A call to Messianic Jews in Israel, Essay 24 

We have now come to this last short essay.  We have covered the basics of Classical Dispensationalism and our difficulties with this theology.  Now I want to address Israel.  I believe that Classical Dispensational theology is a foreign imposition upon Israel. It is true that we cannot do our Messianic Jewish/Israeli theology without reference to the scholars and theologies that have dominated the Christian world.  In addition, we should have reference to the Messianic Jewish scholars of the Diaspora.  We do affirm the emphasis of Dispensational Theology that Israel, the Jewish people, continued after the first century to be God’s elect people and are still elect.  However, the dispensational ways of definition, that there are two peoples of God, two plans, an earthly plan and salvation for Israel, and a heavenly salvation and plan for the Church are very problematic.  We especially see this breakdown in Paul’s calling Messianic Jews the saved remnant of Israel and also the first fruits that sanctify the rest of the nation of Israel (Rom. 11:5, 16).  At the same time, they are the Jewish part of the one new man of Ephesians 2.  Dispensational ways of defining grace over against law, the tribulation period with the absent church, and more are very problematic.  The sometimes narrow mentality that is so critical of others is not helpful. 

Dispensational theology becomes part of the mentality of people.  People may not have ever been given a systematic presentation, but the way they talk about law (often quite negatively) and grace (often as hyper-grace salvation that requires no repentance or change of life) is very sad.  “You are not going back under the Law, are you?”  “Are you Judaizing?”  In addition, there is no passion for Last Day’s revival and unity.  These hopes should motivate and excite. Even if we do not see them fulfilled in our lifetime, these hopes can lead to greater passion in prayer and cooperation in unity.  There is a profound optimism that the best is yet to be, even the very best for the Body of the Messiah before the return of the Lord.  Yes, darkness will cover the earth, but there will also be a great harvest through world revival. 

Non-Dispensationalists use more adequate language when speaking about the Gospel.  They speak of extending the Kingdom through the Gospel of the Kingdom, whereas dispensationalists only speak of people being saved (not wrong but needs additional language too).  The more adequate language of George Ladd (The Gospel of the Kingdom) and Dallas Willard (Divine Conspiracy) is very helpful.  The wrong language produces some blindness.  We “see” through the language we use. 

Will we in Israel become a movement of supernatural power, revival, and signs and wonders confirming evangelism?  Will we attain John 17:21 unity in Israel and with our church partners?  We believe that all this will happen, but this will require going beyond dispensationalism. 

Are there Dispensations, Essay 23

Sometimes Dispensationalists ask us if we cannot see that it is obvious that there are dispensations, different periods demarked in Scripture that show God’s working in different periods of time with different requirements and tests for the human race.  The answer is yes and no.  Reformed theologians and Calvin himself used the term dispensation to refer to a unique period with unique requirements.  We could all probably use the term dispensation more frequently if it was not associated with a total system of theology, Classical Dispensationalism.   In this essay, I will accept the use of the term but will explain how the problem is Classical Dispensational definitions and descriptions of these dispensations.

There clearly was a change after Adam and Eve fell.  There was a pre-fall period however brief and then the period from that fall to Noah.  The period until Noah was not one without law for it is clear that Noah knew that standards from God (law) were being severely violated by the society of his day.  After the flood, a new era had begun. The salvation of Noah and his family was by grace but required his faith obedience.  After the flood, the promise was given of never again destroying the earth with a flood. Laws were also given, to not eat blood from animals killed for food and to exact the death penalty for murder.  Certainly, many other standards of right and wrong were known.  These standards were no doubt known to Abraham. Before the Covenant of Abraham, we can thus count three dispensations, Innocence, Pre-Flood, and Post flood to Abraham. There is no contrast of grace versus law in these periods. 

A new dispensation began with Abraham and his family but most of the world continued under the covenant God made with Noah. The Noahic Covenant does not end.  However, for Israel, there was a new order of promise.  Dispensationalists sometimes call the period from Abraham to Moses a dispensation of promise, and that it was.  The Abrahamic Covenant continues to be in effect until today.  It was not without law.  Indeed, Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God (Gen. 15:6) but in Genesis 26:5 because he obeyed God’s statutes, ordinances, and judgments.  Abraham knew at least part of the Law of God that was later incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant!  

