Defending Dispensationalism: Standing Fast in the Liberty

In recent years, a storm of controversy has arisen around a system of biblical interpretation called “Dispensationalism,” which the author believes is grounded in the biblical truth that there are only three distinct groups of human beings on earth today-Jew, Gentile and the Church of God, also known as “the Body of Christ” or “Christians” (1 Cor. 10:32).

There is only one God, but He gave different rules at different times for people to live by. Dispensationalism is a way to understand these changes, and thus to better understand the purposes of God and how we are supposed to live today. Every Christian is aware that God no longer requires animal sacrifices, but few realize the radical extent of the changes that took place at Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church.

Every one of the following features of Old Testament faith and practice were altered for the Church: believing that God is the source of all good and all bad, salvation by faithfulness, circumcision, Sabbath laws, special days, feasts, tithing, high priests, hierarchical leadership, special clothing for spiritual leaders, temple worship, the Holy of Holies, water baptism, and dietary restrictions.

Opponents of Dispensationalism decry it as a heretical view that threatens biblical integrity and weakens the historic Christian faith, replacing it with a kind of “cheap grace.” Proponents find it to be a useful tool for the preservation of biblical integrity and a means of harmonizing what would otherwise be contradictory passages of Scripture. They also believe it to be “indispensable” to understanding the greatness of the “Church Age,” and all the blessings that have been bestowed upon the Christian believer.

Many theological arguments could be settled, and many apparent “contradictions” resolved, if administrational truth was more widely understood. Defending Dispensationalism will help sincere Christian seekers identify and lay claim to every promise made to them as members of the unique “Body of Christ,” and empower them to “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1).

Table of Contents

What is “Dispensationalism”?

How does one arrive at a Dispensational view of Scripture?

Is Dispensationalism a theory of men, or is it a truly biblical doctrine?

There are many variations of Dispensationalism. Does this weaken the position?

What is the difference between “Dispensationalism” and “ultra Dispensationalism”?

Is Dispensationalism a recently developed doctrine? If so, does that fact eliminate it from serious consideration?

Is some criticism of Dispensationalism well founded?

How does a dispensational (administrational) view of Scripture help to resolve apparent Bible contradictions?

Is an “Administration” or a “Dispensation” the same as an “age” or a “time period,” and what determines when one ends and another begins?

How does this administrational view of Scripture help us understand the “big picture” of the whole Bible?

What is the purpose of the “Millennial Kingdom”?

If the purpose of the Millennial Kingdom is to fulfill God’s promises to Israel, what does that have to do with the Church?

Is there a difference between the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven”?

What is the “Kingdom Now” or “Dominion Theology” movement in Christendom? Is there a sense in which we are in the Kingdom of God now?

Is the Church “superior” to Israel?

Do dispensationalists minimize the importance of the Old Testament and the Gospels?

Is the Church presently in a “New Covenant” relationship with God?

But since the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, didn’t they forfeit their right to enter into the New Covenant with God? Doesn’t that mean that the Church is the true heir of this covenant?

Was the “Secret” of Ephesians 3:1-9 only that the Gentiles would be included with Israel in a “New Covenant” Church?

What about the other requirements of the Law? Sabbath worship, tithing, circumcision, water baptism (or ritual washing), kosher dietary laws, worship, high priests, special clothing, feast days, etc. Are any of these things required for the Church? Are we better Christians if we continue to practice some or all of these things?

Is the biblical separation of Israel and the Church an “unfortunate consequence of Dispensationalism,” as some critics say?

Is God working behind the scenes by way of the formation of the modern political state of Israel in 1948? And did this happen in fulfillment of biblical prophecy?

What about the “new thinking” represented by Krister Stendahl and others? Is the hope of Christianity found in a return to its “Jewish roots”?

Does Dispensationalism promote a view of the “evolution” of doctrine, or the concept of “progressive revelation”?

Appendix A

Getting Along With Each Other

Changes at Pentecost

What is “Dispensationalism”?

Before looking at the merits or demerits of Dispensationalism per se, we want to define the term and establish our general goals in approaching this complex and challenging field.

Dispensationalism is a systematic theology that recognizes distinct “economies” in the outworking of God’s purposes on earth. [1] That is, it recognizes that God relates to mankind in different ways at different times. This understanding is in part based upon the Greek word oikonomia, which is often translated “dispensation” in the KJV. [2] Oikonomia means “managing or administering the affairs of a household.” God, therefore, is the householder, and entrusts stewardship or administrational responsibilities to men throughout the various “ages.” Man’s failure to uphold these responsibilities has caused God to keep revising his relationship with mankind, and adjusting what he has required of him.

Dispensationalism is grounded in the biblical truth that there are only three distinct groups of human beings on earth today—Jew, Gentile and the Church of God, a.k.a “the Body of Christ” or “Christians” (1 Cor. 10:32)—and recognizes God’s various ways of dealing with each.

“Dispensationalism,” as we understand and teach it, holds that the Christian Church began on the day of Pentecost, inaugurated by the giving of holy spirit. At that time, God suspended His program of salvation for Israel as instituted via the Covenants (including the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and the still future “New”) and instituted a new program of salvation and sanctification for the Church of the Body of Christ. According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, the beginning of this Body was whenever the gift of holy spirit was given, which we know was on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. From this dispensational perspective, the Book of Acts is a transitional period for the Church, which at first was exclusively made up of former Jews. However, as these Jews grew in the faith, they gradually began to realize what had actually transpired on the Day of Pentecost and “got with the program” by admitting Gentiles into the congregation (Acts 10), letting go of water baptism (Acts 18:25ff), ceasing to require circumcision, etc, etc. With a change of “administration” came a change of requirements for salvation and behavior.

How does one arrive at a Dispensational view of Scripture?

It is our opinion that dispensational understanding is the logical conclusion that is reached when viewing the biblical data through the “lens” of the following specific principles or ideals:

1. That God would be glorified by properly understanding His love, grace and mercy; that we would recognize the greatness of God’s grace in Christ by honoring the distinctiveness of the Church of the Body of Christ.

2. That the Word of God would be “rightly-divided” or “correctly handled,” with all the biblical data harmonizing without contradictions. In this process, the distinction would be honestly made between that which is literal and that which is figurative, and no literal statement would be made figurative or allegorical in order to accommodate our theology.

3. That no “jot or tittle” of all that God has promised to any people at any time would go unfulfilled without a thorough accounting and understanding. If God is not faithful to literally keep His Word to the patriarchs of Israel, how can we have confidence that He will keep His Word to the Church?

4. That in every case where we face alternative biblical interpretations, we would always argue for the greater possibility for the believer’s blessing in Christ. That is, every grace, gift or ability bestowed on the believers in any age would be carefully preserved and defended, unless superseded by subsequent revelation. John 10:10 states a clear promise that Christ came to bring spiritual abundance to believers. Thus, any theological system that would forbid, ignore, diminish, obscure or discourage anything that God has given to the Church would have to be viewed as the work of the thief (John 10:10a).

5. That Christians would “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:1), and not be held in bondage to rules, ordinances and understandings that were intended only for people living before the Day of Pentecost, when the Christian Church began. That is, the time marked by the giving of the spirit to all believers would be clearly distinguished from previ­ous administrations more oriented toward outward ordinances, rituals and sym­bols in the realm of the five senses.

