Article of the Month
The Kingdom has come and Christ has begun His glory by Resurrection
The hope of the Jews has come and is preached by Apostles
The Pauline Epistles
The purposes of God for Israel, the Gentiles and the entire creation center in the Church
The Jewish economy—with its prophetic word, priestly ritual and kingly rule—was never intended to be a separate earthly purpose. Obviously, if the headings above are true, Dispensationalism has no legs to stand upon. If there is only one gospel that began with Jesus’ministry; if the hope of the Jews has come; and if national Israelis not a separate earthly purpose in the future, what is left of value in the scheme of Dispensationalism?
THE GOSPELS: THE KINGDOM HAS COME AND CHRIST HAS BEGUN HIS GLORY BY RESURRECTION
Matthew 11:14 — “And if you will receive it, this is Elijah which was to come.”
We have noted before that Pentecost asserted that the “literalism of the Jewish interpreters was identical with present day grammatical-historical interpretation.” In this passage it appears that to apply a rigid literalism would produce a wrong fulfillment. According to the Dispensationalist, a “literal” fulfillment of Malachi 4:5 would require Elijah the Old Testament prophet to personally come in the flesh (which corresponded with the Jewish interpreters of Christ’s day, John 1:21). Thus Scofield posits that Malachi 4:5 will be truly fulfilled just before the coming of Christ, and he sees this delineated in Revelation 11:3-6 (Scofield Bible, p.984). But Jesus and the angel that appeared to Zacharias (Luke 1:13) inform us that this Old Testament passage has fulfillment in John the Baptist. Fulfillment is not to be found in the bodily appearance of Elijah, but in him who comes “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). Thus this hyper-literalism of the Jews and the historical-grammatical method of the Dispensationalists is shown to be a questionable methodology in light of the New Testament description of how prophecy may be fulfilled (see also John 2:18-22).
Matthew 16:19 — “And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.”
Scofield submits that at Matthew 11:28 Jesus initiates a “new message,” “not the kingdom, but personal discipleship.” Thus when the kingdom is mentioned by Jesus in 16:19, he must of necessity argue that these keys are “not the keys of the church” (p.1022). But then in 18:15-19 where he sees “discipline in the future church”(p.1024), the promise of “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven” is specifically given to the local church (18:18). Thus Jesus clearly connects the keys of the kingdom, the church, and the authority to bind and lose in discipline. Dispensationalists, however, must disjoin the kingdom from the Church because of their two-purposes theory.
Matthew 21:43 — “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth its fruits.”
Ryrie asserts that this passage “conclusively” demonstrates that Israel is to be restored.1 The word “nation,” he says, “in its strict interpretation . . . refers to the nation Israel when she shall turn to the Lord and be saved before entering the millennial kingdom.”2 Yet the context, especially in verse 41 at the conclusion of the parable, suggests that the householder (God) punishes the wicked husbandmen (Israel), and gives out the vineyard (the kingdom) to others (Gentiles). This indeed occurred when the Jews killed the heir (v.38). Thus after rejecting their Messiah who came first in lowliness, the gospel of their exalted Messiah goes to them first, and this also they reject. Paul summarizes the fulfillment of verse 43 by saying, “since you have judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). It is hard to understand how Ryrie can so “conclusively” find Israel’s restoration in this passage, when the natural interpretation would point to the fact that Israel’s stewardship of the kingdom was judicially ended, and the “times of the Gentiles” were to begin.
John 6:15 — “When Jesus perceived that they would come and take him by force to make him king, he departed again by himself to a mountain.”
Walvoord suggests that if the amillennialist is right, then there should have been “extensive correction” of the prevailing idea among the Jews that an earthly kingdom was their Messianic prospect.3 This will be further examined in Acts, but in the Gospels it appears that there was correction of the prevailing misguided earthly prospects among the Jews. This correction, however, is not structured so much by Jesus and the Apostles as a polemic attack, but rather a positive exposition of the nature and subjects of the Kingdom of God.
If, as the Dispensationalists contend, Jesus came to offer an earthly Messianic kingdom, why did He not at this point in John 6 accept this Jewish desire to make Him king? The Jews had in verse 14 just acknowledged, “this is truly that prophet that should come into the world.” Would not this have been an opportune time for their kingdom to be established? Interestingly, neither Scofield nor Chafer has any offer of explanation for this crucial passage.
