Pristine Grace

Dispensationalism's Inability To Understand The Nature of The New Covenant
by James Johnson
Dispensationalism's Inability To Understand The Nature of The New Covenant

     Dispensationalism is the dominate belief for most groups that profess to be Christians. Dispensationalism is clearly an abhorrent heresy which has caused many unregenerate people to become fanatical Zionist who place the nation of Israel on a special pedestal. Defending the nation of Israel has become just as important to most dispensationals as the preaching of their false gospel. Given that the vast majority of dispensationalists believe they are in the end times, and that Armageddon is any day now, it is important to examine Dispensationalism based on the scriptures. In studying this topic one of the key things that I notice over and over again is the inability for dispensationalist to understand the nature of the church, the body of Christ and the new covenant. Maybe God hasn’t revealed the truth to them yet, and if that’s the case then maybe they aren’t truly elect (Matt. 11:25,27). Let’s look at some scripture and see what it says.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:11-22 ESV)

     This passage is a huge problem for most dispensationalists. Terms like “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” and “that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two” and “might reconcile us both to God in one body” are directly contradictory to one of the chief concepts in Dispensationalism, that the church and Israel are two completely different people of God with two completely different plans. Paul does not even hint at a possible separate plan for Israel or a parenthesis made up of the church, both of which dispensationalist hold to. The language in this passage is all of unity in one body and of making two into one. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, is showing that God has one plan for His people (Jews and Gentiles), and that this plan is for them to become the body of Christ, or the Church. Jews and Gentiles are all brought into this body in the same way: through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who paid for our sins. The picture here is of the Gentiles joining into the commonwealth of Israel and being included into the promises of God. In the dispensational view, ethnic Israel is always kept separate from the church, and they have two very different plans. The whole comparison of how we were once aliens and strangers but are no longer is a clear picture of us joining into a new people of God through Jesus Christ. Most dispensationalists would say that this passage is not referring to ethnic Israel, but to Jewish Christians who are joined with the church emphasizing that they are no longer part of Israel but the church or Body of Christ and inferring that somehow that by becoming a Christian, a Jew is no longer counted as ethnic Israel. This does not make much sense. A Jewish Christian is as much a part of ethnic Israel as a Jewish non-Christian. If God were to treat them completely separately, as the dispensationalist would have us believe, then how are any Jews becoming Christians? I am not saying that God does not have a plan for ethnic Israel, He indeed does, but the plan is not for them to be treated separately, rather, it is for those who are elect Jews to join into the body of Christ and receive salvation in the exact same way as the elect Gentiles do, through the death of Jesus Christ. Those of ethnic Israel who aren’t elect will perish in the exact same way as non-elect gentiles. This seems quite simple but most dispensationals can’t grasp it (Matt 16:17). Building from the previous passage, Paul continues his emphasis on unity into one body and one membership by telling about the mystery of Christ. Paul reveals this mystery saying,

When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph 3:4-6 ESV)

     These verses continue to show how the Gentiles are being made fellow heirs and members of the same body with the Jews. The key phrase in this passage is “partakes of the promise,” leading one to the conclusion that the Gentiles are now enjoying the promises that God made to Israel. Again, there is no mention of a separate plan for ethnic Israel anywhere in the text, but to the contrary, there is plenty to suggest unity and incorporation of both Jews and Gentiles into the same body of Christ. It is here I would also disagree with Covenant theology, in that I do not believe that Old Covenant Israel is the Church. I would say the Church is Spiritual Israel but ethnic Israel was never the Church in Old Testament times. Jews and Gentiles are joined together as one new creation, the Church / Spiritual Israel. Old Testament Israel is not the church ever! When the New Covenant and Christ came all things were started new.

     The Old Covenant, now obsolete, (Hebrews 8, 2 Corinthians 3) is fading away while the New Covenant, based on better promises and confirmed with a better sacrifice, has taken its place. The death of Christ on the cross forever broke down the dividing wall of hostility (Old Covenant) and inaugurated the New Covenant in Christ’s Blood. When we understand that the Old Covenant, understood as the covenant made at Mount Sinai, is over and done with and that it was this covenant that started and separated the Nation of Israel, then we realize that there is no way that Israel can be treated differently than the Church. It completely kills the argument for Zionism. The establishment of the New Covenant is what we celebrate during the Lord’s Supper. “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1Co 11:25 ESV). The Old Covenant is referred to as a ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:7), a yoke that neither the Jew nor the gentiles could bear (Act 15:10), a wall of hostility (Eph 2:14), obsolete and vanishing away (Heb 8:13). It is this covenant that established Israel as a physical nation, and it is no longer in effect. When you take all this into consideration, it would be unimaginable for Paul to say, “not all the body of Christ is the Body of Christ”, but it makes complete sense when in Romans 9:6 Paul says, “not all Israel is Israel”. So does scripture ever show that promises made to ethnic Israel are really referring to the church? Many times! Here is one example.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1Pe 2:4-10 ESV)

     This passage in 1 Peter is a great passage where promises given to Israel are now being reapplied to the church. Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16 and also alludes to portions of Exodus 19:5-6; for our purpose we will only examine where Peter alludes to Exodus 19.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel." (Exo 19:5-6 ESV)

     When comparing the two passages, it is very clear that Peter is now calling followers of Christ by everything that was originally referring to Israel. It is very interesting to notice that the passage in Exodus starts off with an “if” statement, saying that “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession…” It is obvious when looking through the history of the nation of Israel that they did not fulfill their end of the covenant with God; thus the nation of Israel was never truly a “kingdom of priests” or “a holy nation”. Ethnic Israel was basically a group of people where only a remnant of elect believers ever existed. The majority of the people of Israel were non-elect. Peter clearly alludes to this failure of Israel towards God when he says, “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do”. This shows that Israel, as a ethnic people, clearly failed God and it was predestined that they were to do so, and that now those who have been chosen in Christ are the ones who are the “chosen race” and “royal priesthood” and “holy nation” and this includes both Jews and Gentiles. It is because Christ performed the work of redemption and paid for the sins of the elect as He died on the cross that the elect “will not be put to shame”. It is Christ who fulfilled and inaugurated the New Covenant and allows those chosen in Him to become what the nation of Israel never achieved.

     In conclusion, Dispensationalists are vastly confused in their undying support of Israel as “God’s chosen nation”. It is my opinion that the vast majority of Dispensationalists are under a strong delusion from God to believe a lie and that their situation will not change unless God chooses to change it. As for now, we will just have to continue to live with their false gospel and possible destructive political outlook of total support for the nation of Israel. The passages above completely crush one of the main positions of dispensationalists, but do they notice?