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    Dispensationalism and the Eclipse of Christ (An Open Correspondence)

    As many of you are no doubt aware, I was raised a Dispensationalist. When I first became convinced that the teachings of Dispensationalism are not supported by an honest assessment of scriptures, I determined to change my thinking on the topic, and so be done with the issue summarily. Such were my intentions, but I found, much to my surprise, that the roots of Dispensationalism are so deep, and they affect so profoundly one's way of thinking about virtually every theological issue, that the task of rejecting one's own Dispensationally-flavored way of viewing the Bible is no simple task. It is a monumental struggle that requires years of deep, intense, Spirit-reliant searching of the scriptures. As I embarked on this long process, I slowly became aware of a vast array of manners in which a thorough grounding in the Dispensational ideal tends to influence one's beliefs and emphases. This in itself was shocking to me; but what came as the severest shock of all was the reflection that virtually every one of these Dispensationally-derived misunderstandings tended in some way towards the eclipse of Christ as the sum and substance of every redemptive promise and reality, the One for whom, to whom, and by whom are all things, the One who sums up all of reality, brings all things under his feet, and is in himself all the fullness of the Godhead. Let me be clear here: I have no doubt that many, if not all Dispensationalists would affirm in theory the Christo-centrism of all reality; nevertheless, the fact remains that in practice they deny the explicit Christ-centeredness of many times, persons, and realities in history - and not just minor, inconsequential persons and things, but those that stand out as epoch-defining and historically-pivotal.

    I am indeed grateful for the many resources available today which demonstrate scripturally that Dispensationalism is in error. I think that our current need is not so much to argue that Dispensationalism is wrong - although such efforts will certainly continue to be helpful - as it is to show just how grave and far-reaching the errors really are. In contribution to this latter goal, I have reproduced a portion of an interaction that I had some time ago with one of my Dispensational friends. My hope is that the preceding comments and following correspondence will not be unduly inflammatory or derogatory in nature, but that they will be used by God "for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ, until we all attain, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man…" (Ephesians 4:12-13). We all retain errors of some sort in our striving after the full knowledge of Christ and his great work: God grant that such dialogues between fellow-believers in Christ may be useful in the doctrinal maturation of each one of us!

    I will begin with a portion of a letter written by my friend, in which he responds to a comment I had made labeling Dispensationalism as "dangerous"; and then proceed to my response to his letter.

    Initial Letter from a Dispensationalist Friend

    I understand that you think my teaching is dangerous, but I am at a loss as to what makes it so.
    I am Trinitarian according to the 1689 Baptist Confession. I believe in inerrancy as explained by Warfield. I believe in the substitutionary death and physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. I believe in the resurrection of all the saints to glory, and in the just, eternal, conscious torment of all the damned. I teach Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola fide, Sola Gracia, Sola Deo Gloria, total depravity (and inability), unconditional (individual) election, particular redemption (as generally expressed by Grudem), irresistible grace (and the priority of regeneration to conversion), and perseverance of the saints (including the Reformed view of sanctification as presented in 1689 Baptist Confession and Sinclair Ferguson's essay in the five-views book). Though those in the Reformed camp have traditionally disagreed on apologetics (Warfield vs. Kuyper; Clark vs. Van Til; Sproul vs. Bahnsen), I am, as you are, presuppositional in my apologetic, understanding the Christian worldview to provide the only reasonable basis for knowledge, ethics, morality, and brushing one's teeth. I fail to see how a distinction between the eschatological roles of true Israel and the true Church puts any of these doctrines in danger. While other dispensationalists may not be as conservative on these things as I am, they made up a strong contingent of conservative, Bible-believing Christians in America of the twentieth century.
    As [ ____ ] said, eschatology is a difficult subject, but it is worth our study. Your change in position implies that you agree with me on both counts. I understand that you passionately believe what you have stated; I too passionately believe what I have stated elsewhere on this forum. That means that we both think the other person is dead wrong. Nonetheless, patience with one another is essential to forwarding the conversation, and, in my view, calling one another "dangerous" should be somewhat further down the road of disagreement.

    My Letter in Response

    I accept your rebuke all the more seriously, perhaps, by reason of my own experiences in being labeled unorthodox for teaching what I understood then, and still understand, to be derived exclusively from the scriptures. Before I respond specifically to your question as to my labeling of Dispensationalism as "dangerous," let me affirm to you that I am not now, and certainly never intended before now, to call you a heretic, or to say that what you believe, as you have explained yourself, is heresy. I truly and honestly rejoice at your clear and sincere commitment to the great and fundamental doctrines of the faith. I am both encouraged and rebuked by your passionate love for Christ and your diligence in studying carefully the word of our God. But I am not sure (even if I stated it too harshly or was too little specific in what precisely I was warning against) - I am still not sure that I am ready to rescind my assessment of Dispensationalism as "dangerous." Even in using the term, I intend to imply a difference between heresy and the simple schema of Dispensationalism - it is dangerous because it may lead (as I believe) to heresy, or it may assume forms which are heretical. Although those specific forms of Dispensationalism which I would call heretical I have never heard espoused by you or anyone I know from your particular circles, and neither do I expect to. But let me move from these realms of vague generalities, and mention what I perceive to be dangers of the system. All of these "dangers" are either things that I have been clearly and specifically taught as Dispensationalism, or things about which I have been confused - things which largely shaped my thinking - when I was a dispensationalist. I think some of these things you will agree with me are "dangerous" (or downright heretical): but you will not agree that they are necessarily dispensational. I would argue that they are (1) clearly taught by many dispensationalists, or (2) clearly demanded by consistent loyalty to dispensational tenets.

    1. Dispensationalism tends to a Kierkegaardian conception of faith.

    I adduce this danger as one having suffered from it personally. I was always taught that, although salvation was always by faith alone, the content of that faith differed in other dispensations (the position which Ryrie clearly espouses). The way this was presented to me (and the way I understood and believed it) was that, essentially, Noah was saved by believing it would rain. And so on. In other words, it was not faith in Christ alone, but faith with respect only to itself that saved a person (and similarly, even today the abstraction "faith" has some mystical eternal life-giving power in itself). Obviously this conception of faith is somewhat Kierkegaardian, but I am convinced that it affects the minds of far more evangelicals than we would like to admit. Faith in itself is nothing, it only turns our eyes to someone who is everything. Dispensationalism taught me that faith was what saved, and not that faith was the means through which Christ saved. Regardless of how else we may differ on Acts 2 interpretations of OT prophecies, I think we would both admit that Peter was quite confident that David had a faith which looked ahead to a resurrected Christ, as did all the OT saints. The genuinely Christocentric nature of faith and salvation from the beginning is obscured (dangerously) by dispensationalism.

    2. Dispensationalism was destructive to my ability to grasp the unity and significance of the biblical story.

    For instance, when I was a dispensationalist, the Davidic Covenant was of almost no import whatsoever to me. It revealed God's gracious condescencion to mankind, as did, for instance, his promise to Hezekiah that he would live fifteen more years, and so on. But as far as structuring the biblical story, I saw nothing monumental in it. I thought the bible was structured in "dispensations," and the giving of the covenant did not mark a new administration essentially different from that of "law". When I forsook dispensationalism, I was shocked by how central that covenant was, particularly among the writing prophets, in advancing the eternal kingdom of God. And I was much better equipped to make sense of Acts 2 (again) and Christ's reigning from the throne of David in the New Testament. In brief, the grand, Christ-centered, organically-connected, unified story of redemption and the spread of the kingdom was for me split into several inter-related, but not organically progressing, periods. And in the process the glory of Christ and his grand drama of redemption was dangerously eclipsed. In the exchange, by the way, the stories of the OT became "Aesop's fables," tales that contain a moral for upright living, but have no real connection to me, and no real glorying in Christ alone, and no real awe-struck wondering at how the story of redemption was unfolding until it reached its height of glory in the spiritual realities of the New Testament that were promised and typified and illustrated and yearned for in the Old Testament - much as a mustard tree growing until it is the greatest of all the herbs, and excels in the glory which inhered in its seed from the beginning.

    3. Dispensationalism tainted my mindset with leanings towards Arminianism.

    This particularly with regard to the dispensational teaching of the offering of the kingdom. What is more absurd than the idea of a king "offering" to reign? This whole mindset of a God who is "sovereign" by invitation only - who reigns unless he is rejected - strikes me as fundamentally Arminian. Again, I know that you are not in any way Arminian - but I believe that Arminianism is consonant with dispensationalism, and that the largely Arminian worldview of many Christians is reinforced by dispensational teaching. Let me add here, dispensationalism contributed to my blind acceptance of the philosophy of easy-believism. If Christ was only teaching that we must give up everything to follow him into some crassly physical thousand year reign, then eternal salvation (in my mind something wholly distinct) might well have had other demands. Simply faith, which was ultimately Kierkegaardian, and demanded no accepting of Christ as "Lord," became the abstraction by which I assured myself of eternal life, with no regard for the persevering work of Christ continuing in my life.

