True Confessions of a Former Premillennialist

Some of the lingering conversation on three recent posts here have convinced me to make a horrifying confession, a confession so shocking and that I have been called a heretic, an infidel and worse than an unbeliever when I’ve admitted this deep dark secret in the past.  They say that the first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem… so here goes:  I am not a Premillennialist! Please forgive me if this is too shocking!

Here’s my story…  Once upon a time when the earth was young and I was a teenager, I read a book called “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsay.  I was so enthralled by it, that I read it again, and again, and yet again. I sought out other books on the subject and read them as well, and I soon became a walking encyclopedia of Premillennialism, for I bought it hook, line and sinker.

I was simply amazed that Jesus would return and set up His earthly Kingdom before I was 20!

When I was in my mid to late 20’s, a thought struck me: What if Mr. Lindsay and the others were mistaken? OK, they guessed the time wrong, not that they had been real explicit anyway, but what if they had missed something else?  You see, there was something that was nagging in the back of my head, a little voice, or was it a flashing red light, or just a dull throb… well I’m not sure what it was, but it bothered me. The bother was that all of those books took me to a place where Jesus had set up His Millennial Kingdom, headquartered in Jerusalem, where Jesus presided in the Temple as the High Priest, and they had re-instituted Temple sacrifices and the Law of Moses.  Now I understood that this contradicted everything I knew about the New Testament, but I rationalized that away by convincing myself that it was a whole new era, so things were done differently, but the thing that kept bothering me was that under the Law, the High Priest must have a sacrifice for his own sins when he enters the Holy of Holies once a year.  Why  would Jesus be this High Priest and need a sin offering, if He was without sin?  If He was not without sin Himself, then was I saved by the cross?

I searched and searched for the answer, until one day I came across it in a book (I’ve forgotten the title, sorry) by John Walvoord, president of Dallas Theological Seminary and a mentor of many of the authors I’d read, including Lindsay.  Dr. Walvoord had written that this issue was one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible and that we wouldn’t understand it until we get to heaven.  I was not comforted, but I hung in there.

As a seminary student, I learned about hermeneutics, and one of the methods we were taught was Literalism, or the literal method of interpretation.  This gave me my second “bother.”  The authors that I had been reading all said that we must intretpret prophetic passages of the Bible literally, but when I learned the method, I was deeply troubled by the fact that while  the authors I was reading said they were interpreting literally, they really weren’t.  According to the method of literal interpretation, a mountain is a mountain, a frog is a frog, and Egypt is Egypt.  But these guys could make Egypt into Russia and a beast into a man.  I figured that I would understand later, so I hung in there.  I wanted to ask my professor about this, but we were not allowed to question premillennialism at that seminary, for it was required. (Actually it was Dispensational Pretribulational Premillennialism)

I reached my crisis of faith when I had a class in Acts.  In chapter 2, Peter makes a bold statement in verse 16 ff. when he said, “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:…) then he quoted Joel 2:28-32.  That’s when it hit me like a freight train, I was literally light-headed.  Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by all of the premillennialist authors and placed in the Millennial Kingdom, not Pentecost! Without thinking,, I raised my hand and asked how that could be!

The professor explained calmly that because of the principle of Progressive Revelation, Peter had not yet come to understand where to properly apply the passage. You know how Peter was, he sometimes spoke without understanding and said the wrong thing…  My heart was racing, I was struggling for breath, but I blurted out:  “Verses 1-15 document the fact that Peter was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!” Not as calmly, the professor said it was progressive revelation and moved on in his lecture…

My crisis: If the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit could be WRONG, then the Bible is not inerrant, the atheists are right, and we’re a bunch of idiots, just like they say we are.

I returned to my room and didn’t come out for that night and all of the following day and night.  My head was spinning: Jesus needs a sin offering? Inspired Apostles are wrong, God’s purpose is the Old Covenant, the New Testament teachings are temporary, Jesus failed the first time around because of the rejection of the Jews… the atheists are right after all? And it finally came to me:

NO! The interpretation is wrong, the Bible is not wrong!

I transferred to another seminary.  I also began a new study of Revelation and the OT prophets, without the premises of Premillennialism, and I discovered that Revelation is much easier to understand when you don’t have to make it conform to a predetermined theory.  I also discovered that it tells an amazing story of the battle between God and Satan that runs through the entire course of human history, and how with this recognition, history is an amazing testimony of God’s glory, and that what is going on around us in this life, in the news, in culture, in education and in religion are just as they’ve always been; the physical manifestations of a spiritual conflict of which we are on the front lines.  I also began to understand that the commentators are wrong about something else;

Satan isn’t always on the offensive. No! He is playing defence in a desperate struggle to hang on, for he knows only too well that it is only a matter of time before God will judge him and all of his little friends.  You see, the Gospel is God’s offensive strategy, and your prayers are God’s artillery!

