TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAP.1 THE BIBLE EXPRESSES CENTRAL REALITIES IN EVERY DAY LANGUAGE
CHAP.2 OLD TESTAMENT SHADOWS WERE MYSTERIES INTENDED TO FORESHADOW REALITIES CLEARLY PICTURED IN OUR DAY.
CHAP.3 THE PROPHETS SPOKE OF OUR DAY.
CHAP.4 THE MOSAIC COVENANT, THE LAW AND THE
EXCERPT - Works in the Mosaic Covenant: A Survey of Major Covenant Theologians
EXCERPT - WHERE WE PLACE THE PARENTHESIS
EXCERPT - Will the Real Parenthesis Please Stand Up?
EXCERPT - Evaluating Premillennialism: Part III -
EXCERPT - DISPENSATIONALISM: Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth
EXCERPT - PROPHECY AND THE CHURCH
EXCERPT - Book Review: God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology
EXCERPT - A NewCovenant Critique of Dispensationalism
EXCERPT - Dispensationalist Beliefs - The Church (Part I)
EXCERPT - Dispensationalist Beliefs - The Church (Part II)
CHAP.5 REVELATION OF THE NEW COVENANT IS PACKAGED IN TERMS OF THE OLD COVENANT.
CHAP.6 CHRIST REIGNS AS KING TODAY.
CHAP.7 THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE ONE.
CHAP.8 THE RETURN OF THE KING IS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE AGE AND THE BEGINNING OF A NEW AGE.
search for TRUTH necessitates getting past appearances, moving through surface
impressions and images to the underlying realities and the substance
beneath. If truth is worth searching and
striving for, then it is worth pursuing in the right spirit and proper way [see War…
1. THE BIBLE EXPRESSES CENTRAL REALITIES IN EVERY DAY LANGUAGE
God speaks to the core of what really matters. Jesus addresses the crowd's confusion about His earthly origin (Jn.7:27), not by correcting their misconceptions, but by speaking of His divine origin and mission (v.28-29). Some recognized His divine authority because of the signs He performed (v.31) and the words He spoke (v.40-41a). By not clearing up the wrong impressions over His earthly lineage and origin (v.41b-43), Jesus maintained the deception and assumed the stigma associated with being a Galilean (v.52) and a Nazarene (an insignificant village in Galilee nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament synonymous with "despised" - Mt.2:23; Jn.1:46).
The Bible uses common physical language to cut to the chase, reveal the unseen nature of reality, and speak to the heart. For instance, John the Baptist heralds Messiah’s coming by addressing the subject of an appropriate reception for Him (Lk.3:4-6). John uses the figurative language of road construction to call people to repentance. In Jn.2:18-21 Jesus was referring to the “temple” of His body, not Herod’s temple as the Jews thought; in Jn.3:3-8 to “be born again,” didn’t mean physically climbing back into the womb, but that spiritual rebirth is required to change one’s actual status and destiny from that of his natural life; In Jn.4:10-15, the water Jesus would give couldn’t be drawn with a bucket; and what food was Jesus was referring to in Jn.4:31-34? Even the clearest and most detailed pictures (Rev.21:10-27, description of the New Jerusalem) are not themselves the realities, but are meant to convey understanding of those realities: God dwelling with His people, the entire church (21:3). The whole Bible is like this [see RPCD Apdx.C].
Apocalyptic writings are known to have definite characteristics, such as figurative language, imagery, numerology, hyperbole, and the like. Such symbols are used much in the same way a producer uses stage props and scenery. The important thing in watching a drama is not the props, but the message they help to portray. Metaphorical and parabolic language are not meant to be ends within themselves, but rather they are used as means to teach spiritual lessons and reveal truth to God's people.1
The Bible is very much like Magic Eyes http://www.magiceye.com/ which is a printed computer generated repeating-design pattern that deceives our sense of perspective. The pattern hidden within cannot be seen by focusing on the surface of the page. “The trick is to focus your vision at a focal point beyond, behind, beneath the surface of the picture until the hidden picture emerges before your eyes…The Magic Eye phenomenon provides a parable for Christian thinking about the world. To see the pattern that counts, you have to focus beyond the surface, to see the deep realities not accessible to the casual observer.”2
1. [Revelation Twenty - Introduction - William E. Cox, http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/full.asp?ID=167. “An axiom of Bible study is that most sections demand literal interpretation unless the context or other known Scripture passages demand figurative or spiritual interpretation. In apocalyptic literature the very opposite is true; here one must interpret figuratively, unless literal interpretation is absolutely demanded. The nature of such books as Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation makes understanding impossible apart from an appreciation of the tools of the artist who painted the picture.” [Cox; see The Interpretation of Prophecy, 1993, Patrick Fairbairn, point 4, p.53-57] Dispensationalism focuses on the picture as if it were the reality [see Apdx.F; p.147 Fairbairn].
Two fundamental rules for interpreting natural symbols in prophecy exemplify Cox’s statements.
A. “The image must be contemplated in its broader and commoner aspects.” [p.143 Fairbairn] Particulars and details define categories that encompass the point of those descriptions, and the spiritual realities are hidden within the statement of the categories [see footnote a, apdx G.
