19. Is Dispensationalism biblical?
According to influential author Charles Ryrie, whose views are perhaps the most representative of popular Dispensationalism, there are three “sine qua non,” (i.e. non-negotiables) of what constitutes Dispensationalism: a doxological view of history (i.e., with the ultimate purpose of glorifying God), a literal hermeneutic (i.e. method of interpreting the bible), and an ongoing distinction between the two peoples of God, Israel and the Church. A doxological purpose for all of history is certainly not unique to Dispensationalism, however, and is affirmed by many non-Dispensational theologians; so the question of whether or not Dispensationalism is biblical must hinge on what the bible says about the latter two points: its “literal” way of understanding the bible, particularly as it relates to Old Testament prophecies; and its insistence on two peoples of God.
Fortunately, the biblical evidence is not lacking for either of these questions: Dispensationalism teaches that all the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament must be fulfilled to ethnic Israel, in a literal way, that is, in a way that mandates the continuation of all the Old Testament types, regardless of whether or not the anti-types, or ultimate fulfillment of those types have come: for example, the physical land of Palestine must belong by divine right to the ethnic Jews, who will one day possess all its geographical borders in fulfillment of the prophecy of Israel's restoration. However, the bible explicitly declares that all those prophecies have already been fulfilled in the coming of Christ, and are for all who believe in Christ; the land promise made to Abraham is now too great to be fulfilled in the Middle East alone, and so Romans 4:13 says that he was promised to inherit the whole world; and his offspring who inherit it with him are not just believing ethnic Jews, but also his Gentile children by faith (Romans 4:11-17); in fact, all the promises made to Abraham (and to every Old Testament saint) were ultimately fulfilled in Christ, the true Seed of Abraham (2 Cor. 1:20; Gal. 3:16), and so they belong to all who are in Christ, and therefore a part of Abraham's seed (Gal.3:26-29). Further examples of how the New Testament interprets prophecies made to Israel, showing beyond doubt that they are now being fulfilled in the Church, include Acts 15:14-17; Hebrews 8; 10:14-18.
The second “sine qua non” of Dispensationalism, that there is an ongoing distinction between Israel and the Church, is likewise argued against throughout the New Testament, even as was anticipated in the Old Testament. To cite one of many possible examples, in Isaiah 66:18-24, the prophet looks ahead to a time when God would choose people from every nation, and make them his true priests and Levites; and in the New Testament, we find proof that this time has come. The New Testament passages that indicate that Christians are true Jews (some of them very explicitly) include these: Romans 2:28-29; 4:11-17; 9:6-8; Galatians 3:6-9, 26-29; 4:21-31; 6:16; Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:6; Phil. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 2:9. So then, these “sine qua non” of Dispensationalism prove to be utterly unbiblical and are explicitly argued against in the scriptures.
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