(Revised 08-25-14, 11:15 am)
In the comment board of Who is Israel?, I posted a supplemental thought which sort of morphed into this article detailing the problematic theology of Dispensationalism. Those comments — with additional notes — are reprinted here:
A well-known Bible teacher made a comment on his widely listened to radio program that the Olivet Discourse — more specifically, Matthew 24 — has not been fulfilled. I listen to this man every day, and will continue to do so, but his comment raised my eyebrows. This beloved and highly regarded pastor graduated from the Dallas Theological Seminary (est. 1924) which teaches a dispensational brand of Christianity innovated by John Nelson Darby (ca. 1800 – 1882), and codified by the Scofield reference Bible (published 1909; revised 1917).
There are dispensational pastors who adhere to the essentials of Christian doctrine even while Darby’s tenets have been inculcated into the general assembly, and become common thought. Essentially, the “church age” is nothing but a parenthesis in God’s plan of salvation. When Israel rejected Christ, the church became God’s “Plan B”. To suppose that God did not foresee Israel’s rejection and, thus, had to alter His original covenant is at least suspect. It is popularly taught that when the fullness of the Gentiles is made complete, God will rapture the church and resume His dealings with Israel — a two-stage redemption (Romans 11:25-26).
No, I believe that God’s plan is unfolding according to Scripture. Certainly, the early church fathers did not subscribe to Darby’s interpretation. And to suggest that Matthew 24 is not yet fulfilled — at least in part, though I believe Christ foretold events that unfolded in that generation (Matthew 24:34) — is a glaring example of hyper-dispensationalism which adopts a futurist view of prophesy.
If the Book of Revelation, for example, is not understood within the context of the whole Bible one can interpret that the church will be removed, God will deal with Israel during a Millennial reign and there will be multiple comings of Christ. The radio pastor said he can see 3 or 4 comings of Christ. Several times in John’s gospel, however, Christ said He will return on the last day (John 6:40). He doesn’t come to rapture the church, then to establish His kingdom, then to reign for 1000 years, and so on. The Second Advent of Christ will bring judgement to both the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). Few will be raised to eternal life (in the new heaven and earth), while many are condemned to everlasting punishment.
That the humble (God’s people) will inherit the earth was understood, even by the Jews during the time of Christ, as an inheritance of the land of Canaan. The Messiah would restore God’s kingdom at His coming. The disciples, not understanding, asked Jesus after His resurrection if He was going to establish the kingdom at that time (Acts 1:6). They still didn’t perceive that His kingdom was not of this realm (John 18:36).
The church fathers understood that the land of Canaan was a type of heaven — that Christ’s blessings were spiritual, not carnal. Paul spiritualized Old Testament promises when he said that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Romans 9:6). Under the New Covenant, Israel is not a geographic place, but a body of believers — both Jew and Gentile (in Christ) — who will inherit not the type (Canaan), but a regenerated, incorruptible earth.
While true Israel is anticipating the Second Coming, and looking forward to setting up residence in the New Jerusalem, our dispensational brothers are gazing at blood moons and expecting the restoration of Solomon’s Temple with all of its ceremony, rituals and animal sacrifices. Ephraimites hold to this doctrine. That is why this blog is not called by its original title, Ephraim’s Gate, because Christ is the unique focus of the Bible, not Israel.
At its core, Darby’s interpretation — not maliciously, I think — denies the power of the Gospel to save men’s souls as evidenced by the example of a well-known pastor in San Antonio who unashamedly preaches the dispensational slant that God has two plans of salvation — one for the Jews and another for the Gentiles.
Christ died for all people, or His sacrifice upon the cross was in vain.
Darbyism, Millerism, Mormonism, Adventism and the Witnessess all took seed in the 19th century — an age when the “church” was going through an identity crisis having become impatient waiting on the imminent return of Messiah. These doctrines — heresies to some extent — have sown confusion and dissension into the body of Christ.
The understanding of the church fathers — to which I subscribe — is profaned as Covenant, or Replacement theology. I have not replaced anyone, but I am fulfilled (as any believing Jew or Gentile) in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle Paul, in a letter to the assembly at Corinth, wrote that he decided to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul warned Timothy about those who teach strange doctrines that give way to speculation; and he exhorted the Romans to beware contrary teaching that sows division (1 Timothy 1:3, Romans 16:17). All of the Bible must be interpreted within the context of Jesus Christ — the revelation and fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption — notwithstanding the doctrines of men.
[Editor’s Note: Dispensationalism teaches that Daniel 9:27 is a prophesy of the future Antichrist making a covenant with Israel, breaking his promise and leaving the temple desolate. However, the church fathers (Clement, Origen, Tertullian, Augustine, Julius and Eusebius) adopted a Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9 — concluding that the prophesy was fulfilled in the first century. Interestingly, the Jews also held to this view until the temple was made desolate by the Romans in AD 70. Will the temple have to be rebuilt only to be left desolate once again? Read the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:38; and as you study these passages in Daniel remember that Messiah is the subject, context and antecedent of this very difficult chapter. Ask yourself, who was the (anointed) Holy One that made an end to sin, finished the transgression, ushered in everlasting righteousness, and was made reconciliation for iniquity? The toughest question may be, who caused the sacrifices to cease? May the Holy Spirit give you wisdom to understand. See our post, 70 Weeks of Daniel.]
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