Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (16) – Theses 61-67

61. Despite the dispensationalists’ teaching that “Jesus will come in the air secretly to rapture His Church” (Tim LaHaye), their key proof-text for this “secret” coming, 1 Thess 4:16, makes the event as publicly verifiable as can be, declaring that he will come “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”

Response: By “secret” LaHaye, who is not to be thought of as an authority on the issue, meant something like “kept secret until revealed.”  For a number of reasons, not least because anti-dispensationalists try to make capital out of it, this is not the best way to speak about the rapture, so most dispensatiionalists don’t!

But again it ought to be pointed out that the preterists who signed these 95 Theses don’t really have a problem with an “event as publicly verifiable as can be” being, in fact, totally secret.  This is precisely how some of them interpret the Second Coming passage in Matthew 24:25-31 (see K. Gentry in “The Great Tribulation: Past or Future?”, 65-66.  Gentry co-wrote this book with T. Ice).  They think all this happened secretly and invisibly in 70 A.D.

62. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine of two resurrections, the first one being of believers at the Rapture and the second one of unbelievers at the end of the millennium 1007 years after the Rapture, the Bible presents the resurrection of believers as occurring on “the last day” (John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24), not centuries before the last day.

Response: As far as John 6 is concerned one needs to ask what is meant by “the last day.”  As Jesus is referring to believers here, not unbelievers, the passage does not tell us enough to be definite.  Dispensationalists interpret “the last day” here as the time, either of the pre-tribulational rapture, or immediately after the Second Coming of Christ in vengeance (2 Thess. 1:5-9; Rev. 19:11f.).  As John 6 is very Jew-oriented, it may be best to interpret it in terms of the latter.  If this is correct (and I am not sure) then Jesus does not have the rapture of the Church in view but the “first resurrection” of Rev. 20:4-6 (which nearly all non-dispensationalists spiritualize as the new birth).

The fact of the matter is that there are numerous resurrections at different times in Scripture: Christ’s (Col. 1:18); certain saints at the same time (Matt. 27:50-53); the two witnesses in Rev. 11:9-11 (who are also often spiritualized); those martyred during the Tribulation (Rev. 20:4-6), together with the saints mentioned in Dan. 12:1-2; and finally the resurrection of the wicked at the close of the Millennium (Rev. 20:5, 12. Which resurrection is interpreted literally by our gainsayers, although both the first resurrection and the 1,000 years in the same context are spiritualized!).

Having said all this, why then is it strange if those mentioned in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 are resurrected at a still different time prior to the seven year Tribulation?  Answer: it isn’t!  But we have more to say about this.

63. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine of two resurrections, the first one being of believers at the Rapture and the second one of unbelievers at the end of the millennium 1007 years after the Rapture, the Bible speaks of the resurrection of unbelievers as occurring before that of believers (though as a part of the same complex of events), when the angels “first gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up” at the end of the age (Matt 13:30b).

Response: Notice that these brethren go to a parable to find a teaching to overthrow plain and clear didactic passages!  And having resorted to a parable, they then contrive to misread it.  The verse says nothing about a resurrection.  Jesus’ own interpretation shows that this event occurs at His Second Coming and kingdom (see Matt. 13:37-43).

It should not surprise anyone that Matthew 13:30b has been misinterpreted so as to teach a resurrection.  After all, Revelation 20:4-6, which refers to two resurrections divided by a thousand years is not believed by them either.  The fact is, it doesn’t matter what the Bible actually says; if it contradicts the beliefs of certain people (whether they be true believers like the Nicene Council or those associated with various Cults) the plain sense will be ignored.

64.  Despite dispensationalism’s commitment to the secret Rapture of the Church by which Christians are removed from the world to leave only non-Christians in the world, Jesus teaches that the wheat and the tares are to remain in the world to the end (Matt 13:), and he even prays that the Father not take his people out of the world (John 17:15).

Response: The wheat and the tares refers to the the growth of true saints alongside false professors, something the Church has had to deal with since its inception.  The removal of the true Church at the rapture is an end-time event, and thus is no contradiction of the parable.

But Dispensationalists teach that many will be saved in the Tribulation (e.g. see Rev. 7), but that the saints will be spared from the imminent wrath of Christ at the end of that period (see Rev. 14:14-16 and the contrast with vv.17-20).  So neither the pre-trib. rapture nor the post-trib. protection of believers contradicts Jesus’s parable.

As it has been more than 2,000 years since Jesus’ prayer in John 17:15 we are of the opinion that the prayer has been answered.

It is all very well to ask what might be called “but what about…?” questions, but these questions must never by themselves determine the way we handle the text of Scripture.  We don’t have all the answers.  We only have what God tells us about.  This means that both Dispensationalists and Non-dispensationalists have what I call “frayed edges” to their theologies (which are human systems).  Thus, sometimes it is unreasonable to expect each other to be definitive, especially in matters of eschatology.

We repeat, the “secret” of the rapture is its timing not its actual occurrence, although it is possible that only the saved will experience the phenomena of 1 Thess. 4:16.  This point has been made to our opponents ad nauseum.  It will doubtless persist until the rapture happens.

