Hebrews Lesson 100 September 13, 2007
NKJ Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
The last couple of weeks I have taken a little bit of a detour in Hebrews to look at dispensations because there is a change that is at the root of what is being talked about in Hebrews 7 and especially into Hebrews 8 when we talk about the New Covenant. So I took time just to give you an overview and a little brief introduction into what dispensations are.
A dispensation is an administration by God during history of these sequential periods in history as God is working out His plans and purposes in the human race.
There is also a distinction between what we might call ages and dispensations. One of the key elements in a dispensation is that there must be new revelation. There must be new information from God so that there is a basis for either the human race or a portion of the human race to understand that the way God is administering human history. The expectations, the requirements, the responsibilities are shifting. So that is usually revealed in a covenant; but not every covenant changes dispensations. For example the Land Covenant in Deuteronomy 30, the Davidic Covenant in II Samuel 14, and the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 do no change dispensations. However when the New Covenant goes into effect, actually when all three of those find their ultimate fulfillment which is at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ then of course there is a shift in dispensations. But, the revelation about those covenants doesn't change a dispensation as the Abrahamic Covenant changed dispensations, as the Noahic Covenant changes dispensations or the earlier ones.
Now last time when I finished I was putting together a chart or overview of the dispensations and I thought I had added one that dealt with the end with the Church Age, Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom. That wasn't there. I thought I had added it and I didn't. So, today I am going to start with an overall chart that shows the relationship of all of the ages and all the details and all the dispensations. You are going to have to write fast to get it all down.
We start off with biblical dispensations. We have the Age of the Gentiles and the Age of Israel. So these are the broad ages that cover the Old Testament period. Then we have the Age of Perfect Environment which is the initial dispensation from creation to the fall. The information is revealed in what I call the Creation Covenant, what Scofield called the Edenic Covenant. This is revealed in Genesis 1:28-30 and Hosea 6:7. There is a responsibility that is delineated. That is to fulfill the covenant – to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field, to guard and keep the garden and not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
There is a failure. They ate the fruit – Genesis 3:1-6. There is a divine judgment of spiritual death and expulsion from the garden.
Then we have because of the outline of the condemnation, we have a new dispensation that has been called human conscience. The reason it is called human conscience is there is no established authority structure outside of the individual or outside of the family we can say. There is no government per se. There is no authorization that we know of in Scripture revealed for human government. So the covenant that governs this is the Adamic Covenant – Genesis 3:14-19. The responsibility is animal sacrifice. Once again salvation is based on grace. It's an issue of sacrificing that which God has created. Man does not produce or make the animals. Later on (this is what confuses some people) in the Levitical sacrifices you have grain offerings and you have various other offerings that involve bringing produce. They serve a different function. So we begin at the time of Cain and Abel. There is the understanding that the foundational sacrifice is a blood sacrifice. Cain brings an offering from the fruit of the field, but Abel brings a sacrifice that is honored by God because it is a lamb from his flocks and he sacrifices it.
So you will read some people who say, "Well, there was not really an issue there. It was Cain's attitude, not the sacrifice."
But what they are doing is reading back into Genesis 4 aspects of the Mosaic Law which doesn't come along for another couple of thousand years. Their failure was evil and wickedness as described in Genesis 6:5-6 and the judgment is a worldwide flood.
Then we have a new covenant. The new covenant is the Noahic Covenant which establishes human government. They are again mandated to multiply and fill the earth just as they were in the original Creation Covenant. Rather than scattering, they build the Tower of Babel. They established the kingdom of man at Babel and Shinar and built the Tower of Babel. So there is judgment of confusion and languages. Now all of this is the Age of the Gentiles.
Then we get to Israel. There is a new covenant that distinguishes one man and his descendents from the rest of the human race.
Now here is an interesting question. If somebody is a descendent of Japheth and they've migrated up into what is now Southern Russia or over into Western Europe, would they have any idea of what was going on with Abraham? Not at all. Nevertheless, remember a change of administration in relation to either the entire human race or God is working through a segment of that human race. That's what's happening here because God has made the decision that he is no longer going to work through the human race as a whole. So whether somebody, some early proto-German up in Germany understands this or not is really irrelevant. Some people try to make an issue out of this. That is the only reason I bring it up because Abraham knows and God is from then on only going to reveal Himself through Abraham and his descendents. So it is a clear distinction.
