Alert, focused and encouraged

How dispensational premillennialism affects my priorities and perspective

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The news these days seems replete with stories of school shootings, political intrigue, natural disasters, economic woes, inflation and the continuing turmoil in Israel. Our world seems to be in every kind of chaos. Is God trying to get a message to us?

Interestingly, Paul tells the Romans that we’re not the only ones longing for what is to come. “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are” (Rom. 8:19, NLT). Indeed, “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (8:22). The whole earth seems tired of being here and needs to be remade. Just like birth pangs, these things are increasing with intensity and frequency.

Is Jesus is coming soon? Jesus himself says he is: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon’” (Rev. 22:20). And then John adds these words: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

The Bible teaches that Jesus’ return for his church is imminent. The word imminent means “likely to happen at any moment; impending.” There is nothing more in biblical prophecy that needs to happen before Jesus comes again.

Admittedly, there are few areas of Christian theology more contentious or confusing than eschatology, the study of the end times. My own viewpoint is that of dispensational premillennialism. Premillennialism is the view that Christ’s second coming will occur prior to his millennial kingdom, and that the millennial kingdom is a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth.

Some distinctives of premillennialism are that:

  • Israel has a special place in God’s plan, and all the promises of God to Israel will be fulfilled to Israel.
  • Christ offers the Davidic kingdom to the Jews in the first century. They reject it. Israel will still receive her kingdom, but not until the future millennial reign of Christ on the earth (Ezekiel 34; 37; 45; Jeremiah 30; 33; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 19).
  • This current Church Age is a “parenthesis” unknown to the Old Testament prophets. The Church Age (or Dispensation of Grace) will end when God’s people are raptured out of the world and taken to be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
  • Sometime after, Antichrist will be revealed, and the tribulation, a seven-year period when God will finish his discipline of Israel and finalize his judgment of the unbelieving world, will begin. It will be a “a time of trouble, such as never has been” (Daniel 12:1) and “a time of distress for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7, ESV).
  • The tribulation will culminate in the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:1–7), an ideal time when Satan and his demonic realm will be rendered completely inoperative during the coming earthly kingdom of God.
  • After Satan’s final rebellion he will then meet his final punishment—the lake of fire to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).

Incidentally, premillennialism sees Revelation 20:7-10 as describing the future fulfillment of the promise that Christ will be seated on David’s throne. God makes unconditional covenants with both Abraham and David. Neither of these covenants have been fully realized. A literal, physical rule of Christ is the only way the covenants can be fulfilled as God promises they will.

Since the Bible never separates prophecy from practical living, how does Christ’s return affect my walk with him today? How does knowing that Christ will come again affect my priorities and my perspective?

We should be alert. 1 Corinthians 15:52 says, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

We are to keep awake and stay alert. There are so many things to distract us from living the way we should. Titus 2:12-13 instructs us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (ESV).

As we maintain an attitude of waiting and watching for the Lord’s return, it will greatly impact our life and our usefulness to the Lord. This was often a motivating force in the lives of men who have been greatly used of God.

Dwight L. Moody once said, “I never preach a sermon without thinking that possibly the Lord may come before I preach another.”

Hudson Taylor put it this way, “Since he may come any day, it is well to be ready every day.”

We should be focused. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

In his book, The Final Countdown: God’s Blueprint for Future Events, Charles Ryrie writes, “Knowledge of the future should breed consistency throughout one’s life. The words steadfast, unmovable and always show clearly that such labors are not to be spasmodic or lacking in continuity. No “off again, on again” kind of Christian living and witness is permitted.”

We should stand firm in the face of trials, temptations, persecution and opposition. The Christian journey is not an easy one, especially with the increasing animosity toward Christian values.

Mark Hitchcock, in his book, 101 Answers to the Most Asked Questions About the End Times, comments that, “so many (followers of Christ) today are unstable and unsettled in Christian work. Knowing about Christ’s coming and future events should cure that problem. Realizing that Christ could return at any time should make us enthusiastic about serving the Lord. The Bible is clear: waiters are workers! When Christ comes, we are to be “dressed in readiness” with our “lamps lit” (Luke 12:35).

We should be encouraged. Believers have every reason to be encouraged and no reason to fear the future.

As Jesus prepares to depart this world, he knows that difficult days lay ahead for his disciples. He wants them to be ready for the most challenging times they will ever face. Jesus explains how they can endure through the troubles of this life: “These things I have spoken to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NASB).

What has Jesus overcome for us in the world? Anxieties and cares. Hatred and persecution. Sin and temptation. Spiritual forces. Sorrow and death.

Believers, then, overcome the world in him, and he gives us the right to sit with him on his heavenly throne at the right hand of God the Father (Revelation 3:21; Hebrews 10:12; Romans 8:34). There, in our eternal home in God’s kingdom, we will live forever in the Lord’s presence: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4, NASB).

Martin Luther makes this statement, “There are two days on my calendar, this day and that day.” The day you’re in right now and that day, the day of the Lord.

Looking around at this crazy world and how wicked things have become, it may seem as though Jesus is overdue. No, in fact 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is delaying his coming in judgment to give people further opportunities to repent. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

The story is told of a little boy lying in bed one night when a grandfather clock begins to strike—bong, bong, three, four … 12. The little boy says, “It’s midnight.”

But something goes wrong, the clock malfunctions, it continues to strike. Thirteen, 14, 15 …. The little boy jumps out of bed, rushes out into the hall, bursts into his parents’ bedroom and says, “Mom, Dad, wake up! It’s later than it’s ever been before.”

It really is later than it’s ever been. Pastor Adrian Rogers says, “We ought to be living as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning and is coming back this afternoon.”

You and I should live convinced and persuaded Jesus could come at any moment. Until then, let us be committed to God’s Word. Let us be committed to the church and meeting with other believers (Hebrews 10:25) And let us pray. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and ultimately pray for the Prince of Peace to come and rule and reign himself, Jesus the Messiah.

James Suderman attended Tabor College and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He has been the pastor of New Hopedale Mennonite Church, Meno, Okla., since 2004

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