Intermediate Discipleship #4: How to Be Wrong in Dispensationalism

May 5, 2020

In different dispensations, it is only when we consider the right group of people and the right time period can we then know which verses apply to us and which do not. This lesson will cover the doctrine of transitions, which is extremely crucial concerning dispensationalism.

 

Hyper-dispensationalists

Hyper-dispensationalists believe that the body of Christ only started in the middle of the book of Acts. Hence they are also referred to as mid-Acts. It also explains their large emphasis on the Apostle Paul. 

We learned in dispensationalism that the Apostle Paul is the crux of all Christian doctrine today that is why many of them attempt to force everything on Paul’s timetable to be Christian and insist that everything apart from Paul is pertaining to the Jews only. They hold the view that the Old Testament and likely even the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John written during the pre-Pauline time periods are useless for Christian doctrine. As for the books of Hebrews to the end of Revelation, they posit that since they refer to future Jews, they are not applicable to Christians.

 

Detecting Hyper-dispensationalists

The phrase to look out for is when they refer to themselves they use the term “mid-Acts”. If you see a church named “Grace Church” without the word “Baptist”, it is very likely the church is hyper-dispensationalists. Grace Baptist Churches are, conversely, not hyper-dispensationalists.

They also use the term “Berean”, but the most crucial thing to beware concerning whether or not they are hyper-dispensationalists is if they believe the body of Christ started in the middle of Acts. This kind of doctrinal creed is not present in independent fundamental KJV-only dispensational Bible-believing churches; in fact, they rarely talk about the beginning of the body of Christ as it’s not a big deal to them. hyper-dispensationalists make a big deal out of it from their obsession towards the Apostle Paul. 

Mid-Acts dispensationalists assert differing viewpoints regarding when the body of Christ started. Some insist it was in Acts Chapter 11, others Chapter 28, and yet another the book of Ephesians where Paul was revealed. But all of them do not believe the body of Christ started at the cross.

 

Debunking Hyper-dispensationalists

The key to solving this nonsense is in understanding the transition between the Old Testament and the current church age.

We believe that the body of Christ really began at the cross it only officially started in the book of Acts. The body of Christ started at the cross but only went into full swing in Acts Chapter 2 This is reinforced by Ephesians, where it is written, “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross” (Ephesians 2:16). Notice that the body of Christ started by the cross.

The body of Christ is also tied to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The official starting point of the body of Christ connects to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. And when were they baptized with the Holy Ghost? It was in Acts Chapter 2. Therefore we say that the body of Christ started at the cross but only officially so in Acts 2, where “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:1-4). The church, then, did not begin with the Apostle Paul, but in Acts 2 (Acts 2:47).

Remember that hyper-dispensationalists teach that the OT as well as Hebrews to Revelation have no application to the Christian. This is very easy to debunk. If this is so, why did Paul quote OT verses as application to Christians? It is incorrect to say the OT is completely for Jews.

 

 

Exceptions Within Dispensations

An important teaching is that the four time periods, the OT, Church Age, Tribulation, and Millennial Kingdom, are general rules. Webster’s 1828 dictionary, when defining dispensations, mentions exceptions. This is the keyword that distinguishes us from hyper-dispensationalists and anti-dispensationalists. They do not believe in exceptions within general rules.

In logic, even, it is known that exceptions do not dismantle the rule but proves it even further. For example, if there was a parking lot where no one was allowed to park at with the exception of Pastor Gene Kim, the presence of this exception strengthens the notion that you are not supposed to park there.

 

Grace and Faith in the OT are Exceptions

We emphasize that dispensations are general rules with some exceptions. Paul found certain exceptions in the OT and used it to apply to the Christian. The thief on the cross, before Jesus even died, believed in Christ for his salvation and went to heaven, without faith or works unlike the rest of the OT. Another instance in Romans mentions Abraham and David’s salvation, that it is likened to the Christian’s salvation – by faith and not by works. (Romans 4:1-7) Samson was not good in his works, but he was tied to the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. (Hebrews 11:32-33) Lot committed incest, but the book of Peter still calls him a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7).

Why would God give exceptions? It is an example of grace. Even in modern society, governments and businesses let some things slide. God laid down rules to follow because without them He knows society will fall apart. But He knows it will also fall apart if He does not bestow grace from time to time. 

How many times do you see the word “faith” in the OT? 2 times. God gave glimpses of His grace, and grace was from beginning to end, but it is insufficient and wrong without the Lord Jesus Christ to pay for it in full. Jesus’s payment is absolutely necessary to have salvation by grace. If we were saved by grace and faith even in the OT, the cross is not needed. God is a gracious God, but sin has to be paid for, thus the fullness of grace and faith only came to pass at the cross.

1 Peter 1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

Notice here that the OT prophets realized grace was going to come to us in the future and had no application to them. They have also “enquired and searched”, meaning they had seen glimpses and some tastes of grace.

1 Peter 1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

See that grace was not fully revealed to them, but “unto us”. It is also unto us that this grace is given, and not to them.

 

 

Transitions in the General Epistles

Exceptions and transitions are the two key terms that distinguish us from hyper-dispensationalists and anti-dispensationalists. The transition refers to the switch of focus from Jew to Gentile. There was no clean-cut timeline where God said that the Jews were done with and the Christian church brought in. People become hyper-dispensationalists because they rely solely on Paul, and try to find a clear distinction. We do not know where the clear separation is, or when the nation of Israel had started being cut off.

Why did God not cleanly separate from Jew to Gentile? Because he deals with us in the same way. God gradually turns his focus from you and onto another person when you do not repent. God does not abruptly decide to turn from you – His change in focus is gradual. He does this out of mercy and grace. The evidence is the entire book of Acts. Notice how Paul still kept ministering to the Jews and saying to them that they were turning to the Gentiles.

It cannot be said that the general epistles are applied to the Jews in the tribulation. In the introduction, the church is mentioned many times along with the teaching of salvation by faith. The books of Hebrews to Revelation are not books applied to Jews – they are transitional books that apply to both Jew and Gentile. Thus you both verses for Jews in the tribulation and verses for the Christian today are present.

If you are an anti-dispensationalist who finds that a part of the transitional books apply to the Gentiles and concludes that these books are completely for the church only and not for the Jews, you are being partial and dishonest. It is also incorrect. The general epistles contain many verses for the Jew also, such as references to the tribulation, the Antichrist, and works.

On the other hand, if you are a hyper-dispensationalist who says that the epistles are completely for the Jews only, you are no different from the anti-dispensationalists, in that you only look at part of the picture. True bible-believing dispensationalists look at the whole picture: For the Jew and for the Gentile.

 

Link to Cessation of Signs and Wonders

It also makes sense that signs and wonders have ceased from Paul’s writings. We know for a fact that we are in the Church Age right now, and that Israel is long gone. We had nearly 2,000 years of lack of signs and wonders. When exactly did they cease? Just as we do not know with the Jews, we do not know with signs and wonders.

When God was gradually done with the Jews, signs and wonders were gradually done as well. In the beginning of Acts, which focused on Jews, signs and wonders were at their peak. But as it gradually shifted to Gentiles, signs shifted away. In Paul’s last writings, we notice him recommending medicine, that he left someone sick, and feared that someone would die. If he possessed the signs like unto the start of the book, he would not have worried. He worried because the signs gradually faded away.

 

 

Theological Systems Concerning Dispensationalism

It is important to know these systems because they will help you find the right church. Speaking of which, some criticize us for criticizing other pastors. But in giving these complaints they admit that there is no heresy in Christian churches we should fight against. It reflects an ecumenical stance supporting a one-world religion.

We must then acknowledge that heresy is present in churches. But confusion is understandable – with everyone fighting each other, how can we know who is right? Especially on the internet, many are picking fights with one another as though they all started their own little gigs or cults. Note however that we did not start on Youtube. Our church started as a local Bible-believing church, and historically as well from other Bible-believing preachers.

 

History of Dispensationalism

In the late 1800s up to today, modernism was rising. It was the time period where evolution became popular, modern versions of the Bible sprang forth, and intellectualism in schools started to rise up, along with studies such as higher criticism of the Bible. Notice that all this began in the schools; Satan first began attacking from academia.

Bible-believing Christians in that time all believed the KJV bible in their hand was perfect. The 1800s fell more significantly towards the tail end. We had our final victories in Billy Sunday, in Bob Jones Sr., and in the early ministry of Billy Graham. We also know they believed the KJV Bible was perfect, since the reason why many do not believe this today is that they were taught that the Bible was errant.