From this point on God is going to bless the rest of the human race only through Abraham. That's why we have a dispensational shift now at this particular point. You don't leave this off into some sort of transition period. It is clearly part of the Age of Israel. They are to remain distinct. They may fail because they start – the sons of Jacob begin to intermarry with the Canaanites. They start to think like Canaanites, act like pagans, and become assimilated to Canaan. So God has to judge them through the Egyptian bondage which isolates them in Egypt.
Then we have their deliverance. In the book of Exodus God gives the Mosaic Law which is the next covenant. It is a temporary covenant to govern His redeemed people. It is not a means of salvation, neither was it necessarily a means of sanctification. But it was the body of laws to govern the nation Israel. That is very important for understanding the whole principle of biblical interpretation - that much of the Old Testament is written to Israel. We can learn a lot from it, but it is not written to Church Age believers. It is not directly applicable. Only principles are indirectly applicable. We learn wisdom and we learn a lot about God and His faithfulness and grace from looking at the Old Testament. Their responsibility under the covenant was to obey the Law. They disobeyed and were expelled from the land; so you have the Diaspora of Israel. Only a small segment comes back. There is approximately - estimates are that there were at time of the New Testament maybe 8 to 10 million Jews worldwide; but only about 1 ½ million to 2 million lived in the land – not a situation too dissimilar from today.
You didn't have a massive return to the land following the Babylonian Captivity. You still had vast numbers of Jews who stayed in Egypt, who stayed in Babylon, who stayed up in the area of modern Turkey, Asia Minor and in various other locales. They did not return back to the land of Israel. So they are still scattered. But God had to bring a segment back and He had to restore the nation following the Babylonian captivity so that there would be a people in the land for the arrival of the Messiah. There had to be a nation and a national governing group there to make the decision whether or not to accept Jesus as the Messiah.
Then we have another age which I call the Messianic Age. The reason I use the term "Messianic Age" is because Jesus comes to offer Himself as the Messiah to Israel. That is His function. You have the forerunner of John the Baptist that "there is one coming after me whose sandal I am not worthy to tie". He's the one who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. The message of John the Baptist was "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
It was a genuine offer of the kingdom. So this is the Messianic Age because at least for 80% of that time period of Jesus' public ministry on earth, He is offering the kingdom to Israel. It's a legitimate offer. There is no hint of postponement. There is no hint that there is a future Church Age or anything like that. As far as the people know it is accept Him and the kingdom will come or not. That's the issue. So you definitely have a distinct dispensation.
Now a lot of people have asked questions about that. If you look at Scofield and you look at Chafer and you look at any number of dispensationalists even today, you look at the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible - they follow this old Scofield scheme. But I think that you can take this criterion that we have that is laid out for a dispensation. Is there new revelation that they are accountable to that's distinct? What were the Jews in the Old Testament responsible for? They had to believe in a future provision of a Messiah. But if Jesus is standing in front of you, what are you responsible for? Remember when Jesus is talking to Mary in John 11, or to Martha.
NKJ John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
Do you believe this?
It is present, real time. It's not "believe that God is going to send a Messiah in the future"; but that "I am He." It was real time so you have a definite change in the message. So you have Jesus presenting Himself as the Logos.
NKJ John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
NKJ John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
So we have a new revelation in the Son. The responsibility is now to accept Him as the Messiah. They failed and rejected Him as the Messiah – Matthew 12. The Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the Sadducees rejected Him as Messiah. Even though thousands of Jews trusted Him during the incarnation as the Messiah, the leadership did not and the vast majority did not. Even after the church begins and there were still thousands of Jews that trusted Christ as Messiah; but it wasn't the majority of Israel and it wasn't the leadership of Israel. So you have the cross and the fifth cycle of discipline.
This is foreshadowed by Jesus' response to the Sadducees and Pharisees in Matthew 12 when they say, "Well, you are doing all these miracles in the power of Beelzebub."
That was when they rejected His messiahship. They are attributing the testimony that God the Holy Spirit was giving them through Jesus' miracles and they are attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Beelzebub.
So Jesus said, "You have blasphemed the Holy Spirit."