God hundreds of years later made his constitution for Israel through Moses, the Mosaic Covenant material from Exodus 20 through Deuteronomy (Davarim).   The Abrahamic Covenant is not replaced but is permanent.  Thomas McComiskey asserts in his fine book, Covenants of Promise, the Mosaic Covenant was a temporary administration of the Abrahamic Covenant.   It is a covenant of grace, not a law covenant that challenged Israel to find salvation through law-keeping.  We have already written about this.  This brings us to a fifth dispensation.  

The Mosaic Covenant is not abolished but is superseded in the New Covenant.  All that is applicable from Moses for the New Covenant order is assumed to be applied in the New Covenant (Matthew 5:17,18, Romans 8:4). The New Covenant in Yeshua is made with Israel but then is applied to those from the nations who embrace the apostolic witness and are grafted into the Jewish olive tree.  The New Covenant is the permanent administration of the Mosaic Covenant and comes to fullness in the Millennial Age. 

After the return of Yeshua, we will enter the Age to Come or the seventh dispensation, the Millennial Age.  It is also a dispensation of grace with a response of obedience to the law. 

The New Heavens and the New Earth are eternity and not one of the seven just as eternity past before the creation is not a dispensation.  We can therefore see that there are dispensations, but we describe the contrasts and continuum in very different ways. 

The Gifts of the Spirit, the Power of God and Dispensationalism, Essay 22

Reformed theology (Calvin, Reformed Church theologians, and Presbyterian theologians) generally taught that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and power of God’s manifestations were for the purpose of launching the first-century Ecclesia and are not for today.  Once the Bible was written these gifts were no longer needed, especially revelatory gifts since we had God’s written revelation.  The perfect had come, the Bible, and that which was imperfect, the gifts, were no longer needed.  This included the gifts of apostles and prophets in Eph. 4:11 ff.  This was fully argued over 100 years ago in the book Counterfeit Miracles by Princeton Professor Benjamin Warfield.  (Warfield was responding to those who accepted these gifts such as A. J. Gordon of Gordon College and A. B. Simpson of the Christian and Missionary Alliance).  Dispensational teachers picked up this teaching and added a new twist.  The gifts of the Spirit were meant for a transitional period in moving from the Mosaic Dispensation of Law to the New Covenant Dispensation of Grace.  These gifts are not for this present Dispensation of Grace.  This is still in the statement of faith for all faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary.  These views are known as cessationism.  

This is a strange teaching since all of the passages on supernatural gifts (Romans 12, I Cor. 12, 14, etc.) do not give any time limits but assume their continuation until the return of Yeshua.  It is also the consensus of commentators that when “that which is perfect is come” refers to the Age to Come and the Age of the direct rule of Yeshua.  If we add the text from Eph. 4:11 we note that it teaches that the listed leadership gift ministries for the “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” continues until we come to unity and the full maturity of the Messiah.  This is well interpreted in Craig Keeners great book Spirit Hermeneutics.  

The two great refutations of this cessationism are exegetical and empirical.  The most complete exegetical refutation I know is John Mark Ruthven’s, The Cessation of the Charismata.  Professor Ruthven takes on Warfield in a comprehensive review.  He exegetes passage after passage to show that part of the essence of the New Covenant is the presence of the Spirit that shows Himself in the prophetic gifting in all believers.  It is an amazing study.  Also, Gordon Fee’s His Empowering Presence on the teaching of the Spirit in the Pauline corpus shows cessationism to be an impossible interpretation.  

