PART SIX: Other Bible Topics related to Dispensationalism
This book presents to the reader a theological system containing just three simple dispensations. The biblical evidence we have given already to validate the correctness of this system has been extensive. But we can go farther than what has already been taught. In this section we will present more proofs of this system from various general Bible topics which inherently represent the different ways in God’s dealings with man (different dispensations).
When we compare the three dispensations, the first and the last are very similar to each other – the future millennium may be considered the fulfillment and making good of all the failures and shortcomings of the Jewish dispensation. However, the second dispensation, the Christian dispensation, in time comes in between the other two, and should be considered a parenthesis. Why? Except for it possessing the basic prominent parts which define what a dispensation generally is in Scripture, the Christian dispensation is very different from the other two. The similarity of the two and the standing apart of the other becomes a noticeable feature in this section of the book. The same Jewish things associated with the Jewish dispensation are also part of the future millennium, while Christian things are confined within the framework of the Christian dispensation.
Chapter Thirty- Four – Bible Prophecy and Dispensations
We mentioned this briefly in an earlier chapter, but it bears repeating in a little more detail. The Bible subject of prophecy is a great example illustrating the observation made above in the introduction to this section of the book – the first and the last dispensations are similar, while the middle dispensation is very different. First, consider the character of Bible prophecy – more or less, prophecy refers to:
- the nation of Israel
- the earth
- God’s civil government of the world
Now consider the three dispensations. Only two of the three fit the parameters of this Bible topic – the Jewish dispensation and the millennium. Only these two can be associated with the defining characteristics of prophecy. Therefore, we find that the prophetic passages of Scripture only predict the failures of the Jewish dispensation and the successes of the future millennium. They do not reveal anything about the Christian dispensation. Old Testament predictions were never about the church, Christendom, or the kingdom of heaven. Actually, prophecy seems to go out of its way, so to speak, to jump over the time of the Christian dispensation. As a Bible subject for study, it only deals with two of the three dispensations – the two which are so similar to each other.
What is the reason for this oddity? Well, the answer is quite simple. The church, Christendom, and the Christian dispensation are not about Israel, the earth, or God’s civil government of the world. In a previous chapter we discussed how the church is not Israel, and Israel is not the church (a basic tenant held by every dispensationalist). Bible prophecy is directly or indirectly about the nation of Israel only. It is never, properly speaking, about the church or the things associated with it. This is why the New Testament refers to the church as the mystery of God hidden from the beginning of ages and generations, only to be revealed after the Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven at the beginning of the Christian dispensation (Eph. 3:1–11, Col. 1:24–27, Rom 16:25–26). And if the church is the mystery of God, then all things associated with it or derived from its existence are part of this hidden mystery – this includes Christians, Christianity, Christendom, and the Christian dispensation.
The Jewish prophecies of the Old Testament never spoke of or predicted what the New Testament calls the church, the body of Christ. They did speak of Christ. They spoke of His coming(s). But their content was always related to Israel and God’s government of the world through Him. There were no predictions of the forming of the mystical corporate body of this resurrected Man. And so, all related to the Christian dispensation was hidden from the Jewish prophets and their prophecies.
This is the significance of what Jesus was speaking of when He compared His disciples with the masses of the Jews (Matt. 13:10–11). In sovereign grace, the understanding of the mysteries of the Christian dispensation were only given by God to His disciples. The “kingdom of heaven” is the specific form the kingdom of God takes during the Christian dispensation. The mysteries associated with this form have a two-fold character:
- They are matters of faith concerning things hoped for by the Christian believer, yet unseen during the time of the dispensation (Heb. 11:1).
- They are things which God purposely hid from Old Testament prophets and their prophecies, but now revealed to New Testament apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit sent down (Eph. 1:9–14, 3:1–11).
True Christians are the members of the body of Christ. The church is a heavenly body. Believers have a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). But prophecy doesn’t speak of heavenly things; it only references earthly things. Israel has an earthly calling.275 The Jews will inherit the land promised to them. They will enjoy earthly physical blessings when they are restored during the future millennium. Israel is associated with the earth; prophecy is about the earth. But we find that Bible prophecy never directly speaks of a heavenly body like the church.
275 [At the present time God recognizes the calling of the Christian/church. As long as He does so, the Christian dispensation will continue on. God will never acknowledge Israel’s calling during the Christian dispensation. He will never recognize at the same time the heavenly calling of the church and the earthly calling of Israel. That would be confusion and chaos]
The counting of time is a feature associated with Bible prophecy. Because prophecy is about the earth and Israel, the counting of time in Scripture generally references that nation. However long or short the periods of time may be, they are always about earthly things like Israel. We can take note of prophecies which count time in the Jewish dispensation (Dan. 9:24–26) and the millennium (Rev. 20:1–7), the two dispensations where God recognizes Israel’s calling. Time is also marked in the coming tribulation, a seven-year period of transition on the earth to the last dispensation (Dan. 7:25, 9:27, 12:27, Rev. 11:2–3, 12:6, 14, appendix D). But there is no counting of time concerning heavenly things like the believer/church. Therefore, there is no counting time with the Christian dispensation. We may, with guidance from the Holy Spirit, perceive that its end is near, that Christendom has failed in its testimony, and that judgment will soon begin at the house of God, but no one really knows how long it will be. The Christian dispensation has no time frame revealed by God.
Israel was set aside by God for the time of the Christian dispensation. They were forsaken and hardened by God, but still beloved of Him for the sake of their fathers (Rom. 11:7, 28).276 Because prophecy is about Israel, it is understandable to say that prophecy has been set aside by God during the present dispensation. We can say that during the time of the Christian dispensation God has not directly dealt with the earth, Israel, or time. Therefore, a dispensationalist can be confident in saying there is not a single prophetic event that needs to be fulfilled before the rapture of the saints takes place.277 The last prophetic event was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, and this marked the end of the Jewish dispensation (Dan. 9:26).
276 [Israel being set aside means that God no longer acknowledges them as His people (Hos. 1:9). For the time of the Christian dispensation, He does not recognize their calling. But He keeps a watchful eye over the Jews while they are not acknowledged by Him (Ez. 11:16). God preserves them intact as twelve tribes scattered among the Gentiles (the continuance of the twelve tribes is through physical birth, but by the hidden providential hand of God), so that during the coming tribulation He can, in sovereign grace, choose and seal and protect a remnant of the nation (Rev. 7:1–8). God must eventually fulfill every promise He made to the patriarchs of Israel – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For this very reason, the Spirit says through Paul, “…but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.”]
277 [This truth – that prophecy has been set aside for the Christian dispensation and therefore no prophetic event needs to be fulfilled before the rapture takes place – supports the Christian principle of imminence. What is this principle? That the Christian is instructed by the Spirit of God in the New Testament to be ready and waiting for the Lord’s return, to be constantly expecting it at any time, and to be living a life under the influence of such an expectation (Luke 12:35–38, 42–46, Matt. 25:1–13). Also, by this principle we may reason that the rapture will take place before the coming tribulation. The tribulation is definitely a subject of Bible prophecy, while anything associated with the Christian dispensation is not]