6. That Israel and the Church would be kept as distinct as the Bible warrants, in order to maintain the clarity of God’s promises to each. Blurring this distinction by asserting that the Church has appropriated promises that God has made to Israel results in confusion and disillusionment and produces contradictions in the biblical testimony. The promises to Israel that are still unfulfilled will be fulfilled in the future Millennial Reign of Christ.

Upholding these ideals will help us navigate through the challenging waters ahead as we endeavor to discern God’s purposes, plans and programs for the salvation, redemption and sanctification of all His people for all eternity. This is the domain of Dispensationalism.

Is Dispensationalism a theory of men, or is it a truly biblical doctrine?

Dispensationalism is often referred to as a “systematic theology,” but that does not necessarily make it a theory of men as distinct from the truth of God. Christians are called upon to be “workmen” of the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15), so we cannot expect God to be doing all the work of understanding the Bible for us. There are a variety of ways in which the Bible is not entirely self-interpreting, and must therefore be “correctly handled” or “rightly-divided” according to sound reasoning and the honest application of principles of literary interpretation. The principles are vital to uphold if the Bible is to be understood without contradictions.

If the Bible gives us 2 + 2, we are expected to be able to figure out that the sum is 4, even if it does not specifically say so. If it gives us 2 + ? = 4, we are supposed to figure out that 2 is the missing variable. There is a mathematical exactness to the Word of God that requires us to use our God-given faculties of reason and logic. Sometimes the Bible presents interpretational problems that are essentially algebraic in nature, meaning that we must reason from the known to the unknown to find the solution. [3] Jesus held the disciples accountable for their failing to understand the necessity of his suffering, death and resurrection, even calling them “fools” when they did not draw logical conclusions from the evidence. [4] In other words, they failed to put 2 and 2 together from the scriptural and physical evidence. Actually, they failed to distinguish between his suffering and his glory, and to realize that the only way to harmonize all the evidence was to posit two separate “comings” of Christ to the earth to Israel.

There are many variations of Dispensationalism. Does this weaken the position?

Although dispensational thought is splintered into several competing branches of interpretation, that does not mean that it has inherent weaknesses that need to be explained. If so, then Judaism, the Christian Church itself and particularly Reformation Christianity would also necessarily have “inherent weaknesses” because they too are “splintered.”

It seems to us that the presence of diversity of opinion is the natural state of fallen man struggling to understand eternal verities “through a glass darkly.” It is also a result of free people pursuing truth from a variety of cultural, intellectual and religious backgrounds that indelibly color their perspective. We ought not to discredit any proposition on the basis of who believes it, how many variations of belief there are or how long something has been believed. All of these are logically irrelevant to the issue of whether truth or error is being propounded, and in what proportion. The only standard we have for determining truth is what harmonizes with the all biblical evidence as it is handled honestly and logically.

What is the difference between “Dispensationalism” and “ultra-Dispensationalism”?

As the name implies, “ultra-Dispensationalism” is an extreme form of Dispensationalism. As we have said, the basic idea of both is that God has established different parameters and conditions within which He has “arranged” or “administered” His relationship with man on the earth.

“Ultra-Dispensationalism,” as represented by the later writings of E.W. Bullinger and by Charles Welch, and now propounded by some groups of Christians, is the position that the book of Acts represents an entirely separate and distinct dispensation from the “Church of the Body of Christ.” Ultra-Dispensationalism proposes an administration that starts at the Day of Pentecost and ends in Acts 28. During this “Acts administration,” a Jewish-Christian Church grew and expanded until Acts 28 when Paul declared that God had finally set aside Israel because of their hardness of heart. At that time, God supposedly began an entirely new administration, the Church of the Body of Christ.

We believe that ultra-Dispensationalism is not biblically sound, and Dispensationalism as we understand and teach it ought not to be judged by this extreme form of it. Ultra-Dispensationalism eliminates speaking in tongues, as well as any healing or miraculous demonstrations of God’s power, saying that these all ceased when the “Acts Administration” ended. It also results in there being two baptisms (water and spirit), two callings (one heavenly, one earthly), etc., for the divided Christian Church, instead of the “unity of the spirit” described in Ephesians 4:3-6.

Is Dispensationalism a recently developed doctrine?

The fact that Dispensationalism as a systematic theology was only fully developed by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) is often cited as evidence to discredit it. This reasoning is based on the premise that if it were true, it would not have been so recently discovered and systematized, but would have been a part of the understanding of the Church since its inception. By that logic, however, we would also have to discredit other doctrines such as the priesthood of the believer and justification by faith, since they did not come to light until the mid-1500’s. The question put properly is: What was taught and practiced by the apostles and the first Century Church and recorded in the Bible?

Our position, which is finding an ever-widening circle of scholarly support, is that many great truths in the New Testament were obscured and lost during the intervening decades between the death of the apostles and the rise of the Roman Catholic Church early in the fourth century. The history of the Christian Church since then has pivoted around many heroic saints who wrested these truths from the jaws of religious tradition, often at the cost of their own lives.

The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is based upon the amillennialist theology of St. Augustine, who held that the Church has adopted the destiny of Israel and is building Christ’s Kingdom on earth through political, economic and worldly influence. [5] As a direct result, the doctrine of Christ’s imminent appearing has been utterly neglected by Roman Catholic tradition.

One of the logical effects of dispensational thinking was the recovery of the idea of Christ’s imminent appearing, something that was clearly believed and practiced in the first-century Church (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20 and 21; 1 Thess. 1:9 and 10, 4:16 and 17, 5:5-9; Titus 2:13; James 5:8 and 9; Rev. 3:10, 22:17-21). One of the earmarks of non-dispensational thinking is that of placing the Christian Church on a timetable of events that must occur before Christ can gather the Church. This results in believers looking for “signs” of Christ’s appearing, rather than the appearing itself.

Our experience has been that many believers who reject a dispensational view of Scripture are soon teaching a post- (or perhaps mid-) tribulational “Rapture” (defined from 1 Thess. 4:13ff as the gathering together of all Christians who ever lived to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air), and are looking for all the signs mentioned in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 as if these things are written to the Church. They also frequently teach “lordship salvation,” which means the believer is saved only if he “endures to the end,” because this concept is integral to the post-tribulational position. We see a clear distinction between the requirements for salvation in the Old Testament as contrasted to the Church Epistles. Yes, faith was required in each administration, but that is not the salient question. The more important question is, “Faith in what?” Throughout the Old Testament it is clear that the Jews needed faith in God, which was expressed by keeping the Law and staying faithful to the end. However, the Apostle Paul writes that “now, a righteousness from God apart from Law has been made known” (Rom. 3:21). We are concerned about the erroneous tendency among Christians to read Scripture as if it made no distinctions from administration to administration, and that punctuates for us the importance of dispensational thinking.

Is some criticism of Dispensationalism well founded?

