What is dispensationalism? Why is it important? What are the differing views? What if believers don’t hold to these views?
Dispensationalism is basically the view that God uses different means or methods in working with the nation of Israel and the church over differing times throughout human history. Dispensationalist’s hold to a literal biblical translation like salvation has always been a matter of faith as both the Old Testament and New Testament states that the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Heb 10:38). Even the Old Testament has saints who were saved by faith in God who include the likes of Abraham, Moses, David and many others. There are two different, distinct groups that God works with (Israel and the church) but clear He also desires to save Gentles, particularly in the Old Testament. Dispensationalists acknowledge that the Holy Spirit did not necessarily dwell permanently with some in the Old Testament but He dwells permanently in all believers in the church as He did in the New Testament church. There remains today a distinction between the nation of Israel and the Body of Christ, the church but multiple prophecies indicate that God is not finished with the nation that He chose for Himself.
God’s Promise of a Future Kingdom
To both Israel and the church, God has promised an eternal future and a glorious kingdom. Many of the prophecies of Israel are as yet unfulfilled, just as there are many regarding the church. When these two become blurred and the church is regarded as the “New Israel” is when dispensationalism gets into grey areas. Israel is not the church nor is the church the “New Israel” in the strictest sense even though believers are told that “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical” and that “a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Rom 2:28-29) and that Paul even writes “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29) but the context is that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26-28). It is in Christ that we are declared to be the children of God, not by the lineage of Abraham’s seed. It is a matter of grace and not by race. Whether a person is a direct descendent of Abraham, without faith in Christ they cannot be saved.
The Rapture and the Millennium
Just as there are differing views on the return of Christ, first for His church and then to judge the world, not every Christian believes in the rapture nor do they believe in the millennial view of when Christ begins His earthly 1000-year reign. We know for certain that God is yet to work with the nation of Israel and that the Kingdom of Heaven comes down from above and is called the New Jerusalem (Rev 21). No one benefits when believers argue over the differing views that they hold to. Instead, believers should unite on those essentials of the faith like Paul where declares in Romans 10:9-13 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” and that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) and that Name is Jesus Christ.
Has the great tribulation already occurred as some believe in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple? Is there a secret rapture where Christ comes for His church only to return with them in judging the world? Does the nation of Israel have to begin the sacrificial system once again only to have the abomination of desolation occur which Daniel and Jesus spoke about (Dan 9:27,11:31, 12:11; Matt 24:15)? One thing we can know for certain is that for all those who have repented or turned away from their sins, confessed them to God, and placed their trust in Christ, they have eternal life. For those who have not repented and trusted in Christ, they will face the wrath of God for all eternity. Let Jesus state the whole matter before us; “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Whether the tribulation comes or not, whether sacrifices begin and are cut off in the temple or not, or whether or not there is rapture, we must all trust in Christ and claim Him as our King and Savior or we will stand before Him as our Judge (Rev 20:12-15). Today is a good day to do that if you have not already done so. This is the most essential thing to know for everything else is a distance second “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) and “for what can anyone give in exchange for their soul” (Mark 8:37)?
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon