Major Debate Has Begun

I visited Jimmy Swaggart in the fall of 1986. He, of course, is a traditional dispensationalist. In fact, as he has correctly pointed out to his TV audience, he is one of the last of the traditional dispensationalists on television who still has a large following and who also preaches about C. I. Scofield's interpretation of the Rapture on a regular basis. His peers are all turning to "dominion theology" or "kingdom now" theology, he complains.

Perhaps he is overstating the case, but generally his remarks reflect a real shift in the public positioning of several important television ministries. The leaders may not all have shifted their official eschatological beliefs, but clearly they are no longer emphasizing the traditional dispensational doctrines, especially the doctrine of the "any moment" Rapture. Oddly enough, Rev. Swaggart told me that he had read Paradise Restored a few months earlier (he is a voracious reader, contrary to the media's "shouting wild man" image of him), but only after having received Pat Robertson's 1986 letter. "I hadn't heard about the book before I received that letter," he told me.

So bit by bit, the word is getting out about Paradise Restored. No book in the history of the Christian church has stated the biblical case (I emphasize the word biblical) for long-term optimism more eloquently and clearly than Paradise Restored. Its success has spread the message far and wide. It has penetrated traditional dispensational circles as no postmillennial book ever has, especially in charismatic circles. It is quite likely that the charismatic churches will divide over this issue before the year 2000 (though it would be healthier if they divided instead over Pastor Ray Sutton's book, That You May Prosper:

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