WHAT IF WE’RE WRONG?
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)
To walk “circumspectly” is to walk “cautiously” with “watchfulness every way.” I’ve chosen the Ephesians 5:15 text because that’s pretty much the theme of today’s message. We should always be on guard in every way, not just on guard against things from on the outside, but also continually checking and improving things on the inside.
Have you ever wondered if we might be wrong about the things that we believe? I have that thought cross my mind at times, not a lot, but it does pass through my mind on occasion. What if we are just plain WRONG about some of our most basic beliefs? What if the Bible is right, but our understanding of it is wrong?
Now, I realize that some proud and conceited brethren would never entertain such a thought. In fact, I often wonder if some of them ever entertain ANY thoughts of their own; but I certainly have such thoughts occasionally. Being human, I have been wrong about things at times, and I have had to repent and get things right, sometimes with my heart, sometimes with my head, and sometimes with both. So, in the spirit of I Thessalonians 5:21, it’s always good to conduct a bit of self-examining in regards to our beliefs and take nothing for granted.
You know, there are millions of professing Christians who think that basic fundamental Christianity is all wrong. I have a book in my library that condemns C. I. Scofield and everyone who has learned from him. The author even stated that all preachers should be required to attend seminary so as to avoid so many novices in the pulpits! In his view, that’s what Larkin and Scofield produced: novices in the pulpits. Like his Dark Age papal cousins, the man is all torn up over the fact that Larkin and Scofield placed Bible knowledge in the hands of common people instead of keeping it locked up for the elitist Nicolaitans. So, he and others like him are on a campaign to condemn all of us loose cannons and turn as many away from us as possible.
Such critics as the above author delight in dwelling on the technical points that they think will give them the winning edge of the argument(s), but what about the practical side of the argument? That is, even if we are wrong in some of our beliefs, WHAT HARM ARE WE DOING? I’ve checked my beliefs over and over very carefully, and I don’t think for a second that we are wrong, but for the sake of argument, WHAT IF WE ARE? Are we sending people to Hell? Are we producing infidels? Are we causing people to lose faith in God? In other words, even if we are in error, it is on the side of caution, not on the side of danger. By the grace of God, I’d like to illustrate this for you by addressing five beliefs that we embrace.
I. THE AUTHORITY OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE
If we are to believe our critics, then true Bible study and understanding must rest upon access to the text of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. This, of course, eliminates most people since they do not have, nor will they ever have, such access. Therefore, “true Bible study and understanding” is limited to the elites who THINK they have superior knowledge to the rest of us since they have access to “the originals,” or at least they can come closer than the rest of us.
Now, how does that approach edify the body of Christ as a whole? The common people are kept in darkness while the elites strut around claiming superior knowledge. These people have had nearly 2,000 years to get all of their Greek and Hebrew fragments together and produce a perfect Bible for everyone, yet they haven’t done so. They haven’t done so because THEY DON’T WANT A PERFECT BIBLE! That would remove all power from THEM and put it in YOUR HAND, YOUR HEART, and YOUR HOME! God forbid! Then you wouldn’t need THEM! Then you wouldn’t need their latest money-making translation. No, you would have YOUR OWN BIBLE and your own Holy Spirit to bear witness of the truth it contains (I John 2:27!). Why, who knows, you just might start learning and growing to be wiser than all your teachers (Psa. 119:99).
Now, would that be so bad? Would it be so bad if everyone stuck with ONE BOOK that God has blessed abundantly and everyone had copies of that one Book in their own home? I believe we are spot-on with our KJV position, but even if we aren’t, at least we’re erring on the side of caution and doing more good for Christ than the proud Laodiceans who have no final authority other than one another.
II. THE RAPTURE
Based on a whole lot of Scripture, we believe that Jesus will soon reveal Himself to believers only by calling the church out of this world. Just as Lazarus didn’t have to wait until the “the resurrection at the last day” to be resurrected (John 11:24-26, 43-44), we will not have to wait until then either. That’s why Revelation 20:5-6 promises us the “first” resurrection over a thousand years before the last one. That’s why Jesus gives us John 14:1-3 and why Paul gives us I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:51-52. We’re getting out of here, and it will be sooner, not later.
But what if we’re wrong about that? What if I’m all messed up with those verses and there’s just going to be one big general judgment day for everybody? If that’s the case, then all we are really guilty of is telling everyone to receive Christ SOONER rather than later! How is THAT such a crime?
You say, “Melton, you idiot, don’t you realize that all this rapture teaching is discouraging people from preparing for the Great Tribulation!” Of course I realize that, but it doesn’t matter because the Bible never told us to prepare for the Tribulation anyway! It tells us to be ready to meet the Lord, but it doesn’t tell us to be ready for the Antichrist! We teach about the Great Tribulation and all that comes with it, so we leave no one in darkness about what’s coming. If we’re wrong about the Rapture and we all end up in the Great Tribulation, we’ll know more about it than most everyone there and we’ll probably lead a lot of people to Christ.
But if our critics are wrong, a whole bunch of people are being misinformed and unprepared spiritually for what’s coming, and many will end up in Hell because of it.
III. THE GREAT TRIBULATION
The Bible is very clear in stating that a terrible period of time is coming on this earth. It’s called the time of Jacob’s trouble in Jeremiah, it’s called the seventieth week in Daniel, and Jesus calls it “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21. You can read all about it in Revelation chapters six through nineteen, and it’s not at all a pleasant read. This old world is approaching some very perilous times, and the wisest people on earth are those who receive Christ and escape this horrible time that’s coming. I have believed that for nearly forty years, and, like most of you, I believe it today.
