A reminder of a couple of things that we need to keep in mind.
1. Every system of theology is the product of man and will have error. No one description of any system will satisfy everyone. We should look for the system that “does the least violence to Scripture.”
2. Keep Christ clearly in view. The ultimate goal of all creation is the glorify God the Father and the Son. Our view of the end times should seek to keep His glory in its rightful place
Dispensationalism is one of the systems within the premil category; historic premillennialism being the other. From our introduction, Herman Hoyt's definition of dispensationalism: "A golden age of civilization...as described in the Bible...a millennial kingdom will be ushered in by a divine, supernatural and catastrophic manifestation from heaven at the Second coming of Christ....when the conditions of life have reached the depths of great tribulation." This hermeneutic: The whole Bible is divided into several (originally 7) dispensations/time periods in which God acts in different ways toward man. Interpretation must be literal whenever possible. Interpret the New Testament by the Old Testament.
I will not spend time this evening reviewing the historical origin and development of this system. That is a hotly contested topic and is secondary to the discussion of the theological aspects that define dispensationalism.
Charles Ryrie is considered one the most consistent and respected advocate for modern dispensationalism, putting a little distance between himself and Darby/Scofield and the newer progressive dispensationalists. In his 1997 book, Dispensationalism, Ryrie listed 3 issues that he calls the sine qua non (the essential qualities) of dispensationalism. Charles Ryrie is not alone in his views. Michael Vlach is a professor at Master's Seminary and was written a couple of books espousing the same basic view as Ryrie. I will present Ryrie's list of essential doctrines and examine them, in reverse order, to so if they be so.
A Clear and Consistent Distinction Between Israel and the Church
"This understanding of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies quite naturally leads to the clear and consistent distinction between Israel and the church, which is a vital part of dispensationalism. All other views bring the church into Israel's fulfilled prophecies except dispensationalism. This is probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a person is a dispensationalist, and it is undoubtedly the most practical and conclusive."
The Hermeneutical Principle
"The hermeneutical principle is basic to the entire dispensational system, including its eschatology. It affects everything, and, as we have tried to show in chapter 5, dispensationalism is the only system that practices the literal principle of interpretation consistently." This hermeneutic sometimes shows up under the term, Rule of First Mention, which asserts that the first mention of anything in Scripture is the most definitive of that thing. Contrary to this, we clearly see the progressive revelation found in Scripture, as more clarity is added over time. Their hermeneutic helps keep the OT in first place.
The underlying purpose of God in the world is the glory of God
"The covenant theologian, in practice, believes this purpose to be salvation (although covenant theologians strongly emphasize the glory of God in their theology), and the dispensationalist says the purpose is broader than that; namely, the glory of God."
On this point I heartily agree. I also agree with Ryrie that many Christians tend to put man's salvation at the center of God's purpose in the world, but the Bible teaches us that the purpose for God reconciling sinners to Himself is for His glory (Romans 15:7-9 Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. For I say that the Messiah became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy.). But he soils this idea later in his book, saying, "The entire program culminates, not in eternity but in history, in the millennial kingdom of the Lord Christ. This millennial culmination is the climax of history and the great goal of God's program for the ages." And yet, even this "great goal of God's program for the ages" lasts only a literal thousand years.
It's interesting that their view of the millennium is not one of the essential elements. It is a basic consequence of their hermeneutic. Dispensationalists have a similar view of the millennium as do the historic premil, but dispensationalists have a much more aggressive view of defending national Israel and rebuilding the wall between Jews and Gentiles. This comes out in Ryrie's second essential point. The dispensations they hold to are not essential - there being differences in how many and their purposes.