In John 18:36, it seems hard to reconcile the idea of an earthly kingdom with Jesus’ words. Jesus was being delivered up because He did not fit into the “prevailing idea among the Jews.” According to Dispensationalists and the Jewish interpreters, Jesus’ kingdom must be “of this world.”
In Luke 17:20, the Jewish interpreters asked Christ when the Kingdom of God was to come. He replies, contrary to their idea of a sudden catastrophic coming of God with judgment for the Gentiles and blessing for the chosen Jews, that the Kingdom comes without “show,” indeed that it was already come and is in their midst. Chafer (Syst. Theol., Vol. IV, p.178) and Scofield (p.1100) submit that in the present age the kingdom comes “in the hearts of men,” since the “outward form . . . has been rejected by the Jews,” and that “ultimately the Kingdom of Heaven will come, with outward show.” Of course, all this must be transplanted into the text, for it says nothing about the hearts of men and the kingdom. Jesus is rather refuting again the false concepts of the Jews of His day.
Luke 24:26 — “O fools and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken: ought not the Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”
The Dispensationalist is forced to play down the present kingly office. If Christ has not yet fulfilled the covenant promises concerning David’s throne, the essence of His kingship is yet future.4 Thus in the seven mystery parables of Matthew 13, Scofield says:
Yet the note of 24:26 is one of triumph. What solace would Christ’s future glory be to these disciples? On that road they met the risen, triumphant Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:4). They had already witnessed His suffering and were downcast. The point of Christ’s words to them was to show them that the suffering was finished, and that He was now in a position of glory. To believe that “a period of time is to intervene between His suffering and His glory” (Scofield, p. 1011) is a terrible misrepresentation of our Lord’s ministry. Dispensationalists are guilty of separating what God has joined together. The promise to David was that God “would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, he seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ” (Acts 2:30-31).
The neglect of Christ’s present kingship by Dispensationalists has serious implications for the Christian life. The Christian cannot, in the Dispensational scheme, regard Jesus as King in a meaningful way, for this would imply that the Davidic promises were being fulfilled.6
THE ACTS: THE HOPE OF THE JEWS HAS COME AND IS PREACHED BY THE APOSTLES
Acts 10:34-43 — “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ . . . that word was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism that John preached” (vv.36-37).
In this context Peter is preaching the gospel of “repentance and remission of sins” to Gentiles (Luke 24:47). This word, however, had its beginning when it first went to the Jews. This word began in the public ministry of Jesus after John’s baptism. Thus this passage clearly reveals a continuity between the message that started with Jesus’ preaching and that was now coming to the Gentiles.
This one gospel is called “the kingdom of God”: “the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it” (Luke 16:16). Paul was separated unto the “gospel of God” (Romans 1:2) which was promised in the Old Testament. But this message did not start with Paul, for in Mark 1:14 we read, “that Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.”
This context dispels the Dispensationalist claim that the “kingdom” Jesus preached is different than that of the Apostles. The “kingdom” offered to the Jews was, they say, the earthly Davidic kingdom. This was rejected, and a “new message” begins. Thus God’s earthly purposes are interrupted, and a heavenly parenthesis inserted. After the “rapture” of the Church, the “postponed” Davidic kingdom is set up. Peter, on the other hand, sees no radical disjunction between the “word’ `which began with Jesus and what is now being proclaimed to Cornelius’ household. Acts 13:27 —“because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day.”
Pentecost claims that the Dispensationalist hermeneutic of historical-grammatical interpretation was found in Christ’s time. He claims that this is a correct methodology. Yet this text says that the Jews’ handling of the Old Testament caused them “to not know the voices of the prophets.” Paul reiterates this principle in 2 Cor. 3:14: “Their minds were blinded: for to this day remains the same vail not taken away in the reading of the Old Testament.” How can an understanding of the Old Testament that is designated as “blind” be taken as a proper hermeneutical method?
Acts 13:32-34 — “And we declare to you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made to the fathers, God fulfilled the same to their children, in that he raised up Jesus again . . . And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead . . . he said in this manner, ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’”
As we have seen, the Dispensationalists teach that Israel’s real fulfillment lies in the future, when the alleged unfulfilled promises are confirmed after the rapture of the Church. But verse 32 points out that the “hope of Israel” has already been accomplished in the Resurrection. Further, the Resurrection is said to be a fulfillment of the “sure mercies of David.” It is on the basis of this recently accomplished promise that the Jews are to repent and believe the gospel. God’s dealings with Israel have not been “postponed.” He has at this time fulfilled the promise “to the fathers for us their children.” It is only in utter disregard for a clear text like this that Ironside blindly asserts:
Acts 24:5,14-15 — “But I confess that I worship the God of my fathers, according to the way which they call heresy, believing all things written in the law and the prophets.”
