Our churches,” writes Craig Gay, “seem to have forgotten the centrality of embodied human existence within the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[i]This hyper-spiritualized bent dovetails with a premillennialist apocalypticism, with Scofield’s footnote to 1 Timothy 4 reading, “The predicted future of the visible Church is apostasy”.[ii] We live in the final “dispensation,” where the institutional church has become Laodicean – prosperous, full of happy smiles, and increasingly apostate.[iii] The end-times church “represents the final form of the professing church, which is rejected by the Lord and vomited out of His mouth.”[iv] Many Dispies believe this Tribulation is preceded by the Rapture, where true believers will meet the heavenly Bridegroom mid-air in the clouds. They possess this secret Bible code, the gnosis, deciphered by John Nelson Darby. Salvation means not only escaping Hell in the next life, but also “this world as a wrecked vessel”, as Moody called it, including the institutionalized “Whore church”.[v] This otherworldly emphasis creates confusion in how the mystical body of Christ now dwelling on earth relates to the nature of the local church gathered in Jesus’ name, making the visible church an afterthought to most evangelicals.
[i] Craig M. Gay, Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018, p. 134.
[ii] Marcus P Johnson, “The Word Became Flesh: John Williamson Nevin, Charles Hodge, and The Antichrist”, Evangelical Calvinism: Volume 2: Dogmatics and Devotion, edited by Myk Habets, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publ., 2017, p. 1276.
[iii] Revelation 3:14-22
[iv] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010, p. 212.
[v] Dwight Lyman Moody, The New Sermons of Dwight Lyman Moody, New York: Goodspeed, 1880, p. 535.