    4. Dispensationalism (as it was taught to me) embraces a horrendously insufficient view of the new covenant in Christ's blood.)

    I have had more than one well-respected dispensationalist (in our old circles) try to convince me that the new covenant in Christ's blood has nothing to do with us. Because (forget the four gospel accounts, I Corinthians 11, Hebrews 8, 10, etc.) the new covenant was prophecied for "Israel" which can never be anything other than ethnic Israel (forget also what Paul said about a true Jew being one who is a Jew inwardly). So how does the blood of Christ affect us, the church (as distinct from the rest of the redeemed)? We get, (and I quote) "peripheral benefits" of Christ's blood. I consider this blasphemy, and although I do not believe that you hold to this assessment (on the contrary, your comments have apprised me otherwise), yet I think this position is one that is ultimately demanded by the dispensational way of reading OT prophecies.

    5. Dispensationalism (as it was taught to me) embraces what must be considered a blasphemous idea of a return to a system of priests and sacrifices of bulls and goats.

    The author of Hebrews leaves me no doubt that any return to priests other than Christ or any spilling of sacrificial blood now that Christ's has been spilled, can be nothing other than blasphemy. But this is precisely what has been taught to me by many well-respected dispensationalists.

    6. Dispensationalism, in destroying the unity of God's redemptive purpose in the Church, minimizes the singular, all-encompassing headship of Christ.

    All of creation and history was devised with the purpose of showcasing the glory and nature of God. This is particularly true with Christ's great work of redemption, the work to facilitate the accomplishment of which all of history was designed. Now, what are some of the things that Christ's great work was intended to reveal about Christ's glorious person? That he occupies the unique and solitary position of the one true bridegroom to the one pure bride (Ephesians 5:23), the one Head to his one Church (Ephesians 1:22-23), the one who, with respect to redemptive history, gathers all things together in himself (Ephesians 1:9-11). If God's redeemed are comprised of different peoples with different destinies, contra Ephesians 2:11-22, then there no longer remains a unique and all-encompassing position of highest glory for Christ to fulfill. He is effectually made one Head to two bodies which are independent of each other; one king to two different countries, each with their own customs and peculiar characteristics; one bridegroom to two brides; the one who gathers all things together in himself, and yet keeps them at distinction within himself, withholding from them the unity that his blood is elsewhere said to accomplish. It is a glorious king who can rule two mutually distinct peoples; it is a far more glorious King who can unite them both into one unique people who forever sing his praise as their one unique King.

    7. Dispensationalism tends toward a real ethnocentrism as regards Israel (which springs from a veiled materialism).

    I used to think that America's allying herself with Israel, regardless of the political situation and Israel's justice or injustice at the time, would unconditionally result in blessings from God. This thinking did not come isolated from my dispensationally-flavored world view. Where, exactly, did this whole mode of thinking come from? From embracing old types and shadows to the minimization of the spiritual realities that they were meant to convey. The vast extent of NT teachings on the particular members of the Church loving and caring for each other must be a truer response to the status of "Israel" as God's chosen people than the modern cult of red-heifer hopefuls displaying a racist favoritism toward a particular ethnic group.

    8. In summary, Dispensationalism tends to downplay the Christocentric nature of all reality.

    If some of these other things are true - if faith, not the object or "content" of that faith is what is important - and if the physical offspring of Abraham, not those who are in Christ, the true seed of Abraham, are God's chosen people - and if a physical Jewish millennium, not Christ's spiritual reign over the entire earth is the goal of human history, and so on - if all these things are true, then the extent to which all of history and reality can be said to be Christocentric must be dangerously limited. This is my biggest problem with dispensationalism.

    I want to reaffirm that I am not accusing you of believing any of these things specifically, or of teaching anything which you suppose may detract from the glory of Christ. But I am observing that these results are very real and very extreme in many dispensationalists I have known (even in myself, when I was a dispensationalist). And I don't think it is because all of those affected misunderstood what dispensationalism really is. I think it's because the very schema of dispensationalism lends itself to these conclusions.

    Please don't doubt my sincere love for you in the bonds of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ. If these things I have written are not true, show me (scripturally) how they are not, and I will, to that extent, modify my position.

    In Christ,
    NP

    Concluding Observations

    I have come to the conclusion that Dispensationalism is a much more serious threat to a well-informed biblical worldview than I was once inclined to think of it. Dispensationalism is not exclusively (or even predominantly) a complicated eschatological schema that lends itself to bizarre novels. The eschatological phenomena, which are so predominant to many people, have their roots in a soil from which spring ideas and conceptions of all of redemptive history, and which even extend to one's understanding of the position and nature of the Redeemer. Thankfully, many Dispensationalists are affected in their understanding of these weightier issues only to varying degrees, some quite minimal. However, this ameliorating circumstance can only come through allowing inconsistencies with their basic worldview to predominate in certain areas. And as Dispensationalism is allowed to flavor their thinking, to that extent their understanding even of matters of great importance will be dangerously clouded. It is a task of the greatest importance to be diligent in exposing the underlying beliefs of the Dispensational ideal, examining those beliefs in the light of scripture, and informing our brothers and sisters who have, to varying degrees, been affected by this system.

    Posted by Nathan on June 3, 2006 03:48 PM

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    » The Danger of Dispensationalism from Fundamentally Reformed
    As my faithful readers know, I am getting ready to leave for a two week vacation. Therefore, my blogging will be limited to non-existent after this post (until around June 23). That said, I wanted to point you all to another helpful article by my frien... [Read More]

    Comments

    Right on the mark brother. Timely and well presented. Thank you for posting it.

    JWH

    Excellent. I just sent a link to this article to some of my Dispensationalist friends. I remember this from the original comments on your site, and it is an excellent reminder.

    I'm grateful that God has seen fit to bring me out of the Dispensational and into a more accurate understanding of His Word.

    Nathan,

    Amen! I came out of Dispensationalism years ago; your words resonated with me. I still have a few friends who are dispensational in their understandings; I’ll probably forward this exchange to them. Your brief arguments are solid. Thanks for sharing this.

    In Christ,
    Joe

    Interesting reading. And you would probably be interested in reading "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)" which is located on the Yahoo search engine. Another interesting piece is "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" which should appeal to those who love to read about the history of the pretribulation rapture view. In Him, Jon

    Nathan,

    Amen on all points! Thanks for a great piece articulating how far-reaching dispensationalism's influence truly is. On almost every point, I can see first hand from my own experience the truth of what you say.

    God bless!

    Bob Hayton

    Nathan,
    I've come up in a Church that minors on eschatology. Thanks for the clear insights into the logical implications of believing in this system. Why, in your experience, are so many christians caught up in dispensationalism?
    Thanks,
    Matt Strevel

    Hello,
    I gave a cursory glance at the blog and decided to comment a bit.

    I am not a Dispensationalist, but have no position as to whether the land promised to Abraham's descendants is still for them. I tend to be skeptical due to the clear fact that Judaism, though it has true elements, is a false religion. What Judaism once was, it no longer is.

    Also, I would like to point out that there are people who are not Dispensationalist but still view the promised land as belonging to the descendant's of Abraham (although it should be pointed out that the promise was narrowed to Jacob and his descendants). It also seems possible to me that a person can hold to this view and yet abstain from trying to fulfill the promise by engaging with blind favoritism towards Israel in international politics. I heard one pastor say when asked to join a group supporting Israel that God did not need him to fulfill the promise. I also heard a famous Dispensationalist, J. Vernon McGhee, say that the current nation of Israel is not necessarily the fulfillment of the restoration of the land to Israel; he said it could be some future restoration of the land.

    Nathan,

    Thanks for your article. You make some vital points.

    I was raised under dispensational teaching also, but am yet to come out of my theological cocoon on this subject, as I am still working to come to what I can be sure of as the biblical position. I feel sure I am not alone. There seems to be problems with all the main views.

    I think it would be helpful to our dispensational friends if you would answer a few of their most pressing questions: I think they find it difficult to make sense of the many passages in the Old Testament which speak at length of God giving the people of Israel a specific land with specific borders; which, until now, they have never fully possessed. If all of these promises are allegorical rather than literal, they would ask, why would God be so specific about which land He is refering to when all these details would be superfluous, if indeed natural Israel was never to possess it, at least in the dimensions given in scripture (they have not as yet; and according to non-dispensational views, they never will)?

    I think they would also ask about the specific and minute detail given in prophetic passages such as Ezekiel 40-48 concerning the future Temple.

    The dispensationalist is at least trying to be fair to scripture, and seeing the intricate details with which the future Temple is described there, makes no sense to him at all (and seems to be something of a waste of space in sacred scripture - perish the thought), if in all reality, there was no future Temple - its all to be interpreted as a type of Christ's rule over His Church. The dispensationalist would ask why there was a need to be so specific about the layout of the Temple in these chapters if all of this was figurative and not literal?