The Jews were accusing Paul of being an apostate Israelite. But Paul confounds them by asserting a close continuity between his life as a Christian and the Jewish hope. Paul worships the same God, holds to the same canonical books, and cherishes the same hope of resurrection as the Jews. The apostle saw nothing but the genuine fulfillment of all that was promised to the Old Testament fathers.7
This cannot be in the Dispensationalist scheme. There must be a great discontinuity between Israel and the Church. Chafer most strongly delineates this position:
Paul asserts that there is a direct relationship to the church age and the Old Testament hopes and aspirations. Chafer is committing a most horrible error by seeing no “direct” or “indirect” relation to that which was gone before. His false Israel-Church dichotomy has caused him to wrest the Scriptures over and over again (See also Acts 26:6-7, 22-23).
Acts 28:17, 20, 23 — “for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain . . .”
What is this “hope” for which Paul was bound? “The only hope answering to the description, as an ancient, national, and still intense one, is the hope of the Messiah’ `(26:6-7).9 Thus it was Paul’s “Messianic doctrine that had caused the breach between him and his countrymen.”10
There is nothing to suggest in Paul’s testimonies that the “hope” of Israel is future, except with respect to the Resurrection (24:15) which has just been fulfilled by Christ in the recent past (26:23). The hope of the future resurrection is based on the past and accomplished Resurrection of Christ. Paul’s point is that the hope of Israel has come. On this foundation he proclaimed the Old Testament scriptures “that Christ should suffer and that he should be the first to rise from the dead, and should show light to the Gentiles” (26:22-23). Thus it is said to Israel in particular that the risen and glorified Jesus “has been made by God...both Lord and Christ” (2:36). Their Messiah has come. Paul’s intense desire, then, was to see Israel “saved” (Romans 10:1) and “converted” by the gospel (28:27).
But Dispensationalists must claim that the essence of Israel’s hopes are still future. They still await (1) a land, (2) a throne, (3) a king, and (4) a kingdom (Chafer, Syst. Theol., Vol. IV, p.7). Was Paul accused of the Jews because he preached such future “hopes” for Israel? He preached an exalted Messiah, and the necessity of repentance (26:20).
Further, in light of the Dispensationalist’s claims that the Jews have different promises and a divergent destiny than the Church, how can this be reconciled with Paul’s claim that his hope and Israel’s are one and the same? It would be to the Dispensationalist a contradiction par excellence for a Christian to be jailed for believing a Jewish hope. Yet this was why Paul was in chains.
THE PAULINE EPISTLES: THE PURPOSES OF GOD FOR ISRAEL, GENTILES AND THE ENTIRE CREATION CENTER IN THE CHURCH
Romans 8:19-24 — “For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God . . . the adoption, the redemption of our body . . .”
Ryrie states that “the goal of history is the earthly millennium. . .this millennial culmination is the climax of history and the great goal of God’s program for the ages.”11 But these texts assert that the goal for which the creation awaits is not a millennium but the “adoption, the redemption of our body.” Chafer says that “adoption” is specifically a Church attribute present after the death and resurrection of Christ.12 Thus the entire creation is groaning for the consummation of the Church, that is, the glorification of the saints. Notice also that the restitution and deliverance of the creation is here immediately and intimately connected to this redemption of bodies. The deliverance from corruption (the curse) is coterminous with the glorious liberty of the saints. How, then, can the goal of the creation be an “earthly millennium” which is, according to Dispensationalists, essentially Jewish?
Romans 10:1, 12-15; 11:14ff. — “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek . . . How then shall they hear without a preacher? . . . If by any means I may provoke them who are my flesh and might save some of them.”
Many things are disclosed in this context relevant to Dispensationalism. Here, however, we simply would note: there is no hope for Israel apart from the gospel of grace which is proclaimed by local churches, to whom alone, as the pillar and ground of the truth, Christ has entrusted “the faith” until the end of this present evil age. Thus there may well be an ingathering of Jews after “the times of the Gentiles.” But when and if this happens, Israel will be “saved” and joined to the body of Christ by believing the same gospel as Paul preached to his brethren in the flesh.
