In my previous post, I examined the first tenant of dispensationalism. I also defined my terms. So, if you haven’t read it, I do encourage you to do so. I gave four main tenants of dispensational theology, and I wanted to discuss this time that second tenant. Here they are again:
1) A fundamental distinction between Israel and the church – i.e. there are two peoples of God with two different destinies.
2) A fundamental distinction between Law and Grace – i.e. there used to be a gospel of the kingdom under law, but now we see the gospel of grace.
3) The view that the New Testament Church is a parenthesis in God’s plan which was not foreseen by the Old Testament.
4) A distinction between the rapture and the second coming of Christ – i.e. the rapture of the church at Christ’s coming “in the air” (1 Thess 4:17) precedes the “official” second coming to the earth by seven years of tribulation.
This second tenant is dangerous. Let me quote S. D. Gordon, from Quiet Talks About Jesus p. 114: “It can be said at once that His dying was not God’s own plan. It was conceived somewhere else and yielded to by God. God had a plan of atonement by which men who were willing could be saved from sin and its effects. That plan is given in the Old Hebrew code, to the tabernacle or temple, under prescribed regulations, a man could bring some animal which he owned. The man brought that which was his own. It represented him.”
We see the combination of the first, second, and third tenants in the note from C. I. Scofield in his reference Bible (p. 711): “The kingdom thus made way for the church, which was a distinct and separate entity which can never be merged with the kingdom, neither in time nor eternity. And the message is no longer ‘the gospel of the kingdom’, but the ‘gospel of the grace of God…’ The church corporately is not in the vision of the Old Testament prophets.” J. C. O’Hair (The Great Blunder of the Church) has written: “At this time (millennium) the king will rule with a rod of iron. There is no word of the cross or of grace in the kingdom teachings.”
With these two opinions, that there are two different peoples of God that cannot be brought together and two gospels, there is another ideology that emerges: “The Old Testament prophets failed to distinguish between the first and second comings,” Clarence Larkin.
Here is my contention: In Revelation 14:6 an angel declares the eternal gospel, and in Jude 1:3 it is called the “faith once and for all given to the saints.” How is it, then, that we have two gospels? Now, I want to separate this tenant into a couple different categories so that I can break down each piece. First, we’ll talk about this idea that there is the gospel of the kingdom versus the gospel of grace. Second, we’ll talk about God not knowing that Jesus would die upon the cross, but instead rolling with the punches and yielding to man’s freewill. Third, we’ll talk about Jesus’ two comings not being foreseen.
1) Is there a difference between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of grace? First, lets begin with defining “gospel”. This is one of those words that we learn in Sunday school. It means “good news”. Here is the thing: if we claim that these are two different “gospels”, what exactly are we communicating? If the “gospel of the kingdom” is somehow the gospel of Mosaic Law, is that really “good news”? Is the very thing that Paul expresses to be what caused sin to abound truly “good news”?
What does Hebrews 11 mean if it does not mean that by faith they in the Old Testament were not saved? If salvation in the Old Testament is about works, then why did God not accept Cain’s offering? Why does Jesus tell us that the gospel of the kingdom must be preached throughout the whole earth before the end will come? Shouldn’t he have said the gospel of grace? Did Jesus not know what he was talking about? If the old covenant was more than a shadow of things coming, then why does the author of Hebrews make his entire point off of this? Jesus is high priest according to a better priesthood, we are under a new covenant, the sacrifices of the old covenant all point to the sacrifice of Christ, the Old Testament saints had faith in God, and therefore God accepted them. By what authority can we pin these two things against one another?
This is a rejection of the Gospel in all ways. God was unjust in punishing and judging Israel when they performed the works without faith. Also, by what means can we validate the assertion that the millennium will reestablish the old covenant sacrifices as means of salvation? If salvation is not by faith, but by works alone, then what hope do we have? We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that is exactly the point. We have no hope. Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.