In the introduction to this series, I mentioned several things that set this system apart: Dispensationalism, alone, interprets the New Testament by the Old, insists on a literal millennium, insists on two or more judgments, insists on a secret rapture, claims Satan is rampant, denies the current reign of Christ, and builds a wall between Gentile and Jewish saints. Ryrie lists 6 or 7 things he says are true only of dispensationalism. I'll have those in my notes that get posted, but will not spend time this evening on them. At the core, what sets this system apart is the first thing on Ryrie's list of 3. His second point is that all the other points of distinction are the product of his use of what Ryrie calls "the literal interpretation of Scripture."
Ryries describes his hermeneutic principle: "Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation. This means interpretation that gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking." This is often summed up, “when the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” But contrary to this popular hermeneutic, the plain sense of Scripture often contradicts the true meaning of Scripture and our common sense often makes no heavenly sense. Ryrie: "Philosophically, the purpose of language itself seems to require literal interpretation." The ambiguous nature of language, however, requires one seek to understand what the author meant, rather than rely on what seems plain or normal. The biblical history of Christ's ministry shows how far astray the Jewish people had wandered, in part because they took their Scriptures literally without seeking to truly understand what YHWH had said.
Ryrie continues: "If one does not use the plain, normal, or literal method of interpretation, all objectivity is lost. The dispensationalist claims to be consistent in his use of this principle, and he accuses the nondispensationalist of being inconsistent in his use of it." Are dispensationalists consistent in their literal hermeneutic? A friend of mine observed that dispensationalism "refuses to interpret Matthew 24 literally because it doesn't make their eschatology work. Also, forcing a 'literal' interpretation on all of Scripture is foolish. What is meant by this is that dispensationalism uses a 'literal' hermeneutic where it benefits the dispensational scheme. When using a 'literal' hermeneutic, it is impossible to see a gap between the 69th and 70th week." Ryrie and his kin make exceptions to their literal hermeneutic to accommodate normal grammatical constructs, such as word pictures. Hence they agree that Jesus is not a literal door. But when they look at the scene in the first paragraph of Rev 20 (key, chain, abyss), their rule appears to be very subjective, not consistent. Does this mean Ryrie has lost all objectivity? Not in his view, because his exceptions to his literal hermeneutic are within reason (as he sees it) and exceptions taken by us outside his camp are not. That is a subjective standard, not an objective one.
One theologian (G.J. Harloff) said, "Man’s literalistic interpretation is incomplete because: (1) Christ taught that scriptures are sometimes veiled to hide the truth from nonbelievers (2 Co 4:3), (2) comprehensive theological backgrounds and God’s help are needed to understand/teach the scriptures (1 Co 1:20-21), and (3) the literalistic system may prevent inductive study and seeing the unity in the Scriptures." Contrary to Ryrie's claim that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ ... were all fulfilled ‘literally’”, many such prophecies were not fulfilled in a “plain” literal fashion, such as the famous Psalm 22 prophecy that speaks of bulls and dogs surrounding Christ at his crucifixion (Psa 22:12, 16), and the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy regarding the virgin, that “she will call His name Immanuel” (cp. Luke 2:21).
Ryrie quotes Floyd Hamilton, an amillennialist, as though he was in agreement with dispensationalism's hermeneutic. Hamilton said, "Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the premillennialist pictures. That was the kind of Messianic kingdom that the Jews of the time of Christ were looking for, on the basis of a literal kingdom interpretation of the Old Testament promises." This is not agreement by Hamilton, but recognition of the problem with Ryrie's system: first century Jews were looking for a political savior that would overthrow Rome. Jesus did not come for that purpose, but to establish His kingdom, which He said was not of this world. It's a sad error for a Christian to fall into the same pit the Jews fell into. In John 3, Jesus was explaining how no one can even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again by the Holy Spirit. He asks Nicodemus, "Are you a teacher of Israel and don't know these things?" Nicodemus understood the Old Testament the way Ryrie says Christians should; and he had missed the kingdom of God.