No system of biblical interpretation leaves every question answered and every detail accounted for. The problems that Dispensationalism attempts to solve are among the most challenging and difficult areas of biblical scholarship, and people of sincerity and intelligence differ on how they view the evidence. Indeed, many opinions exist on all sides of this subject with equally scholarly supporters. However, a major problem we have with critiques of Dispensationalism is that in our experience they tend to either misrepresent its positions or blur the distinctions between the variations of dispensational thought. In the language of logic, this is called “creating a straw man,” which is then much easier to “blow away.”

As an aside, we find that much of the value of dialogue is to discover whether the views of competing theologies are being misrepresented. Dialogue often diminishes disagreements as people discover that some of their differences were only apparent and not substantive.

How does a dispensational (administrational) view of Scripture help to resolve apparent Bible contradictions?

We believe that many theological arguments could be settled, and many apparent “contradictions” resolved, if the truth of administrations were more widely understood. Carefully reading the Bible shows many changes in the way God has related to mankind. There have been changes in sacrifices, the time and place of worship, dietary restrictions, financial giving, etc. The list is extensive. Also, recognizing the dispensational aspect to the unfolding of Scripture explains why people often continued some practices even after God eliminated any requirement for them.

For instance, Ephesians 4:5 says there is only “one baptism” relevant to the Church. If water baptism is still to be practiced by the Church, then there are two baptisms, the other being the baptism of the spirit (Matt. 3:11; Acts 1:5; 1 Cor. 12:13, etc.). Christians who do not have a dispensational viewpoint must resort to vague assertions of the value of water baptism—most saying that although it is not required for salvation, it should still be practiced. Interestingly, that still does not solve the problem that in the Church today there are, in practice, two baptisms, one of water and one of spirit. A dispensational understanding of Scripture solves the apparent contradiction by noting that water was part of the administrations before Pentecost, and the “one baptism” of Ephesians is baptism in holy spirit.

The fact that the disciples of the first-century Church continued to practice water baptism can be easily explained within a dispensational framework. Al­though God’s requirement had changed on the Day of Pentecost, His people had not yet relinquished their old customs and practices. The words of the risen Christ to his disciples, “John baptized with water, BUT you shall be baptized with holy spirit” (Acts 1:5) were not enough to change centuries of entrenched custom. [6] However, Ephesians 4:5, written years later to clarify the new administration, succinctly settled the question by saying there is “one baptism.”

There is another, very glaring contradiction created by non-dispensational thinking that is very simply and elegantly explained by recognizing that not even Jesus knew about the “Administration of the Sacred Secret” (Eph. 3:9) Jesus Christ told his disciples in Matthew 16:28 that some of them would not die before they would see him come to es­tablish his Kingdom. And again in Matthew 24:34 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened,” referring to the events that would precede the inauguration of his Kingdom. These statements seem to be clear and straightforward, and refer to the literal, future Kingdom of which he spoke so often. He appeared to believe that his Kingdom would be established soon after his death and resurrection. His disciples also believed in the imminence of this Kingdom. When they were assembled with him before his ascension, they asked Jesus if he would be finally establishing his Kingdom at that time (Acts 1:6-11). He replied that only the Father knew, and that until it happened they had a job to do—to preach the Gospel and be his witnesses.

As the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament make known, the Kingdom was not established at that time, and was deferred to an unknown future time. The problem then becomes explaining how Jesus could have been so mistaken about something that was such an integral part of his message: the soon coming of the Kingdom. If Jesus always did the will of God and spoke truly from his Father’s heart, then how could he have not known that the Kingdom was not coming when he said it was?

Theologians have attempted to explain this by saying that he was not referring to the coming of his literal Kingdom, but was referring to either his Transfiguration or to the Day of Pentecost. They argue that he “came into his glory” in a temporal way at the Transfiguration. But the Transfiguration was an unknown future event, of which there was no prophetic anticipation or fore­warning by Jesus. How could he have expected his disciples to know that he was talking about something of which they would have had no advanced knowledge? Would they not have naturally thought he was talking about the well known Kingdom that they and their ancestors had expected for years? There is simply no good reason to equate the well known and expected “Kingdom” with an unknown and unexpected vision of that Kingdom.

If Christ were speaking of the Transfiguration, then what he actually said does not make any sense at all and is not even factual. He said, “some who are standing here will not taste death [i.e., die] before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16:28). However, the Transfiguration occurred shortly after Christ made the statement. In Matthew, the Transfiguration oc­curs in the very next chapter, less than a month after his statement that some would not die. It is safe to say that all of his disciples were still alive a month later. Perhaps one of them had died within a month’s time, but that is still no justification for him to say that only “some” would be alive. Furthermore, since only Peter, James and John were present at the Transfiguration, and they were strictly told to tell it to no one (Matt. 17:9), Christ saying to his disciples that “some” would not die before it makes no sense.

The only reason that anyone says that the Transfiguration or the Day of Pentecost is what Christ was talking about in Matthew 16:28 is that the people he was speaking to died without seeing his Kingdom, which makes Christ clearly mistaken in what he said. Without an adequate explanation, this fact is a rather stark embarrassment to the Christian faith. But this is precisely the kind of apparent contradiction that is resolved by having a dispensational view of Scripture.

Just like the prophets of Old, Jesus could not go beyond what was previ­ously written in Scripture or had been particularly revealed to him. Draw­ing from what the prophets had written, he would have expected certain events to take place in a certain order. His first coming would have been in suffering, and end in death. After being resurrected, he expected a time of Tribulation before establishing his Kingdom. He would have had good scriptural reason to believe that this Tribulation would come very shortly after his death and resurrection. According to the prophet Daniel, the time of the Tribulation would be seven years, a lot less than the duration of the generation Christ was speaking to. This teaching of Christ’s is also repeated in Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32.

The words Jesus used when he said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled” were simple and straightforward. “All” those things were not fulfilled, and the generation is dead and gone. If the end of the world had come during that generation, everyone would applaud how accurate and simple to understand Christ’s words were. The only difficulty is caused when we think that he cannot be wrong about the timing of his coming. It is not so much that Jesus was wrong as it is that he was uninformed. As has been pointed out, he spoke only what God revealed to him, and God had hidden the time, even from His own Son. The Grace Administration has delayed Christ’s coming. Thus, a dispensational view of Scripture resolves this contradiction quite simply and elegantly. Other explanations strike us as exceptionally convoluted and contrived.

Is an “Administration” or a “Dispensation” the same as an “age” or a “time period,” and what determines when one ends and another begins?

Some critics of Dispensationalism make much of the fact that no time period is denoted by the Greek word oikonomia, which is translated “dispensation” or “administration.” Though we agree that the word oikonomia does not denote an age or a time period per se, such is clearly implied by the very idea of “stewardship,” which must occur within a period of time. This time period is framed by the establishment of specific stewardship responsibilities at its beginning, and the accounting for how well these responsibilities were carried out at its end. In the case of Luke 12:42-48 and 16:2-8, the steward’s administration of the owner’s household had a beginning and was clearly brought to a close when he was asked to account for his stewardship.

