Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Atheist Advantage

Let's say you have a population of Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Evangelicals in a school and they wanted to be fair and not show favortism to one particular group. You could negotiate having Winter break to cover Christmas and Hanukkah. You could include Muslim holidays as vacations. Perhaps have clergy from each at the school for support.  For the sake of argument, what if our nations population consisted of only these four groups? As far as the laws of the land go, we wouldn't give preference to any particular religion's ideas, in order to be fair. Take for instance marriage. For Evangelicals, divorce is allowed only on 2 grounds - one of which is adultery. We would not enforce that particular rule on everyone else b/c it is Evangelical specific. In order to be fair, the four groups would have to come up with various compromises.

Now, let us consider the example of atheism/secular humanism/(radical) liberalism. This/These group(s) have their own specific philosophical ideologies, which I disagree with (obviously), however they have a benefit that the other aforementioned groups do not have and what I like to call "The Atheist Advantage." Though atheists have their own unique ideas, they can promote them in schools and government under the guise of "fairness" and "tolerance" b/c they are not a formal religion! Atheist's have their own creation story (evolution), own ethics (marriage), definition of life (abortion), and obviously their own metaphysic (materialism).

So using our previous example, let's add on Atheists to the Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical bunch. In schools and government, the push for evolution, marriage ethics, contraception (to a lesser degree), and prayer all just happen to benefit atheists. There is no compromise that I see and they are certainly not compromising their own beliefs, yet they want the rest of us to submit under their personal beliefs when they detest the idea of having our ideas become law. I think they would be angry if one groups agenda was being pushed all the way in the name of "tolerance", but they have no problem pushing their ideas on the rest.

To make this clearer, let's take Christians vs Atheists beliefs:

Christian: Traditional Marriage vs Atheists: Homosexual Marriage

Christian: Intelligent Design vs Atheists: Evolution

Christian: Pro-Life vs Atheists: Pro-Choice

The big difference between these two groups is that Christians believe in absolute truth and that marriage is between man and woman (no exceptions) and that life begins at conception. That is why it is so hard for us to budge on these topics and we are not ashamed to do so. Atheists however do not tout absolute truth, but (from what I hear anyway) is to make laws based on "tolerance, equality, and fairness" for all groups. However, as someone who holds very different views from them, it looks like they are not wanting "equality and fairness:"rather total domination. I do believe there should be compromise, for instance, I believe that homosexuals should be allowed to have civil unions and that one's partner (homosexual or straight) should be able to make health care decisions. I also believe that evolution should be taught in schools, but not as dogmatic truth (I wouldn't necessarily push teaching intelligent design even!). As for the topic of abortion there should be contraception education in schools and not just abstinence education, but furthermore there is also room for more discussions (banning 3rd trimester abortions, abortions in the case of endangerment of the mother's life, etc.). The thing that bothers me the most and the main thrust of this entry, is to point out that although atheists are promoting their own personal ideology onto the public, they are not perceived as pushing their personal beliefs b/c they are not part of an organized religion. This is what I call "The Atheist Advantage,"a benefit that neither Jews, Muslims, Roman Catholics, or Evangelicals enjoy.

[Note: Not all atheists of course, as there are many civil and open minded ones and I personally have had many fruitful discussions. Besides, I'm sure there are a number of atheists who have been bothered by a couple of evangelicals (yes, I'm including myself - sorry!)]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This post has been long in coming.  How can a theological blog named "The Predestined Blog" not have an entry on predestination you ask?  Well the wait is finally over! Okay, I am fully aware that I am might be the only one that is excited.  Anyways, on with the important information!

There are just so so many blogs, articles, and books on this topic that I wanted to avoid simply repeating many of the arguments you can find easily via a google search.  What I think would be helpful and the the goal of this entry would be to talk about the ways to approach the topic of predestination.  In this post we will be discussing theological determinism and not physical/scientific determination.  The question of free will in the physical sciences would be if the unchangeable laws of physics determine what molecules will do, how can humans genuinely have free will?  This is also known as LaPlaceian or Russellian determinism, but we won't cover that here. 

1) What does the Bible say?

For Christians, the Bible is the ultimate authority and whatever it says is truth.  So it is of paramount importance to find out what the Bible says.  We know very well that Calvinists and Arminians have been discussing this for centuries and both sides use different verses to support their views.  In short, after reading numerous books, articles, and debates what both sides boil down to is this:

Calvinists want to glorify God by proclaiming He is the ruler and sovereign of all things

Arminians want to glorify God by proclaiming that He has nothing to do with free agents going to Hell

So what verses should we look at?  This is where having a good approach is critical.

a) We need to examine verses that directly address the issue of predestination and not verses we can only make inferences from.

This does not mean we do not take into consideration the other verses, only that the verses that directly tackle the topic should take priority over the others in this discussion.

b) It is not our responsibility to reconcile predestination and free will.

This is a very difficult topic.  If they Bible teaches predestination and free will so be it!  If you are not smart enough to reconcile the two it is not God's fault, especially when there are millions of books that beautifully do reconcile the two.  All sarcasm aside, if we can determine that the Bible does support predestination then it is true, regardless of our intellectually ability to do so.  Astrophysics or organic chemistry are still true whether we can do them or not.

Pertinent Bible Verses:

Proverbs 20:24
Man's steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?

Psalm 139: 16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them

Acts 4:27"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

Revelation 17:8"The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come

Ephesians 1: 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

Romans 8:29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

It is pretty evident that the Bible supports predestination especially when the word "predestined" is in there.  Okay, yes I know English is not the original language, however both the OT and NT supports the idea that God made concrete plans before the world began and that those plans come to fruition in the world.

Now a favorite trick critics tend to play is at this point to quote a millions verses describing man having free will and that they are culpable for their own sins.  DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRICK.  Remember, the questions is about predestination, not man's free will.  If the Bible supports both so be it. It is not our responsibility right now to reconcile the two (but we'll do that later).

2) Theory of Relativity

As a scientist (okay yes in biology, but I digress) this has influenced my thinking on the subject of predestination.  How so?  Well thanks to Einstein we know that time and space are relative.  Simply put, depending on your frame of reference, what you perceive as 1 sec or 1 centimeter is not the same to someone in a different frame of reference (ie the same event can be 1 hour and 1 meter to you!)  And you guys thought God's decree and man's choice was weird!  To further complicate the issue the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics are not reconcilable though both have been rigorously tested and are accurate in their respective spheres.  Relativity works incredibly well at a grand scale (think outer space) and quantum mechanics works well at a small scale (think subatomic), however scientists are unable to unify/reconcile them. 

