Dispensationalism, is the Rapture Biblical?

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Category: Questions & Answers

So many people have seen the Left Behind series or grown up in a building like John Hagee’s is everything they teach biblical or not?


Question: “Dear Pastor Tim Conway, Should Christians evangelize the Jews? I heard from people that there is a theological concept called ‘Dispensationalism.’ Can you explain more about that and if it is true?”

I would be happy to. Now listen to me. I don’t doubt that there are a whole number of you that your whole background has been one of dispensationalism. I know enough about Pastor Hagee – I’ll just say Mr. Hagee – he is a lover of the Jews, and I don’t knock that. We ought to love the Jews. We ought to love them. But he is a very avid advocate of dispensationalism.

What’s this movie series? Some of you have seen that. What is it? Left Behind. Big deal made about that. Dispensationalism. A lot of you – you don’t know anything else. Let’s talk about it.

Look, you guys can prove this out. You can search the Internet – what I’m about to tell you. I’m going to get into some of the biblical facts and you can verify those immediately because I’m going to read the Scripture to you. But I’m just going to give you a few facts first. Like I say, you can verify these things online. Basically, dispensationalism as a system of theology really took shape in the 1830’s by a man by the name of John Nelson Darby. Some of his disciples, followers, you may know by the name of C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer and the group up there at Dallas Theological Seminary. More modern guys by the name of Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie – there’s a Ryrie Study Bible, there’s a Scofield Study Bible. It teaches this stuff – dispensationalism. This guy wants to know what it is. I’ll tell you, you listen on the radio. A hyper-dispensational that is out there doing teaching – and look, I’m not going to tell you that these guys weren’t Christians. I’m not going to tell you that. I don’t know enough about them. You’ve got J. Vernon McGee out there on the radio waves still today, “Through the Bible.” Five years. If you listen to any of the Christian radio stations, you’ll hear his voice. He is gone and hopefully gone to be with the Lord. Here’s the thing. Darby said that there were 7 dispensations that he could find in the Bible. The paradise state all the way to the flood; you have the dispensation of Noah; the dispensation of Abraham; the dispensation of Israel; the dispensation of the Gentiles; the dispensation of the Spirit; and the dispensation of the Millennium. You can search this out. Darby established this system of theology. He taught these 7 dispensations. (Incomplete thought). See, I was saved and went in the direction of amillennial eschatology and the doctrines of grace immediately. I don’t have a background in this like many of you guys do. I haven’t studied Scofield. I never owned a Scofield Bible. I don’t know if Scofield and Ryrie are teaching these 7 dispensations. I did listen quite a bit to J. Vernon McGee and I heard him say just ludicrous things. The thing he said that I just had to start turning him off is that the Sermon on the Mount isn’t for now. It’s for the Millennium. I thought what in the world is he saying? Basically, these hyper-dispensationalists get to the point that the only part of the Bible that is for us today are the prison epistles of Paul. Listen, don’t let anybody do that to you.

