A Return to Biblical Theology
or Pseudo Christian Cult?
John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism
(Brentwood TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 150.
"What is indisputably, absolutely, and uncompromisingly essential to the Christian religion is its doctrine of salvation... If Dispensationalism has actually departed from the only way of salvation which the Christian religion teaches, then we must say it has departed from Christianity. No matter how many other important truths it proclaims, it cannot be called Christian if it empties Christianity of its essential message. We define a cult as a religion which claims to be Christian while emptying Christianity of that which is essential to it. If Dispensationalism does this, then Dispensationalism is a cult and not a branch of the Christian church. It is as serious as that. It is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation."
- Why Argue About Doctrine?
- What is Dispensationalism?
- Is Dispensational Premillennialism Different from Historic Premillennialism?
- How Does Dispensationalism Deny the Gospel?
- How the Pretribulational Rapture Denies the Gospel
- Questions for Dispensationalists
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. -Romans 16:17-18 KJV
Why do so many who call themselves Christian continually argue among themselves and with others about doctrine? Are not all who name Christ united by the Holy Spirit into Christ's body? Doesn't every church teach the same basic doctrine? If this were so there would have been no need for Paul to admonish young pastor Timothy"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine...", for the Councils of the early church to define the creeds and oppose false teachings, for Martin Luther's 95 Theses, the Augsburg Confession, nor in fact for the Reformation as a whole.
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. -Martin Luther
Since Christian doctrine was first defined there have been continuous assaults, both overt and insidious, to lead astray those whose faith is not firmly grounded in Christ and sound doctrine. The church has attempted to deal with this fact by defining creeds and confessions, teaching catechisms, and requiring pastors to be trained by orthodox institutions.
Unfortunately, most of the American church has been caught up in a form of revivalism that replaces creeds with "testimonies", catechisms with "Youth Group Pizza Nite", and theological training of pastors with church growth seminars. Most laymen, and many preachers, have a difficult time putting into words exactly what they believe, and of the few who can make a statement of doctrine fewer still can cite the scriptural basis, history, or make a logical defense of said doctrine. Such is the curse of a theology based upon feelings and experience rather than Word and Sacrament.
Paul, the apostle, was adamant on the subject of doctrine. His admonition quoted from the Epistle to the Romans was not to avoid the issue of doctrine, but rather to mark those who teach doctrine contrary to that which was
once for all delivered to the saints. Jude agrees that Christian doctrine was settled at the time of the writing of his Epistle, but that heresy was creeping into the church.
"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." -Jude 1:3-4
Are we, as Christians, to divide over any and all issues? The ever increasing number of denominations and sects has been caused primarily by disputes over what was considered by those involved to be doctrinal issues. Many will argue over food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, and while such issues may have legitimacy in regard to physical health or preferences in forms, the dividing line should be drawn over much more substantial criteria.
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Dispensationalism is a form of premillennialism originating among the Plymouth Brethren in the early 1830's. The father of dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby, educated as a lawyer and ordained Anglican priest, was one of the chief founders of the Plymouth Brethren movement, which arose in reaction against the perceived empty formalism of the Church of England. To the Brethren the true "invisible" church was to come out of the apostate "visible" Church, rejecting such forms as priesthood and sacraments.
Dispensational theology centers upon the concept of God's dealings with mankind being divided into (usually) seven distinct economies or "dispensations", in which man is tested as to his obedience to the will of God as revealed under each dispensation.
Dispensationalists see God as pursuing two distinct purposes throughout history, one related to an earthly goal and an earthly people (the Jews), the other to heavenly goals and a heavenly people (the church).1
Dispensationalists believe that in the Old Testament God promised the Jewish people an earthly kingdom ruled by Messiah ben David, and that when Christ came He offered this prophesied kingdom to the Jews. When the Jews of the time rejected Christ and the earthly kingdom, the promise was postponed, and the "mystery form" of the kingdom - the church - was established.
The church, according to dispensational doctrine, was unforeseen in the Old Testament and constitutes a "parenthesis" in God's plan for Israel. In the future, the distinction between Jew and Gentile will be reestablished and will continue throughout all eternity. The "parenthesis", or church age, will end at the rapture when Christ comes invisibly to take all believers (excepting OT saints) to heaven to celebrate the "marriage feast of the Lamb" with Christ for a period of seven years.2
God's program for the Jews then resumes with the tribulation, Antichrist, bowls of wrath, 144,000 Jews preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and Armageddon. Then, the Second (third, if you count the preTrib rapture) Coming, the instantaneous conversion of the entire nation of Israel, the resurrection of the Tribulation and Old Testament saints, and the "sheep and goats" judgment. The "goats" will be cast into hell, the "sheep" and the believing Jews will enter the millennium in natural human bodies, marrying, reproducing, and dying. The "mystery church" and the resurrected Tribulation and Old Testament saints will live in the heavenly Jerusalem suspended above the earthly city. This millennium will be a time of great peace and prosperity, with Christ ruling on David's throne. After 1,000 yrs. Satan will be released from the chain with which he had been bound at the beginning of the millennium and many of the children born to the "sheep" and the Israelites will follow him in revolt against Christ. The King will again destroy His enemies, followed by another resurrection of the righteous, another resurrection of the unrighteous, a final judgment, and at last the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Although premillennial thought has been recorded in the early church, dispensational theology and its pursuant eschatology are new, as even the father of the system admitted -
"I think we ought to have something more of direct testimony as to the lord's coming, and its bearing also on the state of the church: ordinarily, it would not be well to have it so clear, as it frightens people. We must pursue it steadily; it works like leaven, and its fruit is by no means seen yet; I do not mean leaven as ill, but the thoughts are new, and people's minds work on them, and all the old habits are against their feelings - all the gain of situation, and every worldly motive; we must not be surprised at its effect being slow on the mass, the ordinary instruments of acting upon others having been trained in most opposite habits." -
LETTERS OF J.N.D., vol.1 pg.25-26
The new doctrine was widely accepted in America, due to popular prophetic meetings such as the Niagara Bible Conferences. C.I. Scofield promulgated dispensational thought in his Scofield Reference Bible. Dispensational Bible institutes by the hundreds have sprung up across the continent - notably Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary. Media evangelists such as Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, Jack Van Impe, and Hal Lindsey popularize dispensational eschatology today. Most likely you have heard these doctrines taught over Christian radio programs, and yes, from your own church's pulpit, though probably no one defined the theological system as dispensationalism nor the origination as Darby circa 1832.
Dispensationalists view the teaching as a return to Biblical theology, after nearly 1,800 years of darkness. But, since the day Darby began to preach the doctrine, Godly men have opposed. Many books have been published exposing the flaws in the intricate system. Most hack away at the branches, arguing peripheral issues. We intend to lay the axe to the root of the tree.
"My brother, I am a constant reader of my Bible, and I soon found that what I was taught to believe (by Darby's doctrine) did not always agree with what my Bible said. I came to see that I must either part company with John Darby, or my precious Bible, and I chose to cling to my Bible and part from Mr. Darby." - George MŁeller, a contemporary and one time supporter of Darby quoted by Robert Cameron in his book
SCRIPTURAL TRUTH ABOUT THE LORD'S RETURN, pp.146-7
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Please understand that Dispensational Premillennialism and classic Historic Premillennialism are two very different systems of eschatology:
From: THE BIBLE AND THE FUTURE by Dr. Wick Broomall
- Older premillennialism taught that the church was in the forevision of the Old Testament prophecy; Dispensationalism teaches that the church is hardly, if at all, in the Old Testament prophets.
- Older premillennialism taught that the great burden of Old Testament prophecy was the coming of Christ to die (at the First Advent) and the kingdom age (at the Second Advent). Dispensationalism says that the great burden of Old Testament prophecy is the kingdom of the Jews.
- Older premillennialism taught that the First Advent was the specific time for Christ to die for man's sin; Dispensationalism teaches that the kingdom (earthly) should have been set up at the First Advent for that was the predicted time of its coming.
- Older premillennialism taught that the present age of grace was designed by God and predicted in the Old Testament; Dispensationalism holds that the present age was unforeseen in the Old Testament and thus is a "great parenthesis" introduced because the Jews rejected the kingdom.
- Older premillennialism taught that one may divide time in any way desirable so long as one allows for a millennium after the Second Advent; Dispensationalism maintains that the only allowable way to divide time is in seven dispensations. The present age is the sixth such dispensation; the last one will be the millennial age after the Second Advent. It is from this division of time that Dispensationalism gets its name.
- Older premillennialism taught that the Second Advent was to be one event; Dispensationalism holds that the Second Advent will be in two sections - "the Rapture" and "the Revelation." Between these two events they put the (to them) unfulfilled seventieth week (seven years) of Daniel 9:23-27, which they call "the Great Tribulation."
- Older premillennialism taught that certain signs must precede the Second Advent; Dispensationalism teaches that no sign precedes the "rapture-stage" of the Second Advent, which may occur "at any moment." However, there are signs that precede the "revelation-stage" of the Second Advent. The "Rapture" could occur "at any moment," but the "Revelation" must take place after the seven years of the Great Tribulation. The first stage is undated and unannounced; the second stage is dated and announced.
- Older premillennialism had two resurrections-the righteous before the Millennium; the unrighteous after the Millennium. Dispensationalism has introduced a third resurrection - "tribulation-saints" at the "revelation-stage" of the Second Advent.
- Older premillennialism usually held what is called the "historical symbolic" view of the book of Revelation. This view makes Revelation a picture in symbolic form of the main events in the present age. Dispensationalism holds generally to the "futurist" view of the book of Revelation, which view makes almost the whole book (especially chapters 4 to 19) a literal description of events to take place during "the Great Tribulation" or Daniel's seventieth week, which Dispensationalism considers as yet unfulfilled.
- The general attitude of older premillennialism was on the whole mild and reverent in its approach to Scripture. There have been some outstanding scholars who have been persuaded that the premillennial is the correct view. In contrast, Dispensationalism has assumed a far more dogmatic attitude. It has introduced a number of novelties in prophetic interpretation that the church never heard of until about a century ago.
Historic Premillennialism is considered to be an orthodox Christian millennial system. Arguments posited against this older form of chiliasm will be in the nature of a disagreement among brethren about non-essentials. The dispensational system, however, differs from orthodox Christian doctrine in many areas. Most of these aberrations will, if seriously considered, end in the denial of the everlasting gospel.
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4. How Does Dispensationalism Deny the Gospel?
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. -Gal 1:6-10
Dispensationalists have long been accused of teaching multiple methods of salvation. Dispensational leaders (excepting the Bullingerite or Consistent sects) have long denied these charges. Denial without refutation is, however, meaningless. Let us examine some of the evidence.
C.I. Scofield (1843-1921) pastor of the First Congregational Church in Dallas, Texas, and then of Moody Church, Northfield, Massachusetts, discussed with Arno C. Gaebelein his plan to write an annotated version of the Bible in 1901 :
"One night, about the middle of that week, Dr. Scofield suggested, after the evening service, that we take a stroll along the shore. It was a beautiful night. Our walk along the shore of the sound lasted until midnight. For the first time he mentioned the plan of producing a reference Bible, and outlined the method he had in mind. He said he had thought of it for many years and had spoken to others about it, but had not received much encouragement. The scheme came to him in the early days of his ministry in Dallas, and later, during the balmy days of the Niagara Conferences he had submitted his desire to a number of brethren, who all approved of it, but nothing came of it. He expressed the hope that the new beginning and this new testimony in Sea Cliff might open the way to bring about the publication of such a Bible with references and copious footnotes." -Moody Monthly 43 ( 1943 ) : 278.
The end result of this discussion was the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909, combining an attractive format, notes, and cross references which became perhaps the most influential tome of dispensational theology to date. "The teachings of dispensational premillennialism on prophecy have spread widely in Canada and the United States, due especially to the influence of the 1909 Scofield Reference Bible and it subsequent editions."3 The theology presented by Scofield in his Reference Bible is normative dispensational doctrine, thus the significance of the quote here:
"As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ....The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation"4
Scofield here states that salvific grace is a New Testament phenomenon, unavailable in previous dispensations. Notice that Scofield explains that legal obedience was the condition of salvation in the previous dispensation, but that now faith in Christ is the condition that must be met. This is consistent with Scofield's definition of a dispensation.
A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.5
If, indeed, man is tested in respect to obedience to the will of God in each of these "dispensations", what is the reward - or punishment? If the reward is salvation, as obviously Scofield taught concerning the dispensation of Law, that salvation is not of grace but of works! The dispensationalist, misunderstanding the concept of Law and Gospel, offers salvation to those who meet the condition of the "dispensation" in which they are tested, thus even in the dispensation of Grace, faith becomes a work which entitles us to Christ. If one can only muster from the depths of one's heart enough "faith", one can meet the condition of this dispensation and be rewarded with salvation.6
Orthodox Christian doctrine, on the other hand, adamantly teaches that man is dead in trespasses and sin, cannot improve his condition in the slightest, and that it is Christ
alone who justifies the ungodly. Faith is the gift of God, through the new birth, a work of the Holy Spirit by Word and Sacrament.
It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers' wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. Rejected in this connection are the Pelagians and others who deny that original sin is sin, for they hold that natural man is made righteous by his own powers, thus disparaging the sufferings and merit of Christ.
In answer to the "Scofield problem" dispensationalism began to redefine the term "dispensation". The New Scofield Reference Bible of 1967 repeats Scofield's terminology, but the modern commentators elaborate on 1909 version indicating that the definition implies three concepts: a new divine revelation, the nature of man's stewardship with respect to it, and a certain time period for it. These implied concepts are then qualified to such an extent as to make the delineations meaningless. Significantly, this new definition of dispensations brings into question whether the term means anything at all.
The purpose of each dispensation, then, is to place man under a specific rule of conduct, but such stewardship is not a condition of salvation. In every past dispensation unregenerate man has failed, and he has failed in this present dispensation and will in the future. But salvation has been and will continue to be available to him by God's grace through faith.8
Revisionist dispensationalism now states that the purpose of the dispensations are not salvific. What, then, is the purpose of the testing in regards to the "specific rule of conduct"? What is the significance of man's failure in the various dispensations? It seems that while Scofield might have been too frank in his elucidation, his successors have so qualified the term "dispensation" as to remove from it any semblance of meaning. Note also, that "available to him by God's grace through faith" still leaves it unclear as to whether "faith" is an innate ability of fallen man, or is a product of the new birth.
The central question here is whether dispensational theology recognizes, as does orthodox Christianity, that regeneration is the
source of faith. Dispensational theology sees the sequence of dispensations as opportunities for fallen man to attain to God. Though in past dispensations none passed the test, the opportunity was there -
"Do this and live". During the current dispensation of Grace, the bar has been lowered - all that is required is "faith". If a man will avail himself of his "chance", and exercise his own moral ability to believe, he will be entitled to the grace of God in Christ.
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Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952), a student of Scofield, established Dallas Theological Seminary in 1924, and led dispensationalism's flagship school for it's first thirty years. Chafer also produced the first definitive systematic theology of dispensationalism. Lewis Sperry Chafer,
Systematic Theology, 8 vols., (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948) is a standard articulation of Scofieldian dispensational thought. Chafer, always faithful to his mentor, stated -
"It goes on record that the Dallas Theological Seminary uses, recommends, and defends the Scofield Bible."9
That the founder of the school known as the "Jerusalem of Dispensationalism", and the author of her Systematic Theology might make statements such as the following comes as no surprise to those who understand the grievous error of the dispensational system.
"With the call of Abraham and the giving of the Law... there are two widely different standardized, divine provisions whereby man, who is utterly fallen, might come into the favor of God."10
Chafer's Systematic Theology makes the point that in the Old Testament men were justified by the Law, while in the New Testament faith was without works.11 Again, in his
Dispensationalism, p. 430, Chafer makes plain his misunderstanding of grace -
As before stated, whatever God does for sinful men on any terms whatsoever [being made possible through the death of Christ] is to that extent, an act of divine grace; for whatever God does on the ground of Christ's death is gracious in character, and all will agree that a divine covenant which is void of all human elements is more gracious in character than one which is otherwise. These distinctions apply only to the divine side of the covenant. On the human side... there is no exercise of grace in any case; but the human requirements which the divine covenant imposes may be either absolutely lacking, or some so drastically imposed as to determine the destiny of the individual.
