, for among the Jews the representation was current that the Messiah would reign a thousand years on earth, and then bring to a close the present terrestrial system. This calculation was arrived at by a literal interpretation of Psalm 110:4, “A thousand years are in thy sight as one day.” It was further argued that as the World was created in six days, so it would last six thousand years, the seventh thousand would be a period of repose, a sabbath on Earth to be followed by the destruction of the World (1858, 248).
The Jewish chronological theory was wrong because the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, arrived on earth two thousand years ago! Of course the Jews, for the most part, have never accepted Jesus as their “Messiah.”
On the other hand, some religionists—ostensibly associated with Christianity—highjacked the doctrine and claimed for it a biblical basis. It became known as “dispensationalism,” from the notion that the whole of earth’s history is divided into seven “dispensations,” which purportedly correspond to the seven days of our planet’s first week.
The basic form of this dogma was brought into prominence by John Nelson Darby (1800-82), a British Episcopalian clergyman. He was one of the early leaders of a sect known as the “Plymouth Brethren.”
With some modification, the doctrines of Darby later were popularized by C.I. Scofield (1843-1921), a lawyer-turned-minister, who became a highly-sought-after lecturer affiliated with the Congregationalist Church. Scofield eventually published a “study” Bible known as The Scofield Reference Bible (1909). It was the King James Version with a system of chain references and copious footnotes containing, quite undisguised, Darby’s dispensationalism, along with a host of additional errors. [For example, Scofield, in connection with John 3:3-5, taught that the “natural man” cannot obey God; rather “regeneration” is a “creative act of the Holy Spirit.” He contended that the only “condition” of the new birth is “faith in Christ crucified.”]
George Murray, professor of doctrinal history at Gordon College, stated that The Scofield Reference Bible “has done more than any other medium in promoting dispensationalism in America” (1948, 13).
Let us give brief consideration to some of the major components of dispensationalism, and show how very adverse they are to the plain teaching of the Scriptures.
First, it is suggested that Christ came to the earth twenty centuries ago for the purpose of re-establishing David’s kingdom of Old Testament fame. Supposedly, however, Jesus was surprisingly rejected by the Jews, and so postponed the “kingdom” plan.
In response we may say:
- The Jewish rejection of Jesus was no surprise to Heaven. It was prophesied centuries before it occurred (see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 53:1ff). To contend that God was caught unawares by the rebellion of the Jews is a blasphemous reflection upon the omniscient nature of the Lord.
- The “kingdom” was not postponed; it was a first-century reality (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:6,9), and is entered today by the new birth process (John 3:3-5).
Secondly, dispensationalists contend that the “church” was introduced as an emergency measure to remedy the failed “kingdom” plan. It was not, they claim, a part of God’s original plan; rather, it was an “after-thought” in the divine scheme of things.
But such a statement is clearly at variance with Paul’s affirmation that the church was a feature of Heaven’s “eternal purpose [plan]” (Ephesians 3:10-11). Moreover, the “church” is simply a synonym for the “saved.” If one argues that God never had the church in mind, logic would demand he maintain the Lord never had human salvation in view!
Third, it is contended that the “signs” of Matthew 24 indicate that the Lord’s return to “rapture” (i.e., snatch away) the saints from earth’s environment is near. [Note: Twenty years ago Billy Graham was preaching that the end of the world was “very near.”]
But the “signs” of this chapter pertain to the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), not the second coming of Christ (cf. Matthew 24:34). Not even the Lord knew when his coming would occur (Matthew 24:36). [See A Study of Matthew Twenty-four.]
Is it not amazing that Jesus could preach the discourse in Matthew 24, not knowing when his second coming would be, and yet modern-day prophets of hysteria can merely read the chapter and virtually declare when the end will be!
Dispensationalism argues that Jesus will secretly and silently “rapture” the saints when he comes in the near-future.
But the Scriptures affirm that the Lord’s return will be both audible (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and visible (Hebrews 9:28). Moreover, the notion of a two-staged coming of Christ (i.e., the “rapture,” and then the “final” coming) was wholly unknown until the early 1800s, when it arose in the Pentecostal movement.
Dispensationalism alleges that the “rapture” will trigger a seven-year tribulation period during which the Jewish temple will be rebuilt and Mosaic, animal sacrifices restored. But:
- There is no biblical reference to a specific seven-year “tribulation” period.
- There is no hope of the restoration of Judaism. Jesus pronounced the Jewish house “desolate” (Matthew 23:38), and Paul affirmed that the law was permanently abrogated. This is the force of the perfect tense form, “hath taken away” (Colossians 2:14). The sacrifice of the Son of God has vitiated forever the need for bloody animal offerings (cf. Hebrews 10:1ff). How could anyone possibly suggest a return to that system of carnality (Hebrews 10:9)?
Dispensationalism asserts that in connection with these “end-time” events, national Israel will be reinstated to God’s favor, and the Jews will be granted the Holy Land again.
But God has disowned the Jews as a national people (Matthew 21:43); they have been replaced with a new nation, spiritual Israel—the church (Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5-10). Any person of Jewish extraction may be saved in obedience to the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17), but God is finished with national Israel. I have discussed this extensively in my commentary on Jeremiah.
The dispensational dogma suggests that Christ will return at the end of the “tribulation period” to inaugurate a one-thousand-year earthly reign.
But the one-thousand-year reference, mentioned only in Revelation chapter twenty, is a symbolic number. The term “thousand” is never used literally in the book of Revelation. This is the same sort of error the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” make when they argue, supposedly based upon Revelation chapters seven and fourteen, that there will be only 144,000 people in heaven!
The figure “thousand” in Revelation 20 denotes the completeness of the Savior’s victory over his enemies; there is no reference to an earthly regime. In fact, the Lord’s reign is from heaven, not from Jerusalem (cf. Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30ff; Luke 19:12-15; 1 Peter 3:21-22).
Dispensationalism contends there will be two resurrections from the dead—the first for the saints at the beginning of the “millennium,” and then a second resurrection for the wicked at the end of Christ’s reign.
But the New Testament teaches there will be a general resurrection at the same “hour” (John 5:28-29); it is a singular event, not a dual-phased phenomenon. Paul said there shall be “a resurrection, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15).
Dispensationalism is a fanciful scheme that has been concocted by fallible men who have ignored the clear teaching of Scripture. It has numerous dangerous components and horrible implications.
- It reflects upon the very nature of God.
- It gives the Jewish people a false hope.
- It subverts the spiritual to the material.
It should be rejected by conscientious Bible students.