Summary: This article was written and published April, 2016. You might look at the above title and wonder what these three things have to do with each other. A major tenet of dispensationalism is that Israel is not the church, and the church is not Israel. If properly followed further, the Jewish dispensation is not the Christian dispensation, and Judaism is not Christianity. Once these distinctions are learned and kept guarded, it becomes much easier to rightly divide Scripture. For example, the Psalms mainly give voice to an end-time Jewish remnant during the future tribulation period and have a definite Jewish character; the Sermon can be classified as the practical teaching of Christianity associated with Christian discipleship during the Christian dispensation. It all becomes fairly simple.
The Psalms are prophetic in that they give an inspired voice to the end-time Jewish remnant that will be present on the earth during the future tribulation. These writings have a definite Jewish character which makes them difficult to correctly apply to the New Testament believer. The Psalms relate almost entirely to the nation of Israel, or better, a faithful believing remnant in the midst of unbelieving Israel – this situation will play out at the end of the age during a time referred to in Scripture as Jacob’s trouble, a time period before which God will remove the true church from the scene of the world. The topics or subjects dealt with in the Psalms are Jewish. These writings are characteristic of Judaism rather than Christianity, and involve earthly and Jewish things (John 3:12). Therefore the Christian needs to be careful in their reading of the Psalms, as they should always be careful to rightly divide all Old Testament scripture. It is not that the Psalms are not the inspired word of God – they certainly are. It is just that all of scripture does not specifically apply to one single group, as we should also say, certain specific portions of God’s word do not apply to all groups – therefore the absolute need to rightly divide the word of truth.
It is easy to look at two different biblical groups and make them the same. In part, this serves simplicity, yet nevertheless is error. The believer/church is not the same as a Jewish remnant. In Christ, which is the position of all those who are members of the body of Christ, there is no recognition of nationalities – Jew or Greek are not acknowledged (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). This is a biblical truth which could clear up much confusion which exists in doctrine and labels. Once he is converted and “in Christ” by redemption, the individual is only a Christian. He is not a Jewish Christian, an Arab Christian, or an American Christian. No such labels exist for believers, or at least, no such Christian groups are acknowledged by God or His word. When a Jew is converted to faith in Christ, he becomes a Christian; he stops being a Jew. If you are “in Christ” by faith, you are committed and privileged to exist and be nothing other than a Christian. You have now only one calling, which is heavenly, and one citizenship which is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). And this is different from other biblical groups.
If we speak of Arab Christians, American Christians, or even the popular label and group “Messianic Jews,” what is the issue? Isn’t it the fact that no such distinctions or groups actually exist in the body of Christ? I do not doubt that men use these labels and by them have distinctions in mind to separate into groups, but the reason they do so is because such labels and distinctions are man-made – it remains that God does not acknowledge such inventions by man. Allow me to explain. Biblically, the world today consists of only two general groups of people – believers and unbelievers. Scripture makes this distinction in the unbelieving group – Jews and Gentiles. Further, all believers together make up the body of Christ, the church. There isn’t an individual alive today on the earth that isn’t in one of these three distinct groups (Jews, Gentiles, and the church). But also I must say that any individual alive today on the earth can only be in one of these groups, that is, he cannot be in two or three of these groups at the same time – the three groups are mutually exclusive. Further, the word of God speaks of the Gentile group as “the nations,” and even mentions certain ones like Egypt, Syria, etc.
The general designation of believers and unbelievers is spiritually and morally significant in Scripture, and we find different ways of describing these two groups which are no less biblical. For example: every human being can be described as born of Adam or in Adam – every human is a child of Adam. This is also where all unbelief continues to reside, if they believe not in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18, 36). All those in unbelief continue as children of Adam, as “in Adam” or “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:6-8). But there is a group of faith in Jesus Christ, who are born of God and have become children of God (John 1:12-13). The believer is “in Christ” by redemption, and all believers together form the church. Individually the true Christian is “in Christ” or “in the second Adam,” and is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). Any individual is either “in Adam” or “in Christ”, either “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit” – there is no middle ground, nor is it possible to be in both. All believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, and this forms the corporate entity scripture calls the church (I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23). This corporate body is in union with its Head, Jesus Christ, the Man glorified to the right hand of God in the heavens.
These truths and groups may be seen in a more subtle way in Scripture. As the first Adam is associated with God’s original creation, so also are all his children. All the relationships that God ordained in the original creation – male and female distinct, marriage, family, nations and nationality, masters and servants – are connected to the world and what is “of the world.” Although all believers should continue to honor these relations while the church is still in the world, yet we know that Christians are the new creation in which all things are new and of God (II Cor. 5:17-18). We know we are not of the world just as Christ is not of the world (John 17:14-16). We are no longer in Adam, and so, we are no longer connected to God’s first creation. Although we still honor the original relationships of creation while we remain on the earth, yet the believer’s/church’s calling and destiny is to be in the heavens as the new creation of God – there we will be the glorified body of Christ, where we do not see any of the original relationships of the first creation. These relationships are not to be found in Christ, and so, not to be found in the church (Gal. 3:26-28).
