Not all premillennialists
are dispensationalists, but all dispensationalists are premillennialists. Both
schools of thought matured together through the nineteenth century, and this
union of a theological system and prophetic viewpoint brought about a new
understanding of the Scriptures that is unparalleled in the past two centuries
At the beginning of the
twentieth century, dispensationalism was one of the most important forces in
fundamentalism and evangelicalism. The "blessed hope" —the visible, physical
return of Jesus Christ for His church— became the central theme of this
movement. Teachings on the rapture of the church, the coming of a worldwide
tribulation, and the arrival of the kingdom cut across all denominational lines.
Pastors and laypersons alike were studying the Scofield Reference Bible,
despite the resistance of their church associations and denominational leaders.
Following its first publication in 1909, Scofield's annotated Bible provided
millions of readers around the world with a new understanding of the Bible, of
God's plan for the world, and of their own place in that plan.
outgrowth of this movement was an energetic love for Jesus Christ and the Bible
that expressed itself in the explosive growth of Bible institutes, colleges, and
seminaries. Missionaries and pastors by the thousands marched out from these
prophecy-teaching centers to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Schools
such as Moody Bible Institute and Philadelphia College of the Bible became
leading dispensationalist institutions. Not only were multitudes converted, but
the Scriptures, as seen from a dispensational perspective, took on a new
clarity. Laypersons became more spiritually motivated and capable of sharing
their faith with others. Prophecy conferences and summer camp meetings focused
on the regathering of Israel to Palestine and the imminent return of the
What, then, are the distinctives of dispensational
First, dispensationalists believe in the inspiration and
inerrancy of the Bible. One has to embrace such a view of Scripture, especially
when believing in a prophetic plan yet to be fulfilled in history by a God who
will keep His Word.
Second, dispensationalists are consistent in studying
the Scriptures from a historicalgrammatical methodology or "literal"
hermeneutic. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is interpreted by the same
rules of grammar and language that govern the interpretation of literature in
Third, dispensationalists believe that God set forth His plan of
the ages progressively; that is, not everything is explained at once. For
example, the doctrines of the Trinity and the church were revealed "line upon
line." The succeeding biblical generations were given an unfolding revelation
until a doctrine was fully developed.
Fourth, God has dealt differently
with mankind at distinct times in history. The Lord worked differently with
Abraham than He did with Moses and Israel. He now works differently with His
church than He did with the Jews under the Law. Dispensationalism is the
recognition of these distinct economies in biblical history.
history will not end suddenly with the return of Christ. For His own divine
purposes, the Lord laid out a plan for end time events. This plan involves the
rapture of the church, the restoration of the Jews to their promised King and
kingdom, and the Tribulation judgment of the nations. Then follows a judgment of
the lost and a new heaven and new earth. Dispensationalism recognizes these and
other prophetic events and holds to them in their proper order.
although the salvation of the elect is part of the merciful plan of God,
dispensationalists believe that the Scriptures teach that the outworkings of His
providence will bring glory to Himself, not simply the salvation of the lost.
What God has purposed for the angels, the lost, the nation of Israel, and
creation itself will ultimately bring honor and glory to Himself.
the 1970s, interest in dispensationalism began to decline within the mainstream
of conservative evangelicalism. Along with this de-emphasis on the teaching of
the rapture and Bible prophecy in general, a paradigm shift took place in many
churches and Bible schools. Many pastors became more "sophisticated" in their
preaching. Prophecy was out, and psychology was in. The teaching of doctrine was
replaced by sermons on current social issues and the emotional life of the
believer. Although it is difficult to establish what was the cause and what was
the effect, many dispensationalists would argue that either way the result was a
loss of clear biblical teaching.
This dictionary has been compiled in
order to explain the major tenets of dispensationalism as it has been taught
historically and to show that certain false accusations against the system are
nothing more than straw men. In some cases, such accusations against
dispensationalism have been based upon awkward sentences pulled from their
context. For instance, some claim dispensationalists believe in various ways of
salvation or that they believe the Sermon on the Mount cannot be applied to
believers during this age of grace. Nothing could be further from the truth, and
the contributors to this work pray that critics who study this volume with an
open mind will have a better grasp of what dispensationalism actually
Many of the articles in this dictionary cover the history and
development of dispensationalism. Some historic persons are featured who may not
be considered dispensationalists per se but who were in the process of
developing their prophetic beliefs. Although the early church Fathers did not
expound Scripture in a systematic and dispensational fashion, we can observe
flashes of their understanding about prophetic issues. We all wish they had
Many thanks are due to Dr. Tim LaHaye, who in 1992 called
together thirty Bible prophecy scholars and urged them to speak out concerning
the pretribulational rapture of the church. From this first meeting, the Pre
Trib Study Center developed, which is now a think tank of some two hundred
scholars, writers, broadcasters, and professors. They are continually in the
process of researching, restating, and refining dispensationalism and meet
yearly to share their findings
Since the founding of the group, dozens of
pamphlets, books, journal articles, videos, and radio broadcasts have again
proclaimed the Blessed Hope. Most (but not all) of the contributors to this
dictionary belong to the Pre Trib Research Center of Washington, D.C. Another
word of thanks is due Dr. Thomas Ice, who is presently the Executive Director of
the Pre Trib Study Center. Dr. Ice is a church history scholar whose encouraging
advice helped launch this dictionary project.
Finally, as general editor
of this project, I was personally motivated by the words of the apostle Paul
that I believe characterize how believers should balance a love for Bible
prophecy along with a life of service to our Masterno matter how long we are on
this earth. Paul commended the Thessalonian believers who, although under severe
persecution, had turned to God from idols "to serve a living and true
God, and to wait for His Son from heaven" (l Thess. 1:9). Paul also
encouraged them by saying that God raised Jesus from the dead "who rescues us
from the coming wrath" (1:10, my translation).
Maranatha, Lord Jesus!
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Robert G. Anderson, Th.M.,
is academic dean of Houston College of Biblical Studies in Houston,
Roy E. Beacham, M.Div., Th.M., Th.D., is chairman and professor of
Old Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis,
Rick Bowman, D.Min., is a researcher, writer, and editor at
Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute in Ft. Worth,
Joseph R. Chambers, D.D., is founder and president of Paw Creek
Radio and Media Ministry in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Mal O. Couch,
M.A., Th.M., Th.D., Ph.D., is founder and president of Tyndale Theological
Seminary and Biblical Institute in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Crutchfield, Phil.M., M.A., Ph.D., is a mentor at Faraston Theological Seminary.
He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Rodney Decker, M.Div., Th.D.
candidate, is a professor of Bible at Calvary Theological Seminary in Kansas
Timothy J. Demy, M.A., M.A., Th.M., Th.D., is a military
chaplain, author, and Bible teacher. He lives in Springfield,
Thomas Edgar, Th.M., Th.D., is professor of New Testament
Literature at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Maryland.
Elmore, Th.M., Th.D., is professor of Bible at Cedarville College in Cedarville,
Paul P. Enns, Th.M., Th.D., is an author, founding dean of Tampa
Bay Theological Seminary, and dean of the Institute of Biblical Training in
Gary Fisher is an author and the founder and director of
Lion of Judah Ministry in Franklin, Tennessee.
Harold D. Foos, Th.M.,
Th.D., is professor of Bible and Theology and chairman of the Department of
Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois.
Fruchtenbaum, Th.M., Ph.D., is an author, international Bible teacher, and the
founder and director of Ariel Ministries in Tustin, California.
Gannett, Th.M., Th.D., is an author and conference speaker. He lives in
Michael P. Gendron, M.A.B.S., M.A.S., is the founder
and president of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministry in Dallas, Texas.
G. Gromacki, Th.M., Th.D., is a pastor, author, and distinguished professor of
Bible and Greek at Cedarville College, Cedarville, Ohio.
George A. Gunn,
M.Div., is the chairman of Bible and Theology at Shasta Bible College in
John D. Hannah, Th.M., Ph.D., is an author and the
chairman and professor of Historical Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary in
Bobby Hayes, M.A., Ph.D. candidate, is an associate
professor at Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute in Ft. Worth,
Edward E. Hindson, M.A., Th.M., Th.D., D.Phil., is an author, the
vice president of There's Hope Ministry in Atlanta, Georgia, and distinguished
adjunct professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
House, M.A., Th.M., M.Div., J.D., Th.D., is a visiting professor of Theology at
various institutions, a freelance writer, and a dean and professor at Michigan
Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan.