But how can this be in Dispensationalism? As we noted previously, Chafer teaches that there is no continuity or connection with what went before or comes after. Thus, all of Israel’s future, including her future turning to the Lord, must be separate from the body of Christ. But Paul asserts an intense unity of the “times of the Gentiles” with both the past Jewish economy and any future “ingrafting.” His analogy of the olive tree shows “that there is but one people of God throughout redemptive history.”13
Ephesians 2:11-19 — “You were Gentiles in the flesh . . . being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise. . . . Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners. . . .”
In this passage Gentiles are expressly said to be excluded from the blessings peculiar to Israel . . . Paul does not say that once having believed, these Gentiles now come into the Israelite blessings.14
However, nothing could be more contrary to what Paul says. The apostle clearly says that gentiles were “aliens and strangers.” But Paul also says “but now . . . you are made near by the blood of Christ.” The question Ryrie avoids is: What are the Gentiles made “near” to now? The answer is clear. They were far away from (1) the nation Israel and (2) the covenants of promise. Now, by the blood of Christ, they are near to both of these. To confirm this Paul reiterates in verse 19 that Gentiles “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens . . . of the household of God.” Paul is saying that in the church the covenants of promise find fulfillment for both Jews and Gentiles, and that Jesus’ work has made both “one” by breaking down “the middle wall of partition.”
The Dispensationalist must say in reply that the Jew and Gentile oneness is only for this Church age and that the barriers will again be manifested when Israel obtains her future glory. But the Biblical idea is an “ingrafting” of the Gentiles and believing Jews into the same common stock. The history of redemption is an organic continuity, not two disjoined purposes (Romans 11:17,23). The work of Christ is the center of this redemption which forever abolishes national distinctions, and which allows men from east, west, north and south to come and recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of God.
HEBREWS: THE JEWISH ECONOMY — WITH ITS PROPHETIC WORD, PRIESTLY RITUAL, AND KINGLY RULE — WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BE A SEPARATE EARTHLY PURPOSE
“If I want an earthly religion, I ought to be a Jew” (Darby, Hopes of the Church of God, p.159).
Hebrews 1:1 — “God...has in these last days spoken to us by a Son.”
Scofield, being consistent with his radical disjunction of Israel and the Church, must deny the unity of certain Biblical concepts. This is true with the Biblical usage of “last days.” Since the Dispensationalist presupposes that what applies to Israel cannot apply to the Church (Scofield, p.1021), “last days’ must have two applications:
However no exegetical proof is given to substantiate this claim. But he must believe this to be true if God has two separate purposes in history. What if “last days” has a uniform meaning in the Old and New Testaments, and refers to the age of the Messiah? (see G. Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, Chapters 1 and 2). Then Scofield would be an amillennialist because “last days” would have reference to the Church age (I Cor. 10:11) and the “millennial age.”
Hebrews 3:5 — “And Moses truly was faithful . . . as a servant, for a witness of those things which were to be spoken after.”
Dispensationalism has made the error of eternalizing a national entity which was intended to be temporary and preparational. The writer here says that the Mosaic economy was a witness to future things, “that is, the things of the Gospel.” (Owen, Hebrews, ad. loc.). In other words, the events occurring then had primary reference to things taking place in the “last days.”
The wilderness wanderings are contemplated in the New Testament as having primary application to the Church. These things “were written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the ages has come” (I Cor. 10:11). In Hebrews 3:4-6, 11, the wilderness experience of Israel is used as an analogy for the Church. The “rest” is entered by faith. Unbelief will keep a man out of heavenly glory and bring him to damnation, even as unbelief kept a generation of Israelites out of a land flowing with milk and honey. Chafer has completely misrepresented and twisted the Scripture by contending that the unbelief at Kadesh-barnea corresponds to and is typical of the Jewish rejection in Christ’s day of the offered kingdom (Syst. Theol., Vol. IV, p.9). Hebrews applies it rather to the Church.
In 1 Peter 1:9-12, it is stated specifically “that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things that are now reported to you by those who have preached the gospel to you.” The whole prophetic institution in Israel had special, pointed reference to the age of grace. The New Testament writers see the focus of Old Testament prophecy as related to things present and accomplished. Dispensationalists state that prophecy centrally relates to the future glory of national Israel and not the Church age.
Hebrews 8:5 — “who serve as an example and shadow of heavenly things. . . .”