The second refutation is that worldwide, but especially in Southern Hemisphere Christianity, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and signs and wonders are a significant part of the progress of the Gospel.  It is real, miraculous, and not imagination. Today the leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance estimate that they network 600 million Christians, 400 million are Pentecostal=Charismatics, and 200 million non-Charismatics.  Why 400 million?  The supernatural is key to the advance of the Gospel.  Craig Keener is today the President of the prestigious Evangelical Theological Society.  His two-volume set, Miracles, the Credibility of New Testament Miracles is definitive.  The same kind of miracles seen in the pages of the New Testament are happening frequently all over the world, but especially in the Southern Hemisphere.  Keener traveled the world To document many examples of most of the same kinds of miracles as in the New Testament. His book is affirmed by many Evangelical scholars in the United States.   The Classical Dispensational view on miracles today and the supernatural gifts of the Spirit has certainly been refuted. 

Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, Essay 21

Oswald T. Allis was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and then Westminster Theological Seminary.  Allis provides a blistering critique of Classical Dispensational theology that is unequaled though published over 75 years ago. 

He takes them to task on many of the points we have made in our essays.  The most blistering attack is on the dispensational view that the Gospels and the teaching of Yeshua are still part of the dispensation of law raised to its height but not directly relevant to Christians under the Covenant of Grace.  On this view, Christians are responsible to obey the teaching of the epistles of the New Testament and not literally obeying the impossible injunctions of the Sermon on the Mount which is the Law raised to its height of impossible perfection.  It reveals our need for the way of grace.  Allis seems almost incensed that the sublime teaching of Yeshua is not directly for the Church though dispensationalism did say that it was applicable in some ways when seen through the lens of the epistles. 

Then Allis takes dispensationalism to task for rejecting the promises of God in the Old Testament as applicable to Christians.  In this, we do come to the mixed-bag aspect of Allis and Classical Reformed theology.  Yes, many promises to Israel are applicable to Christians. We can list so many.  “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”  God promises that when we go through the waters, He will be with us.  We all know that Christians quote many Old Testament promises and claim them for themselves.  Are they right to do so?  For Allis, the answer is yes, because these promises given to Israel are for the Israel of God, the Church, in the New Covenant.  This includes for Allis the dry bones passage for the revival of the Church. (Ezek. 37)  For myself, these promises were given to Israel and the prophecies of Israel’s ultimate salvation and redemption are primarily for Israel, but the underlying principles are clear.  They have an underlying and secondary and important application to all believers.  However, as Messianic Jews, we would have interpreters always acknowledge the primary application to Israel. 

This brings us to the Achilles’ heel of Allis’s theology.  It is the failure to first interpret texts according to the original intent of the author in context.  He spiritualizes and applies texts to the Church without the qualification.  Dispensationalists point out the subjective nature of these interpretations, which are the classical approaches of much of Reformed theology and indeed the Church Fathers and classical Catholic and Orthodox Christian interpretation.  Indeed, Classical Reformed theology is replacement theology.  The Church is the new and true Israel, and ethnic Israel is no longer God’s elect people.  When we read the promises to Israel as yet unfulfilled, we are told to read the Church into these passages. 

When Dispensationalists point this out and then claim to be the proponents of a more objective and defensible literal (natural) interpretive approach, they win many over to their side.  It is as though you are either Classical Reformed like Allis or Classical Dispensational.  However, as we have shown, Dispensationalism has its own Bible-stretching interpretations.  We are not locked into just two choices.  There are natural interpreters such as Dr. Walter Kaiser and the late J.Barton Payne of Wheaton and many more who transcend these two approaches and provide a more adequate theology.  We do not have a fool’s choice of either Reformed or Dispensational theologies. Unless we point this out, Classical Reformed theology empowers Dispensationalists.  However, let us promote the third way. 

Progressive Dispensationalism, Essay 20

A new movement with the name “Progressive Dispensationalism” is growing and gives some hope for breaking the impasse in theology between Dispensationalism and other classical Evangelical views.   Most progressives are still pre-tribulation rapture proponents.  One cannot teach at Dallas Theological Seminary (the #1 school of Dispensationalism) and not hold to this view.   I should note that there were and are some who are mostly Classical Dispensationalists and who held to a mid-tribulation rapture, a pre-wrath rapture (Marvin Rosenthal of Friends of Israel), and a post-tribulation rapture.   The progressives are represented by Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock. In important ways, they move toward a Covenant Premillennialism in helpful ways.  I have had a dialogue with Craig Blaising.  Here are some of the amazing changes. 