Here’s what I find in the Bible. Now, look, I don’t know what Scofield found there. I don’t know what Darby found there. I don’t know what Ryrie finds there. I don’t know what the dispensational camps find there. But let me tell you, how many dispensations are there? I find two. Now, I realize you can subdivide these in some way. And that in some places, the Bible does. But in the broadest sense, the Bible gives us two. Listen to them. Matthew 12:32, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit…” now this is the sin against the Holy Spirit – the unpardonable sin – “…whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age, or in the age to come.” Now right there you have this age, the age to come. Okay, so let’s establish when these two ages are. Obviously there is the age now, and that was at the time Jesus was speaking. That’s clear. The age which is now was that age which was present when He walked this earth. And then there’s an age to come which would be some time after that. Let’s think about it. Mark 3:29 gives us Mark’s parallel to this. What does He say? “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Now, let me tell you this, if according to Matthew, you’re not forgiven in this age or in the one to come, and Mark tells us you’re not forgiven forever, then what does that teach us about the age to come? It’s eternal. It goes on forever. So, that we can say. The age to come is an eternal age. Now, it’s got a starting point, but it never has an end. It’s eternal. Okay, let’s go further. Luke 20:34, “Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage…” Guess what’s characteristic of this age? People marry and are given in marriage. Now, I’ll tell you what, that’s characteristic of life from when to when? From the time of Adam all the way up until when? Now remember when the Sadduccees came to Him and they said: There were all these 7 brothers and they all had the same wife. What does He say about the age to come? They don’t give in marriage there, right? They’re like the angels. And so basically what you have is there’s this age and the age to come. What’s true of this age? Men marry and are given in marriage. What’s true of the age to come? They don’t marry. What’s true of the age to come is it’s an eternal one. Because men won’t be forgiven in the age to come and that’s an eternal sin. That means they won’t be forgiven eternally. How about this one? 1 Timothy 6:17, “As for the rich in this present age…” People have money in this age. Galatians 1:4, “Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present, evil age.” So, let me tell you something about this present age. There’s evil here. Evil’s going to be removed when it’s all gone. What you find in 2 Peter is heaven and earth, fire’s going to come, it’s going to burn it up, there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth. This is the present evil age. Evil came in Adam and Eve. Now, you know what? If you really want to strain this thing, obviously, from the time Adam was created till the time Adam fell, that was a unique dispensation. Men were sinless. But I think overall, basically, what you get is these two general ages. There’s a present evil age. The future age, all evil – you know what’s said. You get to the end of Revelation and nothing evil is going to walk there. All the dogs, all the sorcerers, all the fornicators, adulterers, liars – they’re in outer darkness. They’re put out of it. , “In their case, the god of this world…” and the word is “age.” “The god of this age…” The devil is the god of this age. When this thing is all done, he’s going to be thrown into the lake of fire. He’s been here since the beginning, right? He was there in the garden. The god of this age. He basically has free course on this earth all the way back from the time of Adam and Eve all the way to the end of this age. He’s the god of this age. It’s an evil age. Men marry and are given in marriage in this age. And then there’s an age to come, which is an eternal age. Luke 20:34-36, “Those who are considered worthy to attain to that age, and to the resurrection from the dead…” Now isn’t that interesting? What sets that age apart? There’s a resurrection of the dead that starts it. “They cannot die anymore.” Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age. And what are we waiting for? We’re waiting for the age to come. “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” So what ends this age? The appearing of Jesus Christ. Basically, that’s the end of it. Romans 9:25, “As indeed He says in Hosea, ‘those who were not My people, I will call My people; He who was not beloved, I will call beloved.'” (unintelligible) Well, anyway, a dispensation is an age. A dispensation is basically a time frame in which things are unique during that time frame in some way. And basically, we have this age and the future age concept. It comes up in the parables in Matthew 13. If you just search that idea of the age, like I say, there are some places in the Bible where even those two ages are broken down, or many ages are spoken about, like Paul’s wanting to exaggerate the terminology, which is no exaggeration, but I mean, he’s wanting to really be emphatic like there in Ephesians where he talks about the kindness of God through all these coming ages. Like I say, he’s wanting to use all these very emphatic words, and so in places like that he is talking about the age to come, it’s just ages upon ages and all through these ages, and God and His grace shown to us in kindness – it’s just going to be lavished upon us. But when you look at a real historical breakdown, what you find is basically an age and an age to come. You know what’s ruled out of that approach to dispensations? A thousand year literal reign. There is no age packed in the middle there. Now, you know what’s very interesting, is the thousand year literal reign doesn’t stand up to Scripture. Let me tell you several things about it. Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world. And yet, the dispensationalists argue for a thousand year reign in this world. The dispensationalists say that Christ is going to come and reign. Let me tell you something. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is reigning already. Anybody know where it says that? It says it in 1 Corinthians 15. “For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive, but each in his own order; Christ, the firstfruits, and at His coming, those who belong to Christ, then comes the end when He delivers the kingdom of God to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. Let me tell you something. He is reigning until… And then it says He’s going to turn it all over to His Father, and God will be all in all. And in the book of Revelation, you find that even though He turns it over to His Father, He and His Father, they’re going to rule and reign over this forever and ever. The fact is He’s reigning already. He is reigning right now, folks. This idea that He’s going to come and begin a reign isn’t true. Basically, we are told that He’s going to take his father’s throne – David’s throne. He’s already taken the throne, folks. He’s on the throne. He’s ruling already. He’s at the right hand of the Father even now. He is ruling, and all principalities, and all powers – folks, they’re under Him. They are under Him. He’s in that place. Listen, this millennial reign idea comes from this idea that’s found in Revelation 20. And you know, let me tell you something. In all of our Bibles, you always want to define what is hard by what is clear. Guess what’s clear? The epistles are clear. Much in the Gospels is clear. Revelation is a symbolic book. No matter how you want to look at it, there are things in the book of Revelation that are hard, and not any of you are going to deny that. You know what? The epistles are easy to understand in most places. The Gospels are easy to understand in most places. Guess what? In all the things that are easy to understand, you’re never told very easily and very plainly – you’re never told that there’s a literal thousand year reign here. You say, okay, well, you said that in Revelation 20, a thousand years was spoken about. So, do we have to have it multiple times? Isn’t one sufficient to make something legitimately truth? Well, absolutely, if you interpret it rightly. And the book of Revelation is symbolic, so how do we interpret it? Well, listen to me. “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.” Okay, so what does He do? Does He cut them off at 1,001? What does that mean? Is that literal or is that to be taken as just a long time; a huge number? Basically, maybe endless. Job 9:3, “If one wished to contend with God, one could not answer Him once in a thousand times.” What? So you could answer Him the 1,001st time? You see, they’re using this as just a vast amount. They’re using it to effect. “Every beast of the forest is Mine. The cattle on a thousand hills…” Okay, so, the 1,001st hill, the cattle aren’t His? That’s not the intent. The intent is many, all. “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past or as a watch in the night.” “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.” Let me tell you something. What happens in the thousand years? If you take it in the same way and you just take it as an extensive span of time, what is said in Revelation 20 that happens in that thousand years? Let me tell you what happens. “An angel comes down from heaven, and holds in his hand the key to the bottomless pit, and a great chain; he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan and bound him for a thousand years.” He’s bound for a thousand years. Now, these dispensationalists come along and they say he’s not bound. You go over to 1 Peter. It says he walks about like a roaring lion seeking to devour. Well, wait, you better read the context. Before you jump to any conclusions, you’ve got to read the whole thing. Does it say he’s going to be bound for a thousand years? It does, but not totally bound. It doesn’t say he’s going to be bound from being able to do any activity whatsoever. It says he’s going to be bound from specific things. “He is no longer able to deceive the nations until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be released for a little while.” Which means what? He’ll be able to deceive the nations once again. And in fact, you know what we find? We find that in John 12, Jesus Christ says lift Me up and I’ll draw all men unto Me. You know what you find in the book of Revelation? People from every what are going to be around that throne? From every nation. You know what? You go back in the Old Testament, count the Gentiles for me. You can’t get off one hand. You can talk about the Ninevites and that would be the one exception. But aside from the Ninevites, you can count on one hand the number of Gentiles in the Old Testament that were converted. You know what? In the Old Testament dispensation – and I’m talking dispensations here because that is one way that this first age could be broken down – before the cross, after the cross. Before the cross, God’s people were mainly the Jews. Afterwards, to all the nations including the Jews. There’s a remnant there as well. Paul said, look, I’m one of them. I’m converted. God hasn’t forsaken His people whom He foreknew. There’s Jews still being saved today. What God’s work has done is not excluding the Jews. They’re very much included. But