If “in Christ” there is no Jew or Greek, then there are no nationalities in the church by God’s own design. All is one man, and is Christ. For me to speak of Arab Christians or American Christians is foolishness, for God simply does not acknowledge such labels – no such groups exist in the mind of God. Unfortunately man has created these labels and groups on his own, and by them comes great confusion and obscurity of scripture. What is connected to the original creation is not mixed or carried over into the new creation. We cannot properly speak of “Messianic Jews” as if to force God to acknowledge the label. The term is an oxymoron if we are spiritually perceptive and know scripture. Judaism is one religion, Christianity is a different religion. You cannot participate in both honestly. Israel is a nation and the Jews are connected to the world as part of it; Christians are not of the world or the first creation of God. You cannot be “of” and “not of” at the same time. Israel has an earthly calling, while the church has a heavenly calling – you cannot have both. All this proves it is not possible to be a Jew and a Christian at the same time. If the label “Messianic Jew” is speaking of a true believer and Christian, then he is no longer a Jew, and he certainly isn’t Messianic if we know biblical principles. What is important is what God acknowledges, not man. The only group that will exist that truly and biblical could wear the “Messianic Jew” label is the Israeli remnant chosen and sealed by God in the future crisis (Rev. 7:1-8).
This end-time Jewish remnant that God will protect during the coming tribulation has a distinctly different character and hope from that of a believing Christian. The believer is assured by the indwelling Holy Spirit of his existing relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and is settled on an already accomplished redemptive work (Rom. 8:14-16). He has real peace with God as well as a perfected conscience before God (Rom. 5:1; Heb. 10:1-14) – all his sins are forever gone. By his justification freely given to him by God (Rom. 3:24), he has boldness himself to spiritually enter the very presence of God in any time of need (Heb. 10:15-23). All his Christian hopes are sure and steadfast, and boldly go in behind the veil with his Forerunner, Jesus Christ (Heb. 6:19-20). Also as a believer, he has been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. Now this corporate body has union with its Head in heaven at the right hand of God (I Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 1:19-23). The believer’s portion now is to suffer with Christ in the midst of the same world that rejected and crucified Him (Rom. 8:17-18) – then he will be glorified together with Him, that is, Christ will share His heavenly glory with him (John 17:22; Col. 3:4). The Forerunner has ascended up into the heavens, and He has gone in behind the veil already, into the very Presence. How could any true Christian doubt that he will also physically follow there? The Forerunner precedes him. He is there already, at God’s right hand. The believer’s eventual going there is a sure thing. It is the place that God has chosen and prepared for all those “in Christ.” The believer will eventually be glorified by God in the rapture of the church – he will receive a body that is conformed into the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:23, 24, 25, 29, 30). The believer/church will be taken to the Father’s house in the heavens (John 14:1-3) and will sit in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 2:6), and be blessed there with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). The church will be the tabernacle of God throughout all eternity, and He will receive glory by and through the church forever (Rev. 21:1-3; Eph. 3:20-21).
All this is blessedly sure for the true believer; however to our original point – none of this is true for, or characteristic of, the future Jewish remnant, except to say that their future covenant will provide them with forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, which is the blood of their new covenant. Israel’s calling is earthly, while the believer’s is heavenly (Heb. 3:1). The Jewish remnant will have physical and earthly blessings in their promised land, while the Christian has spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Their habitation will be their land on the earth; the believer’s abode is in the Father’s house in the heavens. The Jews will be ruled over by Jesus Christ, their Messianic King; but believers are His brethren, co-heirs of God with Him, and members of His body. The distinct differences (redundant I know, except for emphasis) go on and on.
This also means as a separate group the Jewish remnant will have a differing character than the character of the believer/church. Their character is earthly and part of this world; the believer’s character is heavenly and not of this world, as is Christ Himself (John 17:14-17). The Jews will be restored in their land as the greatest nation on the millennial earth – as a nation, a nationality, and part of this world. The true church, which has no nationalities, does not have a relationship with this world, nor is she connected to it as Israel is connected. The church believes without seeing; the Jewish remnant will only believe when they see (John 20:25-29; Zech. 12:10), even though the Spirit is poured out on them before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-32). The future time of the millennium, when Israel is exalted above all Gentile nations, is described as a time when every eye will see and behold Him (Rev. 1:7). But the true church believes without seeing, and walks by faith, seeing the things which are unseen (II Cor. 4:18; 5:7). Judaism is a walk by sight and senses, and the Jews demand an external sign (I Cor. 1:22). How earthly and worldly is their character, and how they follow after the behavior of their forefather Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel so he could serve as a type. He spent the majority of his time outside the land and striving after worldly things. Jacob wrestled in the flesh all night with God – so does Israel in their entire history. Not until the dawning of a new day will Israel, represented by a remnant, gain their promised blessings.
Then might we say that the Psalms have a character not suitable, not applicable, to the believer/church? I believe we will find that the Psalms give prophetic voice to a group of Jews yet future, who will be looking for their Messiah and will be animated by the Spirit of God, crying out to God for physical salvation and deliverance from all their enemies. Is not the character of Israel to be delivered by God through tribulation and judgments, even as they were originally birthed as a nation coming out of Egypt? Is this not what we find in many of the Psalms? Why would the future tribulation crisis be called Jacob’s trouble if it doesn’t specifically target much trial and misery for the nation of Israel? I do not doubt God will seal and preserve a numbered remnant of the Jews (Rev. 7:1-8), so He may be faithful to fulfill all He promised to Israel’s fathers. But many of Israel will be lost and die, and God will even bring the remnant itself through refining fires of judgment (Zech. 13:6-9). The Psalms speak mostly and convincingly of a faithful and godly Jewish remnant that remains in the midst of an ungodly and unbelieving nation (Ps. 1).
The Lord spoke prophetically of this future remnant calling them His elect (Matt. 24:22, 24, 31). In a decidedly prophetic portion of Luke’s gospel Jesus describes this group in parable form. In it He plainly characterizes the future Jewish remnant.
