It’s a common response which is rolled out when the subject of the Lord’s return gets raised- “I’m a pan-millenialist: it will all pan out in the end”. OK, we do need to acknowledge that your interpretation of the Lord’s return is not the most vital issue of all. It does fall into the category of one of the non-essentials which it is normal for Christians to have differing views concerning. It is also a rather imposing subject, with many people just struggling to understand all the different views starting with “pre”, “post”, and “a”s.
However, this does not mean that the issue does not matter. “Pan-millenialism” really is just a means of shrugging your shoulders and hoping the issue goes away. Eschatology is admittedly a challenging study with lots of difficult issues of interpretation. However, that does not mean that we should not pursue it, or have some convictions which we may hold to. It’s my opinion that while some issues of eschatology are fairly inconclusive and not worth being too dogmatic about, other issues are indeed worth discussion and contending for, and there are odd ideas which are strangely common.
While I find the views of amillenialism and postmillennialism worthy of dispute also, here I will share five reasons why I think that dispensational pre-tribulationism is especially deserving of critique.
- It has been estimated that at least 25% of the Bible is concerned with the subject of eschatology. Surely we should have a handle on a subject that is given so much importance in the Bible.
- The issue does not just stop at the simple question “will there be a pre-trib rapture?”. Dispensationalism has major ramifications upon how the whole storyline of the bible is to be understood, right from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore the issues under discussion have fundamental importance in understanding the big picture of the Bible.
- Pre-tribulationists employ an evangelistic strategy of warning people about the danger of “being left behind at the rapture”. This appears to be very effective, so much so, that there are large numbers of Christians who report in their testimonies that the major factor that drove them to Christ was waking up as a child and being afraid that their parents had vanished. Surely it is important to ascertain whether such a doctrine actually has solid foundations or not, rather than just using it “because it works”. Our preaching must be biblical, especially when it involves the all important task of leading people to Christ.
- At a very practical level, we must prepare ourselves in the right way for the future. Is the pre-tribulationist right in declaring that at any moment we could all be whisked away from planet Earth? Or is the post-tribulationist right in asserting that there is a time of trouble to hit planet Earth before the Lord comes, and it is our duty to be on the watch for the signs of His coming. Depending on which we believe, our lifestyle in preparation for these events will be very different, and those following the wrong doctrine will be caught unprepared for the future events when they occur.
- It is my contention that the pre-tribulation doctrine is guilty at many points of very speculative interpretations of scripture. This gives rise to a very poor technique for interpreting the whole of the Bible.
So I contend that the topic of eschatology should be a topic for healthy discussion and engagement with different positions, speaking the truth in love, and growing to a closer understanding of God’s word. Pan-millenialism is not the right option to go with.