    Thirdly, they would point to Revelation 19-20, and say that the prophetic sequence there would lend itself more to a pre-millennial position for Christ's second coming, than to anything else. They would say that other interpretations of these passages appear forced and contrived. Christ returns in chapter 19, and the millennial reign of Christ of 1,000 years (mentioned 6 times in this passage) follows in chapter 20. Many have read commentaries from other positions and have even told me they have laughed out loud at some quite ridiculous interpretations made to try to get away from the plain reading of the text there.

    I am sure the dispensationalist would raise other questions too. The issue of the tiny strip of land called Israel may seem to be something of a non-issue, especially to us who live the other side of the world to it, however, it is fairly central in terms of the Old Testament promises. Obviously, Christ is center stage, but the Old Testament saints would be believing that the Messiah/Christ would come and restore Israel to her prophetic destiny, which, given the many promises of the land in the Old Testament, raises the significance of the issue.

    When someone asks a question several assumptions may be contained - which can either be true or false. For instance, if someone asks a husband, "have you stopped beating your wife?" - if the man has never done so, he can't just answer the question as "yes" (for that would confirm that he has engaged in such activity in the past), or "no" (which would suggest that he is still continuing his wife beating). No, to answer the question correctly, the man would need to correct the false assumption contained in the question. I say all this because in Acts 1, several assumptions are contained in the question given to Jesus, and as I understand the passage, Jesus never challenges these assumptions.

    6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
    7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
    8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

    Here are the four assumptions in the question of verse 6, which again, were never challenged by Jesus in His answer:
    1. Israel once had the kingdom
    2. Israel had lost it
    3. Jesus had the power to restore the kingdom back to Israel
    4. Jesus had fixed a time when He would do so

    Its important to note that Jesus' answer was not - "you've got it all wrong. I've no interest in doing such a thing" (as many commentators suggest). Jesus did not correct any assumptions contained in the question, but rather, His answer implied that the Father HAS set the date for this, but this is not to be the disciples' concern right now. They are to be His witnesses, beginning here in Jerusalem, on to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. He was telling them to leave the date for the restoration of natural Israel in the trusted hands of the Father and get about the assignment of the local and global proclamation of the Gospel.

    I think that's pretty much how a dispensationalist would view this New Testament passage. Any insights here?

    Are you able to address these questions Nathan? I am sure your answers would be helpful to our readers, many of whom, like myself, were raised under dispensational teaching.

    Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. It appears that the major issue right now is with the land promise given to Abraham. Let me say, first, that whether or not one expects ethnic Israel to possess the specific land borders promised to Abraham (again -- see, e.g., I Kings 4:21)is a matter of relatively minor importance to most of the problems that the post discusses. Having said that, let me also say that I have already dealt with that whole issue at some length here. I would invite anyone to read and interact with the article.

    Blessings in Christ.

    Thanks for this. It's been helpful for me to continue to focus some of my own thoughts.

    I've just been fortunate, I guess, but until very recently I haven't had to learn about or grapple with dispensationalism. Now I do.

    What I have found most jarring, more so than the complex eschatological model, is the notion that Israel and the Church are two distinct peoples of God, with seperate destinies. It seems to me that this (if held consitantly) has anthropological and soteriological consequences that are quite serious.

    Nathan,

    Your post was very intriguing and in the past few years I too have found many problems with Dispensationalism. I was raised in a very Dispensational home and have unfortunatley been drilled with it since birth.

    Upon researching for myself I found much that my church taught was not the gospel. I turned Reformed in this area, but like others I am hesistant with my eschatalogy to become Covenant.

    I too would be interested to here your thoughts on the post above by John Samson. If there is any information that you could send me to I would be most grateful as I try and weigh each manner in light of Scripture.

    I thank you for sharing your personal development in being transformed by Scripture.

    I agree with Pastor Samson that there are some texts which would seem to favor dispensationalism. However the three points he mentions do not seem to be strong enough to overturn the clear teaching from Scripture that there is one people of God and that the Gentiles are included as members of the "commonwealth" of Israel (Eph. 2).

    I do think Nathan did a great job in the article he links to in showing how the land promise does not demand a separate program of God for Israel distinct from the church. But as for the end of Ezekiel and Revelation, those places are not clear enough to overturn the teaching of Gal. 3 and Rom. 4 on the unity of the people of God. And the question of whether there is one people of God or two is at the heart of dispensationalism as a system.

    Ultimately every theological or hermeneutical system has its textual difficulties to answer. But in the case of dispensationalism, its very heart seems to fly in the face of the clear and unanimous teaching of all of Scripture concerning the oneness of the people of God.

    Nate

    Another point I would make ... the Amyraldian (4-point Calvinist) tendency among a large number of dispenationalists also testifies to an "eclipse of Christ" in their theological hermeneutic. Consider that all so called four-point Calvinist can only maintain his/her position by claiming that irresistable grace (a doctrine which they affirm) is "Christless", that is not a blessing purchased for the elect by Christ. For as soon as one acknowledges that irresistible grace is a product of Christ's work alone then he/she is already acknolwedging that Christ died in a way for the elect that He did not for the non elect, that is, affirming that irresistable grace is also a redemptive benefit purchased by Christ. So Amyraldians must theologically maintain that irresistable grace is Christless (to be consistent) but most are not willing to do so so they find themselves in a conundrum. Many fail to recognize simply that irresistable grace is the flip side of limited atonement. To believe in one is to believe in the other. They are the same truth packaged from a different perspective.

    As for other questions brought up....Just as Israel has not been replaced by Gentiles but expanded upon at the time of Christ's incarnation, so the land promises have not been abandoned but expanded upon. "...you will inherit the land" has become "...you will inherit the earth" All promises are yes and Aman in Christ. To put it crassly, He is not a polygamist but has one bride, the church ... and that means His people from all time, not just those persons that came into the fold after Pentecost..

    As for some promises seemingly not being fulfilled, consider that not all promises made are unconditional, as
    Jeremiah 18:7-10 clearing points out:

    "If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it."

    I commend to you the follow essay"
    Historical Contingencies and Biblical Predictions by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. (.pdf)
    http://www.thirdmill.org/files/english/theology/81968~5_24_99_9-21-50_PM~Pratt.Historical_Contingencies.pdf

    Dispensationalism does lead to many false views of God, Man and all redemptive history. However, the most disturbing thing I see in it is how it leads God's people to become focused on the "rapture" and all that entails instead of doing their part in the Kingdom of God.

    I have been struck at how resilient it is in withstanding the truth. Just like Synergism, even though it isn't Biblical, it remains. If we look at both critically we see that they both appeal to humanism. Neither are Christcentric, both are man-centric. That should make it clear which is Biblically correct.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Nathan:

    I tend toward some aspects of a dispensational approach toward the Bible. It seemed to me that of late both covenant and dispensational scholars were making some headway toward an acknowledgement of some more common ground. This discussion sets the debate back two decades.

    The assertion that being a dispenationalist automatically means that the glory of Christ is eclipsed is something with which I would take issue. Just because you say it is so doesn't mean it is.

    I have pretty much let go of the rather arbitrary division of biblical periods that characterizes early dispensationalism. But frankly, the typical covenant theology divisions seem just as arbitrary.

    In 30 years in ministry, despite the claim in Mike Ratliff's post above, I have not seen people focused "on the rapture instead of doing their part in the Kingdom of God." That is as much of a tired straw man as the equally tired assertion that the Calvinism leads automatically to a lack of evangelism.

    Peter

    I find dispensationalism increditable becasue of its lack of historical roots. For more than 1800 years no one heard of it until Miss MacDonald had her vision. I also find it interesting that it rose to prominence in the latter part of the 19th century along with other cults such as Morminism, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientism and Finneyism.

    Peter

    There are some dispensationalists, perhaps yourself included, which have made great progress/changes over the last few years and come much closer to a covenant position (MacArthur, Progressives), and in fact, some sound more covenantal in many respects, than dispensational, but for some reason most find it hard to admit openly they have become covenantal, for fear of who knows what?

    It also should be acknowledged that most dispensationalists have maintained a four-point calvinism which eclipses Christ (as mentioned above). Only a small percentage (MacArthur for example) have changed their view on this...

    But I would disagree with you that CT has arbitrary divisions. Most scholars would acknowledge that the Covenant is the cetral theme in the Bible as to how God relates to His creatures (and even Himself). CT has no real divisions, believing that their is a unified plan of redemption carried out by the Son through the entirety of Scripture for all people. While Dispensationalism has changed radically among some of its followers (Ryrie excluded), CT has pretty much maintained its historic position in biblical interpretation. I do not believe this is because they are simply hard headed or proud, (though this always plays a role among human beings), but because it is biblical.

    We are all the seed of Abraham in Christ, and Christ has fulfilled the covenant from our side, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

    Shalom
    john

    It would be nice to see you interact with John MacCarthur or Pil Jhonson at teampyro on these issues. The result could prove enlightening.