Luke 18:1-8 (NKJV)
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
The widow symbolically portrays God’s end-time elect Jewish remnant. She does not represent the Christian believer or church. Her character is that she cries out for vengeance on her enemy, and she is looking for relief and reparations from her suffering. There is a non-stop crying out for justice, and this by judgment from the judge on her enemy. Justice and judgment characterizes God’s law. This represents the character of Judaism, for at its core, Judaism is the practice of the law. The crying out for vengeance and judgment on ones enemies is repeated often in the Psalms:
Psalm 58:1-11 (NKJV)
“Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones?
Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men?
No, in heart you work wickedness;
You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth.
The wicked are estranged from the womb;
They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.
Their poison is like the poison of a serpent;
They are like the deaf cobra that stops its ear,
Which will not heed the voice of charmers,
Charming ever so skillfully.
Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!
Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
Let them flow away as waters which run continually;
When he bends his bow,
Let his arrows be as if cut in pieces.
Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes,
Like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
Before your pots can feel the burning thorns,
He shall take them away as with a whirlwind,
As in His living and burning wrath.
The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,
So that men will say,
“Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely He is God who judges in the earth.”
Psalm 94:1-3 (NKJV)
“O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—
O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
Render punishment to the proud.
Lord, how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph?”
Psalm 149:1-9 (NKJV)
“Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise in the assembly of saints.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation.
Let the saints be joyful in glory;
Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations,
And punishments on the peoples;
To bind their kings with chains,
And their nobles with fetters of iron;
To execute on them the written judgment—
This honor have all His saints.
Praise the Lord!”
Psalm 68:21-23 (NKJV)
“But God will wound the head of His enemies,
The hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses.
The Lord said, “I will bring back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
That your foot may crush them in blood,
And the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from your enemies.”
These are a few examples among many I could pull out of the Psalms. These passages plainly paint certain characteristics – a future looking for justice and righteousness, and this coming from God upon the ungodly and wicked. There is a distinct cry for vengeance from God, even asking God at times and in different passages to wake up and do something soon to deliver His faithful. It is one of the distinct characteristics of the writings of their prophets applicable to Israel, Jewish scripture, the law and Judaism.
But this is not the character of Christianity or the New Testament Christian believer. Christianity never teaches us to call out to God for vengeance on our enemies. If we have understanding of the present dispensation, and particularly this age of grace from God, then we know as believers we cannot be looking for or expecting judgment from God to bring in justice and righteousness in the world – you will be looking for something that will not happen as long as the true church remains on the earth.
Isaiah 26:9-10 (NKJV)
With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the Lord.
Only when God’s judgments are in the earth will the world learn righteousness. This will only come through God’s law, and is characteristic of Israel and Judaism. But what is characteristic of the true church is God’s grace, and in turn emulating that grace in our behavior to all so we may be sons of our Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:38 (NKJV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
This is a quote from Leviticus 24, but it is more impressive if we go back to Moses and the law to get the context of the passage:
Leviticus 24:15-22 (NKJV)
“Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.
‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.
‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him— fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death. You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.’”
This is the measure of justice, and this is the judgment from God which carries it out. This is the law which sees after justice, and human righteousness. The judgement of God is contained in Judaism, because it is the law of God. But now let’s see what Christianity teaches, remembering that the above verse from Matthew five (5) was Jesus simply and directly quoting Moses, referencing the law and the proper teachings of Judaism.
Matthew 5:38-48 (NKJV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
This is just one of many examples in the New Testament that depict the differences between Judaism and Christianity, and in doing so it depicts the transition taking place by the ending of the Jewish dispensation and the beginning of the Christian one. These are Jesus’ own words, and we need to recognize His authority. He is changing something and we must be clear on what it is He is doing. It is obvious in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5; Matt. 6; Matt. 7) that Jesus is saying something different from what was said by Moses in the law. There isn’t another way of understanding the structure of these passages – Matt. 5:21, 22, 27, 28, 31, 32; and Matt. 5:33-36; 5:38-42; 5:43-45). There isn’t another correct way of interpreting the Sermon. Jesus is changing some things, and we will come to see that the changes He makes apply to the Christian dispensation. [Also see Matt. 19:3-9 – this passage contains the same type of dispensational transition that you find in the Sermon on the Mount]
Christians are never to take an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth. Instead of seeking justice through Judaism and the law, Jesus teaches that Christianity would have believers to not resist an evil person, to turn the other cheek, to let them have both tunic and cloak, and to go the extra mile. Christianity instructs the believer to give to him that asks you, and to not turn away those who want to borrow from you. These are not the actions of the law and Judaism. These are the actions and character of grace and responsible Christianity.
When we look at the Psalms we see the character of Judaism – vengeance on enemies, and a crying out for justice and judgment. But Jesus teaches the Christian to love his enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Again these have the character of grace that becomes the sons of our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:45).
The Sermon on the Mount is not a spiritualizing of the Old Testament law. Christ puts His will in contrast to the law by saying, “…but I say unto you…” The practical example the Christian is to follow is that of God’s conduct in grace (Matt. 5:45, 48) – be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect. Grace is that God brings rain for the just as well as the unjust; He is kind to the unthankful; He loves those who do not love Him – this is the conduct of those who enter into the kingdom of heaven; sons of the Father. In the Sermon Jesus gives His views of morality in contrast with what was said in the law – He gives us the Father’s conduct in grace as the Christian’s rule instead of the Jewish law.
In the teaching of the kingdom of heaven found throughout the Sermon on the Mount the name of Father is prominent. The Father is the King in the kingdom of heaven. Believers are the sons of the Father, and our responsibilities are found in this relationship. We are to act in grace as the King does. The Father’s conduct in grace is our rule and example, and this certainly is not the law.