Ryrie goes on to say, "In the progress of revelation there has been no change in the meaning of these words (Israel and church), and they are kept distinct." I will not spend time looking at the word "church" as it's not critical to this topic and because it has such a controversial history in the translation of English Bibles. But to see how the word "Israel" has changed in meaning over the unveiling of God's Word is critical to one's proper understanding of Scripture, so we will see what the Bible says about this word. Ryrie says, "The term Israel continues to be used for the natural (not spiritual) descendants of Abraham after the church was instituted, and it is not equated with the church. Only when a believer belongs also to the Jewish race can he in any sense be called a spiritual Israelite." Romans 2:28-29 tells us a true Jew is not merely circumcised in the flesh, but in the heart. This is without regard to genealogy. Is he not a "spiritual Israelite?"
He continues: "If the yet unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament made in the Abrahamic, Davidic, and new covenants are to be literally fulfilled, there must be a future period, the Millennium, in which they can be fulfilled, for the church is not now fulfilling them." His earthly focus demands earthly fulfillment of OT prophecies. Yet all the promises of God find their "Yes" in Christ, not in national Israel. If, as Ryrie asserts, national physical Israel still plays a significant role in God's redemptive plan, why do we read in Matthew 21 (page 1867) this tale? Beginning in verse 33, Jesus tells the elders and chief priests a parable of a vineyard owner who left his vineyard in the care of tenants and sent his servants and then his son to reap the harvest. Each of them was beaten or killed. When the landowner returned, he was expected by to destroy the unfaithful tenants and lease his vineyard to other farmers that would give him produce at the harvest.
Jesus told the elders and priests that the kingdom will be taken from them and given to another that would produce fruit! The stone that was rejected HAS become the cornerstone. Not WILL BE in the future. HAS become. Upon this stone, all who fall will be broken, but all upon whom the stone falls will be ground up to powder. Note what the Scriptures says - the elders and priests knew Jesus was speaking about them in the parable and explanation He had just told them. The kingdom of God is being given to a people who will produce fruit - the fruit of the Spirit. What kingdom does that leave to be given to physical Israel?
Again, from Ryrie: "Jews today who believe in Christ are members of the church, His Body, and their destiny is the same as Gentile believers during this age. But to those Jews who will be living on the earth in earthly bodies when the Millennium begins and to those who will be born with earthly bodies during the period will fulfill the promises made to Israel that have remained unfulfilled until the Millennium. These include possession of the land (Gen. 15:18-21), prosperity in the land (Amos 9:11-15), and the blessings of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34)."
Here is the distinction between church and national Israel Ryrie spoke about, saying it was foundational to his hermeneutic; it is what drives their hermeneutic. It is a focus on the temporal. A detailed review of the land promise would take about an hour, to see if the scope is what dispensationalists claim. But there is one short passage that should settle the point about land promises. In Joshua 14, we see the beginning of a recitation of the land that had been given to Israel. This continues on until 21:43 where we see this (page 426). The literal fulfillment of this promise took place a long time ago - it's not hanging out until some time in the future. But dispensationalists do not accept this; they are looking for a renewal of temporal Israel. We are familiar with the passage in Hebrews where we read that Abraham was not looking for a piece of dirt but a heavenly city designed and built by God. The main focus of this land promise is not a temporal one, but an eternal, spiritual one.
His second promise is "prosperity in the land" based on Amos 9:11-15 (page 1675). Is this a temporal promise yet unfulfilled? In the famous church council in Jerusalem, James referred to this prophecy as being fulfilled in the work then begun by Paul, and reported to the Jerusalem church - that Gentiles were being called by God into His kingdom (vs 13-18, page 2115). Once again, the true fulfillment is spiritual and eternal, not temporal. For the kingdom of God is focused on "precious metals" but on the power and Word of God!
