Does Dispensational, Pre-millennial Eschatology Dishonor Christ Jesus?
By David Chilton
“There shall be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to carefully observe all this commandment which I am commanding you today.” (Deuteronomy 15:4-5)
Will poverty ever be eliminated? As Moses suggests, we will be able to answer that question when we have answered these: Will God’s people ever be obedient?…Will there be a truly Christian culture, in which Christ is recognized as Lord over everything? Many Christians today would say, no! After all, we are living in the “last days”. Christians will soon be “raptured” out of this world, and Christ will then descend in judgment…The forces of evil will triumph until the return of Christ to set up His kingdom.
If this outline of the future is correct, we can expect certain political and economic consequences to flow from such increasing depravity. Both statism and local anarchy will rise to unprecedented heights; wars will increase; government monetary policies will continue to produce soaring inflations and ravaging depressions; fraud will abound; self-seeking, piggish consumption will be the norm; men will be lazy, improvident, and undependable; the productivity of the earth will decline; the food supply will dwindle away. The outlook for conquering world poverty is bleak, to put it mildly. As ungodliness dominates the world, long-term, chronic poverty will expand. Billions will starve. There will be no hope. Poverty will never be alleviated, and it will grow dramatically until the return of Christ.
But, what if this narrative is incorrect? What if the Bible actually holds out the promise that, before the return of Christ, the world will see a truly Christian culture? If that is what the Bible teaches, we can expect that under His blessing, the rich potential of the earth will unfold, and that “there shall be no poor” among us. It’s a nice thought, but not worth much unless there is a truly biblical basis for it. So, what does the Bible actually teach?
We have seen that the Bible does teach one of the two requisites for long-term productivity: the rule of law. But there is another thing necessary: future orientation, optimism about the future possibilities of economic growth. The Bible teaches this as well. Christ will be victorious in the age of the gentiles. The gospel will convert the nations and disciple them to the obedience of God’s law. And God will bless that obedience by giving world-wide peace and economic abundance. Let’s consider some of the biblical evidence which leads to this conclusion.
The Promise of Worldwide Blessing
God gave Abraham the promise of the gospel in these words:
“Your seed shall possess the gate of His enemies.
And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
(Genesis 22: 17-18)
The “seed” spoken of here is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3: 16). The coming of Christ was to result in the blessing of all the nations. The specific blessing mentioned here is that He will possess the “gates” –the center of rule and jurisdiction—of His enemies. The blessing that comes to the world through Christ must result in political and economic change, and this means social transformation. This promise is repeated again and again in different ways:
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations will worship before Thee.”
(Psalm 22: 27)
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in earth.”
“All the earth will worship Thee
And will sing praises to Thee.” (Psalm 66: 4)
“All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before
Thee, O Lord;
And they shall glorify Thy name.” (Psalm 86: 9)
” So the nations will fear the name of the Lord,
And all the kings of the earth Thy glory.” (Psalm 102: 15)
” In the last days,
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all nations will stream to it.” (Isaiah 2: 2)
“The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11: 9)
“From the rising of the sun, even to its setting,
My name will be great among
The nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to my name,
And a grain offering that is pure; for
My name will be great among the nations,”
says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1: 11)
The true God will receive genuine worship from all the nations. This is certainly not to say that all men who have ever lived will be saved. Nor does it suggest that at some point in the future every single individual alive will be a Christian. But it does say that the time will come when Christianity will be the universal religion, when social structures and personal ethics will conform to biblical standards. The ruling disposition among the majority of mankind will be Christian. As Abraham and the prophets contemplated this, it probably seemed even more astonishing than it seems today. In our day, Christianity is known throughout the world; Bibles are translated into virtually every language; we are well on the way toward accomplishing God’s goal of blessing all nations. But in the days of the Old Testament, such a goal would have appeared unattainable.
One event made all the difference. That was the coming of Jesus Christ. By His life, death, resurrection and ascension He definitively won the victory over Satan and the forces of evil. He wrested the earth from the Destroyer, and extends the blessings of salvation to every nation. It is this strand of biblical evidence which we shall now examine.
The Victory of Jesus Christ
The very first promise of the coming Redeemer foretold His victory through suffering. God said to the serpent:
On your belly you shall go,
And dust shall you eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise Him on the heal. (Genesis 3: 14-15)
Christ’s victory over the serpent would be total; and its ramifications would spill over, the prophets proclaimed, into all of life. It would mean victory over the nations, and even earth’s natural order would undergo significant change:
“Nations will see and be ashamed of all their might.
They will put their hand on their mouth, their ears will be deaf.
They will lick the dust like a serpent, like reptiles of the earth.