Now there are all kinds of people that come along with different ideas as to what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is – that it's the unforgivable sin. There are a lot of people who say that it is the unforgivable sin. There is no unforgivable sin. What about not believing in Jesus? Well, Jesus either paid for every sin or He didn't. That sin is paid for, it is just not accepted. He has to pay for every sin or you have a problem. So there is no unforgivable sin. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not an unforgivable sin. It is the Pharisees as the leaders of Israel rejecting Christ and that foreshadows or basically it sets in motion a string of events that are necessarily going to culminate in the 70 AD judgment. That's the issue there. Because they have made this decision it sets Israel as it were nationally on an irreversible course. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a national issue. It is a historically conditioned event. Nobody today can do that. No Gentile could do that. Only the Jews could do that. They did it by attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit in validating the credentials Jesus as Messiah. So nobody today can commit the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It is not the unforgivable sin. Not believing in Jesus is not considered -- Jesus paid for the sin. The problem is that if you don't trust in Him, if you don't believe in Him, you are not sent to hell because you committed the sin of unbelief. You are sent to the Lake of Fire, why? Because you don't possess the perfect righteousness of Christ and you are spiritually dead. Remember, you have to have three things to get into heaven.
- Sin has to be paid for.
- You have to have a new life because you're born spiritually dead. You have to have regeneration.
- You have to have the imputation of righteousness.
If you don't believe in Christ you're not sent to hell or the Lake of Fire for punishment for committing the unforgivable sin of not believing in Christ. You are sent to the Lake of Fire because you are still spiritually dead and you haven't received imputed righteousness. The sin is still paid for. Okay?
The reason I brought that up is about 5 times this last week it seems I have heard somebody mention something about not believing in Jesus is the unforgivable sin; so I thought I would run down that rabbit trail a minute.
The cross is the ultimate revelation of God and His provision of grace for us. Then just after the cross we have a new dispensation begin. Fifty days later we have the Day of Pentecost and the Church Age. The New Covenant was established on the cross, but it is not enacted. This is something we are going to go over ad over again as we get in to Hebrews 8 dealing with Jeremiah 31 and the New Covenant. The New Covenant is between God and Israel. We see this in Jeremiah 31.
NKJ Jeremiah 31:31 " 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 –
Do hear of the church anywhere in there? No.
When you get into Hebrews 8 you see the same thing. It is a direct quote from Jeremiah 31.
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 --
… and the church. Oh no! Wait a minute. It didn't say that. So where is the church? The church benefits from this covenant.
If I entered into a contract with another person and I say on the basis of this legal contract this provides a foundation for being able to provide for these other people. The people that are being provided for on the basis of the legal contract are not contract partners. They are beneficiaries of the contract.
We have the precedent set in the Old Testament in the Abrahamic Covenant when Abraham said, "I will bless those who bless you and you will be a blessing to all people."
The contract is between God and Abraham, but all people are blessed through that. The contract simply provides the basis. So the contract is sealed in the ancient world with a sacrifice. That is what happens on the cross. But the contract if you read the provisions and we will go into them as we get there in Jeremiah 31 – that has never happened. It is not happening in the Church Age.
Somebody says, "Oh well, wait a minute. You forgot. The Apostle Paul said that we were ministers of the New Covenant."
That's right. Those who engage in evangelism are ministers of the New Covenant because the foundation for the salvation of Church Age believers is still the New Covenant. It hasn't gone into effect for Israel yet; but, the blessing provision through Christ is ours by virtue of the Church Age believers becoming united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection at the instant of salvation. So we're united with the party of the first part. So we are ministers of the New Covenant even though the New Covenant is not in effect yet.
If you say it is in effect, you have a problem because when the New Covenant goes into effect, the kingdom begins. Either we are in the kingdom or we're not in the kingdom unless of course you are a professor at Dallas Seminary and you have bought into George Eldon Ladd's solution which was called the "already not yet" view of the kingdom.
That means we are already there in some sense, but not yet really. Scholars just love this. We live in a postmodern age. It is easy to believe these things and believe two different things. So we are already in the kingdom, but we're not yet. In what sense are we in the kingdom? Is Jesus sitting on David's throne? And you had a couple of Dallas Seminary professors. Darryl Bock and Craig Blazing came up with this idea that Jesus is now sitting on David's throne. It has been spiritualized. They interpret the passages in Acts 3 in the same way that amillennialists do. We are going to get into this in a little bit. It is call progressive dispensationalism because the kingdom comes in and it's progressively coming in. It was inaugurated with Jesus and it's progressively coming in. Whereas, what I believe and traditional dispensationalists teach is that the kingdom was offered, the people rejected it so it is postponed. It doesn't come in at all. We are not in the kingdom in any sense.
