Series - 95 Theses

Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 15

LookItUpRepublished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 68

Contrary to dispensationalists’ view of the mark of the beast, most of them seeing in the beast’s number a series of three sixes, the Bible presents it not as three numbers (6-6-6) but one singular number (666) with the total numerical value of “six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev 13:18b).

Response: Our friends have been reading the enthusiasts again, and lumping all dispensationalists in with them. How would they feel if we cited Harold Camping and used him as our exemplar to critique Reformed theology? But the reader is advised to check the works of Ryrie, Walvoord, Pentecost, Fruchtenbaum, Couch, Ice and others for himself and see whether they commit this error. Most dispensationalists are wary of saying much about this number (singular), but are content to say that its meaning will be apparent to those wise enough to recognize it in that day.

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 14

LookItUpRepublished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 61

Despite the dispensationalists’ teaching that “Jesus will come in the air secretly to rapture His Church” (Tim LaHaye), their key proof-text for this “secret” coming, 1 Thess 4:16, makes the event as publicly verifiable as can be, declaring that he will come “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”

Response: By “secret” LaHaye, who is not to be thought of as an authority on the issue, meant something like “kept secret until revealed.” For a number of reasons, not least because anti-dispensationalists try to make capital out of it, this is not the best way to speak about the rapture—so most dispensationalists don’t!

But again it ought to be pointed out that the preterists who signed these 95 Theses don’t really have a problem with an “event as publicly verifiable as can be” being, in fact, totally secret. This is precisely how some of them interpret the Second Coming passage in Matthew 24:25-31 (see K. Gentry in The Great Tribulation: Past or Future?, 65-66. Gentry co-wrote this book with T. Ice). They think all this happened secretly and invisibly in AD 70.

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 13

LookItUpRepublished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 57

Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that Christ could return at any minute because “there is no teaching of any intervening event” (John Walvoord), many of their leading spokesmen hold that the seven churches in Rev 2-3 “outline the present age in reference to the program in the church,” including “the Reformation” and our own age (J. D. Pentecost).

Response: It is true that some dispensationalists have regarded the seven churches as a kind of prophetic outline of church history. But not all have, and it is a mistake to think it is necessary to the dispensational system. Robert Thomas has a lengthy excursus on this teaching in the first volume of his Commentary on Revelation in which he rejects it. This view reflects an unhealthy admixture of speculative historicism to the futurism implicit in dispensational premillennialism.

Still, those who advocate the historical-prophetic view of Revelation 2-3 are careful to say that the churches are types of the visible church in every age, with one type predominating at one particular time. Thus, the prophetic portion is more in the way of application than strict hermeneutics.

As one who holds that it is often precarious to teach doctrine from types I would be glad to see this approach abandoned.

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 12

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 53

Contrary to the dispensationalists’ urging Christians to live their lives expecting Christ’s return at any moment, “like people who don’t expect to be around much longer” (Hal Lindsey), Christ characterizes those who expect his soon return as “foolish” (Matt 25:1-9), telling us to “occupy until He comes,” (Luke 19:13 ) and even discouraging his disciples’ hope in Israel’s conversion “now” by noting that they will have to experience “times or epochs” of waiting which “the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:6-7).

Response: (I shall address the specifics of the doctrine of imminence under the next Thesis). Let me begin by pointing out the obvious fact that the Nicene brethren run to parables to teach that imminence is unbiblical. The first thing which should be said is that one must first make sure that the parables in question have been rightly interpreted before their proposed teaching can be admitted.

Matthew 25 is within the Olivet Discourse, which some of these men would apply to the church, and the preterists among them would say was fulfilled in AD 70. We respectfully reply that a person could not find the church in Matthew 24-25 unless he was bound and determined to see it there. The passage addresses the Great Tribulation (24:21), which concerns a “holy place” (24:15), “Judah” (24:16), “housetops” (24:17), and the Jewish Sabbath (24:20). Notice the Jewish context!

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 11

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 49

Contrary to dispensationalism’s claim that Christ sincerely offered “the covenanted kingdom to Israel” as a political reality in literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (J. D. Pentecost), the Gospels tell us that when his Jewish followers were “intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king” that he “withdrew” from them (John 6:15), and that he stated that “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

Response: This charge is easily answered. The Jews who would make Him king by force in John 6 did not have the right idea of who Jesus was or of the purpose of His mission. This is made clear by reading the rest of the chapter, where Jesus ends up with only His original twelve followers. Therefore, the kingdom we read being offered to the Jews by the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-2) and Jesus (Matt. 4:17) was sincerely offered on the condition of repentance and faith. This repentance was not forthcoming from the nation at large, but the offer was there nonetheless.

But our brothers seem to have forgotten their own theology here. Surely these men believe in the “well-meant offer of the gospel” to all people (unless they belong to the PRC), even though not everyone who is offered salvation in the Crucified One will accept it? If it is not duplicitous of God to offer a non-elect person the gospel, why is it thought strange when the kingdom is offered to those whom He knows will refuse it?

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 10

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 46

Contrary to dispensationalism’s claim that “the Church is a mystery, unrevealed in the Old Testament” (J. D. Pentecost), the New Testament writers look to the Old Testament for its divine purpose and role in the history of redemption and declare only that the mystery was not known “to the sons of men” at large, and was not known to the same degree “as” it is now revealed to all men in the New Testament (Eph 3:4-6), even noting that it fulfills Old Testament prophecy (Hos 1:10 / Rom 9:22-26), including even the beginning of the new covenant phase of the Church (Joel 2:28-32 / Acts 2:16-19).

Response: First, one does not have to be a dispensationalist to hold that the mystery of the Church as the Body of Christ was not known in OT times (see Bruce, O’Brien, Barth). The adverbial conjunction “as” in Ephesians 3:5 is best seen in a descriptive sense asserting the difference in kind which the mystery discloses, rather than a restrictive way whereby more is known now than was known before. Paul is speaking here of the entity which is the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ which is entered into through the Baptism of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). According to Acts 1:5 (cf. John 7:39) this baptism began at Pentecost. It is this new revelation of the Body of Christ which it is crucial to keep in mind since it is just not found in the OT. Further, the mystery was covered up, “hidden,” or “not made known” (3:5), but is now revealed. This surely supports the descriptive sense! It wasn’t half covered up!

Colossians 1:26, which is more emphatic, again refers to that which “was hidden from ages…but now has been revealed.” So there is a strong case against the view that Paul is talking about the amount or “degree” of the mystery that was known prior to the NT. Paul is rather saying that the Church was completely unknown.

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 9

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read the series so far.

Thesis 41

Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the descendents of the patriarchs never inhabited all the land promised to them in the Abrahamic covenant and therefore, since God cannot lie, the possession of the land by the Jews is still in the future; on the contrary, Joshua wrote, “So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it… Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43,45).

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