Disagreeing with someone’s perspective is one thing, but dismissing it is something else. People can disagree respectfully. Respectful disagreement involves listening carefully to other individuals in conversations, understanding their positions, and considering carefully the arguments that favor them (or that weigh against one”s own position) before replying. When a perspective is dismissed, however, it is rejected as so implausible—and perhaps so damaging—that it does not warrant a hearing. Dismissiveness is often accompanied with derision.
In certain theological circles, premillennialism, especially in its dispensationalist varieties, is almost habitually dismissed and derided. A recent example involves a sermon preached by a well-known evangelical pastor. The sermon, which was partly addressed to premillennial pastors, was mainly an exposition of Revelation 20. To be clear, the sermon contained much useful teaching. This influential pastor, however, began his treatment of the text by repeating a quip that Revelation is not “for the armchair prophets with their charts of historical events and their intricate diagrams of the end of the age.” He then continued, “This is not rightly dividing the Word of Truth,” a clear allusion to dispensational theology. He insisted that the purpose of the book of Revelation is to provide “warning and reassurance” to “harassed, subsistence-level Christians,” to “encourage them in their struggle,” and to “liberate them from fear of the enemy within and without.” In other words, the purpose of Revelation is to hearten persecuted believers, not to disclose details of an eschatological timetable.
Those two activities, however, are not mutually exclusive. Granted, the purpose of the Apocalypse really is to encourage perseverance among believers who are facing oppression. Even so, that does not imply that eschatological chronology or detail is necessarily absent from the book. Indeed, it is at least possible that the details of eschatological chronology might be revealed in order to provide motivation for perseverance.
At this point, a concession is in order. Even if eschatological detail and chronology are important, not every use of these details is necessarily helpful. In fact, two uses of prophetic schematizing are damaging. These uses ought to be an embarrassment to every responsible premillennialist.