In every stewardship arrangement in which God has placed man, he has failed to be faithful to his responsibilities. Mankind’s major failures mark out the various “administrations” (which we note via bold type). Chronologically, these include:

  • The fall of Adam and Eve into sin, their subsequent expulsion from the Original Paradise and the institution of blood atonement for sin.
  • The exponential increase of man’s wickedness on the earth due to the searing of his Conscience, and the resulting flood from which only Noah and his family escaped.
  • After the Flood, God instituted Civil Government, making mankind immediately responsible for punishing sinners until a time in the future when God Himself would judge the earth and cleanse it with fire. Nevertheless, sin increased and so “the Law was added because of transgressions” (Gal. 3:19).
  • Israel’s rebellion and idolatry resulted in God giving them the Mosaic Law, but Israel failed to keep the Law.
  • Israel would not keep the Law, and, in His grace, God sent Christ to redeem fallen man. However, Christ was rejected by Israel (“You” have betrayed and murdered him (Acts 7:52b)). Christ was crucified, but this resulted in his resurrection, ascension and pouring out of the gift of holy spirit on the Day of Pentecost, which marks the beginning of The Church of the body of Christ, also known as the Administration of Grace (the Sacred Secret).
  • The prophecies to the Church show that there will be failings in the Church: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1). 2 Timothy 4:3 and 4 prophesies an apostasy that will be followed by Christ’s coming for the Church, whom he meets in the air. This event ends the Administration of Grace and sets the stage for the great Tribulation.
  • During the Tribulation, there will still be people, both Jews and Gentiles, who come to know the truth and give their lives for Christ and are saved. In spite of this, however, humanity is almost wiped from the earth, fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah that mankind will be “scarcer than pure gold” and that “very few” will be left (Isa. 13:12, 24:6). At the end of the Tribulation, many of those people who are left and who have refused to believe God’s Word will defiantly rebel against Him. They will converge on Israel where what is known as the Battle of Armageddon will be fought, as prophesied in Revelation 16:16 and 19:18-21. The Lord Jesus will lead the army of God into battle, and we win! The Millennial Reign of Christ follows this event, and the Devil will be bound for those thousand years.
  • The Millennial Reign of Christ will be a time of great abundance and peace. [7] There will be no war and plenty of food, so during that 1000 years the earth’s population rebuilds. Yet peace, abundance and health are not enough to please many of the people on earth, they will allow themselves to be deceived by Satan after he is loosed from his prison at the end of the 1000 years. These unthankful and spiritually blinded people will come from the four corners of the earth and assemble to attack Christ’s Kingdom. Their attack is short-lived, however, as their army is destroyed by fire from heaven. Following this, death and “the grave” are thrown into the Lake of Fire, and a new heaven and new earth is created. The Everlasting Kingdom then takes place and goes on forever…

In each of these eight dispensations or administrations, God establishes and changes the way in which He deals with the people on the earth. During these eight distinct administrations (named above in bold type), God changed man’s diet, worship, blessings, government, hope for the future and more. In each case, man failed to submit to God’s rulership and authority, but He has nevertheless continually intervened in grace and mercy to reveal His salvation and redeem those who look to Him. Each epoch, or “age,” has moved God closer to His eventual goal of undoing the destruction and chaos unleashed by Lucifer’s original rebellion against Him. Scripture reveals that God is interested in restoring Creation in a righteous manner, which includes the just treatment of even His archenemy, Satan. This has necessitated “ages,” or stages, in the redemption process, and at key points in the process, God has made sure that Satan and his minions have been made aware of the foolishness of their rebellion (Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 3:19-22).

God’s basic plan was Jesus Christ, the key to His “purpose of the ages,” Paradise restored. Christ was first revealed in Genesis 3:15 as the one through whom God would finally destroy His archenemy and all his works, including sin and death. The whole Bible is the dramatic and panoramic view of this redemption process in which God, by way of Christ, deals justly and righteously with both those who oppose Him and those who obey Him.

It would be wrong, though, to say that obedience is always a condition for blessing, and we can clearly see this truth in the way God continues to graciously reveal Himself in every Administration. Israel was often disobedient, yet God worked with them and fulfilled many of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant. His grace is revealed in His guiding principle that pertains to every administration and every covenant: God blesses the unworthy.

How does this administrational view of Scripture help us understand the “big picture” of the whole Bible?

The Bible is a big book with many characters, events and details. Without an overview or “overall” understanding to keep the various elements straight, Scripture becomes a muddle of confusing and contradictory information. The eight administrations provide a kind of skeletal structure that can then be “fleshed out” to give us an even greater understanding. Critics say Dispensationalism “divides” the Bible so one cannot see “big picture” themes such as God’s unifying grace. To us, that is a weak argument because an administrational perspective provides a way of magnifying God’s grace and resourcefulness as we see Him working in, around and through man’s failures to achieve His goals without ever forcing man’s obedience. To us, a non-dispensational view obscures the “big picture” by trying to force unity out of diversity, leaving the reader with no clear rules on how to tell what is literal and what is figurative, and no advice on when and why certain rules change (such as circumcision, marriage regulations and sacrifices).

One way to see this “big picture” from an administrational perspective is to employ a metaphor. Let us liken God to a playwright who has written the story of redemption in the form of a dramatic play of several acts. The play is full of interesting characters who make a lot of unforced choices. The plot contains many unexpected twists and turns, conflicts and resolutions as each scene moves the story closer to its “denouement,” or final outcome.

The first scene is the Original Paradise, but even in Paradise there are limits. God’s arrangement of Paradise is to give the first two characters a job to do (dress and keep the garden), a blessing (freely eat) and one thing not to do (do not eat of the one tree). They fail to maintain this arrangement, and are expelled from Paradise. The author’s theme is now revealed: restoring man to Paradise on earth. His plan is to achieve this goal through the agency of another man (the “seed of the woman,” “the Last Adam”). God provides a temporary solution for their sinful condition by allowing the shedding of animal blood to atone for their sin. This new arrangement is informal (i.e., unwritten), yet well understood by Adam and Eve. Instead of immediately dying, they were allowed to continue to live out their natural lives by atoning for their sin through periodically shedding the blood of sacrificial animals. This arrangement was marked by God appealing to man’s Conscience to follow the right path, though he had no written legal or moral code.

The next scene opens with the sounds of joy and merriment, people apparently having forgotten all about the idea of sin. The truth is that, except for Noah and his family, their consciences are so seared that every thought they have is evil. The bloodline to the Redeemer is in danger of being destroyed, and God acts to save it by flooding the earth. After the Flood, God’s goal of a restored Paradise is hanging by a thread. Noah sacrifices more animals and God promises never to flood the earth again, no matter how bad things might get. God again changes the arrangement He has with man, adding yet another responsibility—man is now charged with his own governance. Thus begins the institution of Civil Government, which has remained a condition of man’s life on earth ever since (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Cor. 4:3). God will continue to hold man accountable for his self-government until He establishes the theocratic reign of Jesus Christ on the earth at his Second Coming.

The next change of arrangement develops out of God’s promises to Abraham, that he and his descendants are to be separated out for special blessings. These people, eventually called “Israel,” were delivered from bondage in Egypt and called to claim the land promised to Abraham. Instead of having faith in God’s promise, as did Abraham, their progenitor, they rebel and refuse to follow Moses. Because of their transgressions and notable lack of self-government, God changes the way He deals with them, giving them the Law, a formal and written moral code. The Law strictly separates Israel from all other nations (Jew from Gentile). This Law of Moses holds sway until Christ comes to Israel and fulfills it (Rom. 10:4).