B. Prophetic symbols must be applied in “a consistent and uniform manner…not shifting from the symbolical to the literal” without apparent textual or reasonable cause. [p.145 Fairbairn]
See also booklet by Harold Camping [considered by many to be sound principles from which Camping himself departed] entitled First Principles of Bible Study, copyright 1986. Chapter 3 elaborates on the principle that “the Bible ordinarily has more than one level of meaning . . . the historical setting, the moral or spiritual teaching, the salvation account (p.39).” The Gospel of grace and moral truths are woven through the fabric of factual historical accounts.
2. See p.49-50, Triumph of the Lamb by Dennis E. Johnson; see Apdx F
OLD TESTAMENT SHADOWS WERE MYSTERIES
INTENDED TO FORESHADOW REALITIES CLEARLY PICTURED IN OUR DAY
God has spoken and dealt with mankind in such a way as to both hide and reveal unseen realities.3
“Why do you speak to them in parables?…Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world’.” (excerpts from Mt.13)
That God spoke with special clarity to Moses was an exception (Num.12:8) to the way He usually communicated with the prophets (Num.12:6). The prophets themselves had a difficult time grasping even the most basic things (1 Pt.1:10-11). What does the New Testament do with Old Testament history, characters, structures, practices, events, and prophecies? Hebrews 1 begins, “…but in these last days [our day] God sent a messenger not like the others (prophets, v.2), but one who radiates His glory and exactly represents His reality (v.3). He is the very image [“icon”, an exact picture as opposed to a sketch showing similarity] of "THE INVISIBLE GOD" (Col.1:15). The person who sees Jesus, is looking at the Father (Jn.14:7-11). Hebrews presses several arguments as to the superiority of Christ, His position and accomplishments over other bearers of God's word (angels, Moses, etc.) in order to contrast the many Old Covenant forms, figures, shadows, and representative copies with the actual reality:4 Christ is seated with God in the heavens…ministering in the true sanctuary of the actual tabernacle (Heb.8:1-2); Priests “serve a shadow and copy of the heavenly things” (8:5); Christ has entered into heaven itself - the true, not the copy (9:24); “the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form [icon, picture, image] of these realities” (10:1). (see No Little People, by Francis Schaeffer, p.107-122) The physical structure of the earthly sanctuary and the furnishings, ordinances and services of the first (Old) Covenant (Heb.9:1-7) were temporary and symbolic (v.9) “until the time of reformation” (v.10). The true way into God’s presence was not made known (v.8) until the New Covenant was established (v.15). Old Testament sacrifices were a pattern or illustration of what Christ was to do IN FACT (Heb.9:23-24; 10:1).
Old Testament hid spiritual realities in the shadow form of its language, both in terminology
and in mixing them with immediate and distant circumstantial realities. Those Old Covenant institutions as a whole
were meant to establish lines of continuity between the Old Covenant
mysteries and New Covenant revelations [unveilings
of those mysteries].5 The Bible reveals both the existence and the
details of unseen realities in types and images of various sorts.6 In other words, the
institutions, commands, laws, and practices in the Old Testament were clear and
detailed in themselves, but were only shadowy precursors of the
realities they represented. For example,
Believers under the Old Covenant had a sense of the realities
underlying the knowledge they received. Abraham
set his hope on dwelling with God (Heb.11:10), not the land he was
wandering around in or a particular city.
He comprehended more in God’s promises than
3. P.148 Fairbairn.
4. One aspect of the concept of the true involves the real, actual or genuine article as opposed to the type or designated symbol or representative that never lived up to its calling. Jesus is the true vine, true branch, true bread, true shepherd, true servant, true son, etc…the truth.
5. “…the antecedent history of redemption” was “the prelude of redemption itself.” p.33 Fairbairn
6. See further the first chapter of The Israel of God (yesterday, today, and tomorrow) by O. Palmer Robertson
7. P.32 Fairbairn
3. THE PROPHETS SPOKE OF OUR DAY
passages on the restoration/revival of
other words, the restoration of
Isa.54:1-3 occurs in the midst of a
discussion about the restoration of
are many examples of Old Testament prophecies that are used to explain
conditions in our day. In Acts 15,
the counsel in
Peter’s perspective on the prophets after Pentecost and the conversion of thousands is that he is preaching what the prophets said (Acts 3:18) and that “all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days” (3:24). Peter describes the period from Pentecost on as “the times of refreshing” (3:19), the outpouring of God’s Spirit (2:33). Of all these things the prophets spoke (Joel 2:28). Peter discusses God’s mercy in terms of an inheritance of salvation (1 Pt.1:3-5) that the prophets carefully looked into, “To whom it was revealed that they were ministering, not to themselves, but to us the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the Gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Pt.1:10-12).
Paul teaches that Christians ought not to wed non-Christians (2
Cor.6:14), he argues that believers are set apart as “the temple of the
living God” (v.16). He supports
this by combining several Old Testament passages “I will dwell in them and walk
among them. I will be their God, and
they shall be My people. ‘Therefore’ Come out from among them and be
separate...Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters...” (v.16-17). What is Paul’s conclusion - that these
promises (prophecies) belonged to the Jews?
No, they are ours.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved...” (7:1). This is the reason
we can claim God’s promises to
8. Jesus is the “true vine” (Jn.15:1) meaning He is God’s planting
(Ps.80; Isa.5), the
9. The time had not yet arrived for the giving of the gospel to the Gentiles when the Canaanite woman came to Jesus (Mt.15:21-28).