There are many teachings in the Sermon on the Mount which show a direct or indirect difference between Judaism and Christianity, between the practice of the Israelite following Moses and the Christian following the teachings of Jesus. These are differences between the Jewish dispensation passing away because of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah, and the Christian dispensation taking its place. Jesus going away, back to heaven, establishes the kingdom of heaven in mystery (the proper name of the Christian dispensation, Matt. 13:11) – instituted by the individual profession of faith in Jesus Christ resurrected and glorified to the right hand of God, instead of it continuing to be preached as ‘at hand’ (its transition period – Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). All the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are matters of faith. A simple definition of faith is that it is evidence to the believer of the existence of things which cannot be seen with the physical eye (Heb. 11:1). Just one of the many matters of faith involving the present Christian dispensation is that Jesus is not physically present on the earth, but is hidden from the world at the right hand of God.
Col. 3:1-3 (NKJV)
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
During the time of the present dispensation Jesus is hidden in God. He is hidden from the eye-sight of the world. Because the world walks by sight and senses, and for that matter so do the Jews as part of the world, this arrangement and present dispensation is meaningless to them – they simply go on their way and do their own thing in unbelief. But the true Christian walks by faith (II Cor. 5:7). He can develop the eye of faith. He can learn to see what is unseen to the physical eye (II Cor. 4:18). The believer, by the eye of faith, sees Jesus at the right hand of God. And by faith we understand that we are ‘in Christ’ and our life is hidden with Him in God. This is all mystery because these are matters of faith. By the eye of faith the Christian has the ability to seek those things above and set his mind on things above – on heavenly things (John 3:12).
Also during the present dispensation the body of Christ, the church, is described in the New Testament as the mystery of God hidden from the prophets and prophecy of old, but now revealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:1-5). The Spirit could not be sent down until Jesus went away. The mystery could not be revealed until Jesus had accomplished the work of redemption and was raised and glorified (John 7:39). All these things were dependent and consequent on each other. Further, one of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven is that the grand corporate body of Christendom, that which anybody can readily see in the world (Matt. 13:24, 25, 26, 37, 38, 39, 47; I Cor. 3:9-13; II Tim. 2:19-20), contains and hides the true body of Christ (Matt. 13:44-46). How is this not another mystery of the kingdom of heaven? How is this not a matter of faith, without which you will not be able to see and comprehend?
Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount contains three things that are uniquely Christian – the practices of grace for the believer, Jesus labeling His teachings as those of the kingdom of heaven (the Christian dispensation at hand), and the revelation of the Father. These doctrines span the entire Sermon and make the teachings unequivocally Christian in character and associated with the new and coming dispensation; this instead of being Jewish and a simple extension of the law. Jesus isn’t re-interpreting the law after years of rabbinical progression and liberality. The Christianity Jesus speaks of, in all cases, shows a love and grace that goes far beyond anything found in the law, anything found in Judaism. And you should easily see in the Sermon how the justice and judgments of the law are suspended for the Christian dispensation. For the Christian and for the church there is no eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth type of justice. The believer/church never cries out to God for vengeance on an enemy or evil person. That wouldn’t be Christianity; rather it would be Judaism. That is why the Sermon represents practical teachings to be followed and obeyed by the Christian in the new dispensation. The Sermon serves to add to the transitional dispensational character of Matthew’s gospel – this is the understood intent of the Holy Spirit writing through Matthew.
Many theologians, especially dispensationalists, do not know what to think of or how to categorize the Sermon on the Mount. It is not a salvation message as some may teach it. It does not speak of justification from sins, redemption freely given by God through the blood of Christ, or how one is born-again. It gives the believer practical instructions to be followed after he becomes a Christian, after he is saved. It is the practical responsibility of Christendom in the world during its dispensation – God is looking for and expecting obedience, and whether Christendom’s candlestick will shine bright in a dark world filling up with evil and sin (Matt. 5:13-16). Every dispensation has a particular human responsibility which God looks at to see if He is being glorified by the human effort. In the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven in mystery Christendom is the corporate body under responsibility – all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. God is looking at the entire corporate group to see if all those who profess to have a relationship with Him as Father with sons are in fact acting according to such responsibility.
Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
If you profess to be a Christian, then you profess to being a son of the Father and having that established relationship. All responsibility flows from whatever the existing relationship happens to be. All of Christendom professes this relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The above passage speaks quite explicitly of sons emulating the behavior of God their Father. This measure of responsibility hovers over the entire Sermon in Matthew. It is the measure of responsibility for the new dispensation. This is the measure of the light given off by Christendom in the world. So the Sermon was never intended by Jesus to be a salvation message. It instructs how you act and behave once you are a Christian, once the relationship of Father to son has been established (Gal. 3:26-27; 4:6-7; Matt. 5:45).
Another issue in the Sermon that causes confusion for many dispensationalists is Jesus’ use of the term “the kingdom of heaven.” This term is unique to Matthew’s gospel – it is not found in any other bible book, yet in Matthew it is used thirty-three (33) times. Above I mentioned this term as being uniquely Christian, and is the proper name and label for the new Christian dispensation. The term’s use in Matthew looms large in giving his gospel the character of dispensational transition. But when many dispensationalists see this phrase they exclusively think of God’s earthly kingdom program, and how they feel compelled to make this term refer to and describe an external Messianic kingdom of Old Testament prophecy. This is a great error of interpretation and leads only to confusion in dispensational understandings. A Messianic kingdom involves the nation of Israel restored in their land. The kingdom of heaven in mystery involves Christendom in the world. These two corporate entities are not the same.