Israel expects its Messiah to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem and sit on the throne of David, delivering them from Roman occupation. Instead, their pride and hardheartedness blinds them to the identity of their Messiah, and they are the ones who hand him over to the Roman authorities, who crucify him as though he were a common criminal. When he is vindicated by resurrection, the disciples think he will then establish his Kingdom on the earth. Instead, he ascends to the right hand of God, leaving them with instructions to “make disciples of all nations” and be witnesses to him “to the ends of the earth.” It gradually becomes apparent to the Jews who are becoming Christians that their Jewishness is no longer their first identity. They are not Jews first, but Christians. They also become aware that keeping the Mosaic Law is no longer accepted for justification (not that they ever could keep it), and that God is fully accepting everyone on the basis of simple faith in the Lord Jesus and his resurrection.

It then becomes apparent that Israel and Judaism have been playing only one part in this “drama” of several acts. They had even played the lead role in getting the main actor (Jesus Christ) on stage. But now on center stage are all believers in Christ, regardless of national or ethnic ancestry, and they are all being empowered like Jews had never been before, and are being given new marching orders. Instead of keeping the Law and making proselytes, the new order of the day is preaching the good news of Christ’s finished work unto salvation for all men. This “gospel of grace” is the new backdrop for a Church of “neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28), but “one new man” (Eph. 2:15), the Body of Christ on earth. Christ has broken down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile, eliminating the distinction between them in the sight of God. As Peter said when he saw Cornelius and his household speak in tongues, “God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34).

This turns out to be a complete surprise to the Jews, who have rightfully thought of themselves as the stewards of the oracles of God, the ministers and heirs of salvation and more. But God, the playwright, has kept this whole part of the script a Sacred Secret! The Jews knew that Christ would make his entrance, but they did not understand that he would be playing two separate roles, the suffering Savior and the triumphant King, and that these two roles are in separate acts. They also did not understand that God has inserted yet another act between the Messiah’s suffering and his glory. And they also did not know that he is grafting believers from all mankind into participation in the Abrahamic promises. They thought those promises were only for Abraham’s physical descendants (his seed), but it turns out that the promise was also made to one Person: his “Seed,” the Messiah. So now God is calling out a people from all corners of the earth who are believers “in Christ,” without any respect to their “race, creed or national origin.”

While the Church is on center stage, God continues to keep an eye on Israel. He has not “killed them off” like a worn-out “soap opera” star by writing them out of the script. Though they are blinded to the ineffectiveness of the Law and to the identity of Christ, they are still God’s covenant people and He will keep His promises to those of the bloodline who believe. That He is in some way watching over them as a nation does not mean that He does not want them to accept Yeshua (the Hebrew name for “Jesus”) as their Messiah and Lord during the “administration of the Secret.” Indeed, this is necessary for their individual salvation in the Church Age. What they have had to look forward to as Jews was great, but Christianity is based upon “better promises” (Heb. 8:6).

When this administration of the Sacred Secret is fulfilled, Christ will come for his Church, sweep us off our feet and carry us off the stage. After that, the Jews will again take center stage. Some of them will “remember their lines” and begin speaking for him again. God will take up with them where He left off, and His prophecy of a time of Tribulation and anguish on account of their rebellion will be fulfilled. This act will affect not only the Jews, but also the whole earth as well. Mankind will fail to repent and turn to God, and would be wiped off the earth except that Christ will intervene, coming to earth to establish his Millennial Reign of righteousness. WOW! That was close! What a dramatic finish!

But wait, the play is not finished! In fact, God saves the best for last. This Millennial Reign of Christ on the earth will fulfill every promise God has ever made that was not conditional upon anyone’s obedience. At its onset, the Lord Jesus will raise from the dead all the saved Israelites and Gentiles who believed during the Old Testament or the Tribulation period. Then he will give Israel all the land God promised them (Rom. 15:8). God will set up Christ as the King over Israel and he will rule the earth from Jerusalem. He will totally fulfill His “New Covenant” with Israel, and they will individually and collectively enjoy an intimate relationship with God such as they have never had.

At the end of Christ’s Millennial Reign, all the enemies of God and Christ, including death and the grave, are finally destroyed. Then Christ for the second and last time exclaims, “It is finished!” He hands the keys to the Kingdom back to God, Who gives him a standing ovation (1 Cor. 15:24-28). The Everlasting Kingdom is ushered in, and the story finally has a totally righteous ending, a happy ending for those who have believed and obeyed. This will be a time of unimagined blessings and glory, with no sin, no death, no Devil and no separation between the redeemed peoples of the Lord, all of whom are Christ’s brothers and sisters in an everlasting family of God. Hallelujah!

What is the purpose of the “Millennial Kingdom”?

One very important purpose of the Millennial Kingdom is to fulfill God’s yet-unfulfilled promises to Israel. In fact, every unconditional covenant God made with Abraham and Israel will be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom. Without this future period of time, many of God’s promises would fall to the ground. For instance, the land He promised Abraham extended from the Euphrates River on the east to “the River of Egypt” on the west, but Israel has never occupied all the land God promised her, even at the height of Joshua’s conquest or Solomon’s rule. In the future, she will.

Another purpose of the Millennial Kingdom is to demonstrate for all time that even with Satan bound, Christ governing the earth and millions of believers in their new bodies living thereupon, unregenerate man’s nature will still leave him susceptible to deception, unthankfulness and rebellion. Scripture tells us that as soon as Satan is “let out of jail,” he is able to round up an enormous army and lead another rebellion against God and Christ. All through history there have been some people who believed and some who did not. This is not due to wealth or lack of it, health or lack of it, education or lack of it, or any other circumstance. One of the amazing things history teaches is that some people make a decision to believe God, and some do not. The Millennial Reign of Christ will be the ultimate proof of that. With health, peace, prosperity and justice over all the earth, some people will still choose not to believe. Not one soul will be able to stand at the Final Judgment and say that if his circumstances had been better, he would have believed. After the Final Judgment, mankind will be thoroughly purified for entrance into the Final Paradise, with no more internal or external vulnerability to sin.

If the purpose of the Millennial Kingdom is to fulfill God’s promises to Israel, what does that have to do with the Church?

The Church also will be a part of Christ’s Millennial Reign. According to Ephesians 1:10, God is gathering together all things under one head, Christ. We believe that this verse is referring to the Millennial Kingdom, which means that the Church will be included. 2 Timothy 2:12 indicates that if we are faithful to serve him, “we will also reign with him,” which can only be referring to his Millennial Kingdom, when he reigns over the earth and all its people, both believers and unbelievers. Part of the faithful Christian’s future reward is the privilege of reigning with Christ during this period. 1 Corinthians 3:15 and other scriptures guarantee that every Christian will be “saved,” or preserved alive into that Kingdom, and those who have earned rewards by their Christian conduct will then receive them.