Thirdly, the dispensational wedge between national Israel and the church means they see two new covenants, one for the church (Hebrews 8) and one for national Israel, in Jer 31. This aspect of Dispensationalism, separating believing Israelites from believing Gentiles, is the most grievous. By accepting this as fact, the whole system of temporal blessings for one ethnic groups as the focus of God's redemptive plan makes God a respecter of persons in matters of redemption and fractures the people He bought with His blood. Hear what Paul said about these two groups of people and their relationship to one another in Christ: Eph 2:11-22 (page 2265). Further, with the finished work of Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” in the eyes of God (Gal 3:28). You see why dispensationalists need to interpret the NT by the OT? The apostolic hermeneutic destroys their system.
Ryrie's support for national Israel's part in the New Covenant is based on his belief that the new covenant in Jer 31 is not the same New Covenant spoken of in Hebrews. "The reference to "new covenant" (in Heb 8:31) is without the definite article. The text does not say we are ministers of "the new covenant" but of "a new covenant. Obviously, not all the provisions of the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament have been inaugurated, as, for example, no need of teaching (Jer. 31:34) and Israel being firmly and safely planted in its own land (32:41)." Hebrews 8 contrasts the old and new covenants, describing Christ Jesus as the great high priest of the New Covenant, calling it a better covenant that the first one. The apostolic writer quotes Jer 31:31-34, assigning that to the work of Christ in redeeming sinners. This is repeated in Heb 10. There is ONE New Covenant, prophesied in Jeremiah and Ezekiel and fulfilled in the Lord Jesus for one people. As to Ryrie's assertion that this inaugurated covenant doesn't fulfill the teaching promise, recall what Jeremiah wrote: Jeremiah 31:34 (ESV) And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.” This does not promise a full and complete knowledge that does away with the preaching and teaching of the Word in this age. It promises that all those redeemed by God will know Him and won't need to be told, "Know the Lord." As for the land promise, if your focus is on earthly things, you will expect to see a literal fulfillment, even though much of the language is alluded to in John's description of the new earth. If your focus is on spiritual, heavenly things, it's easy to see how the apostle interpreted this promise.
If we rightly see how God redeemed His people, we'll find no need to split His body, no need for 2 new covenants, no reason to return to the shadows and rebuild the tent of David in stone. For Christ Jesus has removed our stone hearts and is building new Jerusalem as He brings each of His sheep into His sheepfold. One sheepfold of God, not two.
Dispensationalism mistakenly holds that Israel and the church are not interchangeable in the Bible, however, in Galatians 6: 16 Paul directly calls the Christian church "the Israel of God" (including Gentile believers: cf. Gal. 2:2,5; 4:8; 5:2). Christians are the true 'Jews" (Rom. 2:28-29), the true "circumcision" (Phil. 3:3), the true "seed of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7, 29), the "children of promise" like Isaac (Gal. 4:28), the "commonwealth of Israel" (Eph. 2:12, 19). Israel's glory was the presence of God among them in the temple (Lev. 26:11-12), and the church now is that temple, indwelt by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:14-16; Eph. 2:21-22; I Peter 2:5). Israel was called the people of God's own possession (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18), and now the church has been given that same designation (Eph. I: 14; 1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2: 14). There is but one olive tree, with Gentile and Jewish branches both a part of it (Rom. 11:17-18). The New Covenant, which was made with Israel, is established with the church Jer.31:33; Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 3:3-18). - Greg Bahnsen
Hal Brunson points out that God was meticulous in crafting ethnic Israel as a foreshadowing of God's elect people, comprised of elect from every nation, tribe, and tongue, whom Paul declared to be Abraham's seed (Gal 3:29). He observes that the name, Israel, was claimed as belonging to Christ Jesus (in Matthew's citation of Hosea 11:1) and is, by extension, applied to the redeemed wherein Paul refers to the people of God, whether circumcised or not, as the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). Brunson also sees correlation between the physical circumcision of physical Israel with the spiritual circumcision of spiritual Israel, the Jew that Paul said was truly a Jew (Romans 2:28-29). Lastly, we see physical Jerusalem foreshadowing spiritual Jerusalem. In Hebrews 12:22, the writer says Christians have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is not a future condition during the dispensational millennium; it is a current circumstance for everyone who is enrolled in heaven, their spirits having been made perfect (verse 23). This correlates with Paul's description of Hagar and Sarah as allegories of two covenants, wherein he describes earthly Jerusalem as slavery with her children in bondage. This bondage is being under the Mosaic Law, as Paul made reference to in verse 21 - Tell me, you who wish to be under the Law, do you not listen to the Law? That Law brought condemnation to all mortals who tried to keep it. That was earthly Jerusalem in Paul's day. But, he says, the Jerusalem above (which can only be the heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Heb 12) is liberty and freedom. It was for freedom Christ set us free!
