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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
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Friday, October 13, 2006

Eschatology Part 4 (Dispensationalism Discussed)

Now that things have calmed down, I’m ready to return to our study of Eschatology. You will remember from last time that there were two claims that I suggested could be found biblically. I also said that if either of these were true then we must reject the Dispensational Premillennialist position. Here are the two claims:

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

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

Even though this post is long, we cannot begin to even scratch the surface of passages that relate to this topic. However, I’ve chosen a few powerful passages that I believe serve to illumine this discussion.

Consider the words of Paul to the Ephesian church:

Chapter 2

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Notice what is happening here. The Gentiles had a big problem. There was a huge dividing wall between the Gentiles and Israel; they were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. However, Christ is the solution to the problem. He comes onto the scene and reconciles both people to himself that he might create one new man in the place of the two. For this reason, the Gentiles are no longer strangers and aliens but are to be considered fellow citizens with the members of the household of God (refers to Israel). Notice, Christ has joined together the two into a holy temple in the Lord.

Consider in Romans 11 where Paul says the following:

24For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Notice what happens here. There are not two trees. There is one olive tree; there is one people of God. The unbelieving Jews (that is, those who are not part of the remnant) were cut out and believing gentiles were grafted in. Reformed Scholars (actually, All non-dispensational Christians) would believe that the people of God throughout time make up the church.

Now, this point could be belabored for seven more posts (and yes, I picked 7 for our Dispensational friends that seem to like to divide everything into that number). We could examine Romans 2 that talks about real circumcision (cf. Phil 3:3), the significance of “my people” in Romans 9, or the huge importance of the Church being of the seed of Abraham in Gal 3:29. However, I do want to spend a little time to ask whether the NT authors seemed to believe that (at least some of) the prophecies for Israel could rightly be applied to the church (what I would call “Spiritual Israel”).

Consider Jeremiah 31:31-34 (side note: Bible verse numbers are not inspired, but I always think it is cool when it happens to be that numbers are easy to remember, e.g. Jer. 31:31):

31"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Who is this covenant to be with? Indeed, the house of Israel. However, we must look at how the author of Hebrews uses the passage in 8:8-10. It is an extensive quotation in a large passage. Even Dispensational authors (e.g. Victor Rhee, Faith in Hebrews) see this passage (7:1-10:18) as showing Jesus coming as the high priest for the salvation of all people. As Wayne Grudem says, Here the author quotes the Lord’s promise that he will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, and says that that is the new covenant that has now been made with the church. (emphasis his).

The last passage of import (that we have room for!) is 1 Peter 2:4-10:

4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

You might notice that these are all OT allusions to the people of Israel and that Peter here applies them to the universal Church. Could we ask for a better quotation to show that the church is in fact the true Israel of God and that God has fulfilled his promises in the Church?

In conclusion, consider the words of Sam Storms:

In the Old Testament, Israel is the bride of Jehovah. Yet in the New Testament the church is repeatedly called the bride of Christ. Christ only has one bride—the church. To say that God has two separate peoples is to implicitly assert that God is a polygamist. God only has one people: the church, “the Israel of God.”

In Christ alone,



Blogger pilgrim said...

I remember seeing these things in scripture as well, and I am convinced God has one people and that OT prophecies were fulfilled by the Church.

I also believe we should not go to the opposite extreme. While one of my problems with dispensationalists who hold that the Church is a paranthetical entity, those who hold that the Church replaced Israel are equally guilty of saying God has a plan B.

I prefer to view it this way--God has always had one people--If there is no direct connection between Israel & the Church, then who was/were God's people before Israel?
(Israel was a new name given Jacob-his 12 sons' descendants became the nation of Israel--but even going back to Abraham--well what about pre-Abraham?

God has always had one continuous people--tha outward form may change--but they're still God's people. No plan B/replacement.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Mike Garner said...

I agree.

To borrow from a title of an article: Not Replacement - Expansion!

The Church is not God's Plan B, but rather God has had one people for all time. In the past it was largely the Remnant of Israel, but in this present era we have seen huge expansion as the Gospel reaches to the ends of the world.

In Christ alone,

9:24 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

"God is a polygamist." Funny. What about Ezekiel 23? Not that this text has anything to do with the discussion.

Matthew 16 seems to point out the church is something new.

I don't know. I think that I fall somewhere in between Covenant and traditional Dispensationalism.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Garner said...

Funny that you should bring up Eze 23. When I was writing the post I thought to myself, "With my luck somebody will bring up some obscure passage in the prophet's that I will have to explain!" Oh well. I'm going to leave it alone for the time being.

I think you are right about Matthew 16. There is something very new about the Church age. Pentecost definitely looks new and it does look like a foundation.

While there are a few references that refer to the church in the OT, I would generally like to phrase it like this:

There have always been One People of God -- Namely Spiritual Israel which is identified most closely with the Remnant of Israel (in the OT) and with the Church (in the NT).

I'm not sure how clear that sounds. I may have to come back later and state that a little more clearly.

And finally, there are many people who cannot be clearly identified (myself included!). I might describe myself as just beyond Progressive Dispensationalism but not entirely to Covenant Theology. John Piper finds himself somewhere between the two as well (I figured I'd just list Calvinists in my ever continuing hope for you to accept the doctrines of grace :) ).

God Bless.

P.S. I should note that I felt like I had to cover dispensationalism broadly to look at the more complete reason for my disagreement with Dispensational Premillennialsm. This should not be thought of as a thorough approach to debunking dispensationalism in the slightest.

In Christ alone,

3:32 PM  
Blogger voiceofthesheep said...


Very good article on Dispensationalism. I am still confused, though, as to what actually makes up 'Progressive" Dispensationalism. We were visiting a church late last year that called themselves Progessive, or leaky, Dispensationalists. And that sounded good, until I listened to the Pastor on their web site as he taught the book of Ezekiel...it sounded like full blown DIspensationalism to me. He was talking about a new temple being built during the 1000 year millenium, and Christ being there in the temple, and people coming to offer sacrifices as the OT system would be re-enacted!

What absurdity! That Christ, the once-for-all satisfaction of God's wrath, would reside in a temple and oversee the reinstitution of types and shadows!

Anyway, I liked your series here. One thing I find interesting is how Paul says in Romans, quoting from Isaiah, "Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, 'I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.'" - ESV

The Gentiles not only were NOT seeking God or Christ, that had no interest whatsoever in the things of the Creator. Yet it pleased God to bring both groups into one (Jews and Gentiles)...His one plan all along.

6:06 AM  

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