Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (11) – Theses 41-45

41. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the descendents of the patriarchs never inhabited all the land promised to them in the Abrahamic covenant and therefore, since God cannot lie, the possession of the land by the Jews is still in the future; on the contrary, Joshua wrote, “So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it… Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43,45).

Response: Here it is!  Read it again.  This is the passage with which they will beat into submission all those verses in the Prophets which continue to promise Israel a literal land.  What is to be done?  Surely Gen. 15 was fulfilled hundreds of years before Jeremiah bought Hanamel’s field (Jer. 32)?   Clearly, if we follow this kind of reasoning, when God promised Abraham and his descendants a specific geographical location on earth in perpetuity He was using hyperbole (btw, is hyperbole appropriate in contracts?!):

“I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.  And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Gen. 17:7-8).

The most obvious answer to employing Josh. 21 as an acid to eradicate the Land Covenant of Gen. 15, Deut. 30 etc., is to point out that God was still promising the land to Israel hundreds of years after Joshua was dead (1 Chron. 16:17-18).  Those who wish to cling to Josh. 21 like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood will not want to read the following verses:

Isa. 11:11-12:6; 43:5-7; 62:1-12; Jer. 16:14-15; 23:5-8; 30:18-22; 31:27-40; 32:37-42; 33:10-13, 18-26; Ezek. 11:14-18; 34:11-31; 36:24; 37:1-14; Hos. 13:9-14:9; Mic. 2:12; Zeph. 2:19-20; Zech. 12:10-11; 14:16-21.

Furthermore, it is vain to try to use Josh. 21 to prove that the entire area of Gen. 15 was under Israelite rule at that time.  The “fathers” of Josh. 21:43-45 are not the Patriarchs but those heads of the tribes who came out of Egypt (see 21:1-2).  And any reader of Josh. 23:1-5, 9-13 can see that 21:43-45 cannot be meant as a fulfillment of the Land Covenant, otherwise, why would Joshua later urge them to complete the job?

42.  Despite the dispensationalists’ so-called literalism demanding that Jerusalem and Mt. Zion must once again become central to God’s work in history, in that “Jerusalem will be the center of the millennial government” (Walvoord), the new covenant sees these places as typological pointers to spiritual realities that come to pass in the new covenant Church, beginning in the first century, as when we read that “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22; cp. Gal 4:22-31).

Response: At least we can be glad that the Nicene group are not pretending to employ literal interpretation when converting Jerusalem and Israel into the Church!  As can be seen, it takes changing hermeneutical horses to accomplish this feat.  But it is worth noting that this sort of spiritualizing must appeal to literal interpretations of hand-picked Bible verses (albeit, often by ignoring the context) to sustain itself.

But what does Heb. 12:22, which locates a Jerusalem in heaven amid “an inummerable company of angels” (strangely omitted from their quotation!), have to do with the Church?  Well, it does have to do with the saints, but whether all the saints in heaven are part of the Church is dubious in the extreme.  Again, instead of proving their theology they are assuming it.  Appeal to Heb. 12:22 is a desperate measure.

What of Gal. 4:22-31 then?  Well, this is an allegory (4:24 “allegoreo”).  The only clearly identifiable one in Scripture.  Therefore, we are not meant to take the symbolism literally as if Jerusalem = the church.  Besides, Paul is speaking about the two covenants, not about whether the church is now Israel.

It is well for any Bible student who reads these men to first ponder exactly what points they are making, and from there study the passages that they use in their contexts to see whether those texts really say what these men tell us they say.  Sadly, we are demonstrating here that this kind of biblical interpretation cannot be trusted to handle the text fairly without surrounding them with meanings which their authors would not have envisaged.  This is in marked contrast to the way Dispensationalism, at its best, treats the biblical text.  E.g., does the Bible support Walvoord’s claim that Jerusalem will be the hub of the Millennial reign?  Jerusalem is special to the Lord (Psa. 87:2; 132:13-14).  Jeremiah says the city will be called “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” in a future day (Jer. 33:16).  He will dwell in Jerusalem and will reign from there (Ezek. 43:1-7; 48:35).  The reader is encouraged to study Isa. 2:2-4; 60:1-20; 62:1-7; Mic. 4:1-8; Zech. 14:10.  If he is tempted to say these passages were fulfilled, we would ask for a detailed list of the fulfillments.  Heb.12:22 doesn’t cut it.