Some critics say that dispensationalists have a reluctance or inability to see beyond the Millennial Kingdom, but we do not really know what they mean by this. Scripture does not say much about what happens in the Final Paradise. Some blessings are named, and “God is all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Revelation 21:12 says that the names of the 12 tribes of Israel will be written on the gates of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. Perhaps this is intended as a memorial to the way in which the Messiah accomplished his remarkable feat of subduing all God’s enemies and ushering in the Everlasting Kingdom. It also indicates that there is an eternal aspect to God’s election of Israel, as Scripture says in a number of verses.

Is there a difference between the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven”?

The ultra-dispensational view of E.W. Bullinger makes a distinction between the “kingdom of God” (heavenly) and the “kingdom of heaven” (on earth). However, we believe that as they are used in Scripture, these are synonymous terms that both refer to the Millennial Kingdom. It is not unusual in the Bible for something to have different names. For example, Jerusalem is called by many different names in the Bible. It is called “the City of David” (2 Sam. 5:7), [8] the City of God (Ps. 46:4), Salem (Ps. 76:2), Zion (Ps. 76:2), the Lord Our Righteousness (Jer. 33:16), Sodom (when its people were caught up in sin, Ezek. 16:46), the city of the Great King (Ps. 48:2; Matt. 5:35), Ariel (Isa. 29:1,2,7, either “Lion of God” or “Hearth of God”), etc. Cities, kingdoms and people often have more than one name in Scripture.

If the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are called by different names in the Bible, why would it be surprising that the future kingdom is called by different names? The future kingdom on earth is called “the kingdom of heaven,” “the kingdom of God,” “the kingdom of our father David” (Mark 11:10), “my kingdom” (Luke 22:30), “the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5), “the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col. 1:13), “his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18), “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ” (2 Pet. 1:11) and by other names as well. Surely no one believes that there are a dozen or so future kingdoms. There is one King, Jesus Christ, and there will be one future kingdom. Furthermore, the New Earth is the final destination for redeemed man, regardless of what administration a person lived in.

The reason that John the Baptist preceded Jesus by saying, “the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt 3:2), is because he was announcing the arrival of the King, and the Kingdom that was thought to follow shortly after. However, instead of crowning Christ as the King, they killed him, and this Kingdom for Israel is now being held in abeyance until Jesus comes again to the earth. We know from Scripture that when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven to earth to set up his Kingdom, the Church will come with him, and therefore we also will participate in his Kingdom.

What is the “Kingdom Now” or “Dominion” theology movement in Christendom?

“Kingdom Now” is the theological belief that the Church is presently subduing the enemies of Christ in order to pave the way for his appearing. Mishandling such verses as Acts 3:19ff and Ephesians 4:13 and 14 leads to the view that the Christian Church will remain on the earth and become a dominant force in the world by winning millions of people to the Lord in a great end-times revival. It is easy to understand why someone who believes that would be confused as he reads the Church Epistles, however, because they say that we are lights in the midst of a world that is growing ever darker. Paul’s Epistles testify that things will get worse and worse until one day, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be taken out of this world, caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Christians will not set up God’s kingdom—only the Lord Jesus Christ will do that.

Those who hold to Dominion Theology also misapply to the Church some prophecies from the Old Testament that promise material abundance to Israel. These scriptures are all related to the Millennial Kingdom, not some other “kingdom” that the Christian Church will in some way reign over now. There are many verses in the Old Testament that foretell the wealth of the world being brought to the Messiah’s Kingdom (Isa. 60 is a good example), but there are no similar prophecies for the Church being so enriched before the Rapture.

According to Dominion Theology, the Church is also the Bride of Christ, who is “making herself ready” for her eternal husband, as described in Revelation 19:7. This is a great example of the confusion created by failing to make dispensational distinctions. Ephesians 5:25-27 is a clear reference to Christ’s relationship with his Church, and there it says that he is sanctifying and cleansing her, “to present her to himself” a glorious Church. He is not leaving it to her to “make herself ready.” The solution to the “problem” is to see two distinct groups of believers. Ephesians 5 relates to the Christian Church in the age of grace when Christ is clothing us with his holiness. Colossians 1:12 says that God has “qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” This means that we have a place in his Millennial Kingdom, not because of our works, but because of Christ’s work on our behalf. Christians are raptured into the air to be with Christ before the Tribulation. The other group, the one in Revelation, is the Bride, which is composed of believers who make it through the Tribulation period. They are clothed with fine linen, which are the “righteous acts of the saints” (19:8), i.e., their own works.

Is the Church presently in a “New Covenant” relationship with God?

It is true that there are five clear references to the “New Covenant” in the New Testament, including two in the Church Epistles: Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8 and 9:15. There are also six places that refer to it indirectly: Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Romans 11:27; Hebrews 8:10-13 and 12:24. The “New Covenant” was clearly ratified or initiated by the blood of Christ, but that does not mean it was fulfilled. The “Secret,” by definition, concerns the “unsearchable riches” of Christ, which could not be “searched out” in the Old Testament Scriptures. They include many blessings that were not part of the Old Testament prophecies but are elaborated upon in the Church Epistles, for instance: permanent salvation by grace, holy spirit given without condition, the believer’s complete identification with Christ, and more.

Here are some good reasons why the Church cannot be the “fulfillment” of the New Covenant:

1. A “covenant” is a solemn promise binding two parties in an agreement. In certain biblical covenants like the “New” Covenant, God binds Himself unconditionally by His love and grace to perform specific promises to specific people. These promises cannot be disannulled, and neither can they be “fulfilled” only in part; they must at some point be fulfilled completely or God’s righteousness would be compromised, and He found to be a liar. If the Church cannot “fulfill” the New Covenant, then it must be in a different relationship with God.

2. The covenant was made with Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, and with them as a specific nation. Since the Church is neither Jews nor Gentiles (a “nation”), how can the Church fulfill this covenant?

3. Since the Abrahamic Covenant promises Israel a permanent existence as a nation, then the Church is not fulfilling Israel’s promises, nor is it “the New Israel” (or literally “the Israel of God”). The New Covenant properly belongs to the restoration of Israel as a glorious nation that is filled with a knowledge of God as “the waters fill the seas.”

4. Because the Abrahamic covenant promises her permanent possession of the Promised Land, Israel must still come into possession of the land, which she has never fully possessed in her history, according to the precise specifications of that covenant. Old Testament prophecies confirm that Israel will have full possession of the land of Israel in the future, and Ezekiel 48 even describes which tribe will get which part of the land. In contrast, the Christian Church will never possess the land of Israel, and it has no “tribes,” so it cannot fulfill the prophecies of Ezekiel.

5. The “New” Covenant is made with the same people as the “Old” Covenant, namely Israel.

6. There is a distinction among personal promises to Abraham, national promises to Abraham’s seed and universal promises to “all the families of the earth.” The national promises can be fulfilled only by the nation itself. The language of the New Covenant is quite specifically directed to national Israel (Jer. 31:31-33).

7. The Gospel of Christ is not a covenant, but the revelation of the salvation of God to all men.

8. All the blessings that come to the Church today are based upon the blood of Christ, which was necessarily shed to make possible the New Covenant, according to Jeremiah 31. But just because the Church partakes of the blessings of the shedding of Christ’s blood (shed for the propitiation of the sins of the whole world– 1 John 2:2) does not mean that the Church therefore fulfils the New Covenant. The shed blood of Christ was a necessary condition for the formation of the Church, but was not sufficient for the fulfillment of the covenant. There is still the matter of land, material blessings, rest, Christ’s reign, a new heart for Israel, and so on, that were promised as a part of the New Covenant and have not yet been fulfilled.