They will come trembling out of their fortresses;
To the Lord our God they will come in dread,
And they will be afraid before Thee.” (Micah 7: 16-17)
” The wolf and the lamb shall graze together,
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,”
Says the Lord. (Isaiah 65: 25)
The destruction of Satan’s power began during the ministry of Christ, as He cast out demons and healed the sick. One of the striking aspects of the Gospels is their record of the sudden, violent outburst of demonic activity during this period. All-out warfare was being waged. Our Lord gave to His disciples the powers of dominion over the devil, and on one occasion, as they returned to Him, flushed with victory, He said:
“I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lighting. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.” (Luke 10: 18-19)
But it was Christ’s work in His death and resurrection which effectively sealed the fate of the satanic hordes. This theme runs through the apostolic letters to the early Christian assemblies. Paul wrote that when Christ “had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them in Him” (Colossians 2: 15). Jesus disarmed the demons! Can we really suppose that the world is still the devil’s territory—that we can do nothing to stop his activity? He is still active, certainly; but he has been disarmed. The devil was rendered powerless (Hebrews 2: 14). Satan is alive on planet earth, but he is NOT well.
“The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3: 8). Note: this is speaking of Christ’s first coming, not His second coming. On the basis of Christ’s victory, His people are promised, in this age, the same power over Satan that God foretold at the first. Paul wrote to the persecuted believers in Rome that “the God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16: 20). Our all-too-common timidity as we face the forces of evil is entirely unjustified. The basic victory has already been won, and our Lord has committed to us the power to shake Satan loose from his hiding places. All that hinders us from dominion is our sinful unbelief in the work of Christ and the promises of God. As Marcellus Kik wrote: “To say that the defeat of Satan will only come through a cataclysmic act at the Second Coming of Christ is ridiculous in light of these passages. To think that the church must grow weaker and weaker and the kingdom of Satan stronger and stronger is to deny that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil; it is to dishonor Christ; it is to disbelieve His Word. We do not glorify God or His prophetic Word by being pessimists and defeatists.”
Can we be sure that it is Christ’s work in this age to establish His victory throughout the world?
Thy Kingdom Come
The Psalmist wrote of the opposition between God and the heathen nations, in which “the kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed” (Psalm 2: 2). Many are in despair today as they look on a world ruled by Nimrods, Caesars, Hitlers, and Ayatollahs. Often, evil conspiracies are viewed by both Right and Left as omnipotent forces over which there is little hope of victory. This is to place our faith in man, not God. He is the ruler of history, and the Psalm goes on to celebrate the coming dominion of Christ over all the nations as universal King. God told His Son:
“Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thy inheritance,
And the very Ends of the earth as Thy Possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,
Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.” (Psalm 2: 8-9)
Kings and rulers are advised by the Psalmist to submit to the rule of Christ. If they do not, they will be destroyed (Psalm 2: 10-12). The reign of the Messiah is not pictured by the Old Testament writers as confined to Jerusalem; instead, it will be universal, in which all nations will serve Him (Psalm 72). This necessarily means acceptance of His law as recorded in scripture. The notion that Christ’s kingdom has nothing to do with politics and economics is altogether false. Isaiah announced that “the government will rest on His shoulders…There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace” (Isaiah 9: 6-7).
When does Christ’s kingdom begin? The prophet Daniel was given the answer. Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel foretold the future of four great world empires, symbolically represented by a statue. First there was the Babylonian Empire; it would be followed by the Medo-Persian, the Greek, and the Roman empires. But during the last empire, a stone would strike it, bringing it to destruction, and becoming a mountain which would fill the earth. The stone represented the kingdom of Christ, which would endure forever (Daniel 2: 31-45). Because of the obvious connection of the beginning of God’s kingdom with the Roman Empire, those who wish to deny it have invented a “revived Roman Empire” in the last days.
The Bible says nothing of this; but as someone has remarked: Dispensationalists believe in the revival of the Roman Empire; we believe in the revival of Christianity.
Daniel goes on to show Christ ascending in the clouds to His Father and receiving everlasting dominion, in order that “all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him” (Daniel 7: 13-14). This theme is picked-up by Zechariah, who connects Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, just before His crucifixion, with His universal rule. Premillennialists arbitrarily (and high-handedly) insert a mysterious gap of 2000 years between these verses. But, again, without any biblical evidence.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold your King is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey.
And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim,
And the horse from Jerusalem;
And the bow of war will be cut off.
