Dispensationalism – Categorized Scripture List

Used with permission from the author.

By Nathan Pitchford

Introduction

Dispensationalism is basically the method of interpreting the scriptures that sees two distinct peoples of God, with two distinct destinies: Israel and the Church. In various forms and among various groups, this idea has had a widespread influence – but is it biblical? Following is a select list of tenets that many contemporary mainstream Dispensationalists would hold to, and a list of scripture passages that address these tenets. The list of distinctives represents a wide segment of popular Dispensational teachings; however, Dispensationalism is by no means a monolithic entity, and many self-professed Dispensationalists, particularly in the Progressive school, would not adhere to many of its points.

  1. The Church is not the continuation of God’s Old Testament people, but a distinct body born on the Day of Pentecost.
  2. The Church is never equated with Israel in the New Testament, and Christians are not Jews, true Israel, etc.
  3. The prophecies made to Israel in the Old Testament are not being fulfilled in the Church, nor will they ever be.
  4. The Church does not participate in the New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament; it is for ethnic Israel, and will be established in a future millennial kingdom.
  5. The Old Testament saints were saved by faith alone, on the basis of the Calvary-work of Christ alone; however, the object of their faith was not Christ, but rather the revelation peculiar to their dispensation.
  6. The Old Testament saints did not know of the coming “Church Age,” of the resurrection of Christ, or basically, of what we today call the gospel.
  7. When Jesus came to earth, he offered the Jews a physical kingdom, but they rejected him.
  8. When Jesus proclaimed “the gospel of the Kingdom,” it was the news about how ethnic Jews might enter and find rewards in this physical kingdom, and is to be distinguished from the gospel as defined in I Corinthians 15:3-4, which the apostles later proclaimed to the church.
  9. After the Jews rejected Jesus’ kingdom offer, he inaugurated a parenthetical “Church Age,” which will be concluded immediately before God again takes up his dealings with his national people, ethnic Israel.
  10. During the “Church Age,” Jesus is not reigning from the throne of David; he is engaged instead in his priestly work, and his kingly work will take place in the future millennial kingdom.
  11. At some unspecified but imminent time, Jesus will return (but not all the way to earth, just to the air) and rapture his Church, also called his Bride; for the following seven years, they will feast with him at the marriage supper of the Lamb; meanwhile, on earth, he will begin to deal with his national people, ethnic Israel, again, calling them to himself and preserving them in the midst of seven years of great tribulation; at the midpoint of which, the Antichrist will set himself up as god in the rebuilt Jewish temple, and demand worship from the world.
  12. After these seven years, Christ will return, this time all the way to earth. He will defeat the forces of evil, bind Satan and cast him into a pit, and inaugurate the physical Jewish Kingdom that he had offered during his life on earth. The Jews who survived the tribulation will populate the earth during this blessed golden era, and the Christians will reign spiritually, in glorified bodies.
  13. After these thousand years, Satan will be released and will gather an army from the offspring of the Jews who survived the tribulation. He will be finally defeated and cast into hell. At this time, the wicked dead will be resurrected and judged, whereas the righteous dead had already been resurrected one-thousand-seven years previously, at the rapture. Christ will then usher in the New Heavens and New Earth, and the destinies of all mankind will be finalized. Dispensationalists are divided as to whether or not there will remain a distinction between Christians and Jews in the New Earth.

Scriptures

The People of God

  1. From the beginning, God selected one people alone, from all the earth.
  2. Deu 7:6; 10:15; 14:2; Isa 41:8-9

  3. This people would belong to him forever.
  4. 1Ki 6:13; 1Ch 17:9; Isa 60:19-21

  5. He would cast off, or exile this people for a time, for covenant unfaithfulness.
  6. Deu 28:63-68; 2Ki 17:20-24; 2Ch 36:13-21; Hos 1:4-6, 9

  7. However, he would then gather them together again, and restore them.
  8. Deu 30:4-9; Isa 10:21-23; Hos 1:7, 10-11; Amo 9:11

  9. When he restored them, he would also expand them, forming them anew from every people on earth.
  10. Isa 2:1-3; 11:9-16; 19:23-25; 24:13-15; 42:4-12; 49:1-12; 51:5; 60:1-9; 66:10-24; Hos 2:23; Zec 2:10-13; Mal 1:11

  11. The New Testament Church is the continuation of this one people.
  12. Act 15:12-17; Rom 9:23-26; 11:11-32 [Whether or not one sees a future for ethnic Israel in this passage is beside the point: in any case, there is only one people of God, represented by the one olive tree. Believing Gentiles have been grafted into this one tree, and unbelieving Jews broken off; but when they are grafted back in, it will be the same tree into which the Gentiles were grafted, God’s only people, true Israel.]; Gal 3:7-8, 13-14; Eph 2:11-22; 3:5-6

  13. Hence, New Testament believers are called Jews, Abraham’s seed, etc.
  14. Rom 2:28-29; 4:11-12; 9:6-8; Gal 3:6-7, 26-29; 4:21-31; Gal 6:16 [The Greek conjunction may mean either “and” or “even”/“namely”; hence the context must determine the meaning. If it is taken in the sense of “and,” so that “the Israel of God,” is a different body from the Church, then Paul is contradicting himself and undermining the whole point he has been making throughout his letter! However, if it means “even,” then the clear assertion that those who follow the “rule” of boasting only in the cross are in fact “the Israel of God,” becomes a very fitting conclusion, and reiterates all that he has been teaching.]; Phi 3:3; Heb 12:22-24; 1Pe 2:9-12 [Some have said that these Jewish terms are applied to the Church by way of analogy, not identification. However, when Peter goes on to speak of these believers (some of whom are ethnic Gentiles) in contrast with the “Gentiles,” he makes it clear that he actually is intending to refer to them as “Jews,” the well-known opposite of “Gentiles”.]; Rev 2:9

The Fulfillment of Prophecy

  1. The true heir of the Old Testament promises is not ethnic Israel, but only Christ, the one Seed of Abraham.
  2. Gal 3:16

    • Thus, everyone who is in Christ, which includes all believers, is a descendant of Abraham and an heir of the promises made to him.
    • Gal 3:28-29

  3. The true fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies is frequently indicated in the New Testament.
    • The prophecy of restoring Israel was fulfilled by the calling of the Gentiles to be God’s people.
    • Act 15:13-18 (quoting Amos 9:11-12); Rom 9:22-26 (quoting Hosea 1:10; 2:23) [The verses that Paul is quoting from Hosea are clearly speaking of “the house of Israel,” and say that she will be cast off, and no longer God’s people; but then restored, and God’s people again. Paul is here saying that this restoration of Israel as God’s people is being fulfilled by God’s calling out a people “not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles”.]

    • The prophecy of the New Covenant, made “with the house of Israel” (see Jeremiah 31:31-34), is fulfilled in the New Testament Church.
    • Heb 8:6-13; 10:14-18; Mat 26:26-28; Mar 14:22-24; Luk 22:19-20; 1Co 11:23-25; 2Co 3:5-6

    • Some other prophecies and types interpreted in the New Testament
    • Mat 2:14-15 (quoting Hosea 11:1) [In context, Hosea is clearly referring to Israel; hence, Matthew sees Jesus as the true Israel, and the antitype of Israel’s history.]; Mat 17:10-13 (referring to Malachi 4:5); Joh 2:19-22 [Not only does Jesus here equate the Old Testament temple imagery with his own body, by means of which the presence of God truly was brought down to man; but furthermore, John explains that believing this Christ-centered interpretation was in fact to believe the Old Testament scriptures themselves.]; Act 2:14-21 (quoting Joel 2:28-32) [Most Dispensationalists will say that this prophecy is referring to Jesus’ second coming, as their hermeneutic demands; but Peter clearly declares that it is being fulfilled in this age.]; Act 2:25-32 (quoting Psalm 16:8-11); Acts 2:33-36 (quoting Psalm 110:1); Rom 4:13-17 (quoting Genesis 17:5) [According to Paul, the promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations was fulfilled when he became the father of all those who believed, from all the Gentile peoples.]; Gal 4:22-31 (quoting Isaiah 54:1 and Genesis 21:10); Heb 9:1-12 (interpreting the symbolism of the tabernacle and its worship services)

      [When one allows God himself to interpret the meaning of his prophecies through later revelation, it becomes impossible to employ a naturalistic, Dispensational hermeneutic. Dispensationalists claim to have a literal hermeneutic, taking prophecies in a simple, material sense unless the immediate context demands otherwise. The problem with this approach is that it arrives at interpretations which are later contradicted by the New Testament. In opposition to this principle, Covenant Theologians recognize the validity of “the analogy of faith,” that is, that the best interpreter of scriptures is other scriptures. The hermeneutic which allows the Author to foreshadow spiritual realities through physical means, and later interpret them in clear, didactic writing, is actually a more natural and literal hermeneutic than one which demands a physical/material sense unless an immediate absurdity arises thereby, even when other scriptures contradict this physical/material sense. The basic question is this: will our hermeneutic allow God to explain himself, or will it allow our own human understanding of what is more literal to negate the interpretation of God himself?]

  4. Those to whom the Old Testament promises were first made understood them to mean more than the merely physical.
  5. Heb 11:9-10, 13-16, 17-19, 24-26, 39-40

The Faith of Old Testament believers

  1. The Old Testament saints believed in Christ.
  2. Gen 3:14-15, 21; 4:3-5 [In these passages, we have all the elements of the basic gospel message: God would send a Deliverer, born of a woman, who would crush the serpent’s head, but be mortally wounded in the conflict. That he would be ultimately victorious demands a resurrection. This gospel message was illustrated in God’s killing an innocent animal to cover man’s shame; and in Abel’s blood sacrifice, we see an indication of his understanding of these basic truths.]; Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth [lit., “arise upon the dust”]. [Throughout the Book of Job, probably the first canonical scriptures ever written, the expression “to be upon the dust” (“lie down upon the dust,” etc.) clearly means, “to die” (see Job 17:16; 20:11; 21:26; 34:15). Hence, the phrase, “to arise upon the dust” means, “to rise from the dead”.]; Isa 53:1-12 [Even in the New Testament, there is no clearer declaration of the gospel than we find here.]

