Are You a Dispensationalist?

Here is my attempt to answer this question in an article posted at Christianity.com. I wrote this about eight years ago—so it’s not as nuanced as something I might write today (i.e., I’m so much smarter now, blah blah blah)—but it’s a good representation of where I’m at on the question. In addition, here is a response to my article by non-dispensationalist Nathan Pitchford. The editor of Christianity.com invited me to write a rejoinder to Pitchford’s response, but my schedule would not allow. If you’re looking for the best available explanation of the core elements of dispensationalism, see Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths by Dr. Michael J. Vlach (Theological Studies Press, 2008), which I reviewed here. It will help you answer the question of whether you yourself are a dispensationalist.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. I wonder what your response would have been. :-)

    His main objection seems to be: if Gentiles are grafted into the blessings of the fathers, they must also be the recipients of the land promises, and dispensationalism doesn’t teach that, but that the land promises are for Israel only. Would you mind commenting on that? I’d love to hear your answer.

    • Mike,

      I’m not answering for Matt but I do think Pitchford’s juxtaposition is unwarranted. In other words I think his premise is based on a false dichotomy. Why can’t Israel experience salvation in the Messiah, be returned to the land, AND the Church be blessed by all the above?

      Matt might say something to the tune of “because the Bible teaches that Israel will be restored to the land again and again and again” is why he believes the land promises are not to be spiritualized-applied to the Church. Is there any dispensationalist today that is arguing that Israel’s restoration will have no spiritual or kingdom blessing on those grafted in? On this very point, Robert Saucy writes, “This perfected spiritual relationship will then issue in a fullness of material blessing that befits the created spiritual-material nature of human beings and their environment” (The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, 119).

      It’s seems that the assumption of these type of questions rests on this idea that Gentiles will be miserable in the Kingdom while Israel is having the party of a lifetime or that there will be separate water fountains for the two groups. This is not representative of those writing and talking about these issues since the invention of the internet.

      Blessings all,
      PSL

      • Thanks for your answer, Paul. I appreciate you taking the time, but I also realize that I’m not understanding as much as I ought. Would we say, then, that we do spiritualize the Abrahamic blessings for the Church, but at the same time regard them as literally true for Israel as well?

        Thanks for your patience.

      • Mike,

        I guess the confusion comes with terms like “spiritualized” which I used as an example. What I mean by “spiritualized” is the unwarranted leap of those who say that material covenant promises (e.g., land) are now fulfilled in some sort of spiritual way by the Church, etc. We’re not talking about a debate over one or two passages but numerous passages. Is there anything in any of those contexts that indicates that they should not be taken literally AND are there passages in the NT which now show that covenant promise (i.e., of land) is now fulfilled in some way by the Church? No to both.

        To answer your question: do we spiritualize the Abrahamic blessings for the Church? There are promises that are both physical and spiritual and the context should dictate how one interprets either. There are land promises (literal not spiritual) and there are promises of blessing for all nations. As the covenants develop and revelation progresses we see that this land promise is never overturned but only strengthened and we see that the blessing promise is a deep spiritual work which ultimately looks to the spiritual work of the New Covenant.

        Does this answer your question? If I’m not clear let me know. Thanks for your interaction Mike.

        blessings,

      • What Paul said.

        mw

        P.S. We’re moving this weekend, so I’m up to my eyeballs in boxes and various things that don’t fit into boxes, so I’ll have to sit this one out. But that’s just as well, because PSL obviously has a clear handle on the issue.

  2. Dispensationalist? If by that term you are staying that Revelation is future, then I am? If you say Israel is in the future plan of God then the answer is yes. If you say there is a 1000 year future with Christ? Then the answer is yes.

  3. Paul, thanks again for taking the time. This is helping, and it’s becoming clearer. For the record, I come down on the dispensational side of things. I just have some good friends who are considering CT pretty thoroughly, and so I’m trying to see everything from both sides so I can (1) know why I believe what I do and (2) answer my friends helpfully.

    I see your point about physical blessings being fulfilled literally (the land), and spiritual blessings that are fulfilled via Christ and the New Covenant. My question is, if the land is promised to Abraham’s descendants (Gen 15:18), and all who believe are called descendants of Abraham (Rom 4:13-18; Gal 3:29), why shouldn’t the Church expect to share in the land promise? Or should we? And if we should, in what sense should we?

    • Mike,

      I think it’s a good question. Again, we have to define what we mean by “share” in reference to the land promise. I personally believe that this land promise will be granted it’s fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. If we read the many passages of the OT, especially the prophets, where Israel is dwelling in the land securely (for eternity I might add) we also see that their obedience is a blessing to the nations.

      Isaiah 43 and 55 point us in this direction. So what benefit is Israel’s restoration and salvation? For one, a reoccurring them in all these passages is the Lord saying, “for My glory” (Isa 43:7) which will center on the Davidic Messiah King. We also see that their reestablishment is viewed as a covenant witness (Isa 43:9, 12; 55:4) or a memorial to the Lord due to His covenant faithfulness (Isa 55:13). In Isaiah 60 we see that Israel’s restoration will be a rich blessing (physically and spiritually; see also Isa 61:3-11; Joel 2:21-27; 3:18-21; Micah 7:14ff) not only for them but to the nations who love the Lord.

      I think this only scratches the surface of your question. There may be a journal article or chapter that articulates this more fully. When I have a spare moment I will see what I can find. Someone else reading this may also know of something.

      Blessings to you,

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