    Ray:

    We know and love MacArthur and are familiar with his positions. I personally used to go to his church when I lived in LA. But MacArthur does not represent the vast majority of dispensationalists, in his positions so it does not really apply to the essay Nathan has written.. While he still sees a distinction between Israel and the church, to quote Phil Johnson, "MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology. MacArthur's "dispensationalism" is eschatological and ecclesiological only. And given the fact that soteriology is central to our whole understanding of Christianity, whereas eschatology and ecclesiology deal primarily with secondary doctrines, it would be my assessment that MacArthur has far less in common with Ryrie than he would have with anyone who believes 1) that God's grace is efficacious for regeneration and sanctification as well as for justification, and 2) that God graciously guarantees the perseverance of all true believers."

    Yes he still fully embraces unbiblical notions of a pretribulational rapture but this is not a striking enough error to cause any serious rift. In many ways MacArthur is closer to CT than dispy but still remains dispy on some important levels.. But imho, there is very little if anything in that system which is redemable and thus I believe it is in its waning days. It is a very difficult things for persons, even who believe it is not true, to entire abandon the system since they put years of ministry investment into it.

    Can you imagine if Johnny Mac came out tomorrow and said, the pre-trib rapture is non-existent biblically. There would be many unhappy perons. Making this kind of change is not an easy thing to do. I say this with great respect for the man as he is one of the greatest preachers alive. I merely intend to say that it is not easy to undo long held positions but if there is anyone who could do it it would be Johnny. He impressed me when, in 1997, he looked at the evidence and decided that 5 pnt calvinism was more biblical. That takes a lot of guts when you are in a position such as his...

    John:

    It has always interested me that even an esteemed covenant theologian such as Oswald Allis acknowledged that a plain reading of the Bible would lead to a premillennial perspective. One of the reasons I don't hold to the covenant position (or to the strict dispensational position) in eschatology and ecclesiology is that too much fancy footwork seems to be needed to come up with the view.

    While I know that there are those who feel that the covenant position on baptism, for example, is water-tight, I find that the view is the product of theological assumptions rather than exegetical ones. I'm not trying to start an argument on the subject. Just stating a perspective that even some fine reformed people would acknowledge. No one has ever convinced me that infant baptism is a biblical mode. However, that doesn't mean that those who baptize babies are deficient. We simply disagree.

    My point that a theological system is just that - our best efforts to systematize the Scriptures. It is a worthwhile pursuit. But there are weaknesses in both systems and room to give on both sides. Calling someone's conclusions blasphemous or claiming that the other guy's view eclipses the glory of Christ, or that we dispensationalists - who don't necessarily follow Scofieldism - don't admit our real beliefs because of the impact it would have after 30 years of ministry lacks charity and humility, and rather than advancing the discussion is more reminiscent of the kind of back-and-forth arguing that went on 30 years ago.

    Just my 2 cents. But I love you guys (and your site!)

    Peter

    Peter:

    thanks for your post. It is much appreciated. Actually it seems that the discussions 30 years ago had some significant impact on a reshuffing of positions on this issue among many dispensationalists. That has done a lot of good so I see no loss in continuing to pursue it. So while you may see this as negative, we actually see it as a positive. A large number of dispensationalists who call themselves "progressive dispensationalists" are now actually much closer to an historic CT position than a classic Dispy position, even though they still use the name. And this is the result of a of being more cannonical I believe.. the fruit of these debates that you do not want to return to .... And it seems they are still open to change further. That peope like J MacArthur would change from 4 point to five point calvinist in 1997 shows the value in such discussions. John MacArthur is not his father's dispensationalism and there is a reason for that. The four-point position does not put Christ at the center of redemption because it leads to synergism. Faith become the product of our unregenerated human nature rather then the quickening of the Holy Spirit.

    And I would disagree that a plain reading of Scripture would lead to a premillenial positon. The New Testament adamantly presupposes that both the resurrection of the wicked and the resurrection of the righteous are events that happen at the same time, that is, when our Lord returns (example John 5). This itself leaves no room for premillenialism for premilennialist must believe, by definition, the the resurrection of the wicked occurs at a different time (1000 years later).

    So I believe there is no fancy foot work at all to conclude that we all (righteous and wicked) enter the eternal state when Jesus returns. Can you show Scripturally that the wicked and righteous are resurrected at seperate times?. Imho, the amillenial position fits the biblical data more than any other position. That is why I finally gave up on historic premillenialism after holding to it for two decades - it finally just did not stand up to the scrutinity of the text. Historic premill is a much better positon than dispy premil however. I must admit I could never bring myself to believe in dispensational premillenialism (even though I was around it most of the time) because from the beginning it seemed obvious to me that it simply could be found anywhere in Scripture. So I always wondered how these people who otherwise are so cannonical were not on this issue. And, by the way, there are many who are premillenial who are not dispensationalists, i.e. (historical premillenialists like George Ladd, a position that is much more sound biblically, even though I may no longer agree with his position. I have much more respect for that position (than Dispensational premil) at least because it is more honest with the biblical data. But again, it is not, in the least, dispensational.

    This is not about starting a brawl, it is about trying to uncover the truth that God has revealed. I do not think it is fair game play the peace card as if this were altogether unimportant. We will contend for the truth and continue to love those who disagree on this issue but it must be spoken because a wrong view of this affects much more than many think. There is only one verse in the entire bible which speaks of a millennium in rev 20 ( a book that is filled with metaphorical eschatological language) and when that is read in light of other scriptures, the dispy interpretation becomes highly suspect. Scripture must be interepreted with Scripture.

    You say it lacks charity to claim that someone would not want to turn their positon after many years of ministry, but the fact remains that pretribulational rapture is fiction, nowhere even hinted at in the text. why hold a non-existent position? I have heard no honest exegegetical defence of the position ever so there much be some other reason besides the Bible why one would believe it. If the pre-trib rapture positoin is true then defend it biblcially. Otherwise, if that cannot be done, abandon it.

    It is amazing how much of what each of us believe is a product of our surroundings. I would challenge you to consider how much of your belief is because you have been influenced by the people around you or the Bible. I have had to personally in rect years reaccess much of what I believed and realized how much of it was a product of culture or church rather than demanding to be conformed by Scripture.

    Shalom

    John,

    I thank you as well for your insightful comments. For I am currently reanalyzing my eschatology and ecclesiology to make sure it fits my soteriology which is historic Calvinism and pray that the Lord will bring me to His Word with no presuppositions that trump His Word.

    If there is any reading you suggest for continued study, I would be in your debt.

    John :
    I think your response to Peter illustrates why a more formal interaction with an actual scholar, of the premillenialist perspective, would be useful for your readers ( of which I am one on a daily basis).
    My sympathy, for your experience with dispensationalism, ( I'm more of a premillenialist rather than a dispensationalist myself ), regretably most of what has passed for preaching, on this and other issues, has been very poor for a while now.
    As for your remarks about the lack of change in the Reformed position on eschatology I wish to say the following :
    1. Time alone is no test of the truth of a position. The Reformation itself is proof of that.
    2. Except when taking potshots at
    premillenialism's twisted sister, dispensationalism, I've rarely seen
    Reformed people interact in a thorough manner with the Biblical evidence for the premillenial positon. This would involve discussion of the original languages of the relevant biblical passages and a thorough examination
    of the early church Fathers on this issue.
    3. Premillenialism neither stands nor falls on the correctness of the teaching of a pre-trib rapture, so it would be nice to see a debate that doesn't ultimately boil down to this issue.

    I really appreciate your ministry and I agree with you on the overwhelming majority of what you post here.

    For the record, most of the premil blogs that I've come accross are preaching to the converted on this issue , and I'm voice the same concerns to them too.

    Ray

    Like I just said in my previous post, I believe the historic premillenial position is actually the only other biblically defendable position. While I think it breaks down at some point biblically, it is quite a respectable position (as opposed to the dispy premil position)

    Also, unfortunately this blog is not a discussion board nor is it probably the best venue for debate. This is not its intended purpose, and I believe this to be true of blogs in general. I have rarely seen this as a useful venue for such purposes. There are better places for that. But we do post what we believe to be biblical and you certainly don't have to agree with what we post. AND YOU CAN SAY SO IF YOU WISH.

    I have interacted plenty with dispy scholars off of the blog. I quite aware of what they believe and I have drawn the conclusion that the position is Scripturally untenable...and this goes way beyond simply the rapture. That is just the tip of the iceberg. when I was in the midst of it myself I knew something was wrong but couldn't put my finger on it. Now it makes sense as the text becomes more illumined.

    I have been in dispensational churches for most my Christian life. These are not pot shots but real concerns of real problems I saw and experienced in good sound churches on many levels.... this is not some Reformed person who is taking shots from a distance (who knows nothing about what other really think).

    You said>>> I've rarely seen Reformed people interact in a thorough manner with the Biblical evidence for the premillenial positon.

