First of all let’s take a look at the tenants of Dispensational Eschatology that I was taught, and most evangelicals are taught in North America. There are three major components to understanding this system:
1. Dispensationalists insist that God has two redemptive plans, one for national Israel, and one for Gentiles during the "church age." This presupposition forms the basis for the dispensational hermeneutic. As John Walvoord states regarding the dispensational hermeneutic, "Pretribulationism distinguishes clearly between Israel and the church and their respective programs."
2. The visible and physical second coming of Christ occurs after the great tribulation(there are three views regarding the catching away of believers, pre-trib, post-trib, and mid-trib). Those who are converted to Christ during the tribulation, including Jews (the 144,000) who turn to Christ, go on into the millennium to re-populate the earth. Glorified believers rule with Christ during his future reign.
3. The millennium is marked by a return to Old Testament temple worship and sacrifice to commemorate the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of the millennium, the "great white throne" judgment occurs, and Satan and all unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire. There is the creation of a new heaven and earth.
Dispensational theologians believe there will be a rapture of living believers which occurs along with the raising of the believing dead when Christ returns prior to the millennial reign. The second resurrection takes place after the millennial reign. They interpret the Old Testament scriptures in light of National Israel. Again, this is what most American evangelicals are taught in their local assemblies. In many circles it has become a litmus test of genuine regeneration.
PROBLEM WITH DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY: THE BIBLE
While reading Peter’s Second Epistle I found myself face to face one evening with a passage dealing with Christ’s second coming that caused my Dispensational Theology to collapse around me…
2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (11) Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (12) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (13) But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
This can’t be true, can it? When Christ returns He will establish a new heaven and a new earth where only righteousness dwells? But wait, how can the believers who repopulate the earth after Christ returns evangelize the generations coming after them? They can't.
You can’t have unregenerate unsaved people being taught the things of God, tempted by Satan into sin at the end of a thousand years, and some saved and some not, because there will be NO UNRIGHTEOUSNESS AFTER CHRIST RETURNS. Again, there will be no unrighteousness remaining after His return.
I tried every way possible to fix the conundrum I found myself in. My first thought was to appeal to the dual resurrection theory. Perhaps this reference in 2nd Peter speaks of the second resurrection at the end of the millennial dispensation. Then, like a the anvil on the Coyote’s head the Spirit of truth brought to mind two profound passages…
John 5:24-25 ESV (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (25) "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved—
Those who have been born again have partaken of the first resurrection! They have been raised from death and walk in newness of life, thus they shall never taste death at the 2nd or final resurrection. My system was falling apart completely in light of clear scripture.
Long story short I dug deep and found three key things when scripture is abundantly clear about when speaking of Christ’s return…
1. Jesus will raise the dead and gather all His elect at His return, and they will all be glorified. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1st Corinthians 15:50-57
2. Judgment of all men will take place at His return. Matthew 25:31-34, 41
3. A new heaven and earth will be made where there will dwell ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS forever (which again makes it impossible for unrighteous generations to be born in and be taught the law and observe temple worship, etc.). 2 Peter 3:3-13
Let’s now quickly look at the controversial Revelation 20. It tells us Satan is bound. He is! The Nations are no longer deceived, the Gospel is going to be preached in every Nation, and the gates of hell will not prevail over the Gospel! Though many will face tribulations and persecutions, and perhaps lose their lives for the Gospel, it can not be hindered by Satan.
Note verse 5, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Those who had given their lives for the Gospel as a testimony, who had partaken of the first resurrection (they were born of God), would never taste death at the 2nd resurrection (the raising of all the dead for judgment). At the end Satan is released for a brief period. There is indeed coming a period of apostasy as spoken of by Paul the Apostle in his letters to the Thessalonians. But that is NOT in some future literal thousand year earthly reign.
Some will argue that Revelation 19 and 20 are chronological and the above interpretation can not stand. In Revelation 19:15 the nations are judged. In Revelation 20 the Nations are there again. How’d they come back? I challenge each reader to carefully compare Revelation 12:7-11 with Revelation 20. There is a heavenly battle. Satan is cast down. Satan expresses great wrath because he has but a little time. Saints are faithful and the Gospel goes forth even though they must face death. The book of the Revelation deals with the ultimate victory of Christ over Satan and his emissaries, and looks at that victory through various different angles. Revelation 12 and 20 are depicting the same scene. There have been many anti-christs who were worshipped, established idols of themselves, and refused to let their people buy or sell without accepting them as a god. One example: Hitler. Another example: Nero in the First Century. Modern Example: Saddam Hussien.
God has one plan of redemption for all mankind: Salvation by grace through faith alone in the Person and work of Christ Jesus alone. When He returns He will judge the nations, forever abolish all unrighteousness in the lake of fire, and establish a new heaven and earth where there dwells only righteousness.
Promises made to Israel were fulfilled in Christ! He was and is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, seated upon the throne of David, ruling TODAY from a throne of righteousness! We interpret the scripture in light of Christ Jesus, not a nation of people.
After discovering these rich truths and embracing them, I found out I indeed had a proper theological title. I am amillennial in eschatology. I also found a very dear Brother which came to these same conclusions, and has actually written extensively on the above, and offers countless audio resources for free which can be viewed here… http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/
Our dear Brother says it best…
1. Promises made to National Israel are fulfilled perfectly by Christ, and realized by the church today!
2. There are one people of God, called Israel in the Old Testament scriptures and called the church in the New Testament scriptures.
3. The New Testament scriptures view the Old Testament scriptures through the lenses of Christ’s Person and work, as we should. We are Christians not Jews. The scriptures are about CHRIST not the Jews.
John 5:39 ESV You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness