The Root of the Problem

My previous post introduced the debate concerning who the “elect” refers to in the Bible. It was introduced because of how it relates to end times scripture and what it implies. I demonstrated that when the term, “elect” is wrongly manipulated to refer specifically to nationalistic Israel, it deceives the readers into believing that the church is nowhere to be found in Revelation following chapter 6. This nonsense is pushed to uphold a pre-trip eschatological view. However, the basis for this silly argument is much deeper than pre-trib eschatology. Pre-trib is merely the fruit of a much larger problematic tree. I’ve stayed away from it for a while to keep my focus on end times, only briefly mentioning it here and there, but it’s time to face it head on. There is no getting around the fact that pre-trib is a by-product of a theological system called Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is the stem, and just like its fruit, it too is faulty.  

Dispensationalism is a theological system that is meant to help you understand the Bible as a whole. Ironically, it does quite the opposite. Dispensationalism divides all of Biblical history into “dispensations” of time. The reason for this is because it claims that God deals with mankind differently throughout the ages. Each dispensation serves as a test for mankind to be faithful to God. Each test has a different “object of faith” and different penalties for those who fail. In other words, salvation in each dispensation is given to those who “pass the test” and have faith in God regarding the specific “content of faith” or circumstance present in their dispensation. There are some serious problems with this that we will dive into more shortly. 

Although there is some disagreement within specific dispensational camps, it is largely agreed that there are seven primary dispensations. They are:  

  1. The Dispensation of Innocence  
  1. The Dispensation of Conscience  
  1. The Dispensation of Human Government  
  1. The Dispensation of Promise  
  1. The Dispensation of Law  
  1. The Dispensation of Grace  
  1. The Dispensation of the Kingdom.    

Here is a general overview of each dispensation: 

The Dispensation of Innocence: 

The creation of the world marked the beginning of the dispensation of innocence. The commands of this dispensation, or the “content of faith” was to fill the earth with descendants, have dominion over all creation/care for it, and by all means, do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The punishment for disobedience regarding this “content of faith” was death, both physical and spiritual. As we all know, Adam and Eve sinned by eating from this tree. This marked the end of the dispensation of Innocence and began the next.  

The Dispensation of Conscience:  

Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden of Eden. They were, in a sense, left to fend for themselves. Nothing was going to be spoon fed to them. The human responsibility during this time is said to simply “do good” and offer blood sacrifices. Grace was extended to those who held to this precept. Apparently, the reason for this dispensation was to demonstrate that human conscience alone is not able to make us righteous or “good”. Mankind failed in this dispensation because they increasingly grew more wicked. The end result was God’s judgement of the wicked by way of the worldwide flood in Genesis 3 through 8.  

The Dispensation of Human Government: 

Since human conscience alone wasn’t good enough to point mankind in the right direction, human government was instituted in attempt to do so. Human government was established to restrain evil. Mankind, (Noah and his family) were instructed once again to populate the earth and have dominion over it. This was their primary responsibility for this dispensation. They were also told that they could now eat meat, and the wildlife would now fear them. However, they are not to kill another human being. Capital punishment would now be instituted to punish any offender of this command. (This is where the concept of “human government” comes from for this dispensation apparently) The dispensation of Human Government is said to last until the call of Abraham in Genesis 12. In chapter 11 we see how mankind failed this “test”. Mankind grew in number and did not scatter as instructed. They instead gathered together and began building the tower of Babel. Thus, their punishment was God confusing their languages, causing them to scatter.  

The Dispensation of Promise: 

 As mentioned, the dispensation of Promise began with the call of Abraham. It has been said regarding this dispensation, that it centers around Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob. During this dispensation God promises a number of things to Abraham that is repeated to Isaac and Jacob. Some of the highlighting promises are: 

  1. To make Abraham’s name great 
  1. From his line would come a great nation blessed by God 
  1. From this line, all the nations of the world will be blessed 

Abraham was also given a command: to dwell in Canaan. Abraham failed this dispensation because when famine came to the land of Canaan, he fled to Egypt and dwelt there. He did not trust God. Isaac, as well, was filled with flaws. He was a liar, like his father. He claimed that Rebeckah, his wife, was his sister for fear of being killed. Thus, Isaac failed in this dispensation as well. Jacob even more so failed. His name means “deceiver”, and he lived up to the name. Without a thought, he deceived his father to steal his brother’s blessing and he took advantage of his brother’s weakness to steal his birthright. The vileness only increased with his children. They were cruel and adulterous. They kidnapped their younger brother, Joseph, and sold him as a slave. They lied to their father, saying he had died. This family line was so full of drama. They all failed the requirements of the dispensation. In the end, God judged them by allowing them to be enslaved in Egypt. The dispensation ended with the call of Moses and the exodus of the Hebrew people out of Egypt. 