What's the point of all this?  It is that we simply do not have the metaphysical laws and principles to determine the impossibility of foreordination, man's choice, and culpability (FMCC) (more on this later).  Who would've imagined 150 years ago that time and space were relative and not absolute?  God is telling us that it is in fact possible for Him to decree things, yet man be free and culpable.  Just as the theory of relativity has its scientific laws to explain it, FMCC has its metaphysical laws via the Bible, that explains it. 
Just ponder this:
a) God is a being that no laws of science can bind b/c He is a spiritual being ie scientific laws govern only the physical universe.
b) We have no idea if God exists in time (let alone what his frame of reference is) and how it affects Him.

Arminians love to say "If God predestined things, man cannot have genuine free will," however from what we have seen, they do not have enough metaphysical data to support that view.   Besides, I believe that view does not encompass the current understanding of the relativity of time and is rooted in a poor and outdated point of view of the universe and philosophy.
Conclusion: The Bible clearly supports predestination and free will and with all this taken together, we can conclude that we cannot strictly say that FMC is impossible from our frame of reference/point of view.

3) Types of Will: People do not have the same definitions of free will

I think it is important for us to ask ourselves what is free will?  In this topic, one mistake I often find is that people assume they know what free will is, but when you ask them to articulate what it is, they are at a loss. That is because freedom is a very ambiguous term and as you might have guessed it is a very intellectually rigorous idea to study.  We must ask and clarify how does one define free will and provide a defense.  Let us examine some of the different views on what the will is.

a) Libertarian Free Will

This idea of the will states that all the events in the world that lead up to a point, combined with all the laws of science and metaphysics do not guarantee one possible choice.[1]  No matter how strong the influences, you could always change your mind.  Nothing can decisively incline the will.

Nozick and Kane believe two key requirements of this idea are agent control and alternative possibilities [1]

This is the enemy of predestination!  However, we shall see that it is neither the only viable option, but is chocked full of incoherencies. 

b) Compatibilistic Free Will

This idea of the will states that all the events in the world that lead up to a point and all the laws of science and metaphysics can guarantee one possible choice. [1] Sometimes circumstance and influences are so strong, you cannot just change your mind, yet that choice was something unconstrained, voluntary, and done according to ones desire.  The question that is asked is

If free will is something other than unconstrained and voluntary actions done according to one's desire - what is it?

We will delve more into this idea in the next section on foreordination and man's choice after we touch on a couple people who wrote great approaches to compatiblistic free will.

A type of compatiblistic free will is championed by John Calvin.[1]  Calvin identified 3 types of will:

i) God's Will:  Can only do good.

ii) Pre-fall Adam & Eve's Will: Can do both good and evil.

iii) Satan's Will: Can only do evil

By definition, God has ultimate freedom and thus His will is the standard of true free will.  Therefore of these 3 types of will, the ability to do only good, is true free will.  The ability to do evil is a corruption of true will and is not a power in of itself.  Hence, the ability to do only good is far greater freedom than the other two options.  Philosophically we think that being able to do evil gives more freedom to the will, but Calvin (and I believe Augustine) were against this idea that being able to choose evil gave the will more freedom.  Again, being able to do evil is a corruption of true free will.

Someone might say that it sounds like God is not omnipotent b/c He cannot do evil.  A helpful analogy by John Feinberg that helps us understand to understand what it means to do evil is to consider a cop shooting someone in cold blood and a cop shooting someone to save another life. [1] Although it was the exact same action, one was good and evil.  So what does it mean for God to be unable to do evil?  God certainly has the power to do everything, but He cannot do those actions with an evil intent.  Remember in Calvin and Augustine's scheme, evil is a corrpution/lower level of goodness or power and God's actions are always perfect (ie not corrupt) and operate at the highest level of goodness and power.  Obviously, Satan's will being able to do only evil is the worst.

Another theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards (my favorite), wrote a great book called "Freedom of the Will" that I highly recommend.  If you don't want to read the book, at least read this short article on it:

Jonathan Edward's on The Freedom of the Will

It attacks libertarian free will in regards to how the will makes completely unhindered choices, how libertarian free will destroys virtue and vice, the misuses of philosophical vocabulary (like "impossible") in regards to the will, and the necessity of God being able to do only good and Satan being able to do only evil like Calvin.[2]  He does a great job showing the incoherencies of libertarian free will.

4) Foreordination, Man's Choice, and Culpability (FMCC)

When it comes to the issue of predestination there is one issue that must be addressed. 

It is the issue of the genuineness of our choices.  If things are predetermined, do humans make choices that are their own?  If not can they be held morally responsible?  I call this the problem of God's foreordination, man's choice, and culpability (FMCC).

One thing opponents of predestination always harp on is the idea of that free will must include alternative possibilities for true moral responsibility ie if there is only one choice to be had than the agent is not morally responsible b/c he was forced into an action involuntarily.

Frankfurt Situations

Frankfurt situations argue against the thought that "we must be able to do otherwise." [1]  In his influential paper appropriately titled "Alternative Possibilities and True Moral Responsibility" he discusses this topic at length.

1) While sleeping Peter is taken into Paul's room.  The person that took Peter there then locks the door so no one can get out, but nobody knows its locked.  Peter knows that if he stays in the room when Paul wakes up, Paul will be mad.  Peter decides to stay in the room. [1]

2) Jones wants to kill Smith.  Black wants to ensure that Jones kills Smith.  Reynolds implants a device in Jones' head just in case Jones decides not to kill Smith that will make him kill Smith anyway.  Jones desires to kill Smith and he does, thus Reynolds device was not used. [1]

These examples are not intended to be strong or weak, but simply two examples that show just b/c the outcome would've been the same and the agent could not have done otherwise, he is still morally responsible, not to mention the fact that they were simply following their own desires.

In Frankfurt's own words:

"The following may all be true: there were circumstances that made it impossible for a person to avoid doing something; these circumstances actually played a role in bringing it about that he did it, so that it is correct to say that he did it because he could not have done otherwise; the person really wanted to do what he did; he did it because it was what he really wanted to do, so that it is not correct to say that he did what he did only because he could not have done otherwise.  Under these conditions, the person may well be morally resonsible for what he has done." [3]

Another thing we have to look into are constraints on the will that we normally do not take into account.  No one would say antecedent events, natural laws, genetic makeup, and disposition are contrary to free will, yet they help determine and constrain our choices.[1]  To the degree that these things limit us we should say that we are free.  But therein lies the problem, these things that inherently limit our freedom, we don't count as limiting our freedom!  The example I most often use is to ask yourself if you have the freedom to think like a 15th century French woman?  Our will is so affected by our time, place, culture, and gender that our thoughts are constrained.  This again shows that alternative choices can be limited, yet we can make genuine choices, yet be culpable.

Philosophical Vocabulary

If you read the article I linked on Jonathan Edwards, he mentions that people misunderstand and misuse terms such as "impossible," "can," or "cause.  Also, when one word has multiple meanings, we often make the mistake of using the wrong meaning of the word.

I think it is appropriate to discuss God's decree here.  People often think that God's decree is a force that moves people along to do God's bidding.   This is decisively wrong.  God's decree is merely a blueprint, not a force pushing us to do things.  This decree is manifested via circumstances.  Can God be blamed for us being in circumstances?  It is hardly right to say that God should not place us in circumstances.

Here are list of terms we misuse with their nuances.  We will start off with "constraint" and "necessity."

Constraint 1: Involves a force that doesn't entirely remove willing as in a bank robbery, substance induced altered mental states, etc. [1]

Constraint 2: A force that removes willing altogether like being blindsided by a truck.  You did not will to move from point A to be in this example. [1]

Necessity 1: Things that are necessary in every possible world ie the existence of God (cannot be changed); perhaps things like the past which cannot be changed. [1]

Necessity 2: Acting according to your internal nature.
Let's look at several examples of this.  A teacher can physically remove you (1), threaten you and then you move (2), or give you an incentive such as an automatic "A" or a scholarship to leave a classroom (3).  The first two (1 & 2) examples are Constraints 2 and 1 respectively, but the third one (3) is an example of Necessity 2, b/c the student was told he'd get an automatic "A" or that there was a scholarship lunch and b/c of his internal nature he was compelled to leave.

Other examples of Necessity 2 is the story of the fox and the scorpion.  A scorpion was swept away by the wind and had to cross a river to go back home.  He saw a fox who was going to cross the river and asked for a ride.  The fox was hesitant, but the scorpion told him why would he sting him if the fox is the only way across the river?  The river was a little shaky, the scorpion got scared and stung the fox.  The fox asked, "Why did you sting me?"  And the scorpion said "I'm sorry. I got scared and I instinctively stung you.  Its just my nature."  Also, think about Batman and the Joker.  No matter what, Batman will not kill anyone and no matter what the Joker will never be reformed no matter how many times he goes to jail or Arkham Asylum. Its necessary b/c of their internal nature.
Now, how can we say that w/ Necessity 2 the student, the scorpion, the Joker not held culpable?  If we do things according to Necessity 2 how is God culpable?  God who gives us physical, intellectual, and material blessings all over, with common grace, and yet we still sin in a Necessity 2 kind of manner.  I think He is safe from blame. [1]

Various factors, including one's character, disposition, experience, genes, surrounding, natural laws, etc. are antecedent to any choice, but as long as that choice is not constrained in sense 1 or 2 and is done according to the agents wishes, it is of one's own free will.

Therefore an act can be (causally) determined, yet not constraining, and they are free b/c they are done voluntarily/according to the agents wishes

What if God's ordination are like causal conditions and are not constraining in sense 1 or 2?  Then we can see that man is culpable for his sins.

Now let us look at the words "cause" and "can"

The 6 Senses of Cause by Lionel Kenner [1]

1) Someone's comment caused me to doubt his sanity

2) A police officer sent his subordinates to cause an arrest

3) The causes of the fall of the Roman Empire or rise of communism.
(These are instances of where giving the cause, gives the course of what is to be explained.)

4) The cause of teenage pregnancy or drug addiction.
(Social science sense of cause, not merely states of affairs, but motives and reasonings)

5) The chance to see the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel caused me to go to Europe.

6) Natural causes: lightning causing a forest fire or kick to the face causing pain.

Natural causes are the ones people attribute to FMCC, but we can see now that God's ordination is not analogous to a natural cause.

Causes do not compel and the first five definitions of "causes" fit with FMCC model.

Different senses of can from John Canfield, Winston Nesbitt, and Stewart Candlish [1]

1) I can dunk - ability
2) I can go outside if I'm not in jail - opportunity
3) I can drive 55 mph in a 70 mph zone - rule consistent
4) I can jump off that bridge without getting hurt - ill-consequence free
5) I can tell my subordinates to storm the pacific - authority
6) I can spend this money b/c I have enough savings; you can't gamble with this money b/c it's all we have - reasonability
7) I can go to the movies tonight - conditional
8) I could've made a different choice no matter the antecedent conditions - libertarian/contra-causal "can"

FMCC is compatible with 1-7, and 8 is incoherent (see the article on Jonathan Edwards').


I hope this helps brings some light onto this very difficult topic.  Please read John Feinberg's brilliant "No One Like Him" to have a more complete understanding of the issue.  Yes, I know I started out by saying that the goal of this entry was to give you a way of approaching this issue, but I felt we needed to have the necessary background and then go from there.  So, now that you know all this, here is the outline of how to present it.

1) Our priority is to determine what the Bible says not what we think.

2) Explain that we need to examine verses that directly address the issue of predestination and not verses we can only make inferences from.  Then pick the verses you want to present.

3) Make sure to that they understand it is not our responsibility to reconcile predestination and free will, but merely find out if both are supported by Scripture.

4) Talk about the theory of relativity and though intuitively time and length may seem absolute they are not and we have Einstein's theory's to show us.  Likewise, predestination and freewill on the surface may seem to be incompatible, but we have the Bible that tells us otherwise.

5) Mention that there are different types of wills and go over them.

6) Talk about the main problem (FMCC) and then break it down.  Explain that alternative choices are not necessary for free will (a la Frankfurt situations) and show how philosophical vocabulary (necessity, can, or cause) is often misused.

This is not trying to be the end all for the discussion of predestination, but I hope it provided a unique approach and somethings that you were not thinking about.  Hopefully, this entry will play a part in synthesizing your argument for predestination.



[1] Feinberg, John. No One Like Him. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 2001

[2] Edwards, Jonathan. The Freedom of the Will. 1754

[3] Frakfurt, Harry. Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 66, No. 23. (Dec. 4, 1969), pp. 829-839

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Covenant Theology vs Dispensationalism: Israel and the Church

Review: The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supersessionism: The Dissertation of Michael J. Vlach

Seem my post on Eschatology: Covenant Theology vs Dispensationalism to become oriented to the issues described in this article.

Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Theology at the Master's Seminary and has a website I frequent that can be found at

I was debating whether to purchase, “Continuity and Discontinuity” a festschrift for S. Lewis Johnson or Prof. Vlach’s Ph.D. dissertation. After much debate, I decided, “hey, why not get both?” I did and can say I do not regret the decision. However, if you do not have the time for both, I say get Vlach’s dissertation. It is shorter, but you get an excellent feel for the topic. One of the great things about this book is how eloquently and forcefully he argues for the other side. He almost made me covenant theologian! Okay, but seriously, he does not pull any punches and gives a very compelling and thorough presentation of the covenantal side. Point being, BUY HIS DISSERTATION by clicking here .

I will try to briefly summarize my favorite points in his dissertation on this blog.
Dr. Vlach defines supersessionism (S) as "the view that the church is the new or true Israel that has permanently replaced or superseded national Israel as the people of God." (p. xv) This has been the normative perspective since very early on in the church and has recently been challenged and perhaps overtaken by nonsupersessionism. Nonsupersession (NS) is "the view that national Israel still has vital role and purpose in God's program." (p. 130) Whether one is S or NS has tremendous implications on how you read the Bible and one's own theology. The answer to this question will determine whether one is a follower of covenantal or dispensational theology.

Historical Perspective

Dr. Vlach sites three main factors for the acceptance of the supersessionism in Christianity: (pp. 31-32)

1) The increasing Gentile composition of the church.

2) The church's perception of destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the failed Jewish revolt of Bar-Kokhba in A.D. 132 - 135 as God's judgment of the Jews.

3) A hermeneutical approach that allowed the church to appropriate Israel's promises to itself.
So, what factors have brought NS back into the spotlight?

1) The church's reevaluation of supersessionsim after the Holocaust and the establishment of the modern state of Israel. (pp. 70-71)

2) The rise of dispensational theology

The author makes an excellent point when he says that if S try to say "the weight of history" is on their side, than NS can say that recent history has shown that the great shift away from S should point into the favor of NS. (pp. 231-232)

Biblical Perspective

In presenting the case for either side, Dr. Vlach breaks his case into two categories: hermeneutical and theological (pp. vii - xi)

I. Hermeneutical Case for S

1) NT priority over the OT

S believes that the NT writers "sometimes introduced change, alteration, or expansion to the original meaning of OT texts, including those that speak of national Israel's restoration... As a result of this priority of the New Testament, Old Testament texts that speak of Israel's restoration should not be understood literally. They should be read in the light of the New Testament." (pp. 87-88)

2) Typological Interpretation

S supports the use of typological interpretation which Vlach defines as "a hermeneutical approach that attempts to understand the connection between the Old and New Testaments based on the type/antitype relationships found in the two testaments." (p. 89) Critical to this idea is that the historical grammatical approach is not enough to understand what God is saying. (p. 91)

3) Nonliteral Fulfillments of OT Passages

S generally believes that the application of certain "Old Testament prophetic texts regarding Israel's restoration" or fulfilled in "nonliteral ways in the New Testament church." (p. 96) Verses commonly used to support this are.

a) Acts 2:16-21

16but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
And they shall prophesy.

Here Dr. Vlach quotes Joseph A. Fitzmeyer who says of Peter's use of Joel, "Thus God's people will take a new shape under the guidance of the Spirit,; Israel itself will be reconstituted." (p.97)

b) Acts 15:15-18

15"With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
16'AFTER THESE THINGS I will return,

Scholar's, like Anthony Hoekema and F.F. Bruce, support the idea that James, by quoting Amos 9:11-12 at the Jerusalem council, identifies the church as Israel. (p. 98)

c) Romans 9:24-26

24even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
25As He says also in Hosea,

Quoting G.E. Ladd "Paul deliberately takes these two prophecies about the future salvation of Israel and applies them to the church. The church consisting of Jews and Gentiles has become the people of God. The prophecies of Hosea are fulfilled in the Christian church." (p. 99)

II. Theological Case for S

1. Permanent Rejection of Israel

S sees the NT, describing a permanent rejection of the Jewish people and uses several verses to support this notion.

a) Matthew 21:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it."

b) Romans 11:26 "and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB"

S generally believe that the "all Israel" here are the people of faith, "the true Israel" that is now the church.

2. New Testament Silence

The NT's "lack of an explicit reference to a restoration of national Israel in the New Testament is additional proof that Israel has been superseded by the church." (p. 108)

3. Application of Israelite Imagery to the Church

S note the use of common OT descriptions of Israel are no being applied to the church in these verses:

a) Galatians 6:16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

b) Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;

c) Romans 2:28For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

d) 1 Peter 2:9 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; 10for 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.

e)Galatians 3:7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham... 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.

4. Equality Between Jews and Gentiles

a) Ephesians 2:11-22

11Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands--12remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Many S see this as the "incorporation of believing Gentiles into Israel" (pp. 122-123) and that it "argues against any future role for national Israel in the plan of God."

b) Romans 11:17-24

17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith Do not be conceited, but fear; 21for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branch

These verses are used to show that "Jews and Gentiles are said to belong to the same place of blessing which includes the promises and covenants associated with Abraham and the Jewish patriarchs." (p. 124)

5. Church's Relationship to the New Covenant

a) Heb 8:8-13

8For finding fault with them, He says,
13When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

Since the original application of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 was to Israel, yet in Hebrews 8 it find its fulfillment with the church, many S believe see this as further evidence that the church is the new Israel. (pp. 125-126)

III. Hermeneutical Case for NS

1. Belief that OT texts need to be interpreted in their own right and not reinterpreted by the NT

NS "assert that Old Testament texts, as understood within their historical grammatical contexts, must be the starting point for understanding God's plans for national Israel." (p. 134)

2. Progressive revelation does not cancel unconditional promises to Israel
Dr. Vlach says that according to John Feinberg as saying "if an Old Testament promise is made unconditionally with a specific group such as Israel, then that promise must be fulfilled with that group." (p. 137) Then quoting Paul Feinberg "How can the integrity of the OT text be maintained?" and "How can God be truthful and change the meaning of His promises?"

3. National Israel does not function as a type that is transcended by the Church
Though their may be some typological connection "unconditional promises, and the people with whom the promises were made are not types." (p. 140).

4. OT promises can have a double fulfillment or application with both Israel and the Church

The original promises made to Israel can find extensions into the church and are not abrogated as a result. Rather, the original promises to Israel still stand.

IV. Theological Case for NS

1. New Testament Keeps Israel and the Church Distinct

Dr. Vlach points out that the NT writers, even after the establishment of the church, uses the term "Israel" as a separate entity and a name that "is related to the 'national covenant people of the OT." (p. 145)

2. New Testament Affirms a Future for National Israel

a) Matthew 19:28 (Luke 22:30)

28And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

Jesus here explains that the 12 apostles will one day rule over a national Israel.

b) Matthew 23:37-39 (Luke 13:34-35)

37"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
38"Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!
39"For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"

The proclamation "Blessed .. name of the LORD" is from Psalm 118:26. This indicates the "joyful welcome of Jesus by the Jews with the parousia [second coming] and the restoration of Israel."

c) Luke 21:24

24and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

It seems here that Jesus is affirming that God has a set time period for the gentiles that is limited in duration. After this God will start His restoration program for Israel. Paul echoes this idea in Romans 11:25 "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;"

d) Acts 1:6-7

6So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
7He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;

Many people have pointed out that after 40 days of instruction from our Lord Jesus Christ, the disciples were still wondering about the restoration of Israel! Dr. Vlach notes that NS "also believe that the lack of correction from Jesus in Acts 1:7 is validation that the disciples were correct in their beliefs about Israel's restoration." (p. 161)

e) Romans 11

This chapter is broken down into 3 main points.

i) Explicit affirmation "that national Israel has not been cast aside from the plan of God" (p. 162)

Romans 11:1-2a

1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!... 2God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew

ii) "Explicit declaration that Israel will experience a national restoration at some point in the future" (p. 163)

Romans 11:26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

iii) NS believes that "Rom 11:27-28 ties Israel's salvation and restoration to the promises of the new covenant in the Old Testament" (p. 163)

Romans 11:27-28

28From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;

3. Fulfillment of New Covenant With Church and Israel
a. B/c the Church participates in the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, this does not "abrogate the remaining covenant promises of a national nature, which will find their fulfillment for [in] Israel." (p. 169)
b. An "already/not yet" aspect of the New Covenant. (p. 169) Remember, the messianic age ushers in the New Covenant, and the church is privy to the spiritual aspects of it (ie creation of a new heart, indwelling of the Spirit, forgiveness, etc.).
c. The Church has not received all the physical promises given to Israel only the spiritual. This is further evidence that the Church is not the complete fulfillment of the New Covenant.

Final Analysis

V. Critique of S
1. Precedence of the NT over the OT

a. Casts doubt on the integrity of the OT texts and "one may rightly wonder in what sense the Old Testament revelations were actually revelations to the original readers of the promise.(p. 178)

b. "Does not adequately account for Old Testament texts that explicitly promise the perpetuity of Israel as a nation." (p. 179)

2. National Israel as a type for the Church
b. Though there is significant connection between the two, there is insufficient evidence to show that the Church has transcended Israel. Especially, with all the verses that affirm a national restoration.

3. Nonliteral fulfillment of OT texts

a. As we have seen, certain NT texts affirm the OT expectations for Israel.


1. National Israel's Permanent Rejection

a. Matthew 21:43 speaks taking away the Kingdom from the ruling class and giving to the people. In v. 46 the religious leaders believe Jesus in talking about them and "Saldarini points out that theologians who interpret 'nation' as teh church 'are reading in second-century Christian theology' " b/c exegetical it is unfeasible that the "nation" whom Jesus talks about is the Church. (p. 184)

b. For arguments against Romans 11:26, see Romans 11 section above.

2. NT Silence

a. First, it is important to note that there are statements that imply a future restoration for Israel.

b. Secondly, as S. Lewis Johnson says, "There is no need to repeat what is copiously spread over the pages of the Scriptures" (p. 189) therefore matters "discussed in the Old Testament should not be taken to mean ... [they have] been dropped or transformed. (p. 189)

3. Application of "Israel" language.

This in no way proofs S or excludes NS. The best argument put forth comes from Galatians 6:16 with Pual's statemet "Israel of God." This does not have to mean the church and there are better explanations such as "To show that his [Paul's] harsh attitude to the Judaizers did not extend to the true Jewish believers, he reaches out to these Jewish believers and calls them the 'Israel of God.' " (p. 193)

VI. Critique of NS


1. Belief that OT texts need to be interpreted in their own right and not reinterpreted by the NT

a. Though there may be additional applications or fulfillments and even recognizing that the NT does not use the OT in ways that are entirely consistent with the OT author's intent, "Yet to maintain the integrity of the Old Testament texts and their revelatory value, the historical-grammatical contexts of these passages must be given serious consideration..." (p. 211)

2. Progressive revelation does not cancel unconditional promises to Israel

a. As Paul states in Romans 11:29 "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." Dr. Vlach quotes House who says "Those who believe that the church has somehow taken over the blessings of Israel must explain the revoking of these apparently irrevocable callings of God on His people." (p. 213)

b. We must keep in mind that these OT promises can have a double fulfillment: presently in the church and in the future with Israel.


1. Distinction between Israel and the Church

a. Galatians 6:16 poses the most serious challenge, but that has been addressed above.

2. NT Affirms a Future for Israel

a. Matthew nor Luke never sees the Church as the "new Israel." This is almost always read back into the verses we mentioned above.

3. New Covenant for both Israel and the Church

a. When looking at Romans 11:27, it quotes Jeremiah 31:34. As Murray puts it, "There should be no question but [sic] Paul regards these Old Testament passages as applicable to the restoration of Israel." (p. 227).

VII. Conclusion

From this study, I believe that NS is much closer to the Biblical witness. I'm not saying there are no problems or that S is a weak argument, but I can confidently say NS is far closer to what the Scriptures say. S seem to depend a lot on having to interpret certain verses (ie Galatians 6:16) in certain ways, when there are often other alternative (and in my estimation) better interpretations.

Also, the OT verses that state that Israel and the gentiles will all worship God, take a very strange meaning if all believers are considered Israel - for who would the gentiles then be?

Zephaniah 3:20"At that time I will bring you in,
Even at the time when I gather you together;
Indeed, I will give you renown and praise
Among all the peoples of the earth,
When I restore your fortunes before your eyes,"
Says the LORD.

Isaiah 2:3 Many peoples will come and say,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths."
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Micah 4:2 Many nations will come and say,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths."
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

There are many other verses like these, that support NS.

I would like to end with a final quote from Dr. Vlach's paper:
"Because of the many complex issues involved with this issue and the significant number of theologians on both sides of the debate, we suggest that caution and humility permeate all discussions about superssesionism." (p. 175)


Vlach, Michael. “The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supersessionism.” Ph.D. dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004.