Contrary to the dispensational claim that physical Israel always means ethnic, physical Israel, God's Word reveals that physical Jews, physical Israel, and physical Jerusalem each served as types and shadows of the spiritual, eternal realities of what is a Jew (the redeemed), who is Israel (all those who are in Christ), and where is Jerusalem (in heaven with God until the next age).
Galatians 6:15-16 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. This construction, and upon the Israel of God, is not establishing another category of people (as Ryrie claims in asserting they describe ethnic Israel) who are reconciled to God. Paul is emphasizing who these people he calls a new creation are. The literal hermeneutic consistently divides what Christ has reconciled and contradicts the very clear teaching that, in redemption, God is no respecter of persons - that is, He does not favor one people group over another. As Paul says in Gal 6 - neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And in Galatians 3:28-29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. But premillennialism says ethnic Jews have an advantage. Vlach says it is an ethnic advantage, not an advantage in salvation. No matter how it is described, it makes God a respecter of persons and it makes circumcision count for something.
Here's an example of where the dispensational literal hermeneutic can lead. David Jeremiah succeeded Tim LaHaye as "Senior Pastor" of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, CA. In his book, What in the World is Going On?, Jeremiah reveals that he has based a sermon or two on crude oil, calling it “the stuff of life” and a “sign” (the inference I drew is that he considers this a biblical sign). He disbelieves the biblical account of creation, believing oil took “eons of time” to create and tells us that Deuteronomy 33:24 (And of Asher he said, "Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.) and Genesis 49:22 – 26 indicate there is oil beneath the dirt occupied by the modern nation of Israel. The oil mentioned in Deuteronomy is olive oil, used in medicine and religious anointing. The passage from Genesis simply refers to blessings directly from God in Heaven and indirectly from God here below. To derive a promise of crude oil from these passages is perhaps the worst example of a literal hermeneutic that I’ve seen. Now I'm not saying every dispensationalist believes this, but many do. Shadow Mountain is a YUGE church with as many as 9 satellite campus "churches" where Jeremiah appears weekly on a big screen.
On more quote from Ryrie: "All nondispensationalists blur to some extent the distinction between Israel and the church. Such blurring fails to recognize the contrast that is maintained in Scripture between Israel, the Gentiles, and the church. In the New Testament natural Israel and the Gentiles are contrasted." He seems to fail to grasp that the Bible shows a contrast between the people of God and those of the world. When Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God, they are part of one body - wherein ethnic and class distinctions cease to matter! There is the temporal kingdom of man that will crumble before the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:15-17), and there is the spiritual, eternal kingdom of God that will never end (Luke 1:31-33).
When the King of glory stood before the king of this world, He said, (John 18:36) My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. The Kingdom of God is not of or from this world. The premillennial millennium is of this world. Think about that.
All the promises of God are in Christ (II Cor. 1:20). All the promises of God were made to Christ, as the Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Therefore, there can be no promise of any kind for any unbeliever outside of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. What God promises is far, far better than version of a cursed earth.
Let us fix our eyes on the Lord, from Whom our help comes. No ethnic group has special standing in His kingdom or redemptive work.
Notes not in the sermon:
Why I cannot embrace Dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism splits in half what Christ reconciled in His blood, tearing down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, make both men one in Himself.
Dispensationalism holds the children of Abraham according to the flesh as God's people whereas the Bible says it is children of Abraham according to the promise.