    But this post isn't a crituque of the historic premillenial position, it is a critique on dispensationalism. Dispensational premillenialism and historic premillenialism are different animals ENTIRELY. A critique of dispy was Nathan's purpose of this post, not a critque of historic premillenialism, a position I personally find commendable on many levels, even though I no longer hold to it.

    peace
    John

    Next
    dear Noldorin

    Thanks for your post...A great pleace to start may be to meditate on John chapter 5 (reading it several times) and let the implications of it work through what you currently believe. interacts with the verses against what the positions you hold and see if they hold up.

    I also highly recommend some of the free downloadable MP3 lectures you will find on the following pages:

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/eschatology.html

    Eccelsiology .. there are positins I thought I would never change NEVER!!!!. But God did a major work on me in the last few years and I have changed my ideas on matters of ecclesiology and have even surprised myself. Here are some essays and MP3s that may be helpful

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/church.html

    Hope they help... some books on this page are also very helpful in the area of eschatology
    http://www.monergismbooks.com/003eschatology.html


    Wow! I go to work for one day, and when I get back, I have a year's worth of discussion to catch up on.

    Let me first address a peripheral issue: this is an important enough topic to warrant discussion; and, in fact, far from being unloving, honest, scriptural dialogue is the most loving course of action to take, provided it springs from a heart that desires the doctrinal growth of us all. Let's keep in mind that anyone who is arguing against perceived errors by appealing to scriptures is not attempting to cause disunity, but is pursuing true unity in the only way by which it will ultimately come -- through doctrinal growth as informed by the bible.

    Now, as regards the arguments for and against Dispensationalism, I have a few brief comments. I confess from the beginning that they will be inadequate; I can only plead the rigors of a long work week, which I trust is a contingency that many of you will understand. Here are my simple observations:

    1. A strong distinction must be made between Dispensational soteriology/Christology and Dispensational eschatology/ecclesiology. I concur with John's assessment of persons such as MacArthur, who, being Reformed in the more vital areas, have in reality much more doctrinal commonality with us than deviance. Although I admit that this can be a difficult cut-and-dry delineation to make. For instance, when one's eschatology leads him to suppose that there are two separate peoples of God, then the influence of his eschatology on his perception of Christ is unavoidable; because, whatever else Christ may be, he is no longer the unique and singular head of one body, the true bridegoom of one bride, and so on.

    2. We would do well to remember the commonly accepted canon of interpretation that, whatever is more clear in scriptures ought to interpret that which is more obscure. If there are many plain didactic passages which teach the utter obliteration of any ethnic distinction between those who are in Christ; and if the scriptures teach plainly that there is no salvation out of Christ; then any interpretation which supposes ethnic distinctions among those who are eternally saved in Christ, being from exceedingly obscure reasonings, ought immediately to be dissolved away. Similarly, passages such as II Thessalonians 1, which clearly teaches that the Church will be delivered from her affliction in the world at the same point in which the unbelievers will be eternally punished, ought to shed light on the one passage which mentions a thousand years, and which is in a book full of visions -- which, from the earliest days of revelation, were employed to convey truth symbolically. It would be no less absurd to argue that a huge goat which moves without touching the ground must literally appear, even against the later didactic teaching of Daniel that this symbol represented Greece; than it is to argue that the substance of a vision in Revelation must fall out literally, even against the didactic teaching of the New Testament epistles.

    3. As far as the land promise in specifc, I will again defer to answer since I have already written about precisely this point, and gave the link above. However, I will say something about Ezekiel's temple vision: it cannot be too strongly emphasized that this was a vision. Just like his vision of the valley of dry bones, and just like the many other visions of the other prophets who have left for us a written account. The specifics (granted, a staggering amount of specifics) must have symbolical teaching ability; but this is not an admission that the temple Ezekiel saw must literally appear one day. The physics of it would be virtually impossible (from underneath flows a river so wide that after a journey of what must equate to over a mile, Ezekiel had just gotten to the point at which he had to swim, and turned back; which is difficult to see as a feasible characteristic of any building); and beyond that, we have a clear testimony from the opening verses of Hebrews 9 that every specific in the temple of old did indeed have didactic significance, although precisely what that was the author lacked the time to explain. If symbolic, didactic significance is possible in all the minutia of the literal temple, why cannot didactic significance be possible in a temple which occurs in vision form only?

    I'm a little harried and hurried tonight, so i apologize if I missed anyone's argument.

    In Christ,

    Nathan

    Well, I remain a 5 point Calvinist who sees Premillennialism as a natural conclusion of both OT and NT teaching on the promises to Israel and the nature of the Church. Yet I do see far greater unity in the people of God than historic dispensationalists tend to. And I think baptism after conversion best fits the bibical pattern.

    Thanks for the give-and-take. I'm not going to agree with you, but outside of this issue I do deeply appreciate your commitment to and provision of resource on Reformation doctrine.

    Peter

    Thank you.

    I'll review the material that you recommended.
    This site has been a blessing to me countless times and I don't wish to imply otherwise.

    After being in the faith for two years, I have learned so much about Biblical and Systematic Theology that I decided I was ready to tackle the issue of understanding the relation of the covenants. I approached the study with the presupposition of reformed Soteriology so I came out of the gate already dismissing most of those who do not hold to the five point reformed faith. This led to a lot of confusion for me, because I never interacted honestly with the positions held by Dispensationalists.

    The issue of Law/Gospel brought me a deal of respect regarding Dispensationalist's focus on discontinuity which I felt was ignored with the trichotomized view of the Mosaic Law and the errors made by many classical covenant theologians including baptism and theonomy (although I'm not going to go there in this post). Douglas Moo, Tom Schreiner, and D.A. Carson influenced me greatly in seeing the amount of discontinuity present in the New Testament that I didn't find with many classical covenant theologians who wanted to find continuity at all costs.

    But I have to reject Classical Dispensationalism outright. I don't want to through around the "H" word, but if you honestly believe that the Gentiles are a parenthetical working in God's plan despite such great New Testament witness (Gal 3:8,9 for example) seemed appalling to me. Add on to the fact that extreme Dispys believe that the Mosaic sacrifices will be brought back in a millennial reign which to me found no connection with these land restoration prophecies found in the major prophets. Also, denying the fact that the Kingdom of God is now seemed blasphemous to me as well. I completely, outright reject classical Dispensationalism.

    But Progressive Dispensationalism has done much to improve dialogue between the two camps. By recognizing a degree of continuity that wasn't in the Scofield/Darby versions is great progress. They also accepted inaugurated eschatology and the line between "Israel" and the "Church" was softer. Also recognizing that gentiles are indeed heirs to the Abrahamic promises was an important step. For these reasons I would not use the "H" word for Progressive Dispensationalism. But non-the-less I still feel empty with a Progressive Dispy stance.

    Enter New Covenant Theology. I have found relief in this position. It's a shame that people like Reisinger throw straw men at both sides. In fact, I think that most New Covenant Theologians have a long way to go in properly dealing with arguments outside their own (I just heard Tom Wells preach at my church and wasn't impressed). I do enjoy their explicit teaching on the Old/New dichotomy in the NT (2 Cor 3; Heb 8/10; Luke 22:20). I can't accept many Dispy's interpretation that Gentiles are just "participators" in the New Covenant, because it was ultimately promised to ethnic Israel.

    I do take issue of talking of a "covenant of grace" in contrast to a "covenant of works." I don't think that reformed federalism necessitates a covenant of works. Nor do I see Adam in a "probationary" period as espoused by many classical covenant theologians. I also think that speak of administrations of one covenant is not helpful either. Although, I understand why they do it, but I just don't feel it would be the way any of the Biblical writers would have talked about the unfolding revelation of God through an "overarching covenant."

    I think that the debate over who Israel is is much simpler than we make it out to be. It is clear that Christ alone is the God's true first born, and His "exodus" of Egypt (Mat 2) and testing in the wilderness typified that Christ is the true light to the nations that Israel never held up to. I also see Peter claiming that the Church age is the true "holy nation." This promise was given to the Israelites upon obedience to the Mosaic Covenant. It seems that the "Church" has inherited the promises given to Israel which would not be kosher to someone like MacArthur. Ephesians 2 also leads me to believe that 'in Christ' we are heirs, Jew and Gentile alike, to the true Israel of God. As Israel is "one who strives with God" (Gen 32) so any Jew/Gentile who seeks the blessing Jacob had is brought into the true Israel. I think also that Israel is giving a mystical meaning in Rom 2:29, 4:9-13, 9:6a; Gal 3:29, 6:16; Eph 2:14-16.

