Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Appendix A – Reformed and Dispensational Theology
Lesson 166 – Fulfillment of Prophecy vs. Types vs. Historical Analogies
08 Feb 2001
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Let’s go to a verse of Scripture and review the faith-rest drill. In Romans 8 we’ll look at the sequence of these verses; each one of them is a powerful promise that can be used as a tool in everyday life. Verse 32, “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Verse 34, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Since we’ve gone through the ascension and session of Christ, notice verse 34 presumes that the session has occurred, that Christ is at the Father’s right hand, and that because He is at the Father’s right hand He is performing a function which He would not do had he not been seated at the Father’s right hand.
From verse 35 on it’s talking about God’s sovereign omnipotent love, which is sort of ironic because if there’s one place in Christian theology where unbelief likes to drive a wedge it’s trying to argue that because God is sovereign and He is omnipotent, He’s over everything, how can He also be a God of love. The debate that I played two weeks ago basically showed this unbeliever saying that he would sue God for negligence for being asleep at the wheel during Auschwitz. That is a classic attack against the Christian position, trying to pit love on one hand against God’s omnipotence on the other. It’s striking that in this verse, of all the attributes of God that we see listed here, we find that it’s God’s love and that it’s God’s power. Verse 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?]” The idea there is that tribulation will not, distress will not, persecution will not, famine will not, nakedness will not, peril will not, and the sword will not.
Verse 37, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Notice in verse 39, every one of those things that are listed fall on which side of the Creator/creature boundary? Every one of those things listed falls on the creature side, not the Creator side. The reason these verses have such power to them is because there’s powerful theology imbedded inside of them. You can’t be trusting them; you can’t be focusing on them without, at the same time, coming into consistency with heavy Christian doctrine. Any one of those is a neat thing to remember when you’re in a jam. “All these things we overwhelming conquer through Him who loved us.”
We’re looking at the end of this appendix. We’ve looked on the time line of history; we’ve just covered the ascension and session of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Father’s right hand. We’ve seen that it accomplished a powerful thing. When the Lord Jesus Christ sat at the Father’s right hand that He, at that point, received a higher rank than any other member of the human race has ever received, and at that point He outranked archangels and all the other heavenly beings are now underneath a representative of the human race. As the Son of Man, as a representative of the human race, He is the head of the entire cosmos tonight. It’s run not by a Martian, or a Venusian or somebody from Galaxy 674, the universe is steered by a member of the human race from planet earth. So with all due respect to science fiction, truth is stranger than fiction, the universe is run by the God-man and He has authority and power over all principalities and power, over all other creatures. That’s the basis of this verse.
The next thing that we’re going to start, and in preparation for next week read Acts 2 because the next event is going to be Pentecost. We’ve looked at the session of Christ, we’re going to look at Pentecost and as we approach Pentecost we’re moving from the Old Testament era. We’re moving from the Gospels into the period of the epistles, and we’re going to study the Church Age. Because we’re going to study the Church Age, we are automatically involved in the theological differences between classical Reformed theology and Dispensational theology. That’s why this appendix, Reformed theology versus Dispensational theology. Whereas they both agree as to the method of salvation, they both agree the Scriptures are inerrant, they have different interpretations of the mission, the nature and destiny of the Church. We have covered some of those differences, we’ve covered Reformed theology, and last week we began Dispensational Theology.
One of the issues that Dispensationalism is known for is the fact that covenant language in the Scriptures, i.e., the Old Testament covenants must be interpreted literally. That is important because Covenants in Scripture are akin to contracts today. No man in his right mind signs a mortgage agreement, signs a loan/lease agreement, or enters into any other kind of a written contract and have the other party interpret it metaphorically. That would be cool if you could interpret a loan agreement metaphorically. But you don’t, and the point is that God has made contracts down through history with man. We went over those contracts; last time we went through the Abrahamic Covenant given in Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22. We went through the Palestinian Contract or the land contract, Deuteronomy 30. We went through the Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7, interpreted by Psalm 89. We went into the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31.
What did we say of every one of those covenants? Were those contracts made with the Church or were they made with the nation Israel? They were all made with the nation Israel; the Church didn’t even exist then. Therefore the fulfillment of those covenants is going to be to the nation Israel. In the Q&A the question was raised, then how do we participate as Christians in all the benefits that we obviously participate in if the contracts aren’t made with us. The answer is because of our union with Jesus Christ; that’s the basis. He is part and parcel because He’s a Jew, because He is of the seed of Abraham physically as well as spiritually, He benefits from them and He can share those benefits with us. But we’re grafted in; that’s the language of Romans 9 and it’s humbling to understand that. Just because we’re walking around breathing doesn’t give us access to God. We come into access and into these blessings of the Church Age that were given to Israel because of our union with Christ.
When we went through this we talked about the literal interpretation, and when we went through Reformed theology I showed how one of their hang-ups is when they see the formula X fulfills Y, and that formula occurs again and again in the New Testament, they interpret that to mean that this X, this New Testament event, X is always some New Testament event, and Y is some Old Testament event, when they see that formula the automatically assume that if an Old Testament event has been fulfilled that that’s it, there’s no future fulfillment, all the fulfillment stuff is finished and over. They also interpret it to mean that these covenants are fulfilled every time they see this word. We gave an illustration that a classic counter point to that argument in Jeremiah 31 versus Matthew 2, where in Matthew 2 when the babies are killed in the genocide, two years and younger every male baby was killed by Herod. When that happened Matthew records the event and then he adds, “and thus it was fulfilled that Rachel was weeping in Ramah.” That was a reference to Jeremiah 31, and it was not a fulfillment of prophecy, although Matthew says it’s fulfilled.