The term “the kingdom of heaven” references the new dispensation far more than it references any thought of a kingdom program. The dispensationalist’s interpretational mistake comes out of his restrictive, cookie-cutter, literal hermeneutic system. He sees the word “kingdom” in the term Jesus uses, and automatically reasons it has to be referring to the only kingdom of God that he comprehends – the external, earthly, material, political, and militaristic Messianic kingdom. My question would be why not apply the same literal hermeneutic to the word “heaven” found in the phrase, if they insist on doing so with the word “kingdom”? The reason why I have just given you – using their literal hermeneutic they cannot make the word “heaven” legitimately mean earthly. So they conveniently drop their hermeneutic in order to maintain their preconceived assumptions. For them “the kingdom of heaven” cannot mean a kingdom of heaven, but has to be maneuvered and manipulated to mean “a kingdom of earth.” In this case their use of their hermeneutic system seems to be quite arbitrary.
Most of the dispensationalist’s confusion and struggle to make sense of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount comes from their erroneous understanding and improper handling of the term “the kingdom of heaven.” Many modern dispensationalists repeat these same mistakes in their interpretation of the critical dispensational chapter thirteen (13) of Matthew. In that chapter God begins a new planting by sending out the Son of Man to sow seed (Matt. 13:3, 24, 37). The new planting involves the new dispensation – that which comes in after Israel is set aside and made desolate, and the Jewish dispensation is ended (Matt. 11; 12; 23:37-39). The new dispensation is the Christian dispensation – the kingdom of heaven in mystery (Matt. 13:11). The crop in the field is Christendom – wheat and tares mixed up together, the work of God and the work of Satan collectively and coincidentally. But if the kingdom of heaven is mistaken to mean a reference to the Messianic kingdom, then the teaching of the entire chapter is lost and in confusion.
If and when the dispensationalist realizes from Matthew thirteen (13) that the term refers to the Christian dispensation, that the spoiled crop in the field is Christendom in the world, and that the last six parables of the chapter are similes of “the kingdom of heaven” showing the present form the kingdom of God takes until the end of the age when judgment from God brings an end to the Christian dispensation, then with this realization he must return to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5; 6; 7) and interpret the term correctly. Everywhere he finds the term in Matthew’s gospel he must resist thinking of an earthly, material, political, Messianic kingdom. It never refers to this, even when John the Baptist used the term (Matt. 3:2). To think that all Old Testament prophets fully understood every prophecy they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak is ridiculous and presumptuous (I Pet. 1:10-12). To say that when John said,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he understood the term as referencing Christendom and the Christian dispensation would simply be a stretch. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit used him to speak of both Jewish and Christian things, whether or not he fully understood that which referred to the kingdom of heaven. John had a ministry that existed during the transition period between the two dispensations (Matt. 11:7-15). There were times when John was removed from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and in his natural mind questioned whether Jesus was the real Messiah (Matt. 11:2-3).
Many “kingdom program” dispensationalists teach that all Jesus taught concerning “the kingdom of heaven” in the Sermon on the Mount and other places in Matthew had to refer to the Old Testament prophetic Messianic kingdom because that is the only thing the Jews would have understood about the kingdom of God. This dangerous presumption assumes and guarantees that all the Jews and all of Israel actually had ears to hear and would hear when taught by Jesus (Matt. 11:15). But when we get to Matthew thirteen (13) this decidedly Arminian thought and assumption is directly contradicted by the Lord.
Matthew 13:11-16 (NKJV)
He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;
Simply put, it wasn’t given to the Jews to know the things Jesus was talking about concerning the kingdom of heaven. God only gave it to His disciples to know – they would be the only ones who would have ears to actually hear (Matt. 13:9, 43). But to the Jews He definitely says this knowledge and understanding was not given by God (Matt. 13:11). He remarks concerning the crowds – “I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” There couldn’t be a more direct contradiction made to the presumption that Jesus only ever taught what could easily be understood by the Jews, and that had to be only the Messianic kingdom promised in Old Testament prophecy. But His teachings of the kingdom of heaven weren’t a repeating of what the prophets taught. And the understanding of His teachings of this new form of the kingdom would be given by God only to His disciples – they would be the ones who formed and led in the early church; they would be the ones who labored early in the new dispensation to build Christendom.
The key to properly interpreting and applying the Sermon on the Mount is in the understanding of the character of Matthew’s gospel as directed by the Holy Spirit – the writing has a transitional dispensational character. Early on in Matthew you have Jesus coming to Israel as Jehovah/Messiah according to Jewish prophecies – Son of David, Son of Abraham after the flesh and natural descent (Matt. 1:1, 22; 2:5, 15, 17, 23 etc.) – this is for the Jewish dispensation. The presentation of Messiah would be Israel’s final testing by God of their peculiar responsibility given to them as God’s chosen and privileged people. Previously in the Jewish dispensation God tested this nation by giving them the law to obey. Their failure with the law ended in the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple at that time. But God returned a remnant back to rebuild the temple and city, all for the purpose of testing Israel one final time. However they failed again. They crucified their Messiah, putting Him to death. God would eventually use the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and the temple again, scattering what remained of the Jews into the nations – the judgment of God ending the Jewish dispensation (Matt. 24:1-2; Luke 21:20-24).
But God would bring in the beginning of a new dispensation, which would have a new and different corporate body under responsibility. And there would necessarily be a transition period of time between the two dispensations. This transition may be seen in numerous bible passages, but Matthew’s gospel has this dispensational character throughout by divine design. The term “the kingdom of heaven” in this gospel serves this transitional purpose. And this term, as a label for the new Christian dispensation, is sufficiently dispersed throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5; Matt. 6; Matt. 7).