All Bible quotes from the NASB via

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Primer on Eschatology: Covenant Theology vs Dispensationalism

Eschatology, which means “study of the last things” and oddly enough it is usually the topic Christians avoid and study last b/c it is so difficult. Though I am a dispensationalist, this post is not intended to be an argument for either side, rather a simple orientation so we can have a better idea of what each side believes. Hopefully, this post will help out some other confused individuals out there.

I. Covenant Theology (CT)

The basis of CT is the idea that, as William VanGemeren puts it, “Single plan of God, confirmed in the one mediator Jesus Christ”. [1]

This via 3 Covenants:

1) The Covenant of Grace

God has one plan of salvation , one mediator, and one eschatological plan all men share. [1]

2) The Covenant of Redemption

A specific agreement between the Father and the Son that they would exalt each other in the following way: the Father would honor the Son by sending him to save lost sinners through a penal self-sacrifice leading to a cosmic reign in which the central activity would be the imparting to sinners through the Holy Spirit of the redemption he won for them; and the Son would honor the Father by becoming the Father's love-gift to sinners and by leading them through the Spirit to trust, love and glorify the Father on the model of his own obedience to the Father's will. [2]

3) The Covenant of Works

Whereby God undertook to prolong and augment for all subsequent humanity the happy state in which he had made the first human pair -- provided that the man observed, as part of the humble obedience that was then natural to him, one prohibition, specified in the narrative as not eating a forbidden fruit. The penal sanctions of which was the loss of good and corruption of nature. [2]

II. Continuity Between the Two Testaments

CT sees a more continuous relationship between the two testaments. This stems from the idea of God having a singular plan (ie the 3 Covenants) for His elect.

1: The Tale of Two kingdoms: The Kingdom of God vs the Kingdom of Satan

Dr. John Currid of RTS would like for us to view the Bible with “Seed theology,” that is through an unfolding of the story between the Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent. [3] This starts from Genesis 3:15 and thus the world history as well as the Bible’s story is one that should be seen in a redemptive-historical perspective.

2. Supersessionism: Israel and the Church are one

The Church has superseded Israel and some view Israel as a type of the Church. One of the major motivating factors of this is that God has one Kingdom who He has given the Covenants to and thus He only has one people the Church.

3. Continuity between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ

God gives His law to his covenanted people to establish a personal bond. The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ are not different. However, under Christ. the law is newly administered and more deeply expounded. There is discontinuity in its form or shape, but not in its essence. [4]

4. The Content of Faith

Though both camps believe that the saving work of Jesus Christ is the basis of all salvation, CT believes that ever since Adam and Eve, the content (not basis) of saving faith was the gospel - the message that Jesus Christ would be the redeemer. Though, it was not as fully known to all, it has been the basic message of Jesus Christ as the Savior that saves throughout all generations. [5]

5. The Conditionality of the Biblical Covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic, etc.)

As a gross generalization, CT sees the Biblical covenants as conditional and dispensationalists see them as unconditional.

III. Hermeneutics of CT

Three hermeneutical beliefs [6]

a. Precedence of the NT over the OT

b. National Israel as a type for the Church

c. Nonliteral fulfillment of OT texts

IV. Views on The Millenium

Note: When Christians talk about amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism, the point of reference is the second coming of Jesus Christ, not the Rapture. So a “premillennialist” would believe that the second coming is before the millennial kingdom, “post” would be believe that Jesus is coming after the millennial kingdom (though they do not believe in a literal 1,000 year kingdom), and “amillennialist” would not believe in an earthly millennial kingdom. I mention this b/c this is often confused with the terms “pretribulation”, “midtribulation”, and “postribulation” which refer to the timing of the Rapture, not the second coming.

i. Amillennialism [7]

1. Promises to Israel are spiritual and typical

2. Promises are fulfilled in Christ's reign of the Church now and in the eternal state.

3. Israel has lost their privilege

4. Some believe there will be a large in pouring of Jewish believers one day.

ii. Postmillennialism [7]

1. Gospel will be spread through out the earth and spiritual and material blessings will come to all people. Then Christ will come.

2. Promises to Israel are spiritual and typical

iii. Non-dispensational Premillennialism [7]

1. Literal 1,000 year reign of Christ, but without a specific Jewish Emphasis.

2. +/- a great ingathering of Jewish believers, but not a restoration of the nation-state of Israel.

V. Timeline of History

Both CT and dispensationalism separate the world’s history into different eras. Klooster a CT, has divided history into the following categories: [5]

Ethnic Universalism

1. Pre-Fall

a. Covenant of Works
b. Covenant of Grace (protoevangelion)
c. Start the Seed of the serpent vs Seed of the woman

2. The Fall and Two Kingdoms

a. Cain vs Abel

3. The Flood and Babel

i. Flood

a. The sons of God and the sons of men intermingling, endangering the promise in Gen 3:15 and the Kingdom of God (remember by then only Noah was righteous), therefore God sends a flood to wipe out the kingdom of the serpent.
b. The Noahic covenant was not a new dispensation, but an elaboration of the ruling task of Adam, now in a postdiluvian (postflood) era.

Ethnic Particularism

ii. Babel

a. The kingdom of the serpent in a new apostasy, however God promised never to flood the earth again. So He confuses their language.
b. End of ethnic universalism
c. Pentecost is the redemptive counterpart, where all the nations are now united via Christ.

4. Abraham and the Patriarchs

a. God's Kingdom is now moved onto Abraham and Israel
b. Abraham and Israel are chosen by God to birth the Redeemer-King.
c. The diversity of God's actions promotes one redemptive program.
d. Institution of the First Sacrament - Circumcision (looks forward to Christ)

5. Theocratic Kingdom of Israel: Exodus to the end of the OT

a. Institution of the Second Sacrament - Passover (looks forward to Christ)
b. Moses as covenant mediator with Israel parallels Christ as covenant mediator with the Church.

Intertestamental Period

6. Inauguration of the Messianic Kingdom

a. All the covenant promises fulfilled in Christ.
b. With the veil torn the Levitical (Phineas) covenant was fulfilled.
c. New covenant starts
d. The new sacraments of baptism and communion instituted (looks back at Christ).

7. Pentecost to the end of the NT

a. The Church is not a parenthesis, but an administrator of the covenant sacraments and keeper of the keys of the Kingdom.
b. Already and not yet aspects of the Kingdom.
c. Christ is ruling right now.

8. The second coming and the consummation of the Kingdom

a. The Kingdom of Christ will win over the World and than Christ will come.

I. Dispensationalism (D)

One of the most often quoted and influential members of Dispensationalism (D) is Dr. Charles Ryrie who says there are three necessary conditions for D: [8]

1) The distinction between Israel and the church

2) The usage of a system of literal hermeneutics

3) The belief that the underlying purpose of God in the world is to produce his glory.