The Dispensation of Law: 

Once God decided the Hebrew people have served enough punishment as slaves in Egypt, He called Moses to be their deliverer. Upon freeing them, Moses led them to Mt Sinai, where he received the law from God. This marks the beginning of the Dispensation of Law. The Hebrew people’s responsibility during this dispensation was to keep the whole law. This included the 10 commandments, specific temple worship by priests, offering sacrifices, and further instructions given later by God’s prophets. The people all failed horribly, resulting in bondage and dispersion throughout the world.  

The Dispensation of Grace:  

This new dispensation comes over 400 years later with the arrival of Christ in the flesh. Upon His death and resurrection, Jesus institutes the covenant of grace. Man’s new responsibility during this dispensation is to believe in Christ. (how nice of them to finally include Him) Now, salvation comes from belief in Christ. Sacrifices are no longer needed. The Holy Spirit now indwells those who believe and comforts them. This will continue until the end of “the time of the gentiles” and Christ returns.  

The Dispensation of the Kingdom: 

For some reason, it has been determined that the dispensation of the Law will resume in the Dispensation of the Kingdom. Forget about Jesus. Glad we got him out of the way so we can focus on the law again. Sure, there are some modifications, but that’s essentially what dispensationalists assert. All the focus is back on the nation of Israel. Jews will begin sacrificing again, they will set up earthly priesthood, the Levites will once again be in the temple, and there will be rituals and feasts again. There is some reason to believe a version of this may take place. But to shift salvation away from Jesus again is quite a stretch. It is said that this dispensation is merely for the Jewish people to get what they deserve. The people allowed to enter the kingdom will be the faithful of all time. (Zechariah 14:16 debunks this entirely) All three of God’s people will be present: believers from the age of grace, Old Testament saints, and the surviving tribulation saints. Satan will be bound for 1000 years, and sin will be under tight grips. This dispensation will end at the conclusion of the 1000 years when satan is released, gathers a rebellion, and is ultimately wiped out. The world will be completely destroyed and God will create a new Heaven and New earth for the faithful to dwell in harmony with their creator.  

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” — 1 Corinthians 14:33     

Some truths take some work and extra digging to uncover. I don’t quote this scripture to excuse ignorance. Just because something is confusing, doesn’t mean that it’s not of God. However, dispensationalism is a boat load more complicated than the Bible itself and it does a great disservice to the simplicity of it. When you create unnecessary divisions within a connected narrative, you will begin to lose sight of the natural progression throughout. What you end up with is a complicated mess with no direction, just a bunch of boxes lined up with arbitrary items thrown into them. The natural outworking of the Biblical narrative is best described as God’s redemptive plan to save his people. That concept is completely lost with dispensationalism. In scripture we can observe clearly that God operates with mankind on the basis of covenants. The covenants God makes with mankind serve as the natural progressive stages of His redemptive story that all lead to their fulfillment in Christ. Christ is the centerpiece to God’s redemptive story. He is not merely a content of faith in this particular dispensation alongside other dispensations where there was a different content of faith by which people could be saved through. He is THE content of all faith by which people of all times were and are saved.  

My biggest problem with dispensationalism is that it greatly overlooks the coming of a future messiah prophesied about all through the Old Testament. We see the first prophesy of a coming messianic figure as early as Genesis 3, where the woman’s “seed” will crush the head of the serpent. That’s the first messianic promise! People had faith in God because there was always a promise from him to make all things right again. J. Barton Payne, a scholar of Biblical prophecy, found up to 574 verses in the Old Testament that either directly point to or refer to the coming Messiah. Not to mention, we also see “types” of the messiah all throughout the Old Testament as well that point to Him. All these prophesies throughout the ages become completely arbitrary if faith was found outside of them until Christ finally came in the flesh. It renders them meaningless. Dispensationalism keeps the story about man and takes the spotlight away from God and his redemptive plan. “Man needs to live by conscience. Man needs to “do good”. Man needs to govern themselves. Man needs to scatter. Man needs to stay in Canaan. Man needs to offer sacrifices. Jews need to follow the law to be God’s elect.” It is so man centric and loses sight of the big picture. Then they flip the switch at Christ and say it’s all about what He did for one dispensation, just to then revert it back to requiring works again during the dispensation of the Kingdom. There is no continuity. It’s just a jumbled mess! Even Jesus used the Old Testament scriptures to demonstrate how everything pointed to him. He says in Luke 24:25-27,  

