18. What is Dispensationalism?
Dispensationalism is a relatively modern hermeneutic, or way of interpreting the scriptures, that has roots in the teachings of John Darby, was greatly popularized by C. I. Scofield, through the notes in his study bible, became influential through the establishment of Dallas Theological Seminary and many of its professors, including Lewis Sperry Chafer and Charles Ryrie, and has been greatly sensationalized and made influential at a popular level through the fiction and dramatic predictions and interpretations of authors such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. Today, Dispensationalism is hugely influential worldwide, having a significant impact not just on the doctrine of the Church, but even on global politics, as the Dispensationally-driven Christian Zionist movement, championed by such men as John Hagee, has largely shaped America's Middle Eastern policies for many years.
Dispensationalism is by no means a monolithic school of thought, and ranges from some very extreme errors on the far right, such as the teaching that modern orthodox Jews who reject Christ may still be saved through the Torah, to the much more conservative and scholarly beliefs of the Progressive Dispensationalists such as Craig Blaising and Darrel Bock; but in essence, it may be summed up as the method of interpreting the scriptures which sees two distinct peoples of God, with two distinct destinies: Israel and the Church. The most common form of classic (sometimes called “revised”) Dispensationalism adheres to the following points of belief:
1.The Church is not the continuation of God's Old Testament people, but a distinct body born on the Day of Pentecost.
2.The Church is never equated with Israel in the New Testament, and Christians are not Jews, true Israel, etc.
3.The prophecies made to Israel in the Old Testament are not being fulfilled in the Church, nor will they ever be.
4.The Church does not participate in the New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament; it is for ethnic Israel, and will be established in a future millennial kingdom.
5.The Old Testament saints were saved by faith alone, on the basis of the Calvary-work of Christ alone; however, the object of their faith was not Christ, but rather the revelation peculiar to their dispensation.
6.The Old Testament saints did not know of the coming “Church Age,” of the resurrection of Christ, or basically, of what we today call the gospel.
7.When Jesus came to earth, he offered the Jews a physical kingdom, but they rejected him.
8.When Jesus proclaimed “the gospel of the Kingdom,” it was the news about how ethnic Jews might enter and find rewards in this physical kingdom, and is to be distinguished from the gospel as defined in I Corinthians 15:3-4, which the apostles later proclaimed to the church.
9.After the Jews rejected Jesus' kingdom offer, he inaugurated a parenthetical “Church Age,” which will be concluded immediately before God again takes up his dealings with his national people, ethnic Israel.
10.During the “Church Age,” Jesus is not reigning from the throne of David; he is engaged instead in his priestly work, and his kingly work will take place in the future millennial kingdom.
11.At some unspecified but imminent time, Jesus will return (but not all the way to earth, just to the air) and rapture his Church, also called his Bride; for the following seven years, they will feast with him at the marriage supper of the Lamb; meanwhile, on earth, he will begin to deal with his national people, ethnic Israel, again, calling them to himself and preserving them in the midst of seven years of great tribulation; at the midpoint of which, the Antichrist will set himself up as god in the rebuilt Jewish temple, and demand worship from the world.
12.After these seven years, Christ will return, this time all the way to earth. He will defeat the forces of evil, bind Satan and cast him into a pit, and inaugurate the physical Jewish Kingdom that he had offered during his life on earth. The Jews who survived the tribulation will populate the earth during this blessed golden era, and the Christians will reign spiritually, in glorified bodies.
13.After these thousand years, Satan will be released and will gather an army from the offspring of the Jews who survived the tribulation. He will be finally defeated and cast into hell. At this time, the wicked dead will be resurrected and judged, whereas the righteous dead had already been resurrected one-thousand-seven years previously, at the rapture. Christ will then usher in the New Heavens and New Earth, and the destinies of all mankind will be finalized. Dispensationalists are divided as to whether or not there will remain a distinction between Christians and Jews in the New Earth.
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