"Well, we've got the Holy Spirit."
That's doesn't fit the parameters of Jeremiah 31. So this is one of the things and not everybody at Dallas believes that by the way, but a vast majority - that dominates the New Testament Department. It dominates most of the Theology Department although I was gratified to hear recently they hired a new professor in the Theology Department at Dallas and he is not a progressive dispensationalist. Most of the men – all of the men I think in the Bible Exposition Department up there have resisted the temptation to go into progressive dispensationalism. So it is important to understand these distinctions. Like I said this is kind of an overview. We will get into it in more detail as we advance.
The issue in the Church Age is faith alone in Christ alone. We now understand that the person that we are believing in is Jesus of Nazareth who is Yeshua Hamashea. He is Jesus the Messiah.
In the Old Testament they didn't have a clear fix on who exactly it was going to be. So they believed that God is going to provide a redeemer, but they don't understand specifics. That becomes important too as we will see when I get into the lessons later on.
But most people are going to reject Christ. This is hard for most people to believe, to understand. But in each dispensation the vast majority of people in the world have not trusted in God's salvific promise. The vast majority are going to go to the Lake of Fire. Only a minority trust Christ. Don't get caught up in some sort of pseudo-optimism thinking that …and I have heard people say this:
"Well, they grew up in the South. They went to some church. They probably heard the gospel when they were young. They are probably a believer."
Unless there is evidence to the contrary, they weren't. The indication in Scripture is that a vast majority miss the narrow road. They take the wide road and they end up in the Lake of Fire. So most reject Christ and the Church Age ends with the rapture and is followed by the tribulation. The tribulation is a judgment on the human race, not on the church. The Church Age ends with the rapture of the church. And then the tribulation begins. The arrow is off a little bit. I am not proposing by the diagram that it is a partial-trib or a mid-trib view. I guess conversion of the slide from PC to Mac changed my theology … no, not quite. So I will have to move the arrow a little bit. The arrow precedes; the rapture is before the tribulation. That ends with the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennial Kingdom. Armageddon ends the tribulation. The responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom is to obey Christ. But at the end of the Millennial Kingdom Satan is released. There is a Gog & Magog Revolt and God judges them. The failure is the God & Magog Revolt. The judgment is that Satan is released from the Lake of Fire. There is a judgment from heaven. Fire and brimstone destroys the rebellion. Then all those who are not believers are sent to the Lake of Fire. That is the dispensational chart.
What we didn't get into last time was this. Church Age - all those who die, unbelievers go to Hades as a holding place. At the end of the Church Age, all believers are raptured, alive and dead, to be with the Lord in the air. That is followed by a 7-year tribulation. All unbelievers who died during the tribulation go to Hades. In heaven we have the Judgment Seat of Christ followed by the marriage supper of the Lamb. Then there is the Second Advent at the time of the Battle of Armageddon. There is a judgment of tribulation survivors. Then we go into the Millennial Kingdom. It lasts for 1000 years which is followed by another judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment. All unbelievers are taken out of Hades and then cast into the Lake of Fire. The present heavens and earth are destroyed and we go into New Heavens and New Earth. That's the outline for dispensations. Okay?
Now let's go to some other issues related to dispensations. I've talked a little bit about covenant theology. The term I used actually was replacement theology. Now replacement theology is a much broader term than covenant theology. Covenant theology relates to the theological systems that have their heritage in reformed theology specifically the theology of Calvin and Zwingli who was the Swiss reformer and Henri Bollinger. Bollinger, Zwingli and Calvin really are the fountainhead of what is called reformed theology which is distinct from Lutheran theology or Baptist theology. You would think of it more in terms of Calvinism or Presbyterianism or in some cases congregational churches.
Up in New England you have congregational churches and Presbyterian churches. The difference between a Congregational church and a Presbyterian church wasn't that Congregational churches voted and Presbyterian churches didn't. A Presbyterian church had a hierarchy that went beyond the local church. You had your synod and your assembly so that there is an authority external to the local church that they are accountable to. Among the Congregationalists they had the same theology and pretty much the same policy in terms of having elders as opposed to just deacons. But they did not believe in an external hierarchy. Every church is local and autonomous. They didn't go as far as the Baptists did, but they held to the autonomy of the local church. You have two groups that you have in Puritan New England. You have Congregationalists and you have Presbyterians.