    I struggle with Rom 11:26 to the point of agony. I can't figure out for the life of me what Israel is in vs. 26. I find it hard to believe that it is a mystical Israel of Jews/Gentiles due to the texts after vs. 26. I think Hoekema/Robertson's position of elect remnant being brought in throughout time, but from reading Sproul, Piper, Moo, Schreiner, Gill, Hodge, and others it seems to offer an interpretation that there will be a widespread conversion of national Jews. This puzzles me though, because with the destruction of the temple no one anymore can claim that they descend from a tribe of Jacob (hence they don't perform the Levitical sacrifices anymore). No matter what, I can't see Paul connection Rom 11:26 to a future reinstatement of a national Israel again in earthly Palestine. Nathan's article does much to contribute to the understanding the importance of Biblical typology which I actually feel sad for Dispy's whose flawed "literal" interpretation misses out on the great spiritual truths as recorded in Scripture. Studying Biblical Typology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic (cf. Goldsworthy) has done wonders for my spirituality and belief in the Biblical revelation.

    I do still have questions about all the land promises in the major prophets. So many of those passages talk about literal Israel being restored to a literal land. Now I could see them being spiritualized as is done in Heb 11 towards the Heavenly Jerusalem, but it amazes me that the NT doesn't expound upon these promises in depth. You would think it would be a focal point of interpretation for the NT writers.

    I wrote an article entitled 'The Apostles and Dispensationalism' regarding the theological change that the Apostles undergo through the teachings revealed by the Messiah. Any references by covenant theologians regarding the promises of land restoration in the major prophets would be appreciated. Included in that a definition and explanation of the fact that the New Covenant was to be made with the "house of Israel and Judah" would be appreciated. Walter Kaiser aptly pointed me to the fact that the New Covenant was not made with the Church.

    Thanks gentlemen.

    Chris:

    Thanks for your thoughtful post... I would contend that Theonomy is a not a very common position among CT. It is a minority (albeit vocal) position - maybe 10% at most. I raise this because your post might give the perception that it had a wider influence than it does. And may I suggest that that CT likewise believes and has always believed in a degree of discontinuity. It really depends on what you mean by that term. If you mean that Israel is not part of the body of Christ then we have serious issues of differnce to contend with, for we believe the Scripture testifies that Christ only has one bride. If Israel is part of the body of Christ then the discussion becomes more profitable.

    As for New Covenant Theology, it seems that this movement is mostly a reaction against legalism among Reformed Baptists ... but there is not much of a parallel movement among Presbyterians. If you didn't have such an issue with baptism you would actually like the PCA - gospel-centered, Christ honoring preaching.

    I know that Theonomy is a small movement, and I'm thankful for that. I also recognize that there is discontinuity present in Classical Covenant Theology, but I feel like the discontinuity is recognized in the Old/New, Law/Gospel dichotomy which back to Luther has been taught is not present in much of classical covenant theology. I certainly don't see the two peoples of God however as stated above.

    As for NCT being a reaction. This is true. For instance, I reacted against my church's belief in the 1689 LBC which was a rewrite of the Westminster standards and turned its back on the 1646 teaching on the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law. The Sabbath was a particularly sticky issue that I deviated on.

    John - would you do me a favor and update the link to my new url underneath the graphic I created on this page with my new url: ImperishableInheritance.com?

    John and Nathan, thanks for the responses. I will take what was said to heart. Thanks for the added info John, I will definitley take a look at those. I really appreciate the blessing this site as well as monergism has been to me.

    God Bless

    You-all might want to listen to Issues Etc. for Monday, June 5, hours 2 and 3. Todd Wilkin interviewed Tim La Haye on TLH's latest novel, _The Rapture_. The host repeatedly makes much the same point as this in the original post: "6.) Dispensationalism, in destroying the unity of God's redemptive purpose in the Church, minimizes the singular, all-encompassing headship of Christ."

    http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues6/Issues_Etc_Jun_05b.mp3

    http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues6/Issues_Etc_Jun_05c.mp3

    (While you're there, listen to Kim Riddelbarger discuss the Antichrist:

    http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues6/Issues_Etc_Jun_02b.mp3

    http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues6/Issues_Etc_Jun_02c.mp3 )

    Could you tell me what the "historic pre" position believes the millenial kingdom will be like? I know it differs from the dispy view but how specifically?

    Will

    One things that seems to stand in stark contrast between the dispensational and historic position on the millenium is that the dispy position puts a vast gulf of seperation between Jews and gentiles and it reopens the Temple for sacrifice of animals etc.. That is one significant difference that comes to mind right away...

    I would have to agree with John. I think the similarities between the two positions end with their both seeing Christ return one thousand years before the eternal state. Historic premil. would not see two different peoples of God, and would not anticipate anything in the Kingdom that smacks of the old shadow-forms of redemptive history (e.g. the cultural distinctives and religious rituals of ethnic Israel). I would suggest that the historic premil. position has more in common with postmillennialism than Dispensational premillennialism, because in the former two, the expectation of what the thousand years will look like is very similar -- a time in which the gospel is unspeakably fruitful, but eternity and ultimate glorification have not yet arrived. The only difference is that, in historic premillennialism, Christ will be visibly reigning, and in postmillennialism, he will as yet be reigning invisibly from the throne of David. The differences between what Dispy premillennialism and historic premillennialism expect regarding what the millennium will actually look like are profound.

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I grew up as a Hal Lindsey clone and then as I came in contact with D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' sermons I was challenged. I have struggled with millennialism very much. (I never learned much of the various OT dispensations) You pointed out eloquently some of the concerns I have had and showed even more that I had not considered. Again, thanks.

    Nathan,

    I think the real usefulness of this post is largely the warning against extremes. However, you statements are far too generic and arbitrary to carry any real substance. The fact that many dispensational thinkers can and do affirm most of the positive affirmations that you made in this post and reject the “dangers” as obvious error, demonstrates that.

    And that is why this debate will never bring true progress so long as it is carried out in this fashion. It is a matter of biblical interpretation, and so the debate must begin and remain exegetical in nature. The question is not, which system is more this or that – but what, indeed, does the Bible teach. At every turn, and in every system, there are tendencies towards error, and there are extremists. These too are exposed by exegetical method.

    In Christ,
    Mike

    Mike,

    For further exegetical substantiation, see my posts here, here, and here.

    I have been following this thread with some interest, in my quest to understand Dispensational theology. You all have been quite open and fair with each other, and I appreciate the thought that you all have put into your posts. The very last post, however, caused me to chime in. Mike, you write, “ The question is not, which system is more this or that – but what, indeed, does the Bible teach.” As I see it, with respect, the real question is, “What is the truth”? My suspicion is that you see the questions as interchangable. I, however, do not. My point is, when one attempts to frame the question (regardless of motive), one loses people who disagree with the premise. I suspect, at the same time, that no one would disagree that truth is all that matters.

    God bless, and thanks to you all for your posts.

    I greatly appreciate the frank discussion taking place in this post, though I have personally found this post a little late. I do want to make one notation that was brought up before and is rather central. That is the history of dispensationalism. It is something I have done a tremendous amount of research on, and once you start researching the history, it is hard to stop. It's something for which even the most ardent dispensationalists have little in response to. Edward Irving is certainly the main figure head for the introduction of this to the masses. Margaret McDonald was just one of the pundit players. It would be a productive post at some point and time, to really lay out the history. It is an interesting study, because we can see how something that seems so harmless in its beginning can be so radically dangerous. Edward Irving was certainly a very sincere man, but he was sincerely wrong and grossly misled. If I had no other contention with dispensationalism, I would certainly do away with it because of its poor history and a poor foundation. But as you well stated in the post, it has plenty for us to do away with in addition. Many thanks.

    Chris,

    Thanks for the comment. I don't feel qualified to write such a post right now, and I have too many other things going on to do all the necessary research at this time. If you wanted to write up a history of this nature and e-mail it to me (somentecristo@yahoo.com), maybe I could post it for you. Just a thought, I don't know if you'd be interested or not.

    Blessings,
    Nathan

    Found a great item on the web. If interested, Google "Powered by Christ Ministries," and click on "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism." Also type in "Pretrib Rapture Diehards." Great stuff! Bruce

    Friends,

    It is no suprise that the kingdom was taken from Israel and given to the Church both Old and New Testaments speak of this, and also our Lord and the Apostles speak of it, both they also speak of the kingdom being restored to them. According to the Apostle Paul (Romans) Israels natural state is holy, because of Abraham, we were grafted in because of there unbelief, does not the Apostle Paul tell us not to think that we are better then them, because God is not intrinsic in his nature, if he can put aside a people he was so familiar with, what makes us think that he won't and can't do the same thing with us. Should we put off scripture that also says pray for the peace of jerusalem blessed are they that love thee, should we put aside, I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, should we put aside, I have loved you with an everlasting love, should we put aside the Apostle Paul's words, all Israel shall be saved. Yes right now they are spiritually blind, and according to Paul in Romans, thank God, for because of there blindness we were grafted in, and that is why we are to pray for there restoration and redemption. Does not scripture say that the King would rule the house of Jacob forever and forever. How do we allegorize scripture in Revelations pertaining to the 144,000, or the 12 gates, or the sun clad woman(Christ beget the Church, the Church didn't beget Christ). Beloved I know that the Lord, has given me a love for his ancient people, for I pray for there restoration and redemption everyday, for Christ has taken the jew and the gentile and made one knew man, and my believing that God still has a plan for his ancient people, has nothing to do with my love for the author and finisher of my faith, if anything it enhances it, for I believe in the whole counsel of God. Is the Church any different that Israel, look at all the denominations we have, which simply stated one faction is saying I know more, and am closer to Christ than the other, look at the mockery we have made with the wonderful spiritual gifts of the Spirit, putting one another in bondage, saying I have this gift and that gift, and if you don't I'm more spiritual than you. I say this not to knock the body of Christ for which I am part, but to say like Israel we to have our faults, which consist of spiritual blindness, lack of understanding, inmaturity, and of course a lack of LOVE (Agape) which binds us together. Let us not forget what the Apostle Peter said, that the time is coming that judgment must begin at the house of God. Forgive me friends, if I gave more than what I should've, but let us be just in our criticism of one another, the Lord said, let us sit down an reason with one another, and he also said how can two walk together unless they agree. I believe in the covenants concerning Israel why shouldn't I, if I believe in the Mosaic Covenant and New Covenant which the body of Christ falls under, how can I believe one and not the other? As far as I am concerned and I say it again I believe in His covenant plans for Israel, and that should no way inpart blind my love for my Lord, nor the household of faith, for which I am part and dearly love.

