Hebrews Lesson 99 September 6, 2007
NKJ Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
We are in Hebrews and we're not going to spend much time in Hebrews, but just to remind you (if I can get there) where we are. Hebrews 7:12 is talking about the change in the priesthood. The argument that we find in Hebrews 7 is that there is a superior priesthood to the Levitical priesthood, to the Aaronic high priesthood and Jesus Christ as the Messiah fits into that as the fulfillment of the type of the royal priest, the Melchizedekean high priest. This is indicated by David's prophecy as it were in Psalm 110 that He will be a priest after the order of Melchizedek forever: so the priesthood changes.
In verse 12 we read this sentence.
NKJ Hebrews 7:12 For the priesthood being changed,
Methatithemi indicating a change of place or condition.
of necessity there is also a change of the law.
The word therefore – we have another word for change metathesis which is a cognate of the verb.
That is, out of the compelling force or logical fact that the priesthood is changing; there is also a change of the law. Now that is a really great verse that has an embedded doctrine in it that is extremely important and probably overlooked a lot just because you tend to read passed it very quickly. That is that there is a change of law and a change of priesthood. The priesthood relates to the administration of the spiritual life among the Jews in Israel under the Mosaic Law. So it indicates that something drastic changes between the Old Testament period and New Testament period.
Now last time I introduced the doctrine which is related to dispensationalism trying to answer the question in a somewhat abbreviated sense. (I have a longer series out there on dispensations and covenants. I think it is called God's Plan for the Ages.) But here I am just trying to give us a little bird's eye view of what is involved in dispensations so you will know what we are talking about.
A lot of people don't really know the technical terminology here even though some people have heard dispensational teaching in relationship to perhaps the rapture or they are pro-Israel. They believe that God still has a future plan for Israel - something along that line. I remember talking to a friend a few years ago and this individual was very involved in a denominational church and thought they knew a tremendous amount about the Bible. So something came up and I started rattling off on dispensations like they knew what I was talking about. Even though this was an individual whose siblings had gone to seminary and had gone on the mission field and had this family environment with all of this advanced study in it, this individual who was in their 50's at the time, never heard the words dispensation or dispensationalism. That is a real tragedy today. It is the dumbing down of the church. If you dumb down your vocabulary, you dumb down your ability to think and your ability to perceive what is going on in the Scripture. That is one problem because this individual had been taught a sort of popular view on dispensational truth down through the years.
On the other hand you also have a lot of groups, a lot of denominations attack against dispensationalism. Part of that is funnelled by ignorance. Several years ago there was a critique written of dispensationalism written by a reformed theologian who had a lot of respect by the name of John Gershner. He basically set up a series of straw men arguments and then knocked them down. (A straw man argument is when you misrepresent the opponents view and then it is real easy to discredit it) Here is this world-class scholar, a recognized world class theologian who could have his honest disagreements with dispensational theology, but he distorted and misrepresented it. Unfortunately a lot of people have that view of what dispensationalism is. So I thought was important to take a little time to go through and explain exactly what dispensationalism is.
Dr. Louis Sperry Chafer was the founder and professor of theology at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years. He used to comment that if you were not going to Israel to sacrifice a lamb on Passover or to sacrifice a burnt offering whenever you needed to, then you're a dispensationalist because you recognize that certain things have ended and certain things have changed. One of the kind of interesting or subtle points that you run into in this debate is that there are people (and everybody but dispensationalists are this way as I pointed out last time) that believe that if something is stated in the Old Testament that it automatically continues throughout all of the rest of the history of salvation and on into the Church Age; whereas we would say that unless something was repeated or restated in the New Testament, then it had only a temporary life in the Old Testament. That is something we are going to get into more and more at the end of chapter 7 and into chapter 8.
So this is a good place to stop and do this brief overview of dispensationalism because dispensationalism isn't saying that God changes everything. We believe that there are certain things that continue the same. Salvation is always by faith alone in Christ alone. However in the Old Testament the understanding of just exactly who Christ is, is not as clear as it is today. For example from Adam to Abraham, the Messiah would have been thought of in terms of the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent on the head.); but the serpent would bruise Him on the heel.
Then with Abraham there is a little more clarification that the seed is going to come and the one who will bring worldwide blessing will come through the line of Abraham, Isaac and then Jacob. Then you come to the Davidic Covenant in II Samuel 7 and you get clarification that the Messiah is going to come through the line of David. So as the centuries went by people in the Old Testament people got a clearer and clearer understanding of things about the Messiah until finally come to passages like Isaiah 7:14 that:
NKJ Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin
Behold "the" virgin (it says in the Hebrew), not "a" virgin as most English translations have it. The definite article there indicates that it is talking about an understood virgin, going back to the seed of the woman.
shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Immanuel, God with us.