Dispensationalism focuses on re-establishing a religion that was ended by the sacrifice of Christ, claiming the Levitical Religion is the true expression of worship of God. Types and shadows give way when the anti-type comes. The Levitical religion was shadows of the heavenly things and was swept away when Christ finished His redemptive work. Just as some herald the Decalogue to a degree that it obscure Christ, so the focus on the religion that was given with the Decalogue. The fullness has come, do not turn back to the shadows.
Dispensationalism encourages people to overlay the news onto the Scriptures, interpreting the Word by the news of the world. This lends itself to endless promotions of NEW insights, which sells more books and conference tickets to those who do not work to interpret Scripture with Scripture.
I know many people who follow Dispensationalism whom I consider brothers. But I can no more accept Dispensationalist theology than I can accept a state church.
Ryrie makes many absolute claims about his theological system, claiming "only dispensationalism" provides this or does that. "Only dispensationalism can maintain unity and diversity at the same time and offer a consistent system of interpretation, only dispensationalism can adequately account for the variety of distinguishable economies or dispensations in (not apart from) the outworking of God's purpose. Only dispensationalism with its cross-sectional and longitudinal/spiral perspectives can recognize the wealth, mobility, and complexity of the history of God's running the affairs of this world."
"Only dispensationalism can cause historical events and successions to be seen in their own light and not to be reflected in the artificial light of an overall covenant. Thus, a correct philosophy of history with its requirements of a proper goal, a proper unifying principle, and a proper concept of progress is best satisfied by the dispensational system. Like the need for biblical distinctions, the proper concept of the philosophy of history leads to dispensationalism. Dispensationalism sees the unity, the variety, and the progressiveness of this purpose of God for the world as no other system of theology."
"Classic dispensationalism is a result of consistent application of the basic hermeneutical principle of literal, normal, or plain interpretation. No other system of theology can claim this." "Dispensationalism claims to employ principles of literal, plain, normal, or historical grammatical interpretation consistently. If plain or normal interpretation is the only valid hermeneutical principle and if it is consistently applied, it will cause one to be a dispensationalist."
In his book, Dispensationalism, Michael Vlach (a professor of theology at The Master's Seminary) says, "The New Testament at times adds additional information, offer commentary on, draws principles from, and show how Christ fulfills the Mosaic Law. But the New Testament writers do not reinterpret or transcend the original intent of the Old Testament writers."
Two passages from Scripture show us how Vlach goes wrong in claiming no New Testament writers reinterpret the Old Testament and provide examples of the apostolic hermeneutic that many preachers use responsibly but dispensationalist call dangerous. First up, a passage from Matthew 2 that some liberals point to in claiming the Bible has errors. While the wise men were seeking the Christ child, an angel appeared to Joseph, warning him to take his family to Egypt to avoid Herod's murderous scheme. Matthew says this was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I shall call my son." This is a citation from Hosea 11:1, where that prophet recounted the Hebrew people being called out of Egypt after their captivity. Matthew doesn't add "additional information, offer commentary on, draws principles from" Hosea; he reinterprets it as applying to Christ as a prophecy rather than a commentary on a historical account.
Our second example comes from Paul, in 1 Cor 9. He has been teaching the saints that apostles and other saints had the right to marry, to eat and drink and that those who preach should be taken care of financially. (read 7-11, page 2203). As with Matthew, Paul does not merely add "additional information, offer commentary on, draws principles from" Deut 25:4; he reinterprets it entirely! He goes so far as to say it wasn't even written for what Moses intended!
Vlach is wrong in saying New Testament authors don't reinterpret Old Testament passages. It's clear from what Matthew and Paul wrote that they were interpreting and applying those Old Testament passages in ways the human writers would have never imagined. Dispensationalists turn a blind eye to this reality because their "literal hermeneutic" cannot hold together, if they recognize it. And their "literal hermeneutic" is the lynch pin to the other distinctions you find in their system.
