I was asked by email to defined what I meant by dispensationalism when I
used the term in an earlier post. Here was the answer I sent:
Dispensationalism is a system of prophetic theology.
In short dispensationalists are those who believe in the pre-tribulational
rapture of the church.
Dispensationalists emphasis the teaching of prophecy and the imminent, at
any moment, return of Christ.
Many ministries who hold dispensational beliefs also emphasize the "soon"
return of Christ. The generation that has seen the restoration of the
nation Israel to the land is the last generation before the return of
Christ. These added beliefs, however, are not a part of dispensational
teaching. It can be argued that these added beliefs contradict
dispensational theology, and many dispensational scholars reject these
teachings as unsound. There are some ministries that have taken the
dispensational prophetic system as a starting point and gone to extremes.
One of the most recent examples was the Korean movement that taught
that the rapture would occur on Oct. 28, 1992.
The maim points of dispensationalism (1) are:
Some of the beliefs derived from these principles:
- The recognition of a distinction between Israel and the Church.
- A consistently literal principle of interpretation -- particularly
of Bible prophecy.
- A basic working and conception of the purpose of God as His own
glory rather than as the single purpose of salvation.
This system of dispensational teaching including the concept of the
pre-tribulational rapture was first developed among the Plymouth
Brethren in the early 19th century in England and Ireland. John N.
Darby in particular is credited with forming much of this theology.
Dispensational theology was popularized more widely in evangelical
and fundamentalist circles in North America through a series of Bible
Conferences beginning in the late 1870's. By the early 20th century
about the time of the writing of _The Fundamentals_ (from which the
term fundamentalist is derived) dispensationalism became the most
popular prophetic theology in fundamentalist schools and Bible
Institutes in America.
- The O.T. prophecies of the restoration of national Israel to the
land in the last days will be literally fulfilled.
- The millennial kingdom mentioned in Revelation will be literally
fulfilled at Christ's return after which Christ will reign on the
earth for 1000 years. (Pre-millennialism)
- The 70 weeks of Daniel spoken of in Daniel 9 refers to a period of
490 years and apply only to Israel. The first 69 weeks have been
fulfilled historically, ending at the first coming of Christ. When
the Jews rejected the Messiah, the 70 weeks were suspended and a
new age or dispensation called the Church age began. The Last or
70th week of Daniel, the last seven years, has yet to be fulfilled.
This last week will immediately precede the second coming of Christ.
- The book of Revelation after the letters to the seven churches is a
prophecy concerning events that will occur during the last seven
years before the second coming or 70th week. (Futurist) This 70th week
is called the tribulation period. The last half of this week (the
last 3.5 years) is the Great Tribulation spoken of in Dan. 9 and
in the olivet discourse (Matt. 24). This tribulation period is a
time when God will pour out his wrath on a sinful world.
- The coming (Parousia) of Christ will occur in two phases. The
first phase will occur at the start of the seventh week. This
will be Christ's imminent return for his saints to "rapture" his
church as described in I Thess 4. All of the Christians (in some
cases only overcoming Christians) will be resurrected and taken
to the heavenly mansions Christ has prepared for us. (John 14)
The church will not be here during the tribulation period because
God has ended the Church age and resumed dealing with Israel. The
church is also raptured to keep the Christians from the wrath of God
which according to Romans 5:9 Christians will not experience. The
second phase is Christ's second coming at the end of the tribulation
with his saints to begin the Kingdom age dispensation.
- The tribulation period will see a restoration of the fourth
worldly kingdom spoken of in Daniel. The fourth kingdom was
represented by the legs of Iron in the image of Nebechadnezzer's
dream in Dan. 2. The latter phase of the kingdom is represented
by the feet or iron and clay. This kingdom is also represented
by the terrible beast of Dan. 7. This fourth kingdom was the
Roman empire. The Roman empire will be restored in time for the
tribulation and will consist of a confederation of 10 kings or
kingdoms headed by the little horn of Daniel also known as the
son of perdition (II Thess. 2 - the falling away is the rapture,
that which restrains is the Holy Spirit whose taking away implies
the absence of the church from the earth). The son of perdition
is called the Anti-Christ and spoken of in Rev. 13 where he
makes all who dwell on the earth to receive the mark of the
- Sacred history consists of different dispensations or 'economies'.
A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested
in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will
of God. Dispensational schemes will vary slightly from one
author to the next. One of the most popular schemes is that found
in the Scofield Reference Bible (one of the sources that helped
popularize dispensationalism). It is:
Creation to fall Innocency
Fall to flood Conscience
Flood to Abraham Human Government
Abraham to Moses Promise
Moses to Christ Law
Church Age Grace
A new period or dispensation begins when God introduces a change
in the principles or ordinances valid up to that time. For example
a number of ordinances are introduced at the time of Noah. At the
coming of Christ many of the Mosiac Laws or ordinances are annulled.
The purpose of God in each dispensation is his own glory.
This is only a quick summary of some of the dispensational ideas
to give you an idea of what I mean when I use the term. I am not
a dispensationalist myself. I do have friends who believe this
theology and who I respect.
Here is a comparison of dispensational versus historic or classical views as given
by Bob and Gretchen Passantino:
- These three points come from _Dispensationalism Today_ by Charles C.
Ryrie, The Moody Bible Institue of Chicagp, 1965. Ryrie has a Ph.D.
from the University of Edinburgh and a Th.M. and Th.D from Dallas
Theological Seminary. He is a professor of systematic theology at
Dallas Theological Seminary is known for being the premier
dispensational school in the U.S., perhaps the world. Moody
Bible Institute is also a markedly dispensational school.
Many well known ministers and teachers (at least in the U.S.)
are graduates of these schools.
Differences Concerning Israel and the Church
(Classic or Dispensational)
God has always had but one God has two bodies -- Israel and
spiritual people, represented the church.
by the remnant in every
God's promises to Israel were God's promises to Israel were
conditional. unconditional, and therefore are
All earthly promises to Israel God's promises concerning the
have been either fulfilled or return to the land, rebuilding
invalidated through disobedience the temple, etc., were never
and unbelief. fulfilled. They are therefore
Israel was a type of the church Although Israel was a type of
and was superseded by the the church, they will always
church. remain separate.
The church was prophesied in Christ instituted the church as
the Old Testament, in Old a "parenthesis."
Christ was, and is, the only Christ came the first time to
Hope of Israel. And Israelites establish an earthly millennial
(Jews) will be saved only if kingdom with Israel.
they accept him during this age.
The first advent of Christ Israel rejected him, the God
completed Israel's redemption, postponed this plan until the
and manifested the Israel of second advent.
God (the church) referred to in
Christ instituted a Christ instituted a Gentile
Jewish-Gentile church. church.
All unfulfilled spiritual Israel is God's earthly people,
promises to Israel are being the church is God's heavenly
fulfilled through the Christian people.
This does not represent a change Israel's destiny is to remain o
in God's plans, but evidences earth forever, the destiny of
progressive (continually the church is to spend eternity
unfolding) revelation. in heaven.
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead,
he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not
resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently
instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change
of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26