First, there is a change in distinguishing the Mosaic Period, from Moses to the Death and Resurrection of Yeshua, as a dispensation of Law over against a dispensation of grace.   Both the Mosaic dispensation and the New Covenant dispensation were gracious covenants that included law.  The applicability of the Law is embraced. 

Secondly, both the Kingdom of God and the New Covenant are understood as having come with partial fulfillment, the already not yet sense of fulfillment that is the consensus of Bible scholars today.  The Gospel of the Kingdom was not just an offer of the Kingdom to Israel.  It will be offered again to Israel after the rapture, but a partial offer continues at this time for all people.  Also, the New Covenant will be fulfilled in fullness with Israel at the second coming of Yeshua. 

Thirdly, the identity of Messianic Jews is both still part of Israel and her election as well as part of the Church, the One New Man.  Yes, they will be raptured out before the tribulation, but that does not mean a loss of Jewish identity.  The Schofield idea that one is exclusively a member of one of three categories, Jew, Gentile, and Church, is no longer embraced. 

Of course, with the rapture view held by some, the Church and the Messianic Jewish members are not present at the end of the tribulation effecting making Israel jealous so they embrace Yeshua. 

In my interview, I asked the question, “How can you say you are still a Dispensationalist with such contrasting views to Classical Dispensationalism?”  The answer was that the key is in maintaining the distinction between Israel the nation and the Church, though one could be part of both. However, before Darby, there were restorationists (in regard to Israel) in Germany, the United Kingdom, and America that believed this.   I think the progressives make a more radical break than they want to admit. 

Yet, there are still weaknesses. The pre-tribulation rapture view is one weakness. Missing the vision for the last day’s revival and the gifts of the Spirit, including the five-fold gifts of Eph. 4:11 ff. are other weaknesses.  Yes, I see the Progressives as a breakthrough and hope that there is more to come.

Revival and the Last Days and Dispensationalism: Essay 19

A historic interpretation in Protestantism asserts the importance of powerful outpourings of the Holy Spirit that will lead to a great worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit before the return of Yeshua.  This interpretation comes both from the examination of biblical texts and the experience of revival.  

Though the Puritans are looked at as stogy formalists, this was far from the truth for some of them. Ian Murray in his important book, The Puritan Hope, writes about outpourings of the Spirit in Puritan meetings as recorded in Puritan documents.  An eschatology was developed by some that taught that such outpourings would continue, that they would ebb but then a new outpouring would take place.  This ebb and flow would ultimately lead to a great outpouring that would not ebb but would lead to the second coming of Yeshua.  Some Lutheran Pietists affirmed the same view in the 18th century. This view reached great clarity among the Moravians under Count Von Zinzendorf in Hernhutt, Germany in the 1730s.  They experienced such an outpouring that had dramatic effects.  This was partly enabling them to maintain their 24/7 continual prayer meeting and sending many into world missions.  It is usually thought that the Moravians began the modern Protestant world missions movement.  As an important side note, the Moravians were passionate about the Jewish people and had missions to them that actually planted congregations.  

The Moravians influenced John and Charles Wesley and the Methodist movement. There were outpourings of the Spirit, strange manifestations of the Spirit, and miracles. In America, the leader of the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, defended the revival and the strange manifestations of the Spirit (His writings on this are still available).   The second great awakening and the ministry of Charles Finney were also very similar to the outpourings of Wesley. 

Rubin Archer Torrey was the right arm of Dwight L. Moody, the great 19th-century evangelist in the second half of the century in America.  They both believed in the second work of grace, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  When Moody died, R. A. Torey became the President of Moody Bible Institute, but his theology of revival and the baptism of the Spirit led to a separation.  The same was repeated at Biola, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Torrey left Biola and then traveled the world to inspire city-wide prayer meetings seeking God for revival.  Some believe that Torrey’s efforts were part of several revivals in the early 20th century.  One was in China, but the most famous was the Welsh revival. Torrey as well looked for world revival leading to the completion of the great commission and the return of Jesus.  This orientation on revival is strong in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles today but also is very common among leaders in the World Evangelical Alliance.  

