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Doctrine, the New Covenant and Dispensationalism


While reading a presentation, A Return to Biblical Theology, concerning Doctrine, the New Covenant and Dispensationalism, I thought there were a few specific sections which someone new to Theology might find of interest.

Section 3: Is Dispensational Premillennialism Different from Historic Premillennialism?

  • Older premillennialism taught that the church was in the forevision of the Old Testament prophecy; Dispensationalism teaches that the church is hardly, if at all, in the Old Testament prophets.
  • Older premillennialism taught that the great burden of Old Testament prophecy was the coming of Christ to die (at the First Advent) and the kingdom age (at the Second Advent). Dispensationalism says that the great burden of Old Testament prophecy is the kingdom of the Jews.
  • Older premillennialism taught that the First Advent was the specific time for Christ to die for man’s sin; Dispensationalism teaches that the kingdom (earthly) should have been set up at the First Advent for that was the predicted time of its coming.
  • Older premillennialism taught that the present age of grace was designed by God and predicted in the Old Testament; Dispensationalism holds that the present age was unforeseen in the Old Testament and thus is a “great parenthesis” introduced because the Jews rejected the kingdom.
  • Older premillennialism taught that one may divide time in any way desirable so long as one allows for a millennium after the Second Advent; Dispensationalism maintains that the only allowable way to divide time is in seven dispensations. The present age is the sixth such dispensation; the last one will be the millennial age after the Second Advent. It is from this division of time that Dispensationalism gets its name.
  • Older premillennialism taught that the Second Advent was to be one event; Dispensationalism holds that the Second Advent will be in two sections – “the Rapture” and “the Revelation.” Between these two events they put an unfulfilled seventieth week (seven years) (*based on)Daniel 9:23-27, which they call “the Great Tribulation.”
  • Older premillennialism taught that certain signs must precede the Second Advent; Dispensationalism teaches that no sign precedes the “rapture-stage” of the Second Advent, which may occur “at any moment.” However, there are signs that precede the “revelation-stage” of the Second Advent. The “Rapture” could occur “at any moment,” but the “Revelation” must take place after the seven years of the Great Tribulation. The first stage is undated and unannounced; the second stage is dated and announced.
  • Older premillennialism had two resurrections-the righteous before the Millennium; the unrighteous after the Millennium. Dispensationalism has introduced a third resurrection – “tribulation-saints” at the “revelation-stage” of the Second Advent.
  • Older premillennialism usually held what is called the “historical symbolic” view of the book of Revelation. This view makes Revelation a picture in symbolic form of the main events in the present age. Dispensationalism holds generally to the “futurist” view of the book of Revelation, which view makes almost the whole book (especially chapters 4 to 19) a literal description of events to take place during “the Great Tribulation” or Daniel’s seventieth week, which Dispensationalism considers as yet unfulfilled.
  • The general attitude of older premillennialism was on the whole mild and reverent in its approach to Scripture. There have been some outstanding scholars who have been persuaded that the premillennial is the correct view. In contrast, Dispensationalism has assumed a far more dogmatic attitude. It has introduced a number of novelties in prophetic interpretation that the church never heard of until about a century ago.

From: THE BIBLE AND THE FUTURE by Dr. Wick Broomall

Section 4 (part D): The Dispensational Distinction Between Israel and the Church

Perhaps the central doctrine of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the church. Dispensationalism sees Israel as an earthly people with earthly promises, and the church as a heavenly people with heavenly promises. Membership in Israel is by natural birth.15 One enters the church by supernatural birth. Dispensationalists view Israel and the church as having distinct eternal destinies. Israel will receive an eternal earthly Kingdom, and the church an eternal heavenly Kingdom.

Darby, the father of dispensationalism, stated the distinction in the clearest of terms;

“The Jewish nation is never to enter the church.”16

Ryrie considers this the most important dispensational distinction, and approves the statement that the,

“basic promise of Dispensationalism is two purposes of God expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction throughout eternity.”17

In contrast, Christian theology has always maintained the essential continuity of Israel and the church. The elect of all the ages are seen as one people, with one Savior, one destiny. This continuity can be shown by examining a few Old Testament prophesies with their fulfillment.

  • Promise to Israel -

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ -Hosea 1:10

  • Fulfillment in the church -

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.” “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” -Romans :22-26

  • Promise to Israel -

Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’” -Hosea 2:23

  • Fulfillment in the church -

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. -1 Peter 2:9-10

  • Promise to Israel -

“On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; -Amos 9:11

  • Fulfillment in the church -

“Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ “Known to God from eternity are all His works. -Acts 15:14-18

In the same manner there are many Old Testament passages referring to Israel that are in the New Testament applied directly to the church.