This is the question: how do we interpret this verb? That’s the issue. It doesn’t always mean to fulfill prophecy. For the [can’t understand word] reason is that the passage in Jeremiah isn’t a prophecy, it’s a historical description of the captives rendezvousing before the long march over into the Mesopotamian Valley in the fall of the northern and southern kingdom, when Israel collapsed. Here you have a historical observation in a town called Ramah, north of Jerusalem, and Matthew comes along and he applies the passage to Bethlehem, which is south of Jerusalem. So you don’t have the right place, you don’t have any babies killed in Jeremiah, but you’ve got babies killed in Matthew 2. In what sense then does Matthew use the verb “fulfill?” He uses the verb “fulfill” as a pattern or an analogy. We have to be careful when we see that word “fulfill” and I’m going to take you to another one to prove the point.
Turn to Matthew 2:15 and in the Old Testament to Hosea 11:1; hold both passages so you can flip between them. If you have a study Bible you should see a letter or number in Matthew 2:15 that should take you to the marginal reference; in the marginal reference you should see Hosea 11:1 referred to. Let’s look at the context of Matthew 2, in verse 13 Joseph was warned in a dream to get baby Jesus out of there, there was going to be a genocide, and in order to survive physically Joseph and Mary had to take Jesus somewhere. This is not Christmas, this is a year or so after, some time has elapsed, and the problem is where did they get the money for the trip because he had to stay down there; you know where he got the money from: because of the wise men who came and gave them this expensive stuff, so it’s really how the Lord provided for that trip. In verse 14: “And he arose and took the Child and his mother by night, and departed for Egypt.” Verse 15, “and was there until the death of Herod; that what was spoken by the Lord though the prophet might be” and there’s the verb again, “fulfilled, saying, ‘Out of Egypt did I call My Son.”
Flip over to Hosea 11:1 here’s another example of how Matthew uses the verb. This is why when you study the Scriptures you have got to study text after text after text; you can’t just go zipping into a passage of Scripture and think you know what you’re reading. It doesn’t work that way. Some passages are easy, they’re obvious. When you get into this kind of stuff you don’t look at a concordance two and a half minutes and then conclude that you know what the passage means. This takes some study and it takes some systematic study and approach to the whole thing. Sometimes you have to go back to the original languages; if you don’t know the original languages you have to go back to tools that do use the original languages. That’s just the nature of the game. This is Scripture written historically and in a certain language. But most of the time the problems are that we don’t spend time looking at usage. Word meanings are determined in Scripture by usage, and you can’t find usage until you find verse after verse after verse of usage. That’s what we’re doing with this verb “fulfill.”
Hosea 11:1 says “When Israel was a youth” - now is that talking about the Messiah, or is that talking about the nation? The Messiah isn’t even in here. This is Israel, this is the nation. “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” Now in terms of the nation, Israel, what does the passage mean in Hosea? Think about this. Any Jew would know immediately what that passage meant. Go back to the Old Testament events. When did God call Israel out of Egypt? The Exodus, so this is talking about the Exodus. Is this a prophecy? It’s not a prophecy. There’s no prophecy in this verse. This is a description, just like the passage in Jeremiah, of a portion of Israel’s history. It refers to something past, not something future. “Out of Egypt I called My son.”
Now we come into the New Testament and we see this thing of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Matthew used the formula X fulfills Y. “That which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet,” for those of you who have friends or you’re personally troubled with the doctrine of inerrancy in Scripture, here’s a good verse, because that was a historical record put together, humanly speaking, by probably unnamed prophets, Hosea being one of them obviously, and these guys edited the text and they wrote the text, it wasn’t a light beam from a cumulous cloud that came down and wrote the text, they wrote it with parchment and they put it together like any other text. But you see the Bible says that God worked in and through these prophets, so that’s why Matthew, in verse 15, “that which was spoken of by the Lord,” it wasn’t just the prophet Hosea that was writing this, the Lord was speaking. The Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea.
This is not some fundamentalist street front church idea; today if you go out and you argue for inerrant authoritative Scripture I guarantee you that people will freak out. It’s an intellectual scandal, an inerrant Bible; it’s a scandal among the world. And you will be treated like you’re some right-wing weird religious fanatic. The thing to do, if that’s the kind of reaction you get you can say well I don’t understand how you can be so historically stupid because if you read the text that’s what Matthew believed, and this is a guy who wrote a few centuries before either of us breathed, so that being the case it’s not some right-wing fundy that’s generating this idea, the idea goes back to Matthew. In fact, you can trace the idea all the way back to the Old Testament. So argue with the Old Testament, don’t blame me.