Chafer, in keeping with the standard definition of a dispensation, sees the Atonement as making grace possible throughout the various ages, which allows salvation to be viewed as gracious regardless of the added requirements of that specific dispensation. So, under Grace (...the human requirements which the divine covenant imposes may be either absolutely lacking...) if one can generate the necessary faith one might receive grace. Under the dispensation of Law (...or some so drastically imposed as to determine the destiny of the individual.), one might be required to keep the Law.
In either case, the salvation obtained is gracious (according to Chafer), while in fact it is salvation by grace in neither. Modern dispensationalists may argue that what Scofield and Chafer had meant has not been properly discerned from what they have said. To that we say, look to the Consistent (or Bullingerite) Dispensationalist who has done nothing other than carry dispensationalism consistently to it's logical conclusions.
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Dispensationalism believes that the purpose of the first advent of Jesus Christ was to offer an earthly Kingdom to the Jews. This Kingdom would reinstate the Old Testament legal system and it's expansion to the entire world under the Messiah. When the Jews rejected Jesus Christ and His Kingdom offer, plan B went into effect and Christ went to the cross to initiate the dispensation of Grace and the "mystery church". Had Israel received her King there would have been no cross - and no Gospel!
When Jesus came, He made a bona fide offer of the Kingdom and power to the people of Israel.12
What then, if the Jews had done their duty and accepted this offer, of the salvation of mankind? What of the cross -
"without shedding of blood there is no remission"? What of the prophecies pointing to the cross? How could Christ offer a Kingdom that He could not permit to be established lest there be no salvation of man by His shed Blood? Dispensationalists attempt to absolve themselves from the concept of making God a liar by claiming He knew no one would call His bluff.
He knew before He came that they would refuse it - knew from all eternity; hence, there are prophets which speak of His coming to die for us.13
Still, the problem stands. Even if Christ made an earthly Kingdom offer knowing that the Jews would refuse, the offer could not have been redeemed. An offer that is impossible to honor is not a sincere offer but a fraud. Our God makes no insincere offers. Besides, if Christ came to establish an earthly Kingdom for the Jews surely He had opportunity, and the support of the masses -
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. -John 6:15
No, Christ came at the set time to die on the cross, to redeem fallen mankind. All true sons of Abraham recognized Him. It is at the Ascension that He received His Kingdom, and He is seated now on His Throne!
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. -Eph 1:15-21
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Comparing, then, what is said in Scripture concerning Israel and the Church, we find that in origin, calling, promises, worship, principles of conduct and future destiny all is contrast.14
Perhaps the central doctrine of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the church. Dispensationalism sees Israel as an earthly people with earthly promises, and the church as a heavenly people with heavenly promises. Membership in Israel is by natural birth.15 One enters the church by supernatural birth. Dispensationalists view Israel and the church as having distinct eternal destinies. Israel will receive an eternal earthly Kingdom, and the church an eternal heavenly Kingdom.
Darby, the father of dispensationalism, stated the distinction in the clearest of terms
"The Jewish nation is never to enter the church."16 Ryrie considers this the most important dispensational distinction, and approves the statement that the
"basic promise of Dispensationalism is two purposes of God expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction throughout eternity."17
In contrast, Christian theology has always maintained the essential continuity of Israel and the church. The elect of all the ages are seen as one people, with one Savior, one destiny. This continuity can be shown by examining a few Old Testament prophesies with their fulfillment. Dispensationalists admit that if the church can be shown to be fulfilling promises made to Israel their system is doomed.
If the church is fulfilling Israel's promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned.18
Promise to Israel -
"Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There it shall be said to them, 'You are sons of the living God.' -Hosea 1:10
Fulfillment in the church -
What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved." "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God." -Romans :22-26
Promise to Israel -
Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they shall say, 'You are my God!'" -Hosea 2:23
Fulfillment in the church -
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. -1 Peter 2:9-10
Promise to Israel -
"On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; -Amos 9:11
Fulfillment in the church -
"Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. "And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 'After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.' "Known to God from eternity are all His works. -Acts 15:14-18
In the same manner there are many Old Testament passages referring to Israel that are in the New Testament applied directly to the church.
Spoken to Israel -
"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. -Joel 2:28-32
Applied to the church -
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place..."But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.' -Acts 2:1,16-21
Spoken to Israel -
'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." -Exodus 19:6
Applied to the church -
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; -1 Peter 2:9
Spoken to Israel -
"My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. -Ezekiel 37:27
Applied to the church -
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." -2 Cor 6:16
Spoken to Israel -
"Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. -Lev 19:2
Applied to the church -
but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." -1 Peter 1:15-16
Spoken to Israel -
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- -Jer 31:31
Applied to the church -
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. -Luke 22:20
The New Covenant is particularly problematic for the dispensationalist, as Jeremiah 31 is undeniably addressed to Israel. The New Covenant is the very heart of the Gospel, yet if the church is fulfilling the promise given to Israel under the New Covenant, dispensationalism is dead. Ryrie, in his early writings, makes this significant statement:
If the church does not have a new covenant, then she is fulfilling Israel's promises, for it has been clearly shown that the Old Testament teaching on the new covenant is that it is for Israel. If the church is fulfilling Israel's promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere else in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned. One might well ask why there are not two aspects to the one new covenant. This is the position held by many premillennialists, but we agree that the amillennialist has every right to say of this view that it is a practical admission that the new covenant is fulfilled in and to the church.19
Dispensationalism has used various arguments to get around this insurmountable problem. Perhaps the boldest was the concept of two New Covenants. Chafer appears to be the originator of the idea:
There remains to be recognized a heavenly covenant for the heavenly people, which is also styled like the preceding one for Israel a "new covenant." It is made in the blood of Christ (cf. Mark 14:24) and continues in effect throughout this age, whereas the new covenant made with Israel happens to be future in its application. To suppose that these two covenants -- one for Israel and one for the Church -- are the same is to assume that there is a latitude of common interest between God's purpose for Israel and His purpose for the Church.20
Consistent Dispensationalists have long recognized the problem. E.W. Bullinger noted that the cup of the Lord's Supper was indeed the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-33, directed to Israel and not the church, and for that very reason the "mystery" church should not administer it. Moderate (inconsistent) dispensationalists, not understanding the Sacrament, but still desiring to preserve their "memorial" sought to maneuver out of this predicament. John F. Walvoord, who became the president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and who appears to be the leading contemporary champion of the second new covenant, writes:
The point of view that holds to two covenants in the present age has certain advantages. It provides a sensible reason for establishing the Lord's supper for believers in this age in commemoration of the blood of the new covenant. The language of I Corinthians 11:25 seems to require it: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do as often as ye drink it in remembrance of me." It hardly seems reasonable to expect Christians to distinguish between the cup and the new covenant when these appear to be identified in this passage. In 2 Corinthians 3:6, Paul speaking of himself states: "Our sufficiency is of God: who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant." It would be difficult to adjust the ministry of Paul as a minister of the new covenant if, in fact, there is no new covenant for the present age.
Walvoord, discussing the Epistle to the Hebrews, contrasts the Mosaic (old) Covenant, the New Covenant, and his novel "Better" Covenant. The identification of the New Covenant which replaces the Old Covenant would seem to be certain by the lengthy quotation from Jeremiah 31 which the Epistle contains, and thus it is with some astonishment that one reads Walvoord's denial:
The Epistle to the Hebrews by its title is addressed to the Jewish people. The epistle is planned to show that Christ and Christian doctrine supersedes Moses and the Mosaic covenant. The argument in Hebrews eight proceeds on the revelation that Christ is mediator of a better covenant than Moses, established on better promises. At this point, the writer shows that the Mosaic covenant was never intended to be eternal (in contrast to other Jewish covenants) and that the Old Testament itself anticipated the day of its passing. To prove this point, the passage from Jeremiah on the new covenant is quoted (Heb. 8:8-12)...There is no appeal at all to the content of the new covenant with Israel as being identical with the better covenant of which Hebrews speaks. The very absence of such an appeal is as strong as any argument from silence can be.
Dispensationalists, determined to cling to their false distinction between Israel and the church are forced to abandon the New Covenant's application in any real sense to the church. Albertus Pieters, however, representing non-dispensational commentators in general, explains:
This is entirely correct [that Israel is meant in Jeremiah 31], and it is to the house of Israel that the fulfillment came. The objection arises from a failure to perceive that the Christian church in its origin was an Israelitish body, full qualified to claim the promises made to Israel.... The Christian church once having been established many Gentiles came into it, but that did not make it a "church from among the Gentiles", any more than the naturalization of many Italians in our country makes it a nation from among the Italians.... they were all Israelite members of the Old Covenant people of God, to whom the promise had been made. Strictly in line with the promise and with the prevailing principle of the covenant history, to them, the believing remnant, the promise of the New Covenant was fulfilled. That promise was, "To the House of Israel and the House of Judah," and to the designated parties the fulfillment came; to all who were, in the sight of God and according to a just interpretation of history, still worthy of the name: "Israel and Judah.".... In all this, are we spiritualizing the prophecy as some allege? Not at all. We are stating a historical fact, clearly contained in the sacred records, that in or about the spring of the year 30 A.D., the mass of those who then called themselves Israelites ceased to be such for prophetic and covenant purpose, having forfeited their citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel by refusing to accept the Messiah, and that after this event all the privileges of the Abrahamic Covenant and all the promises of God belonged to the believing remnant, and to them only; which remnant was therefore and thereafter the true Israel and Judah, the Seed of Abraham, the Christian church. Thus the promise was fulfilled strictly and definitely to the designated parties.23
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We have discussed the fact that the dispensationalist's understanding of "dispensation" invalidates the reality of grace in any age, how the dispensational "Kingdom Offer" impugns the honesty of God and makes the gospel nothing more than an afterthought, and how presumed distinctions between Israel and the church deny the New Covenant to either. We will now examine how the peculiarly dispensational doctrine of the Pretribulational Rapture of the Church makes manifest these errors.
The novel doctrine of the pretribulational rapture is central to dispensational teaching. The removal of the church to heaven preceding the Tribulation period, when the stopped prophetic clock begins ticking for Israel again with the "Seventieth Week of Daniel", was Darby's innovation.
Darby broke not only from previous millenarian teaching but from all of church history by asserting that Christ's second coming would occur in two stages. The first, an invisible "secret rapture" of true believers could happen at any moment, ending the great "parenthesis" or church age which began when the Jews rejected Christ.
Scofield also taught this doctrine along with Chafer, Ryrie, Walvoord, etc. At dispensational schools, failure to hold steadfastly to the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture may have dire consequences.
...the doctrine of a pretribulational rapture of the church seems to be a litmus test of orthodoxy. To "outsiders," including classic premillennialists, this doctrine is not crucial, if it is believed at all. But not only is it vigorously maintained in Dallas Dispensationalism, but deviation from it causes a person to be suspect and institutions to shake and sometimes split.25
It is unfortunate that "outsiders" - historic premillennialists, postmillennialists, and amillennialists - have not taken this distinctively dispensational doctrine more seriously, for it is here that dispensational theology stands or falls. It is the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture that proves conclusively that Dispensationalism is not, as dispensationalists claim, a return to Biblical theology - but a pseudo Christian cult.
