Rapture Cult – Part III – Dispensationalism

In terms of religious thought, I lived for most of my life outside of anything remotely mainstream. I became a Christian at age six and never read anything religious, except my Bible. Commentaries were verboten in my family and church, so I was never exposed to some of the unusual terminology that sprang up over the past two hundred years. Nor, was I directly influenced by any of the ‘great theologians’ that have shaped doctrine for the past few hundred years.

I had my Bible, and a family and church that were prone to vigorous debate over EVERYTHING. If you didn’t have chapter and verse for a thought or idea, you were shouted down. It meant that I really learned my Bible and was given enough of it to see how it hung together as a whole – the incredible tapestry of this gift of His word.

Now, a religious ‘hot house’ environment like this has its own perils, and there’s quite a bit that I’ve had to reevaluate over the past few years, in addition to a massive attitude problem. (When Paul speaks of having been a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, I can truly say the same about myself, in spades.)

Worse, many of my beliefs and attitudes were an affront to God, and it is only because of His infinite graciousness and patience that He didn’t deal harshly with me for it. And, since God has been patient with me over so much, I feel strongly about being patient with others.

Even more, the doctrinal errors in my own past convince me that I should be slow to point out the doctrinal errors in others – especially if they are not foundational. In fact, my own errors of the past make me cognizant of my own fallibility.

But, there are moments in time where the consequences of saying nothing are so dire, you feel that you must do something to help get people that you care about out of harm’s way. So, what I am about to say, I say because I must – howbeit with extreme reluctance.

Elements of dispensationalism are wrong, and those errors will eventually lead to the death of millions of people and even great apostasy. (And, in fact, it already has.)

Am I saying that it’s heresy? No. Really, I don’t. In fact, there’s a lot about dispensationalism that I agree with. And, I am TREMENDOUSLY upset with many of the positions taken by people who criticize dispensationalism.

(Can you see that maybe I’m in a spot of trouble here?)

But seriously. You are not a heretic in my view, if you are a dispensationalist. In fact, this discussion would be somewhat irrelevant if it were not for the fact that we stand on the doorstep of events that will shake the world and cause the end of civilization as we know it.

What is Wrong With Dispensationalism?

The idea that history can be broken down into a series of ‘dispensations’, instead of… oh, laws or sections of the Bible… is immaterial. I fully expect to stand before the Lord when this life is over and be pleasantly shocked at what God was up to all this time. I’m even hoping that my understanding of Hell is wrong and that friends and family won’t suffer the terrible fate that they seem determined to find.

But, let me get back to my main point.

What’s wrong with dispensationalism?

For one thing, it diminishes the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus died not just for those who came after, but He also died for all those who came before. Dispensationalism, the classic kind, essentially says that Christ died only for those who live during the Christian era. Those who lived before have their own ‘dispensation’ and must follow that.

That just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Now, I know what many of you are about to say. Yes, I do see that you agree that Christ died for all both past and present, and that He loves all equally.

So, why then do you believe that ANYONE would be required to fulfill the demonstrably impossible law of Moses?

Why would God replace something perfect with something impossible?

Why would God bring the sacrifices back, if Christ was sufficient?

Yes, yes, I know that there are sacrifices during the millenium, or at least offerings, and I don’t begin to understand all that. But, we’re talking about where we stand today, about salvation and about a perfect sacrifice in the form of our Lord Jesus.

Maybe I should put it to you this way: Why doesn’t God love all His people equally? Why would God replace the yoke of Christ with an impossible yoke of the law?

We have all of Paul’s writings that argue against this. Arguing for a return of the Mosaic law is senseless.

And, then there’s a second rapture?

That’s right, if you are a pre-tribber, you get a secret rapture that the Bible mentions NOWHERE and then a VISIBLE rapture when the Lord returns in glory.

Remember, here’s the verse on the Rapture:

1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

THAT is the resurrection AFTER the Tribulation. Where’s the verse that talks about the previous resurrection?

Don’t bother searching your Bible because it doesn’t exist. The Bible speaks of only two resurrections – the one at the end of the Great Tribulation and the one at the end of the Millenium.

Then there’s the point about persecution.

When you have the church raptured before the tribulation, you still have people left behind – people who will be ‘saved’ AFTER the rapture. You have to believe that because there is persecution of God’s people during the tribulation. At least some of those will be Jews.

