By Rev. Robert Liichow
This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Galatians 5:8–9
Last month Truth Matters dealt with Mr. Hagee’s excitement over the most recent series of lunar eclipses. What we were not able to cover was the philosophy underpinning Hagee and many other Christians` understanding of the times in which we live. Most of Hagee’s prognostications regarding Israel and the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church are solidly grounded on the errant views of John Nelson Darby, Cyrus Scofield, Clarence Larkin and Charles Ryrie.
By all accounts Darby was a brilliant scholar, well-spoken and persuasive in his delivery. He began his career as a lawyer, jettisoned that and became a priest in the Anglican Church. Darby was very concerned about what he saw as a “lax” condition of the Church and her need to get back to the scriptures. Darby was also consumed with the belief that the Lord Jesus Christ was coming back for the Church very soon and that the Church must get ready for His return.
Darby’s beliefs are a perfect example of the apostle Paul‘s warning to the Galatians coming to pass. How so? For 1,800 years the Church NEVER taught the false doctrines that Darby/Scofield/Larkin have espoused (the ‘little’ leaven) and yet his CONcepts have become widely dispersed and accepted by Evangelicals globally today! Our Lord warned of the danger of false doctrine (the leaven of the Pharisees), if left unchallenged that it will spread.
How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Matthew 16:11–12
Darby began to study the Bible using a rigid dogmatic of applying literalism to the interpretation of the Scriptures. This is fine as long as one recognizes the different genres of writing within the Bible Itself, which Darby did not. The Bible contains historical/narrative accounts; Law; Wisdom literature; Poetry; Prophetic writings; Apocalyptic; Parables; Epistles and Romance. To properly understand the Scriptures one must first recognize the type of literature they are encountering, this is the first step in hermeneutical discovery. Darby’s theological arrangement became known as Dispensationalism.
As a budding young Pentecostal I worked at a 24/7 gas station and I had an extremely fundamentalist brother as my co-worker. The only real “difference” between us doctrinally was that I spoke in other tongues and he did not. I learned that we Pentecostals shared the same understanding of God’s dispensations. A little later on I came to learn that virtually everyone on television and/or on the revival circuit held to these same basic views regarding Israel, the Church and the end of days. Just so you know how prevalent this belief system is in America, here are a few of the Bible Colleges and seminaries matriculating pastors upholding this position:
Baptist Bible College, Chafer Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Grace Theological Seminary, Masters Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Multnomah School of the Bible, Philadelphia College of the Bible, Talbot Theological Seminary, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary
I was fed a steady diet of dispensational dogma for at least twenty plus (20+) years, many people have only been exposed to this view and they know nothing or almost nothing about the position of the Church prior to Darby. Many of you reading this newsletter currently are probably holding on to some of Darby’s CONcepts. PLEASE read this article with an open mind and PLEASE do your own RESEARCH, these few pages are meant to inform and educate but also to hopefully serve as a catalyst for further study into the topic presented.
What Is Dispensationalism?
Dispensationalism is an approach to biblical interpretation, which states that God uses different means of administering his will to people during different periods of history, usually seven chronologically successive periods. It attempts a literal interpretation of scripture with a premillennial and pre-tribulation rapture view. It sees Israel and the church as distinct bodies. (Thanks to our fellow truth-tellers and friends at CARM for the definition, obtained from http://carm.org/dictionary-dispensationalism.)