  • Spoken to Israel -

“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. -Joel 2:28-32

  • Applied to the church -

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place…”But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’ -Acts 2:1,16-21

  • Spoken to Israel -

‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” -Exodus 19:6

  • Applied to the church -

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; -1 Peter 2:9

  • Spoken to Israel -

“My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. -Ezekiel 37:27

  • Applied to the church -

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” -2 Cor 6:16

  • Spoken to Israel -

“Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. -Lev 19:2

  • Applied to the church -

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” -1 Peter 1:15-16

  • Spoken to Israel -

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– -Jer 31:31

  • Applied to the church -

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. -Luke 22:20

The New Covenant is particularly problematic for the dispensationalist, as Jeremiah 31 is undeniably addressed to Israel. The New Covenant is the very heart of the Gospel, yet if the church is fulfilling the promise given to Israel under the New Covenant, dispensationalism is dead.

Ryrie, in his early writings, makes this significant statement:

If the church does not have a new covenant, then she is fulfilling Israel’s promises, for it has been clearly shown that the Old Testament teaching on the new covenant is that it is for Israel. If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere else in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned. One might well ask why there are not two aspects to the one new covenant. This is the position held by many premillennialists, but we agree that the amillennialist has every right to say of this view that it is a practical admission that the new covenant is fulfilled in and to the church.19

Dispensationalism has used various arguments to get around this insurmountable problem. Perhaps the boldest was the concept of two New Covenants. Chafer appears to be the originator of the idea:

There remains to be recognized a heavenly covenant for the heavenly people, which is also styled like the preceding one for Israel a “new covenant.” It is made in the blood of Christ (cf. Mark 14:24) and continues in effect throughout this age, whereas the new covenant made with Israel happens to be future in its application. To suppose that these two covenants — one for Israel and one for the Church — are the same is to assume that there is a latitude of common interest between God’s purpose for Israel and His purpose for the Church.20

Consistent Dispensationalists have long recognized the problem. E.W. Bullinger noted that the cup of the Lord’s Supper was indeed the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-33, directed to Israel and not the church, and for that very reason the “mystery” church should not administer it.

Moderate (inconsistent) dispensationalists, not understanding the Sacrament, but still desiring to preserve their “memorial” sought to maneuver out of this predicament.

John F. Walvoord, who became the president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and who appears to be the leading contemporary champion of the second new covenant, writes:

The point of view that holds to two covenants in the present age has certain advantages. It provides a sensible reason for establishing the Lord’s supper for believers in this age in commemoration of the blood of the new covenant. The language of I Corinthians 11:25 seems to require it: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do as often as ye drink it in remembrance of me.” It hardly seems reasonable to expect Christians to distinguish between the cup and the new covenant when these appear to be identified in this passage. In 2 Corinthians 3:6, Paul speaking of himself states: “Our sufficiency is of God: who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant.” It would be difficult to adjust the ministry of Paul as a minister of the new covenant if, in fact, there is no new covenant for the present age. 21

Walvoord, discussing the Epistle to the Hebrews, contrasts the Mosaic (old) Covenant, the New Covenant, and his novel “Better” Covenant.

The identification of the New Covenant which replaces the Old Covenant would seem to be certain by the lengthy quotation from Jeremiah 31 which the Epistle contains, and thus it is with some astonishment that one reads Walvoord’s denial:

The Epistle to the Hebrews by its title is addressed to the Jewish people. The epistle is planned to show that Christ and Christian doctrine supersedes Moses and the Mosaic covenant. The argument in Hebrews eight proceeds on the revelation that Christ is mediator of a better covenant than Moses, established on better promises. At this point, the writer shows that the Mosaic covenant was never intended to be eternal (in contrast to other Jewish covenants) and that the Old Testament itself anticipated the day of its passing. To prove this point, the passage from Jeremiah on the new covenant is quoted (Heb. 8:8-12)…There is no appeal at all to the content of the new covenant with Israel as being identical with the better covenant of which Hebrews speaks. The very absence of such an appeal is as strong as any argument from silence can be. 22

Dispensationalists, determined to cling to their false distinction between Israel and the church are forced to abandon the New Covenant’s application in any real sense to the church.

Albertus Pieters, however, representing non-dispensational commentators in general, explains:

This is entirely correct [that Israel is meant in Jeremiah 31], and it is to the house of Israel that the fulfillment came. The objection arises from a failure to perceive that the Christian church in its origin was an Israelitish body, full qualified to claim the promises made to Israel…. The Christian church once having been established many Gentiles came into it, but that did not make it a “church from among the Gentiles”, any more than the naturalization of many Italians in our country makes it a nation from among the Italians…. they were all Israelite members of the Old Covenant people of God, to whom the promise had been made.

