I want to carefully examine points made in an article By Dr. Tony Garland, his article: Covenant, Reformed, and Dispensational Theology – What Do They Mean? From: SpiritandTruth.org
He stated: “Some of the more important distinguishing aspects of dispensationalism, in my view, are:
• An insistence upon consistently
taking the Scriptures at face value. Interpreting passages normally and plainly, while recognizing figures of speech, but without spiritualizing them and while paying attention to the details which are recorded therein. This includes the belief that prophetic passages of Scripture follow the same interpretive rules as non-prophetic passages and that genre is not license for jettisoning normative interpretation.”
The very problem with Dispensationalists Theology is in its failure to do exactly what Tony states here. I’ll site just a couple of examples before we move on.
1. The olive tree of Romans 11, is treated as two trees in one, or stated another way it is treated as a tree bearing olives and persimmons. They see Israel (the olives in the tree) as being completely severed from the tree in which they formerly were represented; and the church (the persimmons) as being grafted in only to be later completely severed herself, making room for Israel’s regrafting. Yet, Israel’s saints are never severed from this tree, because the only stated means for removal of branches is unbelief. Israel’s remnant never disbelieved.
It is individuals who are added to and removed from the tree. It is not an Israel (olive) Tree which is transformed into a Christian (persimmon) tree, only finding itself to later be an olive tree.
2. A second example surrounds the concept of being in Christ, and making up the body of Christ. Again Dispensationalists never say this, but interpret scripture in such a way as to divide Christ into three bodies. There is no way for the Jew to be saved except in Christ, yet there must be a separate saved body of believers in Christ called Israel, suddenly coming about, after the church dispensation ends. And there must be another Gentile body of believers in Christ also saved and suddenly coming about again following the Church dispensation. Neither of these can be called the church, even though before Christ, Israel was called the church in the wilderness.
Then, If one reads 1 Corinthians 15:22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (NET). Then it becomes clear that no man can be saved apart from Christ. So, Dispensationalism requires 3 separate bodies of Christ. Yet, scripture has repeatedly stated clearly that we are all one body (ROM 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body–though many–are one body, so too is Christ.; 1 Cor. 22:20; Eph. 2:13-16; Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (NET). So we can readily see that this stated distinction of the Dispensationalists is not true to their own rules of interpreting scripture.
• NEXT, Dr Garland states:
• Recognizing the historical precedent of the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to begin a new ministry: baptizing believers into the body of Christ which is the Biblical definition of “the Church” (1Cor. 12:13). For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB
Hence, only believers from the Day of Pentecost until our time are participants in the Church. Believers who died prior to Pentecost are not part of the Church, but distinct from it – the body of Christ being instituted on the Day of Pentecost and never having existed in the Old Testament (John 7:38-39).
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From [i]his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
John 7:38-39 NASB
This is merely a smokescreen. The new covenant for Israel is the promise of a new heart, with God’s law written upon it. True Jesus delivered that gift on earth at Pentecost, but the promise was Israel’s all along. When Jesus entered paradise He took the gospel message of His arrival to secure for them the new covenant. Paradise was delivered into heaven, and the Holy Spirit was the seal of the new covenant within them. Paul explains all of this in Ephesians. And in Romans he makes clear that the true Jew, the one who continues to reside in the olive tree has had this heart circumcision.
But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:29 NASB
• Dr Garland continues:
• Understanding the Biblical use of the term “Israel” as consistently denoting physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and never including any Gentiles, although excluding, in some limited contexts, unfaithful Jews who are not part of the “Israel of God” (the faithful believing remnant among the Jews). Thus the Church and Israel are distinct.
In fact there were Gentiles who were made part of Israel. Neither was Caleb, nor Elijah descended from one of the 12 tribes of Israel. In fact though Abraham was the father of Israel, he was chosen from among the Gentiles.
Besides this Dr Garland is making our case for us. If unfaithful Jews were not part of the Israel of God; then the part of the Jewish body that was cut off from the olive tree were not Israel, and what remained that we were grafted into were in fact the Israel of God. Ephesians 2 is very clear on this fact. Gentiles in the Old Testament period of this age who came to know the God of Israel were circumcised and became obedient to Him through His law, thus they were added to Israel.
• Dr Garland continues:
• An emphasis upon the Biblical covenants (as opposed to the inferred covenants of Covenant Theology) as an important key to the proper interpretation of Scripture. The systematization of doctrine across both Old and New Testaments is only viable to the degree these Scriptural covenants are properly understood and held inviolate. Where these covenants apply to different recipients at different times and include varied rules and provisions, dispensationalism allows that God has chosen to interact with different people in ways which vary with time and context. Ignoring these distinctions leads to great confusion and confounds the proper understanding of Scripture. In other words, let the covenants and the historical context speak for themselves. This necessarily leads to recognizing distinctions which are “papered over” by Covenant Theology.
Although I am not in agreement with Covenant Theology, nor can I agree with the Dispensationalists. The Theology that I adhere to is scripture, and the one new man concept of scripture. Paul in Ephesians makes clear that we inherit with Israel the unfulfilled portions of God’s promises made by covenant with Israel. The covenant made with Adam was a blood covenant. God never wavered from the need for the shedding of blood for sin. Ephesians 2-4 eliminates the need to ever again separate Jew and Gentile. We are all in Christ.
• Dr Garland continues:
• “!A belief that promises made by God within various unconditional Biblical covenants will all be fulfilled with the original parties with which they were made. Some of these unconditional promises (e.g., possession of the Promise Land) may be delayed due to disobedience, but the promises themselves will not fail. Nor can they ultimately be transferred away from the original recipients. This is no small thing as it has direct bearing upon the nature of communication and the very character of God.”
This is actually more true to Scripture than we may realize. Abraham was chosen by God to be the founder and father of what would come to be known as the Ekklesia (called out ones) of God. The inheritors of God’s promises as established in His covenants. Today’s called out ones (Church) is not a replacement of those who have gone before us. We are grafted into this Holy Nation and Royal priesthood of God. Hebrews lists those saints who went before us, sacrificing that we may possess the truth of the Word. Jesus the promised one of the Old Scriptures; made flesh and dwelt among us; Gave Himself the perfect sacrifice for sin for all time; returned to the Father to prepare the New Jerusalem, and to intercede on our behalf; coming again to resurrect, Rapture and receive us unto Himself, and to Rule and to Judge both the living and eventually the dead in a second death.
Quotes Taken from, Bible Prophecy Blog, the article:
Covenant, Reformed, and Dispensational Theology – What Do They Mean?
By Dr. Tony Garland