    Tony,

    I can understand your feelings (I think), as I too was once a staunch Dispensationalist, and certainly would have bristled at any suggestion that my Dispensationalism taught any less of Christ than the historic understanding of the Church. And I certainly would have been uneasy, as well, with the non-Dispensationalist's view of Israel, thinking it to be less loving, or even hostile to God's chosen people, of the seed of Abraham. Also, I would have been appalled at the thought that God was unfaithful to his promises concerning physical Israel – and in any non-Dispensational point of view, that's exactly what I considered the only possible conclusion.

    However, I now believe that those feelings were connected to a wrong understanding of what a non-Dispensational, and indeed (as I now believe) more scriptural viewpoint actually teaches. Does Dispensationalism, as a system, have a lesser view of Christ than the historic understanding of the Church evinced? Well, at least if the old Dallas theologians (e.g. Chafer, Ryrie, etc.) are to be considered fairly representative of Dispensationalism, I think the answer must be yes. They clearly teach that, in the Old Testament, although one was saved by faith alone and on the basis of Christ's sacrifical work alone, yet he was not saved by faith in Christ. In a Dispensational point of view, the Old Testament saints did not have to look ahead to a coming Messiah who would die for their sins and rise from the dead, in order to be saved. But the historic Church has long believed that faith in Christ alone is the way to salvation. Paul says that Moses preached the same gospel he preached, namely, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:6-10). Peter said that David prophesied specifically of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:22-33). The redemptive work of Christ was not unknown among the Old Testament believers – in fact, all of them were saved only by looking ahead in faith to him. Inasmuch as Dispensationalism denies this, it teaches less of Christ's historical pre-eminence in the Church. Furthermore, Dispensationalism teaches that, in the future, the old animal sacrifices will be reinstituted for a thousand year Jewish Kingdom, within the new, physical Jewish temple. But Jesus said that his body was now the true temple (John 2:18-22); and the author of Hebrews said that Jesus' sacrifice was once-for-all, and replaced the typical animal sacrifices (e.g. Hebrews 10:23-38). Inasmuch as Dispensationalism allows for a return of the shadows, it minimizes the finality and universality of the reality to which those shadows pointed, which is Christ.

    And what about the idea that a non-Dispensationalist is not Israel's friend? A Dispensationalist thinks he loves Israel because he desires for her a physical kingdom, earthly dominance for a thousand years, a temple with animal blood ever-flowing, that same animal blood which has ever been ineffectual. But the non-Dispensationalist wants for ethnic Israel much more – he wants for her a share in the eternal kingdom which has progresses beyond the stage of ineffectual animal blood, a kingdom which has no end, but promises an eternity in the very presence of Jesus, who is GOD WITH US, our true temple. Furthermore, a non-Dispensationalist believes, with Paul, that ethnic Israel will share in these eternal blessings – no, not every member, but always a remnant, preserved by the grace of divine election. Israel and the Gentiles will forevermore be a part of the same “tree” of God's covenant people, glorifying him together and rejoicing in far more than physical geography (although the physical geography will come too, in the new earth). Yes, some dead branches from the Jewish nation were broken off, just as some have been already broken off from the Gentiles – but they will never be broken off altogether, and God will restore them, even those whom he has appointed to faith, to far more than a spot of land in the Middle East.

    But surely God has been unfaithful if the Jews do not own that spot of land? No, for from the beginning, the believing Jews understood it to be significant of far more than mere earthly geography. They understood it to be pointing to a better city, which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:8-16). The greatest blessings of Israel were not their physical land, temple, etc., but rather the promises which God had given to them, both in signs and prophecies, promises which all find their “yes” in Christ (II Corinthians 1:19-20). If God has given to Israel, even the Israel of his election, instead of the unfulfilled promises which they had, their perfect and final fulfillment, how is he being unfaithful? If he forever withheld the fulfillment and gave only the promises which they had, that may be unfaithfulness – but to give the fulfillment of all the promises is faithfulness indeed, and a faithfulness more lavish than they ever could have imagined!

    Well, I wish you only blessings in Christ, and I trust that you will consider these things, especially those things that the New Testament writers said in their explanation of the Old Testament scriptures. The Spirit will give you an understanding as you look to him in humility and faith, seeking the knowledge of all the blessings which are ours in Christ Jesus.

    Nathan

    Brother Nate (May I call you (smile)),

    I so appreciate your response to my memo, but however perhaps I appeared to you to be a dispensationalist, because of my views. But as you read my memo you can see I'm not for denominations, and if I'm not for denominations, then I don't consider myself a dispensationalist or a non-dispensationalist, I guess I can put myself in the category of the Angel of the LORD, who Joshua spoke with, and asked are you for us are for them, and the Angel of the LORD, answered, I'm for neither. I just simply believe in the whole counsel of God, now whether or not the blood sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel, will be reinstitued or not maybe, maybe not, I do not know, perhaps the prophet saw the vision and interpreted it according to the times and his understanding, only He knows who gave him the vision, we must remember are ways are not His ways, our thoughts are not His thoughts (even though we have the mind of Christ) we must also remember (which at times we don't) our understanding is finite His is infinite. Much of what you said, in response to my memo, I agree with, remember I said how can two walk together unless they agree, it didn't say we were going to agree on all things. Some of us see things like this, if you don't see it exactly the way I do then you are wrong, even if you know what I am saying has just as much truth in it as your statement or belief does. An example I believe without a shadow of a doubt, as you do, that Christ accomplished all of the Old Testament offerings, sacrifices and feasts although I believe only (3) feast remain unfulfilled, Feast of Trumphets, Day of Attonement and Feast of Tabernacles now this of course is my opinion, does this make me a dispensationalist? and yes I know of what Moses said about the "Prophet" who was to come, and I also know of what the Lord said unto the Pharisees, when they claimed to believe in everything that Moses wrote, but did not believe in what Moses said of him. I could be wrong, but it would appear you responded to me as a dispensationalist, when as far as I am concerned, I am neither. If you don't mind lets speak about Martin Luther, who it well documented hated the jews, yet God used him mightly, I speak of the Prostestant Reformation, which really never took place the way it should've. It was not meant to breakup the Church, but unite the Church again and bring back order, but as usual since we can't agree about anything, or agree to disagree, well hence we have all these denominations. Well I would like to say, that the only thing that should matter is that we all fall under, and understand the fundamentalisms of Christianity, but that of course would be to easy. You spoke of me yielding in humility and faith to the Holy Spirit, which I appreciate, I strive to do that everyday in truth sometimes I'm successful and sometimes not, the Lord did say, my Spirit will not always strive with man. I also understand the scripture in Hosea that speaks of, my people perishing for lack of knowledge, and since you reject knowledge, I will also reject you. Well you know as I do mans' problem has never been a lack of information, but rejection of information. So I say this to say, I can assure you the knowledge that the Spirit of God has given you, to give me I have not rejected, and I also would pray you reject not the knowledge the Spirit has given me to give to you, though we might not agree on everything theologically which the Lord, knows were not and so should we, and to think otherwise would mean inmaturity I'm sure you would agree. So the argument should not be whether some of us are dispensationalist or non-dispensationalist, whether or not some believe in the Rapture or not, or whether some are Catholic or Prostestant (I speak this not in ignorance or naivety, but in truth) constantly bickering over the above things has done nothing but actually separate us from Christ and from each other a subtle and powerful tool of the enemy to divide us from within and were allowing it. When you and I stand before the bhema seat of Christ, I don't think He's going to care whether you or I was a dispensationalist or non-dispensationalist, but whether we followed after the (2) great commandments, loving Him and loving one another. I end this epistle or memo, if you like (smile) with the same words of the Apostle Paul, I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace given you, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Brother Tony,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate your desire to learn humbly from the Spirit, and I pray that God will give me the same desire. I also appreciate your desire for unity and love in the Church. That desire is also strong in my heart. I know there are many theological discussions which are not conducted in love, and which only result in bitter division. However, my caution would be this: the solution is not to minimize the importance of doctrine, or to consider the question of Dispensationalism, etc., so insignificant that one's opinion of it matters nothing at all. On the contrary, the most loving thing we can do for each other, as believers, is to encourage each other, humbly, prayerfully, and in a genuine spirit of love (which only God can give) to be thinking ever more scripturally on these matters. In fact, you seem to be doing this yourself. Whether or not you go by the name "Dispensationalist," you assert certain teachings which are peculiar to that system -- and the name is nothing to me, just the teachings that it espouses. I appreciate, certainly, that you are not Dispensational in a great many matters, as you have made clear. But at any rate, if we love each other, in Christ, we ought not to refrain from speaking on these topics at all, but rather be willing to show from scriptures just what the truth is, in Jesus, and likewise be willing to be corrected from scriptures. In this way, our unity will only grow. When doctrine is minimized, and our unity is no longer centered and objective, gospel-truth, the sad result may eventually be a false unity in a false gospel. I think that the Roman church in the days of the Reformation illustrates this -- they were all united, but in a "gospel" which denied justification by faith alone.

