Home > amillennialism, C. H. Spurgeon, dispensationalism, eschatology, premillennialism, preterism > Are Dispensationalists Really the Pessimistic Ones?

Are Dispensationalists Really the Pessimistic Ones?


Over at Dr. Reluctant, Paul Henebury responds to a claim that dispensationalists are pessimistic regarding the future, expecting that “the present age will end in apostasy and divine judgment” (Walvoord) and that “almost unbelievably hard times lie ahead” (Charles Ryrie).  That post points out the truth concerning what the Bible has to say regarding our glorious future and optimism, as distinguished from confidence in the Church:

Our confidence in the Church is less ebullient.  There is a big difference between what the Church is called to be (Matt. 5:14-16; Phil. 2:15; cf. 2 Cor. 3:2-3) and what it often is (1 Cor. 1:10-11; Gal. 5:15, 26).  The Church has spent most of its history underachieving.  We see no good reason why this sorry trend should not continue.  While fully recognizing the truth of the Great Commission, we do not see in it any guarantee that the Church will “Christianize” the earth.  … We believe the sanguine expectation expressed by some regarding the institution of the coming kingdom in the continued absence of the King is due to poor exposition of biblical texts and the effects of supersessionist theology on their interpretations.”

I have found in my own discussions with amillennial preterists, though, that one’s attitude towards Christ’s Second Advent is linked to one’s eschatology — and it is actually the non-futurist, non-dispensationalist that has the more negative view.  After all, if someone thinks that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled except for Christ’s return, and thinks of Christ’s return as a simple, single event in which Christ shows up and immediately starts the Great White Throne judgment for all souls, the natural tendency is to associate the return of Christ with judgment, and judgment only.  The reaction to this idea is to desire that this world continue so that we can keep building up the Church, building up the Kingdom of God now, and save as many as possible — because once Christ returns it’s all over, it’s too late for anyone to be saved.  Another consequence is for such a believer to look at the dispensationalist, full of hope and desire for Christ’s return … and suppose that the dispensationalist is being negative and desiring God’s judgment on the ungodly.

Granted, Christ’s return does include judgment on the ungodly.  Yet it includes so much more, many wonderful things foretold in the New Testament.  The NT epistles abound with references to our blessed hope, to our eager anticipation of His coming for us; we are to expect His return at any time.  Further, the detailed events — which our God has felt it important to reveal to us — tell us of the vast multitude of saved believers coming out of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7) as well as the many future believers during the Millennial Kingdom before the final judgment preceding the Eternal State.  As Spurgeon said of this:

Nor let it be forgotten that the multitudes of converts in the millennial age will very much turn the scale. For then the world will be exceedingly populous, and a thousand years of a reign of grace might easily suffice to overcome the majority accumulated by sin during six thousand years of its tyranny. In that peaceful period, when all shall know him, from the least even unto the greatest, the sons of God shall fly as doves to their windows, and the Redeemer’s family shall be exceedingly multiplied. . . . We admit that the number of the damned will be immense, but we do think that the two states of infancy and millennial glory will furnish so great a reserve of saints that Christ shall win the day.

A biblically grounded view of the future actually gives us the greater optimism, a hope that agrees with what we actually observe in this world, so that we need not fret over the continual troubles in the world and the continual and escalating failures of the Church.  We eagerly await the resurrection / rapture, at which we will receive our glorified bodies, rejoicing also that the creation too will be delivered from its bondage to renewal  (Romans 8).  The preterist / amillennialist looks at the pending judgment as the main event when Christ returns, and supposes to himself —  well, the resurrection will be nice when it comes, but meanwhile I’d rather just stay here and help build up the Church and this (present) kingdom of God, because then it will be too late, the show will be over for everyone not yet saved.  Yet we can look at the whole picture as biblically presented, understanding with the apostle John that the Second Advent involves both the bitter and the sweet part of the scroll (Revelation 10), and say in full agreement with John, “Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

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