Tommy D. Ice, Th.M., Ph.D.,
is an author, former pastor, and the executive director of the PreTrib Research
Center in Washington, D.C.
Elliott Johnson, Th.M., Th.D., is an author
and professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas,
Gordon Johnston, Th.M., Th.D., is associate professor of the
Biblical Division at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster,
Tim F. LaHaye, D.Min., D.D., is an author and the director
of Family Life Seminars in Washington, D.C.
G. Harry Leafe, Th.M., D.Min., is
professor and chairman of Bible and Theology at Houston Bible Institute in
Dale F. Leschert, M.Div., Th.M., Ph.D., is an independent
researcher and writer who lives in New Westminster, British Columbia,
Robert P. Lightner, Th.M., Th.D., is an author and professor of
Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.
Mayhew, Th.M., Th.D., is professor of Old Testament at Michigan Theological
Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan.
Steven L. McAvoy, Th.M., Th.D., is the
director of the Institute for Biblical Studies in Lake Oswego,
Thomas S. McCall, Th.M., Th.D., is an author, conference speaker,
and researcher for Levitt Ministries. He lives in Bullard, Texas.
McLean, Th.M., M.A., Ph.D., is president of Michigan Theological Seminary in
George E. Meisinger, Th.M., D.Min., is president of
Chafer Theological Seminary and pastor of Grace Church in Huntington Beach,
Charles W. Missler, M.S., is the founder of Koinonia House,
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
John H. Mulholland, Th.M., Th.D., is professor of
Systematic Theology at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Maryland.
R. Nicholas, M.S., Th.M., Th.D., is president and professor of Theology at
Shasta Bible College in Reading, California.
Jerry Neuman, M.Div., is
professor of Bible and Theology at Berean Baptist Institute in Natal,
Russell L. Penney, M.A., D.Sc., Th.D. candidate, is associate
professor of Biblical Studies at Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical
Institute in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Donald Perkins is founder and president of
According to Prophecy Ministries in Lemon Grove, California.
Price, Th.M., Ph.D., is professor of Theology and Bible at Liberty Baptist
Theological Seminary and is founder and president of World of the Bible
Ministries, Inc. in San Marcos, Texas.
Clifford Rapp, Th.M., is professor
of Theology at Chafer Theological Seminary in Huntington Beach,
Brian K. Richards, M.A.,is a Th.M. candidate at Tyndale
Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute in Ft. Worth, Texas.
C. Ryrie, Th.M., Th.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Systematic Theology, Emeritus at
Dallas Theological Seminary. He is an author, lecturer, and editor of the
Ryrie Study Bible. He lives in Dallas, Texas.
Lonnie L. Shipman,
M.A., is an author and music evangelist living in Dallas, Texas.
E. Showers, Th.M., Th.D., is an author on the staff of The Friends of Israel
Gospel Ministry, Inc. He lives in Willow Street, Pennsylvania.
Stallard, Th.M., Th.D., is professor of Old Testament at Baptist Bible Seminary
in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.
Gerald B. Stanton, Th.M., Th.D., is
president of Ambassadors International and professor at Asia Graduate School of
Theology. He lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Irvin R. Starwalt,
M.Div., S.T.M., Ph.D. candidate, is a researcher for Tyndale Theological
Seminary and Biblical Institute in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Gary P. Stewart,
M.Div., Th.M., D.Min. candidate, is a chaplain in the United States Navy. He
lives in Hammond, Oregon.
Kevin Stilley, M.Div., M.A., Ph.D. and D.Min.
candidate, is a professor at Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute
in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Steve P. Sullivan, Th.M., D.Min. candidate, is a
pastor and teacher of Bible and Theology at Houston Bible Institute in Houston,
Paul L. Tan, Th.M., Th.D., is an author and the founder and
president of Bible Communications, Inc., Dallas, Texas.
Robert L. Thomas,
Th.M., Th.D., is an author and professor of New Testament Language and
Literature at The Master's Seminary in Stanton, California.
Th.M., M.A., M.R.E., D.Min., is dean of Religion at Liberty University in
William Varner, M.Div., S.T.M., M.A., is the dean of
the Institute of Biblical Studies, a ministry of The Friends of Israel Gospel
Ministry, Inc., Bellmawr, New Jersey.
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