Now the theological system that dominates among Presbyterians is called covenant theology. As I pointed out in covenant theology, the covenants that they are talking are not the biblical covenants of the Adamic Covenant, the Noahic Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant. They believe in three theological covenants that we will get into in just a minute.
The basic definition of covenant theology is that it is a system of theology based on two sometimes three covenants which are governing categories for understanding the Bible.
Now let me go back and review something with you. There are three things that make you a dispensationalist. Charles Ryrie defined it as the sine qua non, a Latin phrase "for without which nothing". These are the essential elements that make a person a dispensationalist. It doesn't have anything to do with how many dispensations you believe in. It has to do with more fundament issues.
- A belief in a consistent (that is a key word), literal, plain interpretation of the Scripture where you interpret prophecy just as literally as you interpret everything else. The foundation is really a consistent, literal, interpretation of Scripture which is what I wanted to spend most of the time talking about tonight.
- That leads you to an understanding that God has a distinct plan for Israel from the church. You have to carry this out consistently throughout all of history. God has one plan for Israel, one plan for the church and that during this present age we have a church in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, Jew nor Gentile, bond nor slave, male nor female. All are one in Christ. The issue of physical relationship to Abraham is not relevant to the present Church Age. It will be in the tribulation period and into the millennium, but right now it's not.
In covenant theology, they would disagree with that. They would say that the Church Age today is modern Israel. Now that leads to all kinds of problems. It leads to putting a political bent on the modern church because the church is Israel. If the church is Israel and Israel in the Old Testament is really the church; then the Mosaic Law has relevance for today and all of those kingdom passages and rule passages and law passages become relevant today. It really gets messed up. So I just want to go over a few things here.
The key issue is how they understand the Bible. They interpret the Bible through this grid of these two or three theologically inferred covenants. According to them all of God's work in history is the outworking of these particular covenants.
They are first of all the Covenant of Works. The Covenant of Works was an agreement (according to them) between God and Adam in which God promises life to Adam for perfect obedience, but if he is disobedient then the penalty is going to be death. It is called a Covenant of Works because Adam would have achieved eternal life if he had just obeyed God. If he had done what God wanted him to do, then he would have earned as it were eternal life. So that is called a Covenant of Works. Adam broke the covenant when he ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil so that nullified the covenant and it would have nothing whatsoever to do with us today. It was only in effect during the time of the Garden of Eden.
In contrast to that, dispensationalists would believe that there was a Creation Covenant or an Edenic Covenant that Adam did break it but there wasn't a works basis there. It was just obedience or disobedience – not merit. Adam is still +R, in the image of God.
Louis Burkoff, a reformed theologian, said that it is perfectly true that there is no such covenant recorded in Scripture and that the Scripture contains no explicit promise of eternal life for Adam.
They say. "But it's implied."
I've read through Genesis 1-3 a lot, but I haven't seen an implication of that. The problem is they can't go to Scripture to document these covenants. They are theologically inferred and then imposed on Scripture. This is the biggest danger that people have. They come to some conclusion that X principle is true and then they go read it back into the Scripture rather than getting it out of the Scripture.
Now the second covenant is called the Covenant of Redemption. But not all covenant theologians believe in a Covenant of Redemption. This is a covenant that those who hold to it say it is a covenant between God the Father and God the Son. It is not with man. God the Father and God the Son enter into this covenant and the Father promises the Son that He will become the head of the elect and the Son agrees to die for the elect.
Again I will quote from Louis Burkoff. He said that "this is the agreement between God the Father and the Son giving the Son the headship and being the redeemer of the elect and the Son voluntarily taking the place of those the Father had given Him."
But as I said not all covenant theologians hold to this.
The third covenant they call the Covenant of Grace. This is the major covenant in their system. Everything from the fall of Adam to the end of history is under the Covenant of Grace.
This is the gracious agreement between the authentic God and the offending but elect sinner in which God promises salvation by faith in Christ and the sinner accepts by believing a life and promising a life of faith and obedience.
See that is where you are going to get lordship salvation eek out of this because if you don't have a life of faith and obedience, then you didn't have genuine faith to begin with and you aren't really saved.
Now what is interesting about all this is that within covenant theology even though we don't have any revelation to this effect, they believe that everybody in the Old Testament is saved the same way as everybody in the New Testament is saved. By that I don't mean by faith alone in a promise of deliverance by God, but that they actually have revelation they were believing in Jesus Christ. Nothing changes.
