I am strong committed to Reformed, evangelical postmillennialism. But it was not always so. Sometimes when we talk with dispensationalists we feel like we are sowing seed on stony ground. Our seed appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard head. Yet we must be encouraged with the prospect of getting dispensationalists to buck their system. I was once in it, but I have long since raptured out of it. Perhaps a brief testimony might be helpful in showing that dispensationalists can hear, and change.
I was once a dispensationalist. I was converted under a dispensational ministry (a youth camp at Florida Bible College: 1966). I immediately joined a dispensational church and eventually taught Sunday school (Calvary Bible Church, Chattanooga, Tenn.: 1966–1973). I worked my way through college while employed at a dispensational bookstore (Lanham’s Bible Bookshop, Chattanooga, Tenn.: 1969–73).
I graduated from a dispensational college with a degree in Biblical Studies (Tennessee Temple College: 1973). While enrolled there I took a course titled “Premillennialism” (taught by my favorite teacher, Dr. Dennis Wisdom: 1972).While there all my courses were informed by dispensational theology (dispensationalism is not simply an eschatology; it is a fully operational, wholesale theology.) My first books forming the foundation of my personal library were dispensational works (the very first one being J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come). I was enrolled for two years at a dispensational seminary (Grace Theological Seminary 1973–75) — until I raptured to Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, Mississippi: 1975)
I was truly a dispensationalist. An academically-trained, research-oriented, Greek-reading dispensationalist. I didn’t get my dispensationalism totally from televangelists (though several times I heard Jack Van Impe preach in chapel at Tennessee Temple College and Bible conferences hosted by its mother church, Highland Park Baptist Church). I got my dispensationalism from Ph.D.s trained at dispensational schools and from reading the more carefully written books by Walvoord, Ryrie, and Pentecost. I even knew the word “Rapture” didn’t appear in Scripture. I was no fly-by-night dispensationalist; I was armed and dangerous.
But I converted out of dispensationalism. By God’s grace I escaped the confusing and complicated system. I will confess, however, that converting out of dispensationalism cannot be accomplished overnight. Even once the break has been effected the convert will require years of re-learning the Bible. There is no such thing as a quick fix.
In fact, the confusion caused by the dispensational system is such that for several years I still had dispensational reflexes which I had to overcome. For instance, I reflexively began looking heavenward the first few times I heard there was an earthquake somewhere in the world. For a number of months I continued to instinctively begin each spoken sentence with the words: “According to biblical prophecy.” But this all began to fade until here I am today: not the least inclined to predict the date of the rapture or suggest the name of the Antichrist. I have even let my membership in Former Dispensationalists Anonymous lapse. I have now been sober from the wine of dispensationalism for over thirty-five years.
In the next few blogs I will suggest a discussion tool for helping pry dispensationalists from their system. But in the meantime I would welcome your own testimony regarding your struggle with dispensationalism and how it finally became “left behind” in your theological growth.