Dispensationalists make very graphic charts of their system. The chart above shows the seven dispensations of our existence as people starting with “Innocence” and ending in the “Kingdom Age,” which is yet to come. Currently, we are living in the age of “The Church,” sometimes designated the “Age of Grace.” Darby’s seven dispensations boil down to the following:
- Innocence – Adam
- Conscience – After man sinned, up to the flood
- Government – After the flood, man allowed to eat meat, death penalty instituted
- Promise – Abraham up to Moses and the giving of the Law
- Law – Moses to the cross
- Grace – The cross to the Millennial Kingdom
- Millennial Kingdom – A 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centered in Jerusalem
These seven dispensations begin and end with an exactness that is forced upon the texts by using arcane dating systems. In other words when God created Adam a “cosmic stopwatch” was started. As soon as he ate the forbidden fruit, that watch stopped and God began another one, this time “conscience” a very neat and tidy way to conceptualize biblical history, but it lacks chronological support (we are not given biblically the specific dates and times for any of these seven dispensations). The following ten bullet points summarize the Dispensationalists beliefs:
- Literal interpretation of the Bible
- God works via different arrangements in distinct periods of history
- Israel is the literal descendants of Abraham, not spiritual ones
- Israel is the heir to the promises made to Abraham about the seed being blessed
- Participation in the Abrahamic Covenant is “mainly” by physical birth in Jewish lineage
- Two distinct people groups: Israel and the Church
- Church began at Pentecost
- Salvation is by faith in accordance to the revelation given in a particular dispensation
- The Holy Spirit did not indwell people in all dispensations, only during the dispensation of the Church age
- Christ will reign in the future 1000 year period which occurs after the rapture
Honestly, there is nothing wrong with the term dispensation when considering God’s work with man, it comes to us from the Greek word oikonomia, which refers to the house law/stewardship/administration. The Church universal has always held to only two dispensations (until Darby), that of works (Genesis 1:1-3:14) and that of grace (Genesis 3:15-Rev. 22:21). Christ Himself instituted the covenant of grace in Gen 3:15. The Lord Himself was the first Preacher of the Gospel when He declared, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The Lord Himself promised a Saviour from the seed of a woman—the virgin-born Son of God—who will save His people from sin (Isa 7:14, Matt 1:21-23). The covenant of grace is seen throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. They differ in how God administrates, but not in the substance of what He does. The Mediator of both Testaments is the same, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). The means of salvation is also the same—by grace through faith (Hab 2:4, Rom 4:9-25, Gal 3:7-9, Heb 11:6). Last month, DMI shared how Mr. Hagee teaches today that the Jews can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ, this false teaching comes from Darby’s belief system.
Staunch dispensationalists strongly teach that Law and Grace, like oil and water do not mix. Ergo, since we are living in the Age of Grace, the Law of Moses given in a previous dispensation does not apply to our lives as Christians today. For many believers the Law has been abrogated, and is therefore not binding on them living in this age of grace leading to an incipient antinomianism (lawlessness) in their lives. These believers are extremely confused when it comes to making a proper distinction between the Law and Gospel. Until a person has a basic understanding of “God’s Yes and God’s No” their Christian life will lack stability.
A litmus test for whether a person harbors dispensational beliefs is simply to ask the individual “are the Jews the chosen people of God today?” If the individual responds with a resounding “yes” then you are encountering someone who has been unduly influenced by the teachings of Darby and others.
Dispensationalism has two major facets, the first concerns the literal physical descendants of Abraham (on Isaac’s side of the family) and the physical land. The second is their belief in a pre-millennial pre-tribulation secret rapturing away of all Christians, which could occur at any moment. This month’s article will consider some facets regarding Israel and the Church.
Israel and the Church
Darby and his followers see the Church as a mere parenthesis in the plan of God brought about by ethnic Israel’s rejection of Christ. For dispensationalists (think of Mr. Hagee), the authentic people of God are the physical descendants of Abraham and obviously their “physical” land is the exact geography given to Abraham.
Often Luther and the other Reformers are wrongly accused of teaching what is called “Replacement Theology” which is defined as the belief that the Church has replaced Israel in the grand economy of salvific history some proponents say that God has exchanged the Gentile world for the Jews.
Dispensationalists and those espousing the “replacement” view affirm the necessity of Christ for salvation; neither is the biblical position regarding the people of God. In both of these cases, the fundamental unity of the people of God across the ages is denied. Both of these views affirm that there are two different ways of salvation, one for the Jews and one for the.
The Bible teaches that there is but one people of God and only one way of salvation. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter calls his mostly Gentile audience “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for his own possession.” These are all terms used for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament (Ex. 19:5–6; Isa. 43:20–21), and Peter applies them to the church because the church is the true Israel of God. The biblical view (which is sometimes mistakenly called “replacement theology”) does not say that the church “replaces” Israel. Rather, it affirms that true Israel always was, always is, and always will be comprised of those who trust in Christ alone for salvation. This is plain from 1 Peter 2:10. The Gentiles, who were formerly not God’s people, are now God’s people because they have trusted in the Messiah and because they worship Israel’s true King. Old covenant believers were likewise able to be the people of God because they were in Christ. Though they lived before the Son became incarnate, they looked forward to the day in which He would come, and they trusted in Him (John 8:56). Their example likewise shows us that the true Israel of God has always been comprised of those who love and serve the Messiah. (Obtained from DMI’s compatriot in truth-telling R.C. Sproul via his page at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/people-god/)
According to dispensational theology the Church is “plan B” of the Lord. God has only dealt with two groups of His people throughout history, (1) Israel as a nation and (2) the Church as Christ’s body. “The core belief of dispensationalism is to distinguish ‘two purposes of God.’The pre-tribulation rapture is argued on the basis of ‘two purposes of God. ’One purpose is said to be ‘heavenly’ and the other ‘earthly.’ Generally speaking, the heavenly purpose is the Church, and the earthly purpose is Israel. Only the dispensation of the Church Age is involved in the heavenly purpose.”