But what if we’re wrong? Just for sake of argument, what if we are all mixed up and the tribulation period has already happened or it isn’t literal at all? All we’ve done is tell millions of people to GET RIGHT OR GET LEFT. How is that a harmful message?
Or what if the Rapture is really in the middle or at the end of the Great Tribulation? Again, all we’ve done is tell people to prepare for eternity by receiving Christ. How can anyone go wrong by receiving Christ today instead of taking their changes for a few more years? If we’ve erred, we’ve done so on the side of caution with the souls of men taking priority.
But if THEY have erred (be they mid-tribbers, post-tribbers, or no-tribbers), then millions of people could take their chances and end up being unprepared for what Jesus said would be the worst thing this world has ever seen. If I have to carry a wrong to the day of judgement, I’d rather it be one that helped more people than it hurt. I’d rather err on the side of caution than on the side of carelessness.
IV. THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
I have a whole eight part series on the Millennial Kingdom of Christ running several hours in length, so please don’t doubt my views on the coming kingdom. I believe Jesus is returning literally to a literal earth to reign a literal 1,000 years. I believe it literally, physically and visibly. I have believed that since shortly after being saved in 1979, and I believe it more firmly now than I did then. I reject post-millennialism and a-millennialism, and I believe and teach the pre-millennial Second Coming of Jesus Christ, just as most of you.
But what if we’re wrong? What if God is all done with Israel and the church gets all the kingdom promises? No problem! We haven’t told anyone to wait for the kingdom anyway since we are already in the kingdom spiritually by virtue of the new birth. We’ve been preaching for folks to get saved and live crucified lives for Christ today so they can reign with Him IN the literal kingdom when it comes (II Tim. 2:12). If there’s no literal kingdom, then they’ll still go to Heaven and be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ for their service (I Cor. 3:11-15; Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10). They win either way.
But if our critics are wrong, then the Millennial Kingdom IS coming and many of their shallow followers will not be ready because of the urgency for preparedness has been removed by their false teaching. They will be unprepared, as will most of their followers. Again, if we have erred, at least it has been on the side of caution.
V. THE DISPENSATIONS
Personally, I question the intelligence of anyone who rejects dispensational teaching. To me, to hear a man say, “I don’t believe in dispensations” is about the same as hearing him say, “I’m a brainless idiot.” The reality of some level of Biblical dispensationalism is so obvious that one has got to have a few loose screws to deny it. Any child can see that Adam and Eve lived differently than we live today. Any sound-minded adult, saved or lost, can see that Christians living today do not offer animal sacrifices at a temple or a tabernacle, and most any Christian living today knows perfectly well that Noah and Abraham didn’t preach, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31) We can ague all day about HOW MANY dispensations there are and just HOW SHARP the divisions need to be, but to categorically deny dispensations altogether just isn’t very bright. I have believed in basic dispensational truth since the early 1980’s, and I believe it more today than I did then, as do most of my brethren who continually study the matter seriously.
But what if we’re wrong? What if somehow we’ve all just gone too far with this thing and there is no dispensation of conscience, no dispensation of human government, no patriarchal dispensation and no kingdom dispensation. What if the lightweights are correct in saying that it’s all the dispensation of grace? I think that’s insane, but, for sake of argument, what if that’s true?
Well, if that’s true, then we have still managed to get a whole lot of people interested in the Book, and we’ve helped a whole lot of people to make some sense out of apparent errors and contradictions in the word of God. How can that be a bad thing? We’ve given more people faith in more Scripture than the dispensational doubters could ever hope to give. The passages that they skim over or ignore completely are expounded on by us, and many have an increased faith in the word of God because of it. By teaching a sensible and balanced dispensational approach to the Scriptures, we have awakened thousands who had been put to sleep by the limited revelations of people like Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke. If not for the dispensational teaching of Larkin, Scofield and Ruckman, this preacher and writer may very well have remained in spiritual darkness believing that naïve and childish “soul winning” was all that really mattered in Christianity since that’s about the only thing that I was taught for the first few years of my new life in Christ.
I thank God for steering me in the right direction. When I prayed the second most important prayer of my life by asking God to teach me the Bible, I’m sure glad that He didn’t send me to Bob Jones University, Tennessee Temple or Hyles-Anderson. God answered my prayer by bringing me in touch with ONE MAN, a rock-solid KJV dispensationalist who was a real man, unlike the sissies I had been hearing, and he could teach more Bible in an hour than most could teach in a week. If my connection to Dr. Ruckman had never been made, I’d likely have lost interest in spiritual things and became a Sunday morning Christian at best. Dispensational teaching and rightly dividing hasn’t hurt me one bit. To the contrary, it has made ALL the Bible user-friendly to me and allowed me to feel at home in any of its 1,189 chapters, and there are thousands of other believers who will echo the same sentiment. If we are wrong, it has been largely for the better, and we have no regrets.
But if our anti-dispensational critics are wrong, then they will one day give account to God for keeping millions of people in spiritual darkness, often believing the entire Old Testament to be a “dead Book” that isn’t worth reading, believing that the book of Revelation is too complex for common people to understand, and then spiritualizing everything else in the Bible that they can’t comprehend.
If we’re wrong, then at least we played it safe and erred on the side of caution. If they’re wrong, then they have blundered terribly and caused tremendous damage to the cause of Christ and to the souls of men.
– James L Melton
Bible Baptist Church