THE MOSAIC COVENANT, THE LAW, AND THE NATION OF
God's Covenant with the
positions hold that there is a works aspect in the Mosaic
administration, focused primarily on the Law's function as a pedagogue
WHERE WE PLACE THE PARENTHESIS
theological foundation for looking to national
to the “gap theory”, Jesus came and offered the
This line of thinking goes directly against the teachings of the New Testament apostles. The apostle Paul did teach a parenthetical gap, but that gap is not the church age. It is the age of the law of Moses. Paul explains,
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise…But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law…Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (the law) (Gal.3:16-18; 23-25).
the parentheses in time around the law of
Moses, which was given to help God’s covenant people develop a
conscience that defines sin. The law “was added because of transgressions,
till the Seed (Jesus) should come…” (Gal.3:19). Now that
Christ has come, we are no longer under the tutelage of the law. The closing
parenthesis was placed on that age with the death, burial, and resurrection
of Christ. It was finalized with the fall of
believers are no longer under the “guardians and stewards” of the law.
All disciples of Jesus have received the full adoption as God’s sons: “And because you are sons, God has sent
forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
(Gal.4:1-7). The parenthetical gap of the law is closed. With
that parenthesis closed, national
People who make up the church, who have come to Christ and experienced spiritual rebirth by the person of the Holy Spirit, are the Israel of God today (1 Pet.2:9). As Paul exhorts, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Gal.3:7). There are no parentheses around the church age.
"...To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Eph.3:21).
Will the Real Parenthesis Please Stand Up?
of the distinctives of dispensational theology is the teaching
that the church age is a parenthesis in the design of God. That is to
say, dispensationalists teach that God never revealed the Church age to his
prophets and this “Church age” merely postponed his program with national
Most dispensationalists today do not say that the “Church age” was unforeseen by God, nor do they say that God was caught unawares and had to scramble to come up with a temporary solution; instead dispensationalists insist that the church age was a “parenthesis”, and a mystery which God planed, but kept hidden until the time of the apostles. The so called parenthesis or “gap theory” method of interpreting the prophecy of Dan.9 was promoted by dispensationalists such as C. H. Mackintosh [The Lord's Coming] and H. A. Ironside [The Great Parenthesis].
The gap theory is built upon a foundational dispensationalist
teaching which holds a radical discontinuity between the prophecies,
promises and fulfillments made to national
In Dispensationalism Today, Charles Ryrie stated:
"…basic promise of Dispensationalism is two purposes of God expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction throughout eternity."
This teaching is the cornerstone of the parenthetical model erected by dispensationalism. Because Jesus’ “Kingdom offer” was rejected by the Jews, the Church was implemented as a temporary measure until the “prophetic clock” restarts. At which time God removes the Church and resumes his work with and among the Jewish people. The earthly promises never belonged to the Church, and conversely the spiritual promises never belonged to national Israel. The prophets never revealed, nor did they foresee the “Church age” for it is a parenthesis. What constitutes a parenthesis in this view is that it was never prophesied, and that it exists in between, and divides God’s original revealed plan.
Other scholars also recognized a parenthesis in scripture from a more exegetical method, and consequently came to different conclusions about what the parenthesis actually was. Non-dispensational [reformed] scholars recognized an unforeseen parenthesis in the New Testament at Rom.5:20.
(KJV) Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound
(ISV) Now the law crept in so that the offense would increase. But where sin increased, grace increased even more
The word translated “entered” in the King James Version is the Greek word παρεισέρχομαι (pareiserchomai), to come in along side, that is, supervene additionally or stealthily: - come in privily, enter. (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
THAYER'S GREEK LEXICON renders it:
1) to come in secretly or by stealth, or creep or steal in
2) to enter in addition, come in besides
Fausset's Bible Dictionary at the definition of covenant includes this observation on Rom.5:20:
“The legal covenant of Sinai came in as a parenthesis (pareiselthee; Rom.5:20) between the promise to Abraham and its fulfillment in his promised seed, Christ. "It was added because of the transgressions" (Gal.3:19), i.e. to bring them, and so man's great need, into clearer view (Rom.3:20; 4:15; 5:13; 7:7-9).
To Fausset, the Sinai covenant with its promises and blessings, its law and curses, its priesthood and sacrifices, devices, and methods was itself a parenthesis. That is to say that the Mosaic covenant intervened in between the promises given to Abraham and the completion of those promises in Christ. In Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Jamison, Fausset, and Brown, commenting on this same word remark:
“Moreover the law - ‘The law, however.’ The Jew might say, If the whole purposes of God towards men center in Adam and Christ, where does ‘the law’ come in, and what was the use of it? Answer: It entered - But the word expresses an important idea besides ‘entering.’ It signifies, entered incidentally,’ or ‘parenthetically.’ (In Gal.2:4 the same word is rendered ‘came in privily.’) The meaning is, that the promulgation of the law at Sinai was no primary or essential feature of the divine plan, but it was ‘added’ (Gal.3:19) for a subordinate purpose - the more fully to reveal the evil occasioned by Adam, and the need and glory of the remedy by Christ.”
Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible commenting on παρεισηλθεν in the same passage observes:
"By entering in, παρεισηλθεν, or, rather, coming in privily, see Gal.2:4, (only other occurrence), I understand the temporary or limited use of that law, which was, as far as its rites and ceremonies are considered, confined to the Jewish people, and to them only till the Messiah should come; but considered as the moral law, or rule of conscience and life, it has in its spirit and power been slipped in -"
Dispensational brethren cannot, however, accept this biblical parenthesis because it flatly denies their separation theology of two separate and distinct people of God with two separate and distinct purposes. Unless and until this false dichotomy is abandoned the true biblical parenthesis of Rom.5:20 will continue to be overlooked, ignored, or explained away.