This is what you can do, get the monkey off your back and put it on the back of the people who wrote the Bible. They don’t want to do that and here’s why, because all people are sinners and we don’t like to be held accountable for our sin. And when we rebel against God and mouth off it creates a problem with our conscience. So when we kind of put some oil and grease on the whole thing, it’s to pretend that this idea is that one Christian that happens to be standing in front of me, it’s that person’s idea, I’m open-minded, it’s that narrow bigot’s idea. But you can’t let a person pin this on you, don’t let a person do this to you! This is NOT your idea, it is not my idea, it is the idea of Scripture and it’s been around for a number of years. There is a place for some ridicule; the fact that an educated person can come up to you and make such a stupid statement shows you there’s something lacking in their education. But we know they’re too busy putting condoms on and not long enough time reading the Scripture or reading period; they don’t read any more.
The point is that we go back in our argument to what the text says and it takes the heat off. Hey, I didn’t write it, go argue with the text. Now what have you done? You’ve stepped back, now they’ve got to argue with the text, they’ve got to argue with God and the Bible, they’ve got to argue with His Word, it’s not arguing with you. So that’s a way of moving out of the line of fire and letting them… go ahead, you want to shoot God, go ahead, shoot. Well blub, blub, blub, we don’t want to quite show our aggression that way. Watch these verses like this.
It “was spoken of by the Lord through the prophet,” Hosea who is describing a physical point of history in the nation Israel. It was not a prophecy. So how do we explain the verb “fulfill” in verse 15? The verb “fulfill” must refer in some sense to an analogy and we have here one of Matthew’s techniques of presenting Jesus Christ. Matthew is going to say if you take the history of Israel and you take the history of the Messiah and you match them up, lo and behold there is parallel after parallel after parallel after parallel, so when goes Israel, so goes Israel’s Messiah. And part of his argument is to authenticate Jesus Christ as the Messiah by arguing that this man’s life parallels the nation Israel. Israel was in the desert for forty years; Jesus Christ was tempted for forty days. Israel came out of Egypt; Jesus Christ came out of Egypt, etc., etc., etc.
So when he says “fulfill” we might use a different verb. Instead of using the verb “fulfill” it would probably communicate more clearly what Matthew is doing here is by saying that Israel typifies the Messiah. The nation Israel’s history typologically shows the Messiah’s life, or the Messiah’s life is reflected in the history of the nation Israel. That’s the meaning of it. Once you are careful and you build meaning out of the text, the study of the text, then you can say okay, we believe in literal fulfillment of prophecy and all these things in the New Testament where you see analogy, fulfillment by analogy or fulfillment by type doesn’t have any bearing on the theological debate at hand. Actually all these passages are irrelevant.
The issue is how was Old Testament bona fide prophecy fulfilled? How was that fulfilled? Was Jesus born in Bethlehem or was Jesus born in Ramah? Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem and not anywhere else? Because of Micah’s prophecy, “O Bethlehem Ephrathah,” it was literal, the house of bread, the name, the very name, the house of bread. That passage was fulfilled literally. That’s what we mean when we say that if God made a covenant in the Old Testament and the covenant has terms in it, how else are you going to tell that the covenant has been fulfilled if you don’t interpret it literally? You can’t do it, and if you can’t do that, then how do you tell whether God is faithful to what He promised. You can only measure performance by literal meaning of words. Enough said on that point about dispensationalism.
On page 14 the second point about dispensationalism. Someone asked, “What is a dispensationalist?” A dispensationalist is one who believes in a literal fulfillment of the covenants of the Old Testament. Number two, they believe that the purpose of history is doxological. Let me explain. The ultimate purpose of history according to Reformation theology is the redemption of man. Classical Reform theology is very admirable in saying that the redemption of man is important, very admirable. The problem is that they were so fixated on redemption, which obviously is not a bad thing to be fixated on, but keep in mind the historical argument, the historical argument behind Reformed theology was Roman Catholicism, and because of the debate between Rome and Germany and between Rome and Switzerland, was a debate between how is a man saved. That was the debate. Redemption was the center of this turmoil in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were fixed on this, so they have come down in history to say that the real reason for history is to show God’s grace, show God’s character, by redemption. That’s not false, that’s a true statement.
However, we would argue that if this circle represents the purpose of history, redemption is part of that circle, but not all of that circle. There are two reasons why Jesus Christ is praised in the book of Revelation. One is because “Thou hast created things” and the other one is because “You have redeemed us.” So 50% of the praise is not for redemption; 50% of the praise is for being creative. This goes back to this diagram that we’ve shown over and over. That diagram probably is derived from 3,000–4,000 pages of reading summarized on one sheet. There’s a lot of stuff packed in that diagram. It looks on the surface just like a few lines, but behind that diagram is a lot of heavy ideology and very offensive ideology if you learn how to read the diagram right because it is exclusivistic, it is saying outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ you do not have any hope, without God without hope in the world, and that there is no solution to all of life’s problems outside of Christ. Here’s why? Because in the pagan position good and evil have no beginning and good and evil have no end, it’s just a mix that goes on forever and ever and ever.