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9: 9-10)
The prophets constantly told of Christ’s kingdom beginning with His first coming. If this is really the case, we would expect it to be the message of the Apostles as well. As any Bible concordance reveals, Christ’s kingdom is a primary topic of the Gospels. The authoritative interpretation of Christ’s kingdom was given by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. He reminded the Jews of their father David’s prophecy. “Because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendents on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of”—the Second Coming? NO!—“the resurrection of Christ” (Acts 2: 30-31). Christ became King at His resurrection, after which He declared: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28: 18). Jesus is King now, not postponed for a future earthly reign. Since Christ now has all authority in heaven and in earth, what will be added to that authority in the future?
Paul tells us, when God raised His Son from the dead:
“He… seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet…” (Ephesians 1: 20-22).
The kingdom of Jesus Christ is now being extended over all the earth. God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son”(Colossians 1: 13). As members of His kingdom, Christians are ruling with Him now: “He has made us to be a kingdom; priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1: 6). In His messages to the churches of Asia, Jesus exhorted each one to overcome the powers of evil in terms of their high calling as kings and priests; and He made a promise to those who obeyed, using the language of Psalm 2:
“And he who overcomes, and he who keeps my deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I received authority from My Father” (Revelation 2: 26-27).
Jesus is King now, in this age; and His obedient people have every reason to expect increasing victories in this age, as they confront the nations with the omnipotent authority of their Lord. This will not come without a struggle, as the ungodly seek to retain their illegitimate hold on the world. But victory is ours, in principle, as we are to march forth into all the world and into every field of life, conquering in Jesus’ name.
The Gates of Hell
Matthew 16: 18 – Christ’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church”—is often watered down to mean only that the church will be divinely protected against attacks by the forces of evil. So, when have you ever heard of gates attacking anything? Gates do not attack, they defend. The picture presented here in Matthew is not of a church being besieged by the forces of evil. It is the other way around. The church is the one on the offensive. God’s people are attacking the forces of evil, and Jesus promises that the ungodly will be defenseless under the attack of the church. Believers are ultimately the winners in Christ! We share in Christ’s dominion now, and we are to continue and extend that dominion throughout the earth, from generation to generation, confident of Christ’s overall victory.
Marcellus Kik said: “It is true that we must not underestimate the influence and power of the Evil One; but it is also true that he can be overcome by those who believe in the power of the blood of Christ and are not ashamed to testify of it. They are the overcomers.
The Progress of the Gospel
Just prior to His death, Jesus spoke of Satan’s defeat:
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12: 31-32).
The victory over Satan is based upon the atoning work of our Savior on the cross. The proclamation of the Gospel—the “good news” of salvation in Christ—is the means of defeating the power of the devil in every sphere of life. The combination of Christ’s death and aggressive evangelism will completely rout the forces of evil. It has always been so. The Apostle John was told of how Christians would win the war against Satan: “They overcame him because of the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives even to death” (Revelation 12: 11). Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis of victory, the foundation of His kingdom. When believers testify of Him to the world, the world is gradually subdued by His Power. It is gradual and generational; books such as Daniel and Revelation show us that it is frequently a fierce struggle that often claims the lives of believers. Just as the dominion of Canaan, the Promised Land, did not come without a fight—many fights, in fact—so the gospel’s conquest of the world will require battles.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it all was leavened” (Matthew 13: 33). God does not want to blow-up the world, He wants to transform it. This is why Christianity is not revolutionary. R.J. Rushdoony wisely stated it as; “regeneration not revolution.” Even in the face of manifest injustice, we do not overthrow the system via violence and chaos, but overcome it by preaching and living out the gospel. The early Christians did not start a “liberation movement” against the “structural injustices” of the Roman Empire. Instead, they endeavored to convert the empire, then, they changed the structures.
For example, it is tragic when worthy believers are not encouraged to own land. Every Christian ought to endeavor to own property as part of their Christian calling, and at some point I believe every Christian will own land (as we shall see in further in this chapter). But a socialistic “land reform” scheme is not the answer. As men become responsible, they will inherit the earth—meekly. Meekness does not mean spinelessness; it means obedience to God, and submission to His providence.
Hilaire Belloc wrote of the “abolition” of slavery that took place as Europe was Christianized (early Christianity): “In general you will discover no pronouncement against slavery as an institution, nor any moral definition attacking it, throughout all those early Christian centuries during which slavery nonetheless effectively disappears” (this is prior to the beginning of Islam in the 7th century, when slavery was re-introduced by them).
Slavery disappeared because a majority of men stopped being slaves to Satan. Christianity works like leaven; from the inside out. Laws—biblical laws—are important to the security of society. But if men are not ruled by law internally, the external controls will break down. In addition to the evangelistic efforts of salvation in society, discipleship should include establishing biblical principles in social structures. Gospel dominion will come not only through proclaiming God’s Word, but also through obedience. Obedience can only come through submission to the Holy Spirit. The world is being transformed by the Holy Spirit through the faithful preaching and living of God’s people.
