Some of the lingering conversation on three recent posts here have convinced me to make a horrifying confession, a confession so shocking and that I have been called a heretic, an infidel and worse than an unbeliever when I’ve admitted this deep dark secret in the past. They say that the first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem… so here goes: I am not a Premillennialist! Please forgive me if this is too shocking!
Here’s my story… Once upon a time when the earth was young and I was a teenager, I read a book called “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsay. I was so enthralled by it, that I read it again, and again, and yet again. I sought out other books on the subject and read them as well, and I soon became a walking encyclopedia of Premillennialism, for I bought it hook, line and sinker.
I was simply amazed that Jesus would return and set up His earthly Kingdom before I was 20!
When I was in my mid to late 20’s, a thought struck me: What if Mr. Lindsay and the others were mistaken? OK, they guessed the time wrong, not that they had been real explicit anyway, but what if they had missed something else? You see, there was something that was nagging in the back of my head, a little voice, or was it a flashing red light, or just a dull throb… well I’m not sure what it was, but it bothered me. The bother was that all of those books took me to a place where Jesus had set up His Millennial Kingdom, headquartered in Jerusalem, where Jesus presided in the Temple as the High Priest, and they had re-instituted Temple sacrifices and the Law of Moses. Now I understood that this contradicted everything I knew about the New Testament, but I rationalized that away by convincing myself that it was a whole new era, so things were done differently, but the thing that kept bothering me was that under the Law, the High Priest must have a sacrifice for his own sins when he enters the Holy of Holies once a year. Why would Jesus be this High Priest and need a sin offering, if He was without sin? If He was not without sin Himself, then was I saved by the cross?
I searched and searched for the answer, until one day I came across it in a book (I’ve forgotten the title, sorry) by John Walvoord, president of Dallas Theological Seminary and a mentor of many of the authors I’d read, including Lindsay. Dr. Walvoord had written that this issue was one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible and that we wouldn’t understand it until we get to heaven. I was not comforted, but I hung in there.
As a seminary student, I learned about hermeneutics, and one of the methods we were taught was Literalism, or the literal method of interpretation. This gave me my second “bother.” The authors that I had been reading all said that we must intretpret prophetic passages of the Bible literally, but when I learned the method, I was deeply troubled by the fact that while the authors I was reading said they were interpreting literally, they really weren’t. According to the method of literal interpretation, a mountain is a mountain, a frog is a frog, and Egypt is Egypt. But these guys could make Egypt into Russia and a beast into a man. I figured that I would understand later, so I hung in there. I wanted to ask my professor about this, but we were not allowed to question premillennialism at that seminary, for it was required. (Actually it was Dispensational Pretribulational Premillennialism)
I reached my crisis of faith when I had a class in Acts. In chapter 2, Peter makes a bold statement in verse 16 ff. when he said, “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:…) then he quoted Joel 2:28-32. That’s when it hit me like a freight train, I was literally light-headed. Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by all of the premillennialist authors and placed in the Millennial Kingdom, not Pentecost! Without thinking,, I raised my hand and asked how that could be!
The professor explained calmly that because of the principle of Progressive Revelation, Peter had not yet come to understand where to properly apply the passage. You know how Peter was, he sometimes spoke without understanding and said the wrong thing… My heart was racing, I was struggling for breath, but I blurted out: “Verses 1-15 document the fact that Peter was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!” Not as calmly, the professor said it was progressive revelation and moved on in his lecture…
My crisis: If the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit could be WRONG, then the Bible is not inerrant, the atheists are right, and we’re a bunch of idiots, just like they say we are.
I returned to my room and didn’t come out for that night and all of the following day and night. My head was spinning: Jesus needs a sin offering? Inspired Apostles are wrong, God’s purpose is the Old Covenant, the New Testament teachings are temporary, Jesus failed the first time around because of the rejection of the Jews… the atheists are right after all? And it finally came to me:
NO! The interpretation is wrong, the Bible is not wrong!
I transferred to another seminary. I also began a new study of Revelation and the OT prophets, without the premises of Premillennialism, and I discovered that Revelation is much easier to understand when you don’t have to make it conform to a predetermined theory. I also discovered that it tells an amazing story of the battle between God and Satan that runs through the entire course of human history, and how with this recognition, history is an amazing testimony of God’s glory, and that what is going on around us in this life, in the news, in culture, in education and in religion are just as they’ve always been; the physical manifestations of a spiritual conflict of which we are on the front lines. I also began to understand that the commentators are wrong about something else;
Satan isn’t always on the offensive. No! He is playing defence in a desperate struggle to hang on, for he knows only too well that it is only a matter of time before God will judge him and all of his little friends. You see, the Gospel is God’s offensive strategy, and your prayers are God’s artillery!
Oh what a glorious thing it is to be a servant of Jesus Christ!
Well, that’s my story. I hope you aren’t too shocked, I’m sorry if you are. If you like, feel free to call me names… it won’t be the first time. If you prefer a premillennial view of things, you’ll get no criticism from me, for as I’ve said before, Eschatology is not an essential of the Faith, and not worthy of fighting over when there is so much for each one of us to do to advance the cause of our Lord in this world.