In their scheme of thinking when Jesus came in His first Advent He offered the Kingdom to the Jews, He came as their Messiah. The Jewish nation rejected Jesus and His offer and instead had Him crucified. This is a lie. Anyone who holds this belief is guilty of calling Jesus a liar. Furthermore, based on the belief that Jesus came to give Israel a kingdom they teach that Jesus DID NOT COME TO DIE ON THE CROSS, they agree this certainly did happen, but it was not God’s original plan or desire for Him to die! What does our Lord and His written Word say?
So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:13-15
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:36-37
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. Acts 2:22-24
Ignoring the scriptures cited they say that due to God’s plan being set back owing to Israel’s unbelief He had to bring in the Church Age, an age of grace to evangelize the world. Once the Church has done her job on earth, we get “raptured” up to heaven and then God starts up His cosmic stopwatch regarding Israel —- and the Jews go back to temple worship, their human priesthood animal sacrifices, keeping the Sabbath for seven (7) years. At the end of these seven years Jesus returns with His saints. We will reside in the New Jerusalem hovering above national Israel’s earthly Jerusalem. The Jews will rule on earth from Jerusalem and we will rule with God from the heavenly Jerusalem. Dispensationalism is the well from which Hagee and others have drawn their “duel covenant” heresy (this is a heresy in that it attacks the work of Jesus Christ). This is the CONcept in a nutshell.
Darby et al. seemed to have forgotten that our Lord always chooses and uses the least among us (read Deut. 7:7, Judges 7:7, 1 Cor. 1:28). He uses the remnant and not the multitude. The Jews/Israel did reject Jesus as their Messiah —- but not all of them, God spared a remnant of believing Jews to birth His Church. All those involved at Pentecost were Jews who had been brought to faith. The Apostle Paul even with his vocation to present the Gospel to the gentile world said that the Gospel was given to “the Jew first” (Romans 2:9).
Darbyites seem to be also somewhat ignorant of the sovereignty of God. God has no “plan B” for anything He does. He does all His work perfectly, in Him there is not even a ‘shadow’ of change (James 1:17). How is it that Israel rejected Jesus when 3,000 Jewish men (later on many in their households probably came to faith as well) were cut to their hearts by the Holy Spirit (He had not rejected the Israelites it seems) at the preaching of Peter (Acts 2:14). How is it that the Lord told them to begin preaching in Jerusalem, Judea and in Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8) immediately before His ascension if Israel had no place in His ongoing original plan of redemption? In fact, the disciples were somewhat disobedient to our Lord by staying within Israel until persecution began to hit the nascent Church and then like hot embers the Word began to reach the gentiles as well.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 6
When our Lord said this the Pharisees knew exactly what He was referring to. Jesus told them in no uncertain terms that He was and is the source of Israel and thus is “Israel” in the flesh. The O.T. uses the olive tree, fig tree and grape vine as symbolic of Israel (read Judges 9:7-15, Habakkuk 3:17, Haggai 2:18-19).
Christ is the root or head of Israel. If one is in Christ then one is in the Israel of God. The Apostle Paul uses the same type of language regarding the symbolism of the vine in Romans 11:13-24. Those in the vine are in Israel even as those in the vine are in Christ. As to the charge of adhering to “replacement” theology let me simply say that there is a BIG distinction between the Church replacing Israel and the Church being the same as Israel all along.