In the Bible we have a beginning, the fall, and we have an end or a terminus. What does that mean? It means that evil in the Bible is bracketed; evil is boxed in to a finite section of history. So the question we want to look at is, after this point of judgment, after good and after evil are permanently separated and history has been resolved because the mess that was created at the fall is finally cleaned up, when that point is reached, if the ultimate purpose of history were redemption, what’s the purpose of living afterwards? The point is, it goes back to the idea—why are you saved? Well I’m saved to grow in order to win other people to Christ, who are then saved to grow to win other people to Christ who are saved to grow to win other people to Christ, and then history ends and what do we all do? We all know that the Book of Revelation, for one, that looks beyond, has us worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ and dwelling in the eternal state, etc.
On page 14 I quote Dr. Pilkey and he’s speaking in terms of the Book of Revelation but I’m taking it in a larger context, to the end of history, “It furnishes an authoritative context larger than the gospel of salvation and larger than salvation itself. . . .As mortals, we remain in various kinds of trouble; and salvation strikes us as an all-consuming, universal concern.” This is a classic sentence that starts here, I love this sentence. “Yet the angels of heaven have never been saved; the demons cannot be saved; and the redeemed in heaven have nothing from which to be saved. If life in the resurrected state has a purpose, goals must exist beyond salvation. Because the Book of Revelation has been given to us in our present mortal condition, we are able to anticipate these goals despite our natural preoccupation with personal salvation.”
That’s all we’re saying is that the purpose of history is larger than salvation. The purpose of history involves angels. The purpose in history involves resurrected people who will never fall for billions and billions of years, forever, in resurrected bodies who will never be subject to death, no more sorrow, no more tears, etc. What’s all that about? Surely the purpose of history hasn’t come to an end with the final judgment. There’s an eternal existence; what’s the purpose of that? In one sense it’s history, the progress of time because we’re creatures and we dwell in time.
That’s the point about the ultimate purpose to history is doxological. What do we mean by that word? We mean it’s to praise God. “Doxological” means the purpose of history is to reveal God to His creatures, to know Him ever more perfectly and know Him more and more and more. The neat thing is that we will never be bored, there will always be some new depth to God’s character that we’ve never seen before; lots of surprises forever and ever, very pleasant surprises, to understand the nature of God and reflect back someday upon this life, which we will then consider to be a very, very brief moment in our long-term existence.
What this viewpoint does, it starts to trivialize what we make big issues out of. We tend, because we’re concerned with the time, the moment, right now, right here, because this is where the pain is, we get bent out of shape and we blow up these problems to immense proportions. What God does in the Scriptures is He cuts them down to atomic size by saying look, don’t focus on this, there’s an eternity out here in the future and it goes on forever, millions and millions of times more than any short-term pain, etc.
That’s why Paul could say in the New Testament I count it all joy, etc., because the sufferings of the present time I consider insignificant. How could he ever say that? Is he saying that he denies pain? No, Paul had pain, the guy got beat up, he got stoned, he got thrown in jail, Paul knew what pain was, he went through all this. That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying that if you have the eternal perspective, then it gets back to that diagram I draw about the amoeba; the amoeba swallows up, so here with the eternal perspective we have a pain problem, we have a problem in our life that seems dominating, when it can be totally encircled with an eternal perspective. And that eternal perspective is for what purpose? To know God. This has powerful ramifications in how we study history. This has powerful ramifications about the end and purpose of every area of our life. This argues that the ultimate purpose of everything, everything, whether it’s salvation or hell, everything has as its purpose the glory of God.
There’s another feature to history that we’ve covered before that emerges in all this discussion. Turn to Matthew 11; here we have an aspect of history that strikes often to some proponents of Reformed theology. This sort of passage becomes very difficult for them to accept emotionally. The reason is that it seems to teach that history is contingent. Verse 14, “And if you care to accept it,” the “it” isn’t the original so we have to figure out what the object of the verb “accept” is, “If you care to accept, He Himself is Elijah, who was to come.” Again you should have a note in your study margin where it says “who was to come” and it should show you the reference of where that comes out of the Bible, which is Malachi 4, an Old Testament book. The idea was that before… I want to show this because when we get to Pentecost if you don’t have this background you’re going to lose it, believe me. Pentecost is a very complicated event because Israel is involved, the Church is involved, half of prophecy is involved, half of prophecy is not involved, there’s something that happens at Pentecost that wasn’t prophesied ever, and all these elements are mixed together. So we’re going to have slow going through Pentecost.
What we want to notice is in the Old Testament the picture was that time was going to go on, the Messiah was going to come, and when the Messiah came there would be various judgments that would happen, this would be the end of history. That’s the idea; the coming of the Messiah would bring in this kingdom, which was kind of fuzzed up with the eternal state. That’s the Old Testament picture. In that Old Testament picture prior to the Messiah, Elijah was to come. Elijah was one of the great Old Testament prophets and he was to show up in time with the Messiah as an announcer to the nation Israel. That’s the Old Testament prophecy.