65. Despite the dispensationalists’ emphasis on the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) and the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24, admitting that Christ was pointing to the stones of the first century temple when He declared that “not one will be left upon another” (Matt 23:37-24:2), they also admit inconsistently that when the disciples asked “when shall these things be?” (Matt 24:3), Matthew records Christ’s answer in such a way that He presents matters that are totally unrelated to that event and that occur thousands of years after it (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

Response: Taking a closer look at Matthew 24:2-3 it will be seen that the disciples asked at least two questons: 1. “when will these things be?” (a reference to v.2), and 2. “and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”

For his own reasons the Holy Spirit directed Matthew to focus on the second of these questions.  How do we know?  Note well the references to the end: vv. 6, 13, 14, 21, 27, 29-31, 36-39, and the next chapter.  So although the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is referred to in Matt. 24:2 the disciples ask a related question which Matthew concentrates on in the rest of chapters 24 and 25.

Some preterists, scared to death of J. S. Mill and Bertrand Russell, ignore all these references to “the end”; zoom in on v.34 and conclude that Christ came back invisibly with the Romans in 70 A.D.  We think our explanation, which examines the context, is preferable.

66. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to so-called literalism in prophecy and their strong emphasis on the Great Tribulation passage in Matthew 24, they perform a sleight of hand by claiming that when Jesus stated that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34), He did so in a way inconsistent with every other usage of “this generation” in Matthew’s Gospel (e.g., Matt 11:16; 12:41, 42) and even in the immediate context (Matt 23:36), so that “this generation” can somehow point thousands of years into the future “instead of referring this to the time in which Christ lived” (Walvoord).

Response: There is no “sleight of hand.”  The “generation” of Matt. 24:34 is the generation of the end (Matt.24:3, 6, 13-14) who pass through the “great tribulation” (v.21).  Thus, the context decides the meaning.  Plus, the context of Christ’s words in Matt. 23:39 (which verse is again spiritualized by most amills and post-mills), is not 70 A.D. but the Second Advent (cf. Zech. 12 – notice the repetition of “in that day” – especially vv.9-11).

67. Dispensationalism’s teaching of the rapid “national regeneration of Israel” during the latter part of the seven-year Tribulation period (Fruchtenbaum) is incomprehensible and unbiblical because the alleged regeneration occurs only after the Church and the Holy Spirit have been removed from the earth, even though they were the only agents who could cause that regeneration:  the institution of evangelism on the one hand and the agent of conversion on the other.

Response: I truly hope the “former dispensationalists” among the Nicene Council are embarrassed by this thesis.  Perhaps they signed them without reading this one too closely?  The answer is as easy as its necessity is surprising.

First, there are 144,000 Jews who are sealed in Rev. 7:4-8 (we realize that once again our opponents spiritualize these Jews and spiritualize the number 144,000).  These male Jews (cf. Rev. 14:1-4) are called “servants of… God” (Rev. 7:3).  Thus, it is a safe bet that they do a spot of evangelism.  In chapter 11 the two witnesses are prophesying for 1,260 days (yes, we know…the two witnesses and the 1,260 days or 42 months (v.2) are spiritualized too!).  We think a note of repentance might slip into their preaching! Please forgive the humor; it is not meant to be demeaning.  But if one is going to issue 95 Theses opposing a theology that has purportedly “crippled the church” and produce a video to boot, it would help if there were signs that this were more than a visceral reaction.

Second, whoever heard of  removing the Holy Spirit from the earth (Psa.139:7-10)?  That would be like removing God’s providence from the earth.  Talk about incomprehensible.  Doubtless these people have in mind 2 Thess. 2:7 where “the restrainer” is held by most Dispensationalists to be the Holy Spirit.  But they badly err if they think “taken out of the way” means removed from the earth.  I am aware of no serious Dispensationalist who believes that the Spirit is taken from the world.  We simply refer the interested reader to J. D. Pentecost, “Things To Come,” 270-271, or the commentaries by Hiebert or Thomas.  Next…

3 thoughts on “Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (16) – Theses 61-67”

  1. Regarding item #67, it gets truly tiring to have to repeat the same clarifications over and over ad-nauseam. I’m not aware of anyone who ever taught that the Holy Spirit is removed, in all His ministries and omnipresence, at the rapture. This is setting up and pushing over the same worn straw horse misrepresentation of what we dispensationalists have been saying.

    The reason they do this, though, is because their ecclesiology forces them into this position. Having defined the church as beginning with Adam and containing the elect of all ages, they are completely unable (indeed, unwilling) to see the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost as a beginning–the beginning of Spirit baptism forming the body of Christ. Because they won’t see the formation of the body of Christ at Pentecost they are also unwilling to see the possibility of the completion of the ministry of the church in the corresponding removal of the same body at the rapture. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is an undeniable historical event which they gloss over and so how can we expect them to understand a ‘removal’ of some ministries of the Spirit in the same aspect that He came (in regard to a specific ministry: the indwelling of believers to form the body of Christ ministering during this age)?

    This sloppy exegesis (how else can we say it?) and an unwillingness to look at the details of Scripture characterizes the movement.

    The simple fact is that the “Holy Spirit had not yet been given” as John makes plain (John 7:37-39). Any system of interpretation which fails to account for this and Jesus’ statement in Acts 1:4-8 is not accounting for important passages and deserves close scrutiny.

  2. Of course, the ecclesiology of many of these brethren is undergirded by the supposed “Covenant of Grace.” Thus, their interpretations, especially of prophetic texts, are conditioned by inferences (the Church & Israel are one) based on inferences (the C of G).

    For me, Tony, it is Acts 1:3-8 that is crucial in all this. There we are told that the risen Jesus was specifically teaching of things pertaining to the kingdom. To think that the disciples’ question in verse 6 showed their misunderstanding either makes them completely stupid (after all, they had the best Teacher in history), or it makes Jesus a bad teacher. Neither option can be seriously entertained by a Bible believer.

    Thanks Tony.

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