Strictly in line with the promise and with the prevailing principle of the covenant history, to them, the believing remnant, the promise of the New Covenant was fulfilled. That promise was, “To the House of Israel and the House of Judah,” and to the designated parties the fulfillment came; to all who were, in the sight of God and according to a just interpretation of history, still worthy of the name: “Israel and Judah.”

…. In all this, are we spiritualizing the prophecy as some allege? Not at all. We are stating a historical fact, clearly contained in the sacred records, that in or about the spring of the year 30 A.D., the mass of those who then called themselves Israelites ceased to be such for prophetic and covenant purpose, having forfeited their citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel by refusing to accept the Messiah, and that after this event all the privileges of the Abrahamic Covenant and all the promises of God belonged to the believing remnant, and to them only; which remnant was therefore and thereafter the true Israel and Judah, the Seed of Abraham, the Christian church. Thus the promise was fulfilled strictly and definitely to the designated parties.23

Source, (excerpts taken from) A Return to Biblical Theology

Related, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow

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9 comments on “Doctrine, the New Covenant and Dispensationalism

  1. I have to comment on this below:

    Dispensationalism sees Israel as an earthly people with earthly promises, and the church as a heavenly people with heavenly promises.

    “basic promise of Dispensationalism is two purposes of God expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction throughout eternity.”17

    I still recall the day i first read this teaching. To say i was shocked is putting it mildly. To be frank, i honestly believed i had read it wrong!

    There’s a brother who has dropped in here on occasion, “Orange Mailman” who has his own blog. I had met him on a Christian board we both frequented some yrs ago. I’ll never forget beating a path to his blog that day to ask him about this, and to find out if there were indeed Christians who believed that even in eternity, there will be two kingdoms of God–one in heaven for gentile believers and a different one on earth, for Jewish believers.

    When he confirmed there were, well i was totally taken aback.

    Maybe i was just ignorant..

    This is why its important to research what the theological view you claim to hold too, really believes.

  2. PJ- I still read your blog just about every day even though I don’t comment as much as I used to. I remember that conversation. I wanted to read this article in its entirety because of the mention of Historic Premillennialism. On my blog, I’m currently reviewing a book entitled A Case For Historic Premillennialism.

    I’m not a dispensationalist and I’m not sure I ever will be. Although Progressive Dispensationalism is a far cry from the classic version. PD has realized that there are not two peoples of God, even though God has and does deal with mankind differently in different dispensations. I see at the bottom of the website you linked to that they distinguish between ultra-dispensationalists and moderate disp.

    I don’t denounce dispensationalism as heresy on my blog because I believe there are some valid points. However, I think they are carried too far. What do I mean by valid points? Here are some questions.

    Was Israel God’s chosen people in the OT? Is the church God’s chosen people in the NT? What happened for there to be a change of (do I dare use the word?) dispensations? What is God’s future plan for the nation of Israel? What is God’s future plan for the church?

    Now every system attempts to grapple with these very issues. As long as any system believes that salvation for both the church and Israel is by God’s grace through faith through Jesus Christ, I don’t believe they’ve strayed too far from orthodoxy.

    So here’s the supposition, could God gather the church together at the end of this age to Himself, exalt Israel to a place of prominence over other Gentile nations, and exalt Jesus as King of Israel and King over the entire earth for a thousand year period? Is there anything anti-scriptural about this? If so, do we believe in two different roles or functions for the current assembly of saints (the church) and for the future nation of Israel?

    But the above quote you comment on is far from the truth in my opinion. God’s plan for future Israel is heavenly in that it is part of “thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven’s reign will break forth to earth. That’s heavenly. Also, God’s plan for the church is for redemption of the body for life here on earth, “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”. That’s earthly, albeit on a redeemed earth. And of course there is ample overlap in both of these aspects of God’s plan for the future.

    I’ll give you a sneak peek into my mind. I’ve been meditating on Jeremiah 30-33. It’s sort of the centerpiece of the book. The revelation there includes the original prophecy of the new covenant, but also mention of an everlasting covenant and the Davidic covenant. They all seem to be intertwined in a way that advances them as God’s covenant plan moves forward through time. Israel is at the center of all of these. Israel as a nation is promised in no uncertain terms to remain a nation before God forever, even in light of the coming dethronement of the Davidic king and exile into Babylon. The Davidic covenant will also remain forever in spite of the unfaithfulness of the line of David. It’s a fascinating study really.