So the question comes up, when Jesus Christ came it wasn’t Elijah, it was John the Baptist. The disciples are saying if you be the Christ, if you be the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, then where’s Elijah? What Jesus is arguing for here is if you accept this gospel, if you accept the gospel of the Kingdom that I’m offering you, the Kingdom can come and John is Elijah. We know in fact that Jesus Christ at this point, we’re getting right in that section of Matthew where they’re not going to accept, so what happens historically is this. You have the Old Testament, you have the Messiah come, the Messiah was rejected, nationally speaking, and we know now that there’s an inter-advent period followed by a Second Coming of the Messiah and in between we have the Church Age, the inter-advent age. Was this foreseen in the Old Testament? You can say in some sense, because there are pictures of the suffering Messiah and pictures of the glorious Messiah. The suffering Messiah was to be Joseph; the glorious Messiah was to be David. They couldn’t get this together and they kept talking about two Messiahs because they couldn’t figure out how this all could happen to one guy. Well it happened to one guy in two different moments of history.
The point is that when Jesus Christ came, initially this whole picture was not seen. This wasn’t seen in Matthew 3 when John was preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” What’s he saying? He’s saying that the kingdom is at hand; the Old Testament kingdom is at hand. Watch this because this is where…, if you follow this you’ll see why I’m saying Dispensational and Reformed theology have some profound differences on how they interpret this thing. If you look at the top diagram, it doesn’t look like there’s any room for the cross. When Jesus Christ came, in other words, what would have happened had the nation accepted Him as the Messiah? There would have been no rejection and you can only speculate as to well, gosh, you can’t have the kingdom without salvation, you can’t have salvation without the cross, you can’t have forgiveness without blood atonement, where does the blood atonement get involved? I have no idea.
Had the nation accepted Jesus Christ it would have introduced a crisis over—well then, where is the rejection that leads to the cross that leads to our salvation? But we know historically what happened. Jesus Christ came, He offered Himself, John the Baptist said the kingdom is far away, centuries down the road? No, that’s not the preaching you see in the Gospels. It’s an imminent Kingdom. The Kingdom has come, the Kingdom is here. And if the Kingdom is here, and not twenty centuries down the road, here is the Messiah, it’s all possible for you, O Israel, if you would accept your Messiah, world peace could come, the culmination of history could come; that’s the idea that is being preached.
So if that were to be the case, and Elijah has to precede the Messiah who has to precede the Kingdom, then John the Baptist is the guy who has to be Elijah. That’s why Jesus says “if you care to accept,” if you as a nation were to accept Me, if you were to accept the message of the Kingdom, then John the Baptist is Elijah. And it does turn out, by the way, that both these guys have a very similar spirit or personality. Both of them were aesthetics, both of them were guys that had absolute courage to go up against everybody in their day, both of them could care less what anybody thought about them, and they went on teaching the Word of God, and both of them were not very successful in the sense of humanly speaking, they didn’t turn the nation around. Elijah didn’t and John the Baptist didn’t. They were both fanatics, they were both extremists, they were both guys that were just really both out of the mainstream. So there’s kind of a spooky relationship going on between these two guys. And yet you can read in the Gospels when the men come up to John they say John, are you Elijah? He says no, so John didn’t see himself as Elijah.
There’s a whole bunch of mystery here and the only way you can synthesize all the Scripture is to say that there was a genuine offer here. This isn’t just theater, there was a genuine offer that was going on here, John is in a position to fulfill the prophecy of Elijah, but the nation rejected, so now we have the suffering part of the Messiah’s prophecy fulfilled in the cross because He’s rejected by the nation, and then we have this strange inter-advent age, and then we have the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Second Coming; First Coming and Second Coming split apart.
Where Reformed theology really has a problem with this, it goes back to this point that we just made. What did we say is the ultimate purpose of history? It’s doxological. What did we say that the Reformed theologian believes is the ultimate purpose of history? Redemptive. Can you imagine, if you were a Reformed theologian and you believed passionately, with all your heart, that all of history is focused on the cross of Christ and redemption, and you hear somebody like what I’m doing tonight, [blank spot] … we make it just as a secondary play after the primary play failed, and I think you can understand, if you see their whole approach to one simple sovereign plan that goes on, and bam, you get involved in this kind of a mess, and you’re saying oh man, it can’t be that way. So in order to resolve it from their point of view, what they say is that this is a wrong picture, that this actually was true all along, and when you see these fulfillments, this inter-advent age is the fulfillment of all those kingdom promises, because they want to smooth this over and make it a nice smooth approach.
The second purpose of dispensationalism is it’s doxological; the ultimate purpose of history is doxological. Why? Because there are all these other things that go on and happen in history.
Finally the third thing and that’s in the last point, page 15, the separation of the Church and Israel. One of the distinctives between Dispensational Theology and Reformed Theology is that Israel is a separate people of God; the Church is distinct from them. They are two different groups of people. Why do we say two different groups of people? Because the saints in Israel were related to God through the Covenants. The Church is not related through the Covenants, the Church is related through Christ who is related to the Covenants. Moreover, there are actually three peoples of God. Can you guess what the third people are, the third group of people who are redeemed in history, not Jews and not Christians in the Church Age. Go back to Old Testament history again and see if we can think about what the Scriptures are saying here. Go back to that sequence, look at that sequence carefully. Who was the first Jew? Abraham. Were there believers before Abraham? Where are those guys? Were they in the Biblical Covenants to Israel? No, they’re Gentiles. So now we’ve got three peoples of God. We have Gentiles, we have Jews and we have Christians.
