In this episode, I discuss dispensationalism, it’s definition and background, as we prepare to embark on a series about the Kingdom.
What is Dispensationalism?
“Dispensationalism is an evangelical theological system that addresses issues concerning the biblical covenants, Israel, the church, and end times. It also argues for a literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecies involving ethnic/national Israel, and the idea that the church is a New Testament entity that is distinct from Israel.” – Michael J. Vlach, PhD.
A “literal interpretation”
Dispensationalism argues for a “literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecies involving ethnic/national Israel, and the idea that the church is a New Testament entity that is distinct from Israel.” If ethnic, national Israel will one day in the future receive the fulfillment of the land promise from Abraham, it will, by default, not include those of the church who are not part of ethnic Israel: thus creating a distinction.
When thinking about the covenants, Dispensationalists claim that “the New Testament does not transcend or reinterpret Old Testament passages or the storyline that began in the Old Testament.” What this means, then, is that every promise or covenant made in the OT that has not yet been fulfilled literally in the NT will be fulfilled in the future. With Israel, then, dispensational theology claims that since the promise of land and Israel’s role among the nations has not been fulfilled up to this point. The NT does not spiritualize or reinterpret that covenant, rather it will be fulfilled in a literal sense in the future. This is opposite to what many in the reformed, or covenant, theological system claim.
Vlach writes, “While affirming that salvation has always been by grace through faith alone, Dispensationalism teaches that God has worked in different ways in different eras of history. Dispensationalism often taught that the various dispensations involved a test for mankind, a failure, and then a judgment. This then would be followed by another dispensation. These seven dispensations are (1) innocence; (2) conscience; (3) human government; (4) promise; (5) law; (6) grace; and (7) kingdom.”
Essential teachings of Dispensational Theology
Charles Ryrie writes, “(1) a distinction between Israel and the church; (2) a hermeneutic of “literal interpretation” to all areas of scripture including Old Testament prophecies; and (3) the glory of God as the underlying purpose of God in history.”
Source: Vlach, Michael J. “Dispensational Theology.” The Gospel Coalition, edited by Brett McCracken, 9 Apr. 2020, www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/dispensational-theology/.
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