Dispensationalism is a method of Biblical interpretation that understands God to have related to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants in a series of “dispensations,” or periods in history.
As a system, dispensationalism is expounded in the writings of John Nelson Darby (1800–82) and through works such as Cyrus Scofield’s Scofield Reference Bible. The theology of dispensationalism consists of a distinctive eschatological end times perspective, most dispensationalists hold to premillennialism and most hold to a pretribulation rapture. Dispensationalists believe that the nation of Israel is distinct from the Christian Church,and that God has yet to fulfill his promises to national Israel. These promises include the land promises, which in the future world to come result in a millennial kingdom and Third Temple where Christ, upon his return, will rule the world from Jerusalem for a thousand years.
Dispensationalists usually see the Biblical covenants revelations as intricately tied to the dispensations. When these Biblical covenants are compared and contrasted, the result is a historical ordering of different dispensations. Also with regard to the different Biblical covenant promises, dispensationalism emphasises to whom these promises were written, the original recipients. Example Old Testament to Jewish people and New Testament to the church. This has led to certain fundamental dispensational beliefs, such as a distinction between Israel and the Church.
Most dispensationalists hold to a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. Israel is an ethnic nation consisting of Hebrews (Israelites), beginning with Abraham and continuing in existence to the present. The church consists of all saved individuals in this present dispensation from the “birth of the Church” in Acts until the time of the Rapture.
John Nelson Darby is recognized as the father of dispensationalism, which was later made popular in the United States by Scofield Reference Bible. For example, there was no Christian teaching of a “rapture” before Darby began preaching about it in the 1830s, Since the mid-1800s, the system of theology known as dispensationalism has exerted great influence on how many Christians view the doctrines of ecclesiology and eschatology.
Some specific Dispensational Views:
1. God works via different arrangements in distinct periods of history
2. Israel is the literal descendants of Abraham, not spiritual ones (Israel & Church separate)
3. Israel is the heir to the promises made to Abraham about the seed being blessed instead of church
4. Participation in the Abrahamic Covenant is “mainly” by physical birth in Jewish lineage
5. Two distinct people groups: Israel and the Church & Law and grace separate dispensations
Our opinion of God’s Covenant relationship with man has great influence on how we interpret Scripture.
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