What happens when this is taught? Reform people say you’ve got three ways of salvation; this is the point. I give a footnote where you can see where a guy says it. John Gerstner argues that dispensationals have to allow for multiple ways of salvation. How you go logically from three peoples of God to three ways of salvation I’ve never figured out. I know where they’re coming from; they’re saying that when we say that Israel is related to God through the Covenants, that we’re not making Christ the issue, we’re not making the cross the issue. The cross wasn’t the issue in the Old Testament? I’m not saying they weren’t saved then, the benefits of the cross that was yet to happen was certainly counted for them, even though it hadn’t happened yet. But can you really believe that if you took a tape recorder and interviewed Abraham that he could tell you all about how Jesus would be crucified outside of the city of Jerusalem? I doubt it. The content of their faith in the Old Testament probably did not include what we consider to be the gospel.
Were they saved by faith? You bet, they couldn’t be saved by works so they were saved by faith. How could they be saved by faith and have a different kind of gospel than we have? Because they didn’t have all the revelation we have. Their content on their revelation that they knew was less than ours. Their content of the gospel was less than our content of the gospel, so they had a different gospel. I’m not saying there’s three different ways to be saved. Think of Noah, think of the Gentiles prior to Abraham. What do they know about this? Probably even less. So there are three different peoples brought to salvation by faith and by faith alone, but with a different content to the gospel that they had to trust.
Objectively, legally, and as far as the judicial side of it, were they saved by the finished work of Christ? Absolutely! The work of Christ on the Cross was applied to all three peoples; none of them are ever saved apart from the objective work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It’s just that in becoming believers they came by three different routes, three different gospels, and three different levels of revelation. That’s all we’re saying when we argue there’s separate identities for Israel and the Church and we should actually say there’s a separate identity for the Gentiles.
How in the Old Testament do we know there are separate identities for the Gentiles? Think about it. Go back to that Old Testament period of history where the prophets spoke. As Israel declined, most of you have had a little exposure to those Old Testament men; some of you have had a lot of exposure to those Old Testament prophets. What can you say about what they said about the nations around Israel? Did they make prophecies about the destiny of Babylon? Did they make prophecies about the destiny of Assyria? Did they make prophecies about the destiny of Moab? Surely they did. Then who are they talking about? They’re talking about God’s plan for those Gentiles. So does God have a plan for the Gentiles? Yes. What were the prophets talking about? Does God have a plan for Israel? Yes, because they addressed Israel. Does God have a plan for the Church? Yes. Where do we find the plan for the Church? The New Testament epistles. So there are three different people, believing three different gospels, with three different histories.
All the dispensationalists are saying here is not there are two different, three different ways of salvation. We’re just simply saying that God has multiple parts in His overall plan, just like a program has subroutines in it, just like plans have different parts, artists paint different parts in their paintings, different colors. That’s all we’re saying, so we don’t have to get livers in a quiver over the fact that dispensationalists have separate identities for Israel and the Church.
We’re finishing this section and if you’ll turn to the last page of the notes, we want to make a few closing remarks prior to getting into Pentecost. Read with me as we go through this and I’ll point some things out. “Dispensational Theology, therefore, recognizes multiple peoples of God. Salvation is always the same in this view, by substitutionary blood atonement, but those who are saved do not form one homogeneous elect people of God. God has separate identities for ancient Gentile nations (addressed by nation by nation in the Old Testament prophets), for Old Testament Jews, and for New Testament Christians. Each group fits within the one doxological purpose of God without conflict.” Why have I made such a big point about this? Look at the next paragraph.
“The distinction between Israel and the Church is discussed in Chapters 3 and 5 of this Part of the framework series. It is important” and here’s the key sentence, here’s where it practically impacts your life, “It is important to clarify the different modus vivendi utilized by each group for daily living in obedience to God.” Modus vivendi is the way of life, it’s God’s will for your life. If you really believe there’s only one people of God, you’d better go find a temple and some sheep, because God says to the Israelites you’re supposed to worship in a temple and you’re supposed to slaughter sheep for your sin. Do you do that? No. Do you see any Reform theologian doing that? No. Why? It was God’s will for those people, wasn’t it? Well, that’s ceremonial, they put that away. But if they put the ceremonial away you have to put the moral away, you have to put the whole law code away. Well we don’t want to get rid of the Ten Commandments, let the ACLU do that.
The issue here is that it’s the modus vivendi of the Old Testament in one compartment taught in the Old Testament, the modus vivendi of the Church Age another compartment. Are there some things that are similar? Yeah, the Old Testament saints were taught not to steal, are we taught to steal? No. The idea here is that there are similar elements. There’s an element don’t steal Old Testament saint; don’t steal, New Testament saint. So the modus vivendi is alike in some areas.
Let’s get to some of the different areas. Did any of the Old Testament saints pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ? Oops, different modus vivendi. Was any Old Testament saint filled with the Holy Spirit like the New Testament saints? No, Jesus said the Holy Spirit was with you, preposition, and He will be in you, two different prepositions, two different modus vivendi, two different relationships of the Holy Spirit. Was any Old Testament saint elect in Christ? They were elect to salvation, but elect in the person of Christ? What Old Testament saint was disciplined by the Holy Spirit sent from Jesus Christ down to planet earth? Most Old Testament saints in their discipline, they had personal discipline of course, the book of Proverbs, but they also had discipline at the hands of nations.