“You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  

He also says in John 5:39,   

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” 

Dispensationalism assumes that Jesus’ audience here was in the right for not realizing that everything in the Old Testament pointed to Him. They were wrong. It was all clearly predicted, as Jesus states. They instead assert that since Jesus’ foretelling wasn’t enough, there must have been another content of faith by which people were saved by. There is no reason to think that the object of faith is anything outside of God’s redemptive plan by way of the promised Messiah. People have always had faith in God to do what he said BECAUSE of the hope they had in the promised messiah yet to come. Scripture has always pointed to Christ. This was the “object of faith” the patriarchs had faith in God for. That’s why, even though they all failed morally, their faith was counted unto them as righteousness.   

Furthermore, if all of Biblical history is just a series of tests, there would come a point where it would not be man that looks silly, but God, for thinking humanity has any chance at solving their own problems. What point is there for God to keep assigning tests to mankind after the fall? There is ZERO chance for mankind to redeem themselves. There was one initial test in the garden of Eden. The Edenic covenant was bilateral, meaning that it was conditional. Obviously, they failed. Every covenant that followed was a demonstration of God’s persistent love for mankind by preparing the way for the Lord, our ONLY savior and God’s only bulletproof solution.  

In response to the Edenic Covenant mankind broke, God’s response was making a new covenant with mankind: the Adamic Covenant. It was a unilateral/unconditional covenant promising that HE will redeem them and be victorious over Satan.  

God doubles down on this promise through the Noahic Covenant. God is just. He will punish the wicked. However, he will hold to his promise made in the Adamic Covenant and not destroy the entire world again with a flood. He is just, but he will restrain himself for the sake of mankind’s promised redemption.  

God is also faithful to his promises. He demonstrates this with the Abrahamic Covenant. The world has rejected him, however, Abraham was faithful and remembered God’s promise. He was NOT perfect. He failed God’s “tests” many times. However, he was faithful and loved God. Therefore, God blessed Abraham’s lineage and decided that it would be through his bloodline that the Messiah will come. God will bless those who bless he and his seed. He will curse those who curse he and his seed.  

Against all odds, Abraham and his wife bore a child, and his lineage began to multiply. They grew into a large people group. God further distinguished the line of Abraham by giving them His law. This is the Mosaic Covenant. But there is a unique characteristic of this covenant. It’s bilateral, as the original Edenic Covenant was. In other words, it’s another test. It’s the only other bilateral covenant we see God make with man in scripture. This makes it unique, right alongside the Edenic Covenant. However, in this covenant, the stakes are raised. It’s more than just obedience to God in terms of not eating from a tree. It’s obedience to God in every manner relating to morality. Moral perfection is the true standard. This once again begs the question, what purpose is there for another test when we know mankind has no chance? The simple answer is this: the law was not directly intended for us. It was intended for Christ, the Messiah. Galatians 3:19 says, 

“Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.”  

The law was given because of sin: the dividing force between God and mankind. It was added “until the seed” came. The mention of the term, “seed” directly points back to the Adamic Covenant where God promised that Eve’s “seed” would crush the head of the serpent. Christ’s perfect life, undeserving death, and glorious resurrection fulfilled the requirements of the law and granted him authority to create a new standard for righteousness based solely on belief in Him. The law guided us to Christ, but it was only established for Him to fulfill on our behalf; to do what we could not do because of our inherent sinful nature. Romans 3:19 says,  

“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” 

There is no salvation that comes by the law. Salvation only comes through Christ, who fulfilled the law on our behalf. Everything prior was merely a shadow of Christ. Hebrews 10:1 says, 

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”  

Where is the salvation for the Old Testament saints in trying to follow the law? Where is the salvation in offering endless sacrifices year after year? Nowhere! They were just shadows of Jesus. Jesus alone was, is and always will be the content of faith by which salvation is extended through.  