In contrast dispensationalists believe in progressive revelation. All Adam understood was that the seed of the woman would be the deliverer. So he's believing that God is going to send a descendent, the seed of the woman and He will be the deliverer. If he trusts in God for that and assemblized by animal sacrifices then he'll be saved.
Now Abraham has a little greater in progressive revelation. Abraham understands that it is going to be a promised seed and it is going to come through him and Sarah and through Isaac later on. So there is a little tightening of that. Later on we learn that the line of the seed is going to go through David. Then you have additional promises – Isaiah 7:14 that the seed of the woman is going to be born through the virgin. Then Micah 5:2 – He is going to be born in Bethlehem. In other words there is this progression, but nobody knows that the seed of the woman is going to be called Jesus of Nazareth until you get to Bethlehem and Mary gives birth to Jesus of Nazareth. And so as revelation progresses through history God gives more and more information. So the promise that you believe in gets a little more detailed.
So for them this is a basic problem. Everything is squeezed into one concept. They must say that God's plan of salvation is always specifically the same. It is identical.
In determining the degree of knowledge of God that the ancient peoples of God had, we are not to be governed by our own capacity of discovering from the Old Testament scriptures the doctrines of grace. What amount of supplementary knowledge they received from the prophets are in direct revelation we don't know.
In other words they knew he was going to be named Jesus of Nazareth, but the Old Testament just doesn't tell us that. Just because you can't find it there doesn't mean that it's not true. So that is part of covenant theology. So they emphasized the Covenant of Grace. Again I remind you that their concept of covenants isn't what we are talking about biblical covenants.
So covenant theology assumes those covenants and interprets everything in the Bible on the basis of those theological covenants. That's called a top-down or theologically driven exegesis of Scripture.
So you have three problems.
- First of all this system merely projects a general idea of covenant then tries to squeeze the biblical covenants into that theological covenant framework. They don't fit. Their system won't allow for separate distinct covenants. Like I pointed out in the past – I don't have the slide on here for tonight but I pointed out in the past that the Creation Covenant is modified in the Adamic Covenant. The Adamic Covenant is further modified in the Noahic Covenant. But that continues today in the signs of the rainbow. When God steps back and He calls out Abraham, that follows a totally different track. It is not a modification of the Creation, Adamic, and Noahic Covenants. Right? It is completely different. He is going to call out Abraham for a specific purpose and the promises are going and the blessings are going to go to Israel. For them, all the covenants have to be squeezed together and it doesn't work.
- The second problem is that they either do not produce Scripture to substantiate or justify the existence of these covenants or when they do give verses the verses don't back up what they say it does.
- The third problem is that the Bible nowhere speaks of a Covenant of Works, a Covenant of Redemption, or a Covenant of race; but it does speak of the 8 covenants that I've talked about the last couple of weeks which are described in the Bible.
Now covenant theology has some really damaging affects in different areas of theology. First of all in hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. Many covenant theologians are very firm on literal interpretation until they get to prophecy. Then, all of a sudden they begin to theologize and to allegorize or spiritualize the promises so that when God promised Abraham a specific piece of real estate that is bounded by the river of Egypt on the southwest and the Euphrates to the west and northwest.
They say, "Well, Israel rejected that promise so the land now becomes heaven."
So God changes the terms of the covenant? No, He still made that promise to Abraham that Abraham would possess it. Abraham never possessed it. The only thing he had was a piece of real estate he bought near the cave of Machpelah, as burial ground. That's the only piece of real estate. So that would mean that God could not be God because God broke His promise to Abraham. So they have various problems hermeneutically.
It leads to significant problems in other areas, for example in their understanding the church in ecclesiology. They have the idea that there is only one people of God, the elect. The church and Israel are the same thing. We're the New Testament Israel and Israel coming out of Egypt was the Old Testament church. It's all one people of God. Therefore there is nothing to distinguish the current Church Age believers from Old Testament believers or to distinguish revelation given to Israel in the Old Testament at Sinai and revelation today. So that would mean that the Ten Commandments are still in effect; but also all of the other non-ceremonial laws. They will make an exception. They'll say that the ceremonial law was fulfilled by Christ on the cross; but the rest, the other part of the law continues today and is still supposed to be in effect.