You have a real tight understanding that this is going to be the incarnate God just because His name indicates that. So there is a tighter and tighter understanding in this progress of revelation. So that is very important in dispensationalism.
Last time I pointed out by way of review a couple of things. Dispensations deal with time and ages. We talked about some of the key words that you find in the Bible such as "seasons" based on the Greek word kairos which indicates a broad expanse of time as opposed to a narrower expanse of time. I think that you have ages which are broad and dispensations which are narrow. That'll be clear by the time we finish this evening. We also have the term aion for age. And you have an Age of Gentiles between Adam and Abraham, no Jews.
It is all- but you have 3 dispensations because there are modifications of the original Creation Covenant first in Genesis 3 then again with the Noahic Covenant. Then there is a major shift that takes place with the call of Abraham in Genesis 12. So you have ages and you have dispensations.
The concept of dispensation comes from the noun oikonomos which is where we get our word economy. You can hear how they sound very similar and it emphasizes the idea of stewardship or administration and the idea that God administers His plan differently in different ages. There are certain things that stay the same, but there are other things that are different. It is important to indicate that. That's part of dispensations.
So we define dispensations as:
A distinct and identifiable (that means that each dispensation has specific characteristics. We will get into that later on; this is just upfront.) administration in the development of God's plan and purpose for human history.
There is progress. Everything is not the same.
As part of this we recognize three key elements as I pointed out last time.
- First of all a consistent, literal interpretation of Scripture.
- Secondly, that leads us to an understanding that God has a distinct plan for Israel and for the church. Israel isn't replaced by the church; but Israel is temporarily set aside and God is working through a new body that was not revealed in the Old Testament. The term mystery will show up. That term mystery indicates a previously unrevealed doctrine. It is a mystery not because it is a whodunit and you have to figure out a riddle, but it's a mystery because it is unrevealed information. So the church wasn't revealed. Why not? Because if Jesus is going to come and make a legitimate offer to Israel and they know that they are going to fail and somebody else is going to come along, then it is not much of a legitimate offer. So there is a potentiality in there that is interesting to think about. Jesus came and gave a legitimate offer to Israel that if they would accept Him as Messiah, the kingdom would come right then and there. At the same time He knew that they wouldn't. But, it was still a legitimate offer. He knew that they were going to be temporarily set aside for a new group called the church in which there would be neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor slave. In other words ethnicity wasn't going to be an issue in the Church Age like it was in the Old Testament. Sex was an issue. Whether you were male or female was an issue in the Old Testament because only males could come into the presence of God. But in the New Testament it doesn't matter, neither male nor female, bond nor slave. In the Old Testament only a freeman could come into the presence of God into the temple. But in the New Testament your economic status or social status is not an issue in the Church Age in the body.
- Then there is a wonderful promise from Paul in Romans 11 that eventually Israel will turn back to God, call on the Messiah and all Israel will be saved. So Israel isn't permanently set aside in God's plan. It is only temporary.
That's really important to understand that distinction between Israel and the church because otherwise you end up when you read Scripture and interpret it (read it for yourself and try to figure out what it means for you). If you don't understand the distinction between Israel and the church, it is like reading your neighbor's bills – reading your neighbor's mail, thinking his mortgage is your mortgage. You are not understanding to whom a passage is addressed or written or of whom a requirement is expected. So that's what happens.
People come along and they think, "Well, the Ten Commandments are still for today."
No, you are reading somebody else's mail. That's a contract with somebody else, not a contract with the church - not a covenant with the church is the biblical terminology. So it is important to understand those distinctions when interpreting Scripture.
So from there I pointed out that in the English the word "dispensation" means to weigh out or dispense. Once again it is part of the idea of administration.
It is the act of administering or ordering something, dealing out or distributing something or the act of dispensing with some requirement. So at the core of a semantic meaning (that is technical language for basically what this word means) is that there is a requirement. It includes within its meaning some sort of obligation, responsibility or expectation from someone. It's management, but there is responsibility and accountability in relationship to something. So that is all bound up in the idea of a dispensation.
We see in Scripture that there are certain passages that make reference to these things. For example, Ephesians 1:10 talks about the fact that with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times.
NKJ Ephesians 1:10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth -- in Him.
