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Mark Dever on creating divisions over eschatology

Even as a dispensational premillennialist, I taught that one’s view of the end times should not separate Christians. To the chagrin of many dispensational premillennialists, historic premillennialists, postmillennialists, and amillennialists, I do not see the Scriptures presenting a particular millennial view with the precise clarity that many folks dogmatically declare.

That said, a pastor cannot cop-out by declaring that he is a “pan-millennialist,” that it will all pan out in the end! A pastor must teach what he understands the Scriptures to teach. Anything less is an abdication of the responsibility laid upon him to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). In addition, he will expose those blatantly non-biblical beliefs that are found among fringe elements of any particular system. I have warned people for over a decade not to get their theology from the Left Behind series of end times novels, and I will not hesitate to post a video containing teaching which I find particularly egregious.

While I have come to believe that amillennialism is most faithful to the Scriptures, I am sympathetic to points in historic premillennialism and postmillennialism. I am much less sympathetic to dispensational premillennialism, as I have pointed out for at least a decade. Nevertheless, I would not separate from another believer over his view of the end times, as long as it is within the bounds of one of these four widely accepted views among orthodox Christians.

Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, made a provocative statement when he preached on Revelation 20 in July 2009. Here is a transcribed excerpt found in Justin Taylor’s “Between Two Worlds” blog (the entire blog is a good read):

I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us. . . . I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. Of course all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us. Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians (whether nearly in a congregation, or more at length in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture. So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.

The last two sentences quoted above are what have been considered particularly provocative: “So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.” Provocative, but worth thinking about.