Another dispensational issue that the Sermon brings up is what are Christians to do about the law? I have written extensively on this topic in other articles: Blog Post #2 – Did Christ fulfill the law as a Substitute for the Believer? Blog Post #3 –What is “the Active Obedience of Christ” and where does it take us? Also Post #17 answers many questions about the law and what the Christian’s approach to it should be. Christianity’s teaching is that Jesus is the believer’s life, and that he who has the Son has eternal life (I John 5:11-12). As a rule of life it is nothing other than Christ Himself. He is our standard to be followed (I John 2:6).
This gives the Christian a responsibility well above and beyond the law. Here is how we should understand this. The law was given to Israel, and it represented the perfect rule and standard of human responsibility in the existing relationships the Jews had at the time. As I said earlier, all responsibility flows from whatever the relationships happen to be. Even though the Jews were privileged above every other existing nation, privileged as God’s chosen people, still their relationship as to who they were and continued to be was that they were children of Adam, in the flesh, and sinners before God their Creator. Their redemption was in the flesh, types and shadows, and the only real change for them personally was a change of location for the nation – they were moved by God out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The law given to them represented what their responsibilities were as children of Adam in their relationship with God their Creator and their relationship with their neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). But in Adam they were sinners and could not obey the law. Their transgressions of the law, their sins, were their failures in their responsibilities as children of Adam. As a rule of life for the Jew the law was a disaster – Israel would have never survived under pure law (Ex. 32:7-10); in His sovereignty God had to bring in mercy and goodness to preserve Israel and maintain their continued existence as a nation, doing this at the very beginning (Ex. 33:12-19).
The true Christian has a different relationship with God. The believer is no longer a child of Adam and in the flesh like Israel and the world. The believer is born of God instead of Adam, and being in Christ he is a son of God (John 1:12-13; Gal. 3:26). He is no longer in the flesh, but in his new relationship he is said to be in the Spirit (Rom. 8:8-9). By redemption the Christian is in Christ, who is the second Man or last Adam (I Cor. 15:45-47). His relationship with God is entirely new because he himself is entirely new – a new creation of God (II Cor. 5:17). The believer’s responsibilities flow from his relationship with God as a son (Rom. 8:14-17). Instead of being a sinner in Adam, he is a saint in Christ, the last Adam. It is understandable then that the Christian’s responsibilities are far above and beyond a mere obedience to the law. His relationship with God is as a son through Jesus Christ, not through the law or Judaism or the first Adam.
Jesus did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17); neither does Christianity or the Christian. In the Sermon Jesus often changes the law for Christianity (Matt. 5:31-48) or tells the Christian his responsibility goes far beyond that which is found in the law (Matt. 5:21-22; 5:27-28). Because He is the center of the entire counsels of God (Eph. 1:9-11), the Law and the Prophets will be fulfilled by and through Christ. However, His first advent certainly did not fulfill all that is written about Him. With this thought and in a slightly obscure way, Matthew 5:18 references the future millennium, where all the Law and Prophets will finally be fulfilled through Christ. When He is physically present to reign over the world, He will bring about justice and righteousness in the earth through judgments based on God’s law. Also it is in this future dispensation that the remnant of Israel restored in the land will have a new covenant where God will write His law in their minds and hearts. God will do the same for their progeny. The Law will be obeyed by Israel during the millennium – before the heavens and earth pass away (Matt. 5:18). But during the Christian dispensation the believer isn’t to be breaking any commandments or teaching others to do so (Matt. 5:19) – if we walk in Christian love, we automatically fulfill the moral law without thinking about it. Our duty is to follow Christ, and this will always be a higher level of responsibility than the law.
I don’t believe there is a great dispensational conflict going on in the Sermon when Jesus speaks directly of the law in these few verses – only one verse refers to the future millennial dispensation. Those who teach that the Sermon relates only to the millennial kingdom are far off the mark. The Sermon teaches what Christianity is, and this as contrasted with what Judaism formerly taught. It teaches the practical responsibility of the believer during the Christian dispensation. Jesus briefly mentions the Law and Prophets again later in the Sermon (Matt. 7:12), but here he is describing one of the governing principles of Judaism – the give and take of Judaism and the self-love that is inherent in the law. But the Christian has to remember that this principle is the bare minimum required of us. The Lord’s love we are to emulate was always self-sacrificing.
When a dispensationalist attempts to relate the Sermon to the general thought of the kingdom of God he immediately narrows his thoughts to a Messianic kingdom, and he begins to use terms like “the kingdom.” There is a general pervading ignorance in dispensationalism of what the kingdom of heaven really is, and this only serves to weaken or subvert the true foundational principles of their system. The failure to properly define the kingdom of heaven leads to the non-recognition of Christendom as the corporate body God has given responsibility to in the dispensation. There is only then a cascading effect of interpretational errors that can follow. If we don’t recognize Christendom as integral to the dispensation, then we will always be blind to the failure of the dispensation and the reason for God’s coming judgment. “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; if it begins with us first…” This is a foundational tenant of dispensationalism and is true whether it is God’s judgment of Israel or that of Christendom. Both are the house of God in their particular dispensations. Modern dispensationalists need to return to their classical roots.
Allow me to directly answer what Dr. Charles Ryrie lists in his book, ‘Dispensationalism’, as what are commonly believed views by dispensationalists concerning the proper interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (pages 113-114 of his 2007 edition).
