Inside View Sep/Oct 2012
Are your church leaders in sin? According to Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, if they want your church’s statement of faith to include a particular millennial view, they are dividing the body of Christ and are in sin.
Although Dever’s position—voiced in his July 12, 2009, sermon series on Revelation—is bothersome, more troubling is the underlying concept that prophecy separates believers.
Recently I have heard well-intentioned Christians call the study of prophecy a divisive waste of time. They believe sharing Christ is our calling and nothing else really matters.
There is a kernel of truth in what they say. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) and reproduction (making disciples, Mt. 28:19–20). In fact, the word evangelical means to “tell forth a good message.” Telling the world the “good news” of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work for us is our calling and the fabric of who and what we are as evangelicals.
But making Christ known is not all we are called to do. Jesus Himself said we should go and “make disciples of all the nations,…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (vv. 19–20). Teaching all things involves more than merely proclaiming the gospel; it encompasses imparting a deep understanding of who Jesus is and what He did.
Ignoring prophecy and theological issues regarding the future Kingdom of God limits our understanding of Jesus. Jesus taught us we should pray for God’s Kingdom to come so that His will would be done on Earth, as it is in heaven (6:10). Now we’re told it is sin for a church to take a biblical position on God’s Kingdom to come because it will divide us! Quoting John 17:21, where Christ prayed His followers would be united, Dever concluded anything that divides us must be sin.
If this were true, we would open the door to eliminating many areas of theology on which people disagree. Doctrinal division was not the issue Christ addressed in John 17. Rather, it was human division. He knew His followers would be under Satanic attack and susceptible to their old sin natures. When believers differ on Scripture, it is a human disagreement and not an inherent conflict within God’s Word.
A local church is defined by its beliefs and should have the integrity to articulate them in its statement of faith. Not doing so is less than honest.
No wonder we see a “dumbing down” in the church today. When we ignore segments of Scripture, we lose the bigger picture of God’s work in history—past, present, and future. A church’s understanding of the Millennium affects everything about its view of God, His purpose for history, and His plan of redemption. Its position on the Millennium communicates its beliefs about these issues.
Mark Dever—and many today who think similarly—equate disagreeing on the Millennium with disagreeing about the use of alcohol or schooling options for children. But it is radically different. The restoration of God’s creation to its pre-sin condition and the final defeat of all God’s enemies are foretold in God’s Holy Word. The Millennium is a climax in His plan of redemption—when Jesus Christ, His Redeemer, returns to re-establish God’s theocratic rule (Rev. 19—20), so Earth is restored to its pre-sin condition and God’s will is done on Earth as it is in heaven (Isa. 11).
This is the biblical prophecy of the Millennium, and it is our blessed hope that someday God will eternally right the wrong of His creation’s rebellion, according to His preordained plan. The sin for a church is not proclaiming what it believes.