If you believe that, you are saying that God loves the people who get saved before the tribulation more than those who get saved during the tribulation.

I mean, that’s why the pre-trib rapture, right? God loves us enough to take us out of the way of harm, right?

So, why do God’s people still suffer during The Great Tribulation?

No, no, please don’t tell me that they had rejected Christ, and now must suffer for that – even though they are eventually saved. Before we were saved, we ALL were in a state of rejection of Christ. That’s hair-splitting.

And before you advocate a position where God WANTED to rescue everyone, but just wasn’t able… please remember that it is God who determines when the Great Tribulation begins.

2 Thessalonians 2:7

7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

Ask yourself this: did Christ love us as much before we were saved, as after? Since before the Creation of the Universe, even?

Of course!

God loved us as much BEFORE we were saved as AFTER. And, He expressed that love by giving His only Son!

Coupling this idea with a pre-trib rapture should mean that no believers should experience The Great Tribulation, but that’s not what the Bible says.

In fact, a good dispensationalist should actually question how Christ-followers could suffer persecution of any kind?

Was there somehow something wrong with the millions of Christians who died under great tribulation over the past two millenia?

Was their tribulation any less than the tribulation that is to come?

Are the people who die in the Great Tribulation going to die in any worse way than those who lost their lives in say… Foxes Book of Martyrs?

Of course not. The difference between The Great Tribulation that’s coming and the lesser versions that have come in the past is intensity. And, someone called ‘the man of sin’. And, well… massive cataclysm…

And Then, There’s That Apostacy Thing I Mentioned

All that I’m saying is that when the Great Tribulation comes, and the Rapture doesn’t happen… how do you think some will react when someone comes along, passing himself off as the Messiah?

Yeah. Quite a few dispensationalists will be tempted to go over to ‘the dark side’.

Of course, God promised that His people, dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists alike, would not be fooled – in the end. Only those who are not truly God’s people will fail, and fall in with the Anti-Christ.

But, There IS a Way of Escape!

And, it doesn’t come through believing in what isn’t there.

God saves us from tribulation by warning us that it’s coming and giving us a way to escape it – a place of safety. God uses people like me, and others, to give you warning so that you have time to prepare – so that you DON’T have to suffer unnecessarily.

Yes, some of us will need to make choices about whether we will survive, or not. Pastors cannot abandon their flocks. Missionaries cannot stop their mission work. Those of us with jobs to do may have to choose to fall where we stand.

But, the rest of you have the luxury of escape, if you are willing to see it.

When the Babylonians came, God gave His people in Judah a way to escape and a prophet, Jeremiah, to tell them of it. Most chose not to listen and suffered for that choice. (By the way, I am NOT a prophet.)

You have a way of escape from what’s coming, if you choose to prepare now. And by all means, continue being a dispensationalist, just please prepare for what’s coming. Wake up and do the hard work that it will take to make you, your family, your community and your church safe for the times ahead.

I’m concerned, and I want y’all to make it through okay.


Articles on dispensationalism:

Comparison of Dispensationalism with Covenant Theology

Does the Bible Teach a Pre-Tribulational Rapture?


4 thoughts on “Rapture Cult – Part III – Dispensationalism”

  1. [Wow, great blog John! Caught this on the amazing net and thought you might enjoy seeing it. God bless. Mike]


    by Dave MacPherson

    (For more than 40 years my pretrib critics have falsely claimed that leading scholars condemn my research. Since those critics continue to deliberately distort and censor (even on Wikipedia etc.) my evidence that Edward Irving’s group as well as Margaret Macdonald taught a pretrib rapture before John Darby and his group did, I hereby present reactions to my research from leading scholars who haven’t had a huge axe to grind either for or against pretrib dispensationalism. See web articles like “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” and “More Facts About Margaret Macdonald.”