Evaluating Premillennialism: Part III -
of the principal tenets of Dispensational Premillennialism is the strict separation
between God’s earthly people,
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN
The following notes from Gen.15:18 in the original Scofield Reference Bible articulate the basic features of this separation:
‘I will make of thee a great nation.’ Fulfilled in a three-fold way: (a) In a natural posterity - ‘as the dust of the earth’ (Gen.13:16; Jn.8:37), viz., the Hebrew people. (b) In a spiritual posterity - ‘look now toward heaven…so shall thy seed be’ (Jn.8:39, Rom.4:16-17; 9:7-8; Gal.3:6-7, 29), viz, all men of faith, whether Jew or Gentile. (c) Fulfilled also through Ishmael (Gen.17:18-20)
The Christian is of the heavenly seed of Abraham (Gen.15:5-6; Gal.3:29), and partakes of the spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen.15:18, note); but Israel as a nation always has its own place, and is yet to have its greatest exaltation as the earthly people of God. (SRB note on Rom.11:1)
these notes indicate, classical Dispensationalism
regards God’s purposes in history as twofold,
corresponding to these two distinct peoples, the one earthly, the other heavenly.
God’s dispensational dealings with these two peoples have two quite distinct
ends in view: the salvation of an earthly people that is consummated in an
eternal kingdom upon the new earth, and the salvation of a heavenly people that
is consummated in an eternal kingdom in the new heavens. Thus, just as God has
two distinct peoples and programs of salvation in history, so he
has in mind two quite distinct
eternal destinies. The line of separation that keeps
separation between Israel and the church corresponds to Dispensationalism’s
emphasis upon a literalistic interpretation
of Old Testament prophecies on the one hand, and the contrast between
the present ‘age of the church’ and the coming ‘age of the kingdom’ or the
millennium on the other. The prophecies of the Old Testament, insofar as they
are directed to the earthly people of
present age of the church, because it represents God’s dealings with his
heavenly people, must also be regarded as a ‘parenthesis’ period of
history, a period between God’s former dealings and his soon-to-be-resumed
dealings with Israel in the millennial age to come. During the present age
of God’s dealings with the church, his dealings with
light of this brief sketch of the classical dispensationalist separation
II. THE CHURCH IS NO PARENTHESIS
the New Testament, the church is commonly understood to be in direct
continuity with the people of God in the Old Testament; the images used in the Old Testament to describe
the people of the Lord are used in the New Testament to describe the church.
The New Testament word for the church, ekklesia, is
the equivalent of the common Old Testament word, qahal
(Septuagint rendering), meaning the ‘assembly’ or ‘gathering’ of the people of
Israel. The New Testament church is also called the ‘temple’ of God (1
Cor.3:16-17; Eph.2:21-22), evoking the imagery
and symbolism of the Old Testament, in which the temple was regarded to
be the special place of the Lord’s dwelling in the midst of his people. Just as
the temple was the place where fellowship between the Lord and his people was
provided for (through the sacrificial rites and ordinances) and experienced, so
the church is the place of the Lord’s dwelling by his Holy Spirit. Accordingly,
the church can also be identified with
‘But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect.’ Heb.12:22-23
than being regarded as an interruption in God’s dealings with his
same theme is also in the explicit language of the Psalter, the song
simplest understanding of the Old and the New Testament people of the Lord
recognizes the church to be his new covenant people in direct communion with
DISPENSATIONALISM: Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth
Dispensationalism sees the church as a parenthesis, a temporary
situation lying between God's two dealings with
The Bible sees the church as the culmination of all God's people, the very body of Christ and the fullness of God. Paul speaks of the message given to him "to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places" (Eph.3:9-10). Far from being a parenthesis, the church is the culmination of something begun in Old Testament times. Paul goes on to point out that "this was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph.3:11).
PROPHECY AND THE CHURCH Philip Edgcumbe Hughes
Is this church period a parenthesis, a stop-gap made necessary by the contingency of the rejection by the Jews of the kingdom at Christ’s first coming? Would that kingdom have been set up on earth there and then if their response had been positive? Was God’s position one of doubt and uncertainty so that he had to wait and see what the answer of the Jews would be? And when it turned out to be a negative answer was he forced to resort to an emergency measure until such time as he could put his original plan into effect?
do not regard the era of the church as a parenthesis outside the
scope of the prophetic vision. On the Day of Pentecost, for example, Peter
assures his large Jewish audience that the sending forth of the Holy Spirit is
“what was spoken by the prophet Joel,” through whom God declared that in the
last days he would pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, with the consequence
that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2:28-32);
that Jesus of Nazareth was delivered up to be crucified “according to the
definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” and was raised to life again in fulfillment
of what “David says concerning him” in Psalm 16; and that his ascension
to God’s right hand has brought to pass the prophetic words of David in Psalm
110. “Let all the house of
Shortly afterward, in an apostolic prayer-meeting, recognition is expressed of the fact that fierce opposition to the Gospel (in this church age!) was foretold by David in Psalm 2 and that all the hostile forces that had gathered together to destroy Jesus succeeded in doing only “whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:23-28). Similarly, Paul, formerly the proud Pharisee and persecutor of the church, preaches the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures in the blessings of this present church age, including “the holy and sure blessings of David,” which must be kingdom blessings:
“We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘Thou wilt not let thy Holy One see corruption’” (Acts 13:32-35).