That's not now. It's not in the past; it's in the future. So that indicates one division of human history. Then in Ephesians 3:8-9 Paul talks about his responsibility, that he was given the grace to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ. That shows a difference because in the Old Testament their focus wasn't to go out to the Gentiles, but to be a light or a beacon that the Gentiles would come to. So there is a definite shift or distinction. Paul goes on to say:
NAS Ephesians 3:9 and to bring to light what is the administration
Oikonomia – that's our word for dispensation. In fact the Old King James translated it dispensation.
of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;
So that's a reference to the present Church Age. It has been a mystery in the Old Testament. But now it is being brought to light.
Then in Ephesians 3:2 talks about the fact that:
NKJ Ephesians 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation
There is our word again, okonomia.
of the grace of God which was given to me for you,
That is a reference to the present Church Age.
NKJ Colossians 1:25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,
NKJ Colossians 1:26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.
All of this indicates that within the Scripture itself there is a recognition of these different administrations that God administers history with a little bit different obligations, responsibilities at different times.
Then we began to look at definitions. I think we stopped about right here if I am not mistaken.
C. I. Scofield who edited the Scofield Reference Bible was one of the great Bible teachers that came out of the late 19th century. He was a decorated Confederate war hero. After the war he decided the find the solutions to life in a bottle rather than somewhere else. He was a drunk for a number of years and then he was a lawyer as well – not that those two go together. I am not making - no lawyer jokes here. He was a lawyer.
It is interesting how many theologians were lawyers. Darby who was the first to organize and categorize Scripture began as a lawyer. Others began as lawyers. Calvin was a lawyer. Many theologians down through history have come out of the legal profession. It is that same kind of analysis that appeals to them.
But Scofield was part of that whole Bible teaching milieu – the prophecy Bible conferences, Niagara Bible Conferences, the North Hampton Bible Conference that Dwight Moody had up in Massachusetts. He was very instrumental and edited and produced the Scofield Reference Bible which came out in the early 20th century and has influenced hundreds of thousands, millions of people to understand dispensationalism.
His protégé was a young musical evangelist by the name of Louis Sperry Chafer.
One day he told Chafer (he said), "Louis you might make a pastoral teacher someday if you just had something to say."
So from that point on Chafer began to study at his mentor's knee. Eventually Scofield became pastor of a congregational church Dallas, Texas that is now known as Scofield Memorial Church.
Another dispensationalist from the early 20th century…I didn't read the quote did I?
A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.
That is a good tight definition. It indicates that there is a period of time, although as I pointed out last time a dispensation indicates the administration, in other words a timeframe. It is a period of time during which man is tested. That is accountability for something. That something is given by way of a specific revelation. So there is specific change of information that takes place. That's very important. A dispensation isn't based on other factors of history or theology. There is revelation from God that God is going to function a little differently toward people and require them to do things a little differently. So you look for those times when God is revealing something new in how He is going to work with the human race.
Graham Scroggie defined dispensation this way. He said:
The word okonomia bears one significance and means an administration whether the house or a property of the state or of a nation or as in the present study the administration of the human race or any part of it at any given time just as a parent would govern his house solely in different ways.
Now the reason he uses that illustration is because the word okonomia comes from two Greek words, oikos meaning house and nomos meaning law. So house law. When you were three years old your parents had different rules for running the house and how you would obey them than when you were 13 and when you were 18. So the fact that a household - and some of those rules stay the same. The fact that a household changes the way that it administers those in the household doesn't imply inconsistency or that you are saying God changes or any other silly notions that people accuse dispensationalists of. He goes on to say:
Just as a parent would govern his household in different ways according to varying necessity yet ever for one good end so God has at different times dealt with men in different ways according to the necessity of the case but throughout the one grand end.
I pointed out last time that the overall purpose of God within dispensational theology is the glory of God.
Dispensationalism is usually juxtaposed to what is called today replacement theology. By replacement they mean that Israel is replaced by the church in God's plan so that the promises and covenants that were originally given by God to the Jews in the Old Testament are now given to the church and the church becomes the heir of the promises to Israel and national ethnic Israel is no longer relevant - no longer significant for the plan of God. While that doesn't necessitate saying that they are anti-Semitic, it does provide the soil within which anti-Semitism has often sprung, especially during the Middle Ages when a-millennialism dominated the church. The Jews were no longer important. God has no plan or future for Israel. Therefore the Jews were maltreated many times in Europe. They were run out of England for several centuries. They were expelled from Spain in 1492 and pushed around different places in Europe throughout much of that time until interestingly enough they found a place of rest in the United States for the most part. Even the colonies were very open to Jews coming in and settling in America. It wasn't until they established their own nation that they knew that no matter what happened if another holocaust came they would have a place of safety where they could flee. That issue of Israel is very, very important. It is important not because it is a system that says so, it is important because that is what the Bible says.