2) It is ludicrous to claim, let alone believe, that God did not know Jesus would die upon the cross. Actually, this is stepping over the fine line between false teaching and heresy. It is one thing to believe there are different dispensations. Is is something entirely different to say that God’s plans were summed up in the Mosaic Law, and therefore the new covenant and the work of redemption through the blood of Christ is only a parenthesis (a postponement) until the rapture. What do we do with Revelation 13:8, which says Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world? Once again, what do we do with the book of Hebrews? Hebrews makes its entire point off of God foreknowing the work of Christ and establishing the Mosaic Law as foreshadowing of the heavenly archetype.
What does Jesus mean when He says that he has suffered to fulfill what was written? Why does Jesus rebuke His disciples, calling them slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written? Why does Jesus tell his disciples multiple times before his crucifixion that he will be handed over to the Pharisees and crucified in order to fulfill what has been said? Why does Jesus make much of the man who will betray him, but woe to him through whom that betrayal comes? What do we do with passages like Isaiah 53? This is obviously speaking of a suffering servant, and it can quite arguably be posed that Isaiah prophesies resurrection. To purport that there was ever a time, or will ever be a time, that men will be saved outside of the grace of God through the redemptive blood of Jesus is flat out heresy.
Finally, if God doesn’t have the sovereignty to stop man’s freewill from bankrupting his plans, then what on earth makes us to believe that Jesus has power to come back and toil the plans of the Antichrist? What logic tells us that man’s freewill could actually hinder the coming of the kingdom to only conclude in the next breathe that Jesus shall return to establish the kingdom? Does that make sense? How many times does Jesus need to come before humanity doesn’t stop the kingdom from being manifest? It didn’t work the first time, anyway…
3) For the third point, I want to make it known that God did foreknow the two comings, and the prophets also spoke of it. Paul does mention that this was hidden in the past, but hidden doesn’t mean absent. For example, we read of the coming of the “son of man” in the clouds of heaven in Daniel 7:14. Yet, when we read of the Messiah’s coming in Zechariah 9:9, we find that he comes lowly on the donkey. Actually, it is important to focus around these two verses because both Daniel and Zechariah prophesied two comings of the Messiah.
In Daniel 7, we find this little horn destroyed at the coming of the son of man. When we read the context of what this little horn does in Daniel 7 and 8, we come to Daniel 9 to find some of these same details repeated regarding the seventieth week. For example, in Daniel 8 we read that the little horn will desolate the temple and cut off the sacrifices. In Daniel 9:27 we find that this vile price establishes the abomination of desolation halfway through the week. The little horn is the vile prince. So, when we compare Daniel 7 and Daniel 9:27, what is the appointed end of this man? The son of man comes on the clouds of heaven and the man is thrown into blazing fire. That is all established in Daniel 7. Yet, here is the real kicker. Before we reach Daniel 9:27 we need to read Daniel 9:26. In Daniel 9:26 we read of the messiah – an anointed one – being cut off, but not for himself. That is Jesus dying upon the cross. Then, in the very next verse, we read of this antichrist figure coming to his end. How does that happen? Jesus dies in verse 26, and he returns to destroy the Antichrist in verse 27.
In Zechariah we find the verse quoted above. There is this “king” who comes lowly on the back of a donkey. Then, when we get to the end of the book, we read of a future time of devastation. This future time (Zechariah lived during the time of Nehemiah) would include Jerusalem being captured, but God coming to the rescue on the clouds of heaven with His “holy ones”. Jesus then quotes that exact phrase regarding his second coming. So, we have this king who will come on the back of the donkey, and then again he will come with the holy angels to rescue Jerusalem and establish the kingdom of God upon the earth.
Obviously the two comings of Jesus were prophesied in the Old Testament if we are only willing to dig and do our homework. There are many other passages that hint this, and there are parallels found within the stories of various characters as well. In the next post we’ll examine that third tenant.