1. The Sermon relates only to the millennial kingdom:/ We have shown that only one verse actually refers to the future millennium (Matt. 5:18). When one understands that during the millennium Israel will not be asked to act in grace to their enemies, you see how misguided this notion is – the millennium will be a time of judgments in righteousness and justice, and the putting down and destroying of all enemies. It is not a time to love your enemies (Matt. 5:44).
2. The Sermon relates to any time the Messianic kingdom is offered and is a detailed explanation of the Lord’s call to Israel to repent:/ Certainly Jesus was the Messiah, son of David, come to Israel, but because Jesus knew Israel would reject Him, almost immediately He begins preaching that the “kingdom of heaven was at hand.” This term does not refer to a Messianic kingdom or millennial kingdom; it does not refer to the Jewish dispensation or the millennial dispensation. It references Christendom in the Christian dispensation, and is more about the Father’s kingdom than the Son’s (Matt. 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1; 6:4-18; 6:26, 32; 7:11, and especially Matt. 13:41-43). Matthew 5:11-12 does not support the thought of a coming Messianic kingdom – the Jews will not go up to heaven to get their rewards. The Father’s kingdom coming (Matt. 6:10) is greatly misunderstood by dispensationalists – the Father’s kingdom is in heaven because our Father is in heaven (Matt. 6:9; 13:43); the millennium is so the Father’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven, done through the Son’s kingdom when He reigns on the earth. Matthew 7:15 refers to false prophets in the Christian dispensation (think of Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-30).
3. It relates both to any time the kingdom is offered and to the time when the millennial kingdom is functioning on this earth (a combination of view 1 and 2 above):/ Again this is definitively wrong and is a viewpoint driven by a misguided literal interpretation of the word “kingdom” in the phrase “kingdom of heaven” – therefore they speak so often of the kingdom being “offered” and necessarily withdrawn. But if Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is like such and such… (Matt. 13), what does He mean by this? It signifies that the kingdom of heaven will exist in this form in the world and on the earth until the end of the age when He returns – it is not a simple offering and withdrawal, where it never comes into existence.
The term kingdom of God is a general term, and to shorten it to “the kingdom” or “kingdom program” is to lose sight of what specifically we are discussing. When a dispensationalist speaks of “the kingdom”, in their mind they are referencing only the future Messianic kingdom, and then manipulating all other terms to fit that narrow idea. This is a major gaff in their doctrinal system. The Messianic kingdom for Israel is postponed as long as Israel remains desolate and set aside. However, the kingdom of heaven has not been postponed. It was established when Jesus was exalted and went back to heaven. The kingdom of heaven simply is not a Messianic kingdom in Israel; in this dispensation the term never has any direct reference to Israel.
Christendom is an external corporate body. It is what was built by man and not by God. The church, the body of Christ, is what God built (Matt. 16:18), and it is impossible for Satan to plant tares in it. But Satan has easily come in and planted tares in Christendom (Matt. 13:25), for that is what man was building in this present dispensation and that is where man had responsibility. If the dispensationalist acknowledges only the church, he is missing the real current dispensational picture. God does not judge the church – it is His own workmanship. God does not ever judge His own work. But God will judge Christendom, the spoiled crop in the field (Matt. 13:26), and her ruin and corruption is the reason the dispensation will come to an end. But I ask you, do you ever hear or read of a dispensationalist teaching about Christendom?
Dr. Ryrie then summarizes his own thoughts about the Sermon on the Mount by suggesting four things: (Dr. Ryrie in italics only; my comments in standard type)
(1) It is a detailed explanation of what the Lord meant by repentance. It called the Jewish people to an inner heart change that they had dissociated from the requirements for the establishing of the Messianic kingdom./ My opinion is that this view is very misleading. The Sermon is about the kingdom of heaven, and is the practical instruction of the behavior expected of Christians emulating their Father who is in heaven. The Father is the real King of the kingdom of heaven. This is why Jesus distinguishes between His own kingdom on earth and our Father’s kingdom in the heavens (Matt. 13:41-43). In the Sermon there are ten (10) separate references to the heavenly Father or the Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 9, 14, 26, 32; 7:11, 21). In Matthew’s gospel there are twenty-two (22) separate references. Our relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ and His revelation of the Father to us (John 1:18; 14:6-11) is strictly a Christian understanding – it is not Jewish. The Jews could not comprehend the things or teachings of the kingdom of heaven – it was not theirs to understand (Matt. 13:11-15). In scripture, repentance is spoken of very directly (Matt. 3:2, 8; 4:17); not in some obscure, shadowy way. The Sermon never mentions the word “repent”. Repentance was necessary because the kingdom of heaven was “at hand”, but the Sermon is the practical teaching for those already in the kingdom of heaven, who already have a relationship with God as their Father. I do not doubt that at the second advent of Christ, before the establishment of a Messianic kingdom, a faithful remnant of Israel will look on Him whom they pierced, and mourn and repent. The water baptism of John was the call of repentance (Matt. 3:11), but the Sermon was not some mysterious call to Israel for repentance. The Sermon as a whole shows the distinct change from Judaism to Christianity – it hardly can be described as a call to Israel to repent in view of a Messianic kingdom being offered to them.