Charles Ryrie, who was the head of the Theology Department at Dallas Seminary when I was there, has written a classic work, a good work that is basic in some senses but very good analysis in other senses called Dispensationalism. He defines a dispensation as:
A distinguishable economy in the outworking of God's purposes.
So he puts less of an emphasis on time which is what the word dispensation really does emphasize - the administration aspect more than the time aspect. But, it emphasizes that it is the outworking of God's purpose. And, it is distinguishable. That means there are distinguishing marks or characteristics so you can definitely tell when one begins and the other ends.
Around 2000 I was asked to write that article for The Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible on dispensationalism. I tried to pull several different ideas together. I wrote:
A dispensation is a distinct and identifiable administration (I picked that up from Dr. Ryrie) in the development of God's purposes for human history. A closely connected but not interchangeable word is age. They are not identical. They are not synonymous. An age can be broader than a dispensation which introduces the time element. God manages the entirety of human history as a household, moving humanity through sequential stages.
That is a key word sequential. They are related and one builds on the other so that there is advance in knowledge, there is advance in information, and there is advance in revelation.
of His administration, determined by the level of revelation He has provided up to that time in human history.
It is very important to understand this idea of progress of revelation. Failure to do so crops up in the most interesting places. I go on to say:
Each administration period is characterized by revelation, specific responsibilities, a test in relation to those responsibilities, and failure to pass the test in God's gracious provisions of a solution when failure occurs.
Five things - that pretty much goes along with how Dr. Scofield set things up. For the most part Scofield has a very workable understanding of dispensations.
So what are we saying? First of all these distinct elements are from the viewpoint of God, not from the viewpoint of man. It is Theo-centric not man-centered, God centered not man-centered. We look at these in terms of how and what God reveals.
Second, there is a time when one ends and another begins. There may be a transition period in there as one is fading out and another is beginning like you had in the book of Acts. This is a problem the Charismatics have. They don't understand the transitional nature in the book of Acts. At the beginning of the books of Acts when Peter is preaching in Acts 2 and again in Acts 3, there is still a holdout. Technically up until 70 AD there is still the possibility that the Jews can repent and accept Jesus as Messiah and the millennium will come. They are still in the land and the temple is still there. But, in another sense they have already forfeited that by their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. God in His grace still holds out that option.
Peter says in Acts 3 to turn to Jesus and accept the times of refreshing which is a term of the kingdom. The times of refreshing will come. So there is a transition period there. But it is still clear that something is different.
On the day of Pentecost in approximately 33, the Holy Spirit descended. Individuals who were believers in Christ are baptized into the body of Christ, were filled with the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit and that never happened before. It is unique to this age so it is very clear that that's the demarcation line. There is some overlap.
I always have fun thinking, what would you do if you were a Jew and you were an Old Testament saint and you lived in Rome and you died in 45 AD before the gospel got to Rome? Are you a member of the church or are you Old Testament Israel? You are still Old Testament Israel. See there is a transition nature that took time for the gospel to get around.
A third point is that this emphasizes the divided administration of history. History isn't as Henry Ford said one time, "One damn thing after another." It an orderly guided progression of events that is the outworking of God's plan. It is not just a bunch of chaos. God is moving history and He is doing certain things and teaching certain things in each one of these dispensations because they manifest different characteristics and qualities. In that period from Adam to Noah, God's presence is still in Eden.
Adam could take his great grandchildren and his great-great-great-great-great grandchildren down to see the cherubs standing there with the flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden and say, "God lives in there."
Did you ever think about that? They could see the angles; and human beings could see the demons. The sons of God were not invisible when they were cohabiting with the daughters of men in Genesis 6. Now after the Noahic flood, you don't have this. The angels are not visible. They are not operating on the planet in a visible overt manner like they were before the flood. Then you have this mass of demon activity at the time of Christ and then it sort of fades out. A lot of people want to think that it continues demonic activity of course, but not quite in the same way because the Messiah is not here. It is really interesting; you have very little reference to demons in the Old Testament. There is no demon possession, nothing like that in the Old Testament. All of a sudden it explodes on the scene in the gospels and then you have a little bit of a hangover when you get into Acts. Then the epistles don't even mention it. There isn't one mention of demon possession in the epistles. I wonder why that is...
New revelation designates the shift from one dispensation to another. That is why I come back to saying that it's the covenants that indicate the movement.