Dispensationalists use so much double speak to try to navigate around this simple fact directly contradicting their claims. One moment they are saying “doing good” or “offering sacrifices” are mankind’s sole responsibility to be afforded grace. They say works plus faith are required for salvation outside our current dispensation, but then the next moment they try to cover it up and say it has always been about grace through faith. This kind of back-and-forth reasoning is nonsense! This is not found in scripture. The Bible is a beautiful continuum centered around God’s redemptive plan of salvation; salvation that has always pointed to a Messianic figure we eventually come to know as Jesus Christ. I like the way Anthony Andrew Hoekema once said it: “Despite differences in administration, there is only one covenant of grace which God makes with his people. The Old Testament deals with the period of shadows and types, and the New Testament describes the period of fulfillment, but the covenant of grace in both of these eras is one.”  

The parrying dispensationalists have to do to avoid sounding like there are multiple ways for salvation is exhausting. It’s a problematic tree through and through. But then there is also the problem with them insisting that there are multiple peoples of God. I just know that I am going to catch some flak for saying it as it is. But it needs to be understood. I have a major issue with dispensationalism because it paints God as a polygamist. Yes, I said it, and I stand by it. Here’s why: 

Last post I began diving into who the elect of God is. Dispensationalists drive a wedge between the church and Israel, claiming that national Israel alone is “the elect”. I pushed back on that silly notion, but there is much more to be said. Dispensationalists claim that God has two programs; one for Israel (the elect), and one for the gentile church. Failing to recognize the overlap, they accuse Covenant Theologians of adhering to “Replacement Theology”: the belief that the church completely replaces Israel as God’s elect, and that God is through with Israel completely. Unavoidably, they insist on the absurd notion that there are two peoples of God. I have a simple question to push back on this claim. How does this resemble Biblical Marriage? The whole point of marriage is to reflect Christ’s relationship with the Church. How is that a pure image if God is still attached to his ex wife and intends to get back with her alongside his current wife? That image would literally look like an open polygamist marriage. That concept belongs in the darkest depths of Hell!  

On the flip side, to maintain the Biblical image of marriage, must we go to the other extreme and claim God replaced Israel? Must we fall to the other extreme that God divorced Israel and remarried his new bride, the church? Surely Not! That is equally detestable!  

Rather, we must heed the words of Paul in Romans 11 where he directly addresses this matter. Verses 1-5 says, 

“God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 

There is a distinction made in heaven – though maybe not easily distinguishable here on earth – between believing and unbelieving Israel. Paul makes this very evident. God has not punished unbelieving Israel in finality because of the believing remnant among them. It would be comparable to the parable of wheat and weeds seen in Matthew 13. Why does God not uproot the weeds growing alongside the wheat? Because if he were to do so, he would uproot the wheat as well before it is ready for harvest. Likewise, unbelieving Israel still grows alongside the remnant of believing Israel until the end. When the end comes, the goats will be separated from the sheep. In the meantime, make no mistake about the difference between the two. They do not share the same fate. Unbelieving Israel is not afforded the same destiny as believing Israel merely because of their blood. Paul continues this idea in verse 11, which says,  

“What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened.”  

Again, Paul makes a clear distinction between those who have obtained the promised inheritance and those who do not. Not all of Israel is afforded the promised inheritance. Those that do, find it in Christ through their belief in Him.  

This is nothing new. Whether it be faith in a future Messiah, present, or past, it is all the same. This is the tree Paul speaks of in the continuing passages. The church is not a new tree. There is no replacement church tree. Israel is not replaced. Israel is merely pruned of those who do not belong because they do not believe in Christ, and other wild branches (believing gentiles) are grafted in. Romans 11:16-21 says, 

“If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” 

First off, Paul is giving these gentile Christians a caution. He is cautioning them to not be arrogant and take for granted what has been offered to them: grace through their faith. Secondly, consider the picture this analogy is creating; who is true Israel here? Are the broken off branches true Israel? NO. The broken off branches were unbelieving Jews. They were illegitimate heirs. They were disinherited. This tree is not about blood, it’s about faith. Who does the trunk or the uncut original branches represent? The REMNANT OF BELIEVING JEWS! Has Israel been replaced by the church? NO! Are gentile believers, grafted into the tree by faith, now a part of the SAME tree? YES! If the root is holy, so are the branches! Where is the “two peoples of God” theology in that?! Ironically, if there were two peoples of God, the church WOULD have reason to boast. Our inheritance is spiritual and eternal, while Israel’s inheritance is earthly and temporary. It’s because we have been grafted to the already existing tree that we have no reason to boast. We are not our own entity, created through our own means. God’s pre-existing promises were extended to us and through faith or belief in Christ, we share in the inheritance.