(2) Therefore it relates to any time the kingdom is offered./ But for the dispensationalist the issue always is what exactly do you mean by your term, “the kingdom”. No doubt Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and His coming had the potential for the establishment of a Messianic kingdom. But Jesus always seemed to operate under the divine knowledge and assumption that Israel would reject Him. John’s entire gospel was written from this divine perspective (John 1:11; 5:38-47). Chapters eleven (11) and twelve (12) of Matthew serve as a definitive break and separation from Israel – but are we to say that Jesus couldn’t anticipate His rejection, and previous to this teach accordingly? The fact that the Jews in general couldn’t understand His teachings concerning the kingdom of heaven indicate this very thing (Matt. 13:11-15). When the dispensationalist speaks of “any time the kingdom is offered”, I believe he is conveniently forgetting any understanding of the principle of creature responsibility, and how God tested this and proved man’s utter depravity. Also, I do not believe scripture paints the picture of Christ’s second advent as an offering of a Messianic kingdom. When He returns He changes the world by taking the power of it into His own hands. His two advents are not similar offerings of the Messianic kingdom; the principles of the two advents are quite different – His first advent was a coming in humiliation; His second advent will be one in power and glory; His first advent was a coming in goodness and grace; His return will be for judgments in righteousness.
(3) It also relates to life in the millennial kingdom./ This statement is entirely wrong. In the millennium enemies will be destroyed, and Israel will gain vengeance upon them. Is this taught in the Sermon? Also during the millennium Israel will not be asked to act in faith like the birds of the air or the lilies of the field – they will not be tempted to worry, if Jesus is present as Mediator and providing every blessing from God as Israel’s Melchizedek priest. But faith in the unseen, like the birds and lilies, is the walk of faith of Christians during the present dispensation. There is no need of faith in the unseen during the millennium – the time when every eye will see, and act accordingly.
(4) As with all scripture, the Sermon is applicable and profitable to believers in any age./ Here Dr. Ryrie gets his closest to being correct. However, most of the Sermon moves away from Judaism and the Jewish dispensation, so that it wasn’t for that age. And we have seen how different millennial principles will be from those taught in the Sermon, so that it really isn’t intended for that age either. No, the Sermon is primarily Christian teaching, and limited to the Christian dispensation, as it is argued throughout this entire article. Dr. Ryrie goes on to say, the dispensationalist views the primary fulfillment of the Sermon and the full following of its laws as related to either the offering or the establishing of the Messianic kingdom./ But this statement is nothing but error and shows a certain spiritual blindness to biblical principles. It shows a certain confusion of fundamental dispensationalism itself, of what I would call classical dispensationalism. If the majority of dispensationalists are characterized by this statement, then the whole dispensational system is in jeopardy, and has moved away from its original and sound fundamental roots.
The Jewish dispensation – the law is not of faith (Gal. 3:12), Judaism is a walk by sight and senses for the Jew. A theocratic kingdom in Israel, the presence of God behind the veil.
The Christian dispensation – matters of faith and mystery, seeing with the eye of faith, a walk by faith for the Christian. The kingdom of heaven, with the Father and Son in heaven and the Holy Spirit sent down to gather the church, and when it is complete to be taken to heaven.
The Millennial dispensation – where every eye will see, a walk by sight, judgments through God’s law establishing justice and righteousness in the earth. A Messianic kingdom for Israel restored in the land. The Son of Man ruling over all creation.
It should be noticeable that the only dispensation in which faith, mystery, the eye and walk of faith is distinguished and integral is the present Christian dispensation. If the law is not of faith, then neither is Judaism – this characterizes the Jewish dispensation. The principle of the future millennium is that every eye will see. This also is not a matter of faith. Many people think and teach that Israel or the end-time Jewish remnant will believe in Jesus Christ by faith before He returns. I don’t see this in scripture at all. They will believe when they see, when they look on Him whom they pierced (Zech. 12:10). May I remind you of the example of Thomas, or any of the other first disciples? They all came to faith by seeing the resurrected Christ (John 20). Although this same group formed the beginning of the church, they also characterized prophetically the end-time Jewish remnant. But believing without seeing characterizes the church, as well as the Christian dispensation. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus emphasizes a walk of faith for all the sons of the Father in heaven (Matt. 6:25-34).
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal – this is what the Jews do in their dispensation; to them it was a sign of favor and blessing from God, and Solomon would be an example. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” – this is what the Christian does in the Christian dispensation, showing that your heart is really in heaven, and not associated with anything on the earth (Matt. 6:19-24). Paul and Peter and John are the Christian example. This passage is another simple contrast that Jesus makes between Judaism and Christianity. There should be no doubt who the practical teachings in the Sermon on the Mount are for – they are for true Christians in the present dispensation who walk by faith.
But turning back to the Psalms it soon becomes obvious that the teachings found there are of a Jewish character, and do not express the proper feelings or hopes of the Christian/church. There is no crying out “Abba, Father,” no hint of drawing near to God behind the veil, no doctrine of the body of Christ and our membership one of another in it. Still more there isn’t found in the Psalms the distinctive love of Christ for His church, His bride for which He gave Himself. When the Psalms speak of salvation, it is always off in the future. It is a Jewish mix of soul and body, and is earthly, and usually refers to deliverance from enemies. The N.T. believer has salvation now in soul and spirit, and is waiting in perseverance for the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23-25). The Psalms abound with expressions proper for Israel of old, and for Israel in the last days, but quite unsuited and incongruous for the Christian. Are we to pray that our feet be dipped in the blood of our enemies? Are we to pray for God to bring vengeance on our enemies, that they would be confounded and troubled forever, and even to perish? The Psalms do not contain an adequate expression of the believer’s proper feelings – if they are applied to the Christian, it is a Judaizing effort and work.
Like the law, the Psalms are holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:12) – they are the righteous expressions of the end-time Jewish remnant in the day Jehovah is Himself judging the earth and the alive upon it. But now, during the Christian dispensation, God is showing the riches of His grace and longsuffering, not yet judging the habitable world in righteousness. Christians now are called to speak to themselves and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs – not from the Jewish Psalms, but from Christian doctrine.