God reveals to man in the Garden of Eden what his role and responsibility is. He is to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field. He is to guard and keep the garden. The wife is to be a helper to the husband. They are to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. They are not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But, what happens? They disobey God and all that has to be modified. Then you go through another period of time. There is another worldwide cataclysm and judgment with the Noahic flood. God comes back and has to restate each of those principles again. They are still to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, but now there is going to be other characteristic differences on the planet. God gives a new set of stipulations. But, man disobeys. You have the Tower of Babel.
And then God decides "Well, heck with the whole human race. So I am only going to work through one man and his descendents."
Then you have the Abrahamic Covenant. So, new revelation comes. So each time you have new revelation in the form of a legal contract, the dispensation shifts. When they do, some things remain the same; some things change. For example you are still saved by faith alone in Christ alone. God provides a solution. Your understanding of Christ and who He is changes, is modified, clarifies, gets tighter in focus as you go down through the ages. If you are not saved by works in the Old Testament, you are not saved by law. You are not saved by morality. You are not saved by ritual any more than you are in the New Testament. You are saved by believing the promise. In the Old Testament you look forward to the fulfillment of the promise. Now we look back to the fulfillment of the promise. So each dispensation has its own responsibilities and tests. That's indicated by change and expansion of revelation.
Last but not least, each successive stage moves God's plan closer to conclusion.
When it is all said and done I think God is going to look back and say, "See in each one of these dispensations we had conditions and circumstances that pretty much covered every possible condition and circumstance. Man failed in every one of them when he tried to do it on his own. You can't come up with another way of possibly doing it."
What God demonstrates through all of history is that there is only one way and that's God's way and you have to be dependent on God. Nothing else works.
So how do we know when a new dispensation begins? That's a key question. That comes to the idea of a covenant.
Here is a quote from another very good dispensationalist – not an American dispensationalist but a German dispensationalist by the name of Erich Sauer. He wrote several books – The Dawn of Redemption, and The King of the Earth. This was the first theologian that I was ever aquatinted with. The pastor of the church where my parents were going when I was really little recommended these books to my dad to read. He bought the King of the Earth and read that. I think I read it when I was in junior high – excellent book. He is a European dispensationalist so he is a little different from the flow of dispensational thought that occurred in America. Erich Sauer says:
A new period always begins only when from the side of God (notice these guys are all Theo-centric. It isn't a man-centered theology) a change is introduced in the compositions of principles valid up to that time;
What is the one word to describe that when a change is introduced in the composition in the principles involved up to that time? What is one word you use to summarize that? Revelation; new revelation.
1. There is a continuation of certain ordinances valid until death; some things continue the same.
2. There is an annulment of other regulations that were valid up to that point. Some things change; some things stay the same.
3. There is a fresh introduction of new principles not before valid.
That is why you can say – see you don't have the indwelling of the Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit, or the filling of the Spirit in the Old Testament. When you read about the Holy Spirit interacting with Old Testament saints, do not make the mistake of reading into that the same behavior he has in the Church Age because it was different. It was for a different purpose.
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon men like Gideon, and Jephthah and Sampson not for the purpose of their spiritual life or spiritual growth but in order to give them military capability to defeat the enemies of Israel. It came upon the craftsmen of the tabernacle not to give them spiritual life for greater fellowship with God, but in order to give them skill in making and constructing the jewellry and all the woodwork in the tabernacle. The work of the Holy Spirit was designed to promote the administration of Israel in the Old Testament. I figured it up one time. There are fewer - you can't really say for sure because there are some prophets that we don't know so there are only about 20 named people in the Old Testament that are filled with the Spirit; but I will be generous and say 100. Out of all those centuries you didn't have more than 100 people have any kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. That certainly can't be normative at all because there were tens of thousands of Old Testament saints.
Now Arnold Fructenbaum in his book summarizes it this way. His book is called – what is that tee-shirt that Bruce always wears? Footsteps of the Messiah. See, you can't forget it. He's got 20 tee-shirts that all say the same thing.
From God's viewpoint a dispensation is an administration. From man's viewpoint a dispensation is a responsibility. From the viewpoint of progressive revelation a dispensation is a stage in it.
That is a stage within the progress of revelation.
From God's viewpoint a dispensation is an administration. From man's view point a dispensation is a responsibility. From the viewpoint of progressive revelation a dispensation is a stage in it.
Then I put this in to give you a little bit of an idea. This comes out of Ryrie's book Dispensationalism and gives you some different breakdowns of dispensations from different dispensationalists.
Now one thing I want to point out because some people think, "Ah, a dispensationalist. You have to have 7 dispensations."