In this period, there were also dispensational beliefs; they were even present long before, during the Dark and Middle Ages. It sprouted through a few key figures: John Nelson Darby, who is commonly mistaken as its founder, to Scofield with his reference Bible, to Larkin, and finally to Ruckman, where we are today. We can discern when they are wrong when their teachings conflict with scripture. We came from this traditional line of progressive revelation, and are hence not a weird little cultic fringe.

One common misconception is that the four people in that line all agreed with one another. It is incorrect. When we grow in knowledge, teachings will differ, just like the topics we learn in schools. 

 

Covenant Theology

Covenant theology, which is largely held by Calvinists, is the enemy camp of dispensationalism. They teach the doctrine that dispensationalism is false. Many also believe in a doctrine known as replacement theology, which states there is no distinction between the Jew and Church; that the Church replaced Israel. This is heresy. Those in our tradition of progressive revelation as mentioned above show that it is heresy with scriptural backing.

Covenant theologists also generally believe that the church will go through the tribulation. John Piper believes this but John MacArthur is pre-tribulation. It is important to note that Calvinists may hold differing views.

Another camp from covenant theology is the covenant of grace, who teach that God’s grace of salvation was from the beginning of the OT all the way to the end, and that salvation has always been grace, though it may have been administered differently at times. This is found in the Calvinist doctrinal creed in their London Confession of 1644. This is again heresy.

 

KJV Dispensationalism and Classical Dispensationalism

KJV Dispensationalism was from Ruckman, while classical dispensationalism was primarily from Scofield and Larkin. 

The KJV camp believes that Israel is distinguished from the church. This belief is a primary foundation of dispensationalism. They also believe in dispensational salvations and dispensational raptures, where there will be several different raptures in the Bible: the pre-tribulation rapture will be for the Christian church, while the post-tribulation rapture for the Jews in the tribulation.

However we do not believe that classical and KJV dispensationalism are separate. We believe that dispensationalism has been present ever since the beginning of the Bible, and was revealed progressively over time. 

Some Church fathers recognized there was a distinction between the dispensation of Jesus Christ and the OT, and some even used the word “dispensation”. Larkin and Scofield took it further and made it very clear that the two dispensations are different, where the difference is that God is using the Christian church instead of the Jews. The fathers also touched on distinctions between Israel and the church, and Larkin made it clearer by revealing the several different gospels in the Bible: The gospel of the kingdom by Jesus to the Jews, and Paul’s Gospel to Christians today. These points prove that by progressive revelation the Bible becomes clearer.

Scofield similarly saw some differences in salvation in the OT and NT, but he was not as clear as Ruckman in that the OT was salvation by works and the NT salvation by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Scofield thought salvation by faith was the same in the OT as it is today, while Ruckman made it clearer.

If you do not believe in progressive revelation, and only believe Scofield and Larkin, there will be two problems: they did not believe the KJV Bible was perfect, and the two were not responsible for the creation of dispensationalism. Dispensationalism was present ever since the beginning but progressed as time went on.

Hence we consider classical dispensationalism to be a subset of KJV dispensationalism. Classical dispensationalism is a false notion dispensationalism did not start with any specific people, but was progressively revealed from the start.

 

Mid-Acts

It is important to know there are people who claim to be dispensationalists but are not. Many such people are of the mid-Acts camp, which we touched on earlier. They are hyper-dispensationalists, and they largely follow the teachings of Cornelius Stam, Charles Baker, and Les Feldick on Youtube, among others.

 

 

Afterword

You have to understand that when people call themselves dispensational, it does not mean they are definitely correct. You have to consider from their history which part of the progressive revelation they are in, and also check their point of view against scripture.

There is a group of people who claim to be dispensationalists but refuse to progressively grow. Many of them stay stuck on the covenant of grace. In this case, we must educate them. And there are others who jump into mid-Acts teachings with the mistaken notion that they are dispensationalists like us. 

Finally, for covenant theologists, it is heresy for them to think that the whole Bible applies to us. It will result in a mess of doctrines. It is only when we consider the different time periods and different groups of people do the doctrines then fit like a glove.