Greg (27 Apr 2014)
"In defense of Dispensationalism"

Dear Doves,
Tagging onto Pastor Bob's excellent defense of C. I. Scofield and the doctrine of Dispensationalism, I would like to include an excerpt from a paper I wrote a couple of years ago on the background of Dispensationalism vs. the Covenant Theology
Background on Dispensationalism
     Despite the claims of some who have suggested that John Nelson Darby originated the belief of dispensationalism,[1] historical references from the second century confirm that it was a concept that was held by Justin Martyr (110-165) and Irenaeus (130-200).[2] In addition, Peter Jurieu, in 1687, authored a book in which he presented his view of a pre-tribulational pre-millennial rapture of believers in Christ.[3] This historical precedent for a belief of an existence of the dispensation of times within the Bible lends credibility to the system and dispels the belief that it is a recent idea. In addition, Eph. 1:10 and 3:9 provide biblical confirmation of the idea of dispensationalism.
     The word “dispensation” is defined as an economy or stewardship of the outworking of the purpose of God.[4] Charles Ryrie holds the belief that there are seven distinct dispensations: 1) the dispensation of innocency (before the fall); 2) the dispensation of conscience (after the fall); 3) the dispensation of civil government (after the flood); 4) the dispensation of promise or patriarchal rule (the time of Abraham); 5) the dispensation of the Mosaic law (the time from Moses to Jesus Christ); 6) the dispensation of Grace (the church age); 7) the dispensation of the millennium (after the second coming of Christ).[5]
     One of the major characteristics of dispensationalism is the belief that there are two distinct yet different plans for the physical nation of Israel and for the church of Jesus Christ. As such, the body of Christ is currently active and working to accomplish God’s work in the present church age. However, the people of Israel are not discarded or forgotten by God, but are part of a separate plan which will culminate in the time of the Great Tribulation and the millennial age to come. John Walvoord sums up the dispensationalist view: “The prophecies given to Israel are viewed as literal and unconditional. God has promised Israel a glorious future and this will be fulfilled after the Second Advent.”[6]

     [1] Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007), 40-41.
     [2]Ryrie, 71-72.
     [3]Benware, 247.
     [4]Benware, 86-87, Ryrie, 27-29.
     [5]Ibid., 59-65.
     [6]John Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Findlay: Dunham Publishing Company, 1959), 136.
Hermeneutical Interpretations of Dispensationalism
     Dispensationalists interpret the Bible employing a literal method called historical-grammatical interpretation.[1] This method utilizes a plain or normal interpretation of speech in which the literal meaning of words is believed to be the most accurate.[2] Author and eschatology professor Dwight L. Pentecost states: “the interpreter will proceed on the presupposition that the word is literal unless there is a good reason for deciding otherwise.”[3] This method provides the most consistent way of understanding prophetic Scripture.
     Interpreting prophetic Scripture in a literal fashion would appear to make the most sense, too. After all, there isn’t really an outright statement in Scripture to indicate that the church has replaced the physical nation of Israel as the true Israel. There are some passages that often get misinterpreted in regard to the view of covenant theology, though. Gal. 3:6-9 states that believers are “sons of Abraham”. There can be no doubt that the Gentile believers have benefited by the blessings of Abraham. They are actually a spiritual seed of Abraham and they are heirs of the promise given “to all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3).[4] But this doesn’t negate the fact that there are physical seeds of Abraham who descended from him, too. Clearly, there are covenants that have been made by God that apply to Abraham’s physical descendants who came down through Isaac and Jacob. These covenants still apply today.[5]
     Another passage that gets misinterpreted is where Paul writes, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Rom. 9:6). This Scripture is simply distinguishing that within the nation of Israel there are those who are true believers and those who are not. The passage is not implying that Christian believers also make up the nation of Israel, because it distinguishes within the nation of Israel who are the elect.[6]
     Often, the nature of God’s covenants with Abraham is misunderstood in the way of conditionality. The Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:2-3; 15:6-18; 17:2-7) was actually not dependent on Abraham performing any act. There were no mandates that God gave Abraham to fulfill in order to receive the Lord’s blessings. There was only the promise to bless Abraham and his descendants that God communicated to Abraham. Abraham’s (and ultimately Israel’s) role was to simply receive the blessings and benefits of the covenant which were of an everlasting nature.[7] These covenants stand alone between God and Abraham and his physical descendants, Israel. They did not depend on Abraham or Israel’s faithfulness, but on the everlasting faithfulness of God.

     [1]Ibid., 91.
     [3]Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come:  A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing, 1964), 40.
     [4]Benware, 51.
     [5]Ibid., 50.
     [6]Ibid., 51.
     [7]Ibid., 42.