Oh what a glorious thing it is to be a servant of Jesus Christ!

Well, that’s my story. I hope you aren’t too shocked, I’m sorry if you are.  If you like, feel free to call me names… it won’t be the first time.  If you prefer a premillennial view of things, you’ll get no criticism from me, for as I’ve said before, Eschatology is not an essential of the Faith, and not worthy of fighting over when there is so much for each one of us to do to advance the cause of our Lord in this world.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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54 Responses to True Confessions of a Former Premillennialist

  1. loopyloo305 says:

    The armor of God is not just for defense, although we are not to yield, but the sword of the spirit is in essence the word, the gospel which we are entrusted with spreading. If we stand still and wait to be attacked, we are failing as in the parable of the talents. Just holding position increases nothing. How sad if when the Lord returns He should find we have nothing to show for what He has given us. God bless!

  2. Little Monk says:

    Oh, Don! I love this post so much, you have no idea. I’m not saying a WORD about the numbers of times God has simply “rewritten my theology” based on “progressive maturation of study” in my OWN head and heart… nothing “out there”. I am so coming to the realization these days that… theology provides a framework for both communication and comprehension of the Mystery of God. Therefore, by its very nature, it will always be limited and lacking, but that is a far cry from it not having value. But, once our experience of God, and our maturation in perceiving God, expand to “fill up the framework”… we can move one of two directions. The positive direction is to allow God Himself to deconstruct and reconstruct our framework… thus we “grow” in Him. The negative direction is to reject any further insights or epiphanies that are “off the grid”, thereby limiting and “defining” (drawing hard boundary lines around) God Himself… thus making Him a “God of our own definitions and creation”… in other words, an Idol. Something WE control, rather than He Himself.

    God has “outgrown my theologies” many times in my life. I have a “theology” NOW! But it is also, “finite”, “rational”, and it “fits within my mind”. THEREFORE… it is “not accurate, complete, or comprehensive”… because GOD cannot “fit within my mind”. But my theology is useful, for me… like “training wheels” as God teaches me to ride my bicycle safely. And, when He outgrows it, He will adjust it into something that reflect Him, His love, His grace, and His heart… with “clearer vision”, seeing more as He sees.

    Grace to you, Don… love this! — LM

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thanks little Monk! Needless to say I appreciate your remarks here. I agree with you on this, of course… That experience was a great leap forward for me. (Whoops! I think I just quotes Chairman Mao!) Let’s put it another way, I feel that I really grew in my faith in this experience, because that’s when following Jesus went from an academic exercise into a lie experience. It wasn’t mystical, it was very practical for me, but it led to my understanding what the NT is talking about when it teaches on church, discipleship and relationship, and for a geek like me, that was huge!

  3. I knew it from reading your posts and I am shocked. lol.

    No, not really, just funning, but I recognized this fact from reading your posts.

    I never went to seminary, but as I studied scripture and read books I too became a premillennialists. So much so, that I carried and quoted from a Scofield Bible as if it were gospel truth.

    I began watching Jack Van Impe and was so intrigued that I started memorizing scriptures just as he has. I was a walking encyclopedia of dispensational knowledge and accumulated well over a hundred books on this subject which were written by dispensational authors. When the Lord moved me towards a Reformed view of scripture and I took several courses in hermeneutics, I realized that I had been ripping scripture from context in order to defend this view.

    I have since moved away from premillenialism and a futuristic only approach to the book of Revelation. This move came through exegeting the text, instead of eisegeting it.

    So bless you in you confession because I have been there and know the struggle of things that didn’t add up.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Oh, how context can be a stumbling block to supporting a party line! Ooooh Jaaack! Poor guy has a tough time with context! 🙂

      It was all well worth it in the end, of course; God knew what He was (and is) doing with me. Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it when I’m not the only crazy on the block!

  4. loopyloo305 says:

    Sometimes I have people comment on one of my blogs that you simply have to have someone else interpret the Bible. They follow others who tell them there is a special talent that you have to have. It truly makes me sad that so many will spend hours telling me that someone else has to explain it to them when if they really wanted to learn they would open the book themselves. If you quote a scripture, they come back with “anyone can quote scripture” and ignore the fact that it doesn’t make it any less true. Sorry, I guess I am off point, but what I mean is that I find it sad that people would rather others interpret for them than ask God Himself to guide them!