    Unity and doctrinal precision should not be played off against each other, as if we can have only one or the other. On the contrary, they should grow up together into more and more of each.

    Thanks again for the discussion, and blessings from our Savior, Jesus Christ,
    Nathan

    Brother Nate,

    Greetings my friend, could it be were becoming a modern day Peter and Paul (smile). Once again I'm in total agreement with you pertaining to doctrine, for without "sound doctrine" there can be no unity. Sure were going to disagree on somethings ala "denominations", but what I'm speaking on is the over emphasis on (1) subject in order just to be right or the over emphasis on a miner subject, while the "weightier" subject is forsaken. Its an awful thing when dealing with a person or group, that has to be right (when we have that kind of attitude, that spells nothing short of pride and disaster). And also when we focus on what Paul would say "drinking milk" instead of eating "strong meat". I think our Lord said it best, when addressing the Pharisees, "you pay tithes of mint, annis and cummin, but you forsake the heart of the law, justice, mercy, and forgiveness, you should've still been doing the one without forsaking the other and the latter things are the more weightier" or should I quote of the writer of Heb, "when you should've been teachers, you still need to be taught." There are at times when we forsake the "weightier" matters of the heart and concentrate more so on the miner issues. Now I'm saying all matter of doctrine shouldn't be discussed on the contrary, but not at the expense of matters of the heart (I think the writer of Heb Chap. 5 discussed this issue briefly). It would appear that we concentrate on the other issues in order not to concentrate on matters of the heart. The doctrine our Lord spoke more on, and the Apostles, was matters of the heart. Because I strongly believe when we concentrate or over emphasis on the one part (which I believe the enemy of our soul would like for us to do) thats were the arguments and division comes. Now I think you and I both would agree the emphasis on the matters of the heart are least, because that means my "flesh" has to die, but when I focus on the other, my "flesh" can be glorified (let the truth be told). So I would agree without "sound doctrine" there is no unity, but let us make sure there is a "balance" and if its off just alittle let it be the "weightier" matters of the heart that are more so emphasized, let us remember what the Apostle Paul said, "Wherefore receive ye one another as Christ received us to the glory of God."

    Your beloved brother and friend,

    Tony

    I just stumbled upon this post while I was googling the subject on how dispensationalists view redemption. Your post said what I have been saying since my first studies upon this subject which include the parts of dispensationalism that teach humanism and the take glory from God and give it to man. I began my in depth study of dispenationalism when John MacArthur spoke at this year's Shepherd's Conference. His speech shocked me and I was lead to my present study. Before this undertaking, I had only the slightest degree of knowledge on this subject. I have bought several books just recently for my education, Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof; A Case for Amillennialism by Riddlebarger; and Three Views on The Millenninum And Beyond, which I tend to read thoroughly to lay a solid foundation of truth. Afterwards, I tend to buy some books written by famous dispensationalists who hold to a variety of views on dispensationalism in order to write about their heretical opinions. I have felt that there are some aspects to dispensationalism (although my understanding of this topic is in its infancy) that do teach another Gospel and needs to have the light of truth shined upon it. This subject is dear to my heart for two reasons. The first being it endeavors to take away God's glory and give it to man, and the second being I am finding pastors of prominence who are in its death's grip. Please email me if you have any suggested readings that would contribute to my overall understanding of the broad and entrenched teachings of dispensationalism. I thank you for your time.

    Can anyone tell me where I can find a CD presentation by one man sitting in a chair and speaking on the Bjema Seat? I do not know his name.

    This has been an excellent article and the comments have been helpful in my research into dispy beliefs.I realize that I have dispy beliefs as far as eschotology,yet the errors that have been addressed here I honestly have never heard of!And I can't agree with those errors,either.I think that Tony Davis and Alberto Salinas says it better than I could so I need not make any further comments.This site is already in my favorites and I will be back for further reading of articles.God richly bless all of you!

    Dearest Sherry,

    I haven't been on this site in awhile, but I believed the Lord compelled me to look on this site that I might read your article. I can say this to you, of all the articles on this site, with all of our theological background and perhaps gifts of knowledge and wisdom, I would say all of our articles (including mine) pale in comparison, to your heartfelt honesty, and humility. However, I would earnestly encourage you not too to much concern yourself with whether your a "dispensationalist or non-dispensationalist", but rather study the "whole counsel" of God, allow the Holy Spirit, to open up your "heart and mind", to his word will and wisdom. Do as the Lord told us "Seek first the kingdom of God and his "RIGHTEOUSNESS." Do as the Apostle Paul said, "abideth faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is "LOVE." Try to remember, the Lord, will teach us what to do from each other, and also what not to do from each other, which means were not going to always be right and were not always going to agree on certain subjects, but whether we see it each others way or not, we must see it God's way. The study of "eschatology" does not make one mature in the things of the Lord, only following after the (2) great commandments, "Loving God, and loving each other" helps one to be "perfected" (blameless not sinless). Sometimes we have a way of making God's word so hard to understand, when it doesn't have to be, the Lord said (2) things: If your righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God, but then he said, if you do not enter the Kingdom of God as a little child, you shall not enter therein (understand my point). To understand the deeper things of God, open up your heart and mind to Him, be transparent, allow Him to examine your heart daily, allow Him to scrutinize your motives and intent and honestly and humbly receive what He shows you then will you concern yourself with what He desires and not what man desires. As I have written all these things to you am I saying I'm right about everything, no I'm not, one of the many wonderful things about the Lord is this, no matter how experienced you might think you are, He can send a child (that can be a knewely saved person) to correct or edify you thats why "one does the planting and another does the watering, but God does the increase." I hope this article of mine also helps and edifies you as much as yours edified me.

    Your Beloved Friend,

    Tony

    Thank you for your sound advice.I have taken it to heart.I did wonder if would be O.K.to not be labeled at all.But in my research I have seen that Covenant and dispensational theologies have their problems,too.And many were pointing out to me that I had dispy beliefs.I must say though that there is much to be corrected in my understanding of scriptures.Perhaps it is part of growing in the knowledge of Christ.Thanks for replying and encouraging me to not so much be concerned with certain groups beliefs but in what our God says in His Word.John 17:3.

    I began my theological education in a church where dispensatinalism was a requirement for membership. I was indoctrinated in that system, which I wholeheartedly embraced. I even graduated from a dispensational Bible college. In reading your article I recognize those points you make as documenation of my own experience as I grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ. I have never read an amill book, but I have read the Bible extensively. That's where I got my present system, post-trib, amil, which fits in perfectly with what you have written.

    Amazing what you can learn by reading the Bible, isn't it?

    Hi, i must say fantastic blog you have, i stumbled across it in Bing. Does you get much traffic?

    Thanks for your post. I am finally getting off my lazy butt to research this important issue. I have for a while now been referring to it as a heresy in private conversation - perhaps a bit too harsh by the looks of your presentation.

    Daniel Lovett
    www.reflectworship.com

    Nathon, Thanks for sharing your experiances and various teachings of your dispensational journey and awakening to the errors of that system. It reminded me of my own journey. I personally never could swallow the pre-trib rapture teaching because of what Jesus taught in Mathew 24 and 25 and this put me at odds with the theology right from the start nearly 30 years ago. When I researched the history of the theology and its fathers, John Nelson Darby, Scofield, I was suprised at the newness of this theology and also the instability of these men. As I learned the differences of dispensational theology from what the reformers understood espesially in the erea of "who the Isreal of God is" I was shocked. Today I believe it is nothing short of another gospel that has crept in to lead many astray from the calling of God for the Church to bring the Kingdom of God to a lost World. Thanks for your work and God Bless you richly my Brother

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