Dispensational Distinctives Delineated

(Read Part 6)

It is readily known that Plymouth Brethren minister John Nelson Darby is credited with the systematizing of dispensational thought in the 1800s. Yet some history scholars trace the teachings back another century.[1]

Though there is variation of beliefs within the dispensational camp, some of the major components that characterize it are:

  • A consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, particularly in prophetic passages where God has made promises to Israel.
  • A distinction between God’s plan for Israel and His plan for His church, which is different from that of Israel—in which the church does not replace or continue Israel.
  • Often a pretribulational rapture of the church before the great tribulation.
  • Premillennialism that includes fulfillment of eternal covenants made to national Israel.

It is important for the careful Bible student to reckon with the issues that are only dealt with satisfactorily by dispensational theology. Rather that continuity between the covenants and the Old Testament and New Testament, we must recognize great discontinuity.

If you see that God dealt differently with man before the fall and after the fall, before the law and after the law, before the cross and after the cross, then you are at some level a dispensationalist. If you worship on the Lord’s day in a church building instead of a temple and you bring your Bible, spiritual gifts and offering, rather than an animal for sacrifice, then you are a dispensationalist—whether you admit it or not. If you believe that God has not abrogated (done away with) the promises He gave uniquely to Israel, that not all have been fulfilled, and that the church is a new entity that Christ started at Pentecost, then you are a dispensationalist.

When you study the Biblical covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Priestly, Mosaic, Davidic and New), properly understanding them determines your eschatology, ecclesiology and much more.

Irv Busenitz states:

Understanding these six covenants will shape a person’s understanding of Scripture. It will reflect a hermeneutical course that will determine the pitch of one’s eschatological sails. . . . When God enters into a unilateral covenant guaranteed only by His own faithfulness; when God enters into a covenant void of any human requirements to keep it in force; when God establishes a covenant that will continue as long as there is day and night and summer and winter, then great care must be taken not to erect man-made limitations that would bankrupt the heart and soul of these covenants and annul the glorious full realization of all that He promised through them. Their significance cannot be overstated.[2]

A consistently literal and normal interpretation of Scripture leads one to be dispensational. Understanding the Biblical covenants, and the new covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the mystery that Paul revealed about the church, leads one to be dispensational in theology.

(Read Part 8)

Review the entire series:

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

Read Part 5

Read Part 6

Dr. Parker Reardon is a graduate of Word of Life Bible Institute, Pensacola Christian College and The Master’s Seminary, where he received a doctorate in expository preaching. He is currently serving as the main teaching elder/pastor at Applegate Community Church in Grants Pass, Ore., and as adjunct professor of theology for Liberty University and adjunct professor of Bible and theology for Pacific Bible College. Reardon’s sermons and writings may be accessed at BiblicalExpositor.org. It is with great eagerness that we present him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House for the benefit of our readers.

Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Parker Reardon. Used by permission of the author.

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

[1] William C. Watson, Dispensationalism Before Darby, (Silverton, OR: Lampion Press, 2015).

[2] Irvin Busenitz, “The Importance of Covenants,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, 10:2, 1999, p. 183.

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