What is the biblical basis?  The most important text is Acts 2.  Many scholars interpret Acts 2 as partial fulfillment of Joel 2:28ff., that God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh.  The last days began with the coming of Yeshua and Pentecost (Shavuot) but the last of the last day is before the great, glorious and terrible day of the Lord’s judgment where the Sun is darkened, and the moon turned to blood red. That final day of the Lord is yet to come and the great outpouring on all flesh, not just a Jewish contingent in Jerusalem, is still to come. Other texts in Isaiah especially are supportive (Isaiah 60).  World revival is now a common theme among Christians worldwide.  

How does Classical Dispensation respond to this?  Generally, it is pessimistic about the end of this age, whereas the revival oriented to see the darkness getting darker but also see the greatest revival and the greatest harvest.  It seems to already be happening in some parts of the world.  There is as well an outpouring of miracles today (See Craig Keener’s amazing documentation in Miracles).  The most important dispensational statement today is the one required for all Dallas Theological Seminary faculty.  There is no revival mentioned, and miracles and supernatural gifts of the Spirit are declared not for today or for this dispensation.  This orientation changes the direction and expectation of Christians who hold to it. Indeed, those who expect and pray for revivals and the last great revival have much more optimism. We also believe in such a revival among the Jewish people.  This idea of a Jewish revival has been a central emphasis of the Messianic Jewish Alliance leaders in America for the last 45 years.  It is indeed true that revivals have led to great Gospel advances.  Just trace the effects of the Welsh revival.  There is no downside to this theology, but it intensifies prayer and faith. 

Classical Dispensationalism has blunted our hopes for revival. My conviction is that in Israel, we will not see much progress for the Gospel without revival, and Holy Spirit outpourings. 

The Atheist Secular Fortress

Ancient cities built amazing walls, fortifications that turned their cities into fortresses.  One morning a few days ago I woke up at the end of a dream.  I saw a huge castle-like fortress that represented the power or strength of the atheist-secular culture that now dominates the Western World.  It was built of huge stones and looked impregnable.   Then I saw that explosives placed in strategic places could bring the whole thing crashing down. 

After this, while still woozy and waking, I thought of the huge statue image in Daniel 2 representing the four major empires of the ancient world and some say in the feet the revised empire of the last days.  A stone cut out crushed the feet of the statue and it crumbled and became as nothing whereas the stone became a great mountain that filled the earth.  The stone is the Kingdom of God.  Some say that stone is the Messiah King.  However, it will fill the whole earth. 

I knew the interpretation that only a great revival would bring down the fortifications of the city.  There could be great revivals placed at strategic locations of the fortifications. They would be as explosions bringing down the fortifications.  (This could lead to the last days’ great revival.)  Surely only a mighty outpouring is the only way to overcome. 

We live in a world where government and big tech media control speech and information at levels that were unimaginable a few years ago.  Even in scientific and medical matters, once a mainstream view has been declared, other views are canceled, even if held by top scientists.  Of course, this is really anti-science since science progresses through argument and dissent.  Oftentimes, the dissenters in the history of science were found to be correct.  Today we see this in COVID science, climate science, gender issues and so much more.  However, the greatest shutdown is on worldview matters.   

Regarding a biblical worldview, today we have amazing apologists for biblical faith.  I can name many.  I am an apologist and wrote a textbook on apologetics.  The power of their augments reaches few who are within the atheist secular fortress and subject to the strongholds of the mind of the prevailing media culture.  Yet, the quality of the evidence today is the best we have ever had.   

