Dispensationalism is an offshoot of premillennialism that is relatively new among eschatological theories. John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) is usually credited with its invention, or at least its popularization. Its teachings include: (1) At the Second Coming, Christ will establish a literal utopian thousand-year period on earth, i.e. the millennium; (2) A physical rapture of the church will occur before a future Great Tribulation, near the beginning of the millennium; (3) Jews have a distinctly different route to heaven compared to Christians—by works instead of by grace; and (4) The temple in Jerusalem will be re-built in which sacrifices for sin and circumcision will be re-instituted.
I HAVE SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS FOR DISPENSATIONALISTS:
A. Haven’t dispensationalists been consistently wrong about prophecy? —
B. Questions about Israel —
- Is there anywhere in the New Testament that explicitly supports the land promise made to Israel being yet to be fulfilled? If the land promise to Israel is forever and unconditional, why does God say it is conditional in Deuteronomy 28? Didn’t Israel receive all the land promised to Abraham in Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14-15?
- If God has two different plans for Jews and Gentiles, why does Paul say there isn’t any longer a distinction (Romans 10:12; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11)?
- Isn’t the gospel the salvation for everyone who believes—both Jew and Gentile (Romans 1:16)?
- Weren’t the Jews as a nation rejected and given to others (Matthew 3:7-12; 8:8-13, 21:33-46, 22:1-8, 23:29-39; John 8:37-47; Romans 9:6-8; 9:30-32; Romans 11:7-24; Hebrews 8:13; 12:12-24)?
- Wasn’t the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16) given to those individuals, either Jew or Gentile, who believe, that is, are Jews inwardly–in the heart–(Romans 2:28-29; 10:1-4; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:28-29, 4:24-31; Philippians 3:3-9; 1 Peter 2:5-10; Revelation 3:9)?
- Doesn’t the New Testament explain that while the physical temple was about to be destroyed (Matthew 24:2; 34), it is being replaced by the church with Christ as the cornerstone and Christians as the living stones (Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8)?
- Are there any references in the Bible to the temple being built a third time? If there is going to be a rebuilt Jewish temple in the future, why does Scripture say God does not dwell in temples made by hands anymore (Acts 7:48, 17:24)? Isn’t Christ the new temple (John 2:19-21; Revelation 21:22)?
- Don’t all the New Testament texts comparing Israel to a fig tree point to Jerusalem’s destruction rather than its restoration (example: Luke 13:6-9)?
- Doesn’t dispensationalism wrongly divide justification by law and grace? Aren’t both law and grace (gospel) present in both the Old Testament and New Testament? Didn’t Paul in Romans 4, 5 teach that even the Old Testament saints were saved through faith? Didn’t God preach the gospel beforehand to Abraham (Galatians 3:8)? Doesn’t Paul in Galatians 3 clearly state that no man is justified by the law, and quotes the Old Testament to prove it? Doesn’t Hebrews 10:4 teach that no one was ever saved by animal sacrifices? On the other hand, aren’t there plenty of statements in the New Testament about the necessity of Christians obeying the moral law (Matthew 5:19; Matthew 7:16-20; Matthew 13:36-43; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:13; 3:31; James 2:10-17)?
- When Jesus says in John 14:6 that no man comes to the Father but through Him, doesn’t Jesus mean what he says? “No man” would include Jew or Gentile, doesn’t it?
- Do you believe that two-thirds of the Jews will be slaughtered in a Holocaust II (John Walvoord’s book Israel in Prophecy)? If so, how can you call yourself pro-Israel? When you pray for Jesus to come soon, or the supposed imminent rapture, aren’t you preaching or even asking for a near term slaughter of the Jews? Isn’t this teaching based almost entirely on one verse—Zechariah 13:8—yet the New Testament places the previous verse (13:7) squarely in the time of Christ (Hebrews 13:20)? Isn’t it clear enough that Zechariah 14:2 must refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70? Isn’t it true that there is no prediction in the book of Revelation about the annihilation of two-thirds of all Jews living in Israel by the Antichrist?
- If we are in the New Covenant era, which Scripture says is FOREVER (Hebrews 13:20), why would God go back to a temple system of the Old Covenant which Paul called bondage (Galatians 4)?
- If God was going to go back to animal sacrifices for sin in a future millennium, does that mean Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21)?
- Why can Jesus’ earthly kingdom be set up in earthly Jerusalem, when Jesus himself said the hour was coming when worshipping God would NOT be in Jerusalem (John 4:21)?
C. Questions about hermeneutics (biblical interpretive method) —
- Dispensationalists say that you interpret the Bible literally, but do you do so appropriately and consistently? For example, when Isaiah (Isaiah 55:12) describes the mountains and the hills breaking into song and the trees clapping their hands, is this to be taken this literally? When Isaiah (Isaiah 13:9-13) describes God shaking the earth from its place and making the stars not show their light (predicting doom on Babylon, which all scholars was fulfilled in the past), wasn’t this intended to be taken seriously but non-literally?
- If the Bible is to be interpreted 100% literally, why are the terms like “must shortly take place,” “at hand,” “quickly,” etc. not read literally?
- If “soon” means “2000 years or longer,” does that mean it was going to take Timothy 2000 years to be sent to the Philippians (or to us) by Paul (Philippians 2:19)?
- If the Bible is to be interpreted 100% literally, why do some dispensationalists say the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1-3) are “church ages” and not “literal” churches?
- When Colossians 1:23 states, “This is the gospel you heard and that has been proclaimed [past tense] to every living creature under heaven.” —do you interpret this literally? Had the gospel been declared to the American Indians?