Darby feels that the Jews had an “earthly religion.” But this text informs us that even the earthly elements of Israel’s ceremonies were but types and shadows of heavenly things. This pointed out the basic weakness of Dispensationalism. It has designated Israel as an “earthly purpose,” when in fact all its history and institutions point to the heavens. This text also reveals that the whole economy of types and shadows was preparatory, and awaited some future fulfillment. This fulfillment has come. Jesus came from heaven and “tabernacled” among men (John 1:14), and is now “set on the right hand . . . in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man” (Hebrews 8:1-2). That this whole national system which has been “abolished” (2 Cor. 3:13) should again be resurrected after the rapture of the Church is to contradict the clearness of Scripture.
Hebrews 10:1 — “the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never make perfect those who continually come. . . .”
Again, this text points to the temporary nature of the Israelite nation. When the “very image” comes, then this system will have exhausted its purpose. The primary reference of this economy is “things to come.” Have these things come of which the law testified? Yes, in that Messiah that came and “offered one sacrifice for sins forever” (suffering), and “sat down on the right hand of God” (glory) (10:12). What future national significance can obtain for Israel if there is neither need of an earthly priesthood, nor an earthly prophet or king? Has not a separate national existence for Israel been denuded of any meaning, for the very institutions that made her separate from the nations have been abolished and fulfilled in the work of Christ?
Hebrews 11:10, 13-16, 26, 35, 40 — “For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. . . . These . . . confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth. . . . But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly.”
After Darby asserted that Israel had an “earthly religion,” Dispensationalists since his time have also maintained that Israel was earth-related and the Church heaven-related. We have already seen, however, that even the earthly accouterments of the sacrificial system are primarily related to heavenly things. We now wish to observe that the people themselves are essentially related to heaven and not earth.
From the outset, the Jewish religion was intensely spiritual. When God said to Abram, “Fear not . . . I am your shield and exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1), was this the initiation of an “earthly religion”? To know God and be in His presence forever is the essence of true religion. Pickering claims that “God’s main purpose with Abraham was not to take him to heaven,” but to give him a land.16 Is this actually the case? Hebrews 11 is contrary to this idea.
In verse 10, we are told that Abraham’s real goal was not a portion here on earth, but a (spiritual) “city whose builder and maker is God.”
In verses 13-16, the writer tells us that Old Testament saints in their embrace of God’s promises were not led to confess a hope in a great earthly kingdom, but rather that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth. Does this not parallel the Church’s confession (1 Peter 2:11)? Were not their affections ultimately set on “better” things above, namely a “heavenly” city?
Verse 26 informs us that Moses, in identifying with God’s people, was involved in a relationship to Christ. This corresponds to Abraham’s experience when he rejoiced to see Christ’s day (John 8:56). In the wilderness, Israel was not drinking “earthly” water but “spiritual drink,” for the Rock that followed them was Christ (1 Cor.10:4).
In all the trials that those of old endured, were they going through these things because they hoped for a land? No, they rather had in view the obtaining of “a better resurrection,” “having respect to the recompense of the reward” (v.26b).
Verse 40 provides a unifying link between saints under the Old covenant and those now under the New. Both they and we have hope toward the same God and in the same covenants of promise. They, however, “received not the promise.” We, having a “better covenant” and “better promises” (8:6), live in an age of fulfillment, Christ having “now once in the end of the age appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:26). “For all the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Him, and in Him `Amen,’ to the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20).
The book of Hebrews levels to the ground the false conception and crucial starting point of Dispensationalism, that God has two purposes, one earthly and one heavenly. All that was ever connected with Israel’s history and institutions is in the final analysis directed toward heaven, not earth. Even the entering into the land of promise was only a type of that heavenly rest which Israel then and Christians now must labor to enter by faith (3:7-4:11).
This ruling presupposition of Dispensationalism has failed to pass the test of Scripture, and therefore its superstructure must crumble to the ground.
Jon Zens was born in 1945 and grew up in California. He studied art at Valley State College, in Northridge. After his conversion in 1965, he transferred to Bob Jones University to study the Bible. In the summer of 1967 he became convinced of the “Doctrines of Grace,” commonly called “Calvinism.” He then transferred to Covenant College where he graduated with a B.A. degree. In 1972 he graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary with an M.Div. He then took a call to become the pastor of the Nashville Reformed Baptist Church in Tennessee.
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