Most arguments against pretribulationism have focused upon showing that the doctrine is a new development in theology and can not be found in the scriptures. Various orthodox commentators and theologians, from the ranks of each of the millennial views26, have presented this case with considerable skill. We will therefore take a different tack, and show that the doctrine is in direct opposition to the everlasting Gospel of Christ Jesus.
Most earlier dispensational theologians allowed that the Old Testament saints would be resurrected along with the church in the pretribulational rapture. Alexander Reese, a classic premillennialist, utterly destroyed this position with convincing scriptural arguments locating the resurrection of the Old Testament saints at the Day of the Lord at the end of the Tribulation.27
"At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. -Daniel 12:1-2
Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. "Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. "And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. "Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. "But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days." -Daniel 12:8-13
No dispensationalist would argue that the "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation", the "abomination of desolation", and the taking away of the daily sacrifice is not a reference to the time of the Tribulation. Yet, Daniel is told that the resurrection follows these events.
Dispensationalists then, for the most part, amended their position to separate the resurrection of the Old Testament saints from the rapture.
... many careful students of premillennial truth have come to the conclusion that the opinion that Israel's resurrection occurred at the time of the rapture was a hasty one and without proper Scriptural foundation. It seems far more preferable to regard the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 as a literal one following the tribulation, but not to be identified with the pretribulational rapture of the church... The church will be raised at the time of the rapture before the tribulation, and the Old Testament saints, including Israel, at the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ.
On this point the dispensationalist has jumped from the frying pan into the fire. In order to preserve the precious doctrine of the pretribulational rapture of the church, they raise the Old Testament saints apart from the saints of the church age. We note that this is consistent with the dispensational understanding of "dispensations" and with their distinction between Israel and the church. It also reveals that the longstanding charge made by orthodox Christianity that dispensationalism teaches multiple methods of salvation is absolutely true. Let us look at some of the texts concerning the resurrection of the saints -
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" -1 Cor 15:50-55
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. -1 Thes 4:15-17
In these classic dispensational proof texts of the pretribulational rapture, we see that the righteous dead are raised first, and then those who are alive and remain are translated into incorruptable bodies and gathered to Christ. How, then, can the dispensationalist justify the concept of the Old Testament saints being raised at some later point in time?
Some people are startled by the thought that the Old Testament saints will not be resurrected until the end of the Tribulation. But keep in mind that the rapture is a promise to the Church, and the Church only.29
We see that the dispensationally imposed distinction between Israel and the church is at the root of this argument. The Old Testament saints are not "in Christ" and therefore will not arise to everlasting life at the same time as the church saints.
According to dispensationalists, the Old Testament people are not the heirs of the Holy Spirit, are not regenerated by Him, and are not grafted by Him into Christ in the same way that the New Testament people are.30
...the verse simply says that the dead in Christ will precede the living in Christ in the rapture. If you are saying that Daniel would be included in "the dead", then you have to show that Daniel is "in Christ". If you will study the NT you will see that "in Christ" refers to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink"...There is no way that Daniel was part of the body of Christ. This verse in 1 Thess 4:16 simply does not apply to him. The Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell believers in the OT. It is not really people or time period that delineates the church--it is the Holy Spirit. Personal faith in Jesus Christ--which is what the passage is referring to--was not an option for OT saints. They are not in view in this passage. It is referring to people who do have the option of this personal faith in Jesus...OT saints are "in Christ" in that sense that the death of Jesus is the basis for the salvation of anyone--past, present, future. However, they were not part of the body of Christ, in the sense of being permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
The technical term for the Church is those who are "in Christ." 1 Thess. speaks of those who have died "in Christ" being resurrected at the time of His coming IN THE AIR. The context has ONLY the Church in mind.
This dispensational distinction between the OT & NT saints, the church & Israel, is in fact what denies dispensationalism any claim to Christianity at all, for in that very distinction dispensationalism teaches multiple methods of salvation. By excluding the OT saint from the ekklesia (church) the dispensationalist is required to produce some means, other than partaking of the New Covenant in Christ, for one or the other of the groups to be granted eternal life. The teaching of the church for the last 2,000 yrs precludes this, as does our Lord.
Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. " - John 6:53-56
Notice these points which contradict Dispensational doctrine -
- No one has life who does not partake of the New Covenant in Christ's Blood. The OT saint must partake, as does the NT & tribulation saint, in order to have life.
- ALL who partake are raised at the LAST DAY. That day is the "end of the days" prophesied to Daniel -
"But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days."- Daniel 12:13
- ALL who partake are "in Christ" and He in they.
- ALL THE SAINTS are promised the same resurrection, by the same Blood, at the same time!
And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. -Hebrews 9:15
By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. -Hebrews 11:9-10
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth...But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. -Hebrews 11:13,16
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. -Hebrews 11:39-40
The dispensationalist, ignoring the clear teaching of scripture and the historic church, denies the existence of the general assembly, and falls back to perdition by advocating shadows as the means of salvation for the OT & Tribulation saint, all in order to preserve the delusion of the pretribulational rapture!
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. -Hebrews 12:22-29
The dispensational argument that proclaims that the OT saint is somehow saved because of Christ - rather than being "in Christ" by partaking of the New Covenant in His Blood - is opposed to orthodox Christian soteriology.
