Just a quick thought on an implication of a premillennial futurist understanding of eschatology; one that is most at home in a Dispensational framework.
It is interesting, just from a psychological and sociological vantage point how futurism functions for its adherents; i.e. its primary adherents as I just noted would be Dispensational-pre-millennial-pre-tribulational North American Evangelicals. There always seems to be this proleptic projection out into the future as if what God is going to do in world/prophetic history is in the ‘future’, and thus not now. It is as if this view of God functions deistically, as if God ‘will’ act, and as if ‘tribulation’ will happen, but it really isn’t happening now.
A consequence of this could be a minimizing—which I have heard this kind of minimizing by popular dispensational teachers over and again—of the crazy amount of tribulation (thlipsis) that is ongoing in the world today. How this gets minimized, is that these dispensational teachers will use this kind of tribulation that is happening now (globally) as a kind of refracted foil for what will happen in the ‘Great Tribulation’. And so the result (or mood) that this can have, is that it can cause the dispensational teacher and taught to lay back on their haunches, and presume that the suffering happening now, while indeed suffering, is not really the kind of suffering that will happen in this kind of ethereal world yet to come in the Great Tribulation. This can cause a disassociation between suffering and tribulation now, and the real suffering, of which present suffering is only a shadow, which will come during the Great Tribulation (or the Seventieth Week of Daniel, or Jacob’s Trouble of Jeremiah).
I am not trying to suggest that dispensationalists do not have compassion for human suffering, or that they don’t see Tribulation in the world now; but instead I am suggesting that dispensational teaching when taken to its logical conclusion can have this kind of disassociating minimizing effect on our perception of suffering, and thus the kind of urgency that this presents us with currently.
I think the cross of Jesus Christ ought to be understood as the orientation of the Great Tribulation that was to come upon the earth. And that Jesus’ Olivet teaching where he uses the language of the ‘Great Tribulation’ (where it is derived from), ought to be understood as what occurred historically in 70ad in the sacking of Jerusalem by Rome, and in fulfillment of Genesis 49:10. This is not to say that I do not see an intensification and progressive movement into greater and greater suffering and tribulation towards the “end” of this epoch of world history (the birth pang motif Jesus appeals to, and the dramatic movement inherent to the book of Revelation), but that we ought to have a Christicrucicentric view of the Great Tribulation, which will allow us to better maximize (V. minimize) our perception, and thus action, towards tribulation and suffering in the world today.