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I'm a believer persuaded that the Scriptures teach that Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom, that believers since the time of Jesus inhabit the Kingdom in its provisional or seed form, that when Jesus comes again He will consummate His Kingdom, and that we will then inhabit the Kingdom on earth in its fullness.
Some form of the above sentence has been believed by Christians from the days of the early church, and is believed by many Christians in the United States (and I assume around the world) today.
There is at least one camp of theology, dispensational premillennialism, among American evangelicals that also subscribes to the complete trustworthiness of Scripture, but sees the Scripture teaching that the Kingdom is not in any sense here today. As classical dispensationalists understand it, the Kingdom is wholly a future reality. Since the 1920s this perspective grew rapidly in popularity among conservative Protestants in America, and my unscientific estimate is that by 1995, probably 85% of American conservative Protestants believed in some form of dispensational theology.
(I also observe, anecdotally, that many young believers, including pastors, seminarians and theologically-motivated laypeople, are not devotees of dispensationalism. I would now estimate roughly that 70% of conservative Protestants are dispensationalists today, a significant change in the past 13 years.)
Caveat: I suspect many ordinary believers of the estimated 85% might not have known the term "dispensationalism," and may not have known the technical terms within this perspective or the arguments for it. However, because ordinary believers in the US heard dispensational preaching, read dispensational perpsectives in newsletters, and hear dispensational perspectives on the radio and at conferences and on various media (tapes, television), it was the cultural air they breathed.
All to say, my hunch is that many ordinary folks were dispensationalists by default, "knowing" this perspective implicitly.
My purpose in this post is not to debate dispensationalism and truly, many of the men and women I care for most in this world and admire and that are examples to me in Christ are dispensationalists. Some of the best researchers my company has hired have been outstanding students at Dallas Theological Seminary, which I consider the flagship seminary of dispensationalism. So please hear this loudly and clearly- this post is not about disparaging dispensationalists nor even arguing about whether this theological camp is accurate or whether the camp I'm in is accurate.
Related, any comments left by readers that try to debate this or criticize one camp or the other won't be approved under this post. Such a debate is a good thing and worthy of high quality dialogue, but that's not my interest in this post, so I will only approve comments that keep the focus.Read more