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Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Eschatology Part 3 (Dispensationalism Described)

“Dispensationalism is a system. It is a system that got, sort of, out of control.” -- John MacArthur

I agree with this part of John MacArthur’s statement from when he began his explanation of Dispensationalism. I also agree when he says the following,

I don't believe there are two different covenants. I don't believe there is a difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. I don't believe the Sermon of the Mount is for some future age. I don't believe that you can hack up New Testament books--some for the Jews and some for the Church. I think that the only thing the Bible really holds up in that kind of system is that there is a future for Israel, and that's an exegetical issue.

However, this might be where our agreement ends on this issue. I think that MacArthur does a great job of realizing where some of the past Dispensationalists have failed, even to the point of heresy (eg. two different ways of salvation). He has worked to correct this.

However, I do think that Dispensationalism began with some truths of Scripture and has let them get “out of control.” Let us use MacArthur again: “Everybody is a dispensationalist, everybody. I don’t care who they are in theology, they’re dispensational. It’s only a question of how many you have.” MacArthur would be correct if the word dispensationalist was simply used to refer to a person who believes that there are multiple dispensations (periods of time). As I once heard it pointed out, the same line logic could be used to argue that everyone is a Covenant Theologian (because everyone agrees that God has chosen to unfold redemptive history in covenants).

I think Sam Storms provides a necessary correction,

It must be noted, however, that the recognition of distinct epochs or periods in biblical history is not the primary characteristic of dispensationalism. All Christians recognize the presence in Scripture of developments within God's redemptive purpose. What is unique about DP is the way these distinct periods in biblical history are used to justify or undergird a separation between Israel and the Church.

If you read much of MacArthur then you will quickly see that Storms is correct. The problem with Dispensationalism is not that it believes in distinct epochs, but that it uses this truth to establish an unnecessary division between the Israel and the Church.

This is where the Hyper-Literalism that was addressed in Pt. 2 becomes important. The Dispensationalist will correctly state that the OT gives some prophecy regarding the future of Israel. They say that to apply any (much less all) of this prophecy to the church is a gross abuse of Scripture. Let’s use MacArthur again:

It is probably more than you wanted to know, but it is very, very important, because it preserves the literal interpretation of Scripture. Listen folks, once you're not literal, then who's to say? Right? I mean, then why not just say, "Well, Israel really means 'left-handed Texans'--if it's not exegetical--if it's not in the text, it could mean 'Canadians'" How can you say, if you can't say what's literally there? (Emphasis mine)

Notice what has happened: A Hyper-literalism has been used synonymously with being exegetical. MacArthur is correct: If something is not exegetical, we can arrive at anything and everything that we want. I want to fight against blatant eisegesis just as much as MacArthur. However, as we pointed out before, simply because something doesn’t conform to a hyper-literalism standard does not mean that it is incorrect or eisegesis. Again, we might ask how literal MacArthur believes the 10 horned, 7 headed beast of Revelation is.

I agree with MacArthur that Israel should not mean left-handed Texans’ or Canadians. He, unfortunately, goes further to state that there must be a separation between Israel and the Church. As such, it is not proper to ever understand prophecies regarding Israel as being fulfilled in the church.

It is my contention that the NT authors routinely assume and argue for one people of God (not two) and the fulfillment of OT prophecies (to Israel) in the Church.

Remember these two key points:

A) There is One People of God – Not Two.

B) The NT Authors interpret prophecies regarding Israel as being fulfilled in the Church age.

In the next post I will begin to argue from the biblical text for these two points. If even one of the two points can be argued for successfully, it becomes absolutely essential to reject Dispensational Premillennialism as an incorrect system of eschatology.


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