    Loraine Boettner (theologian, author): “I think that you have done a magnificent job in showing the real origin of the Pre-trib rapture theory.”
    F. F. Bruce (theologian, encyclopedia contributor): “It is strange that Darby should acknowledge his indebtedness to a young lady in Limerick and say nothing about the young lady in Port Glasgow [that is, not acknowledge her pre-Antichrist rapture of part of the church]….If this work of yours can do anything to counter the influence of Hal Lindsey…, you will have rendered a signal service.” Superficial—-and even devious—-scholarship loves to repeat Bruce’s 1975 surmise that pretrib was “in the air in the 1820s and 1830s.” Hired critic Thomas Ice knows that this wasn’t a scientific conclusion (does reliable data rest literally “in the air”?), and Ice moreover has ignored Bruce’s later statements complimenting my evidence!
    Gary DeMar (theologian, author): “THE RAPTURE PLOT is the never-before-told, true story of the plot—-how plagiarism and subtle document changes created the ‘mother of all revisionisms.’ A fascinating piece of detective work.”
    Robert H. Gundry (theologian, author): “As usual, Dave MacPherson overwhelms his critics with a superior knowledge of the primary sources. His is a rare combination of historical research and investigative reporting. Those who would refute him have failed to outhustle him, especially in the tracking down of information uncatalogued in academic libraries.” Superficial scholarship is aware that the first—-1973—-printing of Gundry’s THE CHURCH AND THE TRIBULATION stated on pp. 185, 187: “The likelihood is that Edward Irving was the first to suggest the pretribulational rapture….the outpouring on Margaret Macdonald did not include revelation of a pretribulational rapture….” But careful scholarship has long known that after Gundry saw my Macdonald findings, he deleted his Irving statement and substituted favorable comments about the Scottish lassie—-changes appearing in his classic work since the 1980’s!
    John H. Kromminga (Calvin Sem. president emeritus): “The material appears to be well researched, and this impression is confirmed by the excellent comments you cite from well-established evangelical commentators.”
    Francis Nigel Lee (church historian etc., 9 earned doctorates!): “Dave MacPherson, in his various books, has made a major contribution toward vindicating Historic Christian Eschatology. The 1830 innovations of the disturbed Margaret Macdonald documented by MacPherson – in part or in whole – immediately spread to Edward Irving and his followers, then to J. N. Darby and Plymouth Brethrenism, and were later popularized by the dispensationalistic Scofield Reference Bible, by Classic Pentecostalism, and by latter-day pretribulationists like J. F. Walvoord and Hal Lindsey.”
    Harold Lindsell (church historian, author): “…must reading for anyone who is interested in the [pretrib] origins….”
    C. S. Lovett (pastor, author): “You have to be, in my opinion, the world’s authority on Margaret.”
    Peter Marshall (pastor, author): “I am in emphatic agreement with you on your thesis.”
    Walter Martin (researcher, author): “[MacPherson has produced] a fascinating historical detective story…with surprising and not easily refutable conclusions.”
    J. Gordon Melton (editor): “According to the best scholarship available, the pretribulation, premillennial eschatology originated among members of the Catholic Apostolic Church as a result of a vision and revelation to Margaret MacDonald. See Dave MacPherson, THE UNBELIEVABLE PRE-TRIB ORIGIN.” (ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN RELIGIONS, 1978)
    Gary North (author, church historian): “…Dave MacPherson has inflicted a deep wound on the pre-trib camp by showing that a teenage Scottish girl named Margaret Macdonald…came up with this doctrine….” (Dispensationalism in Transition, Nov., 1988)
    Harold J. Ockenga (theologian, author): “You have done your research well.”
    J. I. Packer (author, church historian): “From my own explorations of the origins of Darbyism I judge that you are presenting facts fairly, and I am glad you are, for I also regard dispensationalism as an unhappy aberration.”
    J. Barton Payne (theologian, author): “MacPherson has once and for all overthrown Ernest Sandeen’s assertions that the Irvingites never ‘advocated any doctrine resembling the secret rapture’ and that to connect J. N. Darby and early dispensationalism with Irving’s church is ‘a groundless and pernicious charge’….For serious students of the history of dispensationalism the study of MacPherson’s discoveries has become a must.” (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Winter, 1974)
    The Prairie Overcomer (Canada): “…MacPherson’s case seems to be watertight.” (July, 1974)
    Reformed Review: “MacPherson has done excellent historical research.” (Spring, 1985)
    Ian S. Rennie (author, church historian): “…it is likely that [Margaret’s revelation] was grist for Darby’s mill.” (DREAMS, VISIONS AND ORACLES, 1977)
    R. J. Rushdoony (theologian, author): “Dave MacPherson has been responsible for major change in the eschatology of evangelical churches by his devastating studies of some of the central aspects thereof. In THE RAPTURE PLOT MacPherson tells us of the strange tale of ‘rapture’ writings, revisions, cover-ups, altercations, and confusions. No one has equalled MacPherson in his research on the ‘pre-trib rapture.’ Attempts to discredit his research have failed….”
    The Seminary Review: “[MacPherson] shows conclusively that Margaret Macdonald was the originator of the concept.” (June, 1984)
    Oswald J. Smith (pastor, author): “You have some excellent thoughts here that will be difficult to answer.”
    Merrill C. Tenney (theologian, author): “…the connection between Margaret Macdonald and Irvingites and Brethren is reasonably well established. You have done a valuable piece of research.”
    The Witness (oldest & largest Darbyist Brethren magazine in England): “What [MacPherson] succeeds in establishing is that the [pretrib] view outlined was first stated by a certain Margaret Macdonald…early in 1830.” (April, 1974)

