Chris White has done a masterful job here.
By Cris D. Putnam
Arguably from the inception of the church (although lost under Romanism), dispensationalism has been and still is the key to biblical prophecy. Since its recovery in the nineteenth century there have been three major versions: classic (Darby, Larkin and Scofield), revised (Walvoord, Pentecost, Chafer, and Towns), and progressive (Bock, Blaising, Feinberg and Saucy) dispensationalism. All divide history based on God’s covenants as successive revelations in the progression of God’s redemptive program and sustain a premillennial futurist interpretation of prophecy. As a founding member of the revised school, Charles Ryrie emphasized three elements: 1) Distinction between church and Israel;[i] 2) Philosophy of History;[ii] 3) Literal interpretation of scripture.[iii] He offers strong and compelling arguments against covenant theology which is the system of theology that centers on two contrived covenants: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.[iv] It typically dismisses God’s actual covenant promises to Israel and argues that most all of prophecy is fulfilled in Christ. While I’m largely in agreement with Ryrie that covenant theology is an artificial system lacking biblical support, I do think progressive dispensationalists make some good points.
Concerning point one, I strongly disagree with supercessionism (that the church has entirely superseded Israel or replacement theology). I believe God will fulfill His Old Testament promises as they were understood, not in the decontextualized manner applied to the Church found in Roman Catholicism and unfortunately most of evangelical covenant theology. In this sense, the reformers stopped short. God made specific promises to the descendants of Jacob and David concerning their ancestral line, the land and political sovereignty. Only the Mosaic covenant was conditional. The Abrahamic (Gen 12) and Davidic (2 Sam. 7) were unconditional and everlasting. The Davidic is often overlooked:
“And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’(2 Sa 7:10–17 cf. 1 Chron. 17)
Like the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic covenant was irrevocable—“established forever” and despite innumerable acts of unfaithfulness on Israel’s part, God will be absolutely faithful. The Davidic covenant promises to Israel a political, religious, visible earthly kingdom, and God personally guaranteed that it would endure forever and that all nations would be blessed through it, based on His faithfulness.
“I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, so that my hand shall be established with him; my arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him; the wicked shall not humble him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him. My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah( Ps 89:20–37)
God spoke through the original inspired author who certainly did not have an ethereal metaphorical Israel in mind when he composed those words. David understood the promises in a matter of fact manner. I have never read a supercessionist reply to these passages that did not cast God in the role of a prankster who deceived David.
Paul writes in Romans that Gentiles are grafted into Israel. This implies God’s chosen people includes the church as well as a remnant of ethnic Israel, now and especially at the Second Coming (Rom 11:26-27, Zec 12:10). While the distinction applies in this current dispensation due to Israel’s supernatural blinding (Rom 11:25; 2 Cor 3:14; Mat 23:39), I believe we merge into one people at Christ’s return. Thus, I commend the holistic view described by Bock and Blaising, “God will save humankind in its ethnic and national plurality. But, He will bless it with the same salvation given to all without distinction; the same, not only in justification and regeneration, but also in sanctification by the indwelling Holy Spirit.”[v] It seems unlikely that ethnicity will much matter upon Christ’s return to rule from Jerusalem.
Next week part two picks up with the dispensational philosophy of history.
[i] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 148.
[ii] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 20.
[iii] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 102.
[iv] Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 32.
By Cris Putnam
In case you aren’t familiar, preterism the idea that most of bible prophecy was fulfilled during the first century with the events surrounding the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. The ESV study Bible definition:
Preterism (from Latin praeteritum, “the thing that is past”) thinks that the fulfillment of most of Revelation’s visions already occurred in the distant past, during the early years of the Christian church.
This is an idea I find untenable. It is the result of inappropriately conflating Jesus predictions concerning the temple with his discussion of his return in glory. I believe I have made a decisive case against it already and this is a continuation of the series including: part 1, part 2, & part 3.
Another, reason that preterism seems absurd is Jesus’ use of material from Daniel 12 which cannot be relegated to the first century.
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”(Mt 24:21)
It is quite clear that Jesus is quoting from Daniel 12:
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.”(Da 12:1)
What makes this fatal to a preterist interpretation of Matthew 24 which attempts to relegate this passage to the events of AD 70 is that the next event in Daniel 12 is the resurrection of the dead and event which occurs in Revelation 20 necessarily after the glorious return of Christ.
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”(Da 12:2)
Furthermore, identical language is used in the book of Revelation firmly establishing the futurist interpretation of these unprecedented events.
“And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.(Re 16:18)
The book of Revelation also repeats “the Great Tribulation” terminology connecting Matthew 24, Daniel 12 and the judgments in Revelation.
“I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Re 7:14)
One more biblical reason that preterism seems absurd.
 Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2457.
By Cris Putnam
I believe eschatology is not only an essential element of theology and preaching it is a necessary one. I argue its necessity in light of its unfortunate marginalization by a large percentage of the nominal church. Accordingly, I contend that the answer to the Gospel’s greatest challenge is eschatological. The ancient philosopher Epicurus asked, “if there is a benevolent and sovereign God, then why is there so much evil and suffering?” The Bible has a coherent answer to the problem of evil. Scripture presents a God who knows the end from the beginning and reveals future events (Is 46:9-10). It predicts that evil will not prevail in God’s economy (Is 11:6-9, 2:2-4; Re 21:4) and a day of reckoning is coming (Is 13:9; Ob 15 ff; 1 Th 5:2; 2 Pe 3:10; Re 16:16). Rather than understanding the term apocalypse as the “end of the world,” end time prophecy is the revelation of redemption.
The great hope and significance of existence is wrapped up in God’s eschatological plan. New Testament scholar Gordon Fee writes, “The theological framework of the entire New Testament is eschatological.” The Greek word for the “end” is eschaton, meaning when God brings our present age to consummation. Jesus announced the kingdom was at hand at his first coming (Mt 3:2; Mk 1:15) but later qualified that it will not be fully realized until his second coming (Mk 14:25; Rev 20:4). The kingdom is inaugurated but not realized, a paradigm called the “already-not-yet” in New Testament theology. Bock and Blaising explain that this “links the plan of God into a unified whole.” Based on this, one can see that eschatology is not a fringe element of Christian theology rather the fundamental structure by which it is understood. Since this is the case, why is it marginalized?
Timothy Jones warns of two contrasting errors: 1) a slip into unjustified speculation; 2) a slip into skeptical cynicism. Given the inherent tension in the “already/ not yet” both are understandable. On one hand, we long for the resolution of evil and it is only natural look to for signs. On the other hand, the last two thousand years of anticipation compounded by the constant barrage of secularism promotes skepticism. Of course, either extreme results in error. In the first case, Harold Camping’s date setting resulted in the slaughter and arrest of hundreds of Hmong Christians. On the opposite end, people leave the church because they have no hope. It seems like God wants every generation to expect the Lord’s return. John uses its promise as a call to holy living (1 Jn 2:28). Paul writes “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” (Ro 13:11) In fact, he encourages Titus, back in the first century, to wait for the “blessed hope” (Tit 2:13). For this hope to encourage, one must believe it can actualize.
 Fee, Gordon D. ; Stuart, Douglas K.: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, S. 145.
 Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism, 98 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993).
 Timothy Paul Jones, Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy, Kindle Edition, (Torrence, CA: Rose Publishing, 2012), Kindle Locations 59-63.
 Nicola Menzie, “Harold Camping Linked to Huge ‘Massacre’ of 100’s of Hmong Christians” The Christian Post, http://www.christianpost.com/news/harold-camping-linked-to-hmong-christians-massacre-in-vietnam-52351/ (accessed 10/25/2012).