Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.
Contrary to dispensationalists’ view of the mark of the beast, most of them seeing in the beast’s number a series of three sixes, the Bible presents it not as three numbers (6-6-6) but one singular number (666) with the total numerical value of “six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev 13:18b).
Response: Our friends have been reading the enthusiasts again, and lumping all dispensationalists in with them. How would they feel if we cited Harold Camping and used him as our exemplar to critique Reformed theology? But the reader is advised to check the works of Ryrie, Walvoord, Pentecost, Fruchtenbaum, Couch, Ice and others for himself and see whether they commit this error. Most dispensationalists are wary of saying much about this number (singular), but are content to say that its meaning will be apparent to those wise enough to recognize it in that day.
Since it appears that many will not take the mark associated with this number, it should not be thought that it will be particularly difficult to “count” the number of the Beast when he shows up. In fact, given that damnation is the punishment for taking the mark (Rev. 14:9-11) it is probably not assuming too much to believe there is a degree of willfulness in many who actually do take the mark.
Contrary to many dispensationalists’ expectation that the mark of the beast is to be some sort of “microchip implant” (Timothy Demy), Revelation 13 states that it is a mark, not an instrument of some kind.
Response: Many dispensationalists hazard a guess that the mark could be a sign of obeisance to the Antichrist and the microchip the means of tracking those who are “good citizens.” Fruchtenbaum notes that since all receive the same number, it should not be assumed that it has anything to do with credit or banking. It simply prevents anyone from buying or selling, and hence, making a living. (See Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, 2nd ed., 254-55).
All dispensationalists are aware that the mark of the beast is a mark.
Contrary to dispensationalists’ belief in a still-future geo-political kingdom which shall be catastrophically imposed on the world by war at the Battle of Armageddon, the Scriptures teach that Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that does not come with signs, and was already present in the first century, as when Jesus stated, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).
Response: It might be a good idea to read on a few verses: “For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation’…” This sounds like a pretty clear sign!
Now it ought to be noticed that the Nicene Council are fine with taking Luke 17:20-21 literally, but their use of it as a proof-text for a “spiritual kingdom” means they will have to spiritualize verses 22-37 (cf. Matt. 24:27ff.) On the other hand dispensationalists take both texts at face value and seek to explain Jesus’ words in context. In seeking to do this different expositors have come to various conclusions of Luke 17:20-21, whether or not they are dispensationalists. Some think Jesus is referring to Himself in the passage; others think the passage refers to the fact that Christ’s coming inaugurates the kingdom age which will be consummated at His Second Coming; still others believe it is proleptic. The point is, this is a difficult text, and as such should not be made a locus to prove doctrine.
Further, we need to point out that talk of a “spiritual” as opposed to a physical Geo-political kingdom smacks of Greek Platonism more than the Bible. One does not obviate the other. Texts which speak of Christ’s coming in vengeance and then setting up His include those already mentioned above, plus Revelation 19:11-22:5 read as a simple chronology of end time events. (See also Zech. 12-14, read without assuming an allegorical interpretation).