So that creates various other problems. Then when it comes to soteriology - oh man that really affects a lot of stuff. This is where you come up with lordship salvation, coming out of part of this that you don't really know that you have the right kind of faith to be saved unless you have works that are in keeping with it. The slogan that you'll hear is "while saving faith is alone, the faith that saves is never alone." Let me say it again. "While you are saved by faith alone, the faith that saves is never alone." What they are doing is, they're introducing works through the back door.
What they are saying is, "You are saved by faith alone, but see if it is real faith, if it is genuine faith if it is saving faith; then you are going to see a change in your life. That is the evidence of your salvation. If you don't see that change, then you better wonder whether you are actually saved. You could have been a false professor. You have a pseudo-faith in Jesus."
They try to go to the Scripture to prove that you can have a genuine faith in Jesus and a non-saving faith in Jesus. Just look at those people who saw all of those signs and wonders that Jesus performed in Jerusalem at the first Passover. It says:
NKJ John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Pisteuo eis. The trouble is that pisteuo eis is used everywhere else in the gospel of John to indicate that which a person does to be saved. You are to believe in Him – pisteuo eis.
NKJ John 3:18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Piesteuo eis. But these people did believe in Him. Why? Why did they believe in Him? Well, two verses later it says Jesus knew what was in their hearts and He didn't trust them.
"See if they were really saved, they would be trustworthy."
The implication of that is that every believer should be perfectly trustworthy because they have been regenerate. That is why you have things like Christian Yellow Pages. What? I don't care if my car mechanic, where he is going to end up eternally as long as he can fix my car. I don't really care where my cardiologist is going to end up eternally as long as he keeps me alive. I mean I do care where they end up eternally, but you understand what I mean. Their relationship to God has nothing to do with their physical skill, so why do I want a Christian Yellow Pages to find some incompetent Christian to work on my car who is going to take advantage of me because you know, I am a gullible Christian.
That's where they end up going. You have this pseudo-faith in Jesus so you can believe that Jesus died for your sins and you are not really saved. You have to look around and make sure you have the right kind of works.
So people become fruit inspectors. So how much fruit is the right kind of fruit? And how do you know? See one time I asked John McArthur this. He had just come out of his book on The Gospel According to Jesus which is the bible for lordship alvation. Tommy Ice had come up from Austin. He lived in Austin at the time. I was pastoring in Irving. He came up to visit so we could go to this pastor's breakfast and hear McArthur. We sat right down on the front row.
When it came to question and answer I said, "Well Dr. McArthur, if you died today are you sure you are going to heaven?"
He said, "Well I am 98% sure."
At least he was consistent with what he was teaching. You can't have assurance of salvation. See people confuse eternal security with assurance of salvation. He is not saying you can lose your salvation because they believe if you are truly saved you are secure. It is just that you can't truly know that you are saved unless you have the right kind of works and you don't know that until you die because you have to persevere all the way until the time you die. So that is how covenant theology works itself out in terms of salvation. It also as other impacts because they see the general purpose of history as salvation, they have always been extremely weak in angelology and demonology and not understanding spiritual warfare or the angelic conflict. It is a major hole in their whole system. There are various problems like that.
So what under girds all of this is hermeneutics. Herman who? Hermeneutics. That is the science of interpretation. How do you interpret things? As I always say, you need to interpret the Bible the same way you interpret the instructions to fill out your income tax return. If most Christians interpreted the IRS instructions they way they interpret the Bible, they would all be in jail.
They all want to allegorize and spiritualize it and say, "Well, you need to give 15%. What does that number represent? That's really a symbol; I can't take15 literally. It must mean .01%. That feels comfortable with me. Okay, let me pray about it and see how the Holy Spirit leads me. I feel much better about that so I will give .01% and…"
What is wrong with that? We get into all kinds of subjectivity and everything falls apart after that which is a problem.
So what is a good definition of hermeneutics? This is D. L. Cooper. Some of you have probably never heard of D. L. Cooper. Dr. Cooper was Arnold Fruchtenbaum's pastor. He died back in the late '60's I believe. He was a Jewish believer. That is where Arnold got a lot of his stuff. Not to take away anything from Arnold, but that's who his pastor was. I just thought you would like to have that little extra knowledge.
This is a great concise statement of literal, plain hermeneutic. He said:
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, make no other sense.
In other words when it makes sense the way you read it, don't try to make it mean something else. Don't look for some hidden meaning, something between the lines or anything else.
Therefore take every word at is ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicates clearly otherwise.