I herein note two examples.  First is the new and powerful evidence for the intelligent design of the universe.  How many in the secular atheist world know that the consensus of the top scientists (especially astrophysics) is now that given the complexity of life and the amazing arrangement of the forces of the universe, that there is almost zero chance that life could have arisen spontaneously by chance.  Scientists have written papers on “the anthropic universe” meaning that the universe as a whole seems to be perfectly arranged and fine-tuned to support human life.  The end of the steady state theory of the universe and the consensus on the “big bang” theory (the singular event) brings years of atheist reasoning to an unwanted conclusion.  What to do?  Atheism has to be maintained so some like Steven Hawking posit the multiverse theory, that our universe is one many. What is impossible in probability with our universe can be made probable, it is thought if we posit enough chance-based universes.  This is whistling in the dark!  There is no possible evidence for it!  We are locked into our universe. Plus, when we begin with the universe before life, there is still no probability to produce the design quality of single-cell within this universe. It could never happen.  How many know that this convinced the leading atheist philosopher in the English-speaking world, a top philosopher of science, Dr. Antony Flew, to declare there this a God.  How many know about Dr. Thomas Nagel, maybe America’s leading philosopher at NYU to declare that the Darwinian chance theory of evolution is impossible and incoherent?  Though still wanting to be an atheist, he has to posit something of mind inherent in the universe (Mind and Cosmos). We can add many more examples, but one is amazing, the former atheist physicist of MIT, Dr. Gerald Schroeder.  He became convinced of the existence of God and his design in the universe.  He became an Orthodox Jew and has written many books related to his discoveries. 

The second point is about miracles. From the vastness of the universe to the personal level, we speak about contemporary miracles.  There is a stunning plethora of supernatural miracles being done in the name of Yeshua, Jesus, today that are not capable of being explained by natural law. No stretch of the imagination can explain them.  These are instant healings, including resurrections from the dead.  These are well documented.  Dr. Craig Keener’s monumental two-volume set, Miracles, or The Credibility of New Testament Miracles, speaking of New Testament like miracles today, is so well documented that many mainstream Evangelicals have endorsed it.  We know people who have received such miracles.  Keener is so well regarded that he is today the President of the Evangelical Theological Society.  About 120 years ago, the famous healing evangelist John Lake did many miracles.  His miracle stories were reported regularly in the Portland press.  This does not happen today. 

The control of the cultural elite in the West has built a fortress of media that prevents the information from being conveyed.  The whole fortress has to fall. I believe that the only answer is a mighty revival that is so grand that the secular atheist fortress cannot resist it.  It is time that we all join in every city and town to pray for it, in regular gatherings, in 24/7 prayer sets, and more crying out to God to send a mighty revival on his people. Pray also that the fortress is destroyed. Only when his people are generally empowered can we break through. 

. 

Unity and Fear of Ecumenicism, Essay 18

I have a little book, a reprint of the 1946 100th-year anniversary edition, of a short history of the World Evangelical Alliance.  One of the goals of the WEA was to promote the John 17:21 unity of the Church.  This was considered one of the keys to the return of the Lord.  It remains so today for the WEA as it networks hundreds of millions.  Instead of competition, they seek cooperation in every city and region of the world.  They believe that the prayer of Yeshua will be answered before He returns.  “That they may be one that the world will believe.”  This was the heart of the great Zinzendorf and the Moravians in Herrnhut in the first half of the 18th century. 

 

However, in many Dispensational circles, the quest for unity is feared as something that will lead to deception and perhaps the great falling away or apostasy.  When classical Dispensationalists looked at John 17, they often interpreted as for the local church. Nott all hold this view. As one leader told us last year in a gathering of leaders here, John 17:21 is only saying that a local congregation in unity will be more successful.  As an example, he described a congregational picnic in a public park.  If the people show a lot of love to one another, the unbelievers in the park will be drawn to this love.  It is about the world around the local people of God.  In addition to the hope for unity, they do not see Acts 2 pointing to a great last days revival before the return of the Lord. 

 

Dispensational eschatology, or last days teaching, noted the Bible’s warning of a coming last days apostasy (II Thes.2:3).  That apostasy or rebellion, they believe, had already begun as mainline denominations compromised with evolution, critical approaches to the Bible, and denials of Biblical truth. The Ecumenical Movement also quoted John 17 in their question of unity in the World Council of Churches and other efforts. Many of these churches have departed from biblical truth. This, they believe, is all leading to the false world religion that will be part of the one world government of the Antichrist. 