We could go on and on with that but my point is to prepare us as we go to Pentecost we’re going to start to see this happen. We’ve seen Christ resurrected, we’ve seen Him ascend to heaven, and we’re going to start seeing Him send the Holy Spirit. When He sends the Holy Spirit the nation Israel is going to get one last opportunity, Peter is going to preach, not to the Church, and it’s not an evangelistic message in Acts 2. In Acts 2 if you read carefully the text of Acts 2, you will notice startling similarities with John the Baptist, that Peter’s address is addressed to Israel in Acts 2. It is addressed, and [uses] almost similar terminology, to John the Baptist in Matthew 3. So we have this peculiar thing that happens early on in Acts.
It’s all Israel centered, Israel centered, Israel centered, then what happens as you go through the book of Acts? Now all of a sudden more and more we hear about the Church, we hear more about the Church, we hear more about the Church, and then finally, at the end of Acts, Jesus hasn’t come back, the kingdom hasn’t come to Israel, and the Church is there. Where did the Church get started in all this? We’re going to see how it got started at Pentecost but nobody recognized what was going on there. Acts is a book of transition between Israel and the Church. This is why you have all sorts of kooky people running around the Church Age that try to go back to the book of Acts and derive procedures. You can’t do that, the book of Acts is a transition document moving from one modus vivendi to the other modus vivendi. That’s what makes it so complicated. Acts is one of the most difficult books and one of the most difficult periods in history in all the Bible, because you’ve got two simultaneous things going on in God’s plan.
The “Conclusion” on page 16, “Dispensational Theology expressed another reformational wave in Church history that expanded the authority of Scripture, especially in defining the nature and mission of the Church. Dispensationalism, by separating the Church from both ancient nation Israel and modern national states,” remember Reformed Theology has national churches, “became the home of the modern missionary movement as well as the chief impetus of Fundamentalism in America.” Those are two claims that you should be aware of. You never got this in your history courses in school, but there’s two things here that are very important; one of them is that the “modern missionary movement” came out of, largely, Dispensational Theology. Look at a survey of who it was that started the big mission outfits and ask yourself, were they Reformed theologians or were they Dispensationalists. If we’re such a group of cultic kooks, like Reformed Theology likes to think of us, isn’t it funny that this kookery spawned the largest expanse of missions in the history of the Church? How did they do that?
The second thing to notice is that fundamentalism in America was largely a product of Dispensational Theology. “It has lent sympathetic hearing to the emergence of the modern state of Israel and to the cause of Jewish missions. Its literal method of interpreting the biblical text has also spawned most of the modern creationist movement.” I’ve given you four historical points about Dispensational theology. What are they: #1, missionaries, missions; #2, fundamentalism in America; #3, sympathy with the modern state of Israel; #4, Jewish missions. Some Jews can’t get those last two straight, how can you be for Israel having its freedom and here you are trying to proselytize Jews. Sorry, it goes together. Those are four important historical fruits of dispensationalism. Next time read Acts 2, we’re going to get into Pentecost.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think it is. The question is, “Why is there such a resurgence of Reformed Theology, particularly in the mid-Atlantic?” I’ve had people come here and we’ve discussed this and they say what’s going on in Maryland and Pennsylvania, it just seems like it’s pretty heavily concentrated where we are. I’m not sure why it’s concentrated here unless it’s due to the fact that Maryland, historically is a Roman Catholic state, and many of the people in our evangelical Bible teaching churches are people who are really former Catholics and as former Catholics their exposure to Scripture has been so weak, their background in the Bible is so poor that they’re seeking structure, and let’s face it, Reformed Theology does give you a wonderful structure. It’s a bastion of system that gives… it’s attractive intellectually, it really is, and it tends to attract people that think systematically. The reason why I think it happens is because in dispensational circles very little dispensationalism is being taught.
I think it was two years ago I heard Dr. John Walvoord, who was the Chancellor of Dallas Seminary, and he and Dr. Pentecost who is in his 80’s now, the old guard, these are the guys that when they die we’ve lost that generation that taught a lot of men who founded a lot of these Bible schools. One of the young guys in the audience was a young pastor and he raised his hand and asked Dr. Walvoord, “What do you see? You’re close to 90-years-old, you’ve had many, many decades to observe the Bible teaching movement, what are your observations about today versus yesteryear?” And Walvoord’s answer to that question was well, I don’t see Bible churches having Bible conferences any more; I don’t see Bible churches having prophecy conferences any more. The Bible is not emphasized, the teaching of Scripture is really not emphasized, we have Christian concerts, we have soft ball leagues, we have basketball teams, and these aren’t bad, but if that’s all you have and you do not have a concerted systematic teaching of Scripture, then if you remember Romans, it says “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Faith has no object so you have hungry sheep getting battered around in life and they just want something firm and structured. And Reformed theology gives it to them.