On the basis of His sovereign authority, Jesus commanded: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28: 19). That command is usually misunderstood. Jesus did not say: “Witness” to the nations. He said: “Disciple the nations.” The great commission is not exhausted when we have simply brought the gospel to the attention of all nations. That is not even half the battle. It is only the beginning. We must disciple all nations to the obedience of Christ’s commands, and that can come only as we ourselves are disciplined to God’s law. Only disciples can make disciples. Believing followers of Christ must first submit to Him; and as they obediently live out their faith, they will transform societies and nations.
Subduing nations to the discipleship of Christ takes place as believers are faithful. Faithfulness is crucial and it is why Christians have lost ground in certain areas over the recent past. It is not due to advancing paganism (remember, gates don’t advance). The apparent advance of paganism is due mainly to the retreat of Christians and the church. As Marcellus Kik noted: “That there is still a remnant of paganism in this world is chiefly the fault of the Church. The Word of God is just as powerful in this generation as it was during the early history of the Church. The power of the Gospel is just as strong in this century as in the days of the Reformation. These enemies could be completely vanquished if the Christians of this day and age were as vigorous, as bold, as earnest, as prayerful, and as faithful as Christians were in the first several centuries and in the time of the Reformation.”
Thus we are to work diligently and patiently for the kingdom. It has come and is still coming. We are not to envy the wicked who are in power, as they will fall and the meek will inherit the earth (Psalm 37). The gradual growth of Christ’s kingdom was stated beautifully by Benjamin Warfield: “Through all the years one increasing purpose runs, one increasing purpose: The kingdoms of the earth become ever more and more the kingdom of our God and His Christ. The process may be slow; the progress may appear to our impatient eyes to lag. But it is God who is building: and under His hands the structure rises as steadily as it does slowly, and in due time the capstone shall be set into its place, and to our astonished eyes shall be revealed nothing less than a saved world.”
[In addition to the Parable of the Leaven, Jesus gave the Parable of the Mustard Seed which also describes a growing kingdom this way: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”]
We have considered the increasing growth of God’s kingdom and the progressive elimination of poverty as God blesses the obedience of His Law-Word. This is not merely a matter of conjecture; studies show Christianity continuing to spread around the world and poverty shrinking considerably. We have seen that worldwide blessing is promised in Christ. Christ was victorious in his death and resurrection and His victory continues throughout the earth as His kingdom expands. We have also observed that the reign of Christ in the hearts and social structures of mankind will produce responsibility, freedom and blessing, under the law of God. The blessings to nations that are converted and submit to the ways of God are stated clearly in Micah 4: 2-4:
And many nations will come and say
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
And to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For from Zion will go forth the law,
Even the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between many peoples
and render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.
And each of them will sit under his vine
And under his fig tree,
With no one to make them afraid,
For the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.
America has a considerable Christian heritage, although not a flawless one. The Christian sects and the leaders of the founding era knew the importance of biblical laws, and that, “righteousness exalts a nation.” Their adherence to a basic biblical worldview, though not comprehensive, was nonetheless blessed by God. America was blessed by God in many ways and America’s founders recognized God’s hand in prospering them.
But eventually, America fell into the snare warned of in Deuteronomy 8. America became convinced its strength and prosperity had come from themselves, by their own efforts. The Glory of God faded and began to be replaced with idols of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness as people forgot God. Abandoning biblical standards in one area after another, America began deifying the state, giving it more power and authority (idolatry). In a fruitless attempt to avoid the consequences of apostasy without repenting of sin, America began seeking new solutions in the humanistic ideals proposed by philosophical anti-biblical zealots. Some even “Christianized” anti-Christian philosophies in order to appeal to the religious base of the nation.
“And you shall remember the Lord your God,
For it is He who gives you power to get wealth,
That He may establish His covenant which He swore
To your fathers, as it is this day.”
“Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God,
And follow other gods, and serve them and worship them,
I will testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.”
“As the nations which the Lord destroys before you,
so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient
to the voice of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 8: 18-20)
With God’s warnings comes the option to turn from sin and repent. God always compels us to turn from disobedience. God is always faithful and just to forgive, and restore. God’s Word gives us the assurance of the victory of Christ Jesus and His gospel. Christ did not die and rise from the dead in order to fail in history. By the grace of God, the revival of gospel life can affect change, in not only our own culture, but all cultures worldwide. God will ultimately complete the victory that he began at the cross as the faithful in Christ, from fulfills His purposes. Let it be an honor to participate in His victorious War on Evil.
Article by David Chilton from his book Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators.
Some additions and partial editing of the article was done by Gospelbbq.