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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Spring Edition 1998

Premillennialism: Orthodox Faith Of The Protestant Church?

    Some folks naively assume that the Wesleyan Holiness movement has ALWAYS believed the popular dispensational premillennial theory. According to our knowledge, however, the first college to ever teach dispensational premillennialism in America was Dallas Theological Seminary! And Dallas theological Seminary has historically been anything but committed to the doctrine and experience of entire sanctification by faith as a second definite and instantaneous work of divine grace! What Bible holiness standards have been upheld by Dallas over the last fifty years? Or what mighty Holy Ghost revival has flown in the wake of those who have gone out from— yea, even conservative Wesleyan Holiness Bible colleges!— with the message of Scofield Darbyism?

    Friends, the old Wesleyan Methodist schools did not teach premillennialism. If any one can go back before the 1920's and prove that any Wesleyan Holiness institution officially taught premillennialism, please let me know. I am willing to make public confession to any errors of fact I make, if proven wrong.

    Those who glibly assume that what we moderns believe about the second coming of Jesus Christ is what the orthodox Protestant Church has ALWAYS taught are hereby challenged to check the historical record and get the facts. The renowned Methodist theologian, William B. Pope, gives us this summary of the received status of premillennialism:

    "Medieval Chiliasm [premillennialism] was generally the badge of fanatical and heretical sects. . . . After the Reformation, the Anabaptists in Germany preached a carnal reign of Christ upon earth, as the Fifth Monarchy Men in England afterwards did, and with frightful consequences to life and morals. Hence the Lutheran Symbols were emphatic in condemning it. . . . The Reformed Churches were equally strenuous. . . . The Articles and Formularies of the Anglican Church are not in favor of Pre-Millenarianism. . . . It may be safely affirmed that the Confessions of the Reformation, as well as its leading divines, were opposed to the doctrine of two resurrections, and of a personal reign of Christ on earth intervening between them" (Compendium of Christian Theology, 3:396-397).

    Modern premillennialists typically attempt to claim for themselves the advantage of historical precedence, asserting that the belief in a future, literal one-thousand year physical reign of Christ on earth was indeed the pure doctrine of the early church. Mere assertions do not establish the historical veracity of the claim itself, however, as the following quotation from the chief authority on millennial studies, D. H. Kromminga, points out:

    "The evidence is uniform to the effect, that throughout the years from the beginning of the second century to the beginning of the fourth chiliasm, particularly of the premillenarian type was extensively found within the Church but that it was never dominant, far less universal; that it was not without opponents, and that its representatives were conscious of being able to speak for only a party in the Church. It may be added, chiliasm never found creedal expression or approbation in the ancient church. Some premillennialists make contrary claims, but they fail to substantiate them. . . But whether we like it or not, the facts look very much indeed as if amillennialism made its appearance in early extra-canonical Christian literature fully as early as did any chiliasm" (The Millennium in the Church: Studies in the History of Christian Chiliasm [Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1945], pp. 51 and 33).

    Methodist theologian Dr. Daniel Steele, in his book, Antinomianism Revived the Theology of the Plymouth Brethren Examined and Refuted, lists numerous historians from the ages of the Christian Church, all tracing the essentially unorthodox nature of premillennialism. Eusebius, so said Steele, affirmed that premillennialism "produced divisions and apostasies of whole churches." 'When tested by the Scriptures," he goes on to quote from Dionysius, "it collapsed" (p. 130).

    The title of a recent Darbyite publication, A Case For Premillennialism: A New Consensus, is quite ironic, in view of the fact there never was an old historical consensus over premillennialism to start with! Some Dallas Theological Seminary dispensational premillennialists are starting to call themselves "progressive," and well they should: their original Darby/Scofield theory has proven itself quite wholly indefensible!

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