43. Despite the dispensationalists’ fundamental theological commitment to the radical distinction between “Israel and the Church” (Ryrie), the New Testament sees two “Israels” (Rom. 9:6-8)—one of the flesh, and one of the spirit—with the only true Israel being the spiritual one, which has come to mature fulfillment in the Church.  (The Christian Church has not replaced Israel; rather, it is the New Testament expansion.) This is why the New Testament calls members of the Church “Abraham’s seed” (Gal 3:26-29) and the Church itself “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).

Response: Citing Rom. 9:6-8 for proof that there are two Israels – carnal and spiritual is fine.  But where does the text say the spiritual Israel (not spiritualized or “expanded” into something else) is the Church?  It doesn’t!  Paul is dealing with the problem of Israel (see 9:1-5).  We ask the reader to peruse Romans 9-11 and carefully note how Paul contrats Israel with the Gentiles throughout.  He never, ever calls Israel the Church or vice versa.  Certainly, the Gentiles participate in the promises to Abraham via the New Covenant (Gal. 3:5-9, 26-29), but notice how the Apostle quotes the part of the Abrahamic Covenant that pertains to the salvation of the Gentiles (Gal. 3:8), and does not abrogate the rest of the promises or “expand” them so that Israel – an ethnic people group comprising the Jews – is replaced (and that is the right word) by a multi-ethnic people group comprising Jews and Gentiles in one organic spiritual body.

The citation of Gal. 6:16 without any attempt at an exegetical explanation of why Paul added the “kai” (and) if he didn’t want to distinguish Israel and the Church is of no value.  Many non-dispensational interpreters hold that “the Israel of God” in the passage is national Israel (e.g. H. D. Betz, G.C. Berkouwer, J.D.G. Dunn, E. DeWitt Burton, F.F. Bruce, F. Mussner, W.D. Davies, P. Richardson, D.B. Wallace etc).

44. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that Jews are to be eternally distinct from Gentiles in the plan of God, because “throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes” with “one related to the earth” while “the other is related to heaven” (Chafer and Ryrie), the New Testament speaks of the permanent union of Jew and Gentile into one body “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity” that “in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph 2:15), Accordingly, with the finished work of Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” in the eyes of God (Gal 3:28).

Response: In the Church there is neither Jew nor Gentile.  A Jew who is saved today is incorporated into the Church today.  He shares in the future blessings given to the Body of Christ.  But Dispensationalists believe that God has unfinished work with the Remnant of Israel; that He must come through on what He has promised without altering, or “expanding” the terms of the contract He Himself has made with Israel.  We believe we have strong biblical grounds for saying this (e.g. Jer. 30-33).

Unlike those who cannot bring themselves to think of two peoples of God, the Dispensationalists has no problem with the concept at all.  why should he?  God is clearly a God who loves variety.  If sticking to the plain-sense of the texts of Scripture means there are two peoples so be it (Rev. 21:2, 9-11, 23-26).

45. Contrary to dispensationalism’s implication of race-based salvation for Jewish people (salvation by race instead of salvation by grace), Christ and the New Testament writers warn against assuming that genealogy or race insures salvation, saying to the Jews: “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt 3:9) because “children of God” are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12b-13; 3:3).