In other words there has got to be good contextual evidence that figures of speech or idioms or things of that nature are being used. When we talk about literal plain understanding of Scripture, that's what we mean. It's not that there are no figures of speech. It is not that we don't believe there are idioms, but that's how people understand it. Idioms and figures of speech wouldn't make sense unless there was an underlying literalness. So every time you use a figure of speech, people know what you mean because that figure of speech has become axiomatic or idiomatic and everybody knows what that means. It isn't to be understood in a wooden fashion. So that is a good definition of literal hermeneutics. Sometimes it is simply referred to as normal interpretation. Sometimes people refer to it as plain or simple interpretation, just using the standard norms of interpreting speech in order to understand things.
A good statement on this is by Lange. Lange's Commentary on Revelation says:
The literalist (the so called literalist) is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is, simply that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i.e., according to the received laws of language: as any other utterances are interpreted) – that which is manifestly figurative being so regarded.
In other words, you can tell when somebody is speaking literally or when they are using an idiom or a figure of speech. So that is your basic understanding. Now how do we know that prophecy should be understood literally? Well, three lines of evidence.
- First of all, Old Testament prophecy that has been fulfilled has been fulfilled literally. Right? Old Testament prophecy that has been fulfilled has been fulfilled literally. So we would assume that Old Testament prophecy that hasn't been fulfilled is also going to be fulfilled literally. For example in Micah 5:2 it says that the Messiah is going to be born in Bethlehem. He is not going to be born down the road at Ashkelon. He is not going to be born in Jerusalem. He is not going to be born in Nazareth. He is going to be born in Bethlehem. Where was He born? In Bethlehem. Pretty literal fulfillment. Isaiah 7:14 – He is going to be born of the virgin. Was He born just of a young girl? No. He is born of the virgin. So there is a literal fulfillment there. We have the chronology laid out in Daniel 9 - Daniel's 70 weeks. It lays out exactly the timetable between the decree to return to the land and the cutting off of the Messiah. It happens down to the very week. So we know that prophecies that have been fulfilled have been fulfilled literally. The Messiah would be pierced. He would be crucified. They would gamble for His clothing. He would spend three days in the tomb. All of that was fulfilled literally. So the precedent is set that already fulfilled prophecy has been fulfilled literally.
- The second thing is that in terms of language and the image of God. We went over this several weeks ago just talking about language. I think that was in the Genesis series on Tuesday nights. The principle is that God created man in His image. God in His omniscience knew how to create human beings in such a way that He could communicate and they could understand it. He didn't create them in such a way that He would have to figure out to do it in a somewhat obfuscated manner or that they would have to throw the dice and figure out exactly what God meant or guess what the symbols might be. It would be a clear understanding. He could communicate in a way that we would understand.
There is a good quote on this from Gordon H. Clark. He says:
If God created man in His own rational image and endowed him with the power of speech, then a purpose of language, in fact the chief purpose of language would naturally be the revelation of truth to man and the prayers of man to God. In a theistic philosophy one ought not to say that all language has been devised in order to describe and discuss the finite objects of our sense-experience. On the contrary, language was devised by God, that is, God created man rational for the purpose of theological expression.
So God created man to communicate to him so man can understand it. You don't have to work at it. So the second reason that we should interpret prophecy literally is because that is the way language functions.
- Any sort of hermeneutical system or interpretive system that is not literal leads to subjectivity.
Somebody over here may say, "Well, I think this symbol means X."
Somebody over here says, "Nah. That symbol means non-X."
Well, who's right? Well, let's pray about it and see who's warm and filled. Alright? There is no certainty. There is no objectivity. There is no standard for understanding what something means. If you don't know what it means, how can you be held accountable for it? But, it is clear from Scripture that God intends to communicate to us and that we are expected to understand precisely what He means and what He doesn't mean and that we are held accountable for it.
So that's the foundation for understanding hermeneutics for dispensationalism. Now I am going to come back and continue this next time and get into some more details, especially the major problem that people seem to run into or talk about is how the Old Testament is used in the New Testament because what covenant theology says is that the New Testament tells you what the Old Testament means. But when they say that, they come along and they change the meaning.
"So that…didn't realize Abraham but God wasn't really talking about that piece of real estate, He was talking about heaven. But you have to read the New Testament before you get that in place."
For them the New Testament tells what the Old Testament means which is really different from our thinking that the Old Testament is the whole idea of progressive revelation and the New Testament fulfills that which the Old Testament reveals.
We will get into that next time.