The truth will inevitably manifest itself. It has in dispensational soteriology. The truth is that another way of salvation which is somehow connected with Christ but not resting on Christ is a DIFFERENT way. The dispensationalist at this point is, unconsciously perhaps, consistent with himself. He does not regard the Old Testament people of God as second, third, or fourth class citizens of the Kingdom of God. They simply are not citizens at all. While dispensationalists roundly assert that Old Testament people were saved by Christ, there is NO WAY IN THEIR THEOLOGICAL SYSTEM they could be.34
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If the dispensationalist will simply answer these honestly presented queries, we will be able to discern whether the accusations against dispensationalism are true -
1. Has the OT saint partaken of the blood of Christ shed for sins?
Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." -John 6:53-54
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." -Matthew 26:26-28
2. Does the Spirit of Christ dwell in the OT saint?
"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." -John 6:56
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. -Romans 8:9
3. Are ALL the saints of ALL the ages ONE BODY, drinking of the SAME Spirit?
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. -1 Cor 10:16-17
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. -1 Cor 12:13
If one answers in the affirmative the above queries, one has abandoned Dispensationalism. Congratulations, brother, welcome to orthodox Christianity! If one answers any of the above in the negative, then the accusations against dispensationalism are true, and we would ask that person to produce the means of the OT saints salvation!
Soli Deo Gloria !
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- Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 41-45
- Darby introduced into discussion at Powerscourt (1833) the ideas of a secret rapture of the church and of a parenthesis in prophetic fulfillment between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel. These two concepts constituted the basic tenets of the system of theology since referred to as dispensationalism... E.R. Sandeen,
The Roots of Fundamentalism 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970)
- The End Times: A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations LCMS, Sept. 1989, p.3
- C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, 1909,1917(notes on John 1:17 sec.2) p.1115
- Ibid., p.5
- Though claiming Calvinist roots, on this point the dispensationalist apparently agrees with Zwingli and Pelagius rather than Calvin or Luther
- The Augsburg Confession, Article II [ Original Sin ]
- New Scofield Reference Bible, p.3
- Quoted in Jon Zens, Dispensationalism, p.12
- L.S. Chafer, "Dispensationalism," Bibliotheca Sacra 93 (1936):93
- L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 7:219
- D.G. Barnhouse, He Came Unto His Own (New York: Revell, 1933), p.17
- Scofield, "Scofield Bible Correspondence Course", pp. 23-25, cited in Zens,
- Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp.137-140
- J.N. Darby, The Hopes of the Church of God (London: G. Morrish, n.d.), p.106
- Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp.44-45
- Ryrie, THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE NEW COVENANT TO PREMILLENNIALISM (unpublished Master's thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary 1947), p. 31
- Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, VII, 98.
- Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, p. 218.
- John F. Walvoord, "The New Covenant With Israel," Bibliotheca Sacra, 103:24, 25, January, 1946.
- Albertus Pieters, The Seed of Abraham, p. 71-76
- W.A. Hoffecker, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, "Darby, John Nelson," pp. 292-3.
- John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 47.
- Alexander Reese (premill.), O.T. Allis (amill.), W.E. Cox (amill.), Greg Bahnsen & Kenneth Gentry (postmill.) are notable among others
- Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 1937; reprint, Grand Rapids MI: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1975), 328 p.
- John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophesy (1962; reprint, Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 1977), 116, 118.
- David R. Reagan, The Master Plan: Making Sense of the Controversies Surrounding Bible Prophecy Today (Eugene OR: Harvest House, 1993), 123.
- John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Brentwood TN:Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 206.
- "Resurrection Apart from Christ?" Bill Barton, Armageddon, FamilyNet, 10/21/93.
- "Rapture," Gary Nystrom, Armageddon, FamilyNet, 5/28/94.
- Here we also note the grievous error of many Christians in viewing the Lord's Supper as a memorial rather than the Sacrament that it is.
- John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Brentwood TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 169.
- E.W. Bullinger, Foundations of Dispensational Truth (London: Eyre and Spottiswood, 1931), 34.
- Ibid., p.219.
- Harry Ironside, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth (New York: Loizeaux, n.d.), 11.
- John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Brentwood TN:Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 204-5.
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The distinctive doctrines of dispensationalism have been most consistently taught by a movement variously identified as Hyperdispensationalism, Ultradispensationalism, Consistent dispensationalism or Bullingerism. The movement had its origin in the teaching of Ethelbert W. Bullinger. Bullinger was a descendant of Heinrich Bullinger, the successor of Zwingli. Bullinger's teaching separated Israel and the church even more radically than Darby or Scofield, placing the beginning of the church with the imprisonment of Paul in Rome.
There was no beginning of a church on that day of Pentecost.
This positive statement that Paul was not only confirming the word which "began to be spoken by the Lord"; but that, like the Lord's own ministry, Paul's was based entirely on the Old Testament prophetic Scriptures, "Moses and the Prophets." From this it is conclusive that there can be no Dispensation of the Church in Acts of the Apostles, and certainly no revelation of the mystery (or Secret) as subsequently made known in the later epistles written from his prison in Rome.
This doctrine does amazing things with the application of Scripture to the church. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John describe the preaching of the "gospel of the Kingdom" and have no direct application to the church. The period between the cross of Christ and the end of the Acts of the Apostles is the realm of the Hebrew Church, as distinguished from the "mystery" church to which Paul's prison epistles are addressed.
During this transitional period the "gospel of the Kingdom" which Christ had offered to the Jews was still in effect. Peter, James, Jude, Hebrews, and the epistles of John are all addressed to this Hebrew Church, which is not the "body of Christ" but a church "built on Christ". This Jewish Church, built on Kingdom promises, will be reestablished during the millennium, and will worship at the rebuilt Temple with atoning sacrifices.
