Question on Dispensationalism, Israel and Continuity, part 2

Meagan wrote:

Rob,
how would you reply to the notion that dispensationalism is a relatively new (just over 100 years old according to some) belief, and that it is not biblical in origin? Also, why is it
so important to clarify whether the Bible is referring to Jews or Christians ( or both) when it speaks of the “church”?

Lastly, is 1 Cor. 15:52 the only passage from which to build a theology of the rapture, and specifically a pre-tribulational rapture?

ANSWER:

This second one is a very important question, in my opinion. The first answer must be that it is only important if the Text seems to make it important. I think the Text does indeed do this.

From the inception of the nation of Israel through Abram of Ur, God had designed a people to be distinct. For certain purposes, God made an “us and them” situation between Israel and everyone else. This distinctive puts Israel in a unique light by definition. Now, Paul works some of that out in Romans 3 by way of a side argument. This intersects what God is doing through the Gospel more in Romans 9-11. It is this intersection that many interpret the “mystery” that Paul speaks of very often being the Church producing Gospel. This is heightened by Romans 11:25 that indicates a time and position distinction for Israel, offset from the Gentiles (everyone else).

The key is always remembering that when you say “Jew”, you must think of both the individual AND the nation. Individual Jews can become Christians and do like any other nation – but the nation is in another wandering, likened unto that after Egypt – only MUCH longer. So, the individual Jew can fit under the category “Christian” now and in the future, but the nation is held out until that time that God so deems to restore them. This is the purpose, I believe, for the tribulation of Matthew 24-25 and Revelation 4-19 – namely, it is a purging purification for Israel before God restors them and fulflls and consumates of of His promises that He made to them.

Even though in Ephesians 2:14 the passage speaks of the dividing wall being “broke down”, this fits better in the “already-not-yet” mindset. There will be a time in the new heaven and the new earth that Israel (the nation[rather, the nation within the nation – Romans 9:6ff]) and the rest (right now the Church) will be gathered as one group, and that has happened in some ways now, both through our being grafted into the promises (not replacing, by the way) AND the individual Jews in the Church. But, there is a much greater gathering to come.

The heart of seeing a distinction between Israel and the Church (rejecting a replacement theology in this context) is one of the main tenets of “pure” dispensationalism. It becomes important as you do hermeneutics and try and understand the Bible. If you hold to a complete replacement theology, them all that is promised to Israel, as a clearly distinct from the rest of the world nation at that time, would bounce right past them and come to the Church. This is unsupported in my opinion in the Text. A better approach sees that Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations the entire time and bring them into the fold. They did not, so God has handed that privilege to the Church for now.

This affects Scripture really no more than contextual hermeneutics, though. We would clearly never say that since John is told that he would live to be old that we are meant to be old (I know, lame example). So too, if a promise or directive is given to a specific nation, then it is first for that nation. Keeping the distinctions is just a natural part of reading the text and doing proper hermeneutics.