That's a good biblical number of fullness, right? Seven, so you have to have 7 dispensations. Some people have 4 dispensations. Some people have 8 dispensations. The number of dispensations is not relevant to whether or not you are a dispensationalist. Dallas Seminary only mentions 3 dispensations in their doctrinal statement.
- The dispensation before the current time
- The dispensation of the mystery today and
- The dispensation of fullness of times in the future.
Now Pierre Poiret was a dispensationalist in the 17th century. He had 6 dispensations.
- Creation to the flood
- The flood to Moses
- Moses to prophets
- The prophets to Christ
- He looked at the Church Age as the period of manhood and old age. He used the maturity model.
- The Millennial Kingdom was called the renovation of all things.
Isaac Watts the hymnist who wrote Joy to the World was a pre-millenialist. He breaks down. He has an early dispensational type breakdown. He breaks it down as:
- An age of innocency before the fall.
- Then the Adamical age from the fall through the flood
- The Noahicle period from Noah to Abraham
- The Abrahamick period up to Moses
- the Mosaical period
- then what he calls the Christian period
He doesn't break the Church Age down or the Millennial Kingdom down too much although he was pre-millennial.
Now the first consistent dispensational theologian was an Irishman by the name of John Nelson Darby. Darby was originally trained as a lawyer. Then he went into the clergy. He was in the Anglican Church and broke away from the Anglican Church because he didn't like their ecclesiology. They were ….in his church for many reasons. For many reasons he was right. He also came over the United States and taught a lot in the 19th century. He influenced a vast number of people because of his biblical teaching. It wasn't original with him. He just systematized it.
You will find a lot of people who say, "How can you believe in a pre-trib rapture? Darby invented that. Nobody believed in that before Darby."
Well, there are at least three different evidences that they have discovered in the last 15 years of people who in church history who held to the disappearance of the church prior to the tribulation. One goes back to a document called pseudo-Ephraim. That's who the writer was called because he took the pseudonym of Ephraim. We don't know who the actual author was. He indicates that the church goes up before the time of God's wrath.
Then there is a Baptist (I don't remember his name.) president of one of the most liberal universities in the country in Providence, Rhode Island - Brown University. The president of Brown University was a Baptist in the 1750's and he wrote a document that wasn't published until after he died. He held to a pre-trib rapture.
Then there was another evidence that came up on a reversal. There was a document that was discovered written in the Maryland colony in the late 1700's that was refuting a pre-tribulation rapture which means that somebody had to be teaching it.
Then I was talking to Tommy Ice the another day and he said they found some other (he didn't tell me what it was) but they think they have discovered another early writing that indicates a pre-trib rapture. So Darby just systematized this.
James Hall Brookes was a Presbyterian pastor in St. Louis in the late 19th century. He wrote quite a bit. He broke it down this way. He said you have:
- the period of Eden which Scofield called innocence
- then the antediluvian period from Adam to Noah
- then the patriarchal period from Noah to Moses
- then the Mosaic period up to the time of Christ.
- then he breaks out a separate dispensation for the time of Christ which he called the Messianic dispensation. I think he had a point there because there are certain distinguishing characteristics that are unique to Christ's presence on the earth. The Jews weren't required to pay attention to the Law anymore. They have a new message – repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. There are other aspects that are unique to Christ's time on the earth.
- then he referred to the Church Age as the Age of the Holy Ghost
- then the Millennial Age.
James Hall Brookes had a former drunk Confederate War hero, now Christian show up in St. Louis who he mentored by the name of Cyrus Scofield, C I Scofield. So Scofield then broke the dispensations down into what has become classic because of the influence of the Scofield Reference Bible.
- Human government
What's good about Scofield's scheme is he breaks each one down because of a covenant shift that takes place. So I think he's got that nailed down in terms of innocence up to the time of Adam's fall. He is innocent not because he is naïve but because he is judicially not guilty. He is not just not guilty, he is innocent judicially. That's a very good concept to hold on to. He is innocent. He becomes guilty. Because he is legally guilty he has to become legally justified in order to get saved. So it ties all that together. It is a very good concept.
The Age of Conscience is from Adam to Noah. The Age of Human Government is from Noah to Abraham and then the Age of Promise from Abraham to Moses and then the Age of the Law, the Age of Grace and the Age of the Kingdom. So that just shows you some different ways that dispensationalists have broken down the periodization of dispensations over the years.
So how does God advance the dispensations? He does it with covenants. Now this looks like a lot up there, but it really isn't. You can summarize it pretty easily. First of all I say it's a contract. Always think of that. I think I have drilled that in to you enough by now that a covenant is a contract.
