Sermon- Dispensationalism

Dec, 2012

Timothy LaHaye- pastor of Shadow Mountain for 25 years, now pastored by David Jeremiah. Became interested in end times issues when he was inflight and saw a married pilot flirting with a stewardess. This scene is actually in one of his books. The Left Behind series, written with Jerry Jenkins, is a world wide success of 16 different books selling 63 million copies, three movies (another being discussed), and three video games. Tim LaHaye is a dispensationalisl.

There have been some criticism of the books. Most of it coming from the point of how we should read and interpret prophetic/apocalyptic scripture. Some with the quality of the actual writing.

What I believe The Lord was asking me to bring to you today is the concept of Old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem. Thank you God! Old Jerusalem is in my wheel house. I can smack that one right out of the park. First, I’ve got the Bible, with a ton of references providing the historical background and development of the City of David, the Holy City. And then there is the archeology, and the other history books that provide so much information. We can get overloaded here, there is at least a month of Sundays on just this part. But then…

God asked me to bring to you Ezekiel and Revelations “New Jerusalem”, and I stopped dead in my mental tracks.

Remember a few sermons ago I mentioned the reality of an “Unread Bible” that everyone has? It is the Bible that you avoid, the parts where your eyes may go over the words, but your mind and understanding are disengaged. Every high school student has had this discussion with the teacher. “Bobby you have failed the test, did you study?”, “I read every page of the assignment!”, “Yes, but did you study?”

I wish that all it would take was for my eyes to see that letters, then I would have the understanding. Think about it, if that were the case then you could pick up any book in any language and read it with full understanding. I am reminded of the great Poet Petrarch, walking the streets of Florence, crying inconsolably, pressing a copy of Homer to his forehead, claiming “How beautiful it must be, if only I read Greek”.

I know perfectly well that I have read the Bible at least twice, word for word. And yet when I spoke of the Unread Bible I was confessing my own experience. My eyes perceived the words in Revelations, but in whole sections, I just plowed through, hoping that somehow, without study, things would be revealed. And then I would know.

Gosh, the historical sections I just ate up The conversations, the narratives, the parables were a piece of cake. The long list of names were simply a fun exercise in. Hebrew. But the prophetic, the apocalyptic? I just read the words and moved on. Oh, I could describe the events, I was familiar with the scripture, but I still hoped that somehow my understanding would come as a “revelation”, particularly when I was reading Revelations.

The main issue about understanding prophetic scripture is whether you interpret the scripture has being prophetic short term, or long term, or maybe a little of both. There are about 40 million Christians that identify themselves as Dispensationalists. They tend to be the long term, end times people. It’s a long word, but basically what it means is that God has related to humans in a series of dispensations throughout history. Generally this is seen as four separate eras- the Patriarchs, the Mosiac or Law, the Grace or Church, and finally the Millenial or end times. Sometimes it is seen as eight dispensations, or even three. I like the four periods.

I am a Dispensationalist. I believe God has trained us up to where we are today in a series of dispensations, and I believe He has given us prophetic scripture to guide us in understanding the end times.

The arms outstretched, the problem, the plan, the training up, the execution. And then the finale.

And the only trouble that I have is exactly we are to understand prophetic/endtime scripture. This is a very common dilemma, it is why so many people don’t read Revelations or Ezekiel or even Daniel. We don’t know how to apply them. Is this material referring to things in the future when written, but is now in the past for us? Or is it really still in the future for us? And if so what are we to do with it.

As Christians, we need to resolve this. We can’t ignore what we don’t understand, and we can’t expect to read scripture and expect a revelation about “Revelations”. And 2 Timothy is still true, ” all scripture is useful…”

This morning I’m going to attempt to take a bite out of this problem. Just one small bite, using Jerusalem as as focus.

Patriarchal Jerusalem-

What we know is that Jerusalem is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world. God graced the city with a priest/king long before Abraham came by, and when Abraham did show up Melchizedek was there to bless him and Abraham responded by worshipping and tithing. God lead His people through the Patriarchs to safety in Egypt, out of the way of the Canaanites, and the intermarrying that was such a problem. They prospered and grew in Israel, and they refined their faith. And just when they were losing their faith God had them enslaved, and then provided a leader that brought them into the Promised Land. Eventually gaining access to the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is central to the plan.

Mosaic Jerusalem- 

David conquering the pagan Jebusites, witchcraft was eliminated from the city and it became the Holy City, consecrated by God, with God residing in the Temple. God was with us. As a people we fell away from His word. At times other gods were allowed in the city, the Temple itself was desecrated. God caused great disturbances, placed his people once again in slavery, the Temple was destroyed and the people learned how to stay connected to God through study and prayer. In the end God gave his Son to the Cross in Jerusalem, fulfilling prophecy, giving salvation, teaching His people that God does not want sacrifices but obedience. That the temple may be torn down but then it will be raised up. A message of repentance, forgiveness, the love of God, and eternal salvation. Jerusalem is central to the training.