now, it’s all the nations including the Jews. Should we evangelize the Jews? That was one of his questions. By all means! Just as much as we should evangelize the Chinese and the Indians and Koreans and the Russians, and Americans. By all means. But listen, here’s what happened at the cross. Jesus Christ was victorious. He led captivity captive. I’ll tell you one of the things that happened there is Satan was no longer to hold the nations in darkness. Suddenly, what happened? He went to the cross and what happened? Brother Craig was showing us on that screen on Sunday. You know what happened? The missionaries started going. The scattered churches started going around and the Gospel was being preached and the nations, the Gentiles, began to be converted. And you know what? At the end, he’s going to be released for a little season. And you know what Paul tells us very clearly in the epistles? At the end, before Christ comes, there’s going to be what? A great falling away. What does that mean? You read in Romans 11, the times of the Gentiles are completed. And it looks like what’s going to happen in the end, the time of the Gentiles comes to an end, Satan is released again. He’s able to once again deceive the nations. The love of many grows cold. And it seems like from Romans 11, very likely, there is going to be an ingathering of Jews. That’s what it appears to be. Folks, you know what dispensationalism also pushes? There’s a big and radical distinction between the church and Israel. I tell you, it’s not so. It is not the case. You know what I’ve heard the dispensationalists say? Basically, God intended to save the Jews. His “plan A” fell apart and failed, and so there’s this parenthesis – maybe some of you have heard that before – and He went to “plan B” with the Gentiles. Folks, that isn’t even true. All you’ve got to do is read Romans 9-11, and you know what Paul’s saying all the way through? This is exactly as was foretold by the prophets. Nothing new has come here. God said there would be a remnant. And God said He was going to go to the Gentiles. This didn’t catch anybody by surprise if they would have just read their Old Testament Scriptures right. It was said all through the prophets that God was going to go to the Gentiles. Still, you come to the New Testament, and Paul says it’s a mystery. Because for all that was said about it, they didn’t get it. They didn’t get it. And you know what? For all that, it was only a remnant. Isn’t that what the prophets said? They said, Lord, if You wouldn’t have given us a remnant, we’d have been like Sodom and Gomorrah. He’s speaking about the Jews. Now listen, you know what you find in the New Testament? You know what Paul really drives home again and again and again in the epistle of Romans? He says there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. You find that in Galatians. Do you not find that? When it comes to those that are in Christ, in Galatians it says, there is no distinction. There is no Jew and Gentile. There is no male and female. There is no circumcised and uncircumcised. They’re all the same in Christ. You become a child of Abraham by what? Faith. Abraham was declared righteous by faith. And you become his child by faith. And it was in the Old Testament that way, and it’s in the New Testament that way. And the only Jews in the Old Testament – folks, there’s no distinction. And the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek. There is no distinction. None whatsoever. There are not differences. And you know what you in fact find when you come to the New Testament? The Galatian Gentile churches are called the Israel of God. Where’s that at? Galatians 6:16. Romans 2:29, “A Jew is one inwardly. Circumcision is a matter of the heart by the Spirit, not by the letter.” Ephesians 2:14, “Jesus Christ, He Himself is our peace, who has made us both, Jew and Gentile, one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” You know what else you find? Philippians 3:3, “We…” you know who the Philippians were? Gentile Christians. “We are the true circumcision.” We’re the real Jew, “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.” Can I tell you what else goes along with that dispensational system that is just garbage? The rapture. Yep. Left Behind. You’ve got the whole deal there. Would somebody please prove to me the rapture from the New Testament? It’s not there. You guys have heard little bits, right? In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… You’ve heard that one. You’ve probably heard this one as well. “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven…” And it says basically we’ll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. You’ve heard those. But you haven’t heard the context. People don’t want to read the whole thing. Because if they read the whole thing, it just totally kills their whole theology. If we read these – : “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” When? At some secret, mysterious return of Christ that nobody knows? And all of a sudden, there are just piles of clothes on the floor? And nobody knows what happened? Is that what it says? Folks, it says it’s at the last trumpet. You know what the last trumpet is? It’s the trumpet of the archangel. And every eye will see Him. Every ear will hear. This isn’t some secret deal. This coming of Christ – there’s one second coming. There’s not a second second coming. One – some secret deal. The Bible doesn’t teach that. There’s one. And when’s it coming? And the trump of the archangel. And every eye’s going to see Him. And it’s like the lightning flashing from the east to the west. Don’t let these people deceive you. And I’ll you, it is deception. And it