Dr. John Feinberg gives us a more in depth analysis of the essentials of D. [7]

A. Recognizing multiple senses of words like "Jew," "Israel," and "Abraham's seed."

i. These are used in a genetic, political, spiritual, and typological sense and no sense is more important (especially spiritual) or cancels another.

B. Hermeneutics

i. The progress of revelation and the OT vs NT priority:

CT as we have seen, read the OT reinterpreted in light of the NT, but this is vice versa for Dispensationalism. NT has priority for CT b/c the OT was the shadow and NT the fulfillment, so the claim that you should take the clear revelation (NT) to understand the hidden (OT). D believes that the promises of the OT (ie to Israel) are clear and not all typological and remain unfulfilled in the NT. Therefore they are not canceled b/c unconditional promises of God can never be canceled.

ii. NT use of the OT, and typology.

Types are not allegories or symbolize that lose their meaning later. Types are rooted in historical facts. The NT writers never explicitly say that they cancel out the original meaning and different NT writers use the same OT verses differently. Double or multiple fulfillment of certain prophecies are the issue here, not their cancellation.

C. Unconditionality of the Biblical covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic, etc.).

Covenants are not only spiritual, but social, economic, and political as well. They can extend to others (ie New Covenant onto Gentiles), but its primary fulfillment is to Israel. One should not emphasize only one aspect of the covenant (ie spiritual) at the expense of the other aspects.

Again, as a gross generalization, C sees the covenants as conditional and D as unconditional.

D. Distinctive future for ethnic Israel

1. A belief in premillenialism with a distinctive Jewish emphasis is prominent

2. OT and tribulation saints are part of the Kingdom

3. Some believe the fulfillment is all in the future (classical D) and others believe some spiritual aspects are happening now (progressive D) ie the Kingdom here/now hypothesis.

E. The Church is a distinctive organism (from Israel) that began at Pentecost and is united with Christ.

F. Philosophy of History

The more one stresses redemptive history to the exclusion of God's other work, the more one is C. The more one stresses God's multi-faceted work in history, the more one is D.

G. Things Not Essential to Dispensationalism

a. Dispensations are not essential to dispensationalism

b. The idea that each dispensation is a test and failure nor the number of dispensations one holds is not essential

c. Calvinism or Arminianism

d. One's understanding of the law

e. A belief in multiple ways of salvation (This is in fact a misunderstanding of D thought and emphatically denied by many). [8]

II. Discontinuity Between the Two Testaments

As we can see from the essentials, D sees a more discontinuous relationship between the two testaments.

1: The Tale of Two People: Israel and the Church

D believes that God has two separate programs: one for Israel and one for the Church. The predominant view is that God used Israel from Abraham until Pentecost. From Pentecost to the Rapture, God will use the Church. After the Rapture, God will restart His program with Israel and His promises for Israel will come to fruition in the Millennial Kingdom.

2. Nonsupersessionism: Israel and the Church are separate

From what we have said so far, it should come to no surprise that D does not believe that the Church has replaced Israel or that Israel was a type for the Church.

3. Discontinuity between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ

D believes that the Law of Moses was temporal in its nature and fulfilled (thus abrogated) with the coming of Christ. Thus, NT believers are no longer under the Law.

4. The Content of Faith

To quote John Feinberg:

The ultimate object of faith in any and every age is God Himself. The ultimate issue at any time in history is whether a man will take God at His word and exercise faith in the provision for salvation which God reveals… it is important to remember that since in each economy the content is what God has revealed, belief in the content for that age is belief in the ultimate object of faith. [8]

So those who adhere to D, say that though Jesus was the basis/grounds for all salvation, people in the OT could not have known about Jesus b/c God did not reveal Him until the NT times. Therefore, people in the OT were still saved by faith in whatever God had revealed to them up to that time, for how could they believe in someone they never heard about?

5. The Unconditionality of the Biblical Covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic, etc.)

As a gross generalization, CT sees the Biblical covenants as conditional and dispensationalists see them as unconditional and yet to be fulfilled.

III. Hermeneutics of D

Four hermeneutical beliefs [6]

a. Belief that OT texts need to be interpreted in their own right and not reinterpreted by the NT

b. Progressive revelation does not cancel unconditional promises to Israel

c. National Israel does not function as a type that is transcended by the Church

d. OT promises can have a double fulfillment or application with both Israel and the Church

IV. Views on The Millenium


D believes in that the second coming of Christ is before the start of the millennial kingdom and that it is a literal 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth before the eternal state. Important to this idea, as previously mentioned, is that it is the fulfillment of many promises made to the nation of Israel (ie the restoration of their land, preeminence among the nations, kingship of the Messiah, etc.)

To quote Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum:

While it is true that the millennium (that is, one thousand years) is found only in Revelation 20, the belief in the Messianic Kingdom does not rest on this passage alone. In fact, it hardly rests on it at all. The basis for the belief in the Messianic Kingdom is twofold. First: there are the unfulfilled promises of the Jewish covenants, promises that can only be fulfilled in a Messianic Kingdom. Second: there are the unfulfilled prophecies of the Jewish prophets. There are numerous prophecies of the Old Testament that speak of the coming of the Messiah Who will reign on David’s Throne, and rule over a peaceful Kingdom. There is a great amount of material in the Old Testament on the Messianic Kingdom, and the belief in a Messianic Kingdom rests on the basis of a literal interpretation of this massive material.[9]

Also, the idea of the rapture and a seven year tribulation is prominent within premillennial eschatology and though there is some disagreement as to the timing of the rapture.

i. Pretribulational rapture

Rapture occurs before the tribulation b/c the Church is supposed to be saved from the wrath of God that He pours out during those seven years.

ii. Midtribulational rapture

Rapture occurs at the halfway point of the tribulation. The severity of the later half of the tribulation is much greater and is even called the “great tribulation” and this is what the Church is saved from.

iii. Postribulational Rapture

Rapture occurs after the tribulation, as the saints are supposed to be tested through the seven years of tribulation.

V. Timeline of History

D generally divides biblical history into different dispensations. Dispensations are defined by the Scofield Reference Bible as "a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God. Seven such dispensations are distinguished in Scripture."[12] Dr. Charles Ryrie has noted that this has caused some confusion and defines it as:

“A distinguishable economy in the outworking of God's purpose.” [12]

There have been seven classical dispensations, which I believe were first described by CI Scofield. Here they are:

The Seven Classic Dispensations (Red are my inserts) [10]

1. Innocence (freedom) - Edenic covenant

This is the time before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, where Man’s responsibility to God was not to eat from the tree of Good and Evil.