Church Jerusalem-

From nothing to everything. Jesus was alone on the cross, with very few watching, his mother, Mary a few women. None of the disciples except a young John. The Gospels tell that all fled Jerusalem, hiding in the outskirts the writing tells us so bluntly that they were flawed, afraid, egotistical, and just plain stupid at times. Yet the story moves forward. Peter, the denier became Peter the Rock, just as Jesus said. Saul eventually became Paul because if the Damascus Road, and brought the Word to the Gentiles, and God drew people to his Church. The disciples formed mother church in Jerusalem, then each one left to go to the corners of the world to spread the Good News. Each one gave his life in doing so. Except one, the young man John, who was at the cross.

John lived to be an old man on the island of Patmos and he wrote Revelations for the church as a guide to what was to come. He wrote of the New a Jerusalem.

Old Jerusalem remained, the temple torn down, the entire city leveled. A new Roman city built on the foundations, a Roman emperor becoming Christian and Christians are again in Jerusalem, only to be conquered by another faith. A brief moment of being under Christian control, only to fall again, this time for more than seven hundred years under Muslim rule.

During this time many Jews in the Diaspora are persecuted, most by Christians who blame them for Christ’s death on the Cross. Hundreds of thousands are killed in Europe and Russia. Eventually 6 million are killed by the Nazis. Many ask “Where is God?”

Now Jerusalem is under Israeli rule, conflict is rampant, war is always at the forefront. The Peace of Jerusalem is a promise unfulfilled and causes many to not believe.

The loss of Jerusalem is central to the concept of your body is a temple and the Holy Spirit lives within you.

Millenial Jerusalem- 

Scripture speaks in Ezekiel of the New Jerusalem, where the saints will gather, it is thought that it might be just south of the Temple Mount, a brand new city of God where righteousness reigns and the true Peace of Jerusalem exists. Ezekiel lived as a prophet to the exiled Jews in Babylon. In his house by the river he told of the destruction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. The people shunned him because the temple still stood. After the destruction of the temple in 587bc, Ezekiel began to tell of a New Jerusalem and not just rebuilding at the same place, but an entirely new building. He gave a new hope to the exiled, and spoke of a detailed new temple where God would reign.

Just one example of why Jerusalem was to be destroyed…

Ezekiel 8:10

9 And He said to me, Go in and see the wicked abominations that they do here. 

10 So I went in and saw there pictures of every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts and all the idols of the house of Israel, painted round about on the wall. 

11 And there stood before these [pictures] seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan [the scribe], with every man his censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense was going up [in prayer to these their gods]. 

12 Then said He to me, Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in his [secret] chambers of [idol] pictures? For they say, The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land. 

13 He also said to me, Yet again you shall see greater abominations which they are committing. 

Ezekiel saw that the people had once again gone their own way.

Ezekiel’s prophecy was to occur approximately three hundred years in his future. Many believe it is yet to occur and the difference is that his New a Jerusalem will be built by Messanic Jews, believing Jews during the end times. 

In Revelations we have a different city, a New a Jerusalem that will descend upon a new Earth, a city that is so beautiful that it can hardly be described. But John does describe it… It is a square, 1500 miles on each side and 1500 miles high. If placed on the earth it would cover most of the United States and reach up to the upper atmosphere.

What are we to do with this reading? Is it literal? Yes. Is it symbolic? Yes. Is it prophetic? Yes!

Some dispensationalists have taken a much more literal view than “traditional theologians”. This is why I mention Timothy LaHaye. His view of end times is based upon his understanding of Revelations. He takes the position that end times scripture is literal, so it can be presented as literature. 

So how can we know? I believe this is yet another period of grow for the people of God. We are to study, that means we need to read both sides of the argument. We are not to hide away and let others “publish the truth”. We are to come to the truth as God reveals it to us. 63 million books sold isn’t necessarily the truth that God has for us. But reading and studying revelations has brought me to this I know…

New Jerusalem is Heaven and you can trust that you will reside with God and truly experience the Peace of Jerusalem.

So, I am a dispensationalist, but I am also a work progressing…

Let us take communion. As the ushers lead you forward, please take the elements back to your seats and we will partake of them together.

…the Lord Yeshua on the night in which he was betrayed took bread. When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in memory of me.” 

In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” 
Lord, thank you for this day, thank you to remind me to remember.
The LORD bless you, and keep you; 

The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 

The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ 
Adonai will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection, Adoni will illuminate the wholeness of his being toward you, bringing order, and he will beautify you, Adoni will lift up his wholeness of being, and look upon you, and he will set in place all you need to be whole and complete!