D. Questions about the “End of the Age” and “Last Days” —
- In such passages as Matthew 13:39-40; 13:49; 24:3; 28:20; etc., isn’t Jesus referring to the end of an age (Greek aion) rather than the end of the world (Greek kosmos)? In other words, if the author was talking about the end of the world, wouldn’t he have used kosmos when he actually used aion?
- Since the thrust of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24/25; Mark 13; Luke 21) is the destruction of the temple, isn’t it reasonable to believe that the age in question was the age of the Jewish dispensation, thus the Old Covenant order—especially since the ancient Jewish system of temple sacrifices for sin ended with the destruction of the temple in AD 70?
- The “time of the end” mentioned in Daniel 12:1-13 was to be when the burnt offering was taken away. Since burnt offerings ended in AD 70, must not this be the timeline, thus the “last days” of which the Bible speaks?
- Doesn’t every mention of the last days in the New Testament refer to the first century (Matthew 24:3, 14, 34; Acts 2:14-20; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 10:11; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Hebrews 1:2; 9:26; James 5:3-9; 1 Peter 1:5, 20; 4:7; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 18).
E. Questions about the Rapture and the Tribulation —
- Is there anywhere in the New Testament a trace of evidence for a secret, invisible, instantaneous rapture of the church?
- If Jesus is going to rapture the church out of the world, why does Jesus pray for the exact opposite thing to happen—that the church would NOT be taken out of the world—in John 17:15?
- Is eschatology so confusing that God would have us bounce around between somewhere (hades/”temporary abode”), heaven, earth, new heaven and new earth? Wouldn’t you want to stay in heaven when you get there?
- Is there any verse in the Bible that teaches a “seven-year tribulation?”
- Doesn’t the Jewish War of 66-70 AD qualify as a great tribulation, given that that over a million Jews were killed, their nation was dissolved, their temple decimated, and along with it went their whole world order and the centerpiece of their religion—the centuries old system of animal sacrifices for sin?
- DIDN’T JESUS SPECIFICALLY SAY THE TRIBULATION WOULD HAPPEN IN HIS GENERATION (Matthew 24:9, 21, 29, 34)? Isn’t every time the phrase “this generation” used in the New Testament outside of the Oliver Discourse, the meaning is clearly those living in the first century (Matthew 11:16; 12:38-45; 23:36; Mark 8:12; 8:38-9:1; Luke 7:31; 11:29-32, 49-51; 17:25).
- If the great tribulation (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21) is global, why did Jesus tell those living in Judea to flee to the mountains to avoid the tribulation (Matthew 24:16)? If the great tribulation is global, why did Daniel only refer to it occurring to those who were the “children of my people”?
- If the Great Tribulation was to be global, why does Jesus compare it to Sodom and Gomorrah which was clearly local (Luke 17:25-32), also Peter (2 Peter 2:5-9)?
- Doesn’t Daniel tell us exactly when the time of distress (12:1), the resurrection (12:2), the time of the end (12:9), and the abomination of desolation (12:11)—all occur when the power of the holy people has finally been broken (12:7) and the burnt offering taken away (12:11)? Can there be ANY doubt that this was AD 70?
F. Questions about the Kingdom of God and the Millennium —
- How can Jesus’ kingdom be physical/earthly when Jesus rejected a physical kingdom in John 6:15; John 18:36?
- How can Jesus’ kingdom have not yet come, when John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the apostles all declared the “kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7; Acts 28:31)?
- Why would Jesus’ kingdom be set up in earthly Jerusalem, even though Paul said earthly Jerusalem was bondage and the old covenant (Galatians 4:24-25) that was passing away (Hebrews 8:13)?
- Since Jesus declared that the Kingdom had come when he cast out demons, didn’t He usher in the kingdom during his time on earth (Matthew 12:28-29; Luke 10:8-20; Luke 11:20)?
- How can Jesus’ kingdom be seen by everyone when Jesus himself said it comes NOT with observation (Luke 17:20)?
- How is it that you find hope in an expected destruction of the planet and its replacement with a utopia in which even carnivorous animals will take up vegetarianism?
- Why would Jesus’ kingdom be set up in earthly Jerusalem, knowing Jesus condemned their city several times (Matthew 21-Matthew 25)?
- How can the “millennial” kingdom of God be of the Jews when Jesus himself said that he took the kingdom away from them and gave it to the Gentiles who produce the fruits (Matthew 21:43)? If Jesus took the kingdom from the Jews and gave it to the gentiles, why is there no scripture to show another transfer back to the Jews?
- Isn’t the dispensational idea of separating the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven arbitrary, since the terms are used interchangeably in Scripture (Matthew 3:1-2; Mark 1:14-15)?
- Isn’t our hope really in heaven itself, and not in a literal utopian millennium on earth?
G. More Questions for Dispensationalists —
- Is there a single verse that explicitly teaches that the antichrist will make a covenant with the Jews and then break it?
- Is there a single verse that explicitly teaches that Jesus will reign on earth for a literal thousand years, or that Jesus will sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem during the millennium?
- Is there any explicit teaching that animal sacrifices and circumcision will be reinstated during the millennium of Revelation 20?
- How can the New Heaven and New Earth be a utopia when there is still sin therein (Isaiah 65:20; Revelation 21:8; 22:15)?
- Is the New Jerusalem really to be taken literally, as a literal city sitting just above the earth, 1500 miles square, with one street, etc.? Isn’t the New Jerusalem better understood as the church, since it is described as having the twelve apostles as the foundation stones (Revelation 21:14) and is the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2; ref. Matthew 22:1-14; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27)?
Here is a helpful video about the foundations of dispensationalism: