One Sunday in the fall of 1971, it was announced to the congregation of the Mennonite Church in Carman, Manitoba that bishop D.D. Klassen would be leading a Bible study on prophecy over the winter months. I was a new Christian and of course I wanted to learn more about the Bible. Thus, each Wednesday evening through the winter months, Chris and I with our baby girl made the 25 km trip from our home in Sperling to Carman to take it in.
Bishop Klassen began by telling us how Jesus the Messiah had come to establish a literal earthly kingdom of God, but the Jewish people had rejected Him as their king. This had caused a postponement in the divine plan for Israel, a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. The church was just an interim measure until Jesus the Messiah would return to set up His kingdom.
Before that could happen, the Christians would need to be taken out of the way by secret event called the rapture. Then would come the long delayed 70th week and the Great Tribulation. This would all be precipitated by the appearance of the Antichrist, a leader of all the powers of wickedness in this world who would set up a one world government. Coming from such a well-respected, older leader, I drank it all in and accepted it as undisputed Bible truth and a trustworthy background to events that were then taking place in the Middle East.
Being a voracious reader, I began buying books on prophecy. I read John F. Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Lewis Sperry Chafer and many others. It surprised me a little to find differences between these writers in how they applied the prophecies to present and future events. One of Chafer’s books had been written just before the Second World War and confidently identified Benito Mussolini as the Antichrist. I certainly wondered about that. What disturbed me a little more was Chafer’s statement that the call to repentance was only for the Jews, because they had rejected Jesus as their king. Gentiles only had to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved, no repentance needed.
I remembered that my father had always listened to Ernest C. Manning on Canada’s National Back to the Bible Broadcast on Sunday mornings, so I began tuning in to that, too. Mr. Manning taught much the same doctrine as the books that I had read, except that he saw Russia and the communist menace everywhere in the prophetic Scriptures.
I bought a Scofield Reference Bible and followed all the notes that interpreted what the Bible really meant. I drank it all in, though I remember wondering about some of his interpretations of the parables of Jesus that seemed to turn the meanings upside down.
A couple of years later, we were attending a Mennonite Brethren church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. This was at the time that The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey hit the market. Our pastor seized upon this as the ideal material for a winter Bible study. So once again we studied the gap in Daniel’s 70 weeks, the postponement of the kingdom and the whole dispensational doctrine. When it was all over, the pastor told me privately that he didn’t believe that doctrine, but he had thought it was a good means to get people interested in studying the Bible.
What? He didn’t believe it! How could that be? Wasn’t this the only possible meaning of the prophetic Scriptures? How could I have confidence in a pastor who didn’t believe what was clearly taught in the Bible?
Or was it? A niggling little doubt began to gnaw at my certitude. But I was so emotionally invested in this doctrine that I felt that my whole faith would fall to pieces if I let go of dispensationalism.
Then I met Christians who believed all that the Bible taught and found that they did not see dispensationalism anywhere in the Bible.