Ryrie and Vlach both include national Israel as the human party to the New Covenant, because the first mention of the New Covenant is in the Old Testament!
Another Old Testament passage which dispensationalists claim for the second advent, which means the reestablishment of national Israel in their millennium, is found in Joel 2 and is cited by Peter as being fulfilled in the first advent! In Acts 2 the Spirit has been poured out in a magnificent display of people preaching in their tongue and being understood in the various languages of the people who were there - over a dozen languages! (Read 14-21, page 2083). The literal hermeneutic cannot accept what Peter has said - that these signs and wonders with heavenly displays were apocalyptically fulfilled in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That system cannot accept that His death on the cross was the great and terrible day of the Lord - which it must have been because that is what opened the way for the New Covenant, wherein all the elect from all nations and tribes will be gathered - everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved! This cannot be describing the second coming of Jesus, for the Scripture says (Heb 9:28) Christ will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but save those who eagerly await Him.
The literal hermeneutic requires literal, physical fulfillment of this prophecy - the moon turned to blood - even though this requires them to push it off into the future (because these things haven't happened yet). Even though the Spirit, speaking through Peter said, This is what was uttered through the prophet. Our hermeneutic must bow the knee to holy writ.
The distinction between Israel and the church leads to the belief that the church will be taken from the earth before the beginning of the Tribulation (which in one major sense concerns Israel). Note: A key feature of dispensationalism is a belief in a "pretrib rapture." Yet concerning the tribulation, Ryrie says it is based on a gap he claims exists between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel's prophecy. And yet, of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9 he says, "They are not in themselves determinative of a dispensational change."
The Millennial Kingdom
Of course, the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth is also a feature of dispensational eschatology. The difference between the dispensational and nondispensational views of premillennialism is not in the fact of the coming millennial kingdom (for both include it in their systems) but in the integration of the kingdom into their overall systems. The doctrine of the millennial kingdom is for the dispensationalist an integral part of his entire scheme and interpretation of many biblical passages.
Yet he also asserts, "Concerning the goal of history, dispensationalists find it in the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth, whereas the covenant theologian regards it as the eternal state." The "underlying purpose of God in the world" is the glory of God, but the "goal of history" is "the millennial kingdom on earth" where sin, death, and rebellion take place.
It's important to note: the various dispensations Ryrie claims to find in Scripture are not included in his list of essential qualities. Yet he goes so far as to say, "It is the marking off of these stages in the revelation of the purpose of God that is the basis for the dispensational approach to the interpretation of the Scriptures." Ryrie says the number of dispensations is not determinative, and he observes how some of his colleagues see 3 or 4 or 8. Then he states, "it is not difficult to deduce how many dispensations are revealed in Scripture."
So the number and purposes of the various dispensations claimed by Ryrie and his compatriots are not essential, but they form the basis of their hermeneutic rule. He also claims the distinction between Israel and the church is basic to his hermeneutic: "The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the dispensationalist's consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well."
Ryrie describes a dispensation: "The principal characteristic of a dispensation is the economic arrangement and responsibility that God reveals in each dispensation. Such responsibility is a test in itself. Most men fail the test, and then judgment follows. The dispensational scheme has two perspectives: a cross-sectional aspect (which is sometimes misconstrued as cycles but which is in reality a spiral) and a longitudinal aspect (which emphasizes the unfolding progress of revelation and continuing principles throughout the ages of the dispensations)." "The basic scheme involving the different dispensations remains the most helpful tool of consistent, noncontradictory interpretation of Scripture."
Ryrie quotes John Walvoord: "All the events of the created world are designed to manifest the glory of God. The error of covenant theologians is that they combine all the many facets of divine purpose in the one objective of the fulfillment of the covenant of grace. From a logical standpoint, this is the reductive error-the use of one aspect of the whole as the determining element." I will attempt to show how Ryrie falls to this same error, as each distinctive of dispensationalism flows from their first, and truly the only, essential point - their literal hermeneutic.