 

They see other efforts for unity, Evangelical, charismatic, or Pentecostal all leading to the same danger. What is the answer to this?  First, one cannot get around John 17.  Anyone who reads this honestly has to conclude that unity will characterize a revived worldwide Church before the return of the Lord. This Church will complete the task of world Evangelism and making Israel jealous.  Secondly, this unity is based on a solid biblical confession of faith.  For example, the WEA has maintained its doctrinal standards from 1846 until today. However, to do so, they have to eschew the narrower fundamentalism that finds fault and criticism for all kinds of non-essentials and separated them from others on that basis.  The unity is maintained by the Reformers’ dictum.  “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.”  We cannot merely evaluate from an American perspective.  From a World perspective, we are closer to the fulfillment of the prayer of Yeshua than ever before except for biblical times. 

 

What are the consequences of one’s view of John 17?  If one agrees that the prayer of Yeshua will be answered then we are to give ourselves to cooperative unity locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.  This will greatly strengthen the Church.  However, if we do not believe this it will lead to independence, lack of mutual accountability, competition, and local churches that just build their little fiefdoms.  

 

The Identity of Messianic Jews and Dispensationalism, Essay 17

When the first Messianic Jewish Congregations were beginning in North America (1970-1975), there was quite a bit of attack against the new Messianic Jewish movement.  We were told we were, “Confusing law and grace,” “Re-erecting the wall of partition” and “Going back under the Law.”  Some Reformed leaders also had a rejection on the basis of the wall of partition argument and the idea that ethnic Israel is no longer elect but affirmed the replacement theology idea that the true Israel of God is now the Church.  But that is a different argument that will be addressed in a later essay. Here we want to just note the Dispensational view. 

In classic Dispensationalism, there is still an election that pertains to the Jewish people, Israel.  Israel will be preserved and God’s promises to them will be fulfilled in the Millennial Age.  However, the Church is defined very much like some of the early Church fathers, as a third race and in spiritual and essential identity its members are not Jew or Gentile. This is clearly stated in the little C. I. Schofield classic, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.  “Neither Jew nor Gentile” in Gal. 3 is a proof text despite the text also saying, “Neither male nor female.”   One is part of one of only three mutually exclusive categories, Jew, Gentile, or Church.  

God’s purpose and plans require keeping the Jew and Gentile separate and as noted in an earlier essay, Israel will become God’s primary instrument on earth only after the Church is taken away before the tribulation.  Messianic Jews on this basis are wrongly confusing identities and callings. Living a Jewish life is not fitting for members of the Church.  A limited ethnic identity may be accepted like Italians, Poles, and Russians but no deeper real spiritual identity or Jewish election identity.  A Passover seder is unacceptable as is keeping the Sabbath. 

However, such definitions imply the rejection of other clear passages and in some cases explain them away.  First of all, this includes the clear definition verses on the identity of Jewish believers in Yeshua, Romans 9-11.  In Romans 11:5 when Paul speaks of a “remnant saved” at the present time, it implies that they are the remnant of Israel, not people who have left their identity as part of Israel for a new identity as a “third race.”  When Paul states that we are to follow him who magnifies his ministry so that we might see some of Israel saved, he connects this some as important in being connected to all of Israel being saved, for the acceptance of all of Israel would lead to life from the dead.  (Rom. 11:15)   As if this was not enough, Paul goes on to argue that those who follow Yeshua from the Jewish people are, “The first fruits” that sanctify the rest of the nation.  It is not possible to be a sanctifying first fruits of the nation if not a part of the nation.  The nation remains set apart and made holy by the sanctifying remnant.  

Paul’s practice is fully in line with this teaching.  He has no problem living a Jewish life and showing that he is still part of Israel.  He takes a Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18) and later brings a sacrifice completing this vow and professing that he lives as a Jew in Torah obedience (Acts 21).  Paul professes Jewish life loyalty through the rest of the book of Acts before rulers and lastly before his people in Rome. 