  3. The New Testament authors recognized that the Old Testament saints knew of Christ.
  4. Act 2:25-31 (quoting Psalm 16:8-11); Joh 8:56; Mat 13:17; Luk 24:25-27; Act 26:22-23; 1Pe 1:10-12

The Kingdom of God

  1. Christ announced the arrival of the Kingdom, he did not merely “offer” it.
  2. Mat 4:17; 11:11-12; 12:28 [Jesus did cast out demons; therefore, according to him, the Kingdom had already come.]; Mat 16:18-19 [Here, the establishment of the Church is seen in parallel with entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.]

  3. If Christ had truly been offering a physical Kingdom, the Jews would not have rejected it.
  4. Joh 6:15

  5. Christ and the apostles spoke of the Kingdom as one that now has only a spiritual presence, in our midst.
  6. Luk 17:20-21; Joh 18:36-37; Rom 14:17

  7. The Church today is the Kingdom, and Christians are Kingdom citizens.
  8. Mar 9:1 [Since the entire generation alive when Christ was on earth has died, the Kingdom must have come already; therefore, it cannot be a future, thousand-year reign.]; 1Co 4:20 [The power that Paul was speaking of was already operative in the Church, as the context makes clear; therefore, the Church was to him essentially the same as the Kingdom.]; Col 1:13; Rev 1:5-6, 9

  9. Christ sent the apostles out to proclaim the same gospel of the kingdom that he had proclaimed.
  10. Mat 24:14

  11. This the apostles did.
  12. Act 8:12; 20:24-25; 28:23, 30-31

  13. Christ is now reigning from the throne of David.
  14. Act 2:30-36; 1Co 15:20-28; Eph 1:18-23; Heb 1:8

The Millennium

  1. The rapture of the Church will occur after the revealing of the “Son of Perdition,” whom most Dispensationalists believe to be the Antichrist.
  2. 2Th 2:1-5 [Most Dispensationalists say that this sitting in the Temple will occur at the midpoint of the tribulation; hence, the rapture of the Church cannot take place at least until the second half of the tribulation (in the Dispensational scheme).]

    • The rapture is called a “meeting” in the air, which was originally a technical term used of the procession that would come out of a city to greet a visiting dignitary, and escort him immediately back to the city, in great splendor; and later came to be used when one would go out to meet a person, and then follow him along the way in which he was already going; hence, the term likely indicates that the rapture will be a similar event, in which the saints are gathered up to meet Jesus, and follow immediately behind him as he continues on to judge the earth.
    • 1Th 4:14-18; Act 28:14-15; Mar 14:13; Act 16:16-17

  3. The rescue of the church and the eternal destruction of the wicked will occur at the same time.
  4. 2Th 1:6-10; Mat 24:29-31; 25:31-46; 1Co 15:51-57; 2Pe 3:3-14 [Here, immediately before the dissolution of the heavens and earth in fervent heat, people are saying that all things are continuing in the same way they always have; which could not be said following all the events of Dispensational eschatology. Furthermore, the delay is intended to bring in the full measure of those who should repent and be added to the Church, and also provides a basis for Peter’s exhortation to contemporary believers to be watchful, looking for this final, catastrophic day. He does not exhort us to be watchful for the appearing of Christ as that which rescues us from the earth, but leaves one-thousand-seven years of history afterward; but for the appearing of Christ as that which brings the final destruction of the world.]

  5. The resurrection of the righteous dead and the wicked dead will occur at the same time.
  6. Dan 12:1-2; Joh 5:28-29

  7. Revelation chapter twenty must be interpreted in light of its genre:
    • Revelation is a book full of symbolic visions and numbers.
    • Rev 1:4 [Unless there are literally seven Holy Spirits, the reader has to acknowledge a symbolic use of numbers here.]; Rev 1:20; 17:9-12

    • In other places in Revelation, the final consummation of all history has already been reached; therefore, chapter twenty is likely another “recapitulation,” a different symbolic way of describing the New Testament era, followed by a description of the end of history.
    • Rev 11:15-19; 14:14-16; 16:17-21; 19:11-21

    • The “first resurrection” corresponds well with other New Testament teaching on the present resurrection life of believers.
    • Rom 6:3-4; Gal 2:20; Col 3:1-3; 1Jo 3:14; Eph 2:4-6; Col 2:11-12

    • The binding of Satan corresponds well with related New Testament teaching.
    • Mat 12:26-29; Luk 10:17-18; Joh 12:31-33; 16:8-11; Heb 2:14-15

    • The more obscure, apocalyptic visions of John should be interpreted in light of the clearer, didactic epistles of the New Testament, which we have already examined.

This is available in booklet form from Monergism Books: What the Bible Says About the People of God – A Categorized Scripture List

Online PDF version here

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