I have just returned from South Korea where I did an academic lecture on premillennial dispensationalism at Hoseo University. My very basic overview of the five aspects of Premillennial Dispensationalism: tribulational views, millennial views, dispensational categories, the Darby system, and biblical interpretive perspectives created quite a stir amongst students and faculty, which only goes to prove the impact that premillennial dispensationalism has had on the Christian community world-wide. I chose this topic in honor of the recent reissuance of the Left Behind movie.
Since the movie came out on Friday, October 3, 2014, there have been numerous blog responses. I point you to two in particular that reflect my own views on the details of the biblical text and its interpretation:
Given these interpretations of the theology found in the Left Behind series I would like to take the conversation to the next level.
What has not yet been said in any blog that I have read is that premillennial dispensationalism is an elitist theology.
It purports that a select group, referred to as the “true church” will be whisked away by Jesus in what they call the “rapture” to become the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ is, in fact, understood to be equal to Christ, in that the union between Jesus and his Bride is likened onto the union between a man and a woman on earth, i.e., the two shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24).
Given this theological understanding, when Jesus returns (a second time) to judge the peoples of the earth and establish his 1000 year reign, he will, of course, bring his bride with him; so that, Jesus, the Christ, and his Bride, being one flesh, will reign together over all the earth and her inhabitants, i.e., those still remaining after the great judgment. Those remaining on the earth will be of course, the Jews, as their inheritance is earthly, but only the Jews that accept Jesus as messiah, and the Gentiles that have converted to believe in Jesus as messiah since the rapture.
Premillennial Dispensationalism is an elitist doctrinal belief system that purposes to exclude any and all that are not premillennial, pre-tribulational, futuristic, Darbyites, who hold to the dualisms between Jew and Gentile, and adhere to the hierarchical rules “established by the Bible” (their language not mine).
They understand their interpretations of the Bible to be “absolute truth.” Consequently, they understand themselves to have a special revelation and status given to them by God that places them in an elite camp.
The entire doctrinal belief system necessitates a separatist perspective and lifestyle, an emphasis on individual salvation, and adherence to a homogeneous set of doctrinal beliefs. It does not in any way foster tolerance for an inter-racial, inter-cultural, and inter-faith context, and certainly has no tolerance for many of the social issues we struggle with in our nation and world today.
Their hope and belief is in the vindication they will experience on rapture day.
If you are interested in more details on this doctrinal belief system as it is portrayed in the Left Behind movie (and novels) I point you to Are We Living in the End Times?: Current Events Foretold in Scripture . . . And What they Mean by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins and The Authorized Left Behind Handbook by LaHaye, Jenkins, and Sandi L. Swanson.
May our Christian faith be a living faith expressed thru acts of compassion to all of God’s creation (Mtt 25:31-45).
LeAnn Snow Flesher, PhD is Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament at American Baptist Seminary of the West, part of The Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, CA.