leads to a bad theology, because it leads to a second chance theology. People running around thinking, oh, when I see all the little piles of clothes and the empty cars that closed off the road, and the airplanes fall out of the sky, then I’ll know to believe. Don’t you believe that. It says today is the day of salvation. It says today if you hear, don’t harden your heart as they did in the provocation or when they provoked God. You know what? You know what kind of language you’ve got in the New Testament? You’ve got the language of a thief. You know when the thief comes? When you don’t expect. You know what Christ said? When you think not; at a time when you don’t think, He says, that’s when I’m coming. And I’ll tell you what, they’ve all got it figured out. Oh, we’re going to have this great big tribulation and three and a half years… Folks, they’ve got it marked right out when He’s coming. And Christ said I’m coming as a thief in the night. And you’re not going to know when I’m coming. And there’s not going to be any markers like people’s piles of clothes on the floor. You know what? When’s all this going to happen? When are we all going to be raised up? Jesus says this in John 6:39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me that I should lose nothing of all He has given Me, but raise it up at the last day.” When is Jesus going to raise all His people up? At the last day. Not at some day way before the last day. Not at some day in a secret rapture and now there’s this whole amount of time that goes on. He raises up all His people at the last day. What’s the last day? The last day of this age. There’s this age. There’s the age to come. It’s the last day of this age. The last day is when I’m raising them. That’s the resurrection. We already saw the resurrection is what ushers in the new age. John 11:24, “Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again’ (speaking of Lazarus) ‘again in the resurrection on the last day.'” John 12:48, “The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge. The Word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” When’s the judgment? It’s on the last day. When is everybody raised? On the last day. And you know what the Scripture says? In Matthew 25, it doesn’t say that all the Christians are swept away. You know what you find there? You find a parable; you find a story. Anybody ever read this account of the ten virgins? Guess what? They’re all there. The saved and the lost. And here comes Christ. Here comes the Bridegroom. And then He goes on in the later part of Matthew 25, and He says, okay, let Me give you another picture of it. There are the ten virgins. That’s one picture. Five are wise. Five are foolish. Five are saved. Five are lost. Here I come and they come in with Me. Those – they’re going to be cast out. Let Me give you another picture of it. Jesus Christ says, there I am… “…The Son of Man comes in His glory, all the angels with Him. Then He’ll sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations.” Now, we already saw from John 12:48, the judgment’s on the last day. So here’s the last day. Here’s the judgment. And who’s there? Not just the saved. Not just the lost. This is the Great White Throne judgment. Who do you find? You find the lost and the saved. You see, the dispensationalists – this is another place they’ve got all these different judgments taking place. The Bible tells us about one. Listen to me. When that sky splits open, and that trump rings through the stillness of this earth’s air, it’s done. And if you have not bowed the knee to Christ, it’s over. And you are in trouble. There is no second chance theology. There’s no: well, if the rapture comes, then I’ll know I better get my act together. And then if Christ sets up His earthly kingdom over in Jerusalem, then I’ll really know I need to get my act together. Don’t you believe it. He’s on the throne already. He is Lord. He tells you to bow to Him now. Repent and trust the Lord now. You think there’s some future kingdom coming? His kingdom’s not of this world. He’s already on His throne in His kingdom. And He is in control. And He commands all men everywhere to repent and bow the knee now. Don’t fall for this garbage, folks. The rapture is garbage. This millennial idea is garbage. Israel being separate? How are they separate and distinct? They’re not. You know what the Scripture says? In Romans 3:9? “We conclude that all are under sin, both Jew and Gentile.” Both are under sin. The Gospel is the power of God to both Jew and Gentile. There’s no distinction. Scripture again and again and again says – Romans 10:12, “there’s no distinction between Jew and Greek. The same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches upon all who call upon Him.” You know what? Whether you’re a Jew, whether you’re Gentile – if you call upon Him, you’re in. There’s one Gospel for all. There’s not two. “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek. Glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good.” This doesn’t mean you work it up. This means you’ve been born again. You’ve been regenerated. You’ve got a new heart. His laws aren’t grievous. If you’ve been changed and transformed and indwelt by the Spirit of God, you’re putting to death sin, you’re living righteously, you’re bowing the knee to Jesus Christ – it says there’s no difference. There’s no distinction. Jew and Gentile. There’s no distinction on those who go to hell. There’s no distinction on those who will be damned. Now, that’s obviously not everything that can be said about dispensationalism. There is tons more. It would take a series to do everything that can be said on it to bring out all the verses that need to be dealt with.