    Thank you for this article. I’m wondering about the position of the person who posted it on the web. I tried to follow a link but got nowhere.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

    • Howdy Orange!!

      Was Israel God’s chosen people in the OT? Is the church God’s chosen people in the NT? What happened for there to be a change of (do I dare use the word?) dispensations? What is God’s future plan for the nation of Israel? What is God’s future plan for the church?

      There are many [older] bible commentators who saw Israel [in the OT] as a type of (the) Church. I tend to agree with them.

      Israel was God’s chosen people. A people set aside by God as his own, who were to represent God’s dealings with man before the world.

      After Christ died and rose again, and the Church was expanded–opened wide to all who ‘would believe’ on Christ as the Messiah, God’s chosen people stayed the “Church” but it included not only believing Jews (within natural Israel) but people[s] from all nations.

      God has always had but one ‘chosen’ people. After the new covenant came into being, they became those (both Jew and non-Jew) who abide in Christ.

    • Hey PJ-

      Older commentaries, yes they are usually better than the new garba… I mean new thoughts out there. I like to read BW Newton who was a Historic Premillennialist along with a few others. Along with seeing Israel as a type of church, they see the church as fulfilling Israel’s role in a spiritual way, including in the area of turning from the faith. The apostasy that led to the exile will be paralleled in the last days in another apostasy in the church, in this view.

      Thanks for the response. But I find that even in the OT, Israel was not God’s sole (exclusive) people. Jesus points this out in Luke 4 citing Namaan the Syrian as having more faith than all the lepers in Israel put together during the days of Elisha.

      I notice you didn’t say what you think God’s future plan for the nation of Israel is. Hmmmm????

      Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

      -The Orange Mailman

      P.S. You “howdy” in Kentucky?

  3. What an excellent resource this post is. For me, section 4 (Part D) is a goldmine. For several months I’ve been wanting to do a study on OT passages directed toward Israel which are then applied by NT authors to the Church. The examples given here should give me a good jump start once I’m able to get around to doing this study.

    It’s safe to say that the Holy Spirit inspired the NT authors to interpret these and other OT texts as now finding fulfillment in the body of Christ. It may not please John Hagee, from the looks of things, but it pleased the Holy Spirit.

    I find this quote from Albertus Pieters to be brilliantly stated and full of truth:

    “We are stating a historical fact, clearly contained in the sacred records, that in or about the spring of the year 30 A.D., the mass of those who then called themselves Israelites ceased to be such for prophetic and covenant purpose, having forfeited their citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel by refusing to accept the Messiah, and that after this event all the privileges of the Abrahamic Covenant and all the promises of God belonged to the believing remnant, and to them only; which remnant was therefore and thereafter the true Israel and Judah, the Seed of Abraham, the Christian church.”

    Amen! I think the key word in this quote is “thereafter.” This reality, I believe Scripture teaches, was to be the case from Calvary onwards, with no anticipated return to special favor being given to ethnic Jews. The idea of “distinct eternal destinies” for Israel and the Church is indeed shocking. Praise the Lord for the privilege of participating now in the New Covenant, brought to fulfillment by Christ’s work on the cross.

    • For me, section 4 (Part D) is a goldmine. For several months I’ve been wanting to do a study on OT passages directed toward Israel which are then applied by NT authors to the Church. The examples given here should give me a good jump start once I’m able to get around to doing this study.

      Praise the Lord Adam, im glad they were of help!

      “We are stating a historical fact, clearly contained in the sacred records, that in or about the spring of the year 30 A.D., the mass of those who then called themselves Israelites ceased to be such for prophetic and covenant purpose, having forfeited their citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel by refusing to accept the Messiah, and that after this event all the privileges of the Abrahamic Covenant and all the promises of God belonged to the believing remnant, and to them only; which remnant was therefore and thereafter the true Israel and Judah, the Seed of Abraham, the Christian church.”

      Amen! I think the key word in this quote is “thereafter.”

      I second your amen! :-)

  4. Someone thought you might enjoy taking a look at a Google item with the title of “Edward Irving is Unnerving.” Becky

  5. I notice you didn’t say what you think God’s future plan for the nation of Israel is. Hmmmm????

    One of the best [as in clearest teaching i’ve read on the topic was from Messianic Good News’ 2008 Conference notes Orange. ( “ISRAEL IN THE LAST DAYS – a critical look at popular views of the end times”.

    I posted some of the notes back in December of last year: MGN Conference 2008: THE GOOD NEWS TO ISRAEL & THE NATIONS

    P.S. You “howdy” in Kentucky?

    Yep we howdy here a lot. ahahah… :-)

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