Response: This is a slur and is unworthy of anyone who purports to be interested in the truth or to worship God in spirit and truth.  Supposedly there are ex-dispensationalists among the Nicene Council and its supporters.  If they really were Dispensationalists they should blush at this preposterous statement!  Where in the writings of ANY recognized Dispensational scholar is it asserted that there is “salvation by race instead of slavation by grace”? Either these men are totally inept as theologians or they are deliberately making false implications without any solid grounds for doing so (John Hagee, as these men know, is not a Dispensational scholar, nor is he representative of Dispensational views on Israel’s salvation).  This is bearing false witness plain and simple. We are sorry to have to say this, but this does not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.  Agreeing to the publishing of statements such as this does not commend itself to God-fearing people.

For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matt. 12:37).

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6 comments

  1. In number 41 above, I am not sure that I understand your answer clearly. Could you clarify or reword your answer please? I am very interested in these discussions. Thank you.

    1. My response to this point was in the way of simply declaring that the Prophets who come after Joshua carry on quoting the fulfillment of the land promise as future (e.g. Ezek. 34; 36-37; 40-48; Jer. 33). As they see the Abrahamic land promise as yet to be fulfilled their interpretation of Josh. 21:43, 45 must be incorrect as an interpretation of Genesis 15. In fact, although Israel dwelt in the land it was only a partial fulfillment of God’s covenant because they did not truly inherit it (as can be seen in Josh. 23:4-5, 7, 13). Furthermore, if the covenant with Abraham meant “You will not actually get the land, and the nation which comes from you will not get it for 400 years, and even then they will be in decline save for about a 40 year period (David & Solomon). after that the land will be split until they are all taken into captivity” – well, big deal.

      So for God to come through on His unilateral oath one would expect far more than that. And indeed, that is just what the Prophets present to us.

      Hope that helps.

      God bless,

      Paul H

  2. In your response to item 44 above, As a dispensationalist, who believes in seperation of Israel and the church now, as well as a single New Covenant for the Jews which the Church partakes from it through the blood of Christ, I believed that Jewish believers are now distinct from Israel and one with us in the church. “there is neither Jew or Gentile”. And as that they are with us gentiles in the church – the bride of the Lamb in the new city of God the new Jerusalem. so I asked what Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum from Ariel Ministries thought about the Jewish believers as both in the church and Israel as to where they will be for the millennium.

    His reply was; “It should be kept in mind that Jewish believers tend to be dual nationals in that they are part of the Church but are also members of the Remnant of Israel which was always part of the Nation and not distinguishable or separated from the Nation.

    So in the present Church Age, the future of Jewish believers is the same as Gentile believers and they are part of the Church and when the Rapture occurs it will include both Jewish and Gentile believers. But in the Messianic Kingdom their future will be with the people of Israel in the Land. You see this point with the Apostles because on one hand they are the foundation of the Church but in the Messianic Kingdom they will sit on twelve thrones judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel. So this again shows their present position with the Church but in the future they will be with the people of Israel and that will apply to all other Jewish believers as well.”

    “Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology”

    Now I don’t know. Help.

    1. If I understand Dr Fruchtenbaum correctly, he is saying that although Jews saved between Pentecost and the rapture are in the church, they will, in the Millennium, be incorporated back into national Israel because they are part of the remnant.

      If that interpretation of him is really his view I must respectfully disagree. I think there is confusion here over the term “remnant” especially in Rom. 11:5. In his argument he is talking of salvation. there has always been a remnant of saved Jews in every age. But this does not automatically mean that those saved and placed into the Church are there for a temporary stay. No, rather, as Paul goes on to say, once “the fullness of the Gentiles has come” (which I take to be the present era of the Church), God will revert to dealing with Israel as a nation. But “remnant” refers to the continuity of saved Jews. it does not have to mean all those Jews (esp. those in the Body of Christ) will be included in the restored Israel. I don’t think Matt. 19:28 shows that the Apostles will be reincorporated into Israel, just that they will judge it.

      I may be wrong on this. But once in the Church surely ones destiny is with the Church, not with Israel?

      Thanks for the observation.

      Paul H

      1. I really appreciate your input. I agree with you. I also have other questions which I have not read much on, so if you don’t mind, I will message you again.

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