    • Don Merritt says:

      Yes, i know what you mean. To be fair, some people need a lot of help along the way, and I would hope that a more mature Christian would mentor them as they grow. Even so, if a person won’t take some effort, they usually won’t get very far!

  5. muchgrace says:

    To say that I’m gobsmacked would probably be the understatement of the decade!

    In fact I was still reeling from your ‘confession’ when I got suckered by ‘Little Monk’s’ statement “… Defining God and thereby making Him a God of our own definitions and creations … ergo an idol!”

    I smell the perfume of Lady Wisdom and I’m waiting in eager anticipation of just where our Lord will take it from here …?

    Hallelujah for His truth that Glorifies His Name.

  6. I will just say a few things in response. I don’t believe that Hal L. ever set a date. As for the temple that is described for us in detail in Ezekiel, I don’t believe Jesus will be reinstituting the law of Moses. There will be animal sacrifices yes, but they will be for a different purpose. They will not be as they were in the O.T. They will be to remind us of what Christ has already done for us. He already paid for our sins. So the sacrifices will be as reminders of that fact.

    But of course, I believe that during the millennium the church will be with Christ in the New Jerusalem. Those on the earth will be believers who survive the tribulation–and I think most of them will be Jewish. At that time they will rule the earth. And Gentiles will be their servants. I also believe that though Christ will be king, David will rule in Palestine and the 12 disciples will rule under him over the 12 tribes of Israel. That’s all I will say for now. I have to go to work and make some money.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Hey Stephen!

      To be fair to Mr. Lindsay, no he didn’t set a date, he wasn’t that explicit, but he did estimate a number of years after 1948, and I did the math.

      As for the rest, we will see. However the Lord has it worked out will be fine by me!

    • I think Don is right. Lindsay did not set a date, but he implied strongly that it would be 40 years after the establishment of Israel (a generation). If one subtracts seven years for the tribulation, the rapture should have occurred in 1981.

      Later, Whisnant gained notoriety for specifying the rapture as occurring in 1988.

  7. crusader1240 says:

    Your story is very similar to mine, except for the seminary part. I started rethinking things in 9th grade after having read books such as the Left Behind series and being brought up in schools and churches that were premil. Enjoyed this post!

  8. balaam says:

    Strange how people have similar experiences. I wrote about this (among other things, just over a month ago. http://stevenhpape.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/the-day-god-changed-part-2/

    In fact I’ve gone from pre-millennialism through amillennialism and out the other side. If you were to find an -ism for where I am now it would be Trust-God-he-knows-what-he’s-doing-ism.

  9. paulfg says:

    Ism going mad, or ism just missing the point?

  10. Great post. I believe most in our day grew up on the pre trib, pre mil eschatological position. It took me years to finally get through it. There are many who question, but who haven’t become convinced of really what they do believe, so they remain so called premillennialist.

  11. I Love it… Glad you have survived the excursion and the confession. Now, out of the END Times and into the future! ..and may God guide you every step of the way. Some of the steps aren’t visible yet.

    Sometimes it feels like you are walking on water. LOL 🙂

    Great post!

  12. I’m back. I just had to say that I’m sorry you had to go through all that confusion when you were so young. My story is that I was raised in a premillennial and pretrib church and I just accepted it, and didn’t really study it much until just a few years ago. But I have read the bible through I would say at least 20 times and I haven’t seen anything to disprove the pretrib and pre mil position. But at the same time, I go to prophecy conferences and I have read Dr. Dwight Pentecost’s book three of for times–It’s called Things to Come. He once said, “There are some things that I am dogmatic about, but when it comes to the pretrib rapture, I am double dogmatic about that.” I am now in the process of writing a book, which I will call “A Study of the Rapture: Why a Clear Understanding of the Rapture is Vital for Today.” I don’t intend to make much money on it. I mainly write books as form of study. It helps me put it all together. It will be self published and I may not even advertise it–except to put it on my blog. By the way, I don’t intend to try to convince you of anything. I’m sure you have heard it already. But you can look at my blog posts anytime and see what I believe. Most of my posts will be excerpts from the book I am writing. So I would say everything will be about 4 to 5 months old. Well anyway, we are both believers and so we can still have fellowship. Most of the vital things I’m sure we will agree on. God bless you in all you do in life.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Stephen I truly appreciate your remarks in this comment, as well as in your other ones. We, as brothers in Christ, should be able to discuss these things like this as brothers, in love and as fellow workers for the Gospel, and this is what I am dogmatic about! I am not at all dogmatic on premil, pretrib or any other position relating to end times. To me, these are not essentials and we can have our own opinions and views… and I strongly suspect that God will use them to His glory, maybe in a way that I couldn’t begin to predict. You were kind of an inspiration to me in writing this post, by the way. Not to advocate a position, but to tell a true story about things that can happen within the Body of Christ, and I hope that some might read it and be drawn closer not to any dogma, but the Christ Himself, for as I know you would agree with me, drawing closer to Christ is the ball game!