9. Although we do not have the covenant made with us, we can have some of its blessings ministered to us, as well as be ministers of some of its blessings. This is the same principle as Peter’s Acts 2 citation of Joel 2:28-32 in reference to the giving of holy spirit on the day of Pentecost, a prophecy that actually refers to the still future “day of the Lord.” Although Peter did not then know the “secret,” his reference to Joel was relevant because each Christian now partakes of the holy spirit aspect of the future New Covenant with Israel. It is easy to understand how people can have the blessings of a covenant ministered to them without being part of the covenant if one thinks of the Gentiles in the Old Testament. They were not part of the Old Covenant, but they could have covenant blessings ministered to them. Many non-Jews lived in Israel, apparently for that reason.

10. As the Church receives blessings of the Abrahamic covenant by faith without fulfilling that covenant, so the Church may receive blessings from the New Covenant without fulfilling it.

11. Israel must go through the Tribulation and be delivered by the Messiah before the New Covenant can be fulfilled (Rom. 11:26 and 27).

12. Because the Tribulation, the second coming of Christ and the Millennial Reign of Christ are yet future, the fulfillment of this promise must also be future, and cannot be fulfilled now by the Church.

13. The Messiah, who ratified this New Covenant with Israel, must return to the earth to complete the salvation, restoration and blessing of Israel that is promised them as a result of the New Covenant God promised them.

Was the “Sacred Secret” of Ephesians 3:1-9 only that the Gentiles would be included with Israel in a “New Covenant” Church?

The “New Covenant” was not a secret. It was prophesied in many places in the Old Testament. The focal point of the “Sacred Secret” [9] is that Gentiles who believe in Christ as “Lord” would be fellow heirs with Israelites who believe. They would be part of the same Body, a new creation, the “one new man” of Ephesians 2:15, and partakers of “the promise in Christ Jesus.” But does that mean that the only variable was who would make up this Church?

Let us liken the “Church,” which Jesus said he would build out of those Israelites who responded to his message, to a blue caterpillar. The Gentiles, meanwhile, are a red caterpillar, living on a separate tree, despised and looked down upon by the blue one. Using this analogy, was the Sacred Secret that the blue caterpillar (the Jewish believers in Christ) would come over and swallow the red one (the Gentile believers) and become a much bigger and better blue caterpillar? This is the position furthered by some who teach that “Christianity” is really “Messianic Judaism,” and that Gentile believers ought to keep the Jewish feasts, etc. Or was it that the red caterpillar would come over and swallow the blue one? This is the belief that the Church replaces Israel, a belief held by Roman Catholicism, many people partial to Reformed Theology (such as some Lutherans) and a growing number of “charismatic” groups.

Neither of these scenarios is the one set forth in the Church Epistles. The Sacred Secret was that some of the Jews (the blue) and some of the Gentiles (the red) were made by the Lord into a “new creation.” God combined and transformed the old caterpillars into a beautiful purple butterfly, as it were, called “the Church of God,” or “one new man.” The Church of the Body of Christ that began on Pentecost is not in any way an extension of or the continuation of Israel. Rather, it is an entirely new creation that is “neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15).

What about the other requirements of the Law?

Sabbath worship, tithing, circumcision, water baptism (or ritual washing), kosher dietary laws, worship, high priests, special clothing, feast days, etc. Are any of these things required for the Church? Are we better Christians if we continue to practice some or all of these things?

These are important questions to answer, especially in light of the seemingly growing numbers of Christians participating in what is called “Messianic Judaism.” Our answer is “No, these things are not required for the Church” (Acts 15:10 and 11; Rom. 10:4; Gal. 2:14-16, 3:21-25, et al). Furthermore, the Church is neither “better off” nor “more sacred” when it adopts practices that God has not prescribed for it. This is important, because mankind seems always to be looking for something that satisfies the flesh and makes us feel like we are doing works that help us stand approved before God. Many people “feel” more holy worshipping in a church building than around a kitchen table, and some people feel that they are somehow more holy when they keep the Old Testament feasts and rituals. The Church of the Body of Christ has been directed to worship God in the spirit and “put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3), and obedience to God’s directives is the way to please Him. Were Sabbath regulations, ritual washing, etc., valid in their time, and will some (like Temple worship) be valid in the future? Yes, but only for Israel.

Is there value to Messianic Judaism? Some. Messianic Jews are often able to win other Jews to “Yeshua” (the Hebrew name for Jesus) by presenting him in the context of synagogue worship, etc. They also provide a worship service with a distinctive Jewish flavor for those who are inspired by the meaning and antiquity of that. But Messianic Jews do not have more of God’s ear because they keep synagogue worship and have a Hebrew liturgy. Neither do we believe that Messianic Jews are on the cutting edge of New Testament Christianity, nor that they can say they are practicing the faith as it really ought to be practiced. God is no respecter of persons, nor a respecter of Jewish forms of worship over that of other nationalities and cultures. The Church is called to spiritual worship as indicated by Galatians 3:1-5, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Philippians 3:3.

Do Jews today find special favor in God’s sight by continuing to keep the Law of Moses? No. In point of fact, even the most diligent Jews are not truly keeping the Law, because they do not sacrifice animals. Furthermore, by acknowledging the Law’s validity and by attempting to keep any part of it, they are logically indebted to keep the whole thing (Gal. 5:3). Because they neither sacrifice animals nor recognize Christ’s sacrifice for them, Jews today are, in biblical terms, “yet in their sins.”

Is the biblical separation of Israel and the Church an “unfortunate consequence of Dispensationalism,” as some critics say?

Not if it is biblical truth. Was it an “an unfortunate consequence” of the Law that the Jews were separated from the Gentiles, or that the Levites and Priests were separated from the rest of Israel? Separation to the work God has given you is never a “consequence.” Is it possible to feel hurt or upset because you are who you are? Surely. There are men who wish they were women, women who want to be men, Israelites who want to be Priests, Gentiles who want to be Jews, people alive today who wish they lived a thousand years ago, and the list goes on and on. This is not new, and the Bible advises us that “each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (1 Cor. 7:17). The point is this: God makes us who we are and calls us to different functions for Him. God delegated to His Son the power and authority to create “one new man” out of both Jews and Gentiles, and the creative work of God is never an “unfortunate consequence” of anything.

Is God working behind the scenes by way of the formation of the modern political state of Israel in 1948? And did this happen in fulfillment of biblical prophecy?

We cannot really say what God is doing “behind the scenes,” and the pre­sent political state of Israel will no doubt factor into the events of the end times. But we have doubts that the verses used to substantiate the 1948 event as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy actually pertain to that specific event. It seems very clear to us that Isaiah 43:5-8 is referring to the future gathering of the Jews during the Tribulation, prior to the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom. This same truth is affirmed in Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Mark 13:26 and 27 and Matthew 24:31. On the other hand, Israel has to be a country in order for the biblical prophecies to be fulfilled, so even if the creation of the state of Israel is not the fulfillment of a specific prophecy, it can still be seen as the stage being set so prophecy can be fulfilled.