As I have been hammering home, Dispensationalism is based on the idea that Jews after the rapture (end of the Church Age), the physical descendants of Abraham, and who also receive Christ (due to the preaching of the 144,000 Jewish men), will be sole literal heirs of all the Old Testament covenants. Is this what the Bible teaches? According to Paul, being a physical descendent of Abraham is not significant with regard to the “promise,” which is in the covenant(s):
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. Romans 9:6-8
If people would simply read deeply Romans 9 a great of confusion can be cleared up regarding who is Israel and to whom do the promises belong. Being a physical Jewish descendant of Abraham means nothing more to God today than being born an Ishmaelite —- both need faith alone in the work of Christ Jesus alone in order to be part of God’s family. The Jews looked to their physical descent as proof of their divine election. The Apostle Paul corrects this damning belief by stating that Abraham’s true descendants are only those who have faith in Christ.
Our Lord rebuked some religious leaders and told them to their face that they were NOT children of Abraham (see John 8:39-44) and in fact they were exposed for who they really were, children of the devil. The covenant made with Abraham was only for his “true” children/Israel (those born of faith). Ergo the covenants that followed Abraham’s through Moses and later David — both of whom were true children of Abraham by faith only apply to God’s children.
Because of this false assertion regarding the physical descendants of Abraham (on the ‘Jewish’ side) much of the Gospel material is not for the Christian or the Church Age per se. Classically Dispensationalists hold that there is a difference between the kingdom of God (KOG) and the kingdom of heaven (KOH). Any reading of the N.T. shows that the use of these terms should be considered interchangeable. For example, take the account shown in Matthew 13:11 and Mark 4:11, Matthew uses KOH and Mark used KOG — both citing the same example. However, when one sees Israel and the Church as one people this becomes a non-issue.
Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount is another area of misunderstanding on the part of Darbyites. According to them this teaching is not directed towards Christians (how can it be, Christians/Church are a parenthesis!) but to the Jews only and the future Jews living in the future theocratic kingdom during the coming millennium. A staunch dispensationalist will not recite/pray “The Lord’s Prayer.” It too is not for the Church Age, but the Jews. Why? Because they view the phrase “forgive us our debts” as being legal terminology which has not place in the life of one under “grace.” I like the way Oswalt. Allis in his, Prophecy and the Church, page 46 explains this:
The meaning is not that if we forgive others we may expect, as a kind of quid pro quo, that God will forgive us. But rather the emphasis is on the fact, brought out so impressively in the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Mt..23f.) that those who have been forgiven much must themselves be ready to forgive. Those who harbor an unforgiving spirit toward their fellowmen show plainly that they do not realize that they themselves owe everything to the infinite compassion and forgiving mercy of God.” Obviously, forgiving repentant brothers their sins is a fruit of saving faith and not a co-instrument or ground of justification before God. Further, virtually all the ethical teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are found or supported by other portions of the New Testament.
I trust you are beginning to see the tremendous errors that abound within this system of thought. Due to this false division between Jews and the Church, a great deal of the Gospels and Epistles teachings cannot be applied to the Church.
This view, prevalent as it is, ignores the reality of the continuity of the “Church” from Genesis to Revelation. They refuse to acknowledge that God has indeed united us into One Body:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. Eph. 2:13-17
The middle wall of partition has been broken down and now both Jews and Gentiles are one holy temple together in the Lord. The entire belief that physical Jews are somehow “special” and “chosen” by God to this day and thus must be supported by the Church’s total support is not a biblical position.
In closing let me reiterate that there are not two of God’s people today, Jews and the Church. Nor are there two covenants, one for the Jews to be fulfilled at the Second Advent and one for the Church under grace. There is but one people, the people of God’s own choosing (read Ps 33:22) and there is but one covenant today and forever, the new and better covenant:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant With the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand To bring them out of the land of Egypt; Which my covenant they brake, Although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, And write it in their hearts; And will be their God, And they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:31–33.
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the New testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Hebrews 8:6-8, 14-15
I realize that some of you reading this article may disagree with it at first, I know I did UNTIL I began to process of researching and studying out that which I had formerly had inculcated into my melon. The manner in which we relate to dispensational theology will be reflected in the way we relate to both God and our neighbors.
Media televangelists such as:
Jerry Fallwell, Dave Hunt, Howard Conder, Charles Capps, Pat Robertson, Jack Van Impe, Hal Lindsey continue to popularize dispensational eschatology.
Dispensational Theology has deceived vast multitudes of people. It is a false doctrine which must not only be exposed but understood by God’s truth-tellers so they can warn others of this pervasive and persuasive doctrine of men and demons.