The "mystery" church has only the prison epistles of Paul for doctrine. The sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, having been instituted before the revelation of the "mystery" church are relegated to the old dispensation, although they may have application to the tribulation saints. The "mystery" church needs no "mediator of the New Covenant" as it is the "body" - it IS Christ. Some Bullingerites have taken up heresies such as soul sleep and annihilationism, and others proclaim a brand of universalism that grants salvation even to Satan himself. The extent to which the Hyperdispensationalist has gone with Darby's doctrine has shocked even the dispensational faithful. Harry Ironside, one of dispensationalism's stalwarts, states -
Having had most intimate acquaintance with Bullingerism as taught by many for the last forty years, I have no hesitancy in saying that its fruits are evil. It has produced a tremendous crop of heresies throughout the length and breadth of this and other lands; it has divided Christians and wrecked churches and assemblies without number; it has lifted up its votaries in intellectual and spiritual pride to an appalling extent, so that they look with supreme contempt upon Christians who do not accept their peculiar views; and in most instances where it has been long tolerated, it has absolutely throttled Gospel effort at home and sown discord on missionary fields abroad. So true are these things of this system that I have no hesitancy in saying it is an absolutely Satanic perversion of the truth.
Bullinger's schemes show the weaknesses in traditional dispensational interpretation, and set out to solve them with consistent dispensational application. Bullinger was one of the first to admit that the Old Testament saints were to arise at the end of the tribulation, and came up with a program of multiple resurrections. Most dispensationalists see the gospel of Matthew as a Jewish book with the Jews in mind in the apocalyptic chapters 24 & 25, yet wish to preserve the Great Commission as applicable to the church. Consistent dispensationalists assign the Commission to a future Jewish remnant church.
Thus we see that the ultradispensationalists go to the end of the dispensational line while the more moderate dispensationalists, at the cost of consistency, try to get off at midpoint. Both varieties of dispensationalists believe that there is a qualitative difference between Israel and the church...The moral of all this for the Scofieldian dispensationalist is that if he will not build on the covenantal continuity of the earlier dispensations, there is simply no way by which he can make room for the church at a later stage. The ultradispensationalist has been pointing this out for a century. Covenant theologians have been showing it for millennia.
The Bullingerite stands with arms outstretched to welcome the moderate dispensationalist. All that is required is to apply the dispensational system consistently.
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- The view that there will be no (a) 1000 (mille) year visible earthly kingdom or "millennium." This view is better termed "realized millennialism" since it teaches that the symbolically understood 1000 years of Revelation 20 began at Christ's first advent.
- The apostle John is the only Biblical writer who uses the expression "antichrist" and applies the term in a general sense to many who oppose or seek to replace Christ. Martin Luther referred to the Pope and various unbiblical doctrines of the Roman Church as antichrist in this sense. The concept of one individual, who epitomizes evil and in the end times persecutes the people of God, is found throughout the apocalyptic writings
- Derived from Hebrew har megiddo, "the hill of Megiddo," in Palestine, Armageddon refers to the battle mentioned in Rev. 16:16.
- Followers of Ethelbert W. Bullinger who carry dispensational theology consistently to it's logical conclusions. Also called "Hyper", "Ultra", or "Consistent" Dispensationalists.
- See "millennialism"
- Also called dispensational premillennialism, this is a system of theology which divides history into distinct dispensations or periods of time in which God gives a specific revelation and man is tested with respect to his obedience of it. All dispensationalists are premillennialists, but not all premillennialists are dispensationalists.
- Derived from the Greek word eschaton, "end," eschatology is the study of the end times. Eschatological means "pertaining to the end."
- Derived from the Latin words mille, "a thousand," and
annus, "a year" (Revelation 20), millennialism teaches that there will be a 1000-year, possible kingdom of God on earth. It is also called chiliasm from the Greek word
chilia, "a thousand."
- New Covenant
- The covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34, which Christ sealed with His Blood at Calvary. (Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:11-15, St. Luke 22:19-20) Some dispensationalists distinguish between an earthly new covenant pertaining only to Jews, and a spiritual "better" covenant pertaining only to saints of the church age (Walvoord). Other dispensationalists (Bullingerites) deny any application of the New Covenant to the church.
- Conforming to the Christian faith as formulated in the early ecumenical creeds and confessions.
- This is the view that Christ's second advent will occur after (post) the "millennium," understood as a golden age on earth but not necessarily lasting 1000 years.
- This is the view that Christ's second advent will occur before (pre) the "millennium," understood as a 1000-year rule of Christ on earth.
- This refers to the event described in 1 Thess. 4: 14-17 when believers will be "raptured" or "caught up" (Latin:
rapiemur) in the clouds to meet Christ in the air. The "pre-tribulational rapture" view holds that the rapture will occur before a seven-year tribulation; the "mid-tribulational rapture" view places the rapture in the middle of a seven-year tribulation; the "post-tribulational" view holds that the rapture will occur after the tribulation.
- In theology, the doctrine of salvation.
- Systematic Theology
- A constructive method of theology which aims at a complete, philosophic, and systematic statement of the entire sum of theological knowledge.
- [from the Gr. theologia; theos, god, and logos, discourse] The study of God and the relations between God and the universe; the study of religious doctrines and matters of divinity.
- This refers to the intensified persecution against God's people preceding Christ's second advent. Dispensationalists understand it as a seven-year persecution against the Jewish nation, while amillennialists see it as a persecution of unknown duration against the church.
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