When you signed on the dotted line to apply for a credit card, you have signed a covenant; you have signed a contract. That covenant that you have with your VISA company is assigning a particular interest rate and certain responsibilities and also punishments that are part of that contract. When you bought you house or you leased an apartment, you have a contract. There are certain stipulations in that contract as to how long the term of the lease is or how long the term of the mortgage is or whether it is a fluctuating rate mortgage or whether it is a fixed rate loan or what the percentage rate is. Let's say you went out and you got a 7 ½ % loan several years ago. You come along and it's now 2005 or 2006 and mortgage rates have dropped down to 5 ½ %.
You say, "I don't think it is fair that I keep paying 7 ½ % on my mortgage for my mortgage rate. I am going to start paying them 5 ½%."
Do you think that will work? No, you can't change the terms in the covenant once it is enacted.
You say, "Well, my next door neighbor got a great deal. He got a VA loan and his loan is only 4.8%. I think I will start applying that rate to my mortgage."
Will that work? No, you are reading your neighbor's mail.
See this is what people do who go to the Mosaic Law and say "I think the Mosaic Law is and I need to apply that to my life."
What's the problem? The Mosaic Law wasn't addressed to you. It was addressed to Israel. It is addressed to your historical next-door neighbor. The terms of that contract are terms that are specified to be for Israel, not for you. The same will happened in the tribulation period. What is going to happen in the tribulation period? This is the last 7 years in Israel's history.
What happens if they come to Ephesians 5:18 and they walk around and say, "Walk around and be filled with the Spirit".
What is going to happen? Well, reading the wrong mail again!
The Spirit as a restrainer is going to be removed during the tribulation period. What about baptism of the Holy Spirit? Somebody is going to get a hold of a Pentecostal tract during the tribulation period and go around saying that you have to be baptized by the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. Oops! You are reading the wrong mail again. See, you have to be careful with this.
So a covenant is a contract between God who is the party of the first part who makes a sovereign disposition obligating Himself in grace to bless man who is the party of the second part. God is always the initiator. He's the one who set's the parameters and provides the revelation.
Now there are two covenants between God and Gentiles as a whole. Actually you could say there are three.
- There is the initial Creation Covenant (or Edenic Covenant) of Genesis 1:26-27. Man is to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky and beasts of the field.
- Adamic Covenant then that is the modification of that in Genesis 3:14-19.
- The Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9:1-17 but you have references to it in other verses.
Then there are five covenants between God and Israel.
- The Abrahamic Covenant
- The Palestinian or Land Covenant
- The Mosaic Covenant
- The Davidic Covenant
- The New Covenant which is stated to be God and the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It doesn't mention the church. It doesn't mention the church in Jeremiah 31.
It doesn't mention the church in Hebrews 8. When Hebrews 8 comes along as we will see in a few weeks when we get there, it is a direct quote from Jeremiah 31. It begins by saying in Hebrews 8:8:
NKJ Hebrews 8:8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah –
It didn't add "with the church." Covenants don't change. It's still the same New Covenant that you had in Jeremiah 31 through 34. Of these, what we will see is that the Mosaic Covenant was intended to be temporary and was designed to end at a particular time. The other covenants are permanent in nature.
Going back to the original covenant there was an Edenic responsibility given in Genesis 1. They were to be fruitful and multiply. But in Genesis 3 in the revision there is now going to be pain in child birth. The woman is a helper in Genesis 2. She becomes involved in this authority struggle in Genesis 3. Man is to subdue the earth in Genesis 1. Now the earth is cursed and there are thorns in Genesis 3.
In Genesis 1 he is to rule over the animals, but the animals are now cursed in Genesis3. Every plant was given for food in Genesis 2. But in Genesis 3 it is restricted to plants of the field. In Genesis 2 man is to serve and guard the Garden of Eden. But now he is expelled after the curse. He is not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The result was now there is spiritual death which brings physical death. This shows the correlation between Genesis 3 and Genesis 1. Man is still to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth which is what is brought out in the Noahic Covenant. So these three covenants are really modifications of the same contract. God has to come in and as it were establish an addendum to the contract because the conditions on man's part have changed because of sin.
So you have two conditional or temporary covenants, the Edenic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant. The Edenic Covenant has some conditions on it because as long as they don't eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they can stay in the garden.
The Mosaic Covenant
Secondly there are unconditional or permanent covenants. I like that term permanent more because even within some of these unconditional covenants there are conditions on their full realization like in the Abrahamic Covenant. Those are your two basic breakdowns.
So what do we say about these covenants then? Four things.