I must say that it’s very attractive in many areas, and I’m not saying that all of it is bad, I’ve been very careful to say that there’s much in Reformed Theology to admire, very deeply. They are the guys that basically have given us our apologetic structure. The thing that dispensationalists have done is really kind of shallow intellectually, frankly. They’ve been in schools that teach men for the ministry, there’s been a total compromise in the last forty years over teaching languages. I’ll give an example. Back many years ago at Dallas Seminary they Hebrew Department was headed by a former orthodox Jewish rabbi, Charles Feinberg, and Feinberg was a tyrant, everybody feared Dr. Feinberg because he demanded of his students what he had demanded as an orthodox rabbi, you will learn Hebrew, period, and you will have facility in Hebrew such that in your final exam I will ask you to stand up and read a portion anywhere out of the Hebrew Bible and you will do that. That’s very hard, especially if you’re like me, language doesn’t come easy to me.
That’s the kind of thing that you had, and in order to get proficiency in the languages so that you used them … the problem is that a typical pastor that does this preaching and teaching is so busy with everything else he’s got to do that he’s torn in a hundred ways. Congregations, frankly, can be very cruel to pastors this way and not even be aware of what they’re doing because they get mad and angry, if the guy doesn’t show up every time that they have a problem he’s got to personally hold their hand. What do we have deacons for? What do we have other elders for? What do these guys do? What’s that function? I’m not saying that the pastor… the pastor can’t physically do it, the pastor love his congregation by equipping them so that when the jam and the circumstances comes they are so well-trained in the Word of God they can handle themselves. It’s not saying they won’t need a little help, but a guy can’t hold everybody’s hand and prepare, every week prepare an in depth sermon from the Word of God that is consistent and theologically structured. I’m telling you, I was in the business.
To do a good job in the pulpit for 45 minutes takes you, if you accumulate your hours, probably takes 40–50 hours of work, minimum. As you get older in the ministry its like a teacher at school, when my son started teaching school, the teachers always complain the first year you’re teaching, oh, what a thing it is because every day you walk in class you’ve got another lesson plan you’ve got to do, and then you’ve got another one, then you have to mark papers, and that poor teacher the first or second year you’re teaching you’re spending 12 hours a day doing it. But what happens, the third and fourth year, now you’ve got momentum, now you’ve got your illustrations, now you’ve got stuff that you can use, now you’ve got vocabulary, now you’ve got some of this. It’s the same thing teaching and preaching. You’ve looked up so many Hebrew words, you’ve been in so many passages, that you’ve got all this stuff that helps you, so that when you go to teach again, it becomes a little easier.
But the point I’m making is that you can’t get there if you don’t have proficiency. If you’re sitting there every day looking up this word, looking up that word, you’re never going to make it. You’ve got to be pushed, shoved and motivated to get proficiency in the languages so that you can sit there and read Greek and Hebrew. Then that gives you the time to think through how there’s nuances in this passage, etc. and here’s how we can fit it together in theology, and this is what the great creeds say, etc. There’s a lot to this and there’s not, within either Reformed or the Dispensational circuit today, that in depth infrastructure that can produce this. It really isn’t there, and it’s sad because even in the Reform seminaries the kids are doing Christian counseling, how to raise a big Sunday School, I’m thinking gosh, Machen and these other guys forty years ago knew about Sunday School, people had problems but if you look how they handled them, they handled them with a powerful Theocentric message and the bigger your God is the smaller your problems are. That’s the name of it. And we’ve got big problems today because we have a very small God.
In all this restlessness there’s a cry and a hue for structure, give me something to believe that works in the worst cases of my life, and Reformed Theology is there. So that’s, I believe, one of the real reasons why it’s there, it’s structured teaching. It’s not popular, but you find the people who are interested in it tend to be more serious Christians.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a correct observation and it’s also true that in Reformed circles today, I guess it was always true, when they train pastors in Reformed traditions you will usually find them topical preachers. Think for example of the pastor in Philadelphia that just died of cancer. He did some commentaries on books, but generally speaking even when you look at the commentaries it’s topical and it’s doctrinal. So in their quest to be clear theologically they do spend a lot of time doing that, and that’s good because it does communicate. They’re great when it comes to Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, inspiration, but to get into the text of Scripture is no small job. You don’t just read three commentaries and crank out a lesson. That’s not the way it goes. There’s a lot more to it than that, and it requires a lot of tools, it requires a lot of training, a lot of background and frankly a lot of the guys just don’t have it, and the sheep suffer. And there’s not a real press to change things.
I know one little seminary out in California [Chafer Seminary now in Albuquerque, NM] that’s trying to do marvelous work in exegesis and they’re fumbling around with not really much support or interest. It’s kind of like a vicious cycle, there’s no support to do it, there’s nobody trained so since there’s nobody trained it’s not done, because it’s not done then people aren’t exposed to it, then they don’t know what they’re missing, etc. But to harp back to what I said, I think that the resurgence of Reformed Theology in one sense is a good thing in that it’s a sign that people are hungry for truth and structure. And all that’s needed, in that situation, is some in depth and consistent teaching of the Word of God which isn’t going to happen unless there’s a lot of study devoted to it, and the study can’t be devoted to it while the pastor is running this group, doing that meeting, doing this thing, in a building program, sorry it that stuff doesn’t get done, it’s one or the other, there’s only so many hours a week and you have to assign priorities. That’s one of the problems. Next week we’re going to get into more controversy because we’re going to deal with the issue of Pentecost and speaking in tongues, miracles of gifts and healing and all the rest of it.