Jewish identity in Yeshua is not as neat as the three separate identities but is truer to the text.   The Messianic Jew is part of national ethnic Israel, its identity and destiny, and also a Jewish part of the One New Humanity of Jew and Gentile in Yeshua.  Things are much better today for Messianic Jews: there is much more support.  However, there is still pushback against Messianic Jews due to the conscious or unconscious bias of classical Dispensationalism.  We have to reject the wrong separation of Israel and the Church. Their destinies are intertwined. 

Dispensational Fundamentalism Part II, Essay 16

How dispensationalism swept the American Evangelical World in the first part of the 20th century is an amazing story.   With the Schofield Reference Bible and its notes becoming the Bible of the Evangelical world, the domination was complete.  Yes, Reformed Evangelicals (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, and Methodist) did not buy in, but they were smaller and less influential.  It has taken many years for Evangelicalism to extricate itself.  

I trace the beginning of the process of extricating to a group of scholars in the late 1940s.  Dr. Carl Henry, the theologian for Billy Graham and the editor of Christianity Today wrote the Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in 1947.  The critique hit hard on the abdication of a biblical approach to social issues and justice.  The absence of Dispensationalist Fundamentalists from the Civil Rights struggles of the 50s and 60s was a case in point.  The theology of just getting people to be saved and to escape the tribulation departed from social responsibility.  This was far from the 19th century Evangelicals like Charles Finney, and the Beecher family (Lyman, Henry Ward, and Harriet who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)   Would slavery had ended the dispensationalist quietist views on social issues dominant in the 19th century?  Dr. Morris Inch, Theology Professor at Wheaton and a classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King was quite passionate about this. 

Besides Henry, other groups of young scholars were breaking ranks.  Edward John Carnell the famous professor of apologetics and philosophy of religion at Fuller Theological Seminary and then President wrote The Case for Orthodox Theology, arguing for Evangelical Orthodox theology.  He included a blistering critique of Fundamentalism, but mainly Dispensational Fundamentalism.  He passionately critiqued its narrowness, censoriousness (finding heresy to criticize everywhere), its social quietism, and strange methods of Biblical interpretation and speculation.  He was mainly speaking of Dispensational Fundamentalism.  He argued that Fundamentalism was Orthodoxy gone cultic.  It did not begin that way when the brilliant scholars wrote The Fundamentals.  

George Ladd of Fuller wrote Crucial Questions and the Kingdom of God (1951) where he broke from Dispensational Fundamentalism on the issue of the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of the Kingdom which, according to Ladd, is the Gospel we preach. It is not just the Gospel for the Jewish people in the coming tribulation as they taught in contrast to Dispensationalism’s Gospel of Grace.  Ladd’s early work harkened back to the pre-dispensational pre-millennial views that were so common among those who were early Christian Zionists.  (For example, Lutheran scholar J. A. Bengel-1687-1752) 

The great Evangelical philosopher at Wheaton College, Dr. Arthur Holmes, of dear memory used to say in reflecting really on Evangelical Fundamentalism, “We have lost 100 years.”  Perhaps at that time not really 100 but easily 60. 

Dispensational Fundamentalism is still the majority popular Evangelicalism but is in decline.  In the Evangelical scholarly world, outside of its own schools that define doctrine so narrowly that only Dispensationalists can be on the faculty, Dispensationalism is in decline.  Think of Wheaton, Trinity, Gordon Conwell, Asbury, Denver, Regent Canada, Regent in Virginia, Wycliff, Tyndale (Oxford), and I could go on and on.  Even in a few of the leading dispensational schools, we hear of Progressive Dispensationalism which is 50-70% return to pre-dispensational pre-millennialism.  However, there is still much work to do to get beyond this, to prepare God’s people for revival, partnership with the Messianic Jewish community, and to fulfill the prayer of Yeshua that we might be one.  This is especially the case in Israel where due to mission influences, there is still a great influence of this viewpoint.