Paul goes on
to warn his Jewish audience (in
“Beware, therefore, lest there come upon you what is said in the prophets: ‘Behold, you scoffers, and wonder, and perish; for I do a deed in your days, a deed you will never believe, if one declares it to you’” (Acts 13:40f; Hab.1:5).
At the first council of the Christian church, commonly known as the Council of Jerusalem, which is described by Luke in Acts 15, called for the purpose of resolving certain questions concerning the position of Gentile believers and the relevance of Judaism to Christian faith and practice, James, the brother of Jesus, addressed the assembly as its president, pointing out that God’s calling of a people for his name from among the Gentiles was in accord with the prophetic scriptures:
“With this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written, ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old’” (Acts 15:15-18; see Amos 9:11f; Is.55:5; 45:21).
Here is another remarkable instance of a “kingdom” passage, relating to “the dwelling of David,” being interpreted in the most authoritative manner as finding its fulfillment in the events of this church age. Plainly, this synod of apostles and elders (Acts 15:6), whose judgment was expressed by James, understood the rebuilding of David’s house to be accomplished in God’s building of his church — a structure which Peter would describe in a manner entirely consonant with the interpretation of the Council of Jerusalem as composed of the “living stones” of believers, “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt.2:5).
news” preached by the “deacon” Philip in
A New Covenant Critique of Dispensationalism
covenant which is being replaced is specifically identified as the covenant
related to the Israelites’ redemption from
Citizens of the New Covenant
What is the status of Gentiles in the New Testament church? “There is neither Jew nor Greek...in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28).” The New Testament declares that, “there is neither Jew nor Greek...in Christ Jesus (v.28),” “...it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham (v.7),” “...if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (v.29),” “...it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants (Rom.9:8),” “...from...stones God can raise up children to Abraham (Mt.3:9),” and, “Christ redeemed us...in order that in [Him] the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles (Gal.3:13,14).” The clear unifying pattern in all of these verses: Gentiles are becoming heirs to the Abrahamic covenant. The Dispensationalist would have us believe this only refers to the spiritual blessing associated with this covenant, but this is totally unwarranted by the texts. “...no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ (2 Cor.2:20).”
Paul’s whole argument in Galatians 3 is that the promises were made to Abraham and his Seed, Christ, and therefore we who are in Christ are automatically considered children. How much of the inheritance is due Christ? And to what extent are we sons in Him? As far as God is concerned, we “ARE Abraham’s descendants (Gal.3:29)”. Progressive Dispensationalists do a better job of recognizing these truths, but then keep a future pseudo-Jewish Palestinian kingdom in their future.
Eph.2 makes this point
strikingly. Before Christ, we were, “...’Uncircumcision’,...separate
from Christ, excluded from the
plainly declares that as Christ’s New Testament church we are “...a chosen
race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [and] a people for God’s own possession (1
Pt.2:9). Peter is directly referring anyone familiar with the Old Testament
to the words of God when He established the Mosaic covenant. The one thing he
changes is the conditionality. The nation of
Israel’s Rejection of the Messiah/The Gap Theory
handling the current situation of the nation of Israel, Dispensationalism,
refusing to deny the nation of Israel a future, but bound by Daniel’s prophetic
timeline of seventy “weeks” (sets of seven years) in chapter 9,
acknowledges the flawless fulfillment of the first sixty-nine up to the arrival
of Christ, and then proceed to insert a multi-millennial “gap” into the
countdown. There is no biblical encouragement to do this. The problem with this
theory is that the point of the whole passage appears to be a time limit.
Adding years in between, or “stopping the prophetic clock” destroys what seems
to be the very reason for marking out boundaries--to countdown to the end of
God’s working with the Mosaic nation. The idea behind the Dispensational view
is that Christ came at his first advent to offer
loyal to a concrete version of a literal
hermeneutic, find themselves naturalizing what the New Testament authors
consistently spiritualize. It is often claimed that the covenant promises yet
to be fulfilled lie primarily in
texts should be noted that should, in a Dispensational framework, be screaming
“Palestinian kingdom”. Granted these are arguments from silence, but an
argument from silence’s strength or weakness is weighed by the degree to which
one would expect to find mention of a subject, and this would clearly be a case
of high expectancy. Rom.11 is a favorite of Dispensational proof-text
because Paul directly deals with the future of
Dispensationalism is notorious for its preoccupation with the end times. Popular
writers such as Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, and Hal Lindsey have pushed
Dispensational eschatology into the forefront of the lay Evangelical mind
claiming a system so tightly interwoven with recognizing
Dispensationalist Beliefs - The Church (Part I) by William E. Cox
Dispensationalists teach that: none of the Old Testament and in
fact very little of the New deals with the church;
How do dispensationalists maintain this distinction between
Dispensationalists teach that the present 'church age' was not revealed to the Old Testament writers. Therefore, the prophets saw the two advents of Christ, but saw nothing intervening between these two comings. These two advents appeared to the prophets as mountain peaks. What they were not permitted to see, however, was that God had a valley (the present dispensation) planned in between these two 'peaks.' Because this was so, say the dispensationalists, the prophets saw the two comings of our Lord blended together as though they were one. They go on to say that all prophecies which may appear to be referring to the first advent are in reality referring to the second coming. This was one of Darby's 'rediscovered truths' which had remained hidden from the Reformers and all the great writers of Bible commentaries.
People were offered salvation through the establishment of a millennial kingdom. Had this kingdom been established, the Jewish remnant would have carried out the Great Commission and most of the world's population would have been converted through obedience to the law. The cross then would not have been necessary, according to this teaching. However, the kingdom was not accepted, and so, teach the dispensationalists, it was postponed until the millennium can be set up at the second coming. That postponement has already lasted nearly two thousand years!
Another facet of dispensational teaching concerning the church is that it is parenthetic. Rather, they say, the church was established by God in order to fill in the parenthesis between the time the kingdom was rejected and the time when it will be reinstituted. After the 'parenthetic church age' is finished, then God will return to his first love, the Jewish program. W.R. Newell, (Romans Verse By Verse) gives the dispensational view on this point:
When we reflect that, after He has 'caught up in the
clouds' His Church saints, our Lord is coming back to this earthly people
Israel, and will establish them in their land, with a glorious millennial
temple and order of worship, to which the Gentile nations must and will submit:
then we see that the present time is altogether
anomalous! It is a parenthesis, in which God is making a 'visit'
to the Gentiles, to 'take out of them a people for His name'; after which,
James tells us, our Lord 'will Himself return, and build again the tabernacle
of David, which is fallen' (Acts 15:16),
Newell offers no scriptural references for the major portion of this statement; also check the one verse he does use (Acts 15:16) and see that whereas Newell makes it future, James actually said that the scripture had already been fulfilled by the incident at the home of Cornelius!
Dispensationalists consistently quote the words 'after this' as being future from James. A more careful reading of the passage, however, will show that James was quoting Amos 9:11 and that the words 'after this' are not James' words at all. Rather they are the words which James quotes from Amos. It was Amos, not James, who actually said that after Amos' time God would rebuild the tabernacle. James ruled that the account given by Peter (Acts 15:7-11) proved that Amos' prophecy on the rebuilding of the 'tabernacle' had been fulfilled in Peter's presence (Acts 15:14-15).
This is typical of dispensationalists at this point; rather than producing scriptural proof of their alleged parenthesis, they merely assume it in such a matter-of-fact manner that many people never think of questioning it. Chafer offers another example of this sort of reasoning. He begins a long paragraph with the words: 'An extensive body of Scripture declares directly or indirectly that the present age is unforeseen and intercalary in its character and in it a new humanity appears on the earth with an incomparable new headship in the resurrected Christ, which company is being formed by the regenerating power of the Spirit.' While Chafer refers to an 'extensive body of Scripture,' he lists not a single verse. Throughout the long paragraph, however, he mentions scriptures on other subjects being dealt with.
Dispensationalist Beliefs - The Church (Part II) by William E. Cox
Dispensational Teaching (DT): The church is a parenthesis, i.e., a
temporary thing lying between God's two dealings with national
Paul's Ephesian Epistle Teaches: The church is the very body of Christ, and is therefore the fullness of God. ...the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (1:22-23).
2. DT: The church is not even mentioned in the Old Testament.
Eph.: The church was mentioned in the Old Testament. Paul quotes the passage from Gen.2:24, and then says that this verse was spoken concerning Christ and the church. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the church (Eph.5:31-32).
Eph.: God took two 'men'
Eph.: The church is God's main instrument for carrying out his plans. This - the plan that the church would be the fullness of God (1:23) - was according to the eternal purpose of God, and has been realized in Christ Jesus. To the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (3:10-11).
Darby and Scofield taught that
say that the church is parenthetic while national
instead of the church being a temporary thing in the plan of God while
came nearly two thousand years ago, took over the scepter from national
Some of these Old Testament promises were eternal, yet ceased to be in effect. Since the Bible is its own interpreter, we arrive at the meaning of any passage by a comparison of Scripture with Scripture. Looking at the Old Testament use of the word 'eternal' one finds that it must be interpreted according to the radius of time being dealt with. An eternal priestly promise was in effect just as long as the priesthood existed; a legal eternal promise was in effect only so long as the law was in effect; an eternal promise to national Israel was in effect just as long as God dealt with Israel as a nation; an eternal promise with reference to the temple was binding upon God until the very second the temple ceased to exist; an eternal promise given under the old covenant was in effect during the entire life of the old covenant. Theological pandemonium has grown out of the attempt to make promises made under the law binding upon God long after the law has served its purpose in God's program. So it is with most eternal promises of the Old Testament. With the close of the Old Testament, God's program moved into an entirely different era.
Testament promises were eternal or everlasting for the duration of time God
decreed to use a given method of dealing with his people. The duration usually
was known to God alone.
In 2 Chron.7:16 it is recorded that God promised to live in Solomon's house forever; yet that house was destroyed and does not exist today. Did God break his promise? No, 'forever' meant for as long as the house stood. The same is true with reference to the priesthood as instituted during the Old Testament era. In many passages - of which Ex.40:15 and Num.25:13 are examples - we are told that the house of Aaron constituted an everlasting priesthood. All Protestant Christians are agreed that the old priesthood came to an end and was replaced by Jesus, who became our High Priest. The book of Hebrews makes this fact quite clear. So the priesthood of law was everlasting only as long as the law was in effect.
In dealing with Gen.13:15, For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever, Adam Clarke (Clarke's Commentary) says:...and this was always the design of God, not that Abram himself should possess it, but that his posterity would, till the manifestation of Christ in the flesh. And this is chiefly what is to be understood by the words for ever, ad olam, to the end of the present dispensation, and the commencement of the new. Olam means either eternity, which implies the termination of celestial luminaries; or a hidden, unknown, period, such as includes a completion or final termination, of a particular era, dispensation, etc.; therefore, the first is its proper meaning, the latter its accommodated meaning.
dealing with Gen.17:8, I will give
unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings,
all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God,
Clarke has this comment: Here olam appears to
be used in its accommodated meaning, and signifies the completion of the
Divine counsel in reference to a particular period or dispensation. And it is
literally true that the Israelites possessed the
There is a sense in which every eternal or everlasting promise never comes to an end. This is in fact the true sense in which these words are used throughout the Bible. If this proper sense were understood, many of our differences would immediately clear up. We refer to the fact that most if not all promises, covenants, ordinances, etc., of the Bible have different forms through which they pass. The all-wise God who gave them knew of these forms at the time he inspired his writers to use the words 'eternal,' 'everlasting,' 'forever.' While every form has its 'end,' the actuality, of which the form is only one phase, never ends.
Illustrations of everlasting things instituted by God which have passed through different forms, each form having its definite end: law, Sabbath, circumcision, kingdom, priesthood, the Israel of God. Each illustration was definitely instituted and pronounced by God himself to be eternal. Each illustration listed has gone through developments (forms); and, while the realities themselves remain, in new form, the developments have long since ceased to exist.
The forms through which these everlasting things develop are essentially three in number: (1) from their inception until the first advent of Christ; (2) from that advent (at which time each one developed into a much higher form) until the second coming of Christ to earth; (3) from that second coming (which is yet future) they will be developed into the Eternal State which will have no end.
Viewing the entire Bible - while keeping in mind Paul's warning that the letter kills, while the spirit gives life - three definite points may be arrived at.
1. God made
a two fold covenant with Abraham, the main references to this covenant
being recorded in Gen.12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-15; 22:1-19. This is called
a two fold covenant because most of it involves believers from all nations,
(cp. Gen.12:3; 22:18 with Gal.3:7-9, 14, 16, 27-29). While a part
of it was fulfilled in national
implement his plans, God chose
3. Our Lord
at his first advent (particularly through the death, burial, and resurrection) fulfilled
the promises to national
The Reformers would say that the church for which our Lord bled and died was the very apex (as the body of Christ) of all God's planning. They would say, with Darby and Scofield, that national Israel was a type of the Christian church; then they would go on to the only logical conclusion, i.e., that all types have their antitype or fulfillment, and that the church, as the body of Christ, is the embodiment of all that national Israel typified.
5. REVELATION OF THE NEW COVENANT IS PACKAGED IN TERMS OF THE OLD
How should prophetic and apocalyptic literature be interpreted?10 The New Covenant is pictured as the restoration of the nation of Israel to the land, its worship, and prosperity in language embedded in the warp and woof of Israel’s history.
distinctive of the Israel of God is that
they would be a people whom God created (raised up) who revere Him as God and
with whom He would dwell forever. Jeremiah
31:27-34 is the statement of the New Covenant, “not according to the
covenant I made with their [
Jeremiah 32:37-41 reaffirms the New Covenant, “they shall be My people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way…I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of Me in their hearts, that they may not turn from Me.”
describe the same thing with different images.11 The New Covenant is couched in terms
of blessing and renewal of
categorizes two groups of people as vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. Paul then identifies the church composed of a
mixed multitude as the vessels of mercy (v.24). He quotes Hosea 1:10 “In the place
where it was said to them, ‘You are not My
people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” Before that statement in Hosea, God said to
whole discussion is about the church as the true
speaks of God’s saving His people, “I will bring them back and they
shall dwell in the midst of
10. P.161-163 Fairbairn
11. The Bible is extremely repetitive, but in a very creative way. It makes the point by teaching directly and indirectly; painting pictures and telling stories filled with figures, parallels, illustrations, and examples.
6. CHRIST REIGNS AS KING TODAY
The good news is that the
follows the parable of the two sons with the parable of the wicked vineyard
tenants (Mt.21:33-44), in which He makes the point that the Kingdom
over which He is king will be taken from Israel and given to “a people
producing its fruits” (v.43).
The Jews don’t stop the Kingdom from coming; it is still at hand. Later, when Pilot asks Jesus if he is
King of the Jews, He replies “you have said so” (Mt.27:11). In Jn.18:33-37 there is a more
complete record of this exchange, where Pilot asks Jesus how He can be King of
the Jews since his own nation has rejected Him.
Jesus replies that the nature of His Kingdom is not political (“not
of this world”), but spiritual. He
was born to be king and came into the world to bear witness to the truth
(reality), and everyone who is of the truth (born into His Kingdom)
listens to Him (acknowledges His authority as that very king). The promise that David’s seed would sit on
his throne is not suspended. Jesus is
King of the Jews even though national
at Pentecost was that the Jews did not stop the plan and purpose of God by
crucifying the Messiah (Acts 2:29-36).
In fact God’s purpose was carried out through that very act (v.23). Peter says David understood that because the
Kingdom was to be everlasting. Messiah
would have to be raised from the dead (v.25-31). The
Christ received His Kingdom at His Ascension and He is now seated on His throne.
“…according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Eph 1:15-21)
Salvation comes through embracing the Son who is both Savior and Lord. God is transferring people from the domain [dominion] of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of His love (Col.1:13) because this is the acceptable time, the day of salvation. This day of grace will continue until the wedding hall is filled (Mt.22) and the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom.11:25), at which time the door is finally closed to the Kingdom of heaven [see Apdx.E].
7. THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE ONE
Old and New Testament
saints constitute a single united body of the redeemed. The gospel and salvation are not confined to
the Jews, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must
bring…there will be one flock and one shepherd” (Jn.10:16). Caiaphas the high priest “prophesied that
Jesus would die for the nation [
The coming of Christ and teaching concerning the church is not something different from what the Old Testament taught. Paul understood the church to include all who had faith like that of Abraham, ie, to have its roots in the Abrahamic Covenant (Rom.4). He told king Agrippa that his proclamation of light to both Jews and Gentiles did not go beyond (was not foreign to or out of character with) the promises of Moses and the prophets (Acts 26:22-23).12 The New Covenant establishes a new unified kind of race, spiritual in nature (1 Cor.15:45; Rom.5:14; 9:6-13).
The mystery = Jews and Gentiles (all people on an equal basis) as fellow heirs to the promises of God in Christ, united in one body (Gal.3:6-9, 11-14, 26-29; 5:5-6, 6:15; Eph.3:3-6; 4:4). In Christ the rift between peoples is repaired as symbolized by His reconciling both Jews and non-Jews into the same body. This new peace, a graft contrary to nature13 (Rom.11:11-14), is a display of God’s wisdom to heavenly rulers and authorities (Eph.3:10; Col.1:15-20), marking the reconciling of heaven and earth. To again distinguish between people by separating God’s people into Jews and Gentiles is to break the union God has forged in Christ (Gal.2:18).
union of Jews and Gentiles as one people of God in the church was not a
mystery in the absolute sense. It was
anticipated and alluded to by the prophets, ie, “Blessed is
12. See The Hope of
13. God intervenes and changes things contrary to nature (the
usual, expected, and accepted flow of events). The very existence of the
universe and the nation
THE RETURN OF THE KING IS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE AGE
AND THE BEGINNING OF A NEW AGE.
The return of Christ is spoken of in the New Testament as an event in power, glory and victory to be seen by all the earth. It is nowhere represented as a secretive, stealthy event. There is no justification to separate the resurrection of the just and the rest of the world, or resurrection and judgment, or the resurrection of Old Testament and New Testament saints. With the exception of one passage (Rev.20:1-10), all New Testament passages speak of the resurrection of Christ’s people and judgment of the rest of the world in a single breath. The gospels and epistles routinely present the return of Christ (revealing of Christ; appearing of Christ; day of the Lord) as a single event and an integral part of the Gospel. It is the end of the age marked by final judgment and destruction of the universe. It is the beginning of a new age, marked by the beginning of a new creation. It is highly irregular to use apocalyptic literature (portions of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, or Revelation), characterized by visual imagery and symbolic elements, to interpret didactic portions of Scripture.
The Bible does not describe events that allow anyone to determine the time of the Lord’s return or set a timetable of events signaling the unraveling of an end of the age sequence. 1 Thes.5 discusses the coming of the day of the Lord as a thief, not as an encouragement to discover when the Lord will return, but as a warning not to be caught unprepared, unaware, or surprised. There is no excuse for not being ready at all times. The Lord’s Supper is the “Passover” we celebrate in anticipation of the final judgment that will break us free from the land of our slavery [sin] forever. Let us eat the Passover lamb in haste, fully clothed and prepare for departure (Ex.12:11). Nevertheless, in the consideration of the events closing this age and beginning the new age [see Correlating The Kingdom With the Church & Age http://pop.eradman.com/], we are all very much in a place of ignorance, inquiry, and anticipation similar to where Old Testament prophets stood with respect to the first coming of Christ and the Gospel (1 Pt.1:10-12).
The Old Testament is, as John Calvin understood it, an exhibition of the gospel under the veil of figures and shadows. The message of the Bible and glory of its content are enhanced and complimented by the method of revelation and the beauty of the language by which it tells the story. It is a wonderful tapestry, full of literary, structural, and thematic devices that serve to both paint and mask the truth. Recognition of the continuity of New Testament themes throughout the Old Testament unlocks the richness of the Scriptures.
The Reformation Study Bible (English Standard Version), 2005, Ligonier Ministries [good translation, good but sometimes biased notes, cross references, with theological notes biased toward Covenant Theology, and concordance] see http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/2004/1534_Good_English_With_Minimal_Translation_Why_Bethlehem_Uses_the_ESV/
The NIV Study Bible (New International Version), 1985, The Zondervan Corp. [great cross references with concordance and maps; notes are often very helpful but sometimes naturalistic (ie, Exodus plagues)]
Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, Francis A. Shaeffer, 1975
Gospel and Kingdom, 1981; The Gospel in Revelation, 1984 (both also in Trilogy); According to Plan, 1991 by Graeme Goldsworthy
The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, Dennis E. Johnson, 1997
3 Critical Questions About the Last Days, Daniel J. Lewis, 1998
The Interpretation of Prophecy, Patrick Fairbairn, 1856, revised 1865, reprinted 1993 by Banner of Truth
A Case for Amillennialism (Understanding the End Times), Kim Riddlebarger, 2003
Whose Promised Land, chapters 3-6, Colin Chapman, 1983
The Gospel Millennium and Obedience to Scripture (pamphlet), Robert Whitelaw, 1974
New Testament Theology (Magnifying God in Christ), 2008 & Magnifying God in Christ (A Summary of New Testament Theology), 2010, Thomas R Schreiner