I firmly believed in the classic dispensational view, a rapture, a seven year tribulation and Millennial reign of Christ. It was fact to me without question and a hill I would die upon—until someone challenged my on it. My very own high school youth group to whom I was teaching Revelation, kept asking me where is that? I do not see it! This does not make sense. And I could not answer their questions. I knew how to study the Bible but I was not using my own tools for Revelation or Matthew chapter twenty-four. Instead, I was relying on my prized possession a 1940’s edition of The Scofield Study Bible I received from one of my mentors, my favorite commentaries, one by Dr. John Walvoord and the other by Frank Gaebelein, not to mention I had also mostly memorized Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth. But I could not defend my positions biblically; I could only quote those who held that view. I just assumed I just did not get it and they did. So I decided to just read the Book of Revelation without reading my views into it, as many of us naturally do. I kept doing this for over ten years. During the same time, I had a run-in with one of my seminary professors about the Rapture who said none of this was biblical. I thought he was crazy; how could it not be biblical? What about all the great people who teach this, such as Ironside, Wiersbe, and Walter Martin to name a few, plus my mentor Ray Steadman who introduced me to Scofield and Darby.
So, I engaged this subject wholeheartedly; I wanted to see for myself. I read all the passages and the books, yet I could not find anything in the Bible where we could get a Rapture view or any declension of that view, or any of the classic dispensational views I thought were fact. In fact, I could not find the popular ideas of others, taught by so many people as dogmatic and even essential doctrine. The passages that are used to support a rapture and a seven year tribulation said nothing to this.
People who I would consider great exegetes and godly men were teaching this; I asked why. Why were they producing so much of these particulars of nonsense?
Perhaps they were just like all of us; maybe they made mistakes at logic or interpretation, or did not do their homework well. Or, maybe they did what I did, just relied on others and my favorite teachers and take it as that. I couldn’t get what many poplar sensationalists were saying either. What most Christians now believe and what I believed at one time was not there in the Bible’s evidence bag. I could not find a seven-year tribulation, an antichrist as a particular person, or a rapture or the Millennial reign that most pastors preach on and the plot lines of many popular Christian Books. I found that you have to read these things into the Bible because it just is not there; all the passages that were claimed were taken out of their context and twisted, and meanings subscribed to them that were not there originally or in reality.
I was upset, mad, and confused that I had missed the point. So I decided to make this a Schaeffer Institute project and then spent over ten years of careful exegetical and inductive analysis of Revelation, Matthew chapter 24 and many other Eschatological passages before I would write on this publicly as I am now. I sought what they clearly said, not what I was taught they said, or what I wanted them to say or what was popular in my theological tradition. Then I took the four main theories and laid them out side by side next to an exegetical and inductive work into the Book of Revelation. I was careful not to read into it any presumptions, leaving it up to you, the reader, to make your own conclusion—the reason it took ten years.
Yes, this was tough and cost me a lot of sleepless nights and struggles and over fifteen years to look at what I thought I already knew so well. This brought me to what real Biblical Eschatology is, to end times from what the Bible clearly speaks on.
3 thoughts on “My Journey in Eschatology”
“I could not find a seven-year tribulation, an antichrist as a particular person, or a rapture or the Millennial reign”.
Like you, I come from a generally dispensational background. Also like you, there came a time when I more and more questioned the eschatological dogma of my pastors and mentors. I have found my views being significantly modified as a result. However, to say that all the items you have listed above “cannot be found” seems to me to be as dogmatic a statement as those who say they “must be found”. In this statement, you essentially declare that no valid hermeneutic could have possibly led you to these positions. I can truly say that I have not found any evidence for a rapture that occurs before the tribulation (though I stand to be corrected), but with regard to there being a rapture at all (an end time gathering of the saints to Christ) the Bible seems to be pretty clear. In addition, the other points you mention (a specific personification of anti-christ, etc.) are certainly subject to debate. While I can say that I accept or don’t accept them with varying degrees of certainty, I have to say that they can certainly “be found” (though not proven with certainty) through valid and reasonable methods of interpretation. It sounds like you presume that no literal interpretation of any prophecy is acceptable, which in itself is a dogmatic position. I suspect that this is not really your position, but it comes across that way.
In any event we are of like mind that no interpretation should be accepted (or rejected) on purely dogmatic grounds.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
How could you study Rev for 10 years and not see this?
Try using Google to gather the chapters and verses (old and new testament) you need to put together an accurate biblical timeline going forward: the rapture, Psalm 83, Ezekiel 38, what occurs in the first 3.5 years, what occurs at mid trib, and what occurs in the final 3.5 years, Armageddon, the 1,000 years reign, and then the eternal new heaven and new earth.
“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”