Can We Believe In A 7,000 Year Dispensational Plan Of God For The World?
God's Program and Time Table in the History of the World
Like most evangelical Christians, I also believe that God has progressively revealed Himself to man in the Bible in uniquely identifiable periods of time. Everything God does in the dispensation of time is tied to time periods. For example, God created heaven and earth in seven "days."
The number 7 is known as the perfect number in the Bible, or God's number of completion. For more information on this subject you may read the article, "What is the biblical significance of the number seven/7?" Could it be that re-creation, or restoration from the Fall, will also be seven time periods — seven periods of one thousand years?
I don't want to become involved in theological arguments about the different factions of dispensationalism, but the four-dispensation approach makes so much Biblical sense, that it is difficult to reason away. This approach teaches that there are four major dispensations of Biblical history: the Dispensation of Conscience (from Adam to Abraham); the Dispensation of Law (from Abraham to Jesus Christ); the Church Dispensation, also referred to as the Dispensation of Grace (from Jesus Christ to His second coming), and then the Millennial Reign of Christ. Below is a graphical illustration.
How long will the Church Dispensation be?
To arrive at this answer, we need to do some research. We know that Jesus was not born in the year 0 of the Gregorian calendar. Although researchers differ on the exact year of Jesus' crucifixion, we know that it occurred between the year AD 29 and AD 33. Thus, between the year 2029 and 2033, it will be exactly 2,000 years ago that Jesus rose from the grave, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, and the Church Dispensation began. (That is between 6 and 10 years from 2023.)
What grounds do we have for believing that the Church Dispensation will be 2,000 years? Although no one knows for sure, many Christians have a strong suspicion that six thousand years of Biblical history will expire between 2029 and 2033.
How long was the period from Adam to Jesus Christ?
What evidence do we have that the period from Adam to Jesus Christ was 4,000 years? The answer is that we don't know for sure, but might not be wrong if we suspect this. According to Biblical records, Abraham was born 1946 years after Adam, and lived to be 175 years old. Thus, Abraham was 54 years old with the transition to the third millennium after Adam.
Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) who devoted himself to research on this subject, concluded that Adam was created in the year 4004 BC. James Ussher's work naturally came under much criticism. However, a very interesting article on James Ussher was published by Dr Jerry Bergman in 2014, titled: "James Ussher and His Chronology: Reasonable or Ridiculous?". His article concludes as follows:
“Many skeptics have dismissed Ussher’s work, claiming he merely used dogma to solve a scientific problem. The late Stephen Jay Gould disagreed. Seeking to understand how Ussher arrived at his deductions, after detailed investigation Gould concluded that the archbishop’s critics were not only ignorant but that they also entirely misunderstood his work.15 … He was delighted with Ussher’s declaration that his (Ussher’s) results were determined “not only by the plain and manifold testimonies of Holy Scripture, but also by light of reason well directed.” 15
For these reasons, Gould determined that Ussher’s chronology was an “honorable effort for its time” and argued that the common ridicule only reflects a “lamentable small-mindedness based on mistaken use of present criteria to judge a distant and different past.” 16
The reality is that the relevance of Ussher’s work “may be seen in the fact that his Chronology has been accepted by nearly all the Reformed Churches.” 14 Ussher’s research merits our highest respect and serves as a solid foundation for us to build upon today.” (Emphasis my own.)
Was James Ussher right?
However, it may be possible that Ussher was out by a few years (perhaps 29-33 years?)! Although we will never know for sure, the presumption that 4,000 years of Biblical history expired with Jesus' ascension into heaven can never be proven wrong before His return!
The fact of the matter is that the Church Dispensation only began with Jesus' ascension into heaven and not with His birth. Jesus was born and lived in the Dispensation of Law. Galatians 4:4,5 reads: "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children." Thus, the Church dispensation only began with Jesus' ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The big question is, will Jesus return after 2,000 years of grace? As stated above, the Church will be exactly 2,000 years old between the year 2029 and 2033. We have also stated that there is a strong suspicion among many Christians that six thousand years of Biblical history will expire between 2029 and 2033 — 6 to 10 years from 2023! If you believe in a literal seven-year Great Tribulation (as I do), it means that the Great Tribulation could begin between 2022 and 2026 — in other words, any time from now – if it has not already begun. During this time, there will be a great falling away, according to 2 Timothy 3:1-5, as we are already experiencing right around us.
If you believe the rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation — may you be right! However, according to my understanding of the Bible, I am not convinced of this. If you are wrong, it can have serious consequences for you if you are not spiritually prepared for suffering! During this time, the foundation of Christians’ faith will be tested by fire — and many will fail the test! (1 Cor 3:12,13) However, Jesus promised that He will keep those who faithfully endure to the end. Rev 3:10 reads: "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. "
God’s primary plan and purpose in history
As indicated in the illustration above,
God is busy creating a posterity in His own image, and a Bride for His Son from every nation, tribe and tongue, to be united with Him at the return of Jesus Christ and the marriage of the Lamb, to reign with Him over creation in eternity.
Completion of the Great Commission and the return of Jesus Christ are inseparably linked to each other.
What all Christians should be united about
There is only one thing that can delay Jesus Christ's return, that is if the Great Commission has not yet been completed! If Jesus has not returned by the year 2033, there will be only one reason — there is still someone who needs to hear the Gospel! Whether you are a Dispensationalist, Calvinist, Armenian, Reformed, Pentecostal, Charismatic, or have a pre-millennialist, postmillennialist, pre-tribulation or post-tribulation (or any other) view, reaching the unreached world with the Gospel should be every Christian and the Church of Jesus Christ's first and highest priority! If anything else in this life is more important to you, it is a sign that you are not prepared for the return of Jesus Christ — because your concerns and desires are not in harmony with God's purpose and plan for yourself and the Church!
Every Christian should expect, long, and look for the return of Jesus Christ. We read in 2 Peter 3:11-14, "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, … Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent …" (Emphasis my own)
Any theology or doctrine regarding the Second Coming that lulls the Church to sleep, or dulls Christians' expectation of Jesus’ return, is false teaching, and just as dangerous as setting a date for Jesus' return. If my understanding of God's program in history is wrong, it won't make any difference to your or my faith. However, if I'm right, it can be catastrophic for many because many won't be ready! If you are not longing and striving for Jesus Christ's return, you're not ready for His return! Then your heart is here in this world and with worldly things.
By implication, this means that reaching the unreached world with the Gospel should be the Church's and every Christian's first and highest priority. By implication, this means that the Church must strive as one man for the completion of Jesus Christ's Great Commission and work together in unison towards this goal.
Clearly, we are living in the last of the last days. Are you living out God's plan and purpose for your life? What are you primarily occupied with? To make a living? To buy and sell? To pursue earthly and temporary goals that may have no value in a few years from now? To take care of your old age that will possibly disappear in the fog in a few years? Where does your first love, expectation, and striving lie — in this world, or with the return of Jesus Christ? Your honest answer to this question will determine whether you will be part of the apostate church of the end-time, or whether you will be part of the true Church that will remain faithful to the end!
Are you ready?
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