- They are literal covenants. They must be understood literally and taken at face value. They are like literal contracts. Unlike the covenants in "covenant theology" which is the reformed branch, these are theologically extrapolated covenants. There are usually two, sometimes three covenants mentioned in covenant theology – covenant of works, covenant of grace and covenant of redemption. You never find that terminology anywhere in the Bible. It is extrapolated and imposed upon the text. But these are literal covenants, literal contracts. They must be understood in terms of the party of the first part talking to the party of the second part. What God tells Abraham what He is going to do for Abraham, He is not going to do for you. When you are 95 years old, you are not going to have a baby. No seed promised there. No land promise there. You can't go in and read somebody else's mail. You will get in trouble. I just wanted to see if anybody was awake.
- These permanent covenants are eternal. They carry the results on into eternity. They are still going to be a distinction between Israel and the church and God's plan and purpose for them on into eternity.
- Third, even though we call them unconditional, they do contain certain conditions for fully realizing the blessings of the covenants. It doesn't mean that God is going to not bring about the final promise, but that Israel (the Jews) won't experience the full blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant until they accept Him as their Messiah, as their deliverer.
- Fourth, the covenants with Israel are made with the covenant people which is Israel and not the church. The church is not a covenant people. We will get into that when we get into Hebrews 8. God never made a covenant with the church.
Now earlier dispensationalists thought that well, there is a new covenant with Israel so because Christ came and what did He say right before He went to the cross? We are going to say it Sunday morning.
NKJ Mark 14:24 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.
Well, there must be a new covenant for the church. But it doesn't say that - anywhere. So, hmmm. What's the relationship of the church to the New Covenant? The relationship is this.
Let's say that I am entering into this contract with Claude here. I enter into this contract with Claude and I say that on the basis of this legal contract that we have, I am going to bless everybody else in this room. But the legal basis for that blessing of everybody else in the room is the contract that he and I have. The rest of y'all aren't contract partners. That is what God did with Abraham.
In the Abrahamic Covenant He said, "Through you all people will be blessed."
The expansion of that blessing part is the New Covenant where God says, "I am going to put a new heart in Israel (not the church, but a new heart in Israel) and all people will come and worship with Israel."
What He is doing is the same thing.
He is saying, "I am going to establish a covenant with Israel on the cross. And on the basis of that contract with Israel I am going to be able to bring the church in and bless them in a unique way."
One of the ways that's done is that we are in Christ who is one of the covenant partners. He is not the party of the second part; He is party of the first part. So there is no new covenant for the church, just a New Covenant for Israel. That's the basis for the future. It's even though it is established at the cross, it doesn't go into effect until the Second Coming.
So we conclude with Romans 9:4.
NKJ Romans 9:4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
Paul still recognizes the Jews still get a right to the covenants. They are Israelites, his fellow ethnic relatives. They are Israelites.
It doesn't say that they were taken away and given to the church. They are still to Israel.
So here they are. You have the Gentile Covenants.
- The Edenic Covenant which I tend to call the Creation Covenant now, which ends with the fall.
- Then there is the Adamic Covenant that ends with the flood.
- Then there is the Noahic Covenant. When does that go out of effect? In the Millennial Kingdom probably. There will be some changes in the kingdom.
- You have the Abrahamic Covenant – land, seed and blessing.
- The land part is developed in the Land or Real Estate or Palestinian Covenant.
- The seed is developed in the Davidic Covenant.
- The blessing part is developed in the New Covenant.
These are all unconditional, permanent covenants. There is one conditional or temporary covenant. That's the Mosaic Covenant given in Exodus 20 to Exodus 40.
So we are almost out of time - two more quick charts. The Age of the Gentiles is subdivided into three dispensations based on your three different covenants. Then the Age of Israel covers two eras – the dispensation of the patriarchs and the dispensation of the law – The Abrahamic Covenant at the beginning and the Mosaic Covenant comes in at Sinai.
Then you are going to have another shift when the Messiah appears because Jesus comes along and now you are no longer believing that God is going to provide a future Messiah. What do you have to believe? That He is the Messiah. The requirements shift. The test shifts. They now are to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, a new message. There is a change there.
I am going to skip these verses. We will come back to them later.
After the cross you have the Church Age that ends with the rapture. You all have seen it before. It ends with the rapture. Then there is 7 years left over for the Age of Israel which is the tribulation. That ends with the Second Coming of Christ when He comes to establish His kingdom. That's when the New Covenant goes into effect and you have a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ at the Millennial Kingdom.
We will come back and wrap it up a little it in summary next time.