What about the “new thinking” represented by Krister Stendahl and others? Is the hope of Christianity found in a return to its “Jewish roots”?

Christianity is not “gilded Judaism.” The Church is a new community of believers transformed and united into a new spiritual entity called the “one new man” and “a new creation.” To return to our previous metaphor, Judaism is a perfectly designed caterpillar, centered around the Law, which was “powerless…in that it was weakened by the sinful nature” (Rom. 8:3). The Church is like the butterfly that emerged, and is based on the completed work of Christ and the giving of the gift of holy spirit. The provisions of God in Christ for the believers in the Church Age work to create Christ-likeness from within instead of without. Is a butterfly “better” than a caterpillar, when without the latter it would not exist? It is not “better,” but it is a “new creation.”

We disagree with Stendahl’s view that “Paul was not ‘converted’ from one religion (Judaism) to another (Christianity),” but was “a Jew ‘called to apostleship’ by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in the same way that Isaiah and Jeremiah had been called to service.” Judaism was, and is, essentially a fleshly system of worship and works that foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah. In Colossians 2:17 the “shadow” metaphor is used with clarity concerning many of the particulars of Judaism, and Hebrews 8:5-10 makes it clear that much of the “Old Covenant” was to be done away. Colossians says the regulations about food, festivals and Sabbaths were a “shadow,” but the “reality” is Christ. Christians have the reality, Christ, and should realize the temporary nature of the signs and symbols that only pointed to Christ. What man would be content to kiss his wife’s shadow when he could kiss her instead?

The “new thinking” represented by Stendahl seems to us to be the “old thinking” condemned by Galatians 5:1, which calls continued adherence to the Law in any form a “yoke of bondage.” We think it wise to maintain the perspective that Paul had of both the Law (“Get over it!”) and the risen Christ (“Get with it!”). Philippians 2:10 and 3:9 and 10 indicate that Paul came to see Christ as someone even greater in majesty than what had been prophesied.

Ironically, many Christians today are talking about restoring the “Jewishness” of Christianity without reference to the restoration of true Hebraic monotheism, perhaps the most basic of all the Jewish distinctiveness. Can Trinitarian Christianity authentically lay claim to any Hebraic roots? [10]

Conclusion

We are convinced that 2 Timothy 3:16 is correct when it says that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” and we agree with 2 Peter 1:21 that Scripture did not originate from the will of man, but rather was given by God to men who faithfully wrote what they were inspired to write. There is one God, surely, but He gave different rules at different times for different people to live by. Dispensationalism is a way to understand these changes, and thus to better understand the purposes of God and how we are supposed to live today.

Interestingly, non-Dispensationalists recognize that God’s rules change, yet often denounce dispensationalists for systematizing what, when and for whom the rules are different. Admittedly, there are some dispensational systems that are not correct (obviously not everyone is right if different conclusions are drawn concerning the Bible and how to live it), but who is right and who is wrong must be handled by examining each system individually. We believe that the proper biblical understanding of the administrations in Scripture resolves apparent Bible contradictions, sets forth the clear distinctions in God’s dealings with mankind, shows His wisdom, establishes God’s purpose for the Church of the Body of Christ to which we belong, makes Bible prophecy clearer and easier to understand, and helps us to know the rules we should live by as distinct from the rules that people in other administrations were to live by.

Changes at Pentecost

The following is a list of changes that took place on the Day of Pentecost. As you will be able to see, the rules changed for those who put there faith in Christ.

OLD TESTAMENT

NEW TESTAMENT

God is the source of good and bad

Christ revealed the goodness of God (John 9:3). In all things God works for the good (Rom. 8:28)

Salvation by faithfulness (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Rev. 2:10,17,26)

Salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8)

Circumcision necessary to have a part in the Abrahamic covenant

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision (Gal. 5:6)

Sabbath laws, special days, feasts (Ex. 23:14-16; Deut. 5:15)

Every day sacred if interpreted that way (Rom. 14:5 and 6). Let no one judge you by a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day (Col. 2:16).

Feasts—Passover

First Fruits

Christ our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7) Christ the firstfruits from the dead (1 Cor. 15:23) We have the firstfruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:23)

Tithing to the Levites (Luke 18:12)

Give as you purpose in your heart (2 Cor. 9:7) Give to the apostles (Acts 4:35) Give to those who instruct you in the Word (Gal. 6:6) Give to the saints (2 Cor. 8:4) Give to “those in need” (Eph. 4:28)

Endnotes

[1] “Systematic theology” is the attempt to bring religious truth into an organized system. Many theologians have written “systematic theologies,” and, of course, while they are alike in some respects, they vary somewhat depending on the particular beliefs of the author. Nevertheless, the Bible is true and thus there is a genuine systematic theology, even if men disagree on what that is.
[2] Oikonomia is translated “dispensation” in the KJV in 1 Corinthians 9:17, Colossians 1:25, Ephesians 1:10 and 3:2. It is translated “fellowship” in Ephesians 3:9 in the KJV, but “dispensation” in the American Revised Version, which recognizes that oikonomia is the correct reading in the Greek text.
[3] For a thorough listing of the principles we employ to “accurately handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), see our booklet 22 Principles of Bible Interpretation.
[4] In Luke 24:25, Jesus called two of his disciples fools because they did not “put two and two together” when it came to his suffering and glory. “Fool” in the Greek text is anoetos, which is literally “one who does not think or apply his mind to the situation.”
[5] Amillennialism denies that Christ will come to gather the Church and afterward have a literal 1000 year reign on the earth (Rev. 20). According to the teaching of amillennialism, the Christian Church is fulfilling the prophecies that were unfulfilled by Israel. The future will include a horrible time just before a final conflict called Armageddon, and then the bodies of the saved will be raised and reunited with their souls and they will enter God’s eternal kingdom. For the biblical (millennialist) position on what the future holds, listen to The Book of Revelation, our nine-hour audio tape seminar.
[6] Interestingly, the words of the risen Christ about outreach were also misunderstood. Although Christ said to go to “all creation” and “to the ends of the earth” (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8), for years the disciples went only to Jews. They finally went to the Gentiles only when the Lord Jesus gave Peter a vivid revelation (Acts 10:9-23). Even then, Peter’s traditional belief was so ingrained in him that he argued with the Lord about it.
[7] More information about this is in our 90-minute audio tape, The Kingdom of God: Paradise Regained (Mar / Apr ’92).
[8] Not only can one thing have many names, but also different things can have the same name. We are used to that with people, but in the Bible it is true of cities also. Bethlehem was called “the town of David” (Luke 2:4 and 11), just as was Jerusalem. David was born in Bethlehem and moved to Jerusalem.
[9] In most Bibles, the Greek word musterion is translated “mystery,” but it does not mean that which is mysterious or inherently unknowable. It means “secret,” that which is knowable to whom it is revealed, and it should be translated as “secret,” not “mystery,” in Ephesians 3 and many other places.
[10] For a thorough treatise on the subject of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, a human being, the Last Adam, see our book, One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith and Jesus Christ: The Diameter of the Ages, our six-hour audio tape seminar.

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2 comments

  1. Amen! Maranatha!

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