Here is another issue dispensationalism causes with Paul’s analogy. Are the grafted in branches going to be plucked out at the end of days so that the original tree gets their “earthly inheritance” separately? Paul considers them to be one. There is one shared destiny between believing Israel and believing gentiles. There is one shared destiny between unbelieving Israel and unbelieving gentiles. Any other notion is utter nonsense and does not reflect scriptural truth.  

The covenantal promises of God are merely bigger than what anyone realized. They aren’t earthly in nature; they are eternal. Nothing physical is eternal. Therefore, there is only one logical way God holds to his promises: the spiritual line of Christ. This is not moving away from Israel. Christ fulfilled everything on Israel’s end for them, that all may come to believe in Him. Christ was the only true Israelite who upheld the Mosaic Law perfectly. He did not break the covenant. He is the only one worthy of the inheritance. He’s the only one who can open the scroll of God, (representing God’s will). God owes national Israel NOTHING! Jesus Christ is the only one owed anything, and he is extending his inheritance as the first-born son to all those who repent of their sins and believe in him, becoming his adopted sons and daughters.  

Imagine that your father was going away on a business trip, and he promised to give you $100 when he returns. Let’s say when he gets back, he hands you $1000. Are you going to complain? No! That’s ten times greater than you thought it was going to be. Secondly, do you think you have any right to hold out and demand that your father gives you an additional $100 to keep to his promise? NO! That’s foolish! You got that and more! What added glory or blessing is there in a temporary earthly inheritance compared to an eternal spiritual inheritance?  

There is no more inheritance left over for anyone else that has not already been handed over to Christ. He is the faithful remnant. He is the only true Israelite. He is the king in the line of David who will always sit on the throne. His line will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore. His line will have rulers of many nations. His blood fulfills it all. National Israel served its purpose, but outside of Christ it serves no more. Outside the tree of Faith, cut down, it serves no more purpose than to be thrown into the fire. Faithful believing Israel and faithful believing gentiles are the only recipients of the inheritance Christ alone earned. He alone is the root. If the root is holy, so are its branches.  

There was need for the covenant of grace because no one besides Christ adhered to the bilateral Mosaic Covenant perfectly. All but Christ has been disinherited. Hebrews 8:7-10, and 12-13 says, 

“For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he says, behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not regard them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be my people, When he said, a new covenant, he has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.  

The author of this passage points to an Old Testament reference of a future new covenant. Just try to tell me this isn’t talking about the New Covenant Christ made! “I will put my laws into their minds and I will write them on their hearts.” The Holy Spirit does this for us! This is a Jewish promise to which gentiles are also grafted into by faith. There is no replacement here. We have simply been joined together under Christ. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says,   

“The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  

The apostle Paul, as we discussed last post, regularly referred to gentile believers as the elect. He also considered all non-believers as “Gentiles”. (See 1 Corinthians 5:1; Ephesians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:5). It’s very possible that Peter did, too. It’s likely that Peter’s audience here was gentile. He is seen here repeating an Old Testament reference where God called Israel “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession”. This is repeated to those who, by faith, have been grafted in.   

There is only one bride of Christ. Not two, and not three, with the later addition of “tribulation saints” dispensationalists also try to tie in. There is only one, unified under Christ. This complicated mess called dispensationalism needs to be put to rest. And thank the Lord that it is. I’m pretty sure that there has been little to no activity from major publishing companies to write a scholarly defense of dispensationalism for many years now. Teachers and pastors all over the globe are starting to go back to their roots, realizing that it’s a sham. They are realizing that for generations before Scofield and Darby polluted Christian circles in the 1800s, we were already rightly dividing the Word. I thank the Lord that we are moving away from multiple “objects of faith” and multiple peoples of God. That simply can’t fly.  

“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15 

Please heed these words as well and study to show yourself approved. Don’t simply rely on the studies of others to admire how much they look approved to you. You don’t know their intentions or motives. Focus on getting to know God and understanding His Word for yourself so that one day you don’t have to find out that your favorite theologian, who you put so much spiritual reliance on, let you down and causes you to be ashamed. It’s the sad reality many of us in this digital age may find ourselves falling into if we get lazy in our studies. We are students of the Word till the very end. Get to the root of the problem yourself and trust God’s perfect, Holy, inerrant Word to do so.

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