      Best wishes on the book, I’ll be following your posts!

  13. 1cross2bear says:

    I never went to seminary schools or anything of that type, I just simply read from the word and the Holy Spirit teaches, guides and leads me. Sometimes things folk share is like way over my head:) but this wasnt, isnt it wonderful when the Lord by and through the Holy Spirit opens our heart, eyes, and mind to His awesome profound truths, nothing like it:)))))
    The Lord bless and keep you and stir you always in the things of Him:) Been pondering on verse 10 a lot today.-that the manifold wisdom of God made known by the church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.
    Ephesians 3:9-12
    9 And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the
    ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent
    that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities
    and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished
    in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith
    in Him.

  14. Steve B says:

    I was saved on Hal Lindsay, well sort of but yeah. Anyway after about a year I had already rejected the Premillenienism but I have to thank Hal that his books led me to Jesus.

  15. People Empowerment Project says:

    I think that we need to reevaluate just how much we have in common with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Also, it is discussions like these that “the elementary forces in this world” have concocted to distract us from what really matters, in my opinion. But, perhaps even more importantly, these debate issues merely classify the relationship based Jesus with the religion commonly referred to as Christianity. When the world views our debates and demonstrative behavior about such grey areas, they then have the right to ask what the difference is between us and other isms on the planet. Don’t even the Sunnis and the Shia do this, and the caste societies in Buddhist societies?

  16. Christ Followers says:

    Okay!!!! I am NOT a theologian. Just a daughter of the King! I need more. More understanding. My husband had a dream last night that shook him to his core. I agree with you. I just want more understanding!

  17. g says:

    Pre, post, dispensational, millennia Hmmm. My how complicated theology gets! Don’t ya just have to figure out what and where the 1000 yrs is? If I have to have a label then I am a blurred-line dispensational. Perhaps dispensational is a wrong word. I see a timeline in the Word of God. God does not change. Dispensational teachings helped me to see the timeline. Agree context is ver-r-r-ry important.

  18. Thank God, you understand that our interpretations of the Bible are sometimes incorrect and the Bible is Truly the Holy Word of God. For me, I have to accept this and not be tempted to use my pea like brain in comparison to God. And if we will trust in Him; His Holy Spirit and His Holy Word will enlighten us. God Bless You Don and thank you so much for your support.

  19. Don, you invited us to call you names, so I am taking you up on the offer: Fortunate! Discerning!

    I think you are very discerning about the problems of dispensationalism and fortunate to have abandoned it.

  20. Thanks so much for your support, God Bless You.

  21. rainingtruth says:

    God’s Blessings to you Don. You made me think of these scriptures. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 “Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.” 1st Chronicles 16:10

  22. I too have been delivered from the fatalistic viewpoint called pretribulationalism & or premellinnialism!

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  26. Tommy says:

    I just want to add a few comments that might help our “macro view” of the scriptures, that will then help our “micro view” of the scriptures. This is what I currently see and believe. 1. The END is revealed out of the BEGINNING. Isa 46:10 All of God’s desire, will, purpose, essence and prophecy are found in the first four chapters of Genesis like a seed and are repeated over and over again all the way through Revelation. 2. Their is no such thing as dispensations in scripture (Ex: disp of grace, disp of law, etc). Dispensational thinking is Evolutionary thinking. God uses cycles (Ex: weekly-sabbath, monthly-new moon, yearly-feasts, etc. Lev 23) They repeat and are renewing, not brand new. 3. There is nothing new in the New Testament (Renewed Covenant is more accurate) and can only be understood in light of the Old Testament. Lets build a firm foundation on the OT (Tanach, Torah) so that we can more accurately understand the NT! :0)

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