2. Consciense (moral responsibility) - Adamic covenant (protoevangelion)

By the fall, Adam and Eve acquired and transmitted to the [human] race the knowledge of good and evil. This gave conscience a basis for right moral judgment, and hence the race came under this measure of responsibility-to do good and eschew evil. [13]

3. Human government - Noahic covenant

Out of the fearful judgment of the flood God saved eight persons, to whom, after the waters were assuaged, He gave the purified earth with ample power to govern it. This, Noah and his descendants were responsible to do. The dispensation of human government resulted, upon the plain of Shinar, in the impious attempt to become independent of God and closed in judgment: the confusion of tongues. [13]

4. Promise (patriarchal rule) - Abrahamic covenant

Out of the dispersed descendants of the builders of Babel, God called one man, Abram, with whom He enters into covenant. [13] God moves specifically to work through one man’s descendants.

5. Law - Mosaic/Sinatic, Palestinian, (Levitical/Phineas), Davidic, New covenants

With the introduction of the Law, there is major shift in how God is dealing with man. Now, mankind is obligated to follow the specific regulations contained within the Mosaic Law.

*Christ's Earthly Ministry

Jesus describes this time as unique and one where there should be “no fasting while the bridegroom is there.” Besides, it should go without say that due to Jesus’ physical presence on earth there is a different economy between God and man (eg. whatever He said was authoritative and must be followed). In addition, specific economic shifting events such as the rejection of the Messiah by Israel and His death and resurrection occurred during this time.

*Apostolic Age

The authority of Christ was laid upon the Apostles and they spoke infallibly in regards to the faith. This period is also marked by the miraculous sign gifts working prolificially within the layity of the Church and the writing of the NT.

6. The Church, Grace (Mystery Parenthesis)

Our current age that is between God’s program for Israel. God is now using the Church to spread salvation and the Kingdom into the world.

7. The Kingdom (Millenial Kingdom)

The return of Christ on Earth with the whole world under his reign. Israel has prominence among the nations, though the whole world is now at peace and full of blessing. Although sin, unbelief, and death are weakened, they are still in existence.

*The Eternal state

God now dwells among His saints (cf. Rev 21:3). The the New Heavens, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem are ushered in. Finally, sin and death are no more and all His saints will now be forever glorified and directly be with Him for all eternity.

VI. Progressive Dispensationalism vs Classcial Dispensationalism

Currently, there is much discussion within dispensationalism. Much of this centers around the idea of progressive dispensationalism that was made popular by Drs. Darrell Block, Craig Blaising, and Robert Saucy. Though this may be a little off topic, I believe it is important to understand the difference between the two. Rev. Jack Brook has an excellent summary of the major differences between the two views: [11]

1. One plan of salvation: There is only one plan of redemption, not one for Israel and a different one for Christians. There is only one New Covenant, not two. The redemptive plan is revealed through God’s covenants. It begins with Abraham’s covenant, which combines physical and spiritual promises. David’s covenant, as developed by the later prophets also has redemptive application, since the Savior would be the Son of David. The New Covenant obtains redemption in fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic. The redemptive plan is holistic, not manifold.

2. Four dispensations: There are four dispensations:

  • Patriarchal
  • Mosaic
  • Ecclesial (Church)
  • Zionic (subdivided into millennial and eternal-kingdom phases.)

3. One people of God: The Christian Church is quite distinct from Israel, but not radically distinct. The Church is not a mere “parenthesis” in an otherwise-Jewish divine plan. The Church is not “Plan B”. It is not a separate category of humanity, in the way the Bible speaks of Jews or Greeks. There is continuity between the Church and Israel, not discontinuity alone. All believers from all dispensations are united in one general assembly in heaven (Hebrews 12.)

4. Complimentary hermeneutics: The old claim that a consistent grammatical-historical method of interpretation will always produce traditional dispensationalists is demonstrably untrue. The NT doesn’t follow Charles Ryrie’s definition of “consistent literalism” in the way that it handles OT prophecy. The NT often expands upon the OT prophecies, without contradicting their original contexts. Implications are developed from words which were not developed in the OT. PD calls this a “complementary” hermeneutic: The NT adds onto the OT prophecies in a way complementary to their original context.

5. Already/Not Yet: The Kingdom of God’s blessings are mostly reserved for Christ’s second advent, but parts of it are manifested today through the Holy Spirit. The geo-political aspects will occur in the future. The Church is grafted into some key aspects of the New Covenant (justification, the gift of the Spirit, resurrection hope), but the geo-political features for Israel have not yet happened.

6. Davidic Reign Now: Christ’s Davidic reign began in part when He ascended to the right hand of the Father. Some of the Davidic promises have been fulfilled, many others must wait until Christ returns. Salvation blessings are mediated to us through Jesus, who fulfilled Psalm 110:1-2. “Christ” and “Son of God” were both Davidic titles. Jesus’ priesthood is that of Melchizedek, an office originally given to David. Jesus’ Davidic kingship was the method by which God would fulfill all of His promises to Abraham (Luke 1:55)


[1] Vangemeren, Willem. “Systems of Continuity.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 37-62.

[2] Packer, JI. Gospel Pedlar. INTRODUCTION: ON COVENANT THEOLOGY. Cited 04 Feb. 2009. <>

[3] Currid, John. Judges through Poets [Online Lectures]. Retrieved from audio lectures.

[4] Chamblin, Knox. “The Law of Moses and The Law of Christ.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 181-202.

[5] Klooster, Fred. “The Biblical Method for Salvation: The Case for Continuity.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 131-160.

[6] Vlach, Michael. “The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supersessionism.” Ph.D. dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004.

[7] Feinberg, John. “Systems of Discontinuity.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 63-88.

[8] John S. Feinberg, “Salvation in the Old Testament” Tradition and Testament. Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg. Chicago: Moody Press, 1981. Hbk. ISBN: 0802425445. pp.39-77.

[9] Fruchtenbaum, Arnold. Pre-Trib Research Center. Premillennialism in the Old Testament. Cited 04 Feb. 2009. <>

[10] Ross, Allen. “The Biblical Method for Salvation: The Case for Discontinuity.”In Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 161-180

[11] Brooks, Jack. Progressive Dispensationalism: What is it? Cited 04 Feb. 2009.

[12] Ryrie, Charles. What Is a Dispensation? Chapter 2 of "Dispensationalism" Cited 04 Feb. 2009. <>

[13] Socfield, CI. THE SEVEN DISPENSATIONS. Cited 04 Feb. 2009.