    (The critics who have tried to cover up the above scholarship are basically the ones who’ve tried to muddy the waters by “discovering” hints of pretrib before 1830. For more on this, see my internet article entitled “Deceiving And Being Deceived.”)

  2. Not surprisingly, and I don’t mean this in a mean spirited way, but it needs to be said. For someone claiming to have been raised in an intensely chapter and verse based home, yours was all your viewpoint, with a few verses thrown in per what you obviously read into them.

    Either Scripture is right and “blindness in part hath happened to Israel UNTIL the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall” then “be saved… for this is my covenant WITH THEM WHEN I shall take away THEIR sins” or the Bible is simply not worth taking at its Word where what WE want It to say does not line up with “wisdom in our own conceits,” Rom. 11:25-27.

    As for the post above this one – more of the same – the traditions of men over, “Nevertheless, what saith the Scripture?” Gal. 4:30

    Who cares where Darby or whomever got whatever where it does line up with the Word. Some forget how that, every so often in Scripture, the Spirit would use a lost person in the service of God’s plans and purpuse. Thus, another false arguement.

  3. Hey Dano!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Of course, I agree that the Spirit can use a lost person in the service of God’s plans and purpose. We have many, many examples of this throughout the bible, and throughout history.

    In that vein, I can agree that the source of the teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture does not necessarily indicate that it is untrue. However, sometimes examining a source helps us understand where an idea comes from.

    I myself, spent a lot of time puzzling over how anyone could accept a pre-trib rapture as being biblical. I have been honestly mystified. Well, I think that I can understand how it became so widely accepted even though it really has no biblical basis.

    But, that’s the point, isn’t it!

    The belief in a pre-tribulation rapture has no biblical basis.

  4. / Preach it, John. Seen this piece? I found it on the exciting web! / Pretrib Rapture Pride

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
    Ice’s mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn’t find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 – and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers “the early pretribulationists” (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including “Pseudo-Ephraem” and a “Rev. Morgan Edwards,” taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist’s arrival as the only “imminent” event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an “imminent” pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards’ historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson’s “Deceiving and Being Deceived” for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
    The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read “pretrib” into phrases like “before Armageddon,” “before the final conflagration,” and “escape all these things”!
    BTW, the KJV translators’ other writings found in London’s famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don’t have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib “proof” in the KJV that its translators never found?
    Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up “Famous Rapture Watchers” (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
    Pretrib didn’t flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby “explanatory notes” in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield’s criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book “The Praise of Folly” which is available online.
    Biola University’s doctrinal statement says Christ’s return is “premillennial” and “before the Tribulation.” Although universities stand for “academic freedom,” Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases – non-essentials the founders purposely didn’t include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
    Ice, BTW, has a “Ph.D” issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn’t authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he’s working on another “Ph.D” via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice’s scholarliness, Google “Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “be careful in polemics – Peripatetic Learning,” and “Walvoord Melts Ice.” Also Google “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)” – featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 “End Times Passover” blog.
    Other fascinating Google articles include “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “X-raying Margaret,” “Edward Irving in Unnerving,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrets,” “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” and “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism” – most from the author of “The Rapture Plot,” the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
    Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?

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