Covenant Theology

Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 19

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 82

Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to the Jews as important for the fulfillment of prophecy and their charge of “anti-Semitism” against evangelicals who do not see an exalted future for Israel (Hal Lindsey), they are presently urging Jews to return to Israel even though their understanding of the prophecy of Zech 13:8 teaches that “two-thirds of the children of Israel will perish” (Walvoord) once their return is completed.

Response

Two things: first, while some people like Lindsey (if we can trust the Nicene Council) do accuse other evangelicals of anti-Semitism, it is by no means all dispensationalists who do. Barry Horner’s Future Israel or David Larsen’s Jews, Gentiles and the Church ought to be consulted on this. Some of my former teachers are eminent dispensationalists (Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Robert Lightner, Thomas Ice) and they are all hesitant to use the term “anti-Semitism,” especially against most evangelicals who happen to hold to a different eschatology. However, a minority of dispensationalists do freely accuse other Christians of anti-Semitism. I have been accused of it myself, because I think our focus today needs to be where God’s focus is—on the Church! Still, I have also encountered mild anti-Semitism many times among some, not all, amillennialists and postmillennialists, who believe the Church is the “New Israel” and are thus eager to assign ethnic Israelites in present-day Israel to the status of a geopolitical anachronism. These people often believe what they hear on CBN about “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”

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Supersessionism Rising: Dispensationalism...? Part 1

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Sept./Oct 2011.

In October, 2010 many in the evangelical world were focused on the third Lausanne Conference in Capetown, South Africa. The Lausanne Movement begun in 1974 by Billy Graham, John Stott and others in Lausanne, Switzerland has had only three such major conferences in its over sixty-year history.

The purpose of the movement was ostensibly to unite and focus the efforts of global evangelicalism for the task of global evangelization. The preparations for the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Capetown included papers from several study groups; one such group was the Lausanne Theology Working Group. This group produced a document entitled “The Whole Church Taking The Whole Gospel to The Whole World.” This document was published on the Lausanne website1 and in the January 2010 issue of Evangelical Review of Theology (vol. 34, no. 1, p. 4-13).

In one startling paragraph of that paper the members of the Theology Working Group at first affirmed the unity of the church: “We give thanks that the one Church that God has called into being in Christ is drawn from every nation, tribe, people and language,” but they then went on to assert that “no single ethnic identity can any longer claim to be ‘God’s chosen people.’” The theologians of the Lausanne Movement who produced this document further argued “God’s election of Old Testament Israel was for the sake of the eventual creation of this multi-national community of God’s people.” In other words, they assert that the purpose of the election of Israel was for the creation of the Church! This, of course, is a denial of God’s purposes for the ethnic descendants of Abraham and of a future for the nation of Israel.

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 18

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 80

Contrary to dispensationalism’s teaching that a physical temple will be rebuilt, the New Testament speaks of the building of the temple as the building of the Church in Christ, so that “the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21); the only temple seen in the book of Revelation is in Heaven, which is the real and eternal temple of which the earthly temporary temple was, according to the book of Hebrews, only a “shadow” or “copy” (Heb 8:5; 9:24).

Response: Note that this objection is a deduction from these passages, not a plain declaration of the texts themselves. Do these passages deny “that a physical temple will be rebuilt”? No they do not. But let’s take a look at some that do teach that a literal temple will be rebuilt in the future (italics added):

Matthew 24:15: Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place.

The geographical context is “Judea” (the next verse), and the eschatological context is “the end” (Matt.24:3, 6, 14, 21, 27, 29-30). The Nicene Council notwithstanding, these verses are not referring to AD 70! They are speaking about a time of “tribulation” (Matt.24:21, 29) occurring right before the Second Coming of Christ (Matt.24:29-31). The “holy place” of verse 15, then, is standing in Judea just prior to Christ’s return!

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Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 17

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 75

Despite dispensationalism’s “plain and simple” method that undergirds its millennial views, it leads to the bizarre teaching that for 1000 years the earth will be inhabited by a mixed population of resurrected saints who return from heaven with Jesus living side-by-side with non-resurrected people, who will consist of unbelievers who allegedly but unaccountably survive the Second Coming as well as those who enter the millennium from the Great Tribulation as “a new generation of believers” (Walvoord).

Response: The “former dispensationalists” among their number ought to have been able to explain this “problem” to their brethren on the Council.

1. Concerning the “unaccountability” of unbelievers in the Millennium, Robert Thomas writes: “the battle of 19:19-21 resulted in death for all those not faithful to the Messiah. However, the redeemed but nonglorified population on earth survives the battle, enters the Millennium (cf. 11:13, 12:13-17), and reproduces offspring some of whom do not become saved as they mature. These unredeemed will comprise Satan’s rebellious army at the Millennium’s end.” (Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary, 410-411)

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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 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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