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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Spring Edition 1990

The Messianic Question

    The "rapture question" and the "millennial question" are burning issues in any study of the Christian doctrine of last things (eschatology). Many are already familiar with these questions, and many already know the answers that modern dispensational premillennialism proposes.

    Dispensationalism provides answers that reflect on a broader and more basic theological refrain, which we call the "messianic question." This messianic question is the question of whether or not the ancient messianic hope of Israel, with all its beatific vision for mortal existence in time and place, was completely fulfilled or completely by-passed, in the first advent of Jesus Christ.

    Modern dispensational Bible prophecy scenarios subconsciously parade from the devious ideological bias that the fulfillment of Israel's messianic hope was completely side-stepped in the first advent of Christ, and must await its realization at the Second Coming, when Jesus returns to "set up," as they say, His kingdom. In the ideational gap created by its arbitrary removal of the apostolic conception of the realization of the messianic kingdom, however, Darbyite dispensationalism conveniently pommels its immemorial antinomian truncation of the Christian faith.

Dispensationalism cannot stand to entertain the biblical conception that the messianic age has already arrived: hence the spinning out of an ingenious theory that provides for its "postponement." Nor can dispensationalism stand the corollary conception that, because Jesus reigns now, a full redemption from sin is available to believers in this life. Why? Because the soteriological deficiency of its hyper-Calvinism necessitates the two natures theory of Christian holiness, wherein the perfection of the believer in moral rectitude is pushed beyond history to its supposed realization after the Second Coming in the utopia of an imagined "millennial kingdom."

    Dispensationalism, generally, posits the reign of Christ that is associated in Scripture with his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high, as a return to the "cosmic reign" which he enjoyed with the Father before his incarnation. In this way Darbyism wrests the messianic content of Christ's reign away from the present and transfers it wholly into the transcendental future. A gospel robbed of its messianic content, with no adequate conception of the present reign of Christ, and no judicial binding of Satan consequent thereon, however, is no Christian gospel at all, but rather, in terms of religious reality, a playing into the hands of the master deceiver to the thwarting of the divine purpose for human affairs.

What greater lie could Satan possibly hope to tell the Church than that he, not Christ, has been given legal dominion of the earth until the supposed millenninum, when it will be too late for a world of sinners to do any mortal good? Darbyism demolishes the kerygmatic foundations of the gospel of Christ by its stubborn refusal to accept the pattern of interpretation that became the organizational catalyst for delineating the apostolic message itself: that is, the typological understanding of the Old Testament, whereby the physical artifacts (shadows) of the old covenant economy were transformed through the Christ-event into true and abiding spiritual realities (substances).

    By its failure to grasp the inherent genius of the apostolic gospel itself as, indeed, a profound and through-going spiritualization of the great Davidic covenant in terms of the physical artifacts of the city of Jerusalem, the throne of David, and the Herodian temple, being transliterated into heaven, the messianic reign of Christ in heaven, and the Church as the new temple of God on earth, modern dispensational premillennialism has cut itself off from the theological tap root of the Christian faith, per se, and is thus recognizable in terms of the world view of the apostles as a part of its Judaizing opposition.

Modern dispensationalism is the ideology of antinomians, unwittingly accepted by many Wesleyan-Arminians today under the pretext of its equation with fundamentalistic concerns. Darbyite fundamentalism is one thing; Christian fundamentalism, however, is quite another matter.

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