In his description of the dispensational millennium, Ryrie says "The earthly purpose of Israel of which dispensationalists speak concerns the yet unfulfilled national promises that will be fulfilled by Israel during the Millennium as they live on the earth in unresurrected bodies." He says neither Jews nor Gentiles who die before the millennium will participate in it. He quotes Dwight Pentecost: "The nature of the millennium, as the period of the test of fallen humanity under the righteous reign of the King, precludes the participation by resurrected individuals in that testing. Thus the millennial age will be concerned only with men who ... are living in their natural bodies." Ryrie says, "It will continue for a thousand years, and man will be responsible for obedience to the King and His laws." He observes that sin and rebellion and revolt take place during this time, although not unchecked. So Ryrie's view of the millennium is populated with unregenerate people who are under the law who rebel against King Jesus. This is a worse condition than what existed upon the earth during the Lord's first advent, as there were people (John the Baptizer, Anna and Simeon) who anxiously awaited Him and heralded His kingdom, which is spiritual and eternal - not earthly and temporal.
Ryrie laments the tendency of progressive dispensationalists who have abandoned parenthesis or intercalation to describe the distinctiveness of the church in relation to God's program for Israel. Ryrie says the word parenthesis does not convey the idea the church is an afterthought. A literary dictionary defines it this way: "Parenthesis is a qualifying or explanatory sentence, clause, or word that writers insert into a paragraph or passage. However, if they leave it out, even then it does not grammatically affect the text, which is correct without it."
2 Kings 19:30-31; Isaiah 10:20-22; 37:31-32, Joel 2:32; Micah 4:7; Zephaniah 3:13; Zechariah 8:1-8, 12; Romans 9:27; 11:5. Each of these verses speak of the nation of Israel but they speak in reference to only a remnant being saved.
A friend: "In retrospect - I never thought of this till the past couple of days - I realize that I set myself up for abandoning dispensationalism long before I actually did so. Early on I realized that a "face value" view of the Bible is the only rational way to approach it. This is the view that whatever in the Word you're reading, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘪𝘵 𝘢𝘵 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘷𝘢𝘭𝘶𝘦. If it's poetry, you take it as poetry. If it's history, you take it as history. If it's highly figurative, you take it as symbolism. If it's didactic, you take it as teaching. And you don't try to turn symbolism into history, nor didactic literature into poetry, etc."
If Romans 11:26 means all ethnic Israel will be saved, how is this determined - all Jews alive at the time, all Jews who ever lived, all Jews since first advent? If the first, then not ALL Israel will be saved. If the second or third, then God is a respecter of persons and fleshly bloodlines determine salvation.
Ryrie says, "Old Testament promises that Israel would be God's people forever, that they will inherit the land of Palestine forever, that they will form God's theocratic kingdom forever. These predictions will be fulfilled in the millennium." Rather than examine the Hebrew use of the word "forever." "Forever" it doesn't mean "forever" as we think, but rather often refers to "as long as the parties are able." The Levitical priesthood is a priesthood for Israel "forever" yet it was ended when Christ came as the high priest of the New Covenant. But premillennialism says "forever" promises to national Israel will be fulfilled in the millennium. Which is not forever; it's not even in the next age.
Ryrie's insistence on a separate new covenant for national Israel is based on his need to have the Davidic Covenant yet unfulfilled. His view of the millennium has David on the throne of David, as Christ's vice-regent during the millennium. Every distinctive of dispensationalism is the fruit of their hermeneutic. Just as the Westminster system was developed to defend their view of infant baptism, so called, so the system of dispensationalism exists to defend the "literal hermeneutic" that draws people away from Christ and His finished work to an ethnic people that has been rejected by God. Romans 11:5-